Is it hard to learn how to install a toilet? The answer to that question is no. A couple of hours should be all it will take. The hard part will be picking out a new Toilet. Are you sure that you need a new toilet? Can you fix the one you have? Check out the article 'How to Repair a Toilet' for troubleshooting and repair tips. Many times even an old toilet can be kept working

For those that are set on a new toilet you will have some decisions to make. Toilets are both functional and decorative at the same time. For styling you will be faced with one piece or two piece models. Elongated bowls and color are other style concerns.

There are two choices for the actual flushing of the toilet. Gravity or Pressure Assist. There are pros and cons to both types. Of course there is always the money issue and the price goes up for fancy features.

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What Can You Save?

A new toilet can run anywhere from $100 to 1,200. Even more for high end decorator styles. One piece models in decorator colors will be the most expensive. The big box home supply stores have decent two piece models that run between $100 and $300. To have a toilet installed will be another $100 to $275. It would certainly be worth learning how to install a toilet.

How Hard Could It Be?

Learning how to install a toilet is not that difficult, but there is a little work involved.

These repairs will have a Difficulty Level of: A Bit of Work
These repairs require a Skill Level of: Handyman

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Check the Simple Things!

Learning how to install a toilet is not that simple. Make sure your toilet cannot be repaired before you proceed. The article How to Repair a Toilet has information on several simple fixes. Depending on your problem you might be able to get it working for a few dollars.

What Can Go Wrong?

Your toilet uses water to flush away unwanted material. Water, sometimes dirty water can make quite a mess. Prepare for the water and have rags, a mop and a pail handy. Be careful to drain down the toilet and remove as much water as possible. Not finishing the job will leave the toilet not working. This will not be popular with the family, especially if it is your only toilet. Allow enough time to complete the task before the parts store closes.

Purchasing a New Toilet

You have gotten this far so you must have decided on getting a new toilet. There are three issues here to consider, style, functionality and price. Without going into a long discussion on toilet features, we will try to cover a few things to watch for. All new toilets are water saver models and are required to flush with a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water. Some toilets can flush with as little as .8 gallons. If you are replacing an older toilet you may get the added benefit of a savings on your water bill.

The first style choice is one piece or two piece. One piece toilets look a little classier, but they are usually more expensive. The height of the seat is also a factor. For older or handicapped individuals a higher bowl is desirable. One more option with the bowl. Standard or elongated. Wow, this is going to be a little tougher than you thought.

The functionality is another factor to consider. The two choices are 'Gravity' and 'Pressure Assist'. The key thing to remember is that a water saving toilet does not really save water if you have to flush it two or three times to get rid of everything.

Price is always a concern in any matter. Cheap toilets will likely be disappointing in looks and performance. In 2009 Consumer Reports rated twenty-five water saver toilets. Some of the expensive ones did poorly. The best performers on their list were the models with elongated and higher bowls. The top four rated toilets are as follows: (1) American Standard Champion 4 (2002.014); (2) Kohler The Complete Solution Cimarron (K-11456); (3) Kohler Highline Comfort Height (K-3493); (4) Gerber Avalanche (21-817). These toilets range in price from $300 to $400.

Removing the Old Toilet

Time to remove the toilet. Turn off the water supply to the toilet. You may have to use a hack saw to cut off the bolts if they are stripped. Use one that allows the blade to protrude out one end. With the water off, flush the toilet and hold the flapper open so that as much water as possible drains out of the tank. Place a small pail under the water inlet to the tank and loosen the nut the holds the supply line on with a pair of pliers. With the supply line off, loosen the plastic or brass nut that holds the fill valve in place. Just loosen it enough to let the balance of the water drain into the pail.

Use a plunger to get as much water out of the bowl as possible. If you keep the toilet level when you remove it, a little water won't matter. Move the toilet from side to side, rocking it to break the seal. Place a piece of cardboard on the floor nearby. Standing above the toilet and straddling it, lift it straight up off the bolts and set it on the cardboard. (No one with back problems, please, use good judgment) One person can do this, but two are better. Rest for a minute, that was hard.

Installing the Tee Bolts

At this point you should replace the tee bolts even if they look OK. Buy and extra set of nuts and washers. Install a nut and washer on the flange before you set the new toilet bowl. This holds the bolts in place and eliminates the stripping problem. The second set of nuts will go on the toilet. Use a wrench to snug the bolts down at three o'clock and nine o'clock with you facing the toilet. Check the picture for the right placement. Once the toilet is off replacing the tee bolts is an easy job.

At the supply store they may tell you that you don't need extra nuts. As mentioned above, when everything is new this is true. If you are certain you won't have to work on this particular toilet again, you can skip the extra nuts. I have found that having the tee bolts secure makes setting the toilet much easier. We are talking about less than a dollar for two extra nuts and washers.

Setting the Bowl

You should look at the instructions for the toilet you purchased. There are variations on how things go together. There should be a helpful diagram. I know, I hate instructions to, if you got some that are in eight languages you may get an education or learn a new dialect. The first thing you will need to do before you proceed with setting the bowl is replacing the was ring.

Before you can replace the wax ring you need to get rid of the old one. Have a trash bag ready and use a scraper to clean the wax off of the flange. Tilt the toilet up and see if there is any residue from the old ring on the bottom of the toilet. Scrape it off as required. This is the part that makes a toilet flange repair a less than desirable job. The old wax ring is going to be a kinda of nasty. The picture gives you the idea. Just get rid of it as fast as you can. Admit it, it's one of the nastiest things you've ever seen. You might want to consider wearing gloves.

Press the new wax ring onto the bottom of the toilet around the opening. Set the toilet up on a couple of wood blocks until you set it in place. For most installations a single wax ring with a flange on it will work fine. If multiple floors have been installed and the flange seems to be sunken below the floor, you may need to add an extra ring without a flange.

With the wax ring in place and new tee bolts installed you are ready to set the toilet bowl. Help is a good idea for this step, although one person can do it. Have someone guide the toilet bowl onto the tee bolts and lower the toilet down level and square onto the floor. Keep the perpendicular with the wall and you will be square. The holes in the toilet are oversized which gives a little room for adjustment. Press the toilet down firmly into place to get the wax ring to seat.

Adjust the toilet as needed and install the second set of nuts and washers. Snug the toilet down to the floor. Use a hack saw to saw off the excess on the bolts and install the caps. I think you were warned that learning how to install a toilet involves some work.

Installing the Tank

There should be a main seal between the tank and the bowl. Check the instructions that came with the toilet to verify the exact placement. Place the main seal in its proper location on the bottom of the tank. If the tank bolts are not in the tank you will need to put them in. They also have washers and seals. Check the instructions for the placement.

Put the tank on the toilet base and align the bolts with the holes in the base. The toilet should come with wing nuts that are metal or plastic. There are probably washers that go on first. Put the wing nuts on and snug them up finger tight. Hold the wing nuts and use the screwdriver to tighten the bolts. You may get one of those throw away wrenches for this step. Tighten them down evenly, switching back and forth between bolts. Do not over tighten. Make sure the tank is secure and straight. Adjust the bots if the tank is crooked.

The Finishing Touches

One of the last things you need to do on your how to install a toilet project is to hook up the water. Unless your new toilet is dramatically different in size, your old supply line should work. You may want to replace it if it was a rigid one and it is old. Flexible ones with factory installed fittings are a lot easier to work with (See the Parts List).

Install the supply line using a pair of adjustable pliers. The bigger fitting goes on the toilet. Snug up the fittings and turn the water on. See the article 'Repairing a Toilet Water Supply Line' for more information. Is the valve bad? You may want to think about replacing it with a new one. See the article 'Repairing Water Shut Off Valves' to find out what your options are and how much work it is.

At this point you want to check for leaks. Check the fittings on the supply line first. Tighten as needed. Let the tank fill and flush the toilet a few times. Check the connection between the tank and the bowl for leaks. Tighten the bolts inside the tank as needed. Another possibility is around the base. Flush the toilet several times to make sure you don't have a leak at the wax ring. It is unusual, but it happens. Tighten the bolts as needed or replace the wax ring in an extreme situation.

No leaks? Great, now you just have to finish up. Put the top on the tank and clean things up. The final step is caulking around the base. This helps to stabilize the base and seal out water. Nothing worse than having water get under the toilet and start to smell. Use a good quality tub and tile caulk. It should be a silicone caulk to keep the water out. If you hate caulk as much as me you will want to get one of those caulking kits that have the tools for the beads. You have to use mineral spirits or lacquer thinner to clean up silicone caulk. Make sure the area is ventilated and no flames are present.


Caulking done and all cleaned up? That's all there is to it. Get the family in there and get a few compliments. A job well done. You have successfully completed your 'How to Install a Toilet' course. Well done!

How To Install a Toilet Summary

So did you find out everything you need to know about how to install a toilet? It is a big job, you should be proud after you successfully tackle it. Set aside the shopping and you were probably able to do it in less than two hours. Most of the parts are already installed in the tank when you open the box.

Removing the old toilet is a little bit of work. Setting the bowl and getting the tank in place was a some work also. After that it is all down hill. A cleaner better flushing toilet is the reward for learning how to install a toilet. We hope this project was a success for you.