Toilets have a lot of moving parts and these parts get used quite a bit so guess what? Toilets need more repair than most other things in your home. This makes learning how to do your own toilet repairs, like replacing the toilet seat, more practical as you'll learn skills you'll use multiple times.
These projects might take extra time as you learn what to do. The benefit comes when you find yourself doing the same repair a few years later. Handling these minor home repairs will also save you time and money. For example, the biggest challenge to replacing a toilet seat is … buying the new seat. As you tackle small toilet repair tasks will get easier.
Learning How to Change a Toilet Seat
There are many books for plumbing do-it-yourself. If you're planning to tackle minor home repairs, make sure to get a home repair book with lots of photos plus step-by-step instructions and diagrams to help you complete the repairs if not easily, at least successfully.
My favorite home repair book, one I've been using since I opened my handyman business years ago, is Creative Homeowner's Ultimate Guide to Home Repair and Improvement, Updated Edition with 3,400 photos & illustrations. This book covers the most common home repairs but if you want to dig deeper, I've got recommended books for plumbing, home electrical wiring and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
As you complete more repairs, it will get easier and things will go more smoothly. Don't be surprised or embarrassed when it doesn't work out and you still have to call a handyman. It happens all the time.
Deciding Which Home Repairs to Tackle Yourself
Unless your parents enjoyed fixing things around the house, you probably don't know what repairs are worth trying yourself versus calling for help. Here are general recommendations to help you decide what you want to do personally versus those jobs where it pays to call a home professional.
- Will you need (and want) to do this job more than once as a home owner?
- Are the required tools affordable, and even better, useful for many different jobs?
- Are the materials needed easy to find? Are the materials and/or products inexpensive so buying a second or third product when the first installation doesn't go smoothly is affordable?
- Can the job be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time? For instance, replacing a toilet seat will take a handyman or plumber between 10 and 15 minutes while it might take you several hours the first time, i.e. when you buy the wrong shape seat and need to make a second trip to the store.
Replacing a Toilet Seat
Replacing a toilet seat isn't difficult, but it's not intuitive either so you're better off setting aside a 2 hour time slot and hopefully you'll finish faster and feel successful. It's when you don't allow enough time and rush, that you run into problems and end up taking more time to redo some/all of the work.
- Buy a new toilet seat the right size and color. To be safe, make a template of your current seat and take it to the store as there are long, oblong seats and short, round ones and …
- Inspect the hardware used to attach the seat to your toilet. You'll find either a real (metal) screw, nut and possibly a washer. Newer toilets have a plastic screw and nut (no washer).
- If the nut underneath doesn't have wings to hold onto to prevent the screw from spinning, you'll need a wrench to hold the nut in place.
- From the top, you'll unscrew (counter clockwise) the screw while holding the nut in place. Be careful to catch the nut and washer when they come off so you can reuse them.
- Remove the old toilet seat and lay the new one in place.
- Put the screws down through the holes and screw by hand until the nut is secure. Then use your wrench to hold the nut firm, and finish screwing with the screwdriver from the top.
Hopefully you're looking at your home repair book while you're replacing your toilet seat, with pictures for all/most of the steps involved. You might run into problems through no fault of your own, which is especially true with plumbing where it's safer to leave time for solving an unplanned problem. For example, with metal screws they can rust in place making it difficult to remove them. You can try using penetrating oil to help loosen the screws. It gets really tricky here as a slip of the wrench, even a small one, might be enough to crack the toilet which would mean buying a new one.
If you are unsuccessful loosening the screw(s), then you need a hacksaw to cut off the screws. If you already know how to do this great, and if not then it's probably time to call for help. A handyman will complete the job quickly. Ask them to use plastic screws so next time, you can replace the toilet seat yourself.