How to Replace a Toilet

  • 01 of 08

    Replacing a Toilet

    White enamel toilet on a white background
    Rouzes/Getty Images

    Toilets are very durable fixtures, but sooner or later you'll likely want to replace a toilet in your house—either for cosmetic reasons or because the toilet is broken or cracked. Or, you may need to temporarily remove it simply to replace a damaged wax ring that is causing water to leak around the base of the toilet. Whatever the reason, removing and installing a toilet is not as hard as you might imagine and only takes a couple of hours or so.

    Tools and Materials You Will Need

    • Adjustable wrench
    • Screwdriver (flat blade or Phillips-head or both may be required)
    • Hacksaw blade (If needed)
    • Plumber's putty
    • Wax ring
    • Closet flange (if needed)
    • Pliers
    • Large sponge
    • Bucket
    • A helper (if needed to lift the toilet)
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  • 02 of 08

    Step 1: Drain the Water

    Bathroom Cut-Off Switches
    stocknroll/Getty Images

    Before you do anything, you must first get all the water out of the existing toilet.

    1. Turn off the water supply valve at the toilet or the main shutoff valve for the house.
    2. Once the water supply is turned off, flush the toilet to empty the tank.
    3. Remove the tank lid and set it aside in a safe place. Hold open the flapper tank ball or flush valve at the bottom of the tank to let as much water as possible drain from the tank into the toilet. A small amount of remaining water will still be in the tank after the flush. 
    4. Mop out any remaining water from the tank and toilet bowl itself with a large sponge. Squeeze the water out into a bucket and repeat the swabbing out process until the toilet tank and toilet both are ​dry. Even a small amount of water remaining in the toilet bowl can spill out when you remove the toilet. 
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  • 03 of 08

    Step 2: Remove the Toilet

    Toilet Repair
    Perry Gerenday/Getty Images

    With the water all drained from the toilet, you can now remove the toilet from the mounting bolts holding it to the floor. If you are careful, you can lift off both the toilet and tank while they are still connected. Be careful, though, as it is easy to crack the tank where the bolts connect it to the toilet bowl. (Another method is to disconnect the tank from the bowl, which will require a large screwdriver and an adjustable wrench to remove the tank bolts.) 

    1. Disconnect the water supply tube that connects to the tailpiece of the fill valve on the toilet tank, using an adjustable wrench. 
    2. Remove the porcelain or plastic cover caps on the floor bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. Remove the nuts using an adjustable wrench.
    3. If the nuts are rusted in place and cannot be removed, then you will have to cut the bolts off below the nuts with a hacksaw blade.
    4. Now, have your helper to assist you in lifting the toilet bowl and tank assembly off the closet flange bolts. (The closet flange, which is fastened to the floor, both secures the toilet to the floor and provides the outlet opening for the drain.) 
    5. Place the old toilet on some soft, absorbent materials, such as an old rug or stack of newspapers, to prevent staining your flooring.
    6. Gently lay the toilet on its side or back, making sure the porcelain tank and bowl are supported. Remove the wax ring and plumber's putty from the bottom of the toilet. A putty knife might be helpful here. 
    7. Remove the old wax and plumber's putty from the closet flange, as well. A wooden painting stir stick works well for this.
    8. Check the closet flange. If it is damaged you will have to replace or repair it. 


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  • 04 of 08

    A Word About Closet Flanges

    Replacement closet flange with wax ring.

    The metal or plastic fitting that fits under your toilet is known as a closet flange (water closet is the other name for a toilet; hence the name). This flange is the connecting interface between the toilet and the floor structure. It has two square holes that allow square-headed bolts to slide into it. These bolts secure the toilet to the flange, and the square heads prevent the bolts from turning when the bolts are tightened down. The flanges also have holes that allow long screws to drive through them and into the floor structure.

    Closet Flanges Come in Several Different Types

    • Replacement for a cast-iron sanitary line.
    • Replacement for PVC (plastic) sanitary line.
    • Repair kit for either type of sanitary line.
    • New closet flange for either type of sanitary line.
    • Offset flange.

    For purposes of this tutorial, we will focus on using a repair kit as identified on the previous page, or using a replacement closet flange if the damage looks to be too great after removing the toilet.

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  • 05 of 08

    Step 3: Preparing and Test-Fitting the Toilet

    Closet Flange with Bolts in Position.

    The next step is to prepare the toilet for installation. Once you have determined if the closet flange is intact or needs repair or replacement, you can proceed to test fitting the toilet.

    1. If you are replacing the closet flange, make sure to remove the large plastic plug blocking the center opening on the new flange, using a hammer. (Not all flanges have this plug.)
    2. Make sure that you have removed the wax ring and plumber's putty from the toilet (if you are reinstalling the existing toilet).
    3. Once the closet flange is ready to accept the toilet, test-fit the bowl by temporarily setting it on the flange and checking to make sure the bolts align with the holes in the base of the toilet. Also make sure the toilet sits level. If it needs to be leveled, level the toilet by shimming beneath it with stainless steel or plastic washers.
    4. Once leveled, remove the toilet and gently set it upside down (if separated from the tank) or on its side or back (if the tank is attached) and set it on a protected surface, such as an old rug.
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  • 06 of 08

    Step 4: Fitting the Wax Ring to the Toilet and Closet Flange

    Wax rings come with or without a plastic bell.

    The wax ring is the unsung hero of your toilet and is generally made from preformed amber petrolatum wax. It seals sewer gases out of your bathroom and prevents flushed water and waste from leaking out from under the toilet during a flush. Some rings are just wax, while some others have a plastic "funnel" or "flange" or "bell" built in to provide added insurance for ensuring that waste finds its way into your sanitary line. You just need a simple plain wax ring if the closet flange is slightly above the finished floor, but if the closet flange is flush with the floor, or slightly below, use a wax ring with the plastic bell or funnel. 

    The preferred method of installing the wax ring is to place it onto the bottom discharge outlet (horn) of the toilet. Remove all paper or plastic packaging and protection on the wax ring. Make sure to install at temperatures over 70 degrees. Center and press the wax ring firmly until it is well seated on the outlet. Be careful not to damage the wax ring or set the toilet down with the ring attached until final installation. If the ring becomes deformed, it will not seal properly and cannot be reused.

    • TIP: Some plumbers will set the wax ring in a warm spot, such as on a radiator or in a sunny window, for a few minutes to slightly soften the wax and make it easier to adhere it to the toilet. 

    Another common approach used by many plumbers is to set the wax ring directly over the closet flange first, and then to set the toilet onto the wax ring. This can be a less messy method. 

    Running a bead of plumber's putty around the outside of the bottom of the toilet base is a good idea, although not always done. This helps ensure a good seal.  A good silicone caulk applied around the toilet base after installation also works.

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  • 07 of 08

    Step 5: Setting the Toilet in Place

    Once the wax ring is set in place, you now need to place the toilet.

    1. With a helper, carefully lift the toilet bowl (or the bowl and tank together, if they are joined) onto the closet flange, aligning the toilet base bolt holes with the bolts.
    2. The toilet will be elevated off the floor slightly as you hit the wax ring, but continue with gentle rocking pressure until the toilet is firmly seated against the floor. You will need to get lean down right over the center of the bowl to best control the placement of the bowl.
    3. Install the plastic cover base, washer, nut and nut cover for the two hold-down bolts.
    4. Tighten the bolts gradually, working back and forth from one side of the toilet to the other,  ​trying to keep the torque pressure similar on both sides of the toilet. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolts, or the tank base will crack.
    5. Clean up any oozed plumber's putty from around the bottom of the toilet base.
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  • 08 of 08

    Step 6: Make the Final Plumbing Connections

    Once the toilet bowl or bowl and tank are installed, complete any remaining plumbing connections and turn the water supply back on to check for leaks. This is really just a matter of reversing the process by which you disconnected the toilet at the start of the project. 

    Many new toilets now come with the fill valve and flush valve already installed in the tank, but it's possible you will need to buy these fittings and install them yourself in the tank before mounting it onto the bowl you have just installed. 

    Many plumbers use this opportunity to also replace the water supply tube and shutoff valve, since these parts also eventually wear out.