Install a New Toilet in Place of an Old-Fashioned One

By James Dulley

May 28, 2020 4 min read

Dear James: I want a quieter, more modern toilet for my master bathroom. These toilets are more expensive, so I must install it myself. Is this a difficult DIY project? — Donna M.

Dear Donna: Installing a new toilet is a do-it-yourself project even inexperienced homeowners can handle. As you mentioned, those new stylish toilets are quite expensive. Installing one yourself can save a couple hundred dollars in labor costs.

All toilets have a standardized mounting hole pattern, so any toilet you buy should cover the drain and bolts that stick up from the floor. The only possible problem may be if your toilet is very old and the distance from the wall to the tank is too small for the new one to fit. Offset drain adapters are available to provide more clearance.

A pressure-assisted toilet provides of the fastest and effective flushes. These are designed to use the water pressure to create air pressure for a more powerful flush. The flushing sound is somewhat louder than a standard gravity flow toilet, but it lasts for a shorter time, so it may fit your needs. They are slightly more expensive than a standard toilet.

The primary selection decision will be between a one-piece (tank and bowl together) or a two-piece toilet. One-piece toilets are usually more stylish and more expensive. If you are doing the installation yourself, the problem you will have is handling the weight of a one-piece toilet. With a two-piece toilet, the weight of the separate bowl and tank sections is manageable.

The first step to replacing an old toilet is to shut off the water supply line. There is a valve on the wall underneath the toilet tank. If you have never turned it off before, it may be stuck. The knob is not very strong, so be gentle as you work with it to get it shut off. It may drip a bit as you turn it. This is normal and does not mean it is leaky.

With the water turned off, remove the top of the toilet tank. Pull up and hold the chain to the flush valve until as much water as possible has run out. There is a raised ridge around the base of the valve seat, so use a sponge to remove the residual water at the bottom of the tank.

There are two bolts through the bottom of the tank, which attach it to the bowl section. The nuts for these bolts can be accessed from beneath the flange on the bowl section. Remove the nuts, and lift the tank off of the bowl. Lay some rags on the floor because some water will drip out of the tank no matter how dry it looks.

There are two studs sticking up from the floor to which the bowl section is bolted. Remove the two nuts and washers, and lift the toilet bowl up from the floor. Pull the old wax ring seal off the top of the drain. Place some newspaper over the drain hole, or stuff a rag into it, so nothing falls into it.

Put a bead of bowl setting compound around the base of the new toilet bowl section where it will rest on the floor. Uncover the drain, and place a new wax ring over it. Place the toilet bowl over the drain, being careful not to deform the soft wax ring. Tightening the bowl to the floor deforms the wax ring so it seals between the bowl and the drain. Bolt the tank to the bowl, and reattach the water line.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: chriskeller at Pixabay

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