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Bathroom: Replacing the Toilet Wax Ring
If your toilet is leaking around the base, the problem is most likely a failure of the wax ring. The following will guide you through removing the toilet and replacing the wax ring. The first step is to turn off the water supply to the toilet, and then remove the two bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. It’s best to use either an adjustable wrench or box end wrench (usually 7/16”) to avoid rounding the edges of the toilet bolts, making them difficult to remove.
As soon as you turn off the water supply, flush the toilet and hold open the flapper valve (inside the tank) until the water has drained out. Then dip as much of the remaining water out as possible, using old towels or cloths to finish the job. You’ll not be able to remove all the water in the bowl—I usually try to plunge out as much as possible—so be careful when lifting for the remaining water will leak out as the toilet is moved. If you can take the toilet outside, that’s great, but if not, I sometimes set it into the bathtub so I can access the bottom. (Cover the tub surface to protect the finish.)
Prior to lifting the toilet, it’s best to have a surface ready upon which to sit the toilet once removed. A piece of cardboard, or scrap plywood works best, but you can use plastic sheeting or a drop cloth. The only problem with the last two is they have a tendency to stick to the bottom once you pick it back up and the drop cloth may gain a permanent glob of yucky wax imbedded into the surface.
Once the toilet is removed, scrape the old wax ring from the bottom with a 1” putty knife, removing as much of the old ring as possible. If you’re installing a new toilet, the only wax you’ll have to be concerned with is the part that remains on the floor flange. This can be removed with the putty knife and should be clean and smooth prior to applying the new ring.
There are several options on wax rings; my preference is the one with the attached flange. If you have changed the flooring, adding depth, then you should opt for one of the thicker flanges, but in any case, I wouldn’t go with the cheapest and thinnest. If the wax ring doesn’t include replacement bolts, you’ll need to purchase those also. Many have break-away sections to accommodate for varying floor heights. Purchase the length you need for your installation.
Place the new ring on the floor, centering on the opening in the drain pipe, set the new anchor bolts (make certain they are turned properly to catch the toilet flange) and carefully set the toilet in place. Once in place, sit on the toilet, gently rocking to seat the wax ring. Then, place the washers on the bolts and begin to tighten, first on one side and then the other to keep even pressure on the porcelain bowl. NOT OVER TIGHTEN OR YOU WILL CRACK THE PORCELAIN. Tighten only enough to stabilize the bowl and keep it from rocking.
Reconnect the water supply, turn on the water, flush, and check for leaks.
CAUTION: When working with toilets, extreme care must be taken when tightening any of the nuts that contact the porcelain surface to avoid cracking the toilet bowl or tank.