I recently found myself on my knees, in front of a toilet in Home Hardware, being taught how to install a toilet by Megan Fuller, plumbing and electrical supervisor.
Fuller fell in love with the "Lego aspect" of plumbing and electrical work while working part-time at a hardware store in Forest, Ontario. She recommends calling a professional for all plumbing jobs, but, when you need to satisfy the reno itch, here are some tips — from toilet shopping to installation.
Consider the weight of poop
"When the eco-movement started a lot of companies started pumping out low flush toilets," says Fuller. "There were a lot of 3 and 4-litre toilets out there, but they weren't flushing very well."
A universal test for flushing power was needed. Hence, grams-per-flush (gpf).
"Gpf measures the grams of solid waste that can be evacuated with one flush of the lever, or one hit of the big button on dual flush models," she says.
Dual flush models usually feature a 3-litre flush for number one, and 6-litre flush for number two.
According to Fuller, 4.8-litre flush toilets, or dual flush models, are currently considered eco-friendly.
Toilets at Home Hardware cost from $90 to $400 and are nationally priced, meaning they aren't any more expensive in the North. Before you drop a load (of cash), learn about common toilet features, such as right height, standard height, skirted, one-piece, two-piece, elongated, or round.
"Elongated toilets are designed so when men sit down there is more room [for their bits] in the front of the bowl," Fuller says. "But there are other bonuses to having an elongated model; the water surface area on an elongated toilet is greater, so it stays cleaner for longer."
Speaking of cleaning...
"In the one-piece models you don't get that gunge-line [where the tank meets the bowl, behind your bum], it's a simple wipe to clean," Fuller says. "Another thing to consider are those old gray plastic water supply lines. They should really be switched over to stainless."
"Have at your immediate disposal: three old plastic shopping bags, an entire roll of paper towel, a bucket, a sponge, and an old putty knife," says Fuller, "Also, rubber gloves, rubber gloves, rubber gloves."
Make sure you leave the hardware store with everything you'll need. Toilets usually don't come with a wax seal or bolts.
"The bolts [from the old toilet] are sometimes re-usable, but it depends how corroded they are," Fuller says. "It really sucks to have your toilet ripped out, then see that the bolts have completely disintegrated."
Get your husband to take it outside
What's the first step in a toilet install?
"Taking out the old one," Fuller says. "Start by emptying the tank. Shut the water valve on the water supply tube that leads to the toilet. Flush the toilet. Disconnect the water supply tube by unscrewing it from the tank. Through that hole will come a lot of water, so have a bucket on hand. Sponge out the bottom of the bowl. Disconnect the bolts and pull off the tank, and put it aside. Some people put [the old toilet] in the bathtub, I put mine in a garbage bag and get my husband to take it right outside."
Sometimes toilets can be stubborn.
"If the bolts are old and won't come off, your best bet is to unscrew the floor bolts, and just remove the toilet as one whole piece."
Remember, you can't be graceful all the time
Learning installation on clean, dry, new toilets at the store is deceptive.
"When you lift up the toilet base it will probably be pretty gross," Fuller says. "There is no graceful way of doing that part, and there will be water, no matter how well you emptied it. Sop up the water with paper towels. Take an old plastic shopping bag and shove it in the flange [the hole]. Take an old putty knife and pull up the old wax ring. Remove all the gook and put it into the old plastic bag. Put the old putty knife in the bag, tie up the bag, and throw it out."
You're now just a few steps away from your first flush.
"Put the new wax ring on the bottom of the old toilet," she says. "Most people install the new ring on the flange, but the ring is designed to be installed on the toilet itself. Seat the new toilet on the flange."
As with all reno projects, there may be surprises.
"The flange can be cracked, or there could be a chunk of it missing; as soon as you see that the flange is broken, call a plumber," Fuller says. "Technically you could replace it yourself, but it's probably not the best idea. You are far better off having a qualified person do it."