While most plumbing situations are pretty cut and dry, one bathroom remodel project that causes a lot of confusion is toilet installation.  While many toilet installations are generally problem-free, the real danger here lies in the fact that when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong. This often results in flooding, a broken toilet and a call to the plumber.

Toilet installation isn’t just potentially tricky, it’s also labor intensive and requires a delicate touch so the toilet sits properly on the base and doesn’t cause damage to the floor, pipes and home in general. If this is a project you are ready to take on without the help of a professional, follow these tips to get your toilet installed.

Essential Supplies for Toilet Installation

First, gather the proper supplies, equipment and tools for toilet installation:

  • At least a 1.6 gallon flush toilet, Toto being the top brand
  • A wax ring
  • Self-adjusting closet bolts, available at plumbing supply shops
  • A braided steel, flexible toilet connector
  • Level
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Putty knife

How to Install a Toilet Like a Professional

Before getting started, it’s vital that the water line is turned off.  Have all tools and equipment handy and follow the instructions that come with the toilet.

  1. Assemble the toilet as per the manufacturer’s instructions.  All hardware will be included.  Assembling the toilet first is the easiest way to it but if the toilet is too heavy, you may want to attach the tank once the base is attached to the floor. Be sure not to tighten the bolts too much or the porcelain will crack.
  1. Use the putty knife to remove the old wax ring, scraping the flange to remove dirt, grime and build-up.  This will prepare a clean surface for proper seal to prevent leaks before, during and after toilet installation.  If the flange is cracked, it has to be replaced which can be a very difficult task.
  1. Position the self-adjusting closet bolts by placing them in the two slots on the flange, then move the lock washers down until they are flat against the flange.  Self-adjusting closet bolts eliminate the need to cut or trim down the hardware.  If closet bolts are unavailable, the job will require cutting down or snapping off the excess bolt, which can be difficult without the proper tools.
  1. Place the new wax ring directly on the flange rather than the underside of the toilet, thereby eliminating any chance that it will fall off while the toilet is being moved into position.  The wax ring should sit snug in between the protruding self-adjusting closet bolts.  Extended height wax rings might be necessary for floor-level or recessed flanges.
  1. Pick the toilet up and carefully position the holes for the closet bolts on the base of the toilet over the closet rings. When they line up, gently lower the toilet on to the floor and press down firmly to create a light seal.
  1. Place nylon washers and then standard washers onto the closet bolt.  Use your hand to tighten the nuts on either side of the toilet.  This lets the closet bolts do their job as the threadlocker drives the stud tightly into the anchor nut as pressure is applied to the hex nut.
  1. Check to see if the toilet rocks back and forth before using the level.  If it does, move straight to step 8.  If it doesn’t move, place your tornado level on the rim of the toilet bowl, measuring the front and back lip of the rim (the level will be parallel to the tank). Then, check the left and right side of the rim (the level will be perpendicular to the tank).  If the toilet is level, go to step 9. If the toilet is not, proceed to step 8.
  1. Most toilet installation projects will run into some trouble here since getting the toilet level isn’t easy.  You can buy pre-made plastic toilet shims but these can crack. It’s better to use stainless steel washers or even pennies as the shims. Stick the shims under the bottom of the toilet leaving enough exposed so it can be removed if necessary.  When the toilet is finally level, push the shims completely underneath the toilet so they are out of sight.
  1. When the toilet is level, tighten up the closet bolts with the wrench, taking care not to over-tighten them and crack the porcelain.  Place the bolt caps over the closet bolts so they too are out of sight.
  1. The supply line will likely be 3/8″ and need to be connected securely.  Use the braided flexible connector line – preferably with rubber gaskets on the ends – to connect the toilet to the water line behind the toilet.  If the connector doesn’t have rubber gaskets, wrap the threads using teflon tape.
  1. Open up the water valve and look inside the tank to make sure that the water comes up to the appropriate fill line (which is marked inside).  If it is too high or low, adjust the water valve accordingly.
  1. Caulk the base of the toilet but leave the backside uncaulked so leaks and clogs can be detected before they cause damage.

Things to Consider

As with any DIY remodel, installation or renovation, there are some things that you need to consider.

  • Leveling the toilet is critical and difficult.  Don’t rush through it.
  • Open the outside hose valves and flush toilets when turning water back on to bleed dirt and air.
  • PTFE tape or compound is a must at all bare threaded joints.
  • Toilets are expensive to repair if cracked or broken.

Toilet installation can get tricky fast so never hesitate to call a professional plumber at any step of the process or if the step-by-step guide has made you hesitant about DIY installation, contact us and we’ll be happy to do the job for you.