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What is a rough in and why is it important?
Attention toilet shoppers. When you go shopping for a new toilet, do not go empty-headed. Know your toilet's rough-in. Because the first question a competent toilet sales associate will ask you is, “What is the rough-in?” That's the distance from the center of your toilet's waste pipe (the pipe your toilet sits on) and the back wall. Most toilets today are made for a 12” rough-in, but 10” and 14” are also available. How do you determine what your rough-in is? Simple. Measure the distance from the wall behind the toilet to the center of the closest closet bolt. In most cases it should be around twelve inches, which is good news. If you get 10” or 14”, you may have to special order, which means extra bucks. It is possible, but not recommended, to stick a 12” toilet in a 14” space, but you will run the risk of cracking the tank if someone leans back too hard. This is an issue only with the traditional two-piece toilets, however. Modern one-piecers don't have this problem.
What are the most common mistakes in installing a toilet?
Putting in a toilet is a complicated business, with plenty of opportunity for error. One way to avoid mistakes is to call a plumber. However, if you insist on operating without a license, this list should help you avoid some of the most common amateur mistakes.
- Scoffing the law, that is ignoring and/or violating local code restrictions.
- Using pipes that are too small. Toilet requires its own 2" minimum vent and at least a 3" diameter drain.
- Fitting copper to galvanized. Unless you put a brass or dielectric fitting between the two, you'll get corrosion, and eventually, a failed union.
- Not using Teflon tape or pipe compound at threaded joints. These sealants fill in the imperfections in the pipe threads to provide a more leakproof seal.
- Not leveling your fixtures at installation. You need to use a level to level the bowl. You may have to stick in a few shims under the bowl. While you're at it, make sure the toilet is lined up square to the wall.
- Not installing an air gap filling for fixtures. This may seem like a minor point, but unless you provide a gap between potable water and a drain, waste water could back up into your drinking water. Not a good thing.
- Chopping your supply stub outs too short, so when you put on your finished wall, you don't have enough tube sticking out to install shutoff valves. Measure twice, cut once.
- Improper alignment of tubes into stop valves or fittings. Make sure that the compression ring (“olive”) is set straight before you start tightening on the nut.
- Failing to flush debris from your water lines when turning the water in the house back on. Always run the outside hose valve or flush your toilets first. This will get rid of any air or dirt in the lines.
What makes a toilet work?
The simple but ingenious mechanics of the flush toilet have barely changed since Thomas Crapper first invented the "water closet" in the nineteenth century. The toilet, though not the most glamourous of home fixtures, plays a very important role in waste management and hygiene. Unless it did its job carrying away waste and keeping smelly sewer gasses from invading our living space, we'd all be in deep doo-doo. So how does this baby work? Most toilets come in two pieces: a tank, which is attached to a bowl (the part that is attached to the floor.) There are also one piece toilets. The toilet is ready for action when the tank and bowl are both partially filled with water. In side the bowl there is an s-shaped passage, or trap, that stays filled with water, forming a barrier against sewer gas. To set the flushing in motion, you turn or push the handle or trip lever on the tank, which lifts a stopper between the tank and bowl. The water in the tank whooshes into the bowl, sending all waste down the waste pipe into the main drain, into the sewer line, where it becomes the city's responsibility. The water flowing into the bowl also cleans the bowl. The toilet fills itself with water automatically. In a standard two-piece toilet, as the water flows out during the flushing stage, a float ball drops. This activates a water valve, known as a ball cock, which lets water into the tank. The rising water in the tank raises the float to the proper level, switching off the ball cock. The toilet is once again ready to do its duty.
How do I install a toilet?
Whether you invest in a Kohler, American Standard, one-piece or two-piece toilet, it won't be able to do its duty until you install it. Installing a toilet can be complicated. So if you don't feel like messing with the subtleties, call a plumber or somebody who knows the ropes better than you. Here are the basic steps you will need to follow to get your hopper up and flushing.
- You'll need to rough in the closet bend and toilet floor flange first. When replacing a toilet, make sure to scrape off the old wax gasket. A putty knife works well for this. Remove the old bolts from the floor flange and scrape the flange clean to prevent leaks at the base of the new bowl. If the old flange is cracked or broken, replace it with a new floor flange.
- When you set in your floor flange, always make sure that the underside of the flange is at the level of the finished floor. Tighten the screws that hold the floor flange to the floor. As you do this use a small level to be sure the flange is level.
- Set the new floor bolts in plumber's putty and insert them through the flange. Adjust the bolts so they line up with the center of the drainpipe.
- Turn your toilet bowl upside down and stick the new wax gasket over the toilet horn on the bottom of the bowl. Caution: a cold wax ring won't seat right. You may want to warm it up before installing it.
- Lay on a bead of plumber's putty around the entire bottom edge of the bowl.
- Lower the bowl into place over the flange, using the bolts to guide you. Twist slightly as you press down firmly. Do you feel the toilet being pushed into the wax ring? You should. If you don't, your flange is too low, which means you will not get a good wax seal between the flange and the horn (waste outlet).
- Level the bowl. Add shims as needed. Make sure you've got the toilet lined up squarely in relation to the wall. Tighten the nuts and washers onto the bolts by hand. Now you are ready to install the tank.
- Move the rubber tank cushion into position on the back part of the bowl. Fit the rubber gasket onto the flush valve opening on the bottom of the tank.
- Position the tank over the bowl; then tighten the nuts and washers onto the mounting bolts.
- Using an adjustable wrench, tighten the hold-down bolts at the base of the bowl. Check to see that the bowl is still level.
- Fill the bolt caps with plumber's putty and place them over the bolt ends. Seal the base of the toilet bowl with plumber's putty or silicone caulk.
- Cut the end of your supply line stub out and attach a shut off valve. Connect the shutoff valve to the toilet tank with a flexible supply hose.
What types of toilets are available?
There are two-piece toilets and one-piece toilets. As the name implies, a one-piece toilet is one complete unit.
- A one piece unit includes tank, lid, bowl, toilet seat, wax ring with sleeve, two flange bolts and two bolt caps. With a one-piece toilet, you won't get any leaking between the bowl and tank.
- A two-piece toilet has a tank and bowl, which are purchased separately. The two parts are usually less expensive than the one-piece design. Note that the toilet seat, (also known as the lid) is usually not included with the bowl, though all-in-one toilets do exist.
As for bowls, they come in two, count 'em, two shapes: Round and elongated.
- Round bowls are good if saving space is a priority.
- Elongated bowls are usually 2" longer than round bowls and offer greater comfort and increased water surface area.
Toilet seats also come in two shapes to match the bowls: Round and elongated. You can get all kinds of colors, and styles to match your bathroom's decor. The hardware used to attach the seat to the bowl comes in a variety of materials and finishes as well.
American Standard is a major manufacturer of both round and elongated, one and two-piece toilets.