How to Install a Toilet

Installing a toilet seems like an intimidating DIY project but it’s surprisingly easy to do yourself. Once you choose one you just need a few basic tools and a good step-by-step guide.

Most people don’t even consider installing their own toilet. Not because it’s such a complicated task, but because screwing up a toilet install? That has bigger consequences than other home DIY tasks.

If you hang a picture in the wrong place, you move it, fill the nail hole in the wall then forget about it. If you install your toilet the wrong way the result could involve you being chased by poops.

That isn’t the sort of thing you ever forget.

How to Install a Toilet

This is one of the easiest home improvement jobs you can tackle. It’s way easier for instance than pouring self levelling concrete.

It also scores very high on the official bragging rights scale because it impresses most people; most people not knowing how simple it is to do.

 It’ll take 2-3 hours. About the same time as making a pumpkin pie. Maybe 4 if you run into a bit of trouble.

Materials

  • Toilet (bowl and tank should come with bolts etc.)
  • Wax Ring
  • Wood shims
  • Rags
  • Pencil
  • Masking Tape
  • Caulking

Tools needed

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Vice grips
  • Caulking gun
  • Screwdrivers
  • Tape Measure

Instructions

STEP 1. Turn off the water supply. If it’s stuck, use WD40 and/or vice grips.

STEP 2. Flush the toilet.

STEP 3. Soak up any remaining water from the tank & bowl with a towel and/or small bowl.

STEP 4. Undo the water supply line.

STEP 5. Remove the tank from the base by removing the bolts located inside and underneath the tank.

STEP 7. Remove the bolts holding the toilet to the floor and haul away your tank and toilet. You’re now toiletless!

STEP 8. Plug the now open drain hole with toilet paper or a rag to stop sewer gasses from coming into the bathroom.

STEP 9. Scrape up any wax from the wax ring left on the flange and inspect it. If it’s cracked or broken, remove the flange using a reciprocating saw, hammer and chisel and replace it with a new one.

STEP 10. Install your new bolts to the toilet flange and finger tighten them. This secures the toilet to the floor. Make sure they’re in the right place by measuring from the wall.

STEP 11. Apply a new wax seal to the new toilet.

STEP 12. For a skirted toilet you won’t be able to see the bolts as you set the toilet down. Mark the centre of the bolts with masking tape on the floor.

STEP 13. Lower the toilet to the floor then sit or crouch on it to help set the wax seal. Hand tighten the bolts to finish setting the toilet.

STEP 14. Attach the water supply line to the tank.

STEP 15. Secure the tank to the toilet bowl. My toilet came with a little tool for tightening the nuts. Hook the water supply line up to the water source.

STEP 16. Flush the toilet, check for leaks and adjust the float. If you have leaks from the water line tighten the connections. If the leak is from the tank tighten the tank bolts. If it still leaks, remove the tank and make sure the gasket is placed correctly.

STEP 17. Flush the toilet again and check for leaks underneath the toilet. If there is leakage your wax seal wasn’t set properly. You’ll need to remove the base, remove the wax seal and attach a new one.

Those are your steps.  Here is the video of me removing my old toilet and installing my new one.  It shows me actually doing all the steps above, so watch this video before you install your own toilet.

It’ll help make things much easier to understand and make you feel more confident that you can do this.


Installing a toilet with roughed in plumbing

If you’re working with a new build and are working with roughed in plumbing there are only 2 extra steps you’ll possibly have to take.

  1. Installing a soil pipe.
  2. Adding on the closet flange.

All the other steps will be the same.


Toilet Buying Tips

1. Check the MaP (Maximum Performance) rating of your toilet. Anything over 800 is good. Over 1000 is GREAT. Avoid anything that has a MaP rating under that if you want a powerful flush and little chance of clogging.

2. Pay attention to the bowl shape. Round bowls are shorter and elongated ones are longer. If you are really cramped for space you’ll save a couple of inches by getting a round bowl.

3. One piece toilets are usually heavier and harder to install yourself. If you’re doing this on your own, a two piece toilet make not look as sleek, but it’ll be easier for you to maneuver into place and drag up the stairs by yourself.

4. Bowl height? Yes, toilets come in different heights with the majority of toilets now being “comfort height”. Which are only comfortable if you’re relatively tall. If you’re short you may find your legs dangling.

5. If you hate looking at the side of a toilet that looks like its colon is showing, get a skirted bowl. The “guts” of the toilet are concealed, so the toilet has nice smooth sides that are nicer to look at and easier to clean.

6. The toilet seat is where you’ll actually set yourself down on so get a good one. Options are heated seats, bidet seats and slow close (slamless) seats.

The bowl that I went with has a MaP rating of over 1000 (the Cadet). I had NO idea there was such a big difference in toilets and how well they flush.  Like I said, I just figured low flow toilets didn’t work well.  As it turns out, only certain low flow toilets don’t work well.

This one works great.

Is it hard to install a toilet?

As a general rule it’s pretty darn easy. It just looks scary.  But it takes time and of course is terrifying because you’ve never done it before and you’re afraid it isn’t going to work.

Do you need a plumber to install a toilet?

Nope. If you’re just removing an old toilet and replacing it with a new one any homeowner can do it themselves. 

Should you caulk around the toilet?

Most building codes require that toilets be caulked to the floor after installation to help keep the toilet stable and to prevent odour and gases from leaking out of the sewer line.

How to fix a wobbly toilet.

If your bolts are tightened and everything is set properly but your toilet has a bit of a wobble to it, add shims. They’ll stabilize it and prevent it from cracking.


That’s really all there is to installing a toilet.  Sure something’s gonna go wrong.  The water line is going to get knocked and spray water everywhere, or you’re going to get part of the wax seal in your hair or you’ll find out your water supply line is too short for your new toilet and you have to go buy a new one.

But all in all, installing a toilet is really one of the easiest jobs you can do in your home.

And definitely easier than using your neighbour’s bathroom every time you have to go because you’re too afraid to use your own crappy toilet.

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How to Install a Toilet

114 Comments

  1. ES says:

    My husband and I replaced our toilets a couple weekends ago and looks to be the same American Standard skirted toilet from Home Depot ! I was happy that a friend that was fixing something else at our home was happy to help install as he invited my (ADHD) husband to read the directions and follow them to be able to install. I am very thankful!

  2. Pearl says:

    I haven’t read all of the 100+ comments, but, why did you repoace the toilet?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pearl. I replaced the toilet because it didn’t have enough flushing power and was causing my lines to clog. For years it did this and I had no idea it was the fault of the toilet. A plumber who came to repair my lines for the upmteenth time told me to switch toilet papers and replace my toilet with an American Standard. It worked. :) ~ karen

  3. Christmas Carol says:

    Get the tall toilet. Get it now. If you are short, like my family, get a little stool to put next to the toilet for when you don’t want your feet to dangle. Why, you may ask? because if anyone in your household ever has to have a hip replacement, they will need to use a tall toilet, or that ugly filthy seat riser, for several months after the surgery to prevent the new hip from dislocating. No matter how avid a DYI’er you may be, you do not want to be trying to replace your toilet while you are on your crutches following an unexpected broken hip. Not that you would ever suffer from an expected broken hip. Never mind how I know this. Also, you can use a wet vac to suck the extra water out of the bowl.

  4. Meg says:

    I enjoy your posts for their wonderful combination of practicality and humor. Today I am enjoying the comments for the same reasons. Shout outs to Billy and Debra for the former. Also to Thea for the latter. Apparently I, too, am a child.

  5. Pearl says:

    I made myself a temporary just in case. Put some kitty litter or similar in a black plastic contractor bag and put all that in a Home Depot bucket. Put the bucket in a private location with some toilet paper. I didn’t need it but it gave me some peace of mind while I sweated and cussed.

    • Karen says:

      Good job! I mean yuck, but when you only have one bathroom there aren’t many options, lol. I’ve had to do similar with a Home Depot bucket! ~ karen

  6. Billy Sharpstick says:

    Toilets weigh sixty pounds or more. Even with two healthy brutes to lift it into place, it is a difficult job, especially when the toilet is inches from at least one wall. You also have to line up the mounting holes over the bolts and drop precisely into place. You can remove the tank, but the bowl is still pretty heavy. I’ve done more of these than I care to remember. Usually I would make sure I had extra wax rings on hand, because typically, when I dropped it in, the bolts would get shoved out of place, knocked loose and the wax ring would end up getting wrecked. I would then swear profusely, take it back off and put in a new wax ring. Then I discovered foam rings that are destructible. Sometimes they are too thick though. My new installation procedure:
    1. place the bolts in the floor flange(metal is best if you are installing a new one.). Fasten them down with nuts to keep them from shifting or turning. Place the wax ring.
    2. Stack planks of wood(about 2×12 and quarter or half inch thick) on both sides of the flange just outside of the bolts, to a height of slightly more than the bolts.
    3. Lift the toilet and place on the stacks of planks. Visually align it until the bolts are under the mounting holes.
    4. Tilt the toilet from side to side and remove the planks one by one until the toilet is on the floor. Bolt it down!

    toilet disposal
    Disposing of a large heavy chunk of porcelain can seem difficult. Cover it with an old blanket or piece of canvas and beat the crap out of it(no pun intended) with a ball peen hammer! The resulting shards can be easily put in your regular garbage over several weeks.

    • Kat - the other 1 says:

      Toilet disposal:
      Or do what our neighbors did.
      Find a neighbor having housework done that requires a dumpster. Sneak out in the middle of the night and “hide” said toilet (in plain sight) in your neighbor’s dumpster. Then when said neighbor comes around, when they are very obviously at home, and they refuse to answer the door.

      Yep, our neighbors did that to us.
      Thankfully we didn’t get charged extra for the “extras” in the dumpster.
      If you were only pretending to be nice to the neighbors and want them to speaking to you, this will work. Lol.
      (They SEEM nice enough, but then they go and stuff like this… )
      Hmmm, what was that about fences and neighbors…?
      Lol ;)

      • Karen says:

        One of my neighbours woke up to find so much furniture and garbage in their dumpster that they couldn’t fit any more into their own dumpster. ~ karen!

      • Kat - the other 1 says:

        Oh that’s terrible!

        It also turns out that the guys that moved the stepping stones to pour the sidewalk threw half of the stepping stones in the dumpster! WHY??!

        (And now, only weeks later, the brand new deck has HUGE deep cracks in it, ugh!)

  7. suzanne says:

    I have that toilet. a heads up you have to pull the toilet to replace the seat for what ever reason.

  8. TulumChica says:

    Wow. I just replaced the inner workings of my toilet tank and the tank to bowl seal. It was a really tough job in a tight space. A new toilet would have been easier. I wasnt sure I could lift the bowl by myself, though. How much do you think your toilet bowls weigh/weighed?

    • Karen says:

      Hi! It depends on the toilet actually, but it’s not that heavy. Check the specifications of whatever toilets you’re looking at – it should say. :) ~ karen!

  9. Andrea says:

    well, dang it. My toilet is so old it may be original to the house — and trying to loosen the bolts in the tank resulted in *destroying* the bolts. So, plumber comes tomorrow. But thanks for the inspiration and good toilet karma, Karen!

  10. Scout says:

    You’re a Rock Star! I am confused about measuring the bolts though. I’m guessing the bolts are on a track…….? Adjustible? If the old ones were a different distance, do I have to drill for new ones? I really don’t want to start this project and be surprised too much. Am I measuring so the bolts are even with each other or that the new toilet fits the same spot as the old one to line up the holes? Regardless, you’re a rock star. And I’m a little less intimidated. Kinda.

  11. Loni Jensen says:

    Oh, Karen, I think I cried a few tears of joy when I saw the title of this post in my inbox! As I was sitting on the slightly wobbly toilet this morning with my legs danging (I am short and the toilet is decidedly not for short people) I was wondering if I could replace the toilet myself because this new house thing is getting expensive and I don’t want to have to call the plumber. Again. Thanks for giving me step by step directions and a boost of confidence!

  12. Eileen says:

    I have that same toilet which I got precisely because I think looking at toilet intestines is revolting.
    However….the flush mechanism sucks. It seems to last about 2 years and then it starts failing. As in not flushing completely.
    Also, the back of the toilet base is open and a prime spot for bathroom gunge to accumulate. Depending on how close your toilet is to the wall, you may require someone from your local contortionists club to reach back there and clean…should you care about such things.

  13. Debra Johnston says:

    I haven’t read all the comments but you missed a very important step. I know because we have missed it multiple times and it is a royal pain when you do. BEFORE you put the toilet with the new wax seal in place REMOVE the rag you used to stop sewer gases from escaping from the pipe. Those wax seals don’t really like being re-squished and you don’t need extra practice replacing toilets. 😁

  14. Thea says:

    My sister just installed this same toilet. It looks so great and doesn’t have all those silly place to collect dust and hair that you have to get on your scabby knees to dust and wash. But I just wanna say, you can pick you nose and you can pick your toilet, but you can’t pick your friends toilet. I know…I’m a child.

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