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Home Improvement

Can You Replace Your Toilet Yourself?

There are lots of reasons why you might need a new toilet. Maybe your current one is cracked or faulty beyond repair. It might be an older model that takes too long to refill, or has accumulated water stains that resist your harshest attacks of bleach and steel wool. Or maybe you want to go hi-tech and put in one of those fancy heated, self-flushing units from Japan. Even if your ambitions are a bit simpler, you might just want a coloured bowl, or a shape that’s more contemporary to match your bathroom renovation.

Whatever your reasons are, putting in a new toilet seems like a lot of work. Or at least it can until you call the plumber and find out how much it will cost. Armed with that information, you might feel the sudden urge to put on some gloves and borrow your neighbour’s adjustable spanner – plumbers can be expensive! Luckily, you can find lots of articles and video tutorials online to help your little project.


You probably don’t realise how many toilet options actually exist, or that they have different sizes. Well, the second you reach the hardware store, you’ll be paralysed by TMI, so walk in prepared. Go to your current toilet with a tape measure and see how far the wall is from the bolts / screws that hold toilet down. The tape should touch the wall, not the skirting board. It’s usually 30cm, but double check. You should also measure how high the toilet seat is from the floor, and note the thickness of the seat itself.

When you pick out your new toilet, don’t assume it’s one size fits all. Check that the s-curve fits your bolt-to-wall dimensions and test the toilet height to see if you’re comfortable with it, pitting it against your current loo’s height. Remember that studies suggest the deeper you squat, the easier it is on your toileting process. In fact, the ideal posture is a full squat with no seat at all, which is why toilet stools like Squatty Potty are becoming popular.

Still, the floor-level toilet takes a lot of getting used to, and while it’s common in some cultures, it’s not as big a hit here. Consider a lower seat instead, and if the shop will let you, test it (with your pants on) to see how low you can go. Before you leave the store, make sure your toilet is complete. It should have a cistern, bowl, ball valve, seat, washers, and wax ring.


Out with the old …

Start by removing the current toilet. To do this, you have to shut off the water mains to avoid flooding the whole bathroom. Check the wall behind your toilet and you’ll see a faucet. It connects your toilet to the house mains. Close that tap, then flush the toilet to get rid of the water in the cistern. Because the tapis shut, the cistern won’t refill. Lift the toilet lid and scoop out the water in the bowl. Get as much of it out as you can, because the rest will spill onto the floor when you remove the toilet.

You can use a sponge to squeeze out the last few handfuls in the cistern and the toilet bowl. Check the pipe that leads from the wall to the cistern and disconnect it. Now got to the back of the toilet and detach it from the floor. If it’s held down with screws, use a screwdriver. If it’s bolted down, use an adjustable spanner. You could also use a power drill with screwdriver or bolt-fitting bits.

If the cistern is linked to the toilet, then you only need to unscrew the toilet. If they’re separate, you’ll have to unscrew the cistern from the wall and replace both. Remove the screws or bolts and lift the toilet off the floor. This exposes the flange and the wax ring. The flange is a small circular plastic that sits above the toilet hole. The wax ring sits on top of that, linking the porcelain to the floor or wall and preventing leaks.

Wax on wax off

It’s sure to be murky and you’ll need to clean it before attaching a new toilet. Remove the used wax ring and thoroughly clean the flange, removing any old wax. If the flange is damaged, you can fix it using a home repair kit. Put it back in place – or if you prefer, buy a new one and replace it. Reposition your bolts. If your toilet uses screws, you’ll position them after lowering the toilet. Place your new wax ring with the bolts already in place, to make sure it’s in the right location.

Now lower your new toilet, slipping the anchoring holes over the bolts, and aligning the washers with the wax ring. After it’s secure, don’t wiggle it. Movement might damage the wax ring and cause toilet leaks. For screws, slip them in at this point, once the toilet’s position is locked. Screw them in, or fasten the nuts around the bolts to attach the toilet to the floor. For toilets linked to cisterns, your toilet is now ready for use. However, if the cistern is a separate unit, you’ll have to screw it onto the wall and set up the ball valve and flushing mechanism. Now reconnect the piping, open the mains, refill the cistern, and flush. It’s easy!


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