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Toilet installation: best practices guide: this article discusses the installation procedure for toilets, detailing best practices that avoid future leaks or toilet problems. We include the rough-in dimensions that show where to locate the toilet and its waste pipe, and we provide warnings about some SNAFUs you can avoid during toilet layout & installation.
This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc. We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets. A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included.
Before installing a toilet, examine it for
manufacturing defects that can cause leaks or prevent it
from sealing fully to the closet flange. Occasionally the
inlet where the tank connects to the bowl, or the outlet
(horn) at the bottom of the bowl that seals to the closet
flange, is deformed enough to cause problems.
sure the base (foot) of the toilet is flat or it will have a
tendency to rock and break the seal, leading to odors and
Next, make sure the floor framing where the toilet will be mounted is adequate. Ideally
the toilet should sit between two joists set no more than
12 inches on-center, with blocking nailed on either side of
the drain to reinforce the area around the closet flange
(Figure 6-56). This will limit any movement in the fixture
that could break the seal at the wax ring.
Toilet rough-in dimensions locate the toilet waste pipe and flange assembly in the building rough and finished floor so that the toilet will be spaced a proper distance from the wall. The toilet rough-in dimension illustration (left) shows the standard distances to the waste line center from the finished wall and side wall and are illustrated by this adaptation from a Titan toilet package.
12" from finished wall behind toilet to center of waste line - may vary by toilet model
15" from center of toilet to nearest side wall
24" clear space in front of the toilet (or more)
6" from flushometer to highest fixture part (for flush-o-meter toilets)
The hole in the
subfloor cut to fit the toilet waste line should be just a bit larger than the drain. Also, it
is best if the toilet sits on top of the finished flooring rather
than having a dirt-trapping joint where the finished floor
abuts the fixture.
Next, install the closet flange and secure it to the
subfloor with brass or stainless-steel screws. With vinyl
flooring, the flange can sit directly on the subfloor. With
tile, use a plywood spacer to raise the flange to the height
of the tile.
To insure longevity, use brass closet bolts, nuts,
and washers rather than the plated steel that is often packaged
with the toilet.
Then place the toilet sealing wax ring in the closet
flange (photo at left) and set the bowl in place.
Toilet Setting Tips [DF]: Some plumbers use two wax rings. The first is pushed onto the bottom of the toilet bowl around its drain opening, pushing the wax ring thoroughly into recesses and making sure that the stick wax seals thoroughly to the bowl bottom and that it does not protrude into (and thus block) the bowl drain opening. A second, thin wax ring is then placed onto and gently pushed against the toilet flange ring on the floor.
Now as the toilet is set and pushed down onto the toilet flange, rotate the toilet left and right slightly an inch or two to seal the two wax rings together. This approach can provide a more thorough seal and plenty of wax to minimize the risk of future leaks around the toilet base.
Gradually tighten the nuts
on the closet bolts, alternating from one side to the other
until it is snug without over tightening.
Finally, apply a
bead of silicone caulk around the sides and front of the toilet
foot, leaving the back unsealed. This will allow leaks to
be spotted before serious damage develops.
Toilet Leaks and Toilet-Caused Flood Catastrophes You Can Avoid
But don't over-tighten the toilet base mounting bolts or you risk breaking the toilet.
Toilet Leak Catastrophes - cracked toilet tank floods home
Watch out: be careful not to over-tighten the toilet tank mounting bolts. Doing so may break a porcelain toilet tank immediately, or, as we have observed, an over-tightened toilet tank may suddenly crack years later, flooding the building and leading to costly water damage.
Our photo at left illustrates just this case: the toilet tank cracked suddenly (no one was at home), several years after the tank had been mounted. Details are at Toilet Leak Catastrophes
Since two-piece toilet tank mounting hardware will include some thick rubber mounting washers you'll see that you can wiggle the reservoir tank slightly at its mounting point to the toilet bowl after the toilet tank has been secured.
Kitchen & Bath Industry Associations
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers(AHAM)
National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)
Ceramic Tile Institute of America
Home Ventilation Institute (HVI)
Marble Institute of America
Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI)
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Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
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