How to Replace a Toilet

You can replace a poorly functioning or inefficient toilet with a high-efficiency, high-quality new toilet in just a single afternoon. All toilets made since 1996 have been required to use 1.6 gallons or less per flush, which has been a huge challenge for the industry.

Today, the most evolved water-saving toilets have wide passages behind the bowl and wide flush valve openings-features that facilitate short, powerful flushes. This means fewer second flushes and fewer clogged toilets.

These problems were common complaints of the first generation of 1.6-gallon toilets and continue to beleaguer inferior models today. See which toilets are available at your local home center in your price range, then go online and see what other consumers’ experiences with those models have been.

New toilets often go through a “de-bugging” stage when problems with leaks and malfunctioning parts are more common. Your criteria should include ease of installation, good flush performance, and reliability. With a little research, you should be able to purchase and install a high-functioning, economical toilet that will serve you well for years to come.

Sleek new toilet options offer attractive bathroom additions that are also more comfortable than ever before. This toilet features a compact design with a rough-in distance of 10 inches, translating to a lot of extra floor space in front of the toilet. The seat itself is positioned at chair height, making it extra comfortable for most users.

Buy a toilet that will fit the space. Measure the distance from the floor bolts back to the wall (if your old toilet has two pairs of bolts, go by the rear pair). This is your rough-in distance and will be either 10″, 12″, or approximately 14″. Make note of the bowl shape, round or oval (long). Oval bowls (also called elongated bowls) are a few inches longer for greater comfort but maybe too big for your space. The safest bet is to buy a replacement with the same bowl shape. You can also opt for a wall-mounted unit. Although the installation is more involved, you can save up to a foot of floor space in front of the toilet— with the added bonus of being able to mount the toilet at whatever height works best for the primary users of the room.

Knowing how a toilet works isn’t essential to a successful installation, but it helps. This cutaway photo features a pre-1.6-gallon-law model, so your new toilet will have a much smaller trap. When the flush handle on the tank is depressed, the water in the tank rushes out through the hole in the underside of the bowl rim. The onrushing water forces the contents of the bowl and the trap out through the closet flange and into the drain line, while the fresh tank water refills the bowl and trap.

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Choosing a New Toilet

Toilets have changed in recent years. There’s a toilet to fit every style. You can even buy a square or stainless-steel toilet, among many other new options. The new designs are efficient, durable, and less susceptible to clogs.

A toilet’s style is partly affected by the way it’s built. You have a number of options from which to choose:

Two‑piece toilets have a separate water tank and bowl.

Two‑piece toilets with a separate tank and bowl are much more common than one-piece models, and usually a lot less costly. The cheapest models are compact with a seat that is not as high above the floor as a full-size model. This can create access difficulty for some users. Round-bowl models usually cost less than models with a larger, elongated bowl.

One‑piece toilets have a tank and bowl made of one seamless unit.

Elongated bowls are roughly 2″ longer than regular bowls.

Elevated toilets have higher seats, generally 18″, rather than the standard 15″.

Some high‑end toilets are designed to get maximum pressure out of a small amount of water. Many employ narrower trapways (the path water travels through the bowl) in conjunction with large-diameter flush valves. Some models use as little as 1.2 gallons of water.

You have a choice of two basic types of flush mechanisms: gravity- and pressure-assisted.

Gravity‑assisted toilets allow water to rush down from an elevated tank into the toilet bowl. Federal law mandates that new toilets consume no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush, less than half the volume used by older styles.

Pressure‑assisted toilets rely on either compressed air or water pumps to boost flushing power.

Dual‑flush systems feature two flush buttons on the top of the tank, allowing you to select either an 8-ounce flush for liquids or a 1.6-gallon flush for solids.

Pressure‑assisted toilets are relatively expensive, but they can reduce your water usage significantly by eliminating multiple flushes. The flush mechanism of a pressure-assisted toilet boosts the flushing power by using either compressed air or water pumps.

How to Remove a Toilet

  1. Remove the old supply tube. First, turn off the water at the stop valve. Flush the toilet, holding the handle down for a long flush, and sponge out the tank. Use a wet/dry vac to clear any remaining water out of the tank and bowl. Unthread the coupling nut for the water supply below the tank using channel-type pliers.
  2. Grip each tank bolt nut with a box wrench or pliers and loosen it as you stabilize each tank bolt from inside the tank with a large slotted screwdriver. If the nuts are stuck, apply penetrating oil to the nut and let it sit before trying to remove them again. You may also cut the tank bolts between the tank and the bowl with an open-ended hacksaw. Remove and discard the tank.

3. Remove the nuts that hold the bowl to the floor. First, pry off the bolt covers with a screwdriver. Use a socket wrench, locking pliers, or your channel-type pliers to loosen the nuts on the tank bolts. Apply penetrating oil and let it sit if the nuts are stuck, then take them off. As a last resort, cut the bolts off with a hacksaw by first cutting down through one side of the nut. Tilt the toilet bowl over and remove it.

Prying Up Wax Rings

Removing an old wax ring is one of the more disgusting jobs you’ll encounter in the plumbing universe (the one you see here is actually in relatively good condition). Work a stiff putty knife underneath the plastic flange of the ring (if you can) and start scraping. In many cases, the wax ring will come off in chunks. Discard each chunk right away—they stick to everything. If you’re left with a lot of residues, scrub with mineral spirits. Once clean, stuff a rag-in-a-bag in the drain opening to block sewer gas.

How to Install a Toilet

1. Clean and inspect the old closet flange. Look for breaks or wear. Also, inspect the flooring around the flange. If either the flange or floor is worn or damaged, repair the damage. Use a rag and mineral spirits to completely remove residue from the old wax ring. Place a rag-in-a-bag into the opening to block odors.

If the old flange is solvent-welded to the closet pipe, cut the pipe flush with the floor. Dry-fit the new flange into the pipe. Turn the flange until the side cut-out screw slots are parallel to the wall. (Do not use the curved keyhole slots, as they are not as strong.) Attach the new flange with solvent glue.

2. Insert new closet bolts (don’t reuse old ones) into the openings in the closet flange. Make sure the heads of the bolts are oriented to catch the maximum amount of flange material.

3. Remove the wax ring and apply it to the underside of the bowl, around the horn. Remove the protective covering. Do not touch the wax ring. It is very sticky.

4. Lower the bowl onto the flange, taking care not to disturb the wax ring. The holes in the bowl base should align perfectly with the tank bolts. Add a washer and tighten a nut on each bolt. Hand-tighten each nut and then use channel-type pliers to further tighten the nuts. Alternate back and forth between nuts until the bowl is secure. Do not overtighten.

5. Attach the toilet tank. Some tanks come with a flush valve and a fill valve preinstalled, but if yours does not, insert the flush valve through the tank opening and tighten a spud nut over the threaded end of the valve. Place a foam or rubber spud washer on top of the spud nut.

6. Adjust the fill valve as directed by the manufacturer to set the correct tank water-level height and install the valve inside the tank. Hand-tighten the nylon lock nut that secures the valve to the tank (inset photo) and then tightens it farther with channel-type pliers

7. With the tank lying on its back, thread a rubber washer onto each tank bolt and insert it into the bolt holes from inside the tank. Then, thread a brass washer and hex nut onto the tank bolts from below and tighten them to a ¼-turn past hand tight. Do not overtighten.

8. Position the tank on the bowl, spud washer on the opening, bolts through bolt holes. Put a rubber washer followed by a brass washer and a wing nut on each bolt and tighten these up evenly.

9. You may stabilize the bolts with a large slotted screwdriver from inside the tank, but tighten the nuts, not the bolts. You may press down a little on a side, the front or the rear of the tank to level it as you tighten the nuts by hand. Do not overtighten and crack the tank. The tank should be level and stable when you’re done.

10. Hook up the water supply by connecting the supply tube to the threaded fill valve with the coupling nut provided. Turn on the water and test for leaks

11. Attach the toilet seat by threading the plastic or brass bolts provided with the seat through the openings on the back of the rim and attaching nuts.

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