Before You Start Replacing Your Toilet

Before learning how to replace a toilet, make sure that the new toilet you buy is the right size. Measuring your old toilet is a good place to start.

Buy the Right Size Toilet

  1. Start with the rough in measurement. This is the distance from the wall (not the molding) to the closet bolts. Typical rough in measurements are 10, 12, or 14 inches. 12 inches is the most common.
  2. If there are doors or other elements of your bathroom that you don’t want to collide with the toilet or with the person using the toilet, measure how large the toilet bowl should be. When purchasing a new toilet, you’ll notice that elongated bowls are known for their comfort. But, make sure to check that your bathroom fits an elongated bowl.
  3. Use your measurements to find the right toilet.

Gather the Right Tools and Supplies

  • Wax ring
  • Brass bolts. Check that they’re really brass because some bolts only look the part.
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Extra nuts and washers
  • Stainless steel repair ring
  • Adjustable wrench or channellock pliers
  • Towels  
  • Optional Supplies

    • Masking tape
    • Penetrating oil
    • Water solidifier
    • Large screwdriver
    • Hacksaw blade

How to Remove an Old Toilet

Before learning how to install a toilet, you’ll first need to learn how to remove the old toilet. If you don’t have a toilet to remove, skip down to the section about installing a toilet.

1. Get Rid of the Water in the Tank Immediately

  1. Turn off water supply to the toilet.
  2. Flush the toilet to get water out of the tank and bowl.
  3. Remove the water that wouldn’t flush out. Do this for water in the bowl and the tank. A towel or sponge can do the trick pretty well. You can also use a water solidifier for the water in the bowl.

2. Disconnect the Tank from the Bowl

  1. Disconnect the water supply line from the tank. An adjustable wrench or channellock pliers can be effective here.
  2. Remove the nuts from the screws that are connecting the tank to the base.
  3. Be cautious when removing the nuts. If they’re stuck tight, you could break the tank by putting too much pressure on them. Try applying penetrating oil to loosen them up. You might also use a large screwdriver to hold the bolt from the inside of the tank while loosening the nuts.
  4. Pick up the tank and remove it. The tank can be heavy, and in some cases it might crack. You might want another set of hands and a pair of gloves for each of you.

3. Remove the Bowl From the Floor

  1. If you haven’t already, remove any remaining water from the bowl.
  2. Take off the closet bolt coverings.
  3. Use an adjustable wrench to unscrew the nuts of the closet bolts.
  4. Occasionally, the nuts and bolts connecting the bowl to the floor decide not to budge. To avoid straining the bolts too much and cracking the toilet, use a hacksaw blade to cut the bolts.
  5. Once you’ve tackled the bolts, loosen the bowl by rocking it. This will break the wax seal with the floor and closet flange.
  6. Pull the bowl off the ground. It’s going to need to get a few inches off the ground in order to clear the bolts.
  7. This process might leak some water. Be prepared with towels.

4. Remove the Old Wax Ring

  1. You’ll now see the closet flange in your floor. Take a paper towel and stuff it into the open space (don’t forget to take this out right before installing the new toilet). Now nuts and bolts won’t disappear down the hole.  
  2. The flange is the star player in the toilet game. If it isn’t tight, the toilet will rock. The more the toilet can move, the more the wax ring will warp. This usually ends in leaks. To avoid that, remove all traces of the old wax ring (try using a putty knife). Then, check on the condition of the closet flange.
  3. If you find an imperfect plastic flange, buy a stainless steel repair ring. This can be installed right over the plastic flange. Be aware that it will add some height to the flange. It’s best to check that the toilet will still fit over the plastic flange, the repair ring, and the wax ring before installing everything.

How to Install a Toilet

This is the hardest part of replacing a toilet. It involves setting the wax ring. Once the ring is in place, it can’t be removed and reused. Here are some tips to placing the bowl in the right place the first time.

1. Install New Bowl

  1. If the old closet bolts aren’t in good shape, replace them. Stainless steel screws do the best job here. The bolts have a tendency to wiggle around when you try to put the toilet over them. To make life easier, use the extra nuts and washers to stabilize the bolts.
  2. Put masking tape on the floor by the bolts. This helps you know where to set the bowl down when you’re struggling to see over the heavy toilet bowl you’ll be carrying.
  3. To avoid putting the toilet in the wrong place, arrange the bolts and set the bowl over them as if you were securing it for good. But, don’t actually use the wax seal yet! This way you can make sure that everything is in the right place and make adjustments if necessary.
  4. After you’ve done this test run, place the new toilet upside down.
  5. Run the wax seal under warm water, and then place it on the bottom of the toilet.
  6. Take the paper towel out of the pipe.
  7. Align the seal with the closet flange and bolts. Then, set the bowl down on the ground.
  8. Gently rock the bowl back and forth to secure it. It might help to put a knee on the lid and push with your body weight as you rock it. Eventually, the bottom of the bowl will be level with the ground.
  9. Add a cap base, washer, and nut to each of the bolts that secure the toilet to the ground. Don’t tighten them too much! It could break the bowl. Tighten back and forth between the bolts on each side of the toilet to make sure that both sides are even.
  10. Replace the caps that cover the bolts. The covering prevents rust by keeping liquid off the bolts. If the bolts are too high for the caps to fit, use the hacksaw to cut off the top.

2. Install New Tank

  1. Flip the new tank upside down. Slide a bolt to into each side of the base.
  2. Place the rubber gasket on the toilet base.
  3. Put the new tank on the bowl.
  4. Attach the tank to the bowl using brass bolts.. Alternating, hand tighten the screws from beneath. Add the nuts.  Careful of tightening too much and cracking the toilet.
  5. Reconnect the water supply tube to the overflow pipe.
  6. Attach water supply to the connection beneath the tank
  7. Turn on the water supply–slowly.
  8. Test the toilet. Check for leaks. If it is leaking, try tightening the bolts securing the tank to the bowl or the bolts securing the bowl to the ground.

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