Toilets are very durable fixtures, but sooner or later you'll likely want to replace a toilet in your house—perhaps for cosmetic reasons or because the toilet is broken or cracked, or it's a water-wasting dinosaur. If the toilet is simply leaking and you need to replace its wax ring, you'll follow the same steps for removal and reinstallation.
Equipment / Tools
- Large sponge
- Tongue-and-groove pliers
- Adjustable wrench
- Hacksaw blade (as needed)
- Putty knife
- 2-foot level
- New toilet
- Toilet shims (as needed)
- Wax ring
- Silicone caulk (optional)
Drain the Toilet
Turn off the toilet's water supply valve by turning the valve handle clockwise until it stops. Flush the toilet to empty the tank. Remove the tank lid and set it aside in a safe place. Mop out the remaining water from the tank and the bowl with a large sponge. Squeeze the water out into a bucket and repeat the process until the tank and bowl are dry.
Remove the Mounting Nuts
Disconnect the water supply tube that connects to the tailpiece of the fill valve on the toilet tank, using tongue-and-groove pliers. Remove the porcelain or plastic caps on the floor bolts (called closet bolts) that hold the toilet to the floor. Remove the nuts the bolts, using an adjustable wrench. If the nuts are rusted in place and cannot be removed, cut off the bolts below the nuts with a hacksaw blade.
Pull the Toilet
Have a helper to assist you in lifting the toilet bowl and tank assembly off of the closet bolts. Place the toilet on a soft, absorbent material, such as an old rug or stack of newspapers, to prevent staining your flooring.
Inspect the Flange
Gently lay the toilet on its side or back, making sure the tank and bowl are supported. Remove the old wax ring from the bottom of the toilet, using a putty knife. Also remove all wax from the closet flange on the floor. Inspect the closet flange. If it is damaged, you will have to replace or repair it.
If you need to replace your toilet flange, choose a suitable replacement part (or kit) and install it following the manufacturer's instructions.
Test-Fit the New Toilet
Test-fit the base of the new toilet by temporarily setting it on the flange and checking to make sure the closet bolts align with the holes in the base. Also, make sure the toilet sits level, using a 2-foot level. If necessary, level the toilet by shimming beneath it with stainless steel or plastic shims.
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) on a protective surface, such as an old rug.
Apply the Wax Ring
Place a new wax ring over the horn (the raised ring around the drain hole at the bottom of the toilet base) and press it firmly until it is well seated. Be careful not to damage the wax ring or set the toilet down with the ring attached until the final installation. Once the ring touches the floor, it cannot be reused.
Foam gaskets, or waxless rings, offer a mess-free and easy-to-use alternative to conventional wax rings. The best thing about foam rings is that they're reusable; you can move and reset the toilet without having to replace the ring.
Set the Toilet
Place the flange bolts into their respective slots on the flange so their threaded ends are pointing straight up. Carefully lift the toilet (with or without the tank) with a helper, and set it onto the closet flange, slipping the holes in the base over the flange bolts. Push down the toilet base with gentle rocking pressure until the toilet is firmly seated against the floor.
Tighten the Nuts
Install the plastic cover base, washer, and nut onto each closet bolt. Tighten the nuts gradually, alternating from one side of the toilet to the other to keep the pressure similar on both sides of the toilet. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolts, or the tank base may crack.
Install the toilet tank onto the base, if they were separated.
Finish the Job
Connect the water supply tube to the fill valve on the new toilet, and tighten it gently with pliers. Open the toilet's shutoff valve by turning it counterclockwise all the way. Let the toilet tank fill, then flush the toilet to check for proper operation. Watch for leaks at the water line connections and around the toilet base. If desired, seal around the base of the toilet with a bead of pure silicone caulk. Some installers leave the very back of the base uncaulked so that a toilet leak will reveal itself more readily.
Most new toilets come with the fill valve and flush valve already installed in the tank, but it's possible you will need to buy these fittings separately and install them yourself. This is easiest to do before installing the toilet, but you can do it afterward, too.