Is it possible to remove tiles and plywood from a bathroom floor around the toilet without removing it? If so, how?

The floor is ceramic tiles over plywood over floorboards, in a 1st floor (one floor up from street level) flat/apartment. I'm trying to do as much as possible myself, before getting professionals in to retile and (presumably) remove and put back the toilet when needed.

  • 3
    Yes it is possible, but why make more work by leaving it in place? Remove 2 nuts and it's out of harms way.
    – ojait
    Jan 3 '16 at 16:45
  • Even if you successfully remove everything from around the toilet's drain flange, that flange is not going to benefit from having to support the unbalanced weight of a toilet.
    – JS.
    Jan 5 '16 at 23:06

Anything is possible, but this falls under the Why On Earth Would You category.

Removing and reinstalling a toilet is a fairly simple job for even a novice DIYer. Don't let that intimidate you into making your project far more difficult than it needs to be.

Without knowing the details, here's a basic outline:

  1. Close the water supply valve at the wall.
  2. Flush the toilet to (mostly) empty it. Wet/dry vac the remaining water out of both the bowl and the tank (if convenient).
  3. Detach the water supply at the underside of the tank. It's likely either a hex nut or a plastic wingnut. Be gentle. This stuff isn't cast iron.
  4. Remove the caps for the base mounting bolts (2 or 4), and then remove the nuts.
  5. Cut any caulk present against the floor with a utility knife.
  6. Wiggle and twist the toilet until it loosens, then carry it out. Optionally detach the tank for easier carrying.

Reinstallation is basically the reverse, but there's the wax ring to deal with. Do a bit of reading here and elsewhere for tips on that.

  • 2
    #6 should say "Optionally detach the tank and carry it out separately, unless you're really trying to screw up your back so you can have the rest of this project done by someone else while you drink beer and complain about how much pain your slipped disk is causing you". Don't ask me how I know... :-) Jan 4 '16 at 3:30
  • 1
    To follow on from @BobJarvis, add to #6 "Don't pull up on the tank with all your strength. If you do and the tank fractures, DO NOT use the shards that remain bolted to the lower bowl like a handle to get more leverage". Been there, done that, drove friend to the ER.
    – Ed Griebel
    Jan 6 '16 at 19:16

Short answer: No

If the tile was originally installed properly it goes under the toilet and the toilet flange sits on top of it.

If the bathroom was re-tiled around the toilet in-place it may be possible to tear it out but then it should be re-tiled properly. You should be able to tell by looking at it if the tile goes under the toilet or not. If someone caulked around it you could remove the caulk to inspect it.


Do it right. The toilet is the LAST thing to install after a floor is replaced. Bite the DIY bullet and save time plus energy.


The real issue may be how to do as much work as possible while still having a working toilet. All the answers above are great - just remove the toilet, remove the tile and plywood underneath, then reinstall the toilet. (you will likely have to buy a new wax ring.) You may need to cut a spacer out of scrap plywood to go under the toilet to take the place of the tile and plywood that was removed so the toilet is at the same level as it was before the floor was removed.

One possible concern is that if more flooring (thickness) is being removed than is being reinstalled (e.g. you are removing tile and plywood and replacing it with just tile) the toilet fitting may have to be adjusted to the new height. You should probably check with your tile installers to confirm they can make any adjustment so you don't have to hire a plumber.

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