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How To Remove and Install a Toilet

With today's push to conserve water, changing to a low flow energy efficient toilet is a fairly easy and quick way to get your household started on that road to energy efficiency. With a small amount of basic tools even a first time DYI could expect to fully remove and replace a toilet in less than 2 hours.

Difficulty Level
3 / 12

Tools required

- slip joint pliers
- crescent wrench
- large flat screwdriver
- utility knife (snap blade knife)
- metal hacksaw

Materials Required

- toilet flange wax ring with rubber flange embedded
- water supply flex hose
- brass toilet mounting bolts

How to remove a toilet

It may seem strange but the first thing I do when changing a toilet is...clean it! You will have your hands in and on this toilet more than once so either clean it or wear some rubber gloves. Start by turning off the water supply to the toilet, then flush toilet a couple of times to remove most of the water in the tank and bowl. Then using a small cup (a styrofoam coffee cup work good) or a sponge, get as much of the remaining water out of the bowl and tank. Next remove the toilet bolt caps if they're there and undo the bolts that are holding the toilet to the floor and remove the water line from the wall behind the toilet.

TIP: Sometimes the toilet base will also be silconed to the flooring so you may need to cut this free.

Your toilet should be loose but will likely be stuck to the floor a bit so just grasp the bowl on each side and wiggle it while you are lifting it up. Take the toilet completely out of the room as to give you lots of room to work.

How to install a toilet

Assemble your new water efficient toilet using the manufacturers instructions that are usually packaged with the toilet. Now you are ready to start installing your new toilet. Clean the remnants of the old wax ring off of the plumbing floor flange which you can clearly now see at floor level. I usually just use a old rag to wipe off as much of the old ring as I can and throw it away. Remove the old bolts that held your old toilet to the floor and re-install new brass bolts.

TIP: I like to use the bolts that are brass instead of the brass plated bolts because when it comes time to cut them off with your hacksaw brass is much quicker to cut through. They will likely cost you another $1-$2 but trust me that's well worth it.

Now you can apply the new wax ring onto the plumbing floor flange with the rubber flange down, centered on the hole and between the bolts. You may have to push the bolts into the sides of the wax ring so that they are standing straight up and down.

Toilet wax ring for installation
Wax ring installed, ready to place toilet

You can now lower the new toilet onto the wax ring and brass bolts being careful to get the port on the bottom of the toilet lined up over the wax ring and the bolts coming up through the bolt holes on either side of the toilet base. Now likely the toilet is not sitting all the way down onto the floor so if you put a hand on each side of the bowl lean some weight on it and gently rock it back and forth the toilet will work it's way into place. Adjust your toilet by turning it slightly right or left to line it up perpendicular to the wall behind it. Now you can place the washers and nuts onto the brass bolts and tighten it down to the floor snugly, do not overtighten the bolts or you could crack the toilet base.

TIP: If your toilet does not want to sit firmly or rocks slightly because the floor is not perfectly flat, you can use small metal washers or plastic shims to shim it to a flatter resting surface.

Use hacksaw to cut bolts
Toilet installed, ready to cut bolts

Once the toilet is bolted down and working, cut off extra threads on the bolts so the small plastic caps will fit over top. Use a hacksaw here.

When I install a new toilet I like to use flexible braided water supply lines which you can find at pretty much any plumbing section in your local hardware store. They likely cost slightly more than the old plastic rigid tubes but what they save you in time and energy to install makes up for the $4-$5 more in cost. So now you can install this water supply line to the wall valve and toilet tank and you are ready to slowly turn on the water again and check for leaks around the tank and new water supply line. Once the tank has filled completely flush the toilet once and check for leaks around the floor area. If no leaks are found then install your seat and tank top and you are done.

TIP: I like to apply a small bead of good quality "kitchen and bath" clear silicone around the base of my toilets where they meet the flooring to give the job a nice clean look and for ease of cleaning. You may want to leave an area at the back of the toilet base left unsealed. That way, in the future if a leak develops at the wax ring / closet flange, you will notice right away because water will come out of that open area at the back.

Now that you have done one toilet change you should be confident enough to continue changing all the toilets in the whole house as most installs are pretty much the same.