Mr. Hardware, we have reset out toilet with a new wax ring and yet we keep getting a leak out from the base of the toilet. Is the old cast iron flange a problem or do we have a bad toilet?
Resetting a leaking toilet can be an easy job if a few steps are followed.
A COMMON MISTAKE WITH A ROCKING TOILET IS TO OVER TIGHTEN THE BOLTS HOLDING IT TO THE FLOOR. THE PROBLEM IS YOU CANNOT SECURE A TEETER TOTTER BY CLAMPING THE CENTER. YOU NEED TO SHIM THE ENDS TO STOP MOVEMENT.
First I check to see if there is any movement to the bowl of the toilet as it sets on the floor. Whether it is a ‘reset’ or a new install of a toilet I always try to rock the bowl as it sets on the floor.
On a ‘reset’ of an old toilet I pull the toilet and clean old caulk and the old wax ring off the toilet and the floor flange. The floor flange is usually cast iron in an older home and (again usually) on top of the floor tile. About 3/8” above the tile.
If the flange is flush to the floor or below the install usually calls for more than one wax ring or an extra thick wax ring.
Once the site is clean I install the bolts in the flange which gives me a location to set the toilet. Then I set the toilet bowl (or bowl and tank assembled) over the bolts and onto the floor. I try to rock the bowl in both directions and if it moves I take tapered wood (or plastic) shims and slide them under the bowl until it is rock solid. Once the shims are placed I tape them to the floor to prevent me from moving them and losing the ‘set’.
I lift up the bowl and place a wax ring (I prefer the ring with the plastic funnel) on the bottom. Carefully set the bowl over the bolts straight down let it crush the wax ring. If the bowl goes to the floor without any extra weight you will need to add a ‘plain’ ring over the first ring.
The bowl should be about ¼” off the floor when the bowl first sets on the ring (s).
Now use your weight and just a few fingers on a wrench to tighten the bolts drawing the bowl tight to the flange and the floor. If you tighten the bolts too tight the cast iron flange (or PVC flange) will crack and you will have another matter to address.
Once the bolts are tight and the bowl is secure to the floor, hook up the water line and start flushing the toilet. As you are flushing start cutting the shims with a utility knife and prepare for a caulk or grout job to secure the toilet to the floor as you are checking for leaks.
After 5 or more flushes and the site remains dry you can caulk or grout the bowl to the floor. When I don’t use much shimming, 1/8” or so I caulk the bowl to the floor. If the bowl is shimmed over 1/8” I use tile grout to finish the gap because grout cures much faster than caulk when the gap is this size.
I feel the bowl needs to be caulked or grouted because the bolts in the china bowl are sloppy fit and if someone nudges the bowl it will shift and ruin the wax seal. The bolt’s job is to secure the toilet flange to the bowl, not keep the bowl from shifting.