Simple steps to fix a leaky toilet

Uneven floor, wax ring are red flags

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 21, 2011

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Uneven floor, wax ring are red flags

Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

Q: We have a toilet with an intermittent floor leak that a double wax ring and a new toilet could not correct. The toilet sits on a slightly uneven slab floor. There hasn't been a leak the 50 years we have lived here. Any ideas?

A: The most likely cause is that the wax ring around the closet flange is leaking, allowing a small amount of water to seep from under the toilet with each flush. The wax rings are probably misaligned.

The fix is to reset the toilet using a flange extension and one wax ring. The slight unevenness of the slab might be a contributing factor, but you can fix that by shimming the bottom of the toilet so that it sits level.

Toilet hydraulics are pretty simple. Waste and wastewater are discharged from the toilet bowl through an S curve in the bowl structure into a waste pipe. The toilet bowl is bolted to the floor with closet bolts attached to a flange connected to the waste pipe.

A wax ring, when correctly installed, produces a watertight seal between discharge hole and the waste pipe. If the closet flange sits below the level of the finished floor or the wax ring is installed catawampus, the seal can be incomplete, and the toilet will leak.

Removing and resetting the toilet properly will stop the leak.

To remove the toilet:

1. Shut off the water to the tank.

2. Flush the toilet to empty the tank.

3. Remove the remaining water in the tank with a small cup.

4. Use a sponge to remove the rest. Next, disconnect the line running from the water supply valve to the tank.

5. Unscrew the two bolts securing the tank to the bowl and lift the tank off the bowl and set it carefully aside. (This assumes you have a two-piece toilet. If you have a one-piece toilet, there are no tank bolts and you will have to remove the entire fixture.)

6. Remove the bowl (or entire fixture) from the floor. To do this, remove the caps covering the closet bolts on the base of the toilet. Unscrew the nuts from the closet bolts.

7. If there is caulk or putty around the base of the bowl, score it with a putty knife.

8. Gently rock the bowl side-to-side and front to back to loosen the bowl. When the bowl is loose, lift it off. Water will remain in the toilet trap inside the bowl. Some of it will end up on the floor. Have a rag, mop or sponge ready.

To reset the toilet, the basic steps are:

1. Clean the wax off the discharge hole and flange.

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