Q: We need to replace our outdated toilet. I’m pretty sure that we can remove it, but I’m not clear about installing a new one. Also, I understand that I may need to buy a new wax ring for it. Is there anything else I need to know?
A: Sure, there is plenty to know about replacing your porcelain workhorse. You can get a cheap toilet for around $100, and you can spend several hundred dollars for the high-end models (pun intended).
Spending more doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting a better toilet. What it usually means is that it’s more decorative, such as a low-profile or one-piece toilet.
While you’re in the store, buy a new wax ring with a rubber flange built-in and a new set of closet bolts. These items will cost about $5.
To remove the old toilet, turn off the water at the water supply valve on the wall. Flush the toilet to get rid of the water in the tank, and then hold the flapper open to further drain any remaining water. Disconnect the water-supply line by unscrewing the coupling nut (this connects the water-supply line to the fill valve underneath the tank).
The toilet bowl has a built-in trap that holds water so that sewer gas doesn’t seep into your house. The problem is, when you try to cart the toilet out of the bathroom, you will likely spill a considerable amount on the floor as you move it.
Try to push as much water as you can down the drain with a plunger before you lift the toilet. The alternative is to buy some Liquilock water solidifier and pour it into the bowl (it’s a powder that turns the water into a gel).
There are usually two bolts holding the tank to the bowl. To save your back, remove the tank by unscrewing the tank bolts with a standard screwdriver and a wrench. The tank will lift right off.
Now, unscrew the nuts that hold the toilet to the floor. If they are so corroded that they won’t budge, you may need a hacksaw to cut them off.
Once the nuts are off, straddle the toilet and gently rock it to break the seal. The seal is created by the toilet compressing the wax ring. Lift the toilet and remove it.
Use a putty knife and scrape the old wax ring off of the toilet flange (the coupling on the floor that holds the toilet bolts). If you plan to keep the hole open for a while, stuff a rag in it then cover it with an inverted bucket.
Lay your new toilet on its side and place the new wax ring around the horn (the hole on the bottom of the toilet). Take the new toilet bolts and place them in the grooves around the perimeter of the flange. Move them in the groove until they are centered on either side of the flange, then place the plastic clips (they are included with the bolts) at the base of the bolts to hold them in place.
Remove the rag from the hole and carefully pick up the toilet. Straddle the toilet and carefully position it over the flange so that the floor bolts fit through the holes in the base of the toilet. As a precaution against a rocking toilet, you can mix up a little plaster of Paris and apply a thin layer to the bottom of the toilet.
Push down on the toilet bowl, compressing the wax ring to make a tight seal. Place the washers and nuts over the bolts and tighten them. Do not overtighten these nuts, or you could crack the base and have to start over. Place the trim caps on the nuts.
If you are using a two-piece toilet, attach the tank. You may have to install the handle, fill valve and flush valve, but in many cases, they come installed.
Before you attach the tank, don’t forget to place the spud (a fat rubbery washer) over the flush valve tailpiece. You’ll need to turn the tank upside down for this. Turn the tank back over and center the spud over the hole at the back edge of the bowl.
Ensure the holes at the bottom of the tank line up with the holes on the top of the bowl. Place rubber washers on the tank bolts and place them in the holes. Underneath the tank, place washers and nuts on the end of the tank bolts and tighten until snug, but don’t overdo it.
Reattach the water supply line to the fill valve and turn on the water.
Lastly, attach the toilet seat to the bowl, and then show your throne who’s king.
Mike Klimek is a licensed contractor and owner of Las Vegas Handyman. Questions may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to 4710 W. Dewey Drive, No. 100, Las Vegas, NV 89118. His web address is www.handymanoflasvegas.com.
Project: Replace a toilet
Cost: From around $100
Time: About 1 hour