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How To Replace A Toilet From Beginning To End

Updated on August 22, 2014

Every Step Covered In Painful Detail

My wife and I bought a home a few months back and now that we're basically settled in we need to do a few things to the home to make it more comfortable and livable.

For one our small upstairs bathroom had carpet in it which we did not want. We decided to pull the carpet out and realized that the plywood subfloor was discolored around the shower encolsure and the toilet basin.

Not only was this discolored but we noticed that when you sat on the toilet someone in the room below the upstairs bath could hear the subfloor creak. My guess is the subfloor around the toilet needs to be replaced and that requires the removal of the toilet to repair.

It's yet to be determined whether or not we will install a different toilet but we will have to pull our existing toilet to repair the floor and then install it or a replacement toilet at the end of the project.

I am not a licensed contractor so I don't have a huge amount of experience in this field but I can research to great depths and get things done myself if need be. This is one of those time.

If you need to remove and/or replace your toilet like us hopefully you'll find this page useful. It is after all the resource I am using for my own toilet repair project. :)

The Basic Steps

Each Of These Will Be Covered In Detail Lower On This Page

First steps include removing water from the toilet and shutting off the suply of new water to the toilet.

Next you unbolt the toilet tank from the toilet bowl. These bolts are usually inside the toilet tank. Before you can lift the tank from the bowl you have to also detach the water supply leading into the tank.

Now the tank can be lifted from the bowl and either saved or discarded.

The toilet bowl should not be unbolted from the floor. These bolts are typically located on either side of the toilet bowl just off of the floor. They are frequently capped to make them more attractive. Pop the cap and loosen the bolts.

Once removed the bowl should be able to be lifted straight up leaving just the wax ring on the floor. This ring will always be discarded and replaced any time a toilet is removed.

The First Step In Removing A Toilet

Cutting Off The Water Supply And Draining The Toilet Tank & Bowl

As mentioned above the very first thing you need to do to remove a toilet is to cut off the water supply. This is usually a simple valve located in the back of the toilet.

Once the valve is shut off you can then unscrew the supply line from the back of the tank. This is usually simply screwed on. Depending on how tight it is you may need a wrench to do this.

With the water supply off and removed you can then simply flush the toilet until the tank empties. Most of the water will simply drain out of the tank and the bowl.

Eventually flushing alone will not remove any more water. To remove the last bit you can use a sponge to soak up the excess water in both the tank and the bowl.

The more water you remove the easier the removal will be and the smaller the cleanup job will be. It pays to really get in there to get as much water out as you can.

The following videos demonstrate how these steps are done in extreme detail.

Shutting Off (& Removing) The Water Supply To The Toilet Tank

In this short video you'll see how a standard water supply to the toilet is shut off and then removed.

Note that in the end you'll want a small bucket handy to drain the excess water from the water supply line hose into as it will still have a small bit of water in it even after the supply valve has been closed.

New Toilet? - Consider Installing A New Water Supply Line To Prevent New Leaks

Water valves all break down and loosen up over time. Sometimes moving a valve that hasn't been moved in years is all it takes to spring a tony leak. replacing a toilet is a perfect time to replace the water supply valve. They are very affordable and a cheap way to insure against future water leaks in the bathroom.

Draining The Toilet Tank And Bowl

In this video you'll see a very detailed demonstration of how you will then drain the toilet tank and bowl completely so that the entire unit can be removed (without getting water all over the place).

Since you really have to get down in the toilet to get the water out with a sponge I would use a pair of rubber gloves to do this... but that's just me.

Lifting A Toilet Tank From The Toilet Bowl

Assuming you have fully drained your toilet of all water it's relatively easy to remove the tank from the bowl. This video demonstrates the process in extreme detail.

Keep in mind that this step is not possible for "all-in-one" toilets where the tank and bowl are one solid piece. Those types of toilets are a lot heavier and may require two or more people to lift.

Lifting The Toilet Bowl From The Floor

With the tank removed the bowl can come up very easily. Make sure you cut any caulking at the base of the bowl if any exists and them unbolt the toilet bowl from the floor. In most cases a wrench is all you need. In extreme cases you may have to cut the bolts off due to rust or stripped bolts.

The Sticky Wax Ring Mess

After Removing A Toilet You're Left With A Sticky Mess That Must Be Cleaned

Most toilets sit on a standard toilet flange. This is a simple collar for the sewer pipe. It wraps around the pipe and connects the pipe to the base of the toilet.

Between the flange and the toilet sits a wax ring that looks like a gross sticky mess once the toilet is removed. This wax has prevented toilet leaks for years and years in many cases and can show signs of grossness.

If you are replacing your toilet because of a leak then that means the wax can be especially gross.

In most cases the flange itself will be in decent shape. Many toilet fanges are made of copper and will last for decades. In some cases the flange is damaged where the bolts attach. You can install a flange repair ring very easily to extend the useful life of the flange or replace the entire flange all together.

In either case the repair is inexpensive and relatively simple although out of the scope for this how to guide.

In most cases of toilet replacement all you will have to do is clean up the old wax from the existing toilet flange and either replace the old bolts with new bolts (presumably from the new toilet you just purchased) or just clean up and reuse the old bolts.

For my purposes I will not be replacing my toilet with a new unit. I'm removing the toilet to fix the sub-floor around it. Once the sub-floor is repaired (replaced) I'll be putting my existing toilet back together again and reusing the same bolts.

Cleaning up the wax is really simple although somewhat messy. As demonstrated in the video below simply use a putty knife to scrape the bulk of the wax off the flange and toilet if you are reusing it and then use a rag to wipe up as much of the remaining wax from all the nooks and crannies of your toilet flange as possible.

Clean Up Your Toilet Flange

The following videos demonstrate in detail how to clean up an old wax ring from the base of a toilet and install a new wax ring on the existing toilet flange. If you are replacing a toilet, fixing a leaky or wobbly toilet, or repairing a floor beneath your toilet you are going to have to clean the old wax up and put a new ring down. In short, every time (for whatever reason) you pull a toilet up you will have to put a brand new wax ring down.

In this video you'll see the basic cleanup of the wax from the toilet flange as well as a good summary of how the fittings come together.

In this video you'll also see a short demonstration of the installation of the new wax ring and the reassembly of the toilet.

Installation Of A New Toilet

For my project I'll be putting the same exact toilet back into my bathroom but many people doing a project like this will not be pulling the toilet to fix the floor but to install an upgrade.

In any case the installation of the new or existing toilet is as simple as reversing the steps. You will place the toilet on top of the new wax ring. The bolts from the toilet flange will be inserted in the the base of the toilet bowl.

If new bolts are used they may be too tall for your toilet bowl bolt caps to fit over. if this is the case they can be simply cut short with a handheld hacksaw as demonstrated in the preceding video.

One you have bolted the bowl down you can then attach the tank and then reattach the water line.

Once the water supply valve has been turned back on the tank should fill up automatically. You can then flush the empty toilet bowl to fill the bowl up. The following video clearly demonstrates this final set of steps.

Reattaching The Toilet To The Floor

The following videos demonstrate the process of reattaching the toilet to the floor and bringing it back to operational state. This is the easiest part of the whole process.

Note the comment regarding the tightening of the bolts. Do not overtighten them. This is counter-productive and can result in cracking the iron toilet flange or breaking the PVC toilet flange. Also note the weight he puts on the toilet during installation. This is to create the tight seal with the new wax ring.

Here the video shows the reattachment of the water line. A helpful point made in this video pertains to the water supply line. Make sure it's long enough to prevent kinking. While you are reattaching it's also a good time to re-tighten the supply line valve to ensure that it doesn't leak when turned back on.

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