After moving into your new house, you could not be happier with the bathroom. The mirrors are shiny, the floor tiles are gleaming, and the showerhead is sure to make for a luxurious, spa-like experience. However, when you need to use the toilet for the first time, you can’t help but think that it requires the frame of an NBA player to reach the toilet paper.
How do you move a toilet closer to the wall? You move a toilet closer to the wall with the help of an offset flange. An offset flange is a special type of flange, which is the part to which the bottom of the toilet is mounted, connecting your toilet to the sewage outflow pipe.
An offset flange is a nifty plumbing accessory that makes it relatively easy to move a toilet a few inches in any direction, which should allow for satisfactory toilet placement. In the unlikely event that your toilet needs to be moved more than a few inches, a more extensive plumbing job would need to be performed, which would probably require a remodel of the bathroom.
What is a Flange, and What Does it Do?
It is important to understand how toilet flanges work in connecting a toilet to the sewage system before you will adequately be able to move your toilet using an offset flange.
Whether you use a septic tank or are connected to the city sewage system, there will be a pipe that extends from the sewage depository to your residence.
While a steel pipe is likely to be used in running the majority of the underground sewage, when this steel pipe system approaches your residence, a vertical PVC pipe may be connected to the main underground sewage pipes and extend vertically up to the location of your bathroom. There will be a hole in your bathroom floor, allowing this pipe to enter.
This pipe could theoretically connect directly to the bottom of your toilet, allowing waste to flow directly into the sewage system with each flush. However, the connection between the toilet and this vertical pipe would be tenuous, at best, with even the most minor shifts of the toilet or pipe causing leakage.
This is where the flange comes in.
A traditional flange will be shaped approximately like a funnel. It will have a large opening with a couple of openings for bolts that connect to the bottom of the toilet. Behind this wide opening, there will be a narrow piece of PVC pipe that connects to the main sewage pipe that extends up through the floor of your bathroom.
After snugly connecting the narrow end of the flange to the sewage pipe, a rubber gasket is placed around the circular opening to ensure that no water seeps out when flushing or that no sewer gasses escape through the bottom of the toilet.
The toilet is then placed over this circular opening created by the flange and snugged down until it fits firmly with the gasket. Once this takes place, bolts are used to tighten the toilet to the flange, not only making it so that no water seeps out when flushing, but also so that the toilet doesn’t rock when in use.
How to Move a Toilet Closer to the Wall Using an Offset Flange: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now that you understand the role of flanges, it is important to understand that a traditional flange will be of no use if you need to move your toilet. As traditional flanges extend vertically from the sewage pipe to the bottom of your toilet, replacing a traditional toilet flange with another traditional toilet flange will keep your toilet anchored firmly in the same place.
Luckily, offset toilet flanges were designed specifically to allow toilets to be moved several inches in any direction.
While traditional toilet flanges are shaped like a funnel, the wide mouth of an offset flange will open into a curved backing, making the piece look almost like a miniature tuba.
The back of the offset flange will connect to the sewage pipe, curve a few inches, and then open so that the piece allows the toilet to still sit squarely on the floor.
Let’s take a look at how to move your toilet closer to the wall using an offset flange.
Step One: Purchase the Correct Offset Flange
These are easy to find at any hardware or home improvement store. Remember, an offset flange will be shaped approximately like a miniature tuba, allowing your toilet to sit in a location that is not directly above the main drainage pipe.
Step Two: Line Your Bathroom Floor with Towels and Newspapers
This is where you will set the toilet as you work to install the offset flange so that it does not scratch or damage the bathroom floor in any way. It is also necessary so that any water that leaks out as the toilet is moved does not damage the floor or, at the very least, makes cleanup much easier after the toilet has been moved.
Step Three: Turn off the Water Supply to the Toilet
There is usually a valve that extends from the toilet’s posterior wall, either on the left or right side of the toilet. Turn this valve clockwise to shut off the water supply to the toilet.
While this step should make it so that there is no water running to your toilet, there is a chance you may need to completely shut off the water to your entire house in order to perform this repair.
Step Four: Empty the Water out of the Tank and Bowl
Flush the toilet. As the water supply is now shut off, the tank will empty its current fill of water into the bowl but will not refill once flushed. A second flush should drain most of the remaining water out of the bowl and down into the sewage pipe.
However, without any water pressure, it will not be possible to completely drain the bowl with these two flushes. You will then need to siphon out the remainder of the water. This can be done with a wet vac, a large towel, or a large sponge.
Step Five: Disconnect the Water Supply Hose
This hose runs between the previously mentioned water supply shutoff valve and the tank of the toilet. This is a smaller hose that is made of braided metal.
The hose attaches to the underside of the toilet tank. You will need to turn the hose counterclockwise against the coupling on the underside of the tank to loosen the hose. You can sometimes do this by hand, but a small pair of adjustable pliers or crescent wrench may be necessary to initially get the water supply hose loose.
Although the water supply has been shut off and the tank has been drained, there will be a small amount of residual water in this water supply hose. As the floor is already lined, it should not be a big deal if a little bit of water leaks out, but it is advisable to keep a small hand towel available for a quick cleanup, if necessary.
Step Six: Detach the Toilet from the Floor
At the base of the toilet, you will notice a couple of small plastic caps. These are aesthetic coverings that blend to the color of the toilet and hide the nuts and bolts that keep the toilet anchored. Pop these caps off by hand.
Once the nuts are revealed, you will need to use a socket wrench and turn them counterclockwise to loosen them from the bolts that anchor them to the flange. Remember, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey when tightening or loosening nuts and bolts.
After the nuts and washers are removed, set them off to the side for convenience. While the offset flange you purchased should come with its own set of nuts, bolts, and washers, you will want to be safe and make sure everything fits correctly before disposing of the old fasteners.
Now that the toilet is disconnected from the floor, you will need to lift the toilet straight off the bolts and move it to the newspapers or towels with which you previously lined the floor. Toilets typically weigh between 70 and 120 pounds, so you will want to make sure you have help handy if you’re not sure you can lift this amount.
The best way to lift a toilet by yourself is to straddle the bowl, bend your knees, and grip the bottom of the toilet between the bowl and the tank. Make sure you are using your leg muscles and not your lower back. This can be achieved by keeping your head up and back straight prior to attempting to lift the toilet.
Do not be alarmed if a small amount of water lakes out as you move the toilet. This is normal.
Once the toilet is moved, two vertical bolts will be revealed, extending up through the flange on the floor.
Step Seven: File Down the Sewer Pipe, if Necessary
While this step does not need to be performed if replacing traditional flanges with traditional flanges, it may be necessary when switching to an offset flange.
As offset flanges curve slightly, the backing that connects them to the sewer pipe needs to be a little longer to so that the flange and sewer pipe can fasten securely and not leak. This creates a situation in which the flange extends above the floor slightly.
Therefore, the sewage pipe may need to have a little length removed off the top before being attached to the offset flange.
If it is too difficult and time-consuming to file the outflow pipe by hand, there are electronic, drill-like files that can quickly shave off a little bit of length from the sewage pipe if this step is necessary.
Step Eight: Plug the Sewage Pipe with an Old Shirt or Towel
This is a necessary step so that sewage gases do not flow out of the pipe and into your house. It also protects against inadvertently dropping something into the drainage pipe.
Make sure the pipe is firmly stuffed so that none of the aforementioned takes place and that the shirt or towel does not get in the way of your work. However, you need to be careful not to jam it into the sewage pipe too snugly, making removal difficult once the new flange is ready to be installed.
Step Nine: Remove the Old Flange
Sometimes the old flange can simply be lifted off and removed. However, this is extremely unlikely, as the toilet is likely to have been sitting in the same place for a long time, and the bonds that held the sewage pipe to the flange and the flange to floor and toilet are likely to have become stronger over time.
When removing the old flange, a hammer and chisel may be necessary to get everything cleanly removed and the floor flush. However, if you do employ a chisel to help get the flange removed, be extra cautious that you do not do any damage to the main sewage outflow pipe.
Damaging the sewage pipe would lead to a major repair that would require the work of a professional.
Step Ten: Install the Offset Flange
After getting the old flange out of the way, you will want to remove the blockage from the sewage pipe and install the offset flange. There are a few steps you will need to perform to make sure this installation goes successfully:
- Positions the offset flange so that the bent end moves the flange opening closer to the wall. As you are trying to move your toilet closer to the wall, you will want to make sure the offset flange is positioned correctly
- Make sure the back of the offset flange connects snugly with the drainage pipe. Once you are sure that it does, add the rubber gasket to the connection, ensuring that everything is properly sealed and that no water can leak out of the bottom of the toilet
- Check to make sure that the opening of the flange is sitting flush and even against the bathroom floor
- Feed the toilet connecting bolts up through the openings of the flange. The threads should be pointing up and positioned so that the base of the toilet can fit over them
Step Eleven: Reattach the Toilet
Once the offset flange has been properly installed, the opening will be sitting several inches closer to the wall. You can then re-mount your toilet and get it back in running order via the following steps:
- Feed the bolts from the offset flange through the openings at the base of the toilet and place the toilet on the bathroom floor
- Add the washers to the bolts and screw the nuts in clockwise until snug, using a socket wrench to ensure the connection is fully secure
- Replace the plastic coverings over the nuts to blend with the base of the toilet
- Reattach the water supply hose to the back of the toilet’s tank
- Turn on the water supply to the toilet
Give the toilet a test flush and, voila, you once again have a flushing toilet–only a flushing toilet that now sits closer to the wall!
How Close Should a Toilet Be to the Wall?
The distance between a toilet and the wall will vary but will need to meet local building codes while also satisfying the tenant’s need for comfort and functionality. In addition, bathrooms designed for the disabled will have different standards than regular bathrooms.
Building codes require that the distance between a toilet and a finished wall, on either side, be at least 15 inches.
The distance is measured from the center of the toilet flange and not from the edge of the toilet. This is an important consideration when using an offset flange to move a toilet closer to the wall, as the distance from the center of the set flange to the wall cannot be less than 15 inches.
While we often think about how tightly we are squeezed in on either side when thinking about a toilet’s distance from the wall, there are also front and back walls that must be taken into consideration.
The center of the toilet flange must be at least 12 inches from the back wall, while the front of the toilet must be at least 21 inches from the front-facing wall, or whichever fixture is sitting in front of the toilet.
These distances outlined by building code are minimum distances. While the 12 inches from the back wall to the center of the toilet remains standard, the recommended distance from the center of the toilet flange to side walls is 18 inches and 30-36 inches from the front of the toilet to the opposite wall or fixture.
These recommended distances provide tenants with greater comfortability than the minimum distances set forth by code. In addition, ADA-compliant toilets use that same 18 inches as a requirement on either side, while increasing the open space in front of the toilet to at least 48 inches.
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