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How To Plumbing Series: Toilets, Part 2

How To Plumbing Series: Toilets, Part 2

See the first post for a brief introduction on this How To Plumbing Series

In the first installment of the How To series on toilets, we looked at how toilets work and we started the process for installing a new toilet, focusing on preparation and removing the old potty.

In this installment we look at installing a new toilet. This is something most homeowners can do themselves without calling a Decatur or Hartselle, AL plumber. However, there are a few places where people may prefer using a professional plumber rather than doing it themselves.

Separate the tank from the bowl

Assuming the old toilet is now removed, it’s time to install the replacement. The first thing you want to do — if you have not done it already — is prep the new toilet by separating the tank from the bowl.

You do not want to install the new toilet with the tank and bowl already assembled because . . .

  • Together, the tank and bowl are heavy, awkward to carry easily, and cumbersome to work with. You may think it’s a step-saving idea to have everything assembled, but it’s not. Nope. No way.
  • You will want to install the bowl first, then the tank. Your lower back will thank you.

Install new floor bolts in the toilet flange and apply wax ring

The base of a toilet is attached to a flange. When the bowl is removed, two bolts will be protruding upward.

  • The existing bolts can be rotated and lifted out. They should be thrown away and NOT reused.
  • Use a putty knife or similar tool to scrape away all the old wax from the flange. If there is any putty or caulking on the floor, remove that too. If any stains will be visible after the new toilet bowl is installed, clean them now.
  • (At this point take note of the existing flange. If you live in an older home or if there has been water damage at that toilet location in the past, the flange itself may be rusted and compromised, making installation tricky. If this is the case, most homeowners may prefer to call a Decatur or Hartselle plumber rather than tackle installing a new flange.)
  • Most wax seals come with a new set of toilet flange bolts. If your wax seal does not include flange bolts, purchase a new set of bolts at a Decatur or Hartselle home improvement center, hardware store, or plumbing supply.
  • Slide the head of each bolt into the toilet flange and position so that they are both the same distance from the back wall. A great piece of advice: The bolts never stand up straight. Use a pinch of wax from the old seal to help hold them in place.
  • On the underside of the toilet bowl is the outlet horn. The horn lines up with the toilet flange in the floor. In order to make a tight seal between the horn and the flange, a wax seal is installed between them.
  • There are two types of wax seals, those with a plastic sleeve and those without. When you buy a new toilet, a wax seal usually comes with it. These are often the cheapest available. It’s not a bad idea to buy a slightly better (fuller, waxier) wax seal (they are cheap) because you don’t want to take chances that a cheap seal will fail after a year of use.
  • Press the wax side of the seal firmly against the the toilet, around the outlet horn. The sleeve, if any, will slip into the drain opening in the floor.

At this point, there is a difference of opinion among Decatur or Hartselle plumbers and plumbing contractors.

  • Some use a plumber’s putty around the foot of the bowl to create a seal between the floor and the bowl. This has the benefit protecting the floor and the bowl surfaces from being marred. It is also an additional seal against sewer gas or water leaking out. It also creates a more aesthetically pleasing seal around the bottom of the toilet.
  • However, some Decatur or Hartselle plumbers prefer using tub and tile caulk around the footprint of the toilet after it is installed. Do note that if you use a putty or caulk around the base of the toilet it will eventually get dirty and will need to be cleaned or replaced.
  • Still other Decatur or Hartselle plumbers prefer to use nothing because if there is a break in the wax seal or water is leaking under the toilet you would want to know about it so that the problem can be corrected.

Set the toilet in place

  • Remove the rag from the toilet flange in the floor.
  • Lift the bowl and carefully align it over the bolts, which you hope remain in place. Ninety nine times out of 100 they lean to one side, wobble, and generally make installing a toilet base much harder and frustrating than it needs to be.
  • If the installation space is large enough, have someone hold the bolts upright and help lower the bowl.
  • Avoid lifting or moving the toilet once the wax seal has been crushed between the bowl and floor. Doing so may cause a gap to open in the seal and allow sewer gas enter the room.

Level and securing the toilet to the floor

This is something that is easy to forget.

The toilet needs to be leveled. Failure to properly level the toilet can result in low water level in the bowl and poor flushing results.

  • Place a level along the front to back axis of the bowl. Use plastic toilet shims, if necessary, to level the bowl. Wood shims will deteriorate and metal may cause rust stains.
  • Next, level the bowl from left to right. Resist the temptation to use plumber’s putty to level. Putty will not withstand movement when the toilet is used.
  • Once the bowl has been leveled, secure the bowl to the floor.
  • Install the plastic washer, the metal washer and the nut, in that order (unless directed otherwise by the manufacturer).
  • Tightening the nut must be done carefully. Secure the toilet from movement but do not over-tighten as it will lead to breakage of the bowl, rendering it useless. No home improvement center or plumber in Decatur or Hartselle will take back a damaged toilet bowl.
  • You will receive no warning or forgiveness – so resist the urge to cinch the nut down tight. Hand tighten plus a turn or two with a wrench is a good rule of the thumb. If the washer starts to bend or deflect, stop.

Install the valve, fill tube and flapper into the tank

The toilet you purchased, may or may not have the operating components installed in the tank. If it does, skip this step.

If there is nothing installed in the tank, make sure you purchase a tank kit when you buy the toilet and install the parts before going any further. It’s easier to do it now.

Installation is easy and will take only a few minutes. There is no need to call a Decatur or Hartselle plumber for this.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation; but here are the general steps.

  • Install the supplied washer or gaskets onto the fill valve and insert the fill valve through the smaller hole in the tank.
  • Install the outer washer and nut and tighten the nut snuggly. The seals must be tight to avoid leaks but avoid over-tightening or you risk cracking the tank.
  • Next find the flush valve, slip on the washer and place the valve through the large hole in the tank.
  • Install the outer washer and tighten the nut.
  • Place the large gasket over the nut, this will cushion and seal the connection between the tank and the bowl.
  • A tube connects the fill valve to the overflow tube. This is important because it supplies the water to refill the bowl after a flush.
  • The flapper can install in various ways, depending upon the style used. The flapper seals the water into the tank, until the flush handle lifts it. Adjust it so that it is centered over the flush valve opening and can drop smoothly and tightly into position.
  • Next, insert the flush handle through the opening near the top of the tank. Fasten the washer and nut and attach the handle.
  • Install the linkage from the handle to the flapper. The linkage should be long enough to allow the flapper to seal tightly but short enough to lift it up 90 degrees to the drain opening.
  • After completing the entire toilet installation, you should come back and adjust the float on the fill valve to set the proper water level in the tank. Otherwise, water may be wasted, the toilet may run continuously or insufficient water may be used to thoroughly flush the bowl.

Attach the tank to the bowl

  • Place the supplied washers over the tank bolts and insert the bolts through the holes in the tank.
  • Some installations have a second washer and nut on the outside of the tank to seal the tank.
  • Lift the tank and align it over the connections in the bowl. This is much easier than lowering the toilet bowl onto the flange.
  • Lower the tank gently onto the bowl.
  • Place the washers and nuts onto the tank bolts under the bowl and hand tighten The two (or three) bolts should be tightened in balance. Do NOT tighten one all the way and then tighten the other. Do not over-tighten the bolts or you risk cracking the tank. The tank bolts should be tightened enough to pull the tank snugly to the bowl, but it should still be able to move somewhat.

Connect and turn on the water supply

  • Connect the water supply line to fill valve under the tank. Remember not to over tighten the connections here, either.
  • Turn on the water.
  • The tank should immediately begin to fill.
  • Inspect the water supply connection for leaks.
  • After the tank has filled, inspect the tank bolts and fill valve underneath for leaks.
  • Flush the toilet and inspect for leaks between the tank and the bowl.

Test operation and inspect for leaks

  • Go back and adjust the water level in the tank.
  • Raising or lowering the position of the float will adjust the point at which the water stops refilling.
  • Adjust the water to a height below the top of the overflow tube.
  • Over time you can experiment with the amount of water required for complete flushing.
  • Gradually adjusting the water level downward will allow to use less water reducing expense and waste.

Next Up

Fixing common toilet issues.