How to Install a Toilet

Have you ever been to someone’s house and thought, wow, who designed that toilet? If not, you can skip this one – or you can hear me out really quick. I’m going to explain how to install a toilet.

Not all toilets are created equal. They are almost like cars – some cars from the 1960s are awesome, some are not. If your toilet is that old, take inventory on the joy it brings you. Is it wide enough for you to comfortably sit on? Is it tall enough for you? Do you fall on it every time you go to sit down in the middle of the night? Do you come in contact with parts of the bowl you’d rather not come in contact with?

You don’t have to live like this – they sell NEW ones at the store. There are tall ones, short ones, wide ones, elongated ones, ones that use less water per flush, ones that use more water per flush, and some even have two flush settings, labeled 1, and get this, 2!

I know this all sounds crazy. You can not only buy a toilet, but I’m willing to bet that you can install a toilet as well.

There are a few things you need to buy and check before doing so – so let me give you the run down.

Purchasing a New Toilet to Install

This is usually straight forward, but there are some exceptions. Most houses have a standard 12in rough in waste pipe. The waste pipe in the ground is 12” from the wall. The standard toilet is set up to fit this perfectly.

There is also such thing as a 10” rough in – if your waste pipe is 10” from the wall, you need to buy a toilet that is designed for this.

There are also other custom and specialty installs that I want nothing to do with. Sorry.

Toilet Install Accessories

Wax ring – The wax ring is what seals the bottom of the toilet to the floor, around the waste pipe. When the toilet flushes, the wax ring is there to ensure air doesn’t get in and poo doesn’t get out. This will need to be replaced as it is for one time use only.

Toilet-to-floor bolt kit – This kit comes with the studs and nuts that will secure your toilet to the flange (floor). Most kits also come with the white cap that goes on top of the stud, purely for aesthetic purposes

Braided water line – be sure to check that your new toilet comes with a braided water line. This line connects the toilet to the water supply on the wall. If your new install does not come with one, you can pick them up separately at a hardware store.

Alternatives to wax ring – there are some products on the market that are alternatives to the messy wax ring. DANCO makes the Perfect Seal Toilet Wax Ring and I can highly recommend taking a look at it. This product takes the uncertainty out of the toilet install. It takes place of the traditional wax ring and its benefits include less mess and the ability to reposition the toilet if you do not match the holes up correctly the first time.

Flange repair kit – DANCO also makes a flange repair kit. Sometimes the flange under your old toilet is broken (usually because someone tightened the last toilet bowl down too hard, or its just old and brittle). This is an easy to use product that will ensure your toilet is secure to the floor. No one likes a wobbly toilet bowl!

Turn off the water supply before installing

I’ve seen houses that do not have shutoffs for the toilet bowls – you just need to turn off the water supply to the house.

I have also run into situations where the shutoff valves behind the toilet breaks. In this case, turn off the main water supply and either ignore the broken valve, or replace it. I’ve done both.

Drain the old toilet

With the water turned off, flush the toilet. Use a shop vac to suck the remaining toilet water out. Remove the water lines and disassemble the tank from the seat. This requires 1 adjustable wrench.

Remove the bolts that hold the seat to the flange

The flange is what’s underneath the toilet, around the waste pipe hole. You’ll probably need to scrape up all of the old wax – this can be rather gross. If the flange is cracked, go get a flange repair kit from the store. It fits on top of the old flange and allows you to secure your new toilet to it safely.

Install new brass T-bolts in the flange

Put them in the way the old ones came out. This is what will secure your toilet to the floor.

Install the wax ring

Some people say to adhere it to the bottom of the new toilet first. I usually just place it around the waste pipe – I’ve never had an issue.

Center the toilet by aligning the flange bolts with the holes

Carefully lower the toilet onto the flange and wax ring. I think some people say to adhere the wax ring to the toilet first so you don’t miss the hole. If the wax ring isn’t centered around toilet hole, it’ll leak all over the floor. Just be careful and pay attention. Lower the toilet and put some pressure on it. I usually sit on it so it compresses the wax ring and settles. Remember – that’s what we do on toilets. Sit.

Install the flange bolts

Don’t over tighten – you’ll crack the toilet or break the flange. Just take your time and you’ll be fine. You’re a plumber now!

Finish Installing your Toilet

I’m going to combine some stuff in step 10 so there’s only 10 steps. Install the tank (same way old one came off) and the new shiny, never been sat on toilet seat. The toilet should have come with some caps to put over the flange bolts so it looks nice – put those on. Hook up your water line and turn the water back on!

You now have a new car! I mean toilet!  Repeat steps 1 through 10 every time you have an unwanted toilet.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

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