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How to fix a loose toilet:
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.
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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, CONTROLS, PARTS.
Loose toilets are more than a leak, source of sewer odors , 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.
See LEAKY TOILET SEALS, ODORS from loose leaky toilet seals.
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 SHUTOFF VALVE [photo] 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.
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 [photo]securely to the TOILET MOUNTING FLANGE [photo] 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.
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 toilet mounting flange at the top of the waste pipe is broken or worn so that it won't hold the toilet mounting bolts securely it may be possible to replace the "T" bolts with a toilet bolt ending in a lag screw, bolted into subflooring close to the flange.
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.
2017/06/03 Anthony V. said:
After I flush the toilet my tile floor gets squishy and water comes through the grout. Please help could it be a broken flange or a bad wax ring
This Q&A were posted originally at TOILETS REPAIR FAQs
Show here: the Oatey 43654 PVC Twist-N-Set Closet Flange: a device that lets you re-set a toilet where its original mounting flange has broken. This toilet mounting flange is designed to replace a cast-iron closet flange. Its gasket will expand to fit inside all three types of waste pipe service-weight, heavy-weight, and hubless waste pipes.
At LEAKY TOILET SEALS, ODORS we explain that both wastewater and odors around a toilet might be due to a bad wax ring seal. If you catch this problem in time - that is, before the leaks have damaged the subfloor below, the repair is pretty easy - just replace the wax seal; but it's important to inspect the condition of the floor to permit selection of the proper repair method.
Watch out: never try to repair a loose leaky toilet by simply tightening its mounting bolts. Even if the toilet stops wobbling, the wax ring seal has been compromised and leaks into the floor are likely to continue.
Here are four cases of extent of repair needed around a loose, leaky toilet base.
If the toilet is simply loose or has a compressed wax ring, it gets removed, a new ring installed, and it's re-bolted to the floor securely.
But if the flange is broken you may need to break away and remove the old flange and then install a new replacement flange that secures to the subfloor and that directs wastewater into the remaining waste pipe before replacing the toilet's wax ring and re-installing the toilet.
In this article we show two replacement toilet mounting flange kits, one from Oatey and another from Genova. Both of these toilet flange repair devics are designed to mount by being pushed into the existing waste pipe opening and screwed to sound subfloor.
You will need to mount the closet flange (toilet flange) so that
You'll notice that the Oatey offers a thick plastic flange and two pairs of toilet bolt slots; the Genova closet flange uses a thinner metallic outer ring. Either of these should fit successfully under nearly all floor-mount toilets. Culwell also offers 4" and 3" protecting toilet flanges suitable for this repair.
Other plumbing suppliers such as Jones Stephens offer traditional brass or cast-bronze replacement closet flanges like the model shown below. These flanges are also screwed to the subfloor but do not include a built-in funnel to direct wastewater into the waste pipe.
With a traditional cast brass or steel replacement toilet mounting flange you'll want to use a wax-ring seal that includes a sleeve: an intengral plastic or PVC funnel-shaped element that assures that all wastewater enters the waste pipe - our second illustration below.
The Oatey flange offers four openings for screws to secure the flange to the subfloor while the Genova offers six screw positions. So your choice between these two may depend on how much good subfloor you have to accept mounting screws and on where that good subfloor is in relation to the end position of the sides of the toilet. Each product has its own advantages: more screw positions or more toilet bolt slots.
Above is a combination toilet mount, wax ring seal, and sleeve produced by Everbilt. The flange is not shown. More about toilet wax ring seals is at LEAKY TOILET SEALS, ODORS
Watch out: both the wax-ring with sleeve and the EverBilt wax-ring, sleeve, flange package shown above are examples of an "extra-thick" wax ring option. You need the extra-thick wax ring on some toilets whose ceramic bottom mating protrusion is recessed in the toilet base.
But you do not need the extra-thick wax ring seal on many toilets whose bottom protrusion is at or close to the bottom edge of the toilet base. Using a wax ring seal that is thicker than needed can, during toilet mounting, push blobs of wax right into the waste pipe opening, causing a partial blockage of the waste line and problems of poor toilet flush performance - a subtle problem that might be hard to diagnose if you miss this detail.
Above: the toilet has been removed and most of the wax spud ring has been scraped away to prepare for the installation of a new spud ring and then bolting down the new toilet. I push the wax ring onto the toilet base itself and then set the toilet in place. That avoids pushing wax into the flush-opening into the toilet base.
The most troublesome case arises if the toilet has been leaking for a long time: the subfloor itself may be rotted - which is possible in the case you describe since you say the tile grout is damaged.
If that's the case the repair is a bit more work.
The steps involve one of the three remaining approaches discussed here.
On occasion I've found that the subfloor was rotted but only for a couple of inches right around the toilet flange. A perfectly functional repair can be made in this case without ripping out the existing floor and subfloor - particularly appealing if the existing floor tile is still sound. For this situation I take the following steps: [Click to enlarge any image]
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