View Full Version : Plumbing help needed...

Martin Shupe
11-14-2004, 1:21 AM
My house is a little over 4 years old. You would think that I would not be facing any serious plumbing problems. You would think wrong. :(

I have already learned to fix a leak under a sink. Now I am going to try to learn something a little bigger, with your help. :eek:

Within the last few weeks, my wife noticed some moisture near the bottom edge of one of our toilets. Not much, but maybe an eye dropper full of water was on the floor. So she asked me to look at it. After close observation, I determined that when you flush the toilet, a small amount of water seeps from one side of the toilet, where it meets the floor. I might add that this toilet is in the guest bath, and is not used very frequently, so it could have been leaking for some time.

Once upon a time, I watched a DIY show about how to replace a toilet. When I got to the end of the show, I thought to myself, "that didn't look hard, I could do that". However, I was stupid and didn't record that particular show for future reference. Sure wish I had a "do-over" for that one.

From my very limited knowledge, and what I remember about that show, there is a wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor. It is that ring that I think could be leaking.

So...what do you all think? Could it be the wax ring? Should I attempt to do this myself? Or should I take it apart, and hire a plumber to put it back together? I am really good at taking things apart, but somethings it is harder to put them back together.

Has anyone done this successfully? Is there a book that would explain it?

This does not need to be done immediately, i.e., the leak is small, and I can tell the kids not to use that particular bathroom, but it will need to be fixed in the very near future.

Once again, thank you for all your help.

Oh, one more thing. Tyler, I was told that Santa would bring me a digital camera, so I can finally post some pics.

James Giordano
11-14-2004, 2:30 AM
If it were me I would be tearing that sucker apart. I think you are right about that wax. Of course I'm no plumber and I could be completely wrong.
If it is a guest bathroom and not used often, give it a go, what have you got to lose? How hard could it be? You're supposed to have extra parts when you're finished.;)
I'm sure that there are plenty of books to show you how at any DIY type store.Or even Wal-Mart.

This page tells you how to replace a toilet, and has references

Good luck.

Bruce Shiverdecker
11-14-2004, 2:52 AM
It definitely sounds like a gap in the wax ring.
First, TURN OFF the water to the tank.
Then Flush the Toliet and disconnect the inlet tube (Where the water enters the tank) - catch any water that drips out.
Next Remove the caps over the closet bolts (those that hold the toilet to the floor ring) and unscrew the the nuts.
Then carefully pick up the toilet.
Clean both the bottom of toilet and the floor ring of ALL the old WAX.
To be on the safe side, get the a thick wax ring and place it into the groove in the toilet.
Carefully set the toilet back in place and tighten the bolts.
Sit on the closed seat and see if you can rock the toilet. If you can, continue tightening till that goes away.

I think that's all. If I missed something, I'm sorry. Someone else will probably find any mistakes I made.


Karl Laustrup
11-14-2004, 7:09 AM
Being the son of a plumber who has worked with him many years ago I still remember some things. Bruce has pretty much described the process in which to change the toilet. However, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of as you tackle this DIY project.
While the wax ring could be the culprit, it may also be that the floor is not flat and the original plumber just kept tightening the toilet until it didn't "rock" anymore. While the toilet should be snug to the floor, over tightening may actually break the porcelin.
You may also find that your sub floor has damage from water that has been leaking. You may end up replacing some of the sub floor because of water damage. What you see on the top may not be all the water that is leaking. In any case if there is water damage be sure and replace the damaged area.
This really shouldn't happen, especially in a house this new. It could be just an honest mistake or it could be that someone didn't know or care what they were doing in the first place. Dependent on what is found while repairing this toilet, I might want to think about the other toilets in the house. Could they have the same or similar problem? Most of the time you don't see the results of a bad installation, because the water stays under the finished floor.

Good luck and keep us informed. I'd like to know what the problem really is.


Randy Meijer
11-14-2004, 8:02 AM
Karl is correct that a cracked toilet could also be a problem. Could have been caused by house settling......but the wax ring is the more likely culprit. It is a fairly easy job and shouldn't be a problem for you. Most newer houses in Texas are built on slabs so rot of the subflooring probably will not be an issue.

Be VERY CAREFUL when tightening the holddown bolts as it is easy to get them too tight and crack/break the porcelain. Personally, I do not subscribe to the "rock" method of tightening the bolts. If the toilet or the floor are uneven and causing rocking, you can buy small plastic wedge shaped shims to eliminate any rocking BEFORE the bolts are tightened. Then tighten the bolts to be just "snug". They don't have to be real tight!!

Good luck!!:D

Rob Russell
11-14-2004, 8:39 AM
I've had the "fun" of pulling and replacing toilets more than once. A couple of other things to add to the process.

1) When you shut off the water, you want to get all the water out of the bowl, or it will slop out when you move the toilet.
2) The problem may be that the closet flange (the end of the sewer pipe in your floor) is too low. There are "extended horn" wax rings that have a longer plastic funnel that sticks deeper into the floor to compensate. Once you get the toilet off, see what's there and either post again or ask the folks at the local plumbing supply store and they'll give you what you need.
3) They may have used a rubber gasket instead of wax. I tried one once and it leaked - I'll always use was in the future (unless it's on a radiant floor).


Robert Grady
11-14-2004, 8:42 AM
Martin, If you are apprehensive about doing this yourself I could put you in contact with one of my licensed plumbers who lives in Cleburne. He does things like this on the side for a small fee. Just e-mail me at robert.grady@polkmechanical.com or rvgrady@peoplepc.com . I wil be in Tolar tuesdy afternoon checking on the job I have going at the high school. Stop in if you are in the area.

Jason Roehl
11-14-2004, 9:15 AM
A couple items: 1. removing the water from the bowl helps--use a shop vac. 2. Remove the tank from the bowl. Yes, it's a little more detail work, but a fully-assembled toiled can be a bear to move around (I've done it, and it's not fun), particularly in a tight space. Not to mention, you don't want to drop it!! :eek:

Personally, I'd avoid the wax/rubber combo rings--they often add too much height. If you need more height, I've seen a lot of plumbers use 2 rings stacked up. You can always check what height you need, anyway. Put a straightedge across the bottom of the toilet (once you have it off, obviously), then measure the depth of the wax surface around the "hole". Then measure the height of the flange above or below the floor surface. If the flange is above the floor, subtract it from the first number, if below, add it to the first number. That will tell you the MINIMUM thickness of ring you will need.

Pat Monahan
11-15-2004, 1:23 AM
All the above is good info, and, as I have had the thrill of correcting "home improvements" by previous owners of my house, I would like to add a few points. The water may be leaking from the flange in the floor. If the bolts were overtightened when the toilet was installed, and theflange is plastic, there may be hairline cracks. Replace the flange - its only a couple of bucks. While you're getting the wax ring, save yourself the headache and get replacement bolts connecting the toilet to the tank ( about $ 2 ). They tend to corrode quickly and can be a real PITA to get off. If you need to see how this goes together, thumb through the home improvement books at your favourite establishment - some have decent illustrations. HD had a book for about $30 a few years back, they may still have it, covering many aspects of home improvement/repair. There aren't any other big box retailers here that you would be familiar with, so I can't comment about what they may have. You can do this job, once you get it apart you'll see its fairly simple.
Hope this helps

Kevin Arceneaux
11-15-2004, 11:18 AM
It is a good idea to replace the bolts anytime you work on the toliet. The bolts are exposed to many things that can cause degradation. Like the other poster stated, they are cheap and it is easier to put back on. I have had to cut many bolts off because they were in very bad shape.

I used to help my Uncle taking care of 2 houses that are 100+ years old, my Grandmother's house (circa 1915) and the "Big" house (circa 1857, I have the original Land Grant to the property, I live on part of it). Whenever we worked on the plumbing, we alway replaced bolts and hangers. The "Big" house is a nightmare to work on. It has been added on so much, it it a PITA to figure out what is what.

Martin Shupe
11-15-2004, 1:54 PM
Thanks for all the info. Good stuff offered up by all. I bought 4 wax rings at the Borg the other day, but didn't get bolts. I'll get them as well.

I bought 4 rings thinking I might need to stack them two at a time, and was told by another friend to get extras, in case I mess up the first ones.

I am hoping to tackle this job this week, and I will report back when completed. (Or possibly when I need more help! :eek: )

Kevin Arceneaux
11-15-2004, 3:20 PM
Good deal - be carefull when setting the bowl back down. That can screw up the wax seal in a heartbeat. If there is enough room, another pair of hands helps to get the bolts back through the holes.

Chris Padilla
11-15-2004, 5:45 PM

All the advice given here is perfectly sound. I had difficulty with the 2 wax ring deal and ended up going back to one with the plastic piece included.

Be sure the wax ring is room temperature or just a bit more. Hard wax won't budge worth anything no matter how much you rock the toilet! :)

Can you get under the house to see under the toilet? You can see any water damage there if above doesn't show you much.

Good luck! I hate plumbing....

Phil Phelps
11-16-2004, 12:55 PM
..Missed 'ya at Steves. Had a golf tournament I "had" to play. After you do the toilet thingy, not a real problem unless the anchor bolts are rusted and frozen, use the wax ring on the threads of wood screws. You won't believe how much easier it is to drive a screw.