A toilet is an essential fixture in a home. We take it for granted if it’s there and it works, but if it doesn’t, there’s an immediate crisis.
Even if the toilet works well, it still may be worth updating. Older toilets use far more water than necessary, costing you extra money with every flush. Over time, those wasted pennies more than add up to the cost of replacing it.
Replacing a toilet is a key consideration when doing a bathroom remodel. Whether you are remodeling for yourself, or for resale, an updated bathroom contributes significantly to a home’s value.
Choosing a New Toilet
When shopping for a new toilet, one of the first things to do is measure your existing toilet. It’s important to measure the distance from the wall to the center of the bolts that secure your toilet to the floor. The standard distance is 12 inches, although 10-inch and 14-inch models are available.
Note that if you measure, say, 11.5 inches, it may be due to the thickness of a baseboard or tile that is attached to the wall, so you will still have a 12-inch measurement to the wall itself. Your new toilet needs to fit that same distance unless your remodeling plans already include extensive re-plumbing. It’s easier and less expensive to simply use the existing drain.
After you’ve measured the “rough-in” and know how your new toilet needs to fit, it’s time to consider other important variables.
Toilet bowl shape.Elongated bowls are often more comfortable to use, but can take up to an additional 3 inches of floor space. In a small bathroom, it might be good to save the space and choose a round bowl. Beware of unusually-shaped toilet bowls. They may look interesting, but replacing the seat will be difficult and expensive.
Toilet seat height.The standard seat height is 14-15 inches, but taller toilets can be more comfortable for tall people and easier to use for seniors and people with disabilities. If you think that a taller seat might be worth the investment, visit a showroom and sit on one to try it out.
Compare the flush.Flushing is, after all, the most important job your new toilet will do. Toilet models are routinely independently tested for their flushing ability. If a great flush with low water usage is important to you, consider investing in a toilet with a pressure-assisted flush. Note that some of these models can be loud.
Consider a dual-flush toilet. Common in Europe, these toilets save water by having two plungers; one flushes more lightly for liquids, and the other flushes harder for solids. On average, these toilets use 25% less water than single-flush options. While the purchase price for a dual-flush toilet is higher, the savings in water usage will add up over time.
Other variables, like the size, style, and shape of the tank, are largely a matter of preference and what will look good in your bathroom.
Note that if you are remodeling your bathroom for resale, then light and neutral colors are strongly preferred. A new cherry red toilet may look great to you, but many buyers will not be thrilled with it, and it may hurt the resale value of your home.
Once you have a new toilet, assuming it fits the same soil drain as the old one, replacement is not that difficult. Provided you have the brute strength to lift and move toilets and tanks; it’s usually a simple job that you can do yourself.
Replacing Your Toilet
To replace a toilet yourself, here’s the equipment you will need:
- Putty knife
- Adjustable wrench
- Replacement toilet
- Wax ring
- Longer supply line (if the new tank is taller than the previous one)
Once you have the equipment, you will:
- Turn off the supply line for the existing toilet.
- Flush the toilet and remove all the water, using cups or sponges as necessary.
- Disconnect the supply line (if you aren’t replacing it.)
- Remove the tank lid.
- Remove the bolts that hold the tank to the bowl and remove the tank.
- Remove the bolt caps from the base of the toilet and take out the bolts holding the toilet bowl to the floor.
- Rock the bowl to free it from the wax ring.
- Lift the bowl off the ring and remove the old toilet.
- Cover the drain hole to keep debris from falling down it and keep gas from escaping into the room.
- Use a putty knife to scrape the wax off the floor and mounting flange.
- After all the wax is completely removed, completely clean the floor and surrounding surfaces so the new wax ring will adhere.
- Insert the new closet bolts.
- Turn over the new toilet bowl and install the new wax ring on the bottom of it.
- Uncover the drain hole and position the toilet on the flange.
- Loosely install the washers and nuts.
- With the toilet bowl correctly positioned, gently press down and rock slightly to secure the wax seal.
- Tighten the nuts on the bolts, alternating sides to evenly distribute the pressure.
- Install the bolt caps.
- Install the tank according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Install the toilet seat.
- Install the water supply line and turn it on.
- Flush the toilet and make sure it works and doesn’t leak.
- If you have no leaks, use a sealant around the base of the toilet.
This job doesn’t require any special tools or knowledge, and the hardest part is lifting and removing the old toilet, and then lifting and carefully lowering the new one into place. Provided you can do those things, it’s a quick and easy job.