Towel under tank to catch leaks

Since we bought this charming house in 2007, we’ve been slowly fixing problems identified by the home inspector.  This time, it’s the rocking toilet.  Besides wobbling, the flush handle had to be jiggled or held down in a cerain way to stop the water from constantly running.  Having to explain this to guests, and checking the handle each time the bathroom was used, was annoying.  Another feature of our old toilet was a leak from the tank which slowly got worse. We were worried that the leak might have rotted our subfloor, causing the wobbling. Sometimes, too, there was a slight odor.

We did not set out yesterday to install a new toilet. Actually, we were going to hang the picture rail molding that has been hiding under our bed for more than a year, and maybe look at microwaves. Our microwave broke a week or two ago — it buzzes and lights up terrifically inside whenever we cook anything.

However, since we had a rare day off work together (thanks to UIUC’s mandatory furlough day — thanks a lot) we went to Lowe’s to look around. After some discussion, we decided to buy a new toilet.  We ended up purchasing a Kohler Cimarron — chair-height, elongated, ‘WaterSense’ 1.28 gallon-per-flush.  There wasn’t too much selection of toilets that would visually fit in perfectly with our current bathroom sink and fixtures (that were in-stock, and for a price we were wiling to pay).

The California Urban Water Conservation Council has a link to a review of almost any toilet out there (MaP survey, updated at least yearly if not more often).

First of all, toilets are heavy!  And, the large box barely fit through the door opening to our 4-door car’s backseat.

Armed with a home repair book, some miscellaneous tools, latex gloves and towels, we got started.  Our supply line shut-off valve was frozen, and did not turn the water off. So, we had to turn off the water to the entire house. (We’ll have to fix that another day).  Then, we flushed to empty the tank as much as possible.  Actually disconnecting the supply line from the toilet was simple, and a bit of water came out of the line, but not much.  Next, we disconnected the tank from the bowl by removing the three bolts that hold the tank to the bowl.  That wasn’t too hard, and we set the tank in the bathtub.

Paint behind the old toilet would have been a nice touch.

Continuing on, we pried off the trim cap on each side of the bowl to expose the nut and bolt holding the toilet to the floor.  The right side’s nut came off easily enough, but the left side was more stubborn and took longer.  I think wax was holding the nut and bolt together, and the entire bolt itself was wobbly, which made it harder to keep a firm grip on it to unscrew.  But we were successful.  Goodbye, old toilet.  Remove the old wax from the floor and stuff an old rag into the drain hole to keep sewer gas out.

What we encountered next was interesting, and relieving.  We were worried about floor damage, but did not find any under the toilet. 

Flange and old wax ring remnants

 Checked the floor, and it was level.  We did see right away that the flange that the T-bolts go through to hold the toilet down was broken on the left side.  No wonder the toilet was wobbly!  We had purchased a flange repair kit, just in case.  The metal flange included in the kit was too long to fit, and though the directions said to shape and cut [the flange repair piece] as needed, we found we could not cut through it at all.  We used the leveling washers included in the kit, and some wax, to make sure the original cracked flange couldn’t move.

Then, we set the included wax ring on the new toilet base and set the toilet down on the floor, over the bolts.  Be sure to remove the rag from the drain opening before

Almost done.

putting the new toilet down!  We made sure the toilet’s wax ring was firmly seated, and screwed those down.  The toilet was not wobbly at all.  After that, we screwed the tank to the bowl.  This tank doesn’t have bolts protruding through it like our old one, but instead has a pre-attached platform under the tank which is then attached to the bowl.  So we hope not to have leaks from the tank in the future.  Attached a new supply line — ours ended up taking a standard 3/8 ” connection to our supply pipe, and a 12″ length would have sufficed. (We weren’t sure of the pipe size or length needed, so we bought a larger connection in 12″ and a 3/8″ connection in 20″).  We’ll have to exchange the line for a shorter one in the future, when we take care of that faulty shut-off handle.


We turned the house water back on. No leaks!  We flushed it. No leaks! We attached the included lid and seat — which have the nice “no-slam” feature.  We sat on it (individually). No wobble, no leaks! We threw toilet paper down it, stuck some to the sides. Flushed right away!  I’m very proud that we did this ourselves.

To make things even better, our 2-year old (whom we’re trying to potty-train) used the new toilet.  She loves to shove lots of paper in there.  No problem, whoooosh, it’s gone!

Mission accomplished.


Two supplementary notes on water usage.

     1.   If our old toilet, manufactured in ’91 according to the tank lid, used only 3.5 gallons per flush, and we flushed it, say, just a very conservative 10 times each day, we’ll save almost 700 gallons of water each month.  This doesn’t include any losses from the old toilet due to leaking or excess water running.  This also doesn’t account for the new one being more fun to flush.

     2.  Since we will be putting into the septic system only 36% of the toilet water that we did before with the old toilet, I wonder what effect, if any, that decrease will have on our septic system’s lifespan, or required emptying interval.