Toto, I don’t think we’re in the bathroom anymore

Almost immediately after we moved into the ‘Zoo, we realized that the toilets (original to the house and Toto brand, hence the title of this post) weren’t in the best shape (peeling, chipping, and permanent stains from household cleaners that took the finish off the seats at some point [we hope]), and while the round, short, squatty-pottyness was ideal for my petite size, Chris was finding the toilet rather awkward for his tall, lanky frame.

Enter two Kohler Cimarrons, chosen for their form, function, reasonable price, and the included quiet close lid/seat.  IMG_3019

They were on sale, plus we got an additional 10%, thanks to coupons from the USPS new address/move coupon package.  The master bath water closet is rather snug (I frequently hit my head on the doorknob of the water closet door when sitting on the toilet), so we elected to go with a round bowl for the master and an elongated bowl for the roomier guest bath.

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While Chris was at work, my dad came over to assist me in the install of the first toilet in our master bath.   I handed him parts and tools while asking numerous questions, faintly reminiscent of my childhood.  The tricky part was that the rough-in for the toilet was only 11 1/2″, but no one makes a toilet that size.  We couldn’t find a toilet in our area with a rough-in less than 12 inches, and everything smaller that we saw online was more expensive (what?!).  The original Toto looked like a 12″ rough-in toilet that they had crammed in to fit the 11 1/2″ rough-in (it was quite snug against the wall), and since there was no evidence of leaks or funky odors emanating from the water closet, we took that to mean we could try a 12″, as well.  This complication was one of the reasons my dad was on hand in charge of the operation, given his experience with plumbing.  As luck would have it, the Cimarron fit with plenty of room to spare, in part thanks to its lid that is flush with the back of the tank.  Score one for Kohler.IMG_3020

My dad actually came back later in the evening to help Chris install the second toilet while I painted the master bath.  There are some good tutorials on DIY toilet installation out there already, but here’s some tips we learned along the way.

1.  Ready, set, go.  Don’t purchase a toilet until you are ready to install it, just because you have a coupon burning a hole in your pocket.  Otherwise, you’ll have a bulky box constantly in your way until you get around to installing it, and if you wait too long, you may pass the date for returning it in case something is already broken or missing when you finally open the box.  We let one of our toilets sit in the garage for over a month before installing it, and while this worked out for us, I don’t recommend this added stress.

2.  Rough-in for the win.  Measure the rough-in of your house BEFORE you buy a toilet.  I didn’t realize Chris hadn’t done this before we purchased the toilet for the master bath, so we were very fortunate that our 12″ toilet fit our 11 1/2″ rough-in just fine.  The guest bath did have a standard 12″ rough-in, so no worries there.

3.  Check your list twice.  Read what your toilet purchase includes while you are at the store, so you know what else you may need to buy so that you don’t get home with a toilet you can’t install.  Also, don’t assume that other bloggers’ experiences will be your own.  After reading the Young House Love toilet install posts about having to purchase a wax seal kit separately, I (unnecessarily) panicked after getting home with our first toilet because I didn’t know that Chris had confirmed that the materials did include a wax seal and new bolts.

Also check the details on the separate items you do need to purchase.  Our toilet box materials list said we would need to purchase (separately) a 7/8″ water line for the toilet, but at Lowe’s, we could only find 3/8″ water lines.  After asking for assistance from a Lowe’s employee (don’t be afraid to do this!), he told us that the 7/8″ measurement is for the toilet-end of the line and that the 3/8″ measurement is for the end of the line that connects to the water supply, so Lowe’s had them labeled as 3/8″ lines in big font, but in teeny tiny font below, you could see they also said 7/8″.

4.  Read and follow the directions.  While working with my dad, I noticed that he had this peculiar (male?) tendency to not read/follow the directions.  Ladies, this is why it may be advisable to self-educate by reading the directions for yourself, reading tutorials online, and overseeing the operations/volunteering to help (see #7) to ensure your porcelain throne is safely, securely, and properly installed.

5.  Make a clean start.  Clean your old toilet before starting the removal of it.  That way, you are reaching into a toilet bowl that is as sanitary as it can be, because, even though the water is “clean” that enters the toilet, any residue lingering in the bowl from various bodily functions renders said water unclean.

6.  Sop and stop.  I have a weird thing about dirty sponges.  Sponges can harbor lots of bacteria and general funk.  While most tutorials I saw on toilet removal suggest sopping out the inevitable water remaining in the toilet bowl and tank with a sponge, we used microfiber cloths instead.  They absorb a lot of water, can be wrung out easily into a mop bucket, can should be thrown in your washer on the sanitary cycle afterwards, and can then be used for another dirty job at a later date.  If using a sponge, I’d be throwing it away after a single use, so using the microfiber cloths doesn’t seem to be as wasteful.

 Most people recommend shoving a rag in the sewer pipe to stop the sewer smells from emanating up from the floor after removing the old toilet and before installing the new one, especially if you aren’t installing a new one right away.  Since we were immediately installing a new toilet, we used a small section of wax paper to cover the sewer pipe temporarily instead of soiling a rag that I would want to burn immediately after its use as a sewer-plug. Bleh. {Doesn’t this look like one of those creepy deep ocean creatures BTW?}

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7.  Phone a friend.  Having a second person around to help you line up the toilet bowl on the bolts and wax seal is for the best so that you don’t mess  up the seal or miss the bolts and scratch your toilet.  This is difficult in a tight water closet, so finding a pint-sized person to do this job is a good idea.  Some people recommend using drinking straws to help you get the proper bolt-alignment, but we didn’t find this to be remotely necessary.  Maybe if you are doing the job alone this would be helpful, but it would have been overkill for us.

8.   Finger tight is just right.  Resist the temptation to over tighten the bolts.  No need to break the porcelain throne now that you’ve got it set down on the seal so nicely.

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9.  Keep a level head  handy.  You don’t want your toilet sealed and sitting sturdily, only to have a wobbly tank.IMG_3034

10.  Almost, but not quite. Caulk around most, but not all, of the toilet.  Leaving a little space at the back uncaulked will enable you to catch leaks as soon as they begin.  I would think this would be particularly good advice for upstairs bathrooms!
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A final thought: Make sure that the toilet seat you’ve chosen for your toilet (or the one that comes with the toilet you like), is comfortable enough…before you buy, preferably.  This may mean sitting on toilets in stores and feeling silly, but better to feel silly than to feel uncomfortable every time nature calls.  We love our toilets, but the seats are REALLY uncomfortable (there was no tester toilet available, womp womp).  They slope in dramatically and are made of this horribly hard plastic that is also lightweight and fragile-seeming, which we assume is so they can be the slow/quiet close kind.  I am desperately afraid of cracking our toilet lid, so no sitting or stepping on top of the toilet lid for any reason.  We may investigate other options for toilet seats down the road; for now, we are just glad to have new, pristine toilets that are working well, even if we are a bit bummed about the seats (pun intended).

We may also investigate a single/dual flush feature for additional water savings and a bidet sprayer attachment down the road–these are becoming increasingly popular we hear.  For now, we’re just glad that Toto isn’t in Kansas the bathroom anymore.IMG_3021

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