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Cutting Tile around a Toilet Flange — Ruby Construction LLC

Cutting Tile around a Toilet Flange

by Owen Sechrist

If you're laying a tile floor in a bathroom for the first time you might be stymied as to how you cut the tile around the toilet flange.  All marks on the tile should be made with something that won't dissolve in water right away, I usually use a medium sized Sharpie.

Step 1:  Lay your tile that is going to go around the flange in place and make marks on the edge of the tile just outside where the edge of the flange meets the tile.

Step 2:  If you got an "A" in geometry and you haven't been drinking beer all afternoon sketch out the portion of the circle you need to cut on the tile.  If you stank at geometry or you're on your third tumbler of scotch find something from the kitchen that has a little larger diameter than your toilet flange to trace around. (Important note:  do not leave permanent magic marker around the edge of your best china unless you're single or wish to become so.)

Step 3:  With your wet saw, begin making straight cuts into the tile ending at your magic marker line.  Make the cuts about a quarter inch apart.  When you get to the line carefully, firmly and slowly tilt the forward edge of the tile up in the air until the cut runs straight through from top to bottom.  Keep your hands well clear of the blade!



Step 4: The pieces between the cuts should easily break away from the tile, holding the tile at an angle gently move the tile back and forth so that the saw blade cleans and rough edges sticking out.

Step5:  Set the tile and repeat the process with the next tile around the flange.

A note on the proper height:  plumbing codes require that the top surface of the flange be level with the top edge of your flooring.  In some cases you may find it hard to accomplish this.  If the flange is a little low you can use a jumbo wax ring to make up the difference.  If the flange is sitting higher than your tile it has to be lower than the bottom of the toilet that is sitting over top of it while still allowing some space for the wax ring to form a seal!!  Lay a straight edge across the bottom of the toilet and measure to the lip on the toilet drain opening to make sure a raised flange will work.

As a side note if the hole happens to land inside a full tile you will want to measure the distance to the center of the flange off two other tiles and mark that center point on your tile to be cut (don't forget to subtract the width of the grout joints!).  Now trace or mark your circle with a compass.  Determine which edge of the tile will not be seen once the toilet is installed.  Starting on that edge make two cuts that intersect with the edges of your circle, and repeat the above method between the cuts.  See helpful diagram below:

tile-diagram

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick April 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

This is the first website that has explained what to do if there is an entire tile covering the entire toilet flange. Your explanation is so super simple, it made perfect sense. To all of those other DIY websites, please follow Owen’s example and provide a simple text explanation along with your pictures/videos.

Thank you so much Owen.

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Owen Sechrist May 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Glad I could be of help Patrick.

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Terry May 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm

HA! Hilarious and helpful at the same time. I’m actually working with mosaic tile, which is very awkward, but I’m up for the challenge. Thanks so much for the advice.

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Owen Sechrist May 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Thanks Terry, email or call if you’re struggling.

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Marine for life September 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

Awesome explanation! You made this so easy to follow. I was going to hire somebody to tile our bathroom just because of the crazy toilet. Now it’s ON!

Thanks

Semper Fi!

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Owen Sechrist October 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Thank you, and good luck with your floor!

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Nick September 29, 2012 at 3:18 am

Redoing an old bathroom floor and I’m thinking I should replace the closet flange but wondering if it’s really necessary to do so??? Should I, at the very least, take it out and reinstall it once I get the tiling finished?

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Owen Sechrist October 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Hi Nick, sorry for the delayed response on this.

It depends on the condition of the flange and the material of the piping. While it’s very easy to cut off a PVC pipe in a first floor bath and then couple a new riser and flange, it’s not so easy to accomplish if your pipe is cast iron.

If it is cast you can use a fernco fitting to attach a new PVC riser and then glue a new flange on. Cutting off the cast iron pipe is not so easy though, it takes a good bit of muscle aching time with a sawzaw and cast iron blade, and if your access to the pipe is poor it goes from mildly torturous to much worse.

If the existing flange won’t be sticking up above the tile and doesn’t have any significant deterioration I would suggest leaving it in.

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Verne Giddings September 30, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I recently cut a hole in the center of a 13″ tile for the toilet flange using an angle grinder with adiamond tile blade. I worked slowly around the drawn circle about a 1/4″ inside the line. Once the center dropped out I cleaned up the edge with the tile blade parallel with the tile surface. It fit beautifully and I still have a complete tile under the toilet, with the exception of the hole.

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Owen Sechrist October 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Hi Verne,

I agree that is an excellent method and very doable, I didn’t include that type of explanation because I consider it to be more difficult to do for the average DIY. Even when my hole is on the edge of a tile I often use that method to mark the pencil line and then cut the partial hole on the wet saw.

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maria November 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Thank you. This was a great explanation. I’ve tiled a bathroom before but had help with the toilet part. Now I’m on my own and didn’t want to hire installers because I didn’t know how to do this part. On another web post they said to – drill the bolt holes in the respective tiles with a variable speed drill fitted with a carbide-tipped tile boring bit. I don’t remember doing this the last time. Can you explain? Also, what exactly is the flange? Thanks. Great sense of humor.

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Owen Sechrist December 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Hi Maria, sorry for the delayed response on this.

The flange is the piece that connects to the waste pipe (a 3 or 4 inch pipe) and then interfaces with the bottom of the toilet with a seal (usually a wax ring shaped like an oversized doughnut) in between. The top of the flange is about 7 inches across and has a flat ring that you screw into the floor, as well as slots that accept your toilet bolts.

toilet flange<br />

You should not need to drill any holes in the tile. My guess is that on the other website they were (improperly) instructing you to install the flange on top of the tile, and if you did that you would need to make holes in the tile to screw the flange to the subfloor.

All plumbing codes that I’m aware of require the top of the flange to be flush with the finished floor surface.

There is no reason to run the tile underneath the flange. The flange should be mounted to the subfloor or can be spaced up off the subfloor using a plastic spacer or plywood spacer and then the tile gets cut around that 7 inch diameter flange.

The reality is that if the flange sticks up a small amount, say 1/4 to 3/8 inch there will still be room with most toilets to set over the flange. If you flip a toilet upside down and lay a straight edge across the bottom of the toilet, then measure from the straight edge to the recessed area where the toilet drains it will almost always exceed 1/2 inch, and most toilets will have a good bit more depth.

It is also not critical for the flange to be as high as the finished floor. By using a jumbo sized wax ring or stacking multiple wax rings you can make up for the extra depth.

What IS CRITICAL is that there is space in between the toilet and the flange and that a wax ring be smushed in between completely sealing the bottom of the toilet to the flange.

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Brandi C Hegerty November 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Owen, your funny and I just showed my hubby your diagram, and that he had to wait to have a beer! Thanks for the easy instructions. I can’t wait to see our finished bathroom. Even us ladies can do this! Brandi

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Owen Sechrist December 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Thanks Brandi, I hope your project turned out well. And hopefully your hubby wasn’t too upset with the restrictions. :-)

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Gregory December 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for the tip..I have been wanting to install a tile floor in my truck sleeper. The toilet is under a Murphy bed, the area is only 3feet x 2 feet but i cant raise the toilet at all to put tile under it.Because of your simple guide and great pics I feel better about trying to lay down some tile for the very first time.

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Owen Sechrist December 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Glad to hear Gregory…..where there’s will there’s a way!

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denny January 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm

This was exactly what I needed to know and see. The beer will help me celebrate my victory! Thanks!

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Tim January 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Excellent article! The humor makes what has been an intimidating job appear to be possible.

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mark May 1, 2013 at 2:24 am

Thank you for the wonderful information. The last tip was what I needed.
Great job

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Matt June 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Awesome info. Great description of how to go about this. Love the diagram (I’ll wait on the beer!).

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Owen Sechrist June 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Thanks Matt,

Best of luck on your project!

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Melanie July 5, 2013 at 3:07 am

Thank you so much. My mom and I watched a couple of videos doing it with an angle grinder–which looks super easy on the video but I seriously doubt is in reality. This way on the wet saw was how she was thinking it should be done… and your post confirmed it– with our toilet v. tile location, this worked perfectly. Floor is mortared in and drying now and looking awesome.

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Owen Sechrist July 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Glad everything worked out well for you and Mom!

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Bill July 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

If you had to err, is it better to have the tile floor slightly above, or slightly below the top of the flange? My flange is very simple 1950′s era cast iron and could withstand a prolonged mortar barrage followed by a an assault from a Bradley tank.

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Owen Sechrist July 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Hi Bill,

It’s safer to have the flange too low than too high. However, if you’re confident it won’t be sticking up more than 3/8 to 1/2 inch tops, that isn’t a problem at all. If the flange is low be sure to use a jumbo sided wax ring or stack two regular wax rings on top of each other.

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don berry July 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I am reading thru the how to and when I came to your diagram I actually laughed out loud. Hilarious……no beer until u are done……love it

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vince January 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm

How do I cut a hole in an existing tile floor to set a toilet. I am shortening the room length in order to create a pantry and therefor the toilet will be related aprox. 4′ away from its present location. I am trying to avoid removing the tile in that area.

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