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Removing An Old Toilet

The biggest challenges in removing a toilet are getting the job done without creating a watery mess and not filling the house with sewer gases.

1 Turn off the water supply at the shutoff valve. Flush the toilet until the tank is empty. Wipe up excess water with rags and a sponge. Disconnect the supply tube.

2 Remove the tank bolts with a ratcheting socket wrench.

3 Lift the tank off the bowl. Be careful—most toilets are made of porcelain, which is easily damaged.

4 Remove the toilet base. Remove the floor bolt caps and then the nuts from the floor bolts. Rock the toilet from side to side to break the wax seal; lift it off the bolts and set it on an old towel. Plug the drain opening with a rag to keep sewer gases in the pipes.

5 Scrape the old wax from the toilet flange with a putty knife.

POTENTIAL BIOHAZARD! The water in the toilet bowl may contain harmful bacteria. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning or removing the bowl. Avoid splashes. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap afterward.

CONNECTING OLD DRAINS TO NEW TOILETS - Before buying a new toilet, make sure it matches the location of the drain ("rough-in") on the bathroom floor. Measure from wall to the toilet floor bolts, which are centered on the floor drain. In newer bathrooms, the distance is 12 inches from the wall. Most new toilets are designed to fit these specifications. If you live in a house built before the mid-1940s, however, the outlet may be 10 or 1A inches from the wall. You can get some toilets with a 10- or U-inch rough-in, but not in all models, styles, and colors. If you have your heart set on a toilet with a 12-inch rough-in, but your rough-in is 10 or 14 inches, it can be fixed. It's a big job, but you can install what's called an offset flange, then connect the new toilet's drain to the floor outlet.

GOT SOME TOUGH NUTS TO CRACK? Nuts and bolts on toilet bowls can become so corroded that an adjustable wrench won't budge them, or the wrench will round the corners of the nut, making removal next to impossible. You may expand your vocabulary, but you won't budge the nut without applying some special techniques.

1 Before you attack the nut in the first place, assume it may be seized; squirt on some penetrating oil. Let the oil soak in thoroughly before you try removing the nut.

2 Try a mini hacksaw. Protect the toilet base with masking tape and cut the nut at a slight angle (about 30 degrees) until you have a deep groove. Insert a screwdriver into the groove and twist to break the nut.

3 As a last resort (or first resort if you have one in your toolbox), you can use a nut splitter, which is a tool often found in the automotive section of your hardware store. The splitter fits over the nut. Hold it in position with an adjustable wrench and tighten it with a socket wrench that closes the jaws of the nut splitter against the nut and cuts it in half.

Installing A New Toilet

MATERIALS: Toilet, toilet seat, "no-seep" wax ring, plastic toilet shims, plumber’s putty, felt marker, pipe compound, 31/2-inch closet bolts or concrete screws

TOOLS: Two adjustable wrenches, ratchet wrench and sockets, screwdriver, hacksaw, tubing cutter

If you’re installing a new toilet in I a new location, you’ll need to run I (or have someone run) a water . I supply line and a drainpipe, which must be connected to the drain/vent system in compliance with code. If the toilet is in the basement, you’ll need an upflush toilet. Talk with your plumbing supplier to see what’s involved.

SOME PARTS ARE EXTRA. Most of the parts you need to install the new toilet will come with it—except the toilet seat, which is a separate item on almost every model. The wax ring—which comes in several sizes—is also not part of the package. The manual that comes with the new toilet will tell you the correct size to buy.

FIX THAT FLANGE - Closet flanges take a lot of abuse and can crack or break. If you don't want to pull out the old one and connect a new one, use an adapter sometimes called a super flange that fits over the old model and makes a secure connection for the toilet. Other adapters are available as well. Check them out at your local home center.

RAISING ISSUES - You'll get a cleaner, neater flooring installation in your bathroom if you remove the toilet so that you don't have to trim around it. But the new floor will lift the toilet by its finished thickness, and you may need an extension flange (available at home centers) to reconnect the toilet to the soil pipe.

1 SET THE MOUNTING BOLTS. If you're reusing the old flange, replace the 3V2-inch flange bolts. Purchase two 31/2-inch-long closet bolts at your local home center. If you're replacing the flange, it must be screwed into a wooden floor. Use self-tapping concrete screws for concrete. Closet bolts often tip over when you're trying to place the toilet. Put an extra nut on each bolt, and tighten it against the flange to hold the bolts in place.

2 PLACE THE WAX RING ON THE TOILET. The' 'no-seep" wax ring size will vary with the size of the flange. Be sure to purchase the proper size. A 3-inch neck will fit a 3-inch closet elbow, and a 4-inch neck will fit a 4-inch closet elbow. If the closet elbow is 4 inches and the neck is 3 inches in diameter, purchase a 4x3 reducer. If the flange is positioned below floor level, buy a double-thick ring.

3 SET THE TOILET BOWL. Straddle the toilet bowl and lift, using your legs—not your back. Toilets are heavy, so get some help. Set the toilet over the anchor bolts and sit on the toilet, rocking it back and forth to seat the wax ring. Slip a washer over the closet bolt.

4 TIGHTEN THE NUTS against the washer by hand. With a wrench, tighten each nut a half-turn. Alternate tightening each side a half-turn until the toilet fits snugly. Tightening either side too much will cause the toilet to crack. If the toilet rocks or isn’t level, shim it with plastic toilet shims, and cut the ends off, so they won't be seen.

5 CUT THE FLANGE BOLT TO SIZE. Use a mini hacksaw to cut the flange bolt so only 1/4 to 1/2 inch extends above the bolt. This will allow the cap to fit snugly. Most bolts have snap-offs every 1/2 inch or so, but you should still cut through so you don’t bend the bolt.

6 INSTALL THE BOLT CAP. Some types of caps will snap over the bolt. Others have to be filled with plumber’s putty and seated over the anchor bolt.

7 SET THE TANK ANCHOR BOLTS. Place the tank anchor bolts in the holes of the tank to help guide the tank onto the bowl.

8 PLACE THE TANK ON THE BOWL. Lift the tank and place it over the bowl. You may need some help with this. Guide the tank bolts into the corresponding holes on the toilet bowl.

9 TIGHTEN THE TANK BOLTS. Hold an adjustable wrench over the tank bolt nut while you tighten the bolt with a screwdriver. Don’t over tighten; you can crack either the tank or the bowl.

10 INSTALL THE SHUTOFF VALVE. Set the valve over the compression ring and draw the nut to it. Tighten the nut until hand-tight. Use two adjustable wrenches to tighten until snug—one to hold back the valve and the other to tighten the compression nut.

11 ALWAYS REPLACE THE SUPPLY TUBE TO HELP PREVENT LEAKS. Screw flex tube in place. If you're putting in chrome tube, hold it in place with the extra pipe extending past the shutoff. Mark the pipe for cutting. Leave enough pipe so it will fit inside the shutoff valve outlet. Cut with a tubing cutter.

12 CONNECT THE SUPPLY PIPE TO THE TANK. Seat the end of the pipe against the tank. Draw up the tank nut, and hand-tighten until snug. Slide the compression nut over the other end, then place the compression ring over the end. Seat the end in the outlet of the shutoff valve.

13 TIGHTEN THE COMPRESSION NUT. Use an adjustable wrench to carefully tighten the compression nut. Don't over tighten. Turn on the water supply and check for leaks along the supply line, visually and by feel. Flush the toilet and check for leaks around the base of the tank. If there is a leak, tighten the connections a half-turn.

GET THE RIGHT SIZE TOILET - Years ago I was browsing the plumbing aisle and saw the toilet of my dreams on clearance. Well, just because something's on sale doesn’t mean it'll work. After I lugged it home I discovered the toilet didn't fit over the closet flange. Back then I didn't know the distance the drain is from the wall will determine the size of your toilet. Ninety percent of toilets are made for a drain opening 11 to 12 inches from the wall. The rest are either 9 to 10 or 13 to 14 inches away. On the plus side, I was lucky to pick a store that takes returns and I took home a valuable lesson about being an informed shopper.

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