New Toilet Tips

by Josh on August 6, 2010 · 4 comments

in Bathroom,Projects

It’s the most popular seat in the house, but the toilet in my main floor bathroom was a mess.  The tank cover was chipped up, it used obscene amounts of water to flush, and–despite my repair attempts–it often needed the handle jiggled to stop the tank fill.

So I decided it was time to upgrade the throne.

Replacing a toilet might seem like an intimidating project– especially if there’s only one toilet in your home.  However, I found that it was a pretty simple process that required just a few basic tools, some easily available supplies, and a bit of time.

New toilets come with good installation instructions and model-specific assembly information, so rather than write an installation “how to,” here are some bonus tips gleaned from my own install.

Old Toilet Tank

Tip 1: Supersize Your Sponge

This should be basic equipment for any plumbing job, but a sponge is especially useful for absorbing the last water in the bottom of the tank before separating it from the base.  Learn from my oversight and pick up a big block sponge for a dollar or two–unless you’d prefer to wring out a tiny dish sponge a few dozen times.

(In the photo above, you’re seeing 40+ years of rust and mineral staining.  When I removed the tank, I found that it had the year “68” stamped into the porcelain.  Definitely time to upgrade.)

Tip 2: Mind the U-Bend

I learned this one the hard way.  Even after shutting down the water supply, and flushing and plunging all the water out of the bowl, there may still be water standing in the U-bend in the toilet base.  Try to sop up the water with towels or your big sponge or you could end up with wet legs and feet when you carry away the old toilet.

Stained Floor Tile

Tip 3: Imagine the (Ugly) Possibilities

As Forrest Gump might say, “Home improvement is like a box of chocolates– you never know what you’re gonna get.”  Most DIYers learn quickly that cheap, fast and easy projects like installing the best toilet seat you’ve ever seen and just had to 3-day ship from Amazon, can become expensive, laborious and challenging when unseen issues are revealed by opening a wall or removing a fixture.

I was fortunate that, when I removed the old toilet, I only had some staining and excessive plumber’s putty to contend with.  But it is easy to imagine how mold, rotten flooring or framing, and past plumbing shortcuts could have complicated this project.

New Toilet Installed

Tip 4: Pick a Worthy Throne

I love saving money as much as the next guy, but an inexpensive but poor-performing toilet is no bargain.  I picked the WaterSense-certified Eco-Drake model by Toto with a 1.2 gallon flush for our new throne.  It’s not the cheapest toilet available, but it is a water-saving design from a brand recognized for reliable performance.  (If you really want to geek-out on toilet performance, Terry Love’s toilet review website is the definitive resource.

The new toilet has been installed in my house for some time now and my only complaint is that my newly potty-trained 3-year-old needs to work on his aim.  The toilet just quietly goes about its business so my family can do ours.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Reuben August 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Good post. The good thing about trying to get the last bit of water out of the toilet is that you’re usually right next to a shower or tub. A good idea is to just pick the toilet up, set it down in the tub, and then give it a good 360 degree flip so that the water just drains out into the tub. Swapping out a toilet is surprisingly easy when everything works the way it’s supposed to.


Josh August 7, 2010 at 6:59 am

Thanks, Reuben. I like that idea to drain the toilet base in the bathtub–though you’d need to be careful not to damage the tub in the process. Swapping out a bathtub isn’t nearly as easy as swapping out a toilet.


Sara at Keeth Ink August 9, 2010 at 9:40 am

And my tip for older homes – measure the rough-in (the distance from the wall to the hole in the floor). We didn’t know that they came in different sizes. My husband was trying to install a standard toilet and he kept saying, “It doesn’t fit!” and I was like, “How can it not fit? It’s a toilet!”

Ten-inch rough-in toilets are special order, by the way. I have a really lovely $400 toilet. (I was like, “FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS? You do know what goes INTO the toilet, right?”)

So yeah, if you have an older home, check the rough-in and make sure your toilet fits BEFORE the home improvement store closes for the night. That’s just my two cents.


Barleysue August 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm

To improve the aim of a three year old, hang something from the hinge on the toilet for him to aim for. I seem to remember finding an old medal (probably St. Christopher) on a long chain and hanging it from the chain. Voila! Boys just love a target!


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