Toilets last a long time, but sooner or later your bathroom throne will lose its regal luster and need to be replaced. While you can repair a toilet, replacing an old water guzzler with a new water-saving toilet will save thousands of gallons a year and can pay for itself over time.

Read on to find out how to remove an aging toilet and install a new one that’s fit for the king or queen of your home. On the last page of the article is a button that links to a printable toilet replacement checklist.

    Step #1: Gather Tools and Materials

    The first step in removing and replacing a toilet is to make sure you have everything you need to get the job done right!

    Before buying a new toilet, measure the distance from the center of the toilet flange bolts to the wall on your existing toilet and make sure the new one will fit without a large gap, or even worse not enough room to spare. The standard distance is 12” from the bolts to the wall, but it can vary depending on the model.

    Toilet replacement tools needed:

    • Rubber gloves
    • Tape measure
    • Socket set
    • Wrenches or adjustable wrench
    • Screwdriver
    • Putty knife
    • Caulking gun
    • Hacksaw
    • Level
    • Old towels or paper towels
    • Bucket and sponge
    • Spray can of penetrating oil

    Toilet replacement materials needed:

    • Toilet
    • Toilet seat
    • Closet bolts and nuts (2)
    • Wax ring
    • Supply line (optional)
    • Silicone caulking (optional)

    Step #2: Drain Toilet Tank and Bowl

    Start by draining as much water as possible out of the toilet tank and bowl, then sponge out the rest.

    How to drain a toilet:

    Find the water line shutoff valve located below the toilet and turn it to the right (clockwise) as far as it will go. If your toilet doesn’t have a shutoff valve, you will need to turn off all the water to the house where the water line enters the house or at the water meter.

    After turning off the water, flush the toilet and hold the handle down to remove as much of the water in the tank as possible.

    Fill a bucket up with water, and pour it rapidly into the bowl. The fast movement of the water down the drain creates a partial vacuum that sucks most of the water in the bowl down with it. Watch our video on How to Drain a Toilet to see how it’s done.

    Wear rubber gloves and use a sponge and bucket to remove any remaining water in the bowl and tank. If your idea of a good time isn’t sponging water out of a toilet bowl, you can drop a packet of LiquiLock (available at home centers) in the bowl to turn the remaining water into a gel.

    Step #3: Disconnect Toilet

    The next step is to disconnect the water supply line and remove the bolts holding the toilet to the floor.

    How to disconnect a toilet:

    • Lubricate Toilet Flange Bolts: The toilet flange bolts, which hold the toilet to the floor, often become corroded and frozen over time. Use a flathead screwdriver to remove the caps on the toilet flange bolts. Spray the flange nuts and bolts with penetrating oil and allow the oil to soak in.
    • Disconnect Water Supply Line: Use an open end or adjustable wrench to unscrew the supply line fitting from the tank by turning the supply line coupling nut counterclockwise. Have a pan or small bucket handy to catch any water in the supply line. If you plan to replace the supply line, use a wrench to disconnect the supply line from the shutoff valve as well.
    • Remove Toilet Flange Bolts: After the penetrating oil has been given time to work, remove the toilet flange nuts by turning them counterclockwise with a ratcheting socket or closed end wrench.

    Step #4: Remove Toilet

    While toilets can be removed in one piece, they can be heavy and awkward to handle. So unless you have someone else to help, it’s easier to disconnect the tank from the bowl and remove each piece separately.

    How to remove a toilet:

    • Lubricate Toilet Tank Bolts: Spray the nuts and bolts under the bowl that hold the tank to the bowl with penetrating oil and allow it to soak in.
    • Remove Toilet Tank Bolts: Remove the lid on the tank and loosen the toilet tank bolts with a ratcheting socket or closed end wrench on the toilet tank nut under the bowl, and a screwdriver on the head of the bolt inside the toilet tank.
    • Remove Toilet Tank: Lift the toilet tank off the bowl, and carry it outside.
    • Remove Toilet Bowl: Work the toilet bowl back and fourth to loosen it from the wax seal holding it to the floor. Once the bowl is loose, pick it up and carry it outside, being careful not to drip water on the floor.
    • Seal Toilet Drain Pipe: Cover the drain opening to keep sewer gases from coming up through the drain while you’re working on it. Don’t forget to remove the cover from the drain pipe before installing the toilet!

    Step #5: Clean Toilet Flange and Floor

    Put on rubber gloves and remove any gunk left behind from the old toilet flange so the new toilet will seat properly. Cleaning the floor under the toilet is a good idea, too.

    How to clean toilet flange and floor:

    • Clean Toilet Flange: Wear rubber gloves and use a putty knife to remove what’s left of the old wax ring and any other accumulated mess.
    • Clean Floor: Use bathroom cleaner and a scrub brush to clean the floor under the toilet.

    Step #6: Install Toilet Bowl

    Now comes the fun part—installing your new toilet!

    How to install a toilet bowl:

    • Test Fit Toilet Bowl: Position the new toilet bowl over the toilet flange to make sure it fits on the floor without rocking. Remove the bowl and turn it upside-down on the floor, using a towel or foam pad for padding.
    • Install Toilet Flange Bolts: It’s a good idea to replace the toilet flange closet bolts, even if the old ones are still usable. Slide the old bolts out of the slots in the flange, and slip the heads of the new ones in so the bolts are parallel to the wall behind the toilet.
    • Position Wax Ring: Place the new wax ring on the drain opening in the bottom of the bowl with the rubber gasket facing away from the toilet bowl.
    • Remove Toilet Drain Cover: Remove the drain cover used to keep sewer gases from coming out of the drain pipe.
    • Caulk Toilet Bowl Base: If desired apply a bead of caulking or sealant around the base of the toilet bowl to seal it to the floor. You can also seal around it after the bowl is in place, or not caulk it at all. Since caulking the bowl can be messy, I prefer not to seal it unless there’s a gap between the floor and bowl.
    • Seat Toilet Bowl: Turn the toilet bowl over, position the bowl so it’s centered over the toilet flange, and press the toilet bowl down firmly. You may need to slightly twist or rock the bowl back and forth to flatten out the wax ring until the bowl contacts the floor. Position the bowl so it’s perpendicular to the wall behind it.
    • Attach Flange Bolt Nuts: Place the washers that came with the closet bolts on the toilet bowl base. Hand tighten the nuts on the bolts, then use a deep socket or wrench to tighten up the bolts evenly from each side. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN the nuts, as this can cause the base of the toilet bowl to crack!
    • Level Toilet Bowl: Place a level on the top rim of the toilet bowl and check to be sure the bowl is level in all directions. Adjust the tightness of the nuts and/or insert thin shims under the bottom of the bowl until the toilet bowl is level.
    • Cut Closet Bolts: If needed to install the bolt caps, use a hacksaw to cut the closet bolts off above the nuts, being careful not to damage the bowl with the saw.
    • Install Closet Bolt Caps: Place caps over the ends of the closet bolts. Some closet bolt caps snap in place on the washer, or you can fill the cap with plumber’s putty and press it into the bolt.

    Step #7: Install Toilet Tank

    Some toilet tanks and bowl come as one piece, but many have a separate tank that attaches to the bowl with bolts and a rubber gasket.

    How to install a toilet tank:

    • Install Rubber Toilet Tank Gasket: Turn the toilet tank upside down on a towel or foam pad, and slide the rubber gasket over the outlet on the bottom of the tank with the tapered side of the gasket facing away from the tank.
    • Install Toilet Tank Bolts: Turn the toilet tank over, slide the rubber washers on the toilet tank bolts, and insert the bolts into the holes in the bottom of the tank from the inside.
    • Position Toilet Tank: Carefully place the toilet tank on the bowl with the bolts through the holes in the top of the bowl. Check to make sure the tank is parallel to the wall.
    • Attach Toilet Tank Nuts: Insert the metal washers on each tank bolt from underneath the bowl, followed by the tank bolt nuts. Hand tighten the nuts to hold the tank loosely in place. Place a socket or wrench on the nut and a screwdriver inside the tank to keep the bolt from spinning. Tighten the two nuts up evenly with the wrench until the tank is firmly seated on the bowl. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN the nuts, as this can crack the tank or bowl!
    • Attach Water Supply Line: Attach the supply line to the shutoff valve (if you’re replacing it) and the bottom of the toilet tank. Tighten the fittings using an open end or adjustable wrench.

    Step #8: Install Toilet Seat

    While some toilets come with a seat, many do not. Make sure the seat you buy is made to fit the shape of the toilet bowl.

    How to install a toilet seat:

    • Position Toilet Seat: Place the toilet seat on the bowl, and insert the seat bolts through the holes in the seat and toilet bowl.
    • Attach Toilet Seat Bolts: Screw the nuts on the seat bolts and tighten until the seat is snug.

    Step #9: Adjust Water Level and Check Toilet for Leaks

    Now comes your moment of triumph (hopefully!) when you turn on the water to your new toilet and see if everything works as planned!

    How to check a toilet for leaks:

    • Turn on Water: Turn the water on at the shutoff valve (or water main if you’re toilet doesn’t have a shutoff valve), and allow the toilet tank to fill.
    • Check Toilet Supply Line: Check the supply line at both the shutoff valve and toilet tank for leaks. If you find a leak, gradually tighten the supply line fitting until it stops.
    • Check Toilet Tank Bolts: As the toilet tank fills up, feel under the tank and bowl to see if the tank bolts are leaking. If so, tighten up the bolts slightly until the leak stops.
    • Check Toilet Tank Water Level: When the tank stops filling, check to make sure the water is at the designated level in the tank. If it’s not, adjust the float mechanism until it is.
    • Check Toilet Tank/Bowl Seal: Flush the toilet and feel under the tank and bowl to make sure the rubber gasket between the tank and bowl isn’t leaking. If it is, tighten the toilet tank bolts slightly and flush again until it stops.
    • Check Toilet Bowl/Flange Seal: Flush the toilet and check to make sure the seal between the bowl and floor flange isn’t leaking. If it is, tighten the closet bolt nuts slightly until it stops. If the flange/toilet seal still leaks, remove the toilet, replace the wax ring, and try again.
    Printable To-Do List

    Further Information

    Editorial Contributors
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    Danny Lipford


    Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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