Replace a Toilet

Replace a Toilet

In your quest to adequately stay on top of maintenance issues around your home, it is wise to pay particular attention whenever water is discovered where it not expected.

Someday you may notice water leaking (or even a slow drip) in your basement underneath the bathroom toilet.  The most likely cause for a leaky toilet is the wax ring needs replacing.  The wax ring provides a seal between the toilet and the toilet flange.  The toilet flange could be broken, causing the toilet to rock a little.  This might cause the wax ring to leak, in turn causing the floor to deteriorate.

A common problem in an older home -after decades of condensation around the base of the toilet, the sub-flooring becomes deteriorated and the toilet will rock slightly. If not given prompt attention, it is a downward spiral.  The longer it goes without attention, the weaker the floor becomes and the more it will rock back and forth.  The worse it gets, the more it leaks as the wax seal is compromised.

In this instance, you must remove the toilet and replace the weak sections of flooring surrounding the toilet flange.  If you’re in a more modern building and want to replace the toilet for whatever reason, you probably will not face that issue.

Have no fear.  Replacing a toilet is a relatively clean job and isn’t that difficult a task.  First, turn off the water at the isolation valve near the base of the toilet.  Empty the tank by flushing.  You can hold up the flapper valve to drain out as much as possible and sponge out the remainder.  Sponge out any remaining water in the toilet bowl.  Disconnect the water line and remove the retaining nuts at the base of the unit.  If there is a caulk seal at the base it can be cut with a utility knife.

Be careful with that knife. Statistically, there is a high incidence of injury with utility knives.  If you have to stop to get stitches, it’ll put a big crimp in your plans for the day.  Wear gloves.

Remove toilet.

Beneath the toilet you will find the wax ring over the drain opening.  Work a putty knife around it to loosen and remove it.  That can be discarded.

To install a new toilet, turn it upside down and press a new wax ring in place (get one at your local plumbing supply store) -over the opening at the bottom of the toilet.  The plastic collar should face up -at you.  Pack some plumber’s putty into the slots of the flange to hold the retaining bolts upright. Lower the new toilet over the base bolts and apply pressure to compress the wax ring.  Secure the washers and nuts over the base bolts and tighten ‘snug-tight.’  The bolts are sometimes ‘scored’ -or, otherwise designed to be snapped off to accommodate the plastic trim covers.  If they are not scored you’ll want to shorten them with a hacksaw.

The toilet base unit will have a set of holes that will line up with the bolts extending from the bottom of the tank.  Ensure the neoprene gasket is in place and mount the tank over the base unit. Install washers and nuts and tighten ‘snug-tight.’

Reconnect the water supply and install the toilet seat.  A bead of caulk sealant may be applied around the base unit at the floor, if desired.

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You may also enjoy:

Find a Plumbing Supply

Parts of a Toilet

Plumbing Care and Repair Handbook

Uniform Plumbing Code

Toilet Flange

How-To Plumbing

Plumber Tools

Common Toilet Problems

2 thoughts on “Replace a Toilet”

  1. I would also add that anytime you’re working on a toilet, safety glasses are an absolute must! I’ll never forget the day that I was working on a stubborn clogged toilet and had some chemicals get in my eye. It took me 3 days just to start seeing like normal again. At that time I wasn’t wearing my goggles but ever since then, I make absolute sure to where them anytime it’s questionable. Thanks and I hope that helps! – Josh from Madison Plumbers

    1. Thanks for the insight, Josh. I agree with you.

      In the early 1990s I saw a safety poster on the wall at a jobsite that stated: In the US, there are 18 companies that manufacture artificial eyes. And underneath that statement was the question: Why do you suppose that is? Wear your safety glasses!

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