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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
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AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
ANTI SCALD VALVES
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEPTIC
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BACKWATER VALVES, SEWER LINE
BATH & KITCHEN DESIGN GUIDE
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DEPTH of SEPTIC TANK
DRAIN & SEWER PIPING
FAUCETS & CONTROLS, KITCHEN & BATH
FAUCETS, OUTDOOR HOSE BIBBS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
LEAD IN DRINKING WATER, HOW to REDUCE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS SEWER GAS in COLD WEATHER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
ANIMAL or URINE ODOR SOURCE DETECTION
PIPING IN BUILDINGS, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RELIEF VALVES - TP Valves on Boilers
RELIEF VALVES - STEAM TP VALVES
RELIEF VALVES - Water Heaters
RELIEF VALVES - Water Tanks
REPAIR BURST LEAKY PIPES
METHANE GAS HAZARDS
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMPS & TANKS
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Here we explain how to diagnose and repair a loose, wobbly toilet. A toilet that is loose is unsanitary and possibly unsafe. But worse, if it has rotted the bathroom floor or if the waste pipe flange below the toilet is damaged, repair can be more difficult (and expensive) unless you know these tricks of the trade.
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This article series TOILET REPAIR GUIDE discusses the cause, diagnosis, and repair of toilet problems (water closet problems) such as a toilet that does not flush well, clogged toilets, slow-filling toilets, running toilets, loose wobbly toilets, and odors at leaky toilets. Here we explain how to diagnose and repair problems with toilets, leaks, flushes, odors, noises, running and wasted water.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Our page top photo shows ugly staining in a toilet bowl - strong evidence that this toilet has been running, wasting water, possibly flooding the septic system, and sometimes giving bad flush performance as well. Details are below.
Citation of this article by reference to this website and brief quotation for the sole purpose of review are permitted. Use of this information at other websites, in books or pamphlets for sale is reserved to the author. Technical reviewers are welcome and are listed at References.
Before launching into our series of articles on diagnosing and repairing toilet problems such as clogged toilets, toilets that don't flush properly, running or leaky or noisy toilets, toilet odors, and loose toilets, take a look at the simple connection between a typical reservoir-tank toilet and the soil stack (waste piping) in the Carson Dunlop Associates sketch (above left), and review our description of basic types of toilets at TOILET TYPES.
Loose toilets are more than a leak, source of sewer odors (see Odors in Bathrooms), and sewer gas hazard. A toilet that is poorly secured to the floor can actually be dangerous if it tips over, dumping its user onto the floor.
Should a toilet tip it is likely to break its water supply pipe, leading to building leaks and water damage, and its user could be injured by a fall or by broken toilet parts. If you do break a toilet supply riser pipe, turn off the water to the toilet immediately. If the toilet supply riser water shutoff valve is stuck or not working, you'll have to turn off water at the main water shutoff for the building or at a shutoff supplying cold water to the bathroom.
Loose toilets are especially dangerous to people who have limited mobility and who have difficulty transferring between a wheelchair or walker and the toilet.
Our photo (left) shows a toilet tipped over and leaning on a nearby wall. You might notice that this is a bathroom undergoing gut renovation following a building flood - was it from a broken toilet water supply riser pipe?
For fire safety, that blue foam insulation on the foundation wall would not normally be left exposed in the building.
Tighten the Toilet Mounting Bolts?
It is tempting to simply try tightening the toilet mounting bolts that secure the toilet either to the floor or to a flange connected to the top of the sewer pipe. And indeed if those components are in good condition, this repair may seem to fix the loose toilet problem.
But as we pointed out above, if a toilet has been loose and wobbly, it has usually compressed and spread its wax ring seal between the toilet base and the top of the waste pipe.
The result is a leak (photo at left), sometimes hidden, that sends unsanitary wastewater into the floor structure or into the ceiling below the toilet each time the toilet is flushed.
So a better loose toilet repair is to turn off water to the toilet, empty water from its tank and bowl, remove the toilet from the floor, remove and replace the old wax ring, and then bolt the toilet securely to the toilet mounting flange or floor. (Some toilet models use four bolts, two are connected to the waste pipe flange and two more lag bolts secure the toilet to the floor or subfloor.)
What if the Toilet Mounting Flange is Broken or the Floor Below the Toilet is Damaged and the Bolts Won't Tighten?
There are several fixes for this problem. If the floor around and below a toilet is badly damaged, the best repair is to remove the toilet, remove and replace the damaged subfloor and finish floor, and then reinstall the toilet, mounting it securely with its bolts and perhaps also with a thin bead of caulk around the toilet base for extra security.
Toilets that are intended to be secured by bolts connecting to a flange at the top of the waste pipe (photo at left) use a flat-headed T-bolt. The "T" is inserted into a slot in the toilet mounting flange, moved in a slot around the flange to the proper location, and the toilet is set over the protruding bolts and bolted down (with a new wax seal).
If the subfloor does not provide enough purchase for a lag-screw toilet mounting bolt, or if the subfloor is soft, but yet the finish flooring outside the toilet footprint is in good condition, you may not want to tear out the whole bathroom floor to fix this condition.
If there is access to the floor around the toilet from below, perhaps by removing drywall from the ceiling of the room below the toilet, it is usually possible to cut two 3/4" thick solid core plywood braces that surround the waste pipe. Screw these flat plates to the underside of the subfloor below the toilet, and use longer lag-screws to reach through the old soft subfloor or flange and into the new solid repair material.
Alternatively, a four-bolt toilet may afford two more mounting positions to secure the toilet to the floor.
We use a thin bead of caulk applied to a clean under-side of the edges of the toilet base, combined with careful cleaning of the floor around the toilet, to provide additional adhesion of the toilet to the finish floor when it is reinstalled. Use just enough caulk to glue down the toilet, but not such a wide bead that later removal of the toilet will be difficult. To remove a glued toilet later, we use a utility knife to simply cut through this caulk bead.
Here is our list of toilet trouble diagnosis and repair articles. You will see that some toilet problems are fixed easily and right at the toilet by a simple adjustment, while others may not be the toilet's fault at all, and may need more thoughtful diagnosis and repair.
Taking off the toilet tank top: Some of these simple toilet diagnosis steps require that you look into the toilet flush tank on the back of the toilet.
Just lift the top off of the toilet tank and set it carefully aside on the floor where you won't break it or trip over it.
If you leave the tank top on the toilet seat (as we did for this photo) you're asking for trouble, and also, it's a bit in the way.
Our sketch below shows the parts you'll see inside the toilet tank. You may want to refer back to this drawing while reading the details of each class if individual toilet problems listed above and how they are detected, diagnosed, and repaired.
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