How to Change a Toilet


Plumbing problems can ruin an otherwise great day. When nature calls, having to deal with a broken toilet is a major inconvenience. You can fix or even change a toilet on your own, and although a plumber will complete this task for you, it’s simple enough that no professional assistance is required. This short tutorial will teach you the basics of how to replace an old toilet with a newer, better or more comfortable version.

Initial Steps
Like so many other plumbing tasks, changing toilets successfully relies on proper planning. The whole process should only take a few hours, and it begins with one simple measurement, the distance from the rear hold-down bolts on the toilet flange to the back wall. This is usually about 12″ and is known as the toilet’s “rough-in” measurement. Make sure the rough-in matches that of your the new model you choose from the hardware store. Turn off the water valve that supplies your old toilet and flush it to empty out the rear tank, following up with a mop and sponge to make sure tank and bowl are both completely dried out.

Taking the Old Toilet Out
You can use an open end adjustable wrench to detach the water supply from the toilet tank before you get rid of the tank itself. Usually, two lengthy bolt and nut sets hold the tank to the bowl, and once you’ve removed these, you can simply lift the rear portion straight up. If the tank is mounted to the wall, however, you’ll need to remove any elbow or hardware with the appropriate wrenches.

The toilet bowl itself usually uses 2-4 hold down nuts for its mounting. These are typically covered by caps that are easy to pry off with a flat screwdriver. Bolts that are too difficult to unscrew can be cut with a hacksaw, and once these are out of the way, simply rock the toilet bowl to loosen its floor seal, and immediately discard your old toilet. The drain pipe should be plugged with rags to prevent sewer gasses from backing up into your home while you work on the new toilet’s seal.

Perform a complete cleanup to get your bathroom space ready. Make sure you clear the old seal area of any putty, clean the floor, and remove any old bolts, which should never be reused. If you need to install new supply piping or flooring, do it now. Check that the toilet flange rises about 1/2″ above the floor and test the levelness by temporarily placing the new toilet on top. If you need to level it out, you can use metal washers under the bowl, but make sure they’re rust-proof. Finally, install new hold-down bolts, available from your retailer.

Putting the New Toilet In
You can follow the same steps you took to remove the toilet in reverse, in conjunction with the manufacturer’s instructions your new commode should have included. Tanks and bowls chip easily, so be careful handling them. Invert the bowl onto something soft, like a layer of newspapers, and seal the now-exposed bottom pipe flange with a new wax toilet ring gasket. Also seal the floor-to-bowl joint around the bowls base with plumber’s putty or bathtub sealant. Remove the rags from the toilet flange opening you plugged up and place the bowl straight down over it, so the hold down bolts pass smoothly through the base openings. Rocking the bowl as before, force out excess wax, but do not raise the toilet from the floor.

Tighten the hold-down bolts, but don’t use a wrench, simply make them as snug as you can by hand, checking them after a few days of use. Connect your tank as per the instructions, and hook up the water supply. Turn the water on, and watch for leaks, making sure the tank fills up to the correct level. As a last precaution, monitor your toilet for a few days of use, tightening up any areas where you spot leakage.

This post was written by

jasonjason – who has written posts on Home Tips Plus.
I'm a father of three, married and a home owner since 2006. I've worked in fixing up homes and rental properties.

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