The Leaky Toilet: Part 4
The toilet flange and wax ring: This is one of nightmares. You flush the toilet and water, at least you hope it is water starts oozing from underneath the toilet and out over the floor. The smell of sewage is potent in the air. These are both signs of issues with the wax ring and the toilet flange connection. A couple of things could have happened. The toilet was never seated properly or just as with all things, over time things start to sag and pull away. If this happens to you, and you need to replace the wax ring, I suggest if your toilet is over 5 years old and you never replaced any of the parts, this is going to be a good time to that because we are going to be taking the toilet apart anyway. Also, unless you just absolutely hate the toilet, replacing the wax ring doesn’t mean you have to replace the entire toilet. But it could just be me.
So again we will shut of the water either at the shut off in the bathroom or at the main. You will want to drain the tank into a bucket (but have a couple of the small sized ones near by and a lot of towels. Once you have the tank emptied, you can take off the bolts and take the tank completely off the toilet and set it aside or in the bath tub. Next if you have one of those big sponges you can get from the hardware store or the home centers for tiling, use that to soak up the water in the bowl. Strain it out into the sink or the bathtub. Once you have as much water out of the bowl as you can get, you’re ready to loosen the floor bolts. While you’re loosening the floor bolts check to see if your toilet has been caulked at the bottom. I’ll bet that if found a leak from the upstairs bathroom because of some disgusting looking water dripping from the ceiling, it is caulked. More on that later.
Once you have the bolts loosened, if there is caulking around the base of the toilet, take a painter’s tool (one of my favorite and must have tools in every tool bag), and use it to remove the caulking from the toilet and floor. Now by giving the toilet bowl a couple of shoves you should be able to make the toilet wobble. Just give it a couple of gentle tugs upward and the toilet should come loose. Place a towel on the floor near by, and lift the toilet up just a bit, you’ll probably hear a little more water in the bottom, tilt the toilet back and let the water go down the waste line and then put the toilet upside-down on the towel. Stuff the waste line with an old towel or rag, you don’t want to be breathing in the sewage smell for very long. Now with either the painter’s tool or an old putty knife, scrape up the wax ring from off the flange. There is a black piece to the wax ring that goes into the flange, make sure you remove that as well. Check the toilet and make sure there is no residual wax on the toilet part. Take out the new wax ring and place it on the toilet over the hole in the bottom. Press down gently, just enough to get the wax to stick to the porcelain. Now you’re ready to put the toilet back on. Important: Remove the rags from the waste line now… don’t laugh, I hear it happens to some people and the mess is not funny.
The tricky part here is lining up the bolts, if possible, you don’t want the bolts to go through the wax. Once you have the bolts through, use your body weight to evenly press the wax ring down. Use a level to make sure you’re not leaning one way or the other. You can test your seal by adding water directly into the bowl. And then with another gallon or so of water from a bucket you can make it flush. If you see water you need to try again. If not continue to put the rest of the toilet back together.
Some things to consider with this type of leak coming from under the toilet are: Location, upstairs or downstairs, what type of damage and how far did the water travel. The reason to consider these is because even by solving the issue of the wax seal, there may be more serious repairs needed. These include, water damage to drywall, studs, and electrical fixtures to name a few.
So now you have the toilet back together and there are no leaks. Now you have a decision to make. This decision depending on who ask is of the upmost importance when it comes to finishing off your toilet. Caulk. That is right, to caulk or not to caulk, that is the question. You see if you don’t caulk around the base of the toilet you’ll most likely see a gap at the floor where the toilet meets it. If do caulk it, well you won’t have that particular problem. If you have a leak in the wax ring again though, you may not find out about it until the water travels somewhere else, because that caulking does what it supposed to do and keeps the water from getting through. So here is my recommendation, and believe me this is just one of many out there, so please take it with a grain of salt. I recommend not caulking the base of the toilet. I would rather know there is a problem right away versus having a bit of a gap that very few people ever look that closely at anyway.