Thursday, January 7, 2010

Toilet Repair 102

As promised with Wednesday’s blog, today I’m going to embark on a brief discussion of leaking toilets. I’m not talking about running toilets that are leaking through the flapper valve, that was covered on Wednesday, I’m talking about you walk into your bathroom and feel water around your ankles type of leaking. Maybe it’s more subtle and the leak is pouring down through the ceiling from the upstairs bathroom? Now assuming that you don’t have kids like mine, who were famous for floods by caused by overflowing the bathtub, then it’s safe to assume the leak is coming from somewhere around the toilet. The following are the first and foremost reasons that come to mind that cause a toilet to leak.

1. Your wax ring has deteriorated and is causing water flushed to leak out around the base. This can also sometimes cause a sewer smell in your bathroom before it leaks. Wax rings are the sealer that fits between the bottom of the toilet and the drain pipe. They can get old, dry out and leak, they can slip around and cease to fit the drain (more on toilet slipping down the way here) and many times if they slip they can cause a clog and keep the toilet from flushing properly. So there are two warnings that it could be a wax ring failure before the water starts pouring, the smell and the non-obvious clog, and this leak is what most frequently will leak through to the room or area below. It’s a reasonably simple fix if you’re a handy DIY’er. Otherwise it’s best to call a good plumber. For a brief discussion on how to change the wax ring with a great 2 ring system, I ran across a few months back read my blog at

2. Another cause of toilet leaking as well as other problems is a loose toilet. As a toilet is used we all tend to exert a great deal of force when we sit down and get up from the toilet. The heavier you are the more apt you are to, over a period of time, loosen the toilet flange bolts which cause the toilet to rock and move around. This rocking action can do several things. As I mentioned above it can cause the wax ring to slip, it can cause the actual water connections under the tank to loosen and leak, and if your toilet is a two piece unit (most are) you can actually develop leaks between the tank and the bowl. In this latter situation you may have to disassemble the entire unit and replace the sealing bushings that seal the 2 parts together. Frankly this is where I’d be calling National Builder Supply and ordering a new Toto toilet with all the options…LOL. Otherwise get ready for an all day job in the bathroom. Obviously when you detect water, look for the simple fix. Check to see if the toilet is rocking, if it is slowly tighten the flange bolts that hold it down (they are hidden under those little round caps around the base) being careful to tighten them only slightly and evenly around the base. Then check for connection leaks and tighten those fittings.

3. The last usual place where it might leak is at the shut off valve. Each toilet should have a shut off valve at the point where the incoming water line emerges from the wall. These valves last for years but sometimes will develop a leak or if you use it to shut the water off many times they will not completely shut off when you turn them back on and will develop a leak. In either case it is usually better to replace the shut off valve. Obviously because it is by nature shutting off the only the water supply on one side, KNOW THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO SHUT OFF THE MAIN WATER TO THE HOUSE before you can replace it. I feel stupid having to remind you of that but like the Preparation H package says not to ingest/for anal insertion only, you got to know the warning is there because somebody ate a few without it helping with their hemorrhoids. Likewise there are the handymen who have decided to replace the shut off valve without turning off the main water supply. It takes a lot of buckets to pull that repair off….LOL.

As I try to always say when I finish one of these DIY blogs, I hope it helps you in some way. At least to diagnose the problem even if you decide to call the plumber to fix it.


Scott said...

What do you think about something like this?

I used this on a trouble toilet (wax ring crack) and it was really easy to install.

It is incredibly strongly attached to the bowl and it fits into the drain pipe for a positive seal you cant do wrong.

Restroom Supplies said...

Thanks for taking these topics up,at least makes me feel there are whole lot of other people similar to me who has to address the same or similar problems.Maintenance of the house is a bog deal.When it comes to doing work with the bathroom fittings it is important to keep the water supply closed for a while.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making this seem easy
WC Denmark