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Installing a Toilet


The following video series will show you how to remove an old toilet and install a new model. Follow the steps below for a successful DIY installation.




Step 1: Removing a toilet

The first step is to turn off the water at the shutoff valve. This valve can be found either on the wall or floor behind or beside the toilet. It controls the flow of water into the supply line and then into the toilet tank. The tank is the upper section of the toilet where water used for flushing is stored. The bowl is the lower section where the water flows and swirls to complete the flush.  

Next, flush the toilet to drain all the water from the tank and toilet bowl. Since you've turned the water off at the valve, the tank will not refill. Use a plunger to force any remaining water down the drain line – and remove any remaining water from the tank with a sponge and a bucket. Any small amount of water left in the bowl at this point won't spill out as long as the bowl is left upright while being removed.

Step 2: Disconnect the supply line

Once all remaining water is removed from the toilet, you will need to disconnect the supply line with an adjustable wrench. The supply line is connected to the water pipe bringing water into the bathroom as well as the toilet fill valve at the base of the toilet. If the line has never been removed or has been connected for an extended period of time it might be a little hard to loosen at one or both of the connection points. If that’s the case, you will need to use a good penetrating catalyst like PB Blaster to break down any corrosion that may exist. Be sure and keep the water pipe secure while trying to loosen the supply line at the valve. You don't want to loosen or damage the water pipe or its connection inside the wall or floor in the process of trying to loosen the supply line connection.


There will be a small amount of water left in the supply line when it's removed. So you'll want to have a bucket and rag on hand to catch and wipe any water that spills out.  


Now you’re ready to unbolt and remove the old toilet


Step 3: Lifting the tank and toilet bowl

If you’re working alone, it may be easier to separate the tank from the bowl. Lifting both pieces together can be difficult for one person. Also know that some toilets feature one piece construction in which case the tank and bowl are not separate pieces and obviously can't be separated.


To get started, disconnect and remove the tank from the bowl by removing the bolts from the bottom of the tank with an adjustable wrench.  The tank bolts travel from inside the toilet tank to below the bowl. It may be necessary to hold the top of the bolt within the tank while removing the nut below the back of the bowl.  


Next, you will remove the tank by lifting it straight up. If you feel resistance, twist from side to side as you lift. This will work the flush valve gasket found between tank and bowl free from the bowl.


Step 4: Unbolting the tank and toilet bowl from the floor

To unbolt and remove the toilet bowl from the floor, pop the toilet bolt caps using a screwdriver if necessary. Use a pair of pliers or an adjustable wrench to remove the nuts and washers on the bolts that secure the bowl to the floor. If you find the nuts are rusted in place, you can use the PB Blaster penetrating catalyst again to loosen the nuts.  Even if this doesn't loosen them enough to remove them completely, just a few turns will create enough space at the base of the bolts below the nuts to allow you to use a hacksaw to cut the bolts off. Your new toilet will come with replacement bolts.

Step 5: Check for caulking around the bowl base

The next step is to check to see if your toilet bowl has been caulked around the base where it meets the floor. If it has, you'll need to use a utility knife to score through the caulk seam. For your new toilet, you should avoid caulking around the base. If you ever develop a leak, the caulk will trap the water under the toilet and you may not discover it in time to prevent serious damage to your floor.


Now, you will gently rock the toilet bowl back and forth until you work it free and can lift it. Move it to the side to expose the old wax ring.


A wax ring is a gasket made from bees wax or a synthetic material and rubber. Its purpose is to create a waterproof seal between the toilet flange and the opening of the drain pipe in the floor. It prevents water and gases from escaping.


Step 6: Check the bolt around the flange

After removing the toilet bowl, you’ll want to check the status of the old toilet bowl bolts in the flange located at the floor drain.  If you cut rusted bolts off in the previous step those bolts should be replaced at this point with the news bolts that came with your new toilet. If the bolts weren't rusted and are in good shape you can leave them in place and reuse them or replace them if you wish.  Either approach is fine. The flange is there to create a connection between the floor and toilet and provide a connection point for the hardware found on the base of the toilet.  


Now you’ll want to remove the old wax ring using a putty knife and wipe away any excess with a damp rag or sponge. At this point, you’ll want to stuff a rag into the open line in the floor.This will prevent sewer gases from venting into your home and keep tools from falling into the hole. You’ll remove the rag later before installing the new toilet.


Step 7: Inspect the flange for damage

Next, you’ll want to inspect the flange. If it is cracked or broken, you can use a flange repair ring. The most common types are available in a one or two piece design.  They are designed to fit over the existing flange to ensure a good connection for the new toilet.  The severity of the damage will determine which type of repair flange you need or if it’s best to just replace the entire flange. Just snap a picture of your damaged flange and show it to one of The Home Depot plumbing associates for advice on which approach is best.


After placing the new toilet bowl bolts in the flange and removing the rag placed earlier in the drain pipe, you’re ready to install the new toilet.


Step 8: Place the new wax ring

To get started, you have two options for placing the new wax ring. You can rest the new toilet bowl on its side on a padded surface to protect the floor and the toilet and attach the replacement wax ring to the bottom of the bowl.  The benefit is that you can be sure that the ring is in the proper position when placing the toilet over the flange. The more popular option is to place the wax ring in position on the flange prior to lowering the bowl into place.  Be aware that the thickness of our floor will dictate the thickness of the wax ring needed. For instance, if thick tile has been added to your bathroom since the original toilet was installed, a thicker ring may be required.

Step 9: Place the toilet bowl on the flange

Now you’re ready to place the toilet bowl onto the flange, aligning the bolt holes in the base of the bowl with the bolts in the flange. If it helps, you can hold the bowl by the inside rim instead of the outer edges to get a better grip and more control as you lower it.  Then, you’ll press down to set the seal.


Be really careful not to move or tilt the toilet after setting wax seal on the flange – because you could break the seal which might result in future leaks.


Step 10: Secure the toilet

To secure the toilet, place a washer and nut on each toilet bowl bolt and evenly tighten the nuts onto the bolts.  Be sure and alternate from one side of the toilet to the other as your tighten the nuts a little at a time.  This keeps the pressure even on both sides and prevents the loosening of the seal of the wax ring.  Also, be very careful not to over tighten the nuts and crack the porcelain bowl.


If the bolts extend too far over the top of the washers and nuts, cut off the excess with a hacksaw. Place the tank onto the bowl, aligning the shank of the bolts with the holes in the bowl. If the bolts extend too far over the washers and nuts, cut off the excess with a hacksaw. However, newer models of toilets have taller bolt caps, which prevent the need to shorten the bolts.


Step 11: Attach the tank to the toilet bowl

Now, you're ready to attach the tank to the toilet bowl. First, place the tank on the floor.  If not already attached, install the “tank to bowl” gasket onto the base of the flush valve and insert the tank bolts and washers from inside the tank.


Place the tank onto the bowl, aligning the shank of the bolts with the holes in the bowl.


Secure the tank to the bowl by alternately tightening each tank bolt until the tank pulls down and comes in contact with bowl.  At this point, reattach the supply line to the exposed portion of the fill valve sticking out of the bottom of the tank and to the supply valve coming out of the wall or floor.  We suggest replacing your old supply line  with a new one, especially if it hasn't been replaced in a while.   


Now you’ll want to test the toilet for leaks.  Slowly turn on the water shut-off valve, and allow the tank to fill. Flush the toilet and focus on the base of the toilet and the point at which the tank and bowl meet. You can add leak detecting dye which you'll find in our plumbing department that will make seeing leaks much easier.


Step 12: Choose a toilet seat

Be aware that most two-piece toilets do not come with a seat. Those must be purchased separately. Just be sure to select a toilet seat that will fit the toilet model you have chosen. Secure the new seat and lid to the bowl following the manufacturer’s instructions and your toilet installation project is complete. There are different types of seats and lids on the market so follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the type you have chosen.