When the Old Toilet has to Go
A toilet by any other name
There are many names can we use to describe the toilet in our homes. Depending on your origins, some slang words used are crapper, latrine, throne, john, privy, head, potty, can, and loo.
How many people, especially us women, ever thought about the replacing your bathroom toilet? I 'd say not many. The fact is, we never give it a second thought as long as it doesn't have any issues.
Most American toilets have been in use for over twenty years. Whenever someone pushes down on the handle, it can flush more than 5 gallons of rusted water slowly down the old waste pipe.
Yes, I said rusted. It comes from the old metal bolts that are located in the tank that attaches to the bowl of the porcelain bottom of the john. I prefer to call it a john and this is my story.
Tired old Toilet
My lessons begin
One evening I walked into the bathroom and promptly stepped into a puddle on the floor around the toilet. I knelt down and felt all around the floor, then opened the lid for a look-see. I put a few plastic containers under the tank and plopping sounds confirmed my suspicions; the leakage was coming from one of these bolts.
Previously I noticed that the water in the tank was a brackish brown and I didn't want to touch it. But because the “inners” or mechanical parts that did the actual flushing had worn out, I had to change them. As a matter of fact, the flushing parts had to be changed about three times in the past ten years and I now discovered that the water was discolored by the rust. That should have been my first clue.
Before replacing the bolts, I had to shut off the water intake valve or shut-off valve, below the toilet.
My water pipe came up through the floor, from under the house. Oh no, it isn't shutting off the water; Crap! The damn valve is shot! Another repair in the making. It'll have to wait till I do some research.
I routinely turn to the video you-tubes and other online how-tos whenever I am faced with a repair around the house. After viewing a number of professional and amateur videos on these repair jobs, I made my list and headed to the hardware store. It's always a good idea to ask store workers questions to get some ideas and learn shortcuts.
Replacing shut off valve
Required parts and steps
My list included many common parts that can be found in most hardware and big home good stores.
- a hacksaw to cut the rusted bolts (the screwdriver and wrench wouldn't budge the washer at all)
- a tank bolt replacement kit consisting of three long brass screws and metal and rubber washers
- along with a rubber gasket to connect to the tank bottom drain hole.
- a new water valve shut-off replacement kit was necessary.
When I returned home with all the necessary parts and advice, the first thing to do was to shut off the main water supply to the house. Next, the toilet had to be flushed to drain as much of it from the bowl and the tank. The remaining water in the tank was mopped up with a towel and sponge. So far so good.
I sat on the floor and started to saw and saw and saw the long screw between the tank and bowl.
After about a half hour, I stopped; the saw blade teeth were gone. With a new blade in place, I then decided to cut the water shut-off valve from the pipe instead to replace it. Using two wrenches, I turned one on top and one on the bottom, in opposite directions, and managed to tighten the new one to the pipe. The previous attempt ended badly with a flooded bathroom as the valve blew off after turning on the water main.
At this point and after a day to think about it, I gave in to the rusted bolts and bought a new toilet at the hardware store. Maybe they should have told me that in the first place; or maybe that was their plan to sell me more stuff ?
I was glad that I have another bathroom and a friend who let me shower at her house. This was a simple job for most plumbers and handymen and they would probably have taken a few hours. As a novice, it turned into a few days of trial and error.
Beginner Tutorial Replace Toilet
Step by step instruction
Steps for replacing my old john with a new one
The new toilet was bright, shiny, white porcelain with a new hard plastic seat. It came in three boxes and surprisingly not too heavy. The old one was off white, tired looking and heavy! Good riddance!
Here's the steps I did so I know any woman can do the same.
Loosen the toilet floor washers from the bolts on the toilet base
unscrew the water line from the valve to the tank bottom
mop up excess water from the waterline
carefully lift up toilet by tipping it forward (you may need help)
have an old blanket and pillow to rest the old toilet on
pull the blanket with the toilet on it, out of the bathroom
prepare the old flange by cleaning it up and check for damage
remove any old wax ring remaining
place new wax ring on bottom of bowl hole or on flange itself
carefully place new toilet basin over new wax ring and upright flange bolts
sit on seat already attached to bowl to insure wax is securely attached
lift tank into place over back basin; align the holes
tighten flange bolts until snug to bottom of toilet base
place brass bolts into tank hole with screw top in tank
tighten washers on bottom of tank until snug
attach old or new flexible water line to cut-off valve and tank outlet until snug
In the middle of a job
Testing the finished replacement
Testing the new bowl
After all these steps were completed and I was sure the bolts were all tight enough, I turned on the water main and then the valve for the tank.
This was the moment of truth. Will it begin to leak again or hold water?
I had to perform this task about three times until everything stopped dripping a little. The new bolts and washers needed more tightening because of a forgotten rubber washer. I took my time when performing this task. The toilet company had picture and or written steps so I read them carefully.
Toilet related vocabulary
flange-the round piece attached to the top of the waste pipe that attached the bottom of the toilet base
shut-off valve-the metal water valve that is attached to the water pipe and hose bringing water to tank. It has a turn on and off knob
water supply line- a solid plastic or steel flexible tube or hose that connects shut-off valve to tank bottom
wax ring-refers to round wax ring sometimes with plastic flange attached to a flange to provide water seal
tank to bowl kit-a kit made up of rubber round gasket to connect opening of tank bottom to fill toilet bowl and three long bolts with screws to attach tank
Never Too Old to Learn
Be sure to buy all new parts for the new toilet. Older parts may not fit as well and its nice to start fresh.
Talk to hardware workers in more than one store and get more opinions. Take photos on your cell phone to show them so to avoid mistakes. Yes, a plumber would have been a good option but none were available and they are expensive. Buy a toilet with the working parts already inside the tank. It makes life so much easier.
I learned some valuable lessons as a woman living in her own home and making her own repairs.
First, I should have replaced the toilet sooner when I saw the brown water in the tank the first time. Since I never had a problem with toilet in the past, it never occurred to me to do this job.
I saved a lot of money and this new toilet only uses 1.7 gallons each time it flushes.
To think that I did this all by myself and I am a small woman. I have never done this before and felt so proud of myself. Even with all the mistakes made it did feel good to accomplish this common household repair.
Challenge yourself and learn some new skills.
Women replacing toilet
Do you, as a woman feel confident enough to replace a toilet?
© 2014 Stacie L