New Year, New Toilet

There I was, just finished taking care of some business, flushed, and noticed a little water coming out from under the toilet… oh #$@!. I’ve seen this before, so knew the seal needed to be replaced, at least.  Immediately turned off the water behind the toilet and put a “Do Not Use” sign on the closed lid.

First, I needed a plan for this project.  Since the family didn’t like the old toilet, we decided it was a good time to replace the whole thing. I began by spraying disinfectant on the entire area. I took some measurements of the toilet and area, and asked the wife about feature preferences, seat height, bowl shape, handle location, etc. (Warning: do not skip that step!) Next, research, YouTubbing, and a hardware store run. I picked up a new toilet, bowl seat, and chose a foam seal made by Fluidmaster; foam seems much easier to deal with than wax and sounds like longevity is comparable.

Now to remove the toilet.  I used a turkey baster and bucket to remove the last inch of water from the tank.  Using a lot of rags and channel lock pliers, I disconnected the water from the tank.  A crescent wrench removed the floor mount nuts at the base of the toilet.  Once the toilet was loose and rocked easily, I laid down a plastic bag folded in half and an old towel-sized rag a couple of feet in front of the toilet. I made sure I could shuffle my feet past and far enough away I would be able to walk around the back of the toilet after moving.  Seriously gave me the “Lift with legs not with back” speech.  I grabbed the toilet bowl right where the tank attaches, big rock to try and get some of the water to spill down the drain, then lifted 2″ off ground, shuffled back, and set it on rag & bag.  Taping the bag & rag to the bottom of the toilet, I opened all the doors in my path to outside, gave myself ‘the speech’ again, reached over the tank, grabbed the bottom of the tank with arms straight, stood up, kept toilet as level as possible to avoid spilling, and walked it out.  Again, spraying disinfectant on the newly exposed area. 

Next step, clean up and survey the damage. Tools needed: long flat-head screwdriver, paint scraper, disposable plastic bags, and definitely disposable gloves.  This toilet hadn’t been replaced in 30+ years, so I could see chunks of old wax seal, some rust, and some calcium buildup.  Seriously considered calling a plumber at this point, but since I will be completely remodeling in the next couple of years I decided to poke around. I used a scraper and a small rag to remove old wax and loose debris into a plastic bag. I used screwdrivers to firmly tap the iron pipe seat until all the loose rust chipped off.  I needed to confirm that it was still solid enough to hold up to someone rocking on the toilet.  The screwdriver was used to chisel off calcium deposits. CLR or LimeAway, or a similar type of product may help.  I scooped up the resulting debris with a plastic bag over my hand; like picking up a pile of dog poo.  I also poked the flooring around the pipe seat and confirmed no significant decay, but some dampness.  So wanted to let everything dry out overnight.  Needed to cover the hole to prevent sewer gasses from coming into the house.  I requested someone with clean hands get me a square of aluminum foil and formed it to seal the pipe.  More spray disinfectant on the entire area, and on tools.

Re-Install time.  And, after 2 days already on this project, my family was excited that it was time to get the second toilet up and running. To start, I used the scraper to remove old calking left on the floor, so the new one will sit flat.  I carefully read instructions that came with the seal and new toilet, details matter.  I did a dry fit to make sure the new toilet fit in the space. I wasn’t thrilled that linoleum had been cut around the shape of the old toilet, and the new toilet was an inch shorter in front…#$@!.  But again, since remodeling soon, decided I could live with it for now. 

Installing the bolts can be a bit tricky. I used the thin plastic washer to avoid dropping the bolts and to make the bolts stay all the way in the slot and point straight up on the pipe flange. Carefully lower the toilet bowl over the foam seal, so I could see both bolts coming through the toilet mounting slots.  Positioning the metal washer, and bottom of the cosmetic bolt cover, I screwed the nut on finger tight.  Made sure the angle of the bowl was right, side to side; and didn’t twist more than an inch or so, to avoid breaking the seal.  I got my 3″ mini ratchet with a deep socket to fit the nut (love this tool for jobs in tight spaces).  Tightened each side, just a bit at a time, seemed the best way to avoid damaging the seal.  Stopped as soon as the bottom of the toilet touched the ground and the bowl had no wiggle, Cracking sounds bad.  I attached the tank to the bowl, carefully following instructions.  Used same tightening technique, stopping as soon as tank touched bowl and no wobble.  Installed seat onto the bowl.

Finally, we are ready to get the water back on.  Standing by, I have channel lock pliers, a large crescent wrench, and still several rags.  Innards came preinstalled with my new toilet, so I just used a crescent wrench to make sure the nut on the bottom of the flush valve tube was snug enough that the valve assembly was not too easy for my other hand to twist inside the tank.  Installing the water hose from the wall to the tank, I hand tightened making sure the hose doesn’t over-twist into a kink.  While holding the valve assembly in the tank with my right hand, I used channel locks in my left hand to tighten it fully; made sure to stop before fitting or flushing the valve near the breaking point.  Setting the rags under the connection, I turned on the flashlight, turned the wall valve to let a little water flow, and watched carefully for leaks.  Looked good, so opened the wall valve until the flow sounded normal, then watched for leaks until the float valve stopped the water. Still good (happy face).  The water level in the tank and bowl looked good, so no need to adjust.  Time for a test flush.  No leaks under the toilet (two thumbs up)!  

Cleaning up, I left a few clean rags on the ground and checked them for a couple of days, to be sure no slow leaks.  

Time to take a load off 😉

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