Bathroom DIY Projects: replacing your old worn out toilet with a shiny new one!

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Old and broken.

We have all said it, “I can fix that”.  We, at one point or another, have also made the claim, “It shouldn’t take me very long”.  Never say that EVER!  Inevitably, it will take forever and you will make three times as many trips to whatever store you need to go to for parts and whatnot.  Since we purchased our rig, we have had and continue to have grand plans on updating, replacing, and painting everything.  The bathroom was one we kind of put off because, well, it was the bathroom and no one except us really use it and everything works so why not just leave it for now.  Fast forward now, to a slightly damp and stained carpet in the bathroom.  It seems we had developed a small, but continuous leak in our fancy RV toilet.  The seal had given way and not only would it not hold water in the tank, but it also was leaking out onto the floor.  Sure, we could have tried to just replace the seal, but what fun is that.  It was at this point when both my wife and I uttered the fatal words mentioned above; this is where our story begins.

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Bathroom Bandit?

When the realization of changing out the toilet was unavoidable, we researched a few models that we liked and made sure the measurements would fit in the space we had available.  That point alone, measuring to make sure what you buy will fit your space, is very important; not only the length and width of the toilet, but also the height of the seat itself.  There are so many options out there, high profile, low profile, the material it is made out of, where the flusher is, additional spray, and the list goes on.  Take your time and make sure you find what will work best for you and your home.   We found our toilet on Amazon and we had our order within a few days of the purchase.  I took it out of the box and the first thing that struck me was the unbelievable feather-like weight of the toilet.  It was like holding air in my hands.  It is an odd thing to get such pleasure from a bathroom product, but hey, I was pretty excited.  That would be the second point to make, inspect your product before you put it in just in case something is missing or even broken.  Fortunately for us, everything was there and there was nothing that was broken.  However, we did not realize that the supply hose that connects the PVC coming into the RV to the actual toilet was not included in the package.  So, there was one thing we had to go to the local home improvement store to get.  There would be more as the project continued.

The massive task of removing the old toilet now loomed.  Well, admittedly, the task was not really that massive, but setting the stage with drama sounded good.  Before you even think about undoing the nuts and pulling the toilet off, please remember to first turn off the outside water supply and disconnect the toilet from the RV water supply in the RV.  I cannot imagine someone forgetting to turn off the water before undertaking this task, but, I thought I would remind you anyway.  In truth, there are only two nuts and bolts holding it all down.  One was fairly easy to get to and undo, it was located just inside the step pedal that we used to flush the toilet.

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It is so dark in there.

After wiggling my way into position on the small floor of the extra small bathroom, I was able to get my wrench inside and work the nut loose enough to slowly take it off with my fingers.  A small sense of accomplishment now swelled inside.  That feeling was very quickly deflated when I tried to figure out how the heck to get to the back nut which still held the toilet in place.  There is an access point under the lid, but let’s be real here, unless you have the hands of a mouse or a very bendy wrench, there is no way you are going to reach the nut from above.

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Seriously, how is that even possible?

After trying, and failing, several different methods to reach the nut from that above position, we finally gave in and took to Google and YouTube for the answers.  Typically, this is the easy way to figure out things you have no idea how to do.  This was not one of those times.  We looked at many videos that showed how to remove the toilet, however, they inevitably skipped the part when they removed the actual nuts and the toilet is magically removed and everything is fine.  These were providing no help or guidance what-so-ever.  I returned into my contortionist form and wedged myself back into the bathroom to try again.  During one of my many pauses to curse the creator of this access point and location of the damned nut, my wife finally found something of use.  There was, apparently, an opening behind the toilet that you could get the wrench inside and work free the nut.  Let me again say, the bathroom is REALLY small and there is just inches between the back of the toilet and the bathroom back wall.

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Once again, I wedged myself even further into the back of the toilet area an between the blind feeling around with my hands and just blind luck, I was able to connect the wrench to the nut and get it loose enough to undo it with my fingers.  Here is a minor tip for this portion of your project; wear gloves while digging around the insides of your toilet.  This is especially true if it has been leaking because there is no telling what “fun” very old liquid type stuff you may find down there.  Now that the water has been disconnected and the nuts are off, the toilet easily lifted from the mount and the swelling of pride and accomplishment returned with a rush.  At this point, feel free to pose with your conquered game and claim ownership of your kill; I did and it felt great.

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The old toilet is no more!

All that remained was to put the new toilet in, tighten it down, connect the water supply, and BAM! We have a new bathroom.  This is where the several trips to the home improvement store come into play.  First, the new toilet did not come with the supply hose needed to connect the water so it all works properly.  Second, we had already thrown out the old toilet; which probably had the hose and correct fitting size still on it  You may not want to keep the old probably really gross hose from the old toilet, but it may be a good idea to hold on to it for size and length references.  Here were the obstacles we had to overcome if this was to be a completed bathroom project.  First, the old toilet has the water connection at the bottom of the base so it was an easy connection.  The new one had the supply connection higher up so I needed a longer hose to reach.  Second, because of how the PVC came up through the floor at an angle, I had to get a connector so the hose I still had to buy was not twisted and bent to reach the toilet.  Third, I do not do this very often so my judge of what size the PVC was was not so good.  Off to Lowes I went with family in tow, because when fixing a toilet in your RV, it is a family event.  For anyone who does not think or believe that it is possible to spend an hour or possibly more in only two isles in Lowes, you would be incorrect.  I can only imagine what we looked like as we combed through each box of connectors, picked up and almost bought just about all of the water supply hoses, and generally looked completely lost in our attempt to buy what we needed to complete the job.  This is where having the old pieces to help figure out how the connectors and hoses fit correctly together would be AWESOME!  Sadly, we did not have those pieces and were trying to guess our way through it.  Finally, help arrived via a sales associate.  Unfortunately, this particular associate had no idea how to help us so he referred us to the guru of bathroom plumbing and fixit lady who he guaranteed could help us.  The only thing more amusing than watching us walk around miserably trying to find the parts on our own was watching me try to explain our plumbing situation in the RV bathroom to someone who must have thought I was a crazy person.  She was really nice though and did her best to get us the pieces we needed.

We sort of kind of confidently drive back to Floki so I can fix the toilet for good.  I get into the twisted position needed to reach and be able to somewhat see the pipes and back of the toilet.  Guess what, we got the wrong size and the hose was WAY too long and a handful of totally other wrong things that now made me get back in the car and drive back to Lowes.  This time, however, I had the extra bonus of the correct sizes and length needed to get exactly what I needed; which is what I should have done in the first place.  Second trip to Lowes was successful and I returned home ready to finally finish the work.  Within about ten minutes, I had the pieces in and everything connected.  We turned the water on and SUCCESS!  No water leaks from any of the connections or from the hose or from the toilet itself and the bowl actually held the water like it was supposed to do.

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Mission accomplished.

I cannot even begin to express the sense of accomplishment I felt when the water came back on and the toilet was finished.  It is really exciting to figure out how to do things on your own and, even though it was only a toilet, it is still good to add another trade to the ever growing arsenal of DIY capabilities.  No matter what the task, no matter how difficult or easy the project may be, and no matter what skill level you think you may have research what you’re doing, use YOUTUBE and Google to its fullest, and do not be afraid to ask for help.  It’s your RV so make it your own by doing as much of the work as you can yourself.  Good luck and happy remodeling on your next project.