How to Remove a Toilet Flange
Last Updated on August 6, 2023 by toilethaven
A toilet flange, also known as a closet flange, is a circular pipe fitting that connects the toilet to the drainpipe and anchors it firmly on the floor. Removing and replacing a toilet flange is a simple task that you can comfortably do without calling a plumber.
A toilet flange will be made of PVC, ABS, or cast iron. Modern buildings are installed with PVC drainpipes, while old buildings have cast iron drainpipes.
The problem with cast iron drainpipes is that they become corroded and weak, making it impossible to form a water-tight seal with the flange. With time, you will notice the toilet leaking either on the floor on inside the floor, making the building dump.
To remove a toilet flange, pull out the toilet and place it aside. Use a screwdriver to remove the flange screws, then pull it out after tapping it gently with a hammer. If you have a glued-in or old and corroded cast-iron flange, you will need to cut out sections of it using a reciprocating saw and then chisel it out.
Toilet flanges can be glued in or not. In instances when they are not glued in, they expand inside the drain line. If a toilet flange is glued-in, it will need to be cut in small portions and then chiseled out when being removed.
In order to remove a glued-in toilet flange, start by cutting off the lip of the flange using a saw. Next, use a reciprocated saw to cut out vertical sections of the flange, then chisel them out. Have a rug in the drain to prevent dropping anything inside.
So when should you remove and replace your toilet flange?
- When you have a wobbly/rocking toilet – When you sit on your toilet and notice it’s rocking about, it may be time to replace the toilet flange, which is most likely broken. It is, however, not every time that the toilet rocks that you need to replace the flange. Sometimes it’s just a matter of loose toilet bolts.
- When the flange is too high – The toilet flange should ideally be ¼ inch above the finished floor. If it is installed incorrectly, it might be too high. After some time, the toilet will start to wobble, which will, in turn, break the wax seal resulting in a leaking toilet.
- When you have a leaking toilet – When you notice water pooling around the base of the toilet or a leak from the basement sealing, you have a problem with your toilet flange or wax ring, or even both.
Choosing the Right Toilet Flange
While replacing your toilet flange, you want to make sure you buy a good replacement. Most importantly, make sure that it will fit in your drainpipe. A toilet flange sleeve will either be inserted inside or over the drainpipe.
Modern houses have a 3 or 4-inch drainpipe, but you will surely find odd sizes of drainpipes in old buildings. The standard size of a drainpipe is 4 X 3. This means that the top of the flange is 4 inches while the bottom is 3 inches.
If your toilet drainpipe has a 10 or 14 rough-in and you want to install a modern 12-inch rough-in toilet, you may want to install an offset toilet flange.
An offset toilet flange allows you to install the toilet closer or further from the wall by 2 inches. You may also choose to rotate your toilet as you want.
How to Remove a Toilet Flange
The first thing you are going to do is gather all the materials you will need. Here they are:
- An adjustable wrench
- Reciprocating saw
- Rubber gloves
- Mini-hacksaw (optional)
- Putty knife
- Wood chisel
- Rag/old towel
- Emery cloth
Step 1: Drain the Toilet Tank and Bowl
- Turn off the water to the toilet. Look for a shut-off valve on the wall behind the toilet. Turn the valve clockwise, and if you have a push/pull valve, pull it all the way out.
- Flush the toilet and hold the flushing handle down to remove as much water as possible.
- Lift off the tank lid and place it in a safe place where it cannot fall off and break.
- Using the sponge, soak up the little water left at the bottom of the tank and squeeze it into the bowl.
- With a plunger or toilet brush, force the water at the bottom of the bowl down the drain.
- Some water will still be left in the bowl. Use the sponge to soak it up until the bowl is dry. Remember, if you don’t remove this water, it will spill all over your bathroom once you remove the toilet.
- Disconnect the water supply line from the tank. Loosen the supply coupling with your hand and not a wrench. A wrench may deform it. Only gently use a wrench if it is too tight.
Step 2: Remove the Toilet
- On each side of the toilet bowl, you will find 2 bolts. Sometimes the bolts are covered with plastic caps. Pry off the caps with the screwdriver.
- With the adjustable wrench, loosen the 2 toilet bolts and remove the nuts.
- Sometimes the bolts and nuts are so corroded and tight that they just won’t come off. Use a mini-hacksaw to cut off the nuts being careful not to cut the porcelain. If the space is too tight to use a hacksaw, remove the blade and use it alone.
- Hold the toilet on both sides and rock it about to break the wax ring seal.
- When the toilet is loose, lift it off and place it gently on some newspapers.
- Stuff the rag or towel in the drainpipe below the toilet flange sleeve. This will prevent sewer gases from coming up into your bathroom and also catch all the loose chippings so that they don’t clog the drains or sewer lines.
- Scrape off the old wax from the top of the flange using a putty knife. Go ahead and remove the wax ring from the toilet outlet and trash it. You will need to buy another wax ring since a wax ring cannot be reused. Rubber gasket seals are a decent toilet wax ring alternative.
Step 3: How to Remove the Toilet Flange
- The flange is screwed to the floor using 4 screws. Use the screwdriver to remove the screws.
- Position the reciprocating saw flush off the floor and cut off the top part of the flange.
- Use the saw to make vertical cuts around the toilet flange sleeve. Position the saw as vertically as possible to avoid cutting the drainpipe.
- Place the chisel where the flange sleeve meets the drainpipe and give it gentle taps. Several pieces of the flange sleeve will fall on top of the rag in the drainpipe.
- Remove all the flange pieces.
- Use an emery cloth to smooth the inside of the drainpipe.
- While installing the toilet, don’t forget to remove the rag.
And that is how to remove a toilet flange. Sometimes you may not have all the tools required to remove the toilet flange. You may therefore need to improvise where it is applicable. For instance, you can use a normal saw to cut off the top part of the flange. You can also use a Dremel tool instead.