How To Remove And Install A Toilet
There’s no doubt about it: toilets are an essential part of our everyday lives. We use them regularly, and they remind us whether or not we’re keeping, well, regular. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say we need them.
We immediately know when they’re not working and can instantly tell when they’ve, let’s just say, seen better days.
Replacing a toilet may seem like a difficult task, perhaps even a bit intimidating, but toilet installation is actually quite simple and requires very few tools.
In this lesson, we’ll teach you how to remove your old toilet and replace it with a new one. Knowing how to install a toilet gives you a better understanding of how this everyday necessity works and can save you quite a bit of money on plumbing fees.
So without further ado, let’s begin replacing that tired old toilet with a throne you can be proud to own. Okay, maybe not proud, but at least it won’t scare away any house guests!
What You'll Need
- Crescent/Adjustable Wrench
- Caulking Gun (optional)
- Toilet Installation Kit
- Wax Ring
- Silicone (optional)
- Escutcheon (if applicable)
How To Remove A Toilet
Shut Off Water
Before we explain how to install a toilet, we first need to illustrate how to remove one. Makes sense, right?
To begin the removal process, turn off the water to the toilet by turning the water valve located on the wall or floor behind the toilet.
Using an adjustable wrench, also known as a crescent wrench, unfasten the bolt that connects the metal braided hose from the water supply line to the toilet.
Tip: Place a bowl underneath the area where the water hose connects to the wall or floor to catch any residual water left in the hose to save time on cleanup.
Take off the top of the water tank located at the back of the toilet. Lift the drain plug to empty the tank of water, much as it would when you flush the toilet.
Now that the water is turned off, the main difference is that the toilet will not replenish the water supply, avoiding messes and making the toilet much lighter when you take it out.
There are two bolts located at the bottom of each side of the toilet. They are often covered by plastic caps. Remove the caps by simply pulling them off.
Now use a crescent wrench to loosen and remove the nuts that hold the toilet to the floor.
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, getting rid of that broken or old toilet! With the bolts and hose now removed, the toilet is fully disconnected and can be lifted from the floor and taken out.
If it feels like the toilet is still stuck, it could be because of the seal formed between the toilet and the toilet flange by the wax ring. If this is the case, jostle the toilet back and forth until the seal is released.
Once the toilet is removed, take time to clear away as much residual wax (left from the old wax ring seal) from the toilet flange as possible. Doing so will make installation much easier later and will ensure a watertight seal during toilet assembly.
How To Install A Toilet
Install Wax Ring
When replacing a toilet, it’s better to install the toilet base first and then assemble the toilet once the base is in place. Doing this makes it easier to align the toilet with the flange properly and it is lighter than trying to lift the entire unit and install it as one piece.
To start, flip the base upside down to install the wax ring. That’s right, we said wax. Its uses go beyond scented candles and as a way to close old-timey correspondence!
Remove the plastic from the wax, and then place it around the drain hole at the base’s bottom. Press the wax ring down onto the toilet until it sticks to the bottom and won’t fall off when you turn the base right-side up.
The wax ring is how the toilet connects to the flange and prevents any leaking or spillage.
Info: There are several toilet wax ring thicknesses, and selecting the right one will depend on the height of the flange. If the flange is higher up from the floor, you may need a thicker wax ring. The best way to guarantee a proper seal is to measure the flange’s height from the floor and bring this measurement to a local hardware or plumbing supply store. An expert can then recommend the appropriate wax ring to use during toilet installation.
Attach Bolts To Flange
Toilet flanges have two curved, rectangular openings in them. At one end of the opening, there is a wider area where bolt heads can be inserted. The other end of the slot is narrower to hold the bolt in place.
Slide the bolts into the wider opening in the rectangle on the toilet flange and drag them over to the end of the narrower section so they won’t come loose, with the threaded side facing up. These bolts are what secures the toilet to the floor. Fasten the bolts to the flange with washer nuts, with the nut’s flat side facing up.
Line up the bolts in these openings on the flange so that they are parallel to the wall.
Install Escutcheon (if applicable)
Before placing the toilet base on the flange, we recommend attaching an escutcheon to the water valve if there isn’t one there already.
The escutcheon is a fancy name for the chrome donut that goes around the water supply pipe running into the wall or the floor, and is really just used for aesthetic purposes.
Escutcheons have a perforated line on the back that can split open in order to fit it around the water supply pipe. It sits against the wall or floor, giving the plumbing a more finished, refined look.
Break open the escutcheon along the perforated line and fit it around the water line pipe connected to the water valve. Once the escutcheon is in place, turn it, so the open, perforated section faces downward and is hidden from sightlines.
Fasten the braided metal water hose to the water shut-off valve on the wall or floor. Doing this now avoids trying to attach it when there is less room during the toilet base installation. It beats having a toilet in your face!
Use a crescent wrench to secure the smaller, all-metal end to the valve to attach the water hose. The larger plastic end will connect to the toilet. Pay special attention not to cross-thread the bolt.
Tip: Wrap sealing (plumber’s) tape tightly around the threaded area of the water shut-off valve to prevent potential leaks. It is good practice to use sealant tape whenever there is metal to metal contact in any plumbing that involves threading.
With the wax ring already attached to the bottom of the toilet base, turn the base right-side up and align the wax ring with the flange. The bolts sticking out of the flange will go up through the two holes on the toilet base’s left and ride sides.
When the toilet is coupled with the flange, with the wax ring between them, press down on the toilet base to squish the wax into place. This creates a water-tight seal.
Fasten To Floor
Hand tighten the nuts to the flange bolts at the base of the toilet. Once hand tightened, use a crescent wrench to fasten them fully, alternating between one side and the other. We recommend doing a half-turn of the bolt on each side until the toilet is secure to the floor. Avoid over-tightening the bolts as this could crack the toilet.
After installing the toilet base, there shouldn’t be any movement in the base. The toilet base needs to be level and as flush against the floor as possible after installation.
Tip: Use shims or wedges if there is still some movement in the toilet, it’s not level, the floor is uneven, or there are any gaps underneath the bottom of the toilet base and the wax ring cannot be squeezed down any further.
Plastic shims and wedges are available at plumbing and hardware stores for this purpose. Simply wedge them into place in any gaps that cause the toilet base to wobble until the toilet is level and there is no further movement.
Apply Silicone (optional)
Applying silicone between the base of the toilet and the floor provides a more finished look.
Using a caulking gun, run a bead of silicone around the base of the toilet, leaving a 2-inch gap at the back.
Info: Leave the gap in case of any leakage. Should the toilet begin to leak, the gap leaves an opening for the water to escape. This makes it easier to tell if the toilet is leaking.
Creating a full silicone barrier would otherwise disguise the leak by sealing it underneath the toilet. Unnoticed leaks such as this that remain unresolved leave water resting against the floor, potentially leading to mold and even structural damage. So leave a gap just to be on the safe side!
Attach the rubber seal to the bottom of the toilet tank. Now, line up the rubber seal with the hole at the back of the toilet base. Water will drain from the tank via this hole into the bowl of the toilet.
There are also two (sometimes three) bolts coming from the bottom of the tank. When aligning the toilet tank with the base during installation, orient these bolts to fit into the corresponding holes on the base.
Once the tank is in place, fasten the washers and nuts provided with the toilet installation kit using a crescent wrench and a screwdriver. The screwdriver is needed to hold the bolts in place as the nuts are fastened.
When fasting the nuts, hand-tighten them first, then alternate between bolts until they are securely fastened. Do not overtighten these bolts, as it can crack the toilet. The only crack you want on your new toilet is yours!
Attach Plastic Caps
Most toilet installation kits come with plastic caps to cover the bolts that hold the base to the flange, and they simply click into place.
Place the caps over the top of the bolts at the bottom of the base.
Tip: If the caps don’t fit, the bolts may be sticking out too much for the caps to cover them. Use a hacksaw to saw the bolts. Cut the bolts down far enough for the cap to cover them.
Connect Supply Line
Hand tighten the plastic lock nut from the metal braided water supply line around the water intake pipe on the bottom of the toilet tank.
Fill up the back of the toilet tank with water by turning on the water valve. Once the tank is filled, check for leaks.
Give the replacement toilet a test run by flushing it, making sure it operates correctly, and give it another thorough leak assessment.
Open the brackets at the back of the seat until the hookup holes are exposed. Place a bolt into each hole, and align the bolts with the corresponding holes on the toilet base.
To attach the seat, fasten the nuts onto the base of the toilet using a crescent wrench. Use a screwdriver to hold the bolts in place.
Some seats utilize plastic lock nuts and bolts. If this is the case, simply hand-tighten the plastic lock nuts until the seat is secure.
Tip: Some toilet seats come with plastic or rubber gaskets that go underneath the toilet seat near the bolts. Make sure these are installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions before attaching the seat. They typically just pop into place.
With the seat installed, the toilet installation is complete. Give the toilet a final test-flush to make sure there are no leaks. After confirming everything is leak-free, you are now officially finished replacing a toilet!
Now, go and enjoy your new… actually, don’t tell us, just go do whatever.