Introduction: How to Replace a Toilet (Step-by-Step)

About: We love home improvement and enjoy sharing tips on YouTube and Home Repair Tutor. Everything we do is self taught. Over the last 12 years we've bought and rehabbed several rental homes in Pittsburgh. Sometim…

Today you'll learn how to replace a toilet.

This is a good skill because it'll save you at least $200. Plus, you'll see tips to prevent every homeowner's worst fear: NASTY toilet water leaks!!!!!! I've seen this happen and it gives me the willies every time. Fortunately replacing a toilet isn't hard and anybody can do it. Whether you're a new homeowner or experienced one I promise you'll get great tips today. We'll be installing American Standard's VorMax because it has new technology that cleans the bowl every time it's flushed.

The VorMax's cleaning technology made it a no brainer for this rental.
You and I both know that cleaning a toilet is easy but often a forgotten art. And if simply flushing the toilet helps keep it looking good...that's awesome. American Standard sent me the VorMax to test but I've been using their toilets for years. When I find great products I love sharing them with you. That way you can have the same great experience as me. Here's your supply list

  • Toilet (e.g. the VorMax)
  • Steel Braided Supply Line
  • Quarter Turn Ball Valve (Optional - Compression Fitting)
  • Quarter Turn Ball Valve (Optional - SharkBite Fitting)
  • Crescent Wrench
  • Shims (Optional)
  • Torpedo Level
  • Screwdriver

That's not a bad supply list.

You'll see that most of what you need actually comes with the toilet...well at least in this example. How should you start the process of swapping out an old toilet for a new one?

Step 1: How to Choose a New Toilet

What are some things you should consider when shopping for a new toilet

  1. Rough-in
  2. Height
  3. Shape
  4. Color
  5. New Technologies

The rough-in is the measurement from your existing closet flange bolts to the wall (not the baseboard).

This dimension is typically 12 inches but double check and save yourself a Homer Simpson 'Dolt' moment.
Next, I know this sounds weird but I'm gonna say it anyway: sit on the toilet at the store before you buy it. This ensures the toilet feels comfortable before you install it. The VorMax in today's tutorial is 30 13/16 inches high.

The last thing you want is for the toilet to be uncomfortable when using it.

Thirdly, toilet shape can affect the feel of your bathroom. If your space is limited you might want a round toilet bowl. But if you have a larger bathroom the elongated style could be better. I wanted a round bowl for the bathroom in today's video. But frankly having a toilet bowl that helps clean itself trumped the shape thing. You'll see that the elongated label is on the VorMax box.

My fourth tip is to pick a toilet color that matches your room's decor. I chose white because it's a classic look and won't go out of style any time soon. Plus, white matches the other items in the bathroom.

Finally, toilets these days have a lot of bells and whistles. The VorMax, in addition to cleaning itself on every flush, has EverClean technology and a Slow Close seat.

The EverClean coating helps inhibit the growth of stain/odor-causing bacteria, mold & mildew. This is great for anyone who hates cleaning toilets (it's not my favorite pastime).

Okay, now that you have the toilet picked out what's the next step??

Step 2: Inspect Your Toilet's Closet Flange

Twelve years ago my wife and I bought our first rental property. It's a cozy house that we picked up for $17,000. Hey what can I say, Pittsburgh has affordable homes.

The folks we hired to remodel the bathroom weren't exactly great contractors. And as a result we ended up having several issues.

One of which was a toilet leak down into the dining room. DISGUSTING. But the good news was our plumber Charlie fixed it and we never saw a leak from then on!! What tips did Charlie share? The biggest culprit when it comes to toilet bowl leaks is the closet flange.

The flange should be at least even with the finished floor. It's preferable to have the flange resting on top of the tile. But what if you can't move the flange?

No problem. Check out my tutorial on how to repair a toilet flange and you'll see how to solve this issue for under $30. Once the toilet flange is good to go you can start the toilet installation.

Step 3: Setting the New Toilet Bowl on a Wax Ring

This next tip has nothing, well almost nothing, to do with your toilet bowl.

If you're replacing the toilet you should inspect the shut off valve. I recommend swapping out your old one with a quarter-turn ball valve like this one.

Heres the reason: quarter-turn ball valves are either on or off.
When your toilet is overflowing you want a functioning shut off valve. So just replace it. I've been working on the bathroom in this rental for several weeks and stuffed a rag into the toilet waste stack. This prevents sewer gas from entering the house. BUT don't forget to remove it...that would be one bad clog!!

When it comes to the wax ring, my personal preference is to place it on the closet flange.

Notice the wax ring is extra large and lacks a plastic horn.
Charlie advised me to avoid the plastic horn because his theory was it would impede the flushing of waste. And he's seen the plastic horn separate from the wax ring and clog the waste stack. The extra large wax ring is simply a little insurance that the seal between it and the bowl will last longer. Line up the closet flange bolts with the holes in the bowl and lower the bowl onto the wax ring. Press the bowl evenly onto the wax ring until it touches the floor. You can even sit on the bowl to do this.

Now it's time to check how level the bowl is. What can you do if the bowl is off-kilter?

Step 4: How to Level the Toilet Bowl

Place your torpedo level on the back of the bowl and check it's levelness left to right and front to back.

I like using plastic Fluidmaster shims to adjust the toilet bowl.

You'll see in the video that I had to shim the front of the VorMax to get it level.

Not a big deal. Just check the toilet bowl with the torpedo level after you shim it. This kinda goes without saying, but don't use wood shims for a toilet bowl project. Wood is food for bacteria and will definitely rot from the moisture in a bathroom. What I like about American Standard toilets is how easy they are to install. You don't need any extra tools for the toilet installation. Grab the nuts for the closet flange bolts and hand tighten them.

After installing the nuts, try to rock the bowl back and forth.

If the bowl does move you can hand tighten the closet flange nuts just a little bit.

Finish off the toilet bowl installation by placing the caps on the nuts.

Now it's time to install the tank...again, this is easier than you think!!

Step 5: How to Install the Toilet Tank (My 12 Year Old Could Do This)

Seriously, my 12 year old daughter could easily install the VorMax tank.

And the nice thing is you only need one tool...which comes with the toilet. The bottom of the tank has 3 bolts and two gaskets.

Align the three bolts with the three holes in toilet bowl.
Gently lower the tank onto the bowl and then use the tool to tighten the nuts.

The tank should rest against the bowl when all three bolts are tightened.
I love this little tool because it makes securing the tank to the bowl a breeze. Plus it's super hard to break the tank with this process. That's kind of important since toilets aren't cheap!! Once the tank is installed you can add the toilet seat. Position the rubber gaskets on the tank, align the seat on the gaskets and place the bolts through the seat/bowl. Add the nuts to the bolts and then it's as simple as tightening the bolts with a screwdriver.

See, I told you this was easy.
Now it's time to add the water supply line. I've got some good tips for you.

Step 6: Adding the Water Supply Line

If there's one place you could have a total disaster it's at the fill valve.

It's super important to get this step right. The other steps are critical, don't get me wrong. But nobody wants to turn on the water and have it spraying all over the bathroom!! The fill valve is what, you guessed it, fills the tank with water. You need a supply line to connect the fill valve to the shut off valve coming out of your floor or wall. I recommend using a steel braided supply line because they're sturdy and rarely leak. Thread the supply line onto the shut off in the clockwise direction by hand, being careful not to cross thread the supply line's fitting.

Then use a crescent wrench to tighten the supply line's nut 1/4 to 1/2 turn.

Yep, that's all you need to do. Super human strength isn't required.
Finally, align the other end of the supply line with the fill valve's threads.

If you're looking up at the fill valve you can tighten the supply line in the clockwise direction.

If you're looking down at the tank and trying to tighten the supply line, do that in the counterclockwise direction. I'm mechanically challenged and am writing this little explanation for anyone who struggles with this stuff.
Most of the time you just need to hand tighten the supply line to the fill valve. But you could turn it 1/4 turn more with a wrench. Time for the ultimate test of your workmanship: turning on the water and flushing.

Step 7: Test Your Workmanship

I totally get that this is the most frightening part.

Turn on the water at the shut off valve and immediately look for any leaks at the shut off/supply line connection and the supply line/fill valve connection. Here's my handy dandy guide to fixing leaks

  1. If you have any leaks at these points, turn off the shut off valve and tighten the supply line fittings 1/4 turn more in the clockwise direction.
  2. If you have any leaks at the tank, tighten the nuts holding the tank to the bowl. BUT be careful not to tighten the nuts too much as this could break the tank.
  3. If you have any leaks at the bowl/floor, it's a wax ring issue. You'll have to remove the bowl from the closet flange and inspect the problem.

Watch how to replace a toilet step-by-step in my video to see all the details and ensure you don't have any issues. I promise you'll feel 100% confident you can do this project after watching the video

Hop into the comments below if you have questions or want to add your own 2 cents.
I welcome extra tips because who doesn't love learning something new. See you down in the comments.