Practical How-To Guide for Purchasing a Toilet


For those of you that have been following along, you are aware that the husband and I are participating in a six week challenge called The One Room Challenge.  The challenge is to renovate one room over a period of six weeks.  Sounds easy, but renovations typically reveal hidden conditions…those pesky little bits of information you don’t know about and have not planned for until you open up the room.  Or in our case, the box to our lovely new toilet.

Allow me to explain…

The husband and I have been updating our downstairs half bath for the last several weeks.  The project includes a lot of painting and some DIY decor projects.  It also includes replacing the old toilet.  (You can read the entire design plan here.)

I spent a couple of days before the project started shopping for new toilets online.  I combed through The Home Depot first because that is the home improvement store closest to my home.  I found a toilet that I loved.  We went to the store and picked it up.  A few days later, when we actually had time to worry with installing toilet, we opened the box to get started.

We pulled everything out of the box to ensure nothing was broken.  Our next step was to uninstall the existing toilet.  Easy, peasy.

How to Uninstall a Toilet

  • First turn off the water and then unscrew the bolts that attached the base of the toilet to the floor (technically it is attached to a flange below the base of the toilet, but it looks like the floor).
  • Lift, get covered with water that you are unsure of where it came from (was it the top or the bottom?)
  • Place the toilet by the curb
  • Clean up all the spilled water
  • Take a shower because it could have been the bottom of the toilet water

How to Install a Toilet

After uninstalling the existing toilet, and taking it outside (remember that I have told you that we have taken it outside), we began to install the new toilet.  We used the following steps to install the new toilet:

  • Remove as much of the existing wax ring as possible.  Don’t push it down the drain.  Be an adult and pick it up.  It is just wax.
  • Clean up the wax you inevitably dropped on the floor because you just realized where it has been and it freaked you out.  Softscrub is great for getting the wax off of floors.
  • Take the toilet base out of the box. Inspect it to ensure there are no cracks.
  • Place the two screws into the metal ring on the floor (this is called a flange).  These are for ensuring that you get a perfect placement of the toilet base. (Most likely this is listed as a step in the instructions that came with your new toilet.  The instructions are on the paper that is at the bottom of your box. Yes, even your toilet came with instructions.  Everything comes with instructions, even if you choose to never look at them.)
  • Turn the base of your toilet up so you can see the bottom, being careful to not damage the toilet or your floor.  Okay, be careful to not damage the floor.  Let’s be real, the toilet is returnable.
  • Place the wax ring wax side into the toilet. Remember wax does not need to down the drain.
  • Screw bolts into the base of the toilet.
  • Screw bolts into the tank of the toilet (if you have a two piece toilet).
  • Attach the water supply
  • Turn water supply on
  • Check for leaks to confirm the install was completed properly


Know Your Needs Before Purchasing

It sounds as though we really know our stuff.  If we know how to uninstall and install a toilet, what problems could we possibly have?  For starters, not all toilets are the same. Before we purchased our toilet, we should have taken better inventory to ensure we purchased the toilet that was right for us and our home.  A few things to consider:

  • Is your existing toilet tall enough?
  • Could you use a larger bowl (the thing you will sit on)?
  • Is your toilet close to a door?
  • Could you use another color?
  • Do you wish your toilet cleaned itself?
  • Do you wish your toilet cleaned you?
  • Is water savings a concern?
  • Most importantly, what is the rough-in size of your current toilet?

Toilet Height

There are two main toilet heights: standard and comfort height.  Standard toilet height has a rim that is 14 to 15 inches off the ground. Comfort height, also sometimes referred to chair height, has a rim that is 17 to 19 inches of the ground.  This toilet height has become a common choice because it makes getting on and off easier.

Bowl Size

There are two toilet bowl sizes: elongated and round.  Round bowls are a bit shorter and are best for small children.  Elongated bowls are about 2 inches longer and make for a more comfortable sit.  Have a door that opens up to the front of a toilet?  Be careful when replacing.  You might be eliminating the space needed to open the door all the way.


Colored potties are making a come back.  It might be fun to invest in an avocado green throne.  However, you might find it doesn’t go over well with potential buyers.  If you are thinking of selling your home in the near future, stick with the most common color: white.

Cleaning Capabilities

Companies are making toilets that can clean themselves.  What?  Sounds crazy, but it is true. American Standard has an ActiClean line that can provide both quick cleans and deep cleans.  That is two different types of cleans without ever picking up a scrubber!  It has a cartridge that clicks into place in the tank.  With the push of a button, it starts cleaning itself!  You can check it out at American

Looking for a toilet that will clean you? Think of a number in your head.  You can find one for that price!  There are so many on the market today.  One of the coolest, and most expensive is the Toto Washlet.  You can check it out at  Looking for something a bit less expensive?  Take a look at  For less than $100 you could have warm water, pressure and angle controls, and a self-cleaning nozzle for all of your goes.

Water Savings

Toilets manufactured before 1994 used a standard 3.5 gallons of water per flush. According to Home, this was more than 4,000 gallons of water per person a year.  Even older toilets could be using 5 or more gallons of water per flush. Selecting a toilet with a 1.6 gallon-per-flush high efficiency model will reduce water usage.  In turn, this will save you money on your water bill.

Rough-in Size

You have picked out the color, height, bowl size, and features for your toilet.  You are nearly ready to head to the store.  You have one more thing to consider: rough-in size.  This is the distance between the wall behind the toilet and the bolts that hold the toilet to the floor.  Don’t include any baseboards or other floor moldings in your equation as the back of the bowl will not be flush with the wall.  However, it is likely that your tank will be. The standard rough-in is 12 inches.  Don’t assume that you have a standard rough-in.  Measure before you buy.


Where did we go wrong?  We didn’t have the correct rough-in size for our toilet.  Remember that existing toilet that we put by the curb?  We had to bring it back in and reinstall it.  We returned the original purchase.  The staff at Home Depot was happy to assist us.  They laughed at our story when we explained why we were returning an undamaged unit.  To make this even more fun, we had to special order a new toilet in order to get one with the correct rough-in size.  It took us about a week before our order arrived.

Interested in reading about more of my toilet drama?  You can read the post here.