Replacing a Broken Toilet
Don’t Flush your Money Away
By Clint C. Thomas, Esq. Photography by Zoe Thomas
Plumbers are among the most expensive skilled trades around. Between the fees charged for just showing up at your house, known in the vernacular as a “service call”, to the $85-per-hour labor rate, parts and fuel surcharges, plumbers are not cheap. I’m not knocking plumbers and I’ve used my fair share in the past, but I’ve always watched what they did and after seeing it, I’ve wished I’d just done the job myself.
We’ve all heard that most accidents happen in the home, and it’s true. They do. Thanks to a recent household accident I had to replace a commode in one of our bathrooms because the tank had been broken. If you have pre-teen or teenage children, then you know what kind of mischief they can cause without even trying to do so.
I began this project by going to my local box store and buying a new commode and a new wax ring. Commodes are secured in place by bolting the base of the toilet onto a PVC flange located at the top of the drain pipe in the floor. A wax ring is used to form a watertight seal between the base of the commode and the top of the drain. It resembles a giant doughnut made of wax, and some have a funnel-shaped piece of plastic attached to the bottom to help direct the flow of waste water into the drainpipe’s opening. Wax rings come in two different sizes. There is a regular size and an “extra-thick” size. The larger size is sometimes used to ensure a tight seal when a floor has been remodeled and the new flooring is higher than the PVC flange. This often happens when ceramic tile is installed where formerly there was only vinyl.
Remove the Old
The next step is to remove the old commode. Begin by making sure that the water supply line is turned off at the shut-off valve under the toilet. If your commode does not have its own shut-off valve, you’ll need to turn off the main valve for the entire house and then bleed off the pressure by turning on the faucet of another fixture until the water stops running.
With the water off, flush the commode to drain the water out of the tank. With the tank empty, use a pair of Channellocks to unscrew the supply line from the bottom of the toilet tank. Make sure you have a bucket and an old towel handy because there will still be water in the supply line and it will need to be poured into something to keep if off the floor. There will also be some residual water in the bottom of the tank.
The next step is actually one of the hardest and the most unpleasant. The water inside of the toilet bowel should be drained out. If this water is not emptied from the bowl it will run out the bottom of the toilet when it is moved. In theory, this water should not leak out even after the toilet has been disconnected and lifted off the floor, provided that the toilet remains perfectly level. This is nearly impossible, however, so it’s smart to drain as much water as you can. One way to accomplish this is to use a plunger and force as much down the drain as you can. Another way is to use a small, disposable cup and bail the water out. If you choose the latter option make sure to wear latex gloves and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.