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How to Install a Toilet (Like a Pro)

Posted By Ethan On September 17, 2012 @ 7:00 am In Plumbing,Pro Follow,Project Guides | 26 Comments

Unless you’ve installed a few toilets, you may not know all the tips and tricks to ensure your commode will work well for years to come. The last thing you want is to make a mistake resulting in a leaky toilet. Even though installing a toilet is a common do-it-yourselfer task, it’s always helpful to see how a professional plumber tackles the job. Today I’m back at the bathroom remodel with general contractor Joe Bianco, president of SDG Home Solutions [1]. He’s brought in Charlie, a master plumber from Drain Relief [2], to install three toilets and some shower hardware.

Step 1: Assemble the Toilet

Charlie began by attaching the tank to the bowl and installing the toilet seat.

All the necessary hardware was included with the toilet, and most manufacturers will pre-install the fill kit. Even so, Charlie double-checked that everything was properly installed.

Pro-Tip: Be careful not to over-tighten the nuts which will crack the porcelain.

Pro-Tip: Charlie prefers Gerber toilets and recommends avoiding anything less than 1.6 gallons per flush.

Step 2: Prepare Flange

Today Charlie was installing three toilets, and two of the toilet flanges were in good shape. For those all he needed to do was clean away the old wax rings and remove the old closet bolts.

The flange in the third bathroom was broken, and Charlie went about replacing it with a new one. First, he used a small cutting disk to cut the waste line. Next, Charlie primed and glued a PVC coupling and the new toilet flange.

Pro-Tip: The flange should sit flat on the floor or at a similar height if the floor does not extend underneath.

Pro-Tip: Purchase a flange with a rotating collar to make installation easier. Otherwise, you’ll need to orient the flange properly when gluing the PVC.

Charlie measured the distance from the wall to make sure the new bolts would be positioned at an equal distance.

Using a tile drill bit, Charlie drilled six screw holes, and secured the flange to the floor.

Pro-Tip: Use galvanized or stainless steel screws that won’t rust.

Step 3: Set Closet Bolts

Charlie always uses Set Fast self-adjusting closet bolts which are unique because they feature a “threadlocker” that eliminates the need to snap or cut excess bolt length.

That patch of white is the threadlocker, and when the hex nut reaches it, the stud travels further into the anchor nut.

Charlie positioned the closet bolts in the flange and slid the washers down to secure them.

Step 4: Place Wax Ring

Next, Charlie put the wax ring on the flange.

Pro-Tip: If the flange is sitting a little low, use an extended height wax ring.

Step 5: Set Toilet

Carefully, Charlie set the toilet over the flange, lining up the holes with the bolts.

Charlie pressed the toilet firmly against the floor.

Step 6: Place Washers and Nuts

Charlie slipped a nylon washer and regular washer over the bolt and screwed on the nut. At this point, he only hand-tightened the nut.

Step 7: Level Toilet

Charlie checked the toilet was level front-to-back and side-to-side.

If the toilet was out of level or rocked back and forth, Charlie shimmed the toilet with pennies or stainless steel washers.

Pro-Tip: You can purchase plastic toilet shims at DIY centers. However, Charlie has found that they are often very visible or crack when you attempt to cut them to size.

After verifying that the toilet was level, Charlie tucked the pennies underneath the edges of the toilet, and he tightened the nuts on the closet bolts.

Pro-Tip: Closet bolts are designed to hold the toilet tight against the flange, not to prevent the toilet from rocking.

Step 8: Attach Supply Line

Charlie installed a 3/8″, braided steel toilet connector.

Pro-Tip: These connectors feature rubber gaskets that eliminate the need for Teflon tape.

Step 9: Check Fill Level

Charlie opened the supply valve and let the tank fill up. He checked for leaks and adjusted the fill valve so that the water met the fill line.

Pro-Tip: Charlie advises against caulking between the toilet and the floor because leaks would go undetected and damage the subfloor.


After one last check for leaks and that everything is working properly, the toilet installation was finished.

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URLs in this post:

[1] SDG Home Solutions: http://sdghomesolutions.com/

[2] Drain Relief: http://www.drainreliefplumbingandheating.com/

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