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Installing a New Toilet: One Woman's Adventures in Plumbing

Installing a new toilet is possible even for someone with no plumbing experience.

Installing a new toilet is possible even for someone with no plumbing experience.

Putting In a Low-Flow Toilet

A few years ago, I had a plumber at my house working on a drip in my bathtub. He asked me how old the toilet was because he said he had never seen a toilet that took so long to flush. The water just rolled round and round and round. Now you have to understand that this plumber was not new to the business. He had been a plumber for over 30 years and was not easily impressed, so when he said, "I have never seen," I had to pay attention.

I understood his point from a water-conservation perspective, and since I am also the person paying the water bill, I understood it from a financial perspective. But I am a woman who has to live on a budget, and that budget requires an if-it's-not-broken-don't-fix-it point of view. However, from that day on, every time I flushed that toilet or heard someone else flush it, I felt guilty.

Buying a New Toilet

One day I was walking through a large home improvement store near my house and noticed they were having a bathroom sale. I wandered down the fixtures aisle and found myself standing in front of the toilet display comparing prices and flushing speeds (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the speediest). With the help of a very knowledgeable saleswoman, I learned a few things:

  • A toilet can be purchased in two pieces, a toilet base and a toilet tank, or a toilet can be purchased with the tank already connected to the base.
  • When replacing an old toilet before a new toilet is purchased, it is crucial to measure from the wall behind the toilet to the two screws that hold the old toilet base into the floor. Typically the distance will be 12 inches. If the distance is longer or shorter you have to take that into consideration when you purchase your new toilet.
  • Toilets come round or elongated.
  • Toilet bases come in different heights.

I decided to buy a toilet in two pieces, thinking it would be easier to lift and maneuver. A round toilet at the standard height worked for me. The store had a toilet with all of those features that flushed at a score of 10 and was on sale for $98. Everything I needed was included: the seat, the ballcock assembly inside the tank (refills the toilet after it flushes), and the wax bowl ring (more about that to follow).

The Plan

My thinking was that I would remove the old toilet and install the new one myself. How hard could it be? I had fallen ice skating with my grandniece and my arm was not quite back to normal, so I needed someone who could help me with the heavy lifting and enlisted the help of my son. The yucky factor did give me pause, but I had been cleaning that toilet for years . . . how bad could it be? I know what you're thinking . . .

How to Remove an Old Toilet

  1. Turn off the water. I turned off the water by turning the knob behind the toilet to the right. Then I flushed once and scooped out as much of the water remaining in the tank as I could. Then I unscrewed the water supply line from the back of the tank and removed the bolts in the front of the tank that connected it to the toilet base. Then I just jiggled it loose and lifted the tank and the inside assembly up off the base and my son carried it out to the garage. Next I removed the old toilet seat and discarded it.
  2. Unbolt the base. Two bolts on either side held the toilet base to the floor. Those bolts were old and rusty and I needed help from my son to loosen them. Once those bolts were removed it was just a case of lifting the base off the floor.
  3. Lift it out. I have to admit I was nervous at this point because I had never seen what is underneath a toilet. It was pretty gross. There was no odor coming out of the soil pipe but around the circumference of the large hole in the floor was a circular ring (called a flange) and on top of that was the old wax ring (see above). The purpose of the wax ring is to seal the connection between the toilet base and soil pipe and keep water and odors from leaking through, so it is a good thing.
  4. Watch that wax flange. However, it is wax, and the weight of the toilet base pushes the wax into the flange and all of that old, sticky wax has to be cleaned out before the new wax ring can be used. I covered the open hole in the floor with a piece of cardboard to prevent any of the old wax and dirt from falling into the soil pipe while I cleaned the flange. Rubber gloves and eye protection are required.
  5. Clean it all up. It only took five minutes to clean up the old wax and dirt, but it was the worst part of the installation.
Wax flange

Wax flange

Installing the New Toilet

  1. A new wax flange. After the flange was cleaned, I positioned the two new bolts that came with the new toilet into the flange, threaded end up as directed by the instruction. Then I carefully pressed the wax ring, flat side down, onto the flange.
  2. Positioning the toilet base. I needed my son's help for the next step. He picked up and held the toilet base over the flange and I aligned the bolts with the holes in the base. Then we gently lowered the base onto the wax ring until the base met the floor. Once the base was on the floor we had to be careful not to move it back and forth which could break the wax seal. My son and I secured the base to the floor with the washers and screws provided.
  3. Lowering the tank. Next we lowered the tank (making sure that the large rubber washer on the tank's bottom fit snuggly into the toilet base) and then carefully bolted the tank and base together.
  4. Reconnecting the water. When that was done I reconnected the water supply line, connected the tank handle to the inside chain and with a sense of triumph combined with trepidation, turned on the water.


The first flush was a success! There were no signs of water leakage and it was a revelation how quickly my new toilet did its job. I suppose there are many people who would not be interested in personally replacing a toilet and many people would pay a small fortune to avoid the job. I thought it was pretty cool how easy it was.

Please note that this story represents my personal experience. The steps I describe worked for me, but all of our needs are different so I encourage you to do your own research before purchasing or installing a toilet.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2011 Words from Jan


swsusu on March 20, 2018:

Thank you for this story of encouragement. I'm doing to do it myself (with my son close by) I hope I've purchased the proper size!

senti on August 30, 2017:

Thank you; so encouraging to all single women out there who need to know it's possible to do your plumbing yourself!

elijagod from Abuja - Nigeria on November 28, 2014:

thank dear for this detailed hub on toilet.

thanks for this info!

Leticia@ boiler repair london on July 09, 2013:

I decided to buy a toilet in two pieces thinking it would be easier to lift and maneuver. But i wanna know how to install it?

lynn esposito on March 29, 2012:

I loved this!!

I was a single mom and home owner for 24 yrs. Had a few toilet adventures myself.

Was once theeeee hit of the home depot plumbing aisle as the proud owner of some contraption i had to pull from the tank and replace. They (men!) were coming from all over to see such a wonderful thing. Apparently they don't make em like that anymore.

My forever big regret....i hadn't taken the time to put lipstick on. ; )