Bathroom Remodeling: Selecting and Installing a New Toilet

The bathroom has become one of the most noticed rooms in the home. If your house has got a few years on it, you may still be using one of those toilets that uses between 3 and 7 gallons of water per flush. Whether your planning on selling your house in the days ahead or living in it for the rest of your life, replacing that old toilet will make a big difference. Not only will a new “john” make the bathroom look better, but it will save you money on the water bill. Current federal laws now state that toilets can use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. If your even just a little savvy, you can save a bunch of money installing it yourself. Before we put that new toilet in, lets consider which one to buy.

Toilets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and cost. Just how good it will work has nothing to do with any of these issues. The typical toilet is equipped with a gravity flush system. This is where the weight of the water provides the flushing pressure. In the old days with 3 to 7 gallons of water behind that flush, you had to try really hard to clog that baby. However with only 1.6 gallons in the new toilets clogs can be a problem. There is another system to consider. It’s called a pressure assisted flush system. This system uses pressurized air to force the water down into the bowl. This method is a bit noisier and can require more maintenance. Some of these toilets use electric power to work. The 2 biggest factors that cause a toilet to get clogged are the size of the trap, and the flush valve. The bigger, the better when it comes to these. Before buying the new one, measure the “rough in” or just measure from the wall to the center of the drain. A standard “rough in” is 12 inches. Some can be 10 or 14 inches as well.

Toilets come in either one piece or two piece. The two piece comes with a separate tank and bowl. A one piece, well is just one piece. The two piece models are less expensive. A one piece is easier to clean because there is no crevice between the tank and bowl, and come with the seat. You’ll need to buy the seat on the two piece model. The toilet bowls come either round or elongated. The elongated being about 2 inches longer with a larger water surface. These factors are pretty much a matter of personal taste and budget. Now that you have picked out that new “john”, let’s install it.

If you are simply replacing an existing toilet, plan on spending an afternoon to get it done. If it’s a new location, unless the “rough in” is complete, you’ll want to leave it to a plumber. Other than the toilet itself, the only thing you’ll need is the wax ring and the bolts. They can be purchased together for about $5. Before starting turn off the water at the shut-off valve behind the old toilet or the water main for the house. Then disconnect the water supply line and drain it into a bucket. Disconnect the supply line from the old unit. Unbolt the old toilet by removing the nuts at the base. If they are too corroded, cut them off with a hacksaw. Now remove the old tank by unbolting it from the bowl. Use a screwdriver to hold the mounting bolt from inside the tank while loosening the nut with a wrench from below. Remove the bowl by prying the caps off the hold-down bolts and removing the nuts with a wrench (adjustable). Break the seal between the floor and bowl by rocking it back and forth. Then lift it up tilting it forward to avoid spilling any remaining water.

Plug the drain with a rag to prevent dropping something down it, and to keep out the sewer gas. Clean the flange with a putty knife, be sure to scrape off all that remains of the wax ring.

Turn the new toilet upside down and put the new wax ring gasket over the horn on the bottom of the bowl. If the wax ring has a plastic collar, make sure the collar is away from the bowl. Check to be sure the collar will fit into the flange on the floor. Put a thin bead of caulk around the base of the bowl. Put the new bolts into the floor flange. You can use the old ones if they are not damaged or too corroded.

Remove the rag from the drain. Carefully lower the toilet atop the flange using the bolts as a guide. Press down firmly while rocking the new toilet from side to side. This will ensure a good tight seal. Use a level to ensure the bowl is straight. Use shims if needed.

Put on the washers and tighten the nuts onto the bolts. Do this by hand. Snug them up with a wrench. Be careful not to over tighten the nuts, you don’t want to crack your new “john”. Fill the caps with plumbers putty and put them over the bolt ends.

Put the rubber tank cushion on the bowl. Place the tank on the bowl and tighten the nuts and washers onto the mounting bolts. Reconnect the water supply line. Turn the water back on.

Congratulations!!! You just picked out and installed your new toilet. Even though it can be hard work and even time consuming, there is nothing like the pride that comes with doing the work yourself. I bet your bathroom looks better already!

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