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Noisy and leaky plumbing isn't something that you have to live with. Any homeowner with basic mechanical skills and tools can easily replace a toilet and upgrade to a new water-saving design. Installing a new toilet takes a couple of hours, but the rewards last for years.
Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.
Make sure that your new toilet will fit in place of the old one. Measure from the wall behind the toilet to the center of one of the closet bolts (the bolts that hold the toilet down). Do this before you remove the old toilet so you can buy your new one and have it on hand before you start. If the toilet has four closet bolts, measure to the center of one of the rear ones. Also, measure from the center of the mounting holes to the back of the new toilet you're considering. Compare these two measurements. If the base of the new toilet is shorter than the distance between the rear bolt holes and the wall, it should fit. In small bathrooms where space is tight, also measure from the sides of the flange bolts to sidewalls or other objects to assure side-to-side clearance. You don't want to find after you start that you can't wedge your new toilet into place because it's trying to occupy some of the same space as your vanity.
Unless you buy one of the sleek, new one-piece models, you'll have to buy both a bowl and a tank. They'll come in two separate boxes. Have a Lowe's customer service associate help you check to make sure the two components match. Almost any tank you purchase will come with the flush-valve assembly already installed, but it never hurts to check this as well. In addition, you'll need new closet bolts, a wax gasket and a toilet seat if these aren't included. If you plan to replace the supply line, the flexible ones encased in stainless steel mesh are strong, attractive and very convenient. Less expensive plastic supply lines are also available if cost is a concern and your local codes allow their use.
If you're removing a toilet for replacement, it will be easier on your back, your floor and your walls if you take it out in pieces. Even though you're removing the toilet, don't break it. You may be able to sell it at a yard sale or donate it to a local charity.
Toilets can be mounted in two ways. Closet bolts may have flatheads, which slide into slots on the flange. In this case, the bowl is secured to the flange itself; the flange serves as the toilet mount. Closet bolts of the second kind have screw-type threads on one end and bolt threads on the other. These closet bolts mount the toilet directly to the floor. The flange in this type of installation serves only to seat the wax gasket and doesn't bear the pressure of securing the bowl.
Once you've removed the old toilet, you may discover that the flange to which it's mounted is damaged. Flanges can be made of several materials, including cast iron, copper, brass and plastic. If your flange is badly damaged, you may wish to have a plumber replace it. If it isn't severely cracked or badly broken, you may be able to make a simple and permanent repair by using a special tab that fits under the lip of the flange. This tab has a hole through which the closet bolt is attached. After the bolt is inserted through the hole, the tab is placed under the lip of the flange in the broken area. As the closet bolts are tightened, the tab pulls against the bottom of the flange lip, securing the bowl in place. Of course, if your toilet mounts directly to the wooden floor and not to the flange itself, the seat of the flange (the inner circle against which the wax will seal) is the important thing. If the flange is cracked or broken inside this area, you need to have it replaced.
Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the model you purchase.
Setting the Bowl
You can install the new toilet just as you took the old one out — in pieces — to save your back from unnecessary injury.