How to Replace a Toilet

When it comes to home maintenance tasks, learning how to replace a toilet isn't that difficult. Follow these steps to become a home plumbing master.

modern toilet with shelf above holding turquoise knick knacks

Learning how to replace a toilet is surprisingly easy—although it involves careful attention to detail. We've broken down the process into seven easy-to-follow steps, plus gathered a few extra tips, to help you through the task. Before you begin, make sure you can recognize the different parts of a toilet and know how to turn off your bathroom's water supply.

More Bathroom Items to Replace

What You Need

  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • Toilet
  • Sponge
  • Screwdriver
  • Penetrating oil or hacksaw
  • Rug or folded-up drop cloth
  • Plumbers putty
  • Wax ring
  • Hold-down bolts, if necessary
  • Metal washers
  • Bolts
  • Spud gasket
  • Flexible plastic or chrome-braided supply line
  • Shims, if necessary

Step 1: Do Your Homework

Ensure that the floor where the toilet will be located is level. If not, you will have to use shims to level the toilet after it is set. Then measure from the wall to the hold-down bolt. Most drains will be either 12 or 10 inches; buy the appropriate-size toilet, or purchase a special offset closet flange.

Step 2: Remove the Old Toilet

To learn how to replace a toilet, you need to get rid of the old toilet. Start by shutting off the water. Then flush the toilet and remove any remaining water with a sponge. Disconnect the water-supply line and unscrew the hold-down nuts. If the hold-down nuts are rusted tight, try penetrating oil to loosen them. Or cut the nuts with a hacksaw. Then lift the toilet out and remove the used wax ring.

Step 3: Prepare the New Toilet Bowl

Carefully remove the new toilet bowl from its packaging, and turn it upside down on a cushioned surface, such as a rug or folded drop cloth. Run a rope of plumbers putty around the perimeter of the bowl's base, and fit a wax ring (sold separately) over the outlet opening. Ensure that the four hold-down bolts are in good shape—replace them if needed.

Step 4: Install the Bowl

Return the bowl to its upright position, and gently set it in place atop the closet flange. Make sure the hold-down bolts align with the holes in the base. Press down on the bowl firmly with both hands and align it, allowing the wax ring to compress and seal around the flange. Slip a metal washer and a nut over each bolt; tighten slowly. Don't overtighten or you could crack the bowl.

Step 5: Prepare the Tank

First, lay the spud gasket, beveled side down, over the bowl inlet opening. This forms the seal between the tank and the bowl. Or slip the spud gasket onto the threaded tailpiece located at the bottom of the tank if you have older-style connectors.

Step 6: Install the Tank

Gently lower the tank onto the bowl, aligning the tank holes with those toward the rear of the bowl. Secure the tank to the bowl with the hold-down bolts, washers, and nuts provided with the toilet. Be sure the rubber washer goes inside the tank under the bolt.

Step 7: Attach Water Supply

Complete the installation by hooking up the water-supply line. The easiest way is to use a flexible plastic or chrome-braided supply line. Or use chrome-finish flexible copper tubing and compression fittings.

How to Replace a Toilet Seat

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To remove an old toilet seat, lower the seat and cover, and pry up the little lids that cover the toilet-seat bolts. Hold the nut from below, unscrew the bolts, and lift out the seat. Clean out the area around the bolt holes, and install the new seat by aligning the seat with the holes and installing the bolts. Screw nuts onto the bolts, and tighten the bolts just enough to firmly hold the seat.

Store More with These Over-the-Toilet Storage Solutions

How to Install a Closet Flange Extender

grey and white striped bathroom

If your floor surface is more than half an inch above the closet flange (as will happen when you install new tile), you must extend the flange so it's flush with the floor. A closet flange extender with flexible gaskets and a plastic extender ring makes up the difference. Clean off old wax, insert new bolts, and slip on a flexible gasket and the extender ring.

The closet flange extender should fit flush with the surface of your new flooring. (If it does not, add an additional extender ring.) Add the second flexible gasket. This gasket takes the place of the wax ring. Most kits also include handy plastic shims for leveling the toilet once it is placed on the hold-down bolts.

Toilet Troubleshooting

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If your toilet isn't working properly, it's in your best interest to try and troubleshoot the problem before you call a professional. Most repairs can be done yourself and take less than an hour to complete. Before you begin any project, place a drop cloth on the floor and set the tank lid aside.

To determine what's wrong with your toilet, start by looking under the tank lid. If flushes are incomplete, check that the water level reaches the proper level—an inch or less from the top of the overflow tube. If the toilet constantly hisses or if water seeps into the bowl, the tank water level may be too high. The excess water is slowly overflowing into the overflow tube and into the bowl. Adjusting the water level is usually a simple matter. In some cases, however, the fill valve may need to be repaired or replaced.

There are some of the most common toilet troubles, plus tips on how to fix them:

  • Bowl overflows or will not flush freely: Clear a clog with a plunger, pressure plunger, or toilet auger.
  • Toilet does not flush: Check that the handle is connected to the flapper via a chain or to the stopper via a lift rod. Check that water is turned on and running into the tank.
  • Incomplete (short) flushes: Check the water level in the tank and adjust the float ball, chain, or lift rod. Flush the toilet and watch the flapper or the stopper; if it goes down too soon, replace it.
  • Handle is loose: Tighten the nut holding the handle to the tank. Check the handle's connection to the wire or the lift rod.
  • Water sprays out of the tank: Reattach the refill tube to the overflow tube.
  • Run-on: Adjust the float ball, stopper, or cup. Replace a leaky float ball or stopper. If the water level still rises above the overflow tube, repair or replace the fill valve.
  • Water continusosly seeps into the bowl, making it necessary to jiggle the handle (you hear occasional "phantom flushes"): Clean the flush valve seat and adjust the flapper or stopper. You may need to replace the flapper or stopper.
  • Leak from the tank: Check and tighten water supply connection. Tighten tank bolts. Replace the tank if it is cracked.
  • Leak from the base of the bowl: Remove the toilet, replace the wax ring, and reinstall the toilet. Replace the bowl if it is cracked.

Bonus: Know When to Call a Plumber


There are some situations where you may have a bigger problem than just learning how to replace a toilet. That means you may have to call a plumber. Those include:

  • The plastic flange or drainpipe is broken.
  • The supply line shutoff valve is leaking.
  • There's a leak on the ceiling of the room below the toilet.
  • The new toilet leaks even after following all these steps.
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