How To Fit A Toilet

In theory fitting a toilet is a very simple job. Water enters the cistern. Water fills the cistern. The cistern is connected to the bowl. The bowl receives water and when flushing occurs pushes old water and any bodily excretions within it through the waste pipe. In theory very simple. In theory.

Toilet RollIn theory chatting up women is very simple too. You coat yourself in Doctor Ofknowledge’s Miracle Unuglifier Sealant. You load the neOnbubble Slightly Saucy Conversation Sentience into an unused node of your brain. You talk to women. They respond. You work your way through the Karma Sutra until dawn. In theory very simple. In theory.

We’re going to look at fitting a toilet today. This is based on the assumption that you live in a "builder-modernised" house "modernised" by a "lobotomised asylum escapee" (like me (that is living in a house like that like me, and not an asylum escape like me – I’ll have you know I never escaped!)). This means we’ll need to remove the old toilet first.

Before you attempt to remove an existing toilet and fit a new one it is imperative that you are prepared beforehand. You will need:

  • gym membership – concentrate on building up your thigh and lower back muscles,
  • a double life – at night you will need to engage in bare-knuckle fisticuffs with ruffians and oiks in order to weather your hands, roughening them up for gripping purposes,
  • a triple life – on nights when there are no uncouth youths just waiting for a good old-fashioned pounding you should sell your body as a cheap whore paying special attention to buttock-clenching and being down on your knees a lot,
  • enough food and water to survive a nuclear holocaust in the event that you can never turn the water back on again.

Turn Off The Water
Realise very early on that there is no isolation valve on the existing toilet. Realise soon afterwards that there is no stopcock in the house. Resign yourself to stepping out into the street and stopping the water from the valve outside your house. The valve is rusty and there is muck all around it and possibly things waiting to bite you or crawl over you like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Why not buy a biological encounter suit for when you need to avoid touching anything icky?

Turn the valve clockwise. Then anti-clockwise. Then clockwise again. Then realise you don’t know which way is off. Leave it where it was, consult the internet, and try again. It’s clockwise!

Drain The Toilet
Flush the existing toilet. This will remove most of the water from the cistern. However, what’s left – which doesn’t look like much at all in the grand scheme of things – is far more than you think! Do not disconnect the inlet pipe at this time unless you are on the ground floor of your house or don’t mind running downstairs into the kitchen, standing on a stool, and poking holes in the ceiling to relieve the pressure build-up that’s already dripping onto the sink and floor.

By sticking a screwdriver into the ceiling plasterboard you can direct the stream of water gushing out of your flooding bathroom above down your hand and arm and away from the electric appliances in the kitchen.

Remove The Existing Toilet
You’ll want to remove the cistern from the bowl first. Unscrew the fixings beneath the cistern. Or, if they’re rusted to buggery and won’t budge, cry a little. Now unbolt the cistern from the wall. If the bolts are also rusted to buggery take this time to spend some moments in your makeshift Klingon Zone Of Contemplative And Imaginitive Cursewords. I chanted "You son of a Mogherfuggin Qa’ Bah Feck Feck Feck Dahhh’ Gih! Arsehole Qa’pla!" a number of times until the spirit of Kahless told me to stop being a whiny sissy boy and that seemed to do the trick.

A toilet is no match for a crowbar and a violent rage.

With the cistern removed you can now remove the bowl from the floor too. You should find that the screws or bolts attached to the bowl are marginally less rusted through than those elsewhere in the bodged toilet system installed by the twat who originally put it in but you should remember that rust on these bolts or screws is most likely down to splashed urine rather than water. Break out that biological encounter suit once more if you’ve got it or flap your hands about saying "ooh!" a lot as that seems to ward off pee-based infection too.

Testing The New Cistern
You won’t find this tip anywhere else on the internet’s wide, wide range of toilet-fitting guides so write it down now: test the watertightness of your new cistern before you fit the cistern to the toilet and fix it into place. I cannot stress this point enough.

Horse tranquiliser and gin helps to calm down people who discover leaks in their brand new, fitted toilets because they foolishly assumed the washers and bolts were in any way, shape, or form actually up to the task of stopping the water from pouring out all over the floor.

Screw your inlet valve thingy and your outflow valve whatsit into place and then fit the tank-to-bowl bolts. Now here’s where it gets real tricky. The bolts and washers supplied with any new cistern and fittings do not stop water coming through. Oh they say they do but they lie. It doesn’t matter how much you tighten them. It doesn’t matter if you try different configurations of plastic washers, metal washers, or rubber washers; if they came in the pack with the toilet fittings then they’re shit.

When putting the bolts and washers in place make sure they are dipped in leak compound sealant first. After the washers and bolts are in place coat them in more leak compound sealant. Let the sealant harden and then add some more. Build up layers of sealant. Okay: you’ll never get that bolt off again but Goddamn You Sonofabitch Water If You’re Going To Keep Leaking All Over My Bathroom!

Toilet UseFitting The New Toilet
Seat the cistern on the bowl but don’t connect yet. Move the bowl into position so the cistern is against the wall and connect the waste outlet pipe to the back of the bowl using a flexible connector. Make sure you have a really good seal here. Anywhere else on the toilet and a leak means water. Here, a leak means wee-wee and poo and soggy loo paper and water and tears and more hand-flapping. Mark where the bowl bolts will fit into the floor then disconnect, drill (praying there’s nothing underneath but wood and corpses), reconnect, and fit.

Bolt the cistern to the bowl. Connect the water inlet pipe to the valve (or the valve to the pipe – go crazy and connect it whichever way you want!). Screw it into place. Use a spanner or wrench. If you’ve been sensible and/or lucky then you should have fitted an isolating valve at this point too. If, on the other hand, you got confused and picked up the wrong flexible connector then you’ll just have a normal pipe in again and will need to engage the assistance of someone with a mobile phone or be prepared to sprint through your house as you try to switch the water back on at the mains, hurtle indoors, check to see if water is spraying all over the place because there’s yet another thing that wasn’t quite tightened correctly, then thunder back down the stairs, along the hall, and out through the forecourt to the water valve once more.

The final stage in fitting a toilet is the worrying stage. For the next few weeks you will be convinced there’s a leak in your toilet still. You won’t want to sit on the loo seat and will try to hover just above it. After flushing you will spend minutes looking at the bolts and connectors convinced there’s a slight build-up of water. You will dream of toilet disasters. Every time you enter the kitchen you will instinctively look up at the screwdriver holes and wonder if the ceiling will collapse on you as you do the washing up.

After a couple of months, however, you will die of a stress-related illness and won’t have to worry anymore.

Is your will up to date?

Author: Mark

Share This Post On


  1. Who would have guessed that there’s 2 additional steps to the US version?
    1. Tell the wife that your going to be the big strong fix-it man and give her a shiny new toilet that will be her porcelain throne and all she needs to do to help out it just clean the old one up a bit before I start (sounds so innocent).
    2. The wax ring. The 2 toilets I’ve installed had a wax ring to connect the bowl to the floor. It’s like a giant doughnut made from wax to make a proper seal but it only allows for one shot to get the bowl set down in the exact right spot over the drain.

    Post a Reply
  2. Aha – I completely understand now. I’m surprised you didn’t add a section on ‘friends phoning up at annoyingly inappropriate moments’…

    Good luck with the sealing (and the ceiling).

    Post a Reply
  3. Ahh Mark – Your tales of DIY do amuse me so. I still chuckle about the time you let a brand new double glazing unit drop out onto your head because I can only assume you thought it would magically stay in position for a few moments unattended.

    Jason – my heart goes out to you. The use of a wax ring is not common in the UK (as far as I know), but I can imagine the utter annoyance at trashing the first one as your back gives out trying to lower the bowl into the exact right position. Some older properties in the UK (such as mine) utilise a ceramic pipe socket in the floor (concreted in the floor mind you), and directly cement the bowl outlet into the socket. Great! – until you need to change the bowl. You try chipping out 30 year old cement from a fragile porcelain socket because you know breaking it is not an option since it will mean taking up the whole concrete floor (including the damp-proof membrane) to replace it. I was almost overcome by the fumes from the sewer it took so long.

    But Mark, I must point out a couple of things with your useful and informative article:

    Firstly, you appear to only be describing the procedure for fitting a close-coupled toilet and cistern – what about those with a more traditional Victorian arrangement (where the cistern is about 10 foot higher than the bowl, and connected by a huge length of pipe)? Firstly, teetering around on steps with a heavy ceramic cistern is no fun at all, and secondly, teetering around on steps with water running down your upstretched arms as you try to tighten all the joints is even less fun. The only plus side of such an arrangement is the sheer head of pressure delivered to the bowl – even the most stubborn of ablutions is rapidly evacuated upon yanking the chain.

    Secondly, you also mention bolting the bowl to the floor – yet your photo clearly shows one of these poncy wall mounted arrangements that seemingly ‘floats’ above the toilet floor. I suspect you actually fitted the floor (or pedestal) version, as I can’t imagine a man of your nervous disposition would trust a couple of long screws to hold a heavy bowl, complete with heavy ass sat upon it, and keep the whole thing safely attached to the wall. Should said screws fail, the ensuing mess of shattered bowl, unflushed effluent, and the flailing limbs of the hapless victim (unfortunately knobbled by the garments binding his/her ankles together) would be utterly unthinkable.

    Post a Reply
  4. Yes, Jason, as Grazor said we don’t tend to have the wax ring over here which was handy as I’d read about them before and was aware they were a one-shot deal.

    Math: thanks, but I was fortunately resting in the screw-this-I’m-done position when you called so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been.

    Grazor: I was referring to a close-coupled system because my upstairs toilet was a close-coupled system. However, I’ve also got one downstairs that needs to be tackled (some time later) and – I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear – that’s of the more Victorian style complete with ceramic waste valve into the concrete floor. Oh joy!

    Post a Reply
  5. The handy plumbing hints omitted the bone idle attitude that most plumbers seem to possess. When I had to get a new privvy put in, it took the bastards over four hours (six if you count the regular tea breaks). Patronising assholes. Next time, I’m taking the crowbar and violent option.

    Post a Reply
  6. A history of disaster is the reason I stopped attempting these kinds of projects, and waste disposal is nothing to take lightly.

    Post a Reply
  7. Ok, Jason, turn in your man card. You’re complaining about a WAX RING? The wax ring is the key to the simplicity of plumbing an American toilet!

    You know how you install an American toilet? You slap a wax ring onto the outlet "horn", pick up the toilet and drop it on the drain collar. To seal it properly? That’s where our Fat-McDonald’s-Butts come in handy – sit on the toilet, and twist it a bit until the wax fills the gap and enough seeps out that the toilet sits on the floor. Now, tighten two floor-bolts, hook up the water, and you’re done.

    Without the wax ring, installing a toilet might take more than 10 minutes for an experienced handyman, or 45 minutes for the average DIY homeowner.

    removing/installing a toilet is about the simplest plumbing job I’ve come across. Snaking a lateral is more of a pain in the butt than swapping an American toilet!

    Post a Reply
  8. even great – er and wax rings are an unknown mystery that only plumbers get too know LOL

    Post a Reply
  9. Love it. That’s the funniest thing i’ve read in ages. Unfortunately, my husband has no sense of humour tonight due to said toilet fitting. XD

    Post a Reply
  10. Genius article…. wish I’d read this before attempting to fit my bog! I got it done, but not without filling up the swear jar!

    Post a Reply
  11. im halfway through doing my bathroom and your page has cheered me up!.i can now take my neck out the noose,step down off the stepladder and laugh at the battle zone that used to be my upstairs bathroom and was day five of my "little diy project" i woke up fresh and early hoping to get the tilling finished behind the toilet (cant be done till the toilets in) fit the the toilet and then the sink easy.i dropped the basin on to the toilet when fitting the taps and put a great big crack in the basin.good start.went and got another. put the taps on while handling the the sink like a bomb disposal expert.then tried to fit the sink to the wall but couldnt find any creatures small enough in the garden to fit in the space they give you to screw the basin into the wall (not everyone has hands like jeremy beadle).i gave up moved on to the toilet.tried to put it up against the wall but for some reason toilets now have sides so if you have a soil pipe which comes in from the side your toilet has to be about 10 inches off the wall.anyway i finished messing with it at about 6.00pm after trying every shape and size soil pipe fitting in the shop (which cost aprox the same price as a plumber) .so i now have no water no toilet and im in need of counciling.and on top of these problems im going to have to suffer the embarasment of a plumber knowing how much of a retard i am when he comes and fixes it in 12 minutes……never again

    Post a Reply
  12. Brilliant. Funniest thing I’ve read for a long time. Found this whilst searching for a guide on fitting a new toilet. Sounds like many of my previous plumbing experiences so just confirms the fact I will pay someone else to do it…

    Post a Reply
  13. Thanks for the advice, which got me up to the point of connecting the inlet water supply. I wish I read the bit about “flexible connectors” as copper pipes are not flexible, and if you try to force them into the correct position, they will rupture. Now I have a flooded bathroom and an expensive bank holiday weekend plumber coming round.
    DIY is dangerous in the hands of an idiot.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *