How to Replace a Toilet Seat the Quick and Easy Way

Is the seat on your porcelain throne in dire need of an upgrade? Follow these tips and tricks and you'll be sitting pretty in no time.

how to replace a toilet seat

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Although a porcelain throne can last for at least 15 years, the seat attached to it typically does not. The average toilet seat lasts just 5 to 7 years before it cracks, begins to shift noticeably (and uncomfortably) when you’re sitting on it, or becomes hopelessly stained. The difference in lifespan between toilet and seat means at some point you’ll have to replace the toilet seat with a new one. Luckily, changing out an old toilet seat is a relatively easy and inexpensive job that requires a few basic tools most DIYers have in their tool boxes. In this guide, we’ll detail how to remove a toilet seat and install a new one.

Before Removing a Toilet Seat

Protect yourself from germs and bacteria by giving the toilet seat and the rim around it a good cleaning before removing it. Once it’s clean, you can proceed to remove the seat by locating the two bolts that hold it to the bowl. They are often concealed by plastic covers. Pop open the covers, then locate the nuts on the underside of the bowl. These nuts are usually plastic and can be removed by hand. If the hardware is metal, use an adjustable wrench or socket wrench to remove them.

Measure Your Toilet Seat

Because toilets come in three different shapes—elongated, compact elongated, and round—you’ll need to measure the bowl to make sure you purchase the right toilet seat. Begin by measuring the distance between the two bolts at the rear of the seat. The standard width is 5-1/2 inches, but it can vary with certain toilets. Next, measure the width of the seat at its widest point. Finally, measure the length of the seat at its longest point (from the center point between the two bolts to the outermost lip).

If you have a standard toilet, a round bowl should have a length of 16-1/2 inches, while elongated bowls will be about 18 inches. A compact elongated seat will fall somewhere in the middle. Once you have the measurements, you can shop for the right size seat.

If you want to skip the measurements and don’t mind being the recipient of a few odd looks, you can also carry the old seat with you to the home improvement store to find a matching replacement. Just make sure you clean it first.

how to replace a toilet seat

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Choose a New Toilet Seat 

Although certainly not cutting edge, toilet seat design has witnessed a tide of innovation in recent years. So if you are planning to replace a toilet seat, especially if it’s been some time since you last perused the selection at your local home improvement center, keep an eye out for these key features:

Quiet closing: Gone are the days of toilet seats banging closed. You can now select a product with hinges designed to let the seat down gently.

Molded bumpers: The simple, no-nonsense advantage of molded-in-place bumpers? They prevent the seat from damaging the toilet, add stability to the seat, and reduce noise when closing the toilet lid.

Colors: Toilet seats now come in dozens of colors. One manufacturer, Bemis, offers a color selector tool to help homeowners navigate the field of available options.

Cleaning: The better the seat, the easier it is to remove for cleaning. Look for a product that can be taken off with nothing more than a screwdriver. There are also quick-release seats that allow for easy, tool-free removal so you can clean the seat and the area around the hinges.

Durability: Choose a toilet seat with stainless steel or zinc-plated hinge posts, which will neither snap nor corrode as they hold the toilet seat in place. Plastic seats are the most common. Although wood is more comfortable, plastic is more durable and easier to clean.

Versatility: For kids, there are “trainer” models that have built-in removable potty seats; for senior citizens, some toilet seat models feature side arms with slip-resistant grips.

Comfort: If you cringe at the thought of sitting on an ice-cold toilet seat in the wintertime, consider upgrading your toilet seat to a heated model.

Safety Considerations

There are no significant safety hazards associated with replacing a toilet seat; however, as mentioned above, it’s a good idea to give the toilet a good cleaning before starting the job. Consider wearing nitrile gloves to protect your hands from germs and bacteria.

how to replace a toilet seat

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Tips for Removing a Toilet Seat

Most of the time, removing an old toilet seat is a simple, though occasionally physically awkward, matter of holding the bolt in place as you turn the nut below it. That said, if your existing toilet seat fastens to the bowl by means of metal hardware, the dampness and humidity of the bathroom may have corroded the hinges, making the nuts tough to remove. If so, spray each nut with penetrating oil, such as WD-40, then wait 10 minutes and try again.

If the threads on the bolt are heavily corroded, no amount of penetrating oil will work. In that situation, bring out the big guns by using a drill to bore a hole into the bolt. Begin with a 1/16-inch bit and follow up with progressively larger bits. Next, grab your socket wrench or adjustable wrench and twist the nut until the bolt snaps off. Use this method at your own risk because applying too much lateral force to the bolt can potentially crack the bowl.

Given the location of the bolts at the back of the bowl, getting a wrench in position to work at a toilet seat’s hardware can be awkward, to say the least. Use a socket wrench with a deep well socket that can cover the long bolt while still reaching the nut. The socket wrench won’t slip off the nut, while the length of the long bolt and the angle of the wrench’s handle will allow you to turn the nut more easily.

To recap, here is how to remove an old toilet seat:

  • Use penetrating oil to loosen corroded nuts.
  • Use a socket wrench with a deep socket to get a better grip on the nut.
  • Break off heavily corroded bolts by drilling into them.

Once you’ve succeeded in removing the old toilet seat, proceed to install the new one.

Installing a New Toilet Seat

Different toilet seats require slightly different methods of installation. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to understand the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the product you have chosen.

One thing is certain: Today’s toilet seats are so easy to install that removing the old one is likely to be the most difficult step in the process.

Few tools are required because more often than not, it’s a simple matter of nuts and bolts. First, slide the bolts through the appropriate holes in the bowl. Then, with an adjustable wrench, apply torque to the nut situated beneath the bowl. The larger or more elongated the nut, the easier your job is going to be. Some toilet seat replacement kits may require the use of a tool specially designed for tight spaces.

Will these new easy-install toilet seat designs prove their durability over time? We’ll find out.

how to replace a toilet seat

Photo: istockphoto.com

FAQs About Replacing a Toilet Seat

If you’re wondering how often you should replace a toilet seat or how difficult the job is, read on for more information.

Q. Is it easy to replace a toilet seat?

Replacing a toilet seat is one of the easier DIY tasks you can take on. Many newer toilets and toilet seats are attached with plastic hand-tightened bolts that won’t corrode and don’t require tools for installation.

Q. How long does it take to replace a toilet seat?

If you don’t encounter stubborn nuts and bolts, toilet seat installation should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.

Q. Why should I replace my toilet seat?

While a toilet typically lasts at least 15 years, toilet seats last only about 5 to 7 years before they begin to crack or become stained to the point that, no matter how hard you scrub, they no longer appear clean. That’s when it’s time to consider replacement.

Q. When should I change the seat on my toilet?

While there are no expiration dates on toilet seats, it’s a good idea to change one out if it becomes cracked or stained, if the bolts become badly corroded, or if they become so worn that the toilet shifts easily from left to right when sitting on it.