How To Replace Your Own Marine Toilet

March 2016 Web Exclusive

 Here’s your fun fact for the day—replacing an electric marine toilet is not that tricky when the project is planned out and everything is carefully measured. Thetford Marine, one of the innovative leaders in marine sanitation, offers tips for the do-it-yourself houseboater ready to tackle replacing their head:

Peace-of-mind comes from the knowledge that a vessel's plumbing system has been thoroughly overhauled, and broken or old equipment replaced. Not only does pride of ownership show, but a gleaming, new marine toilet adds value to the boat.

It's a dirty, unavoidable step, but the results are well worth it. Remove the old fixture, valves and hoses. Because they've been in contact with raw sewage, it's best to protect oneself by wearing gloves, safety eyewear and a dust mask when handling.

After removing the old equipment, check the flooring. While rare, if there's sign of deterioration, it's best to rebuild the foundation.

The new toilet should be installed on a water-resistant base that is at least 3/4" thick, including the backing. The floor should be level and strong enough to securely anchor the unit. A sheet of marine-grade, high-density polyethylene, such as StarBoard, is ideal for covering holes and rust marks. Edges can be routed for a finished look.

Fit really matters on a boat. Select a location for the replacement toilet that offers sufficient space to sit and provides adequate room for maintenance. Check that the seat and lid have clearance to stay upright, and that doors and cabinets won't be blocked. If the head is extremely small, the door swing can be reversed or a bi-fold added.

Modern toilets, like the Tecma Nano and Compass Short from Thetford Marine, offer surprising comfort in a small, adaptable size. Other larger models have the same dimensions as a standard residential unit. The company offers over 17 models from which to choose.

With older marine sanitation devices, owners needed to find space to externally accommodate a vacuum pump or macerator. With a modern Tecma toilet, everything is self-contained, making installation easy.

Use the supplied template to drill the mounting holes. Make a pilot hole first, coming back with a larger-sized bit to ensure the gelcoat doesn't crack. Applying a layer of tape will help protect the finish. Seal the original holes.

This is a good time to inspect and replace any questionable hosing, valves, fittings or clamps. Unpleasant odors can often be attributed to a cracked discharge tube, leaking part or permeated hose from salt water flushing.

Bolt the toilet to the floor using stainless steel hardware. After all attachments are made, a quality silicone around the base will provide a finished look.

Once the water hook up and discharge hoses are connected, the electrical connection to the macerator is made. If an external unit was used previously, it can be bypassed and new wires pulled.

If replacing a manual toilet, a new separate power connection needs to be made to a battery source or proper-sized circuit breaker. It's not advised to use wiring that feeds the lighting.

Replacing the control panel is a matter of either swapping-out the flush button or installing it new. This is then connected to the toilet wiring, typically behind a bulkhead. Use heat shrink connectors to prevent corrosion. And there you have it, a DIY head project successfully completed!

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