Toilet removal and replacement. Re-seating, re+re, install, installation etc.

So you're removing a toilet and replacing it, or installing a new toilet. Let me guide you through the process:

First, gather the necessary tools. You may need, a razor blade, a 1/2" or adjustable wrench, some gloves if you want to keep your hands clean, a wet vac if you want to ensure there is no mess, and the strength to lift an awkward 50 to 80lb object off the floor and manipulate it without hurting yourself.

The first step is to remove all the water from the toilet. A good start is to shut off the shut off valve located at the back and to the left of the toilet. Once the water is off, hold down the flush lever until all the water has drained from the tank down into the bowl. This will make the toilet much lighter when you go to lift it off the floor, and will prevent any catastrophic spills. I recommend using a wet vac to suck the remaining water  out of the tank and bowl. This will ensure there is no spillage as you awkwardly move the toilet around the room. 

Once you have dealt with the water, it is time to remove the silicone caulk from around the base of the toilet. Sometimes you will find there is no silicone seal (often in powder rooms). If there is a silicone seal, you can use a razor blade to help break the seal. Another technique is to tilt the toilet to the side until the seal breaks. Before tilting or lifting the toilet though, be sure to disconnect the toilet water supply. I recommend having the wet vac or a towel handy when you disconnect the water supply fill line from the fill valve, as water tends to drip down onto the floor.

Now that you have disconnected the water supply to the toilet, you need to unbolt the toilet from the toilet flange. You do this by first removing the bolt covers. Do this by inserting a small flat blade screwdriver under the cap and prying upwards. The bolt cover will spring up and off of the bolt. Now use a 1/2" wrench to remove the nut from the bolt. The bolts are usually brass, but sometimes they are steel and will have rusted. If this is the case, take a moment to feel sorry for yourself, as you may need to cut through the rusted steel bolt in order to remove the toilet. Generally speaking, we use plastic bolts for this purpose nowadays, for obvious reasons. Once you have removed the nuts and washers from the bottom of the toilet, the toilet is ready to be lifted off of the floor. Have a plan for where you are going to place the toilet before lifting it. The wax seal will often partially or entirely stick to the bottom of the toilet, and if you place it down on your floor you will have a stick mess. Place a garbage bag down so you have somewhere to set the toilet where it will not make a mess. You will want to tile the toilet down and rest it on its back so that you can clean the area around the discharge hole of the toilet of excess wax before reinstalling. If you're throwing the toilet away, disregard my sage advice. 

If installing a new toilet, first you'll often need to assemble it. The good news is that this is a fairly simple process. You will need to connect the toilet tank to the bowl using the included bolts. First take the tank to bowl gasket included with the toilet tank and affix it to the bottom of the flush valve nut on the bottom of the toilet tank. Now place the toilet tank onto the toilet bowl and then place the bolts through the holes - be sure to line them up. Use the included tool to help you tighten up the toilet tank to bowl bolts. Once the tank is tightened down to the bowl evenly, you are ready to seat the toilet down on the floor. Be sure to disregards hardware store employee advice here, and do not place the wax seal on the bottom of the toilet first. It is best to place the wax seal on the toilet flange first. I could write a paragraph here about selecting the appropriate wax seal for the job. Suffice it to say though, that the wax needs to be high enough to squish down when the toilet is seated to the floor. As a general rule, if your toilet flange is even or lower than the finished floor around it, you need to use a MaxWax seal, or in other words a wax seal which is approximately 40% thicker than a typical wax seal. If your flange sits proud of the surrounding floor, you can use a normal wax seal, though I would recommend that you use a Kantleak seal, which has an included polypropylene ring which directs the flushed water down through the flange. 

When seating the toilet down onto the flange, position yourself above the flange with one foot on either side. Now move your head to the right or left so that you have a visual on one of the flange bolts. Keep that bolt in view through the hole in the bottom of the toilet bowl so that you can seat the toilet down and have the bolt poke up through the hole. If you have kept things tight and aligned, you should find the bolt on the other side of the toilet is in the correct position as well. Now take a moment to look at the bigger picture - align the toilet tank with the wall behind it. Now with some firm pressure, slowly twist the toilet and press down until it seats down onto the floor. Now install the toilet cap washers and the brass washer onto each toilet bolt. Now tighten each nut until it is snug. Be very careful here as it is easy to over-tighten these so that the toilet flange breaks, and then you will have a bigger problem on your hands. Once the bolts are just snug, use a small hacksaw blade to cut the bolts (now you see why I use plastic bolts). With the bolts trimmed down, you will now be able to snap on the bolt covers. 

Your next step is to attach the water supply. I recommend using a new supply line (braided steel / flex connector is best). Attach the water supply connector to the shut off valve - you do not need any thread tape of compound for this connection - it is a rubber washer which makes the seal - not the threads. Now attach the other end of the connector to the fill valve on the underside of the toilet. You can do up this connection hand tight, unless you are wimpy in which case you may require a wrench. 

With the water connection made, you can turn on the water and check for leaks. Flush the toilet a few times at least and check for any leakage around the toilet. You want to be sure you properly seated the toilet on the wax seal, and you want to be sure you have a good connection between the toilet tank and the toilet bowl. Once you are satisfied you have no leaks. Check the bowl for firm mounting on the floor by pressing down on the front of the bowl - or simply sit on it yourself. If there is any movement, use rubber shims to arrest the movement. Once you are satisfied the bowl is firmly in place and doesn't move, apply a small bead of silicone to the base of the toilet - be sure to leave a small gap at the back to allow the bottom of the toilet to vent and as a telltale for any leakage that could develop over time. Best to be able to detect leaks early before they rot out your subfloor!

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Toilet Repair- Flapper / flush mechanism repair/replacement.

There are many different types of toilets, from one piece to dual flush to water saving to jet siphon. We have many different manufacturers, from Toto to American Standard, from Crane to Chellini to Kohler to Glacier Bay. Many of these brands and styles have things in common, and the parts that can be used to fix the toilets are interchangeable. We will focus now on some of those common repairs that can be done across brands and toilet styles. Starting with the flapper/flush mechanism repair/replacement.

When the toilet is running on, when the toilet gurgles in the middle of the night - when the toilet is making odd sounds and you're not sure what the problem is, there is a good chance the issue is a leaking toilet flapper. The flapper is the round rubber flap in the bottom of the toilet tank that lifts up when you flush the toilet to let the water flow from the toilet tank down into the toilet bowl. Over time, the toilet flapper can warp and deteriorate, resulting in a poor seal with the flush valve lip. The good news is that replacing the toilet flapper is a relatively easy job. I recommend the Hornet flapper for most toilets. It is made by Master Plumber and is yellow in colour. The rubber seems to be of a good quality and is quite flexible. It comes with a flush valve overflow tube adapter, so it can be installed onto the existing tabs on the side of the flush valve overflow tube, or if those are not present, such as on an American Standard or Mansfield toilet, using the included adapter. Simply remove the existing flapper by sliding the two flapper arms off of the tabs, and then removing the chain/lifting mechanism from the flush lever. Replacement is just the opposite of removal. 

Make sure that once you have replaced the flapper, you set the length of the chain between the flapper and the flush lever to just slightly longer than the distance between the two objects. This ensures there is no tension on the flapper chain to prevent the flapper from seating properly on the flush valve.

Give the toilet a few flushes to ensure that the flapper is operating properly. The toilet should flush completely before the flapper reseats itself onto the flush valve. If the flapper stays up too long this can be a waste of water. Make sure to set the height of the water in the toilet tank so that the water used for each flush is only as much as is necessary for a good flush.

Setting water height: To set the water height in the toilet tank, you will need to locate the appropriate screw on the toilet fill valve. This can be found on the very top of the fill valve for toilets utilizing a ball float, or in the case of a Fluidmaster fill valve, this screw can be located on the top of the arm which is attached to the float - generally at approximately the approximately 4- 5 oclock position. The screw in either case will require a phillips screwdriver. You will generally find a water fill height marking in your toilet - either marked on the inside of the toilet tank itself or on the overflow tube of the flush valve. Set the height by allowing water to escape from the toilet tank using the flush lever, and continue to adjust the screw on the fill valve until the water stops coming into the tank at the appropriate height.

Toilet fill valve replacement: To replace the fill valve in your toilet follow these simple steps:

First locate the water shut off on the wall behind the toilet - generally you will find it on the left side of the toilet approximately 6" over from the centre line of the toilet rough in centre line. Turn the valve off by turning it clockwise until it seats. Some shut off valves are only 1/4 turn, meaning they only need to be turned from the 12 oclock position to the 3 oclock position to shut the water off.

Once the water is off, flush the toilet and hold the flush lever up so that all the water can escape from the toilet tank down into the toilet bowl. Do not let go of the flush lever until all the water has finished going from the tank into the toilet bowl. You will notice that some small amount of water remains in the bottom of the tank. This is okay, you can deal with that later.

Next, remove the remaining water from the toilet tank using a wet vac. If you do not have a wet vac, that is okay - you can still do the job using another method. Get a small container such as a pot or ice cream pail. Place the container underneath the area of the fill valve in the vicinity of the shut off valve. It is advisable to place a towel down as well in case some water drips onto the floor so that it does not damage the baseboard etc. Now using your hand (generally sufficient), remove the nut which secures the water supply line to the bottom of the fill valve on the bottom of the toilet tank (left side). Once you remove the fill valve supply line, a small amount of water will drip down out of the fill valve. 

Next, remove the retainer nut which secures the toilet fill valve to the toilet tank. Once you remove the nut, you can lift up on the fill valve to remove it from the tank. During this motion, any remaining water in the toilet tank will run out of the tank - be prepared to catch it!

The next step is to assemble / install the fill valve. Generally your professional plumber will install a fluidmaster replacement fill valve. To do so, remove the contents of the fluidmaster package. Place the black rubber washer onto the bottom of the threaded shank of the fill valve. Next insert the fill valve down through the bottom of the toilet tank. Ensure it is seated squarely and evenly. Next, using your left hand, thread the nut onto the bottom of the threaded shank of the fluidmaster until it fits snug. I recommend using a wrench to snug this up if your hand strength isn't that great.

Now take the black rubber tube and slip it onto the port on the side of the top of the fill valve, then put it into the overflow tube of the flush valve. If it is too long, trim some off using a pair of scissors or side cutters. It is important not to have the tube be too long and drape down inside the overflow tube of the flush valve, as this can result in siphoning of the water in the tank down into the toilet bowl. This can be a tricky problem to diagnose! In fact I have encountered situations where other plumbers have been unable to diagnose and fix this problem, and it took my plumbing detective eye to determine the real problem and the appropriate solution, which was to trim the tube where it enters the overflow of the flush valve.

Your almost done! Now connect the water supply line/tube up to the new fill valve threaded shank at the bottom of the toilet tank. If your supply line is old (older than about 5 years), I recommend replacement as the rubber breaks down fairly quickly and you don't want a leak on your hands - ain't nobody got time for that! As a side note, if you have a poly butylene (poly-b) water supply line, be sure to replace it. These lines can break and cause flooding.

Once your water supply is securely in place, you are ready to turn on the water. Once you have turned the water on by turning the handle counterclockwise, check for leaks at the connections. In order to do so effectively, you will want to use toilet paper to get rid of any drips of hints of moisture so that you can detect any new moisture that shows up. Pay particular attention to the water supply connection to the fill valve and to the shut off valve, and particular attention to the point where the shut off handle shaft goes through the bonnet nut. It is good practice to give a tiny snug up of the bonnet nut on the shut off valve using an adjustable wrench. This can prevent any nuisance leaks/drips that can arise. Be careful to be very gentle, as over-tightening could result in a blow out of the valve and a major water leak.

​Sewer Pump Repair / Sewer pump dead or died / Sewer pump stopped / Sewage pump fix

You can probably tell based on the above keywords that the purpose of this article is to help you deal with your sewage pump. The reason I feel it is worthwhile to write this article for your benefit is because the majority of issues with sewer pumps come down to a few evil products - wipes and tampons!

Unfortunately tampons and wipes do not break down the way human waste and toilet paper does, and sewer pumps are unable to grind them up. Generally what we see is an accumulation of tampons and wipes within the impeller of the sewer pump until the ball finally gets big enough to complete stop the pump. Once this happens, it's either time to call a good plumber or time to read my advice here and prepare to get your hands dirty!

If you've made it this far, and haven't yet called the number at the top of this page in frustration, I applaud your fortitude. Now let's get started shall we? 

The first thing you will want to do is make sure that no more water will be used by anyone in the home or in any dwelling connected to the sewer sump you're working on.

Be sure to turn off the power as well. This is generally done by disconnecting the cord from the receptacle at the wall, but in some cases may require that a circuit breaker be turned off. If you found that your pump was plugged into the wall using a piggyback cord, you will want to do a quick test at this point to determine if the pump is the problem or if it is the float switch. The beauty of the piggyback plug for the float switch is that you can simply plug the sewer pump in directly to the receptacle without using the piggyback plug. If the pump runs normally you have just found the problem - a faulty float switch! You will want to ensure that the level of the sewage in the sump is below the sump lid level, so that you don't cause any flood damage when you remove the lid or components. 

Removal of the sump lid generally involves some screws or bolts or combination thereof. I will leave that to you to sort out. I find that these screws or bolts are often corroded / rusted such that they will not come out, and I have to resort to extraordinary measures such as drilling them out. 

With the lid unscrewed, you can now go ahead and shut off the sewage line. If your sewage pump was installed according to code, you should find a shut off valve, a check valve, and a union, in that order located on the sewer discharge line of the pump. If the plumber was a rockstar, those 3 components will be part of one bigger component called a checkmate. The checkmate includes all 3 components together in one compact unit. Turn the handle of the shut off valve so the handle is perpendicular to the direction of the pipe the valve is connected to. This will ensure the sewage flow is off. Now remove the union so that the pipe becomes decoupled. Next you may need to cut or otherwise remove the vent for the sewage sump. Generally this means cutting through a 2" ABS or PVC pipe which will later need to be reconnected using solvent and a 2" coupling. 

With all these items removed and disconnected, you are ready to lift the sewage pump from the sump. Once you lift the pump from the sump, turn it over and locate the impeller of the pump. You will likely see a big ball of white somethings down there plugging up the hole at the bottom of the pump. Use a pair of pliers to remove all the debris in there, then use the pliers to spin the impeller to ensure it spins freely. If it spins freely, you may find that the pump will work if you re-install it. Often the pump will have shut off based on a thermal limit switch which protects the pump from burning out. Once the pump cools, it will allow itself to run again. 

Before putting the pump back into the sump, you will want to ensure there are no more tampons / wipes or other nasties lurking around down there ready to plug up your sewer pump. For this lovely job most sensible folks will call a sewage pump truck company and pay the $200 or whatever they might charge, however we generally try to save our clients money by sucking out the contents of the sump with a wet vac and flushing them down another working toilet in the house that is not connected to the same sump. We may even dump it straight into the septic tank if the client is not on a pumped system. At the end of the day we treat our clients how we would like to be treated, and we would be frustrated if our bill doubled because the plumber was too squeamish to perform the previous service.

Reinstall the pump by following the above steps in reverse. Once installed, plug the pump back in or otherwise give it power and listen to the sound of the pump. You should be able to tell if it is running smoothly or having trouble. You can also tell how things are going by the amount of time required to pump out the sewage sump. Generally it only takes a very short amount of time to pump the sump out (no more than 30 seconds).

You may need to use some silicone to seal around the various openings of the sewage sump to prevent sewer gas from escaping and smelling up the house. 

Last but not least, if you don't have one already, I recommend that you install a high level alarm in your sewage sump. This will save you a lot of grief in future, and installation is pretty straightforward. The alarms can use house power and a 9volt battery back up.