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I mentioned on Monday on my little sneak peek that I finally (FINALLY! Hooray! Man, oh man, how long I’ve waited!) have a new toilet installed in one of the upstairs bathrooms.

easy toilet install

Let’s begin with a short recap:  the original plan was to remodel the primary bath. I got about halfway through ripping down the wallpaper and repairing the drywall before asking my Dad to come over and rip out the old vanity and toilet while I was in class (for you new visitors, I attend grad school on the weekends and work during the week – more about my life of chaos here). I came home to quite the surprise thanks to an innocent misunderstanding and had to start all. over. again.  So, for the last few months, my free time has been spent with me looking like this:

drywall dust hair

But that’s only when I don’t look like this:

sleeping textbook

After a particularly difficult summer with very little time to devote to DIY, I powered through the drywall repair during my last school break. And now that I’m at the beginning of fall semester, I’ve been determined to feel like a normal adult again. It’s time to have a full-functioning bathroom somewhere in the vicinity of where I sleep at night (betcha didn’t think that “normal adult” included being able to pee and shower in the same bathroom, did ya? I know. Your list of what constitutes a grown adult just got a whole lot longer if it has to include crap like that. But that’s DIY for you.)

But where was I? Oh, right. The toilet. I’m rambling because if I just gave you the simple steps to install the toilet, this post would be both boring and very short (and there aren’t very many ways to make a blog post about a toilet interesting. Strike that – yes, yes there are. But we won’t go there). Let’s get started, shall we?

Before we do though, let me note something my pictures do not show. Once you have removed your old toilet, stuff an old rag into the hole in your floor. Do not leave this open while you’re working. Sewer gases will escape through the drain, and that is not something anyone really wants. Alright. Time to move onto this pretty straightforward diy project.

1. Buy a toilet where it says on the box that it comes included with everything you’ll need to install (if you’re wondering, mine was made by Delta and I got it from my local Orange hardware store). While this may not be true in all cases, it generally means it includes the tools specifically made to fit the components (that you may not otherwise have), such as a tool that specifically fits the size of the bolts for the install. I may have geeked out at the clever innovation of this handy little plastic doodad. It was not only used for tightening bolts on the toilet, but fit the screwdriver bit for the other components on the toilet lid. Wicked cool.

innovative little tool

2. This two-piece toilet will come in (wait for it) two main parts – if you’ve never used an American toilet, you’ll have to guess what those two parts are. (Okay, fine. They’re the toilet tank and the base of the toilet.) The part that you sit on will have a large hole in the back.

toilet install

The tank part will have a part that’s meant to connect to the hole (I always feel weird describing these as “male” and “female” parts). To ensure a snug fit, you will need to attach a rubber gasket which helps to create the vacuum whoosh we’re all so very thankful for.

toilet install

3. Attach the tank bolts (seen above) through the holes to secure the two parts together. You should have a washer, nut, and bolt for each part. The nifty tool fit snugly around each one and tightened everything up securely (though check for wobbling and make sure the tank goes on straight). The benefit of using the tool that came in the kit is that you don’t have to worry a great deal about over-tightening (since that can cause the porcelain to crack) – the plastic slipped around the nut instead.

toilet install

4. There is one more opening on the bottom of the tank – the connection to the water supply line. Chances are you’ll have a line already suited for this, but we bought a replacement to remedy a leaking problem. Do not connect everything yet, but note where it is and connect the supply line to the wall. Don’t open the supply valve. Seriously.

toilet install
toilet install

5. A wax ring will also come with the toilet, but since I created a height difference with the newly installed tile, I needed to account for the change by buying a separate (and extra-thick) ring. You have the option to either set the new wax ring into place on the floor, or lift the toilet bowl and squish the wax underneath. In my opinion, gravity can be your friend here, so wax on the floor seemed like an easier option. Extra long bolts hook into the two holes on either side (similar to how you slip screws through a curtain rod bracket). It looks gross and the wax seal is definitely gooey, but it serves to create a waterproof seal from toilet to plumbing *aka toilet flange. aka closet flange.* and can’t be seen once the bolts secure the porcelain to the floor. In other words, it doesn’t need to look pretty as long as it works!

toilet install wax ring

6. Next comes the hardest part:  lifting and moving the toilet into place. You’ll want to make sure the bolts slip through the two holes on either side (you might need a helper to get this straightened out). When you’re sure you’re ready, sit on the toilet. No, really – your gravity will squish the toilet and further seal the wax into place. I don’t really have a picture of doing this – both my hands and my bum were a little busy.

7. Next up, wiggle the toilet into place, making sure that it’s square with the wall and not wobbling on top of the wax (that means that the seal is still loose). You’ll want to secure the bolts to the porcelain by tightening nuts onto them with the nifty little tool again – but more than likely, you’ll need to insert a plastic ring between the porcelain and nut. Mine looked a little like this:

toilet install

P.S. This is right side up – if you install it upside down, the cover for the nut/bolt will keep slipping off.

8. See the white part sticking out in the photo below? Make sure you line up the ring over the hole of the porcelain – if it’s still wonky once the bolt is secure, you’ll still be able to see part of the hole, even after you place the cap on the nut (which happens in the next step).

toilet install

9. I gave it away early. Place the cap on top and press down until you hear it snap into place.

toilet install

10. To secure the toilet seat, you’ll again bolt things together. This time however, make yourself a screwdriver – but if you’re out of vodka, use the bit that comes with the kit and insert it into the tool.

Use it to screw the tops of each bolt to the lid. The covers for this snap into place, too.

toilet install

11. The connection within the tank will differ slightly from toilet to toilet – just follow the included instructions to ensure that the chain is hooked up and that the fill valve closes completely and test it a few times by using the flushing handle.

toilet install

12. Connect the water line and watch the tank fill! When the water is up to the fill line on the tank, flush. Test again if you feel like celebrating like a badass, because you just installed a toilet!

easy toilet install

13. Cosmetically, you can run a bead of caulk around the bottom of the toilet where the porcelain meets the tile. This is also a little easier to clean (no one wants to be cleaning hair out of that groove). But if you’re going to do this step, leave a gap around the back of the toilet just in case there’s ever a water leak (that way you can see it before it ruins things and still have that cosmetic upgrade to the front). And FYI, baby wipes worked great for cleaning up the excess! I’m going to use them for all caulking projects from now on.

baby wipes caulk clean

Seem simple enough? I’ve got one more toilet to install when I can finally get back into the primary bath. Thanks to the help I got this time around, I’m confident I can do it on my own. Of course, lifting the entire bowl into place might be more difficult alone, so I might do the above steps somewhat out of order (and when it comes to most of it, you totally can). Point is: this doesn’t scare me anymore. What about you? What have you done lately that you weren’t sure you could figure out?

Disclaimer:  This is how I put my toilet together. Your toilet may be different but probably uses the same basic parts. This installation was absurdly simple to do, but I still needed help with lifting and moving everything. Use your own judgement here, get help if you think you’ll need it, and Ugly Duckling House (& its author) is in no way responsible if you screw up your own project. Ok?

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  1. This is fantastic and you did a good job. I never did this before but I would like to do this and thanks for sharing this tips on how to install the toilet

  2. For about 3 weeks after moving in I was the girl who could only pee UPSTAIRS. Our downstairs toilet had a cracked (and disgusting) seat that for the life of us we could not get off. My parents came to visit a few weeks ago and it took my Dad about 2 hours, but he eventually won and got the seat off and replaced.

    I will be in your neck of the woods in January running in this race: http://www.hotchocolate15k.com/atlanta/ I'm sure there are better causes to run for than chocolate but…well…actually I can't think of one =)

  3. @Paula Thanks for the head's up about the race! I love any gimmicky 5ks so I may sign up (I'm doing the Firefly run next month!).

  4. OOMG….you are amazing! You installed this yourself! Thank you sharing this experience with us. Book marking this for sure :)

  5. Thats a great job you have done there. Did not know installing a toilet would be so easy.Will have to try it at least once !!

  6. On an HGTV program it was suggested to not use caulk on a toilet. If you have a leak under the toilet it can destroy a wood sub-floor before you know there is a problem. Just sayin'

    1. Anna, good point. That's why I left a gap in the back of the toilet so I can see water leaking out, but I still caulked the front. The gap just bothers me, especially when it comes to cleaning. Cracks and crevices are a bathroom enemy.

  7. This doesn’t always work. I tried installing a toilet myself, looked and worked good for a while but had an issue down the road. The flange were the wax ring goes wasn’t put in proper when the home was built. The plumber told me it wasn’t something I’d notice, and I didn’t, because most wouldn’t see it and see it’s in wrong. I agreed because I’m not a plumber and to me, it looked okay to me. LOL. The simple things like changing a faucet I will stick to! But thanks for the info.

  8. Excellent job on install of water closet.
    I recommend one thing.
    When installing flange bolts, it’s a good idea to bolt down to flange with nuts and washers, and then to toilet with another set of nuts and washer with bolt cap. This will keep toilet from rocking or sliding left to right

  9. Great post with very helpful tips on replacing a toilet. Thanks for sharing your project and post.