Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Is a Toilet?
- 2 What Do You Need To Know About Installing a Toilet?
- 3 How Do You Replace a Toilet?
- 4 What Are the Different Kinds of Toilets?
- 5 When Should You Hire A Professional To Install/Replace a Bathroom Faucet?
- 6 How Much Do Plumbers Charge to Replace a Toilet?
- 7 What Should You Look For In A Toilet Installer?
What Is a Toilet?
A toilet is a crucial bathroom fixture that collects human waste and disposes of it safely. They typically consist of two pieces – a bowl and a tank – which can either be attached or detachable. In a standard toilet, the tank feeds water into the bowl, and a flush kit allows the user to dispose of waste on demand.
Toilets are hooked up to your domestic water lines via supply hoses, and they drain directly into your main sewer line. The waste line leads to your public sewer system, cesspool, or septic tank, depending on how your home is set up to eliminate waste.
What Do You Need To Know About Installing a Toilet?
Your toilet may seem like a reasonably simple plumbing fixture, but installing one can get complicated quickly with all of the moving parts and potential safety hazards involved in the process.
Understanding how they work and when they need to be replaced will help you decide if you need a new toilet installed and if you can do the installation as a DIY home improvement project.
How Does a Toilet Work?
The tank that sits behind the bowl on a toilet is connected directly to a water supply line and slowly fills with water. A float mechanism in the tank rises with the water level and eventually plugs the supply line with a rubber flapper to stop the flow of water into the tank.
When someone uses the toilet and activates the flush handle, the plug in the flush valve at the bottom of the tank pulls up and allows water in the tank to rush down into the bowl.
The hole in the bottom of the bowl leads to an S-trap contained within the toilet. The S-trap dips down to collect water, bends back upward, and then drops into the main waste line. The trap is designed to hold water at all times, creating a seal to prevent hazardous sewer gases from entering your home.
When the water flows from your tank into the bowl during a flush, the resulting water pressure forces the waste down through the S-trap and into your sewer line for proper disposal.
Toilets are generally mounted directly to the subfloor in your bathroom using a toilet flange, which connects your toilet to the waste line in the floor. A seal is created using a wax ring, which gets crushed between the fixture and the toilet flange during the toilet installation. The wax ring and cemented flange serve to keep water and sewer gases from leaking out of the toilet and into your bathroom.
Why Do Toilets Need to Be Installed or Replaced?
While not every bathroom needs a toilet, every home requires at least one for the safe and proper disposal of human waste, which is a biohazard and extremely dangerous if not disposed of correctly.
You may need a toilet installed if you’re adding a bathroom to your home or having a new home built for you.
You may also need your old toilet removed and a new toilet installed if you’re doing a bathroom remodel and plan on relocating your toilet to a different position within the space. Some homeowners require a toilet replacement if they’re simply updating their bathroom and want the toilet to match aesthetically or have more modern features.
Your existing toilet might also require replacement if you’re having problems with water or sewer gas leaking into your home through the fixture or if your toilet has an internal leak and continues running when it’s not being flushed.
The components of your toilet can break down over time and necessitate a replacement even if the bowl and tank are operating as intended.
When Do Toilets Need to Be Replaced?
As we mentioned above, your toilet might need to be replaced for design-related reasons, like when you’re remodeling or updating your bathroom. Replacing the toilet during home renovations can help reduce the risk of dangerous leaks as well as add value to your home. Some property owners choose to update the design of the toilet as well, opting for a more modern and comfortable elongated toilet shape.
Unfortunately, many homeowners need their toilets replaced because of problems with the fixture. Much of the equipment in the toilet – like the flush kit, tank plug, and float – can be replaced without removing the toilet and installing a new one.
However, clogs or repairs that require the toilet to be removed from the floor will require a new installation, as the wax ring and seals on the flange will need to be replaced any time the toilet is moved.
Leaks from your toilet also typically necessitate replacement. You may find water leaking from the tank into the bowl or pooling beneath the toilet stand. Any type of toilet leak can be a severe problem and requires immediate action.
Similarly, your toilet may need to be replaced if you smell sewer gas in your bathroom, as inhaling this can be hazardous to your health, not to mention that the gases are flammable and pose a risk of fire and significant property damage.
Finally, the wax ring beneath your toilet will dry out over time, and any movement of the fixture can cause it to crack, ruining the seal. If the mounting bolts and nuts come loose and your toilet shifts or rocks, this is a good sign that your toilet – or at least the wax ring and flange below – need replacement.
Is a Leaking Toilet a Severe Problem?
Most toilet leaks seem relatively insignificant because they generally result in a small amount of water pooling on your floor. However, any size leak from your toilet can be dangerous and should be taken very seriously.
In the best-case scenario, a running toilet will allow your tank to drain constantly into the bowl. This type of leak won’t cause property damage, but it can waste an immense amount of water and cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on your water bills.
More dangerous leaks involve the wax ring beneath your toilet cracking and allowing water or sewer gases to leak into your bathroom. If water from each flush leaks through a cracked wax ring, it can pool beneath your fixture, soaking your subfloor and wall framing over time.
You likely won’t see this moisture accumulation, but it can lead to wood rot, unstable flooring, and mold growth. Mold is dangerous to inhale, as it can decrease your indoor air quality and cause allergy symptoms and anaphylactic shock in some cases.
Sewer gases leaking from your wax ring can quickly build up in your home and put you and your family at risk. Some of the gases from your sewer – including methane and hydrogen sulfide – are flammable and can cause fires that lead to large-scale property damage, personal injury, and even death. Sewer gas is also hazardous to inhale and can be toxic in large amounts.
Can You Install/Replace a Toilet Yourself?
Installing a toilet in a location where you don’t already have a current toilet is very complicated and should be left to a professional plumber. The process involves cutting into your main sewer line, which can be very dangerous and challenging, not to mention unpleasant.
It’s possible for experienced DIYers to replace a toilet if there is already a toilet installed with all of the supply lines and waste lines plumbed in.
However, toilet replacement can still be difficult and potentially dangerous if done improperly, so we recommend calling in a professional plumber anytime you need your toilet installed, relocated, disconnected to clear a clog, or replaced.
How Do You Replace a Toilet?
The first step to replacing a toilet will be to remove the old one. Begin by disconnecting the tank from your water supply by shutting the speedy valve and unscrewing the supply line. You don’t want any water in the tank or bowl when you lift the toilet out of place, so flush several times while not connected to water and then use a plunger to push the water caught in the S-trap down into the waste line.
Next, disconnect the tank from your bowl and place it on an old towel or tarp to prevent any leftover water from damaging your floors. You’ll then want to remove the bowl and bowl stand by unscrewing the nuts on the mounting bolts. This may require popping off the mounting bolt covers with a screwdriver first. Once your toilet is disconnected from the floor, pull the toilet bowl straight up off of the bolts and place it to the side.
The hole in your floor beneath your toilet flange leads directly to your sewer line, so stuff it with a rag or old towel to prevent excess gas from seeping into your home. Make sure that the rag or towel doesn’t fall into the drainpipe.
Anytime you replace your toilet, you should also replace your toilet flange. To do so, scrape the excess sealant and wax off of the flange and then cut it out using a Sawzall. Be very careful not to cut into your drainpipe while you do this.
A few relief cuts into the flange and some work with a hammer and chisel should release it from the pipe below without damaging it. Clean up the inside of your drain pipe and the area around the flange before proceeding.
Once you have your materials ready, remove the rag from the drainpipe. From here, you’ll want to work quickly to keep gas from getting into your bathroom. Use PVC cement to place the new toilet flange into your drainpipe, making sure to align the mounting holes such that the toilet will face forward once attached. You may want to seal the flange with an appropriate caulking.
Next, place the mounting bolts in the flange and set your wax ring over the hole in the floor. Carefully lift the new toilet bowl up and onto the mounting bolts, using a gentle rocking motion to crush the wax and create a good seal. Once the toilet meets the floor, don’t move the fixture at all, or you’ll risk breaking the wax seal.
Tighten the nuts on the mounting bolts to lock your toilet in place, and then cover the bolts with the bolt covers. Next, reattach the tank to your bowl, and connect the tank to your plumbing system with a new supply hose.
It’s a good idea to pour a small amount of clean water into your tank and bowl to test for any leaks. If no leaks are evident, you can turn on the speedy valve, let your tank fill, and flush a few times to test further and fill the trap.
Check out the video below for a visual guide on how to replace your toilet:
What Are the Different Kinds of Toilets?
There are four primary types of toilets that are useful in residences, each with a slightly different mechanism for flushing.
As the name suggests, a gravity-feed toilet uses gravity to flush waste down and out of the bowl. The waterfalls from your tank into the bowl, overflowing the trap below and causing the bowl contents to flow into your sewer pipe.
This is the most affordable style of toilet, and it’s readily available in most hardware stores, including Home Depot and Lowes.
Unlike a gravity-feed option, a pressure-assisted toilet uses compressed air to force water from your tank to your bowl, improving the flow rate and delivering a more powerful downward force with a similar or smaller amount of water per flush.
These toilets are less readily available, but you shouldn’t have an issue finding one for installation.
A dual-flush toilet has two buttons – or a handle that moves in two directions – that allow you to choose the standard 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF) for larger waste or a more minimal volume for lighter, liquid waste.
These toilets are typically the most expensive, but they can save you quite a bit on your water bills.
A double-cyclone toilet directs a smaller amount of water than most other styles to create a cyclone from two sides of the bowl. The result is a more powerful and efficient flush that uses less water.
These toilets can be difficult to find, as they are a relatively new technology. Toto is one of the only brands that currently mass produces them.
When Should You Hire A Professional To Install/Replace a Bathroom Faucet?
If you need to relocate your toilet or you want to install one where the plumbing isn’t roughed in for a fixture, we strongly recommend having a professional plumber do the work for you. This process is extremely difficult and can be very dangerous if you aren’t experienced with plumbing.
Even replacing a toilet and re-using the same supply lines and drainpipe can be challenging, so hiring a pro is an excellent idea. Mistakes can be costly and put your home and family at risk, so the relatively low investment to have a certified plumber do it for you is often worth it.
With that said, replacing a toilet is possible if you’re an experienced DIYer and have some plumbing knowledge.
How Much Do Plumbers Charge to Replace a Toilet?
The national average cost to replace a toilet is around $500, which includes the labor cost as well as the new toilet.
The model you choose will affect your total quite a bit. Basic toilets like American Standards cost as low as $100, while more expensive, technologically advanced models with bidets and self-cleaning options can reach well over $1,000. One-piece toilets tend to be a bit more costly than two-piece toilets, but they’re less likely to leak over time.
The bowl shape of your toilet can affect the pricing as well, with elongated bowls typically costing more than round bowls. The labor cost to replace a toilet where one already existed averages around $400.
If you need the plumbing roughed in for a new bathroom or toilet relocation, you can expect the total cost to fall between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on how far the plumbing and waste lines need to extend and how easy it is to access them.
What Should You Look For In A Toilet Installer?
Above all else, we very strongly recommend you look for a certified plumber to install your toilet. A local plumber will cost more than a general contractor or handyman, but you’ll get some peace of mind knowing that the installation process is being done correctly and won’t cause leaks in the near future.
Toilet installation is a fairly straightforward process for a certified plumber, so many will know that additional work won’t be needed and can charge flat-rate pricing for the service. We suggest opting for flat-rate pricing rather than hourly rates so that you know what your cost will be upfront. The average price for flat-rate installation is typically lower than an hourly rate installation.
Finally, we recommend choosing a plumber who offers a warranty or satisfaction guarantee for their work. Doing so will ensure you get a plumber who has your best interest at heart and will do the job properly the first time around.