How To Replace A Toilet

It’s late spring and I’m getting a lot of phone calls about how to replace a toilet.

Every home owner in town is doing some DIY home project. And I guarantee that I’ll be getting many plumbing service calls pleading for emergency service to rescue them.

Usually on a Sunday. It’s always Sunday. So let’s see if I can explain how to replace a toilet.

How To Replace A Toilet – Tools & Materials

Before beginning a job like this consider what tools and materials you’ll need for the job.

There are some variations. But I’m going to explain the standard way I do it in a step by step approach.


  1. Gloves
  2. Pliers and/or adjustable wrench
  3. Putty knife
  4. Mini hack saw or similar cutting tool
  5. Rag or wet vac


  1. Wax ring with horn (unless you have a toilet flange with an opening less than 3 inches. If so, no horn.)
  2. A stainless steel toilet riser tube (unless your riser tube is reusable)
  3. Plastic toilet bolts
  4. Paper towels
  5. Drop cloth or plastic garbage bag
  6. 100% clear silicone
  7. A few pennies (These are for shims only if the floor is uneven)


How To Replace A Toilet – Step By Step

  1. Shut off the water to the tank at the water shut off near the base. If your water shut off isn’t working either replace the water shut offs or shut the water off to your house.
  2. Flush the toilet.
  3. Remove the tank lid & place it flat on the ground.
  4. Remove residual water from the tank & bowl using either a wet vac or towels.How to pull and reset a toilet, Lee's Summit plumbing
  5. Using your pliers, remove the water supply tube from the bottom of the tank at the fill valve shank.
  6. Using your putty knife, pry the bolt caps off without damaging them. I just slide it under the cap & twist.
  7. Using your pliers or adjustable wrench, remove the toilet bolt nuts at the base of the bowl. If these are brass & have been trimmed to fit under the caps you may have trouble getting them off. I will pull up on the bowl to create friction. This will usually allow me to turn the seized nut without turning the bolt. If you’re throwing this toilet away you can just cover the bolt with a towel and gently tap the porcelain to break it.
  8. If you have caulk at the base of the bowl slide your putty knife between the bowl & the floor to break the seal.
  9. Pull the toilet & place it on your drop cloth or plastic garbage bag.
  10. Remove any excess caulk with your putty knife. Clean around the area and dispose of the old bolts.
  11. Using your putty knife remove the excess wax around the flange and pull out the plastic horn from inside the drain pipe.
  12. Inspect the flange for damage of any kind.
  13. Inspect the subfloor around the flange for damage of any kind.
  14. Remove the riser tube still attached to the water shut off if you intend to replace it.
  15. Place your new bolts onto the flange at equal distances from the back wall and on the centerline of the flange.
  16. Place the wax ring on the flange. (Not on the under side of the bowl. It just falls off.)
  17. Set the toilet down slowly on one bolt at a time by tilting it to the side. Don’t drop the other side. Lower it slowly. If the bolt isn’t lining up right just adjust it to fit while moving the bolt to fit.
  18. Put the bottom portion of the caps over the bolts on either side of the bowl.
  19. Install the plastic nuts on the bolts and tighten a little tighter than hand tight. Don’t over tighten them. You can crack the porcelain.
  20. Using your mini hack saw or other cutting tool trim the excess off the bolts to allow your caps to fit.
  21. Install your new riser tube from the water shut off to the bottom of the tank.
  22. Turn on the water.
  23. Clean up around the base and install the caps.
  24. Flush the toilet a few times to test for leaks.
  25. If it wobbles after being tightened or the floor is uneven, shim it with your pennies. Do this by laying a penny flat on the ground and against the bowl base and roll it from the back to the front until it slides under the bowl.
  26. Do the same for the opposite side of the bowl.
  27. Shim the front of the bowl base. This may take a couple of stacked pennies.
  28. Be sure the pennies are pushed under the bowl far enough to hide the penny but not too far to lose the support.
  29. Caulk the base of the bowl to the floor using your clear 100% silicone.
  30. Put the lid on and don’t sweep or mop around the toilet until the silicone has set up. (usually the next day)
  31. Clean up and put away your tools.

Now That You’re Done

I know that’s a lot of instruction. But don’t let it intimidate you. You may not need all these steps.

I’m just trying to be thorough. And if you look at each individual step as a task all by itself you’ll find there’s nothing complicated here.

But just in case, I’ve included a video from a guy I really like and respect.

Ron Hazelton has been doing this stuff for a long time and has great production value when explaining it.

If you’d like, watch the video and please visit his site if you feel you need to.

And in closing, don’t forget that Advocate Master Plumbing is your locally owned and operated family business where you’re guaranteed a master plumber every time.

And don’t forget we also service and install water heaters, sump pumps, garbage disposals, frozen pipes, faucets, valves, gas piping, drain piping and all manner of residential plumbing.

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