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Replacing a Toilet (Including Tips for Installing a New Toilet)

Updated
Replacing a toilet is straightforward enough. All it takes is a couple of hours, a can-do attitude, and a few tools.

While toilets last for years, sometimes replacing a toilet is necessary. Knowing how to replace a toilet is a valuable skill, whether it’s a crack, chip, or changing bathroom fashions.

We show you how to change a toilet and offer toilet replacement tips for a smoother outcome.


Can I Replace My Toilet Myself?

You can change the toilet by yourself! It should only take an hour or two and requires minimal plumbing skills. If you think lifting the toilet will be a struggle, consider getting help. They can weigh 60 to 120 pounds, especially the one-piece models.

How to Choose a New Toilet

So, the time has come to hunt for a new toilet. It sounds simple enough, but what should you look for when shopping for a new commode? Let’s take a look:

Check it Fits

Toilets come in different shapes and sizes, so ensuring the new model fits is crucial. Take your tape measure and gauge the distance from the wall nearest the toilet to the mounting bolts. The standard is 12 inches, but you’ll need a custom toilet if you have a different measurement.

One-Piece Toilet

Product Image of the DeerValley DV-1F026 Dual Flush Elongated Standard One Piece Toilet with Comfortable Seat Height, Soft Close Seat Cover, High-Efficiency Supply, and White Finish Toilet Bowl (White Toilet)

One-piece toilets are made from a single porcelain piece. They are less prone to leaks because there are no joints between the tank and bowl. One-piece toilets tend to be more modern in style, so they should fit the decor if you have a minimalist bathroom design.

This Swiss Madison is the perfect example of a sleek one-piece toilet.

The beauty of one-piece models is that the tank never leaks. On the downside, one-piece toilets are more expensive to repair and replace. One-piece commodes are also heavier, so you may need help installing one.

Two-Piece Toilets

Toilet seat decoration in bathroom

Two-piece toilets are more complicated to install because you have a separate tank and bowl. You need to bolt the tank to the bowl using anchors and a rubber gasket to prevent leaking.

The rubber gasket is a weak point, where leaks occur as the rubber perishes. However, unlike one-piece toilets, you can replace the tank or gasket at a much cheaper cost than replacing the entire toilet.

Two-piece toilets are often cheaper to buy, and they tend to be more traditional in design (although not always, as this American Standard proves). They are also lighter, so you might not need help installing them.

Wall-Hung Toilets

Tissue with smiley face on wall-hung toilet

Wall-hung toilets are super modern in design. They are sometimes called floating toilets, and they attach to a wall with bolts and brackets. Often the tank is concealed behind a false wall.

You are more likely to see this type of toilet in ensuites and downstairs restrooms because they are compact and space-saving. Wall-hung toilets, like this Kohler model, are typically more expensive than other models, but they add a dash of class to any bathroom.

If you have limited plumbing experience, it might be better to call in the pros when installing one of these toilets.

Take Note

Wall-hung toilets have a reduced maximum weight capacity, so if Great Aunt Agatha likes a doughnut or two, consider getting a floor-mounted toilet.

Macerator Toilet

Product Image of the Saniflo SaniPLUS: Macerating Upflush Toilet Kit (with Standard Bowl)

Macerator toilets are a new breed of commode. They work by mulching your waste matter using a macerator and forcing it along narrower pipes to the sewer system. The advantage of this toilet is you can install them anywhere because they don’t rely on gravity to remove the waste.

They use a pump and can lift wastewater up to 15 feet, so you can install them below the sewer line. You may know them as upflush toilets.

If you have a cellar or attic or want to install an ensuite for an elderly relative, these toilets make it possible. Brands like Saniflo are popular, but just keep an eye on the price tag because these toilets are far from cheap.

How to Drain a Toilet

Before you take out the old toilet, you need to drain it. It’s a simple process and can be achieved in under 30 minutes.

What You’ll Need

  • Plunger.
  • Sponge and bucket.
  • Old towels.
  • Rubber gloves.
  • Isolate the water at the supply valve on the wall behind the toilet. Lay down some old newspaper.
  • Lay the old towels around the toilet’s base to catch drips.
  • Flush the toilet and wait while the tank drains.
  • Lift the lid and mop up the water residue with the sponge and bucket.
  • Don the rubber gloves and force the water from the bowl using the plunger. Mop the residue with the sponge and bucket.

How to Replace a Toilet

Once the tank is drained, it’s time to remove the old model and swap it for the new one. It’s a simple process that should only take about an hour.

How to Remove an Old Toilet

Before we get started, we’ll need the right tools. Without them, the job takes longer and is possibly messier.

What You’ll Need

  • Old rag.
  • Utility knife.
  • Putty knife.
  • Adjustable wrench.
  • Pliers.
  • Old newspapers.
  1. Disconnect the water supply line from the tank’s base. You may need an adjustable wrench like this Craftsman Three-Piece set.
  2. Remove the bolts holding the water tank and remove the gasket.
  3. Place the tank on the old newspaper.
  4. Loosen the mounting bolts at the tank’s base.
  5. Cut the caulk seal between the toilet and floor. A utility knife with a retractable blade is better. This DIYSELF set is cheap and popular.
  6. Remove the toilet and old wax ring sitting between the waste pipe and flange.
  7. Use the putty knife to remove the wax ring and scrape any wax residue from the sewer pipe opening.
  8. Stuff the rag into the hole to prevent sewer gasses and odors.

Top Tip

Inspect the toilet flange for cracks and chips. Replace it if it looks like it has deteriorated. You could save yourself a world of pain later when the toilet starts to leak.

Install the New Toilet

With the old toilet removed and the sewer pipe blocked with a rag, it’s time to do the fun bit and get on with your new toilet installation.

What You’ll Need

  • Adjustable wrench.
  • Pliers.
  • Spirit level.
  • Plastic shims.
  • Teflon tape.
  • New wax ring.
  • New toilet.
  • Old towels.
  • Decorator’s caulk.

Put the Wax Ring On the New Toilet

Lay the new toilet on its side and slide the wax ring over the waste pipe protruding from the toilet’s base. Lift the toilet over the mounting bolts and gently lower it down.

Ensure that the mounting bolts match up to the holes on either side of the bowl. Get some help lining this up if necessary.

Take Note

Don’t forget to remove the old rag before installing the toilet. If not, you will block the drain pipe and flood your bathroom.

Sit On the Toilet

With the toilet aligned, sit on the toilet and allow the wax ring to settle into position. Don’t rock too much, or you risk dislodging the ring and causing a leak.

Tighten the Mounting Bolts

Grab the adjustable wrench and tighten the mounting bolts. Be sure to alternate between the two to ensure an even position. You also reduce stress on the porcelain, minimizing the risk of cracking.

Check the Toilet Is Level

Lay the spirit level over the span of the toilet and check it from all angles to find the level. The little bubble should sit in the center of the liquid chamber. If not, you may need shims (small plastic wedges) to adjust the level gradually.

Pop the plastic protective covers over the bolts when you are happy that the toilet is level.

Attach the Tank

Ensure that the rubber seal between the tank and the bowl is in place, or you will get leaks. Insert the bolts and tighten the nuts using the pliers and adjustable wrench. Be careful not to overtighten, or you risk cracking the porcelain.

Attach the Water Supply Line

With the tank fixed in place, it’s time to connect the supply line. One end should hook up to the isolation valve while the other end threads onto the base of the fill valve. Use Teflon tape to create a watertight seal.

Switch the Water Back On

Turn the isolation valve counterclockwise, and the water will flow back to the toilet tank. Allow the tank to fill and check at the base for leaks. Feel behind the tank’s mounting bolts and the back of the toilet bowl.

Flush the Toilet

Pull the flush lever and watch as the tank drains. Check that the components are doing their job and there are no leaks. You are also listening out for the sound of continuous running water.

Check at the toilet’s base for leaks. If the floor is dry, replace the tank’s lid and seal the base with caulk.

How to Replace a Toilet Seat

The other important element of your toilet is the seat. It’s the bit you entrust to keep your posterior nice and comfortable.

What You’ll Need

  • New toilet seat.
  • Bolts.
  • Adjustable wrench.
  • Pliers.
  • Place the seat so that the bolt holes align with the holes at the back of the bowl.
  • Insert the bolts through the plastic brackets.
  • Screw the bolts to the underside of the toilet bowl, taking care to tighten each bolt alternatively.
  • As the bolts tighten, give them one last quarter-turn to secure the seat.
  • Test the seat by sitting on it. If it moves, you may need to keep tightening the bolts.

Be Aware

Overtightening the screws will cause the porcelain to crack, weakening the seat.

Toilet Replacement Tips

We could all do with some help when we start any DIY task, and replacing a toilet is a pretty substantial project. So, what tips can we offer to make your life easier? Let’s take a look.

Open Windows and Doors

While the odors shouldn’t be that overpowering, keeping a fresh air supply stops contaminants from circulating in the room.

Plug the Sewer Pipe

Use an old rag to block the sewer pipe if it is exposed for longer periods. It may not be that important if you replace the toilet immediately. But if you are waiting for a part to arrive, it stops sewer gasses and odors from seeping back into your home.

Use Shims

Shims are small wedges of material widely used in all aspects of construction. If your floor is uneven, shims, like these Multi-Purpose Nylon Shims, are the perfect way to raise the toilet so it is level.

When you find the level, cut away the excess and caulk the shims to conceal them under the toilet’s base.

Alternate When Tightening Bolts

Porcelain is hardwearing, but it does crack when placed under pressure. Always twist one bolt a full turn and then swap to the other. Do this until the bolts are secure. If you tighten one bolt first and then the other, you risk an uneven toilet and stress fractures.

Always Replace the Wax Ring

No matter the condition of the old wax ring, whenever you remove a toilet, replace it. The wax molds to form a tight seal at the base of your toilet, so it may not accommodate the new model so well.

If that happens, you will get leaks.

How Much Does a Plumber Charge to Replace a Toilet?

When you call a plumber, they will either quote you to install a new toilet or remove the old one and swap it for a new model. If you want them to take the old toilet out, that will affect the price considerably.

The easiest and cheapest way of engaging the services of a professional is to remove the toilet yourself and get the plumber to do the skilled work.

The average price for a plumber to replace a toilet ranges from $120 to $230, but that doesn’t include the new toilet, flange, or wax ring. Most plumbers charge $65 per hour and will quote you three to four hours to complete the project.

When setting their rates, they have to consider travel time, potential problems, and minimum fees.

FAQs

Should You Caulk Around a Toilet?

According to the International Plumbing Code, you should caulk around the base of a toilet. It adds extra security to the toilet and stops dirt and debris from collecting.

How Long Does It Take a Plumber to Replace a Toilet?

Surprisingly, most plumbers will require three to four hours to replace a toilet. It takes time to test the system for leaks and double-check all the seals are tight. Plus, the work is guaranteed, so they need to ensure everything is ship-shape before walking away.

How Long After Installation Can a Toilet be Used?

You should wait three days before using your new toilet. This gives the toilet time to settle and for you to troubleshoot any potential leaks.

How Tight Should the Bolts on a Toilet Be?

There is no rule dictating how tight the bolts should be, but if you can hear metal scraping on porcelain, you should probably stop tightening.


Replacing a Toilet Is Easier Than You Think

Most plumbing tasks can seem daunting. You are dealing with water, which can be tricky to work with. However, using this article as a template, you can work logically.

Removing and replacing a toilet is the same procedure, just in reverse, so it shouldn’t hold any fear. And think of all that lovely cash you’ll save by doing the work yourself!

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Headshot of Mark Weir

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.