Replacing Toilets

Replacing a toilet is surprisingly l\ easy. Problems arise only if the closet flange isn’t at the floor surface (see below) or if the floor isn’t level (shim the toilet after you set it on the hold-down bolts). Toilets are ceramic, so work carefully. It is possible to crack a toilet if you bang it or screw down a nut too hard. Most toilets sold today have their drains centered 12 inches from the back wall. Measure yours from the wall to the hold-down bolt. If yours is centered 10 inches from the wall, either buy a 10-inch toilet or install a special offset closet flange. If you need to run supply and drain lines for a new installation.

If the Flange Is Low - If your bathroom has a new layer of flooring, the closet flange often will end up below the floor surface. In that case, a regular wax ring may not be thick enough to seal the toilet bowl to the flange. You can extend the ring upward with a special flange extender or double the wax ring. Place a wax ring without a plastic flange on the toilet, then place a flanged ring on top of it.

1. Remove the old toilet. Note: Shut off the water. Flush the toilet and remove remaining water with a sponge. Disconnect the water supply line and unscrew the hold-down nuts. Often these are rusted tight. If penetrating oil does not loosen them, cut the nuts with a hacksaw. Lift the toilet out.

3. Install the bowl. Return the bowl to its upright position and gently set it in place atop the closet flange. Make sure the hold-down bolts align with the holes in the base. Press down on the bowl with both hands and align it. Slip a metal washer and a nut over each bolt and tighten slowly. Don’t over-tighten or you could crack the bowl. Set caps on.

2. Prepare the new toilet bowl. Carefully remove the new toilet bowl from its container and turn it upside down on a cushioned surface, such as a throw rug or folded drop cloth. Run a rope of plumber’s putty around the perimeter of the bowl’s base and fit a wax ring (sold separately) over the outlet opening.

4. You’re ready for the tank. First lay the spud gasket, beveled side down, over the bowl inlet opening. This forms the seal between the tank and the bowl. Or slip the spud gasket onto the threaded tailpiece located at the bottom of the tank if you have older-style connectors.

5. Install the tank. Gently lower the tank onto the bowl, aligning the tank holes with those toward the rear of the bowl. Secure the tank to the bowl with the hold-down bolts, washers, and nuts provided with the toilet. Be sure that the rubber washer goes inside the tank under the bolt.

6. Attach wafer supply. Complete the installation by hooking up the water supply line. The easiest way is to use a flexible plastic or chrome-braided supply line. Or use chrome-finished flexible copper tubing and compression fittings.


1. Install a closet flange extender. If your floor surface is more than half an inch above the closet flange (as will happen when you install new tile), you must extend the flange so it’s flush with the floor. A closet flange extender with flexible gaskets and a plastic extender ring make up the difference. First clean off old wax, insert new bolts, and slip on a flexible gasket and the extender ring.

Water-Saving Toilets - In most localities, toilets that use only 1.6 gallons of water are required for new installations. These save money by reducing water consumption, but they do not flush strongly. They differ from older models by having a smaller tank or a mechanism that restricts the amount of water in the tank. Don’t buy a new toilet simply to save money in water use. Reduce an old toilet’s consumption by setting a brick into the tank or by bending the float ball’s rod so the ball sits lower in the tank. Most people don’t mind the reduced flushing power of new models. If it is a problem for you, get a pressure-assisted toilet.

2. Make a waxless seal. The closet flange extender should now fit flush with the surface of your new flooring. (If it does not, add an additional extender ring.) Add the second flexible gasket. This gasket takes the place of the wax ring. Most kits also include handy plastic shims for leveling the toilet once it is placed on the hold-down bolts.

Install a toilet seat. To remove an old toilet seat, lower the seat and cover and pry up the little lids that cover the toilet seat bolts. Hold each nut from below, unscrew each bolt, and lift out the seat. Clean out the area around the bolt holes and install the new seat by aligning the seat with the holes and installing the bolts. Screw nuts onto the bolts and tighten the bolts just enough to firmly hold the seat.

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