Changing a toilet isn’t always at the top of the list for glamorous remodeling projects. Thankfully, it’s not a particularly difficult undertaking, so if your home is due for a new or upgraded toilet, here are some tips on how to get it done successfully.
REMOVING THE OLD ONE
The first step is to get the old toilet out of the way. Begin by shutting off the water supply to the toilet, which is typically a small valve coming out of the wall or floor below the toilet’s tank. Flush the toilet a couple of times to remove most of the water, then use a small plastic cup or other container to scoop out as much of the remaining water from the bowl as possible.
Next, disconnect the water line where it connects to the valve. If you want to reuse the water line you can disconnect it where it attaches to the tank instead, but it’s always best to replace the water line at the same time you replace a toilet.
The toilet is held in place with two nuts, which are located on the base of the bowl. The nuts are often covered with decorative plastic caps, which can be popped off with a screwdriver. Remove and discard the nuts and washers, and you can discard the old decorative caps as well. If the nuts are rusted on and won’t come loose, you can soak them with a bolt solvent — available at home centers and hardware stores — or you can cut them off with a hacksaw.
Once the bolts are off and the water line is disconnected, the toilet is ready to remove. Stand with your legs on either side of the bowl, grip the outside of the bowl just below the rim, and pull the toilet straight up. If you encounter a lot of resistance, you can try rocking it side to side and then pulling. Set the toilet onto a piece of plastic or into a large tub to prevent any spilled water from getting onto the floor, then, with a helper, remove the old toilet from the room.
To prepare the flange to receive the new toilet, slip on some rubber gloves and then use a putty knife to scrape off any of the remaining wax that is still on the flange. Remove the old bolts by sliding them out of the grooves on the sides of the flange.
If the new toilet is in two boxes, you will need to assemble it first. This is simply a matter of bolting the tank to the bowl, using the screws, nuts and washers supplied with the toilet. Complete assembly instructions are supplied, so follow them carefully to ensure a water-tight seal.
Turn the new toilet upside down, and install the new wax ring. A wax ring is simply a large donut-shaped piece of pliable yellow wax that surrounds a black plastic funnel-shaped fitting called a horn. The wax forms a water-tight seal between the bottom of the toilet and the top of the flange. Warm the wax ring to room temperature for best results, then simply press it against the underside of the toilet with the plastic horn facing away from the toilet.
Whenever you change a toilet, you should make it a practice to also change the bolts. Toilet bolts are slender brass bolts with a T-shaped head at one end. The bolt simply slips into the slots on each side of the flange, with the head under the flange. The bolts need to stand up straight while you install the toilet, so if they want to tip over on you, you can hold them upright with a little dab of wax taken from the side of the wax ring.
With a helper, turn the toilet right-side up, center it over the bolts and the flange, and lower it into place. Make sure that the horn slips into the center of the plumbing flange, and that the two bolts come through the slotted holes in the base of the toilet. Rock the toilet gently from side to side as you press down, ensuring that the wax makes a good seal.
Slip the bottom half of the new toilet bolt covers over the bolts, followed by the brass washers and nuts that came with the new bolts. Tighten the nuts carefully, alternating between the two sides of the toilet, until the toilet is snugly in place. Do not overtighten them. Install the new bolt cover caps over the bolts, and snap the cap onto the bottom half of the cover you installed previously.
Next, install a new water line between the valve and the threaded fitting extending through the underside of the toilet bowl. Braided flex lines, although a little more expensive, are the easiest type of water line to install, and are virtually unbreakable. Slowly turn the valve back on, check for leaks and check for proper operation of the toilet.
The seat is the final installation step. Center the seat on the toilet, and slip the two plastic screws through the seat hinges and then through the toilet. Thread the plastic nuts onto the screws from underneath, and tighten them down gently until the seat is properly aligned and secure.
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