Dear James: The toilet in our guest bathroom does not flush well, and I am ready for a new one. I would rather spend extra on an attractive one and save by installing it myself. Is this a simple job to do? — Agnes B.
Dear Agnes: Installing a toilet is a relatively simple project and it can make a dramatic improvement in the appearance of your bathroom. The most difficult part will be selecting the style and color of toilet that you want. There are many designer styles available and their prices vary considerably.
First, you must decide whether you prefer a one-piece or a two-piece toilet. One-piece toilets are more stylish, but they are usually more expensive. Unless you have a helper, a one-piece toilet will be substantially heavier to handle during the installation.
There also are attractive two-piece models (separate tank and toilet) that may be easier on your budget and your biceps than a one-piece model. They are not much harder to install because the tank and the bowl bolt together with a couple of screws.
Since it is a guest bathroom and not in the master bathroom where the flush noise level is a concern, consider installing a pressure-type toilet. These toilets tend to flush better than gravity toilets now that the amount of gallons of water per flush is limited by law. The flush is also faster, but somewhat noisier.
Now that you have selected your toilet, it is time to begin removing your old one. There should be a water shut-off valve on the wall below the toilet. Turn it off. It may drip a little as you turn it off, but don’t worry about it.
If your toilet does not have a shut-off valve, turn off the main water supply valve to the house. Open a cold water faucet to relieve pressure in the plumbing system. Flush the toilet to drain the tank and bowl as much as possible. Use a sponge to remove the remaining water in the tank. Remove the water supply line.
Disconnect the bolts that hold the tank to the bowl. They are easy to access from the underside of the bowl flange. Lift off the tank and set it on some towels since there still may be some water in it.
Use a sponge and more towels to remove all the water from the toilet bowl. The screws that hold the bowl section to the floor are often hidden under some vitreous china caps at its base. Unscrew the nuts and lift the bowl up and off of them. Stuff a rag in the large drain hole. Lift off the old wax sealing ring and use a putty knife to scrape the surface clean.
Now the worst is over. Knead some bowl-setting compound with your hand and place a thin layer around the bowl pedestal. Place the new wax ring over the drainpipe opening. Remove the rag. Pick up the toilet bowl and carefully set it over the wax ring.
Twist it back and forth just a little and press it down with your own weight. Make sure to only twist the bowl and don’t rock it or you may damage the wax ring seal. Place the nuts on the floor bolts and tighten them down. Pour some water into the bowl now to seal off the sewer gases.
Install the tank section on the bowl and attach it per the manufacturer’s instructions. Install a new water supply line from the shut-off valve because the old one will probably not fit. A flexible braided pipe is easiest to work with. Open the valve, and you’re done.
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.