Replacing your toilet can be a great way to save money on home repairs and give you the satisfaction of completing a DIY project. Knowing how to replace a toilet means you can confidently take on any plumbing project in your home.
The cost of replacing your toilet with a contractor starts from $175/bathroom and goes up drastically as the installation or repair increases in complexity.
That is without factoring in the cost of the new toilet, which can be found fairly inexpensively, starting around $100/toilet, increasing as the style and features of the toilet style increase. With a bit of patience and planning, you can do the same job on a weekend for the cost of the new toilet.
If your toilet is outdated, inefficient, and not performing at its best, replacing it is a great way to improve efficiency, performance, and comfort. Replacing a toilet can be daunting, but by following the steps below, you can tackle this project easily.
Before you start, it’s essential to understand why and when to replace a toilet. The age of the toilet is a crucial factor in determining if it should be replaced. It may be time for an upgrade if it’s over 10-15 years old.
Inefficiency is another reason to consider replacing your toilet. If the toilet is consuming too much water, it’s not just wasting resources—it’s costing you money each month on your water bill. Finally, if your toilet is not performing well—for example, leaks, clogs, and slow flushing—it may be time for a new one.
Troubleshooting Issues for Repair
While many issues will require a full replacement of your toilet, most problems can be repaired to save money and time. Here are a few of the most common issues and how to troubleshoot them.
If your toilet hasn't been maintained well or you have young children, there's a good chance you'll have a clog at least once or twice. To fix this, you can use a toilet plunger to push the clog through the pipes or pull the item out of the bend.
You can avoid clogs by only ever flushing toilet paper and bodily waste. Even if things are marketed as "flushable," they do not break down quickly enough to prevent a backup in the system.
Additionally, you can avoid this hassle by asking all guests that visit your loo to avoid flushing things like sanitary products, cotton swabs, toys, paper towels, etc.
The Tank Doesn't Fill Appropriately
There are several reasons that the tank might not fill correctly, and all of these can be fixed and prevented in the future.
Damaged Fill Tube
The fill tube and the overflow tube are usually clipped together, but through time and normal use, the clip can break or get dislodged, causing the fill tube to fill too quickly turning off the flow before the bowl gets filled.
This issue can be repaired, but it will always be more susceptible to weaknesses and future breaks. There are several options for repairing a crack in a toilet bowl.
The most common option is to use a toilet bowl repair kit, which typically includes a two-part epoxy resin that can be used to fill and seal the crack.
Another option is to use a porcelain repair compound, which is a type of putty that can be used to fill and seal the crack. Finally, you can also use a fiberglass repair kit, which includes a fiberglass cloth and resin that can be used to fill and seal the crack.
No matter which option you choose, it is important to make sure that the crack is completely sealed to prevent further damage.
Damaged or Blocked Vent
Typical plumbing requires an air vent to balance the pressure in the pipes as you flush the toilet and bring in new water. If there is any form of blockage, it can cause low water levels or uneven flow.
Dripping and Pooling Water Under the Toilet
There are two different common causes for this. The first is caused by the gaskets, seals, or valves getting damaged at the base of the toilet from harsh cleaners and time. You can replace the seal and change your cleaning chemicals.
The second cause is condensation, and isn't an issue with the toilet. When your home is warm, but the water in the tank is significantly colder than the surrounding air, condensation will build up around the outside of the tank and drip to the floor.
In addition to understanding when to repair, and why you should replace your toilet, it’s also essential to understand the benefits of DIY plumbing.
Replacing a toilet is one of the most common DIY plumbing projects, and it can save you time and money compared to hiring a professional plumber. It’s also a great way to gain new skills and increase your confidence in tackling future home improvement projects.
Finally, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with remodeling a bathroom before replacing the toilet. While a new toilet is typically the first step in the process, this simple upgrade can change the whole feel of the room.
There are several steps involved in replacing a toilet, and it’s helpful to understand the time and cost estimates associated with each step before you start.
The first step in replacing your toilet is to gather all the necessary supplies. You will need a few obvious things and some basic tools.
- New toilet (or bidet)
- Wax gasket seal
- New water connection hose
- Putty knife
- Plumber’s tape
- Scrap towel (one that you don't mind throwing away when you're finished)
Once you have all the supplies, the next step is to shut off the water supply. Locate and turn off the water valve at the toilet. Keep plenty of towels nearby for the next step, because despite turning off the water, you will still have some minor leaks.
Removing the Old Toilet
Next, you will need to remove the existing toilet. Unscrew the bolts from the floor and disconnect the water supply line from the wall. Lift and remove the toilet from the floor and block the pipe with a towel. You may need to gently wiggle the toilet back and forth until it breaks the previous seal.
Ceramic toilets can be heavy, so you may find this easier after removing the tank. There is a set of bolts that can be accessed under the tank on the back of the bowl to remove the tank.
Protect your back by practicing safe and controlled lifting and avoiding using your back instead of your legs.
Keeping several towels nearby to deal with leaks will make cleanup easier. Even after you've turned off the water, there is likely still going to be some pooled in the U-Bend and the P-Trap (which are located at the bottom of the toilet).
Before you remove the toilet, you can use a large sponge or towel to mop some of the water out of the system to avoid spills.
Prepare a space to put your old toilet while you process the switch. Some people find that putting a towel on a sturdy rolling cart is useful, while others lay out a trash bag on the floor to collect any dripping water.
Finally, use a putty knife or other tool to scrape any remaining wax from the gasket seal on the floor.
This is a great time to get in and deep clean those hard-to-reach points, like the wall behind the toilet, and touch up any paint that may be aged or chipped behind your porcelain throne.
In our home, the hardest part of the replacement process was getting between the toilet and the vanity to unbolt everything.
Now it’s time to install your new toilet!
Place a new wax ring seal on the closet flange (the hole into the floor) and line up the holes in the toilet base with the closet bolts on the bottom. This is a job made easier by two people, as one can line up the holes while the other lifts and lowers the toilet into position.
Place washers and nuts on the closet bolts and tighten them with either a screwdriver or adjustable wrench.
If you notice any rust or corrosion around the closet bolts (that attach the toilet to the floor), they are an inexpensive replacement part that you can find at most hardware stores.
Next, connect the water supply line to the shutoff valve using the plumber’s tape and/or putty. Then install the toilet seat on top of the bowl by placing it on top of the bowl and securing it with screws or bolts.
Ensure the toilet seat you’ve purchased will fit the toilet bowl shape, and that it will match your other fixtures and decor while giving you a comfortable seat.
The next step is to test for leaks by flushing the toilet several times to make sure it is working correctly. Make any necessary adjustments, such as readjusting the water supply line or wax ring if needed.
Once everything is properly installed and functioning correctly, caulk around the edges of the pedestal to protect it from leaks and make cleaning easier.
Lastly, clean up your workspace and dispose of any waste materials properly. Stand back and appreciate your hard work.
Replacing your toilet can be both rewarding and cost-effective when done correctly. Before starting any plumbing project, it's important to use safety gear such as gloves, glasses, and protective clothing.
It’s also important to measure your space before purchasing items for the remodel or upgrade so that there are no surprises once you begin the installation.
A tip for any home improvement project is to make sure all parts are easily accessed and gathered before you start the project, nothing puts a damper on your project quite like being elbows deep in a plumbing job and realizing you don't have the right bolts or you're missing a gasket.
The benefits of replacing your toilet include improved efficiency, performance, and comfort in your home as well as saving money by completing this task yourself instead of hiring a professional plumber.
Toilet Replacement FAQ
Is It Better to Repair or Replace Your Toilet?
If you have plans to replace your toilet in a remodel or upgrade anytime in the next two to three years, save money and time by replacing the toilet now. If replacement isn't in the budget or the plans for the near future, do your research and repair your toilet.
You could easily gain another several years out of your current toilet with basic maintenance and repairs.
Basic knowledge of the process and functioning of a toilet is a good starting point. Keep your household tools cabinet stocked with a full set of ratchets so you can easily loosen or tighten bolts while adjusting your toilet during repairs.
Also, invest in a pipe snake. This tool pushes a long flexible cable down the toilet and through the pipes and rotates to knock loose and push through any clogs or blockages in your plumbing.
Do I Need to Caulk Around the Base of the Toilet?
You definitely need to caulk around the toilet's base. Not only does this step protect your flooring and the seal around the toilet pipes, but it is also required by the International Plumbing Code.
Caulking around the base of your toilet also makes cleanup a lot easier around the base of your porcelain throne.
Dos and Don'ts of Toilet Maintenance
- Use a plastic bristle brush for cleaning to prevent scratching the bowl
- Inspect your toilet annually (at least) for leaks and cracks
- Remove the tank lid, and flush to assess easily fixed issues, including the flapper being off-kilter or the chain on the float being knocked loose
- Keep a plunger on hand to deal with small clogs
- Use low-chemical fresheners and cleaners to keep your toilet free of mold, mildew, and other gross mess
- Use too much toilet paper
- Flush non-biodegradable materials (even if it says flushable, only waste and toilet paper)
- Use your toilet seat as a stepstool. The lid can break and cause injury and damage
- Use harsh chemical drain cleaners and bowl fresheners, as they can break down the seals and cause deterioration of the internal parts of your toilet
- Hesitate to call a plumber if the job is too complex for you to do confidently