The wax seal hidden under the base of the toilet is essential for proper functioning. If, for one reason or another, you need to outfit your toilet with a new wax ring, then you're in the right place, as this is precisely what we will cover throughout the rest of this article. So, without wasting any more time, let's dive right in.
What Does The Wax Ring On A Toilet Do?
Unless you're a plumber, handyman, or DIY enthusiast undergoing a bathroom renovation, you might not know that each toilet is fixed with a wax ring, much less what it is for. For those who fall into this camp, the wax seal has three primary functions.
Prevents Leaks At The Base Of The Toilet
When you flush, water stored in the tank is released into the toilet bowl where it carries wastewater downwards into the drain pipe. The wax ring provides a waterproof seal at the point where the waste pipe and the toilet meet, ensuring that nothing leaks out onto the floor on its way down.
The wax ring also creates an airtight seal that stops any rising sewage gas from leaking out of the toilet base. When the wax seal is in proper working condition, gas rises up into the toilet trap, where it stays until the next flush.
It is important to note that not all foul bathrooms smells are caused by a faulty toilet seal, and there are several other issues that can cause sewage smells.
Provides Stability and Comfort
When we sit down and get up, the toilet is subjected to a fair amount of force. Aside from stopping water and gas leaks, the wax ring also helps provide the toilet with some stability and flexibility. Without it, the toilet anchor flange is tasked with taking the brunt of the force, which can result in a cracked flange, loose mounting bolts, and a wobbling toilet.
Signs It's Time To Replace The Wax Seal
Before we tackle the how-to of replacing your toilet's wax seal, it's worth taking a moment to identify some of the most common signs that your old wax ring needs replacing. Below is a list of the most common signs and tells that it may be time to install a new toilet wax ring.
Water Appearing Around Toilet Base
If you start noticing water collect around the base of the toilet it could very well mean it's time to replace your old wax ring. An excellent way to test whether or not the seal is the issue is by wiping up any water on the bathroom floor with a mop or paper towel and leave the bathroom alone for a few hours. If, upon return, new water has collected you reasonably assume you need a new wax ring.
Bad Smell In The Bathroom
Another telltale sign that your toilet's wax seal needs replacing is the presence of a foul odor in your bathroom. As we discussed in the previous section, the wax ring is responsible for stopping sewage gas from leaking out of the toilet base. If you detect a bad smell emanating from your toilet, there is a good chance a faulty wax seal is to blame.
Floor or Ceiling Damage
Sometimes a water leak won't make its presence known on the bathroom floor, especially if the base has been caulked. Instead, the leak may present itself in the ceiling directly below where the toilet is installed. Additionally, it may also result in mold and fungus growth in the area where the leak is present. Without a doubt, water damage is one of the worst outcomes of a faulty toilet seal.
How To Replace A Toilet Wax Ring
Now that we understand what a toilet seal does and how to detect when you need a new one, it's time to examine exactly how to replace an old or worn-out toilet wax ring.
Step 1: Empty All Water From The Toilet
The first thing you need to do when replacing a wax toilet seal is removed all water from the toilet tank and bowl. To do this, you must start by shutting off the water supply, which involves turning the water supply valve in a clockwise direction until it cannot be turned anymore. With the vast majority of toilet models, this valve is located behind the toilet, about 10 inches above floor level.
Once the water supply has been shut off, you need to flush the toilet to empty all remaining water. When doing this, hold down the handle for an extended period of time to ensure that as much water as possible has been drained. Any remaining water can usually be pushed down the drain opening using a standard toilet plunger.
Step 2: Detach Toilet From Floor And Water Supply Line
Changing the toilets' wax seal requires removing it from its current position. To do so, you must begin by disconnecting the water supply line from the valve. In most cases, the supply line will be attached to the valve via a 3/8 compression inch nut, which can be easily unscrewed with a wrench or a set of flat-nosed pliers. When the supply line has been successfully disconnected, it's time to unfasten the toilet mounting bolts. Most toilet models come with 3/8 inch nuts which can be unfastened using a wrench or ratchet.
One of the major mistakes people make when loosening these mounting bolts is they fail to collect the nuts in a bag or container for future use. Far too often, failure to do so results in one or more nuts going missing, making it difficult to properly refasten the toilet to the floor when the time comes.
If the toilet's base has been caulked where it meets the bathroom floor, the caulking can be easily removed using an exactor knife or other sharp object. However, when removing the caulking, it's important to take care not to cut into the floor material and damaging it.
Step 3: Remove Toilet Tank
While most toilets are light enough for a single in-shape individual to lift, some are not, and may require a second pair of hands. In this instance, don't try to move the toilet yourself, as it could result in a significant back injury. Instead, take an extra moment to remove the toilet tank.
To remove the tank, use an adjustable wrench or ratchet to loosen the bolts attaching the tank to the toilet body. When the bolts have been successfully removed, carefully lift the tank up and off its mount before placing it down on a covered surface.
Step 4: Remove The Toilet Bowl
Now that everything has been detached, the next step involves picking up what remains of the toilet and moving it clear out of the way. Whether it be by yourself or with someone else when it comes time to move the toilet, start by placing a couple of 8-inch long 2×4 pieces of lumber on the floor where you plan on dropping it. By placing these blocks of wood on the floor, they act as a sort of dunnage, protecting the floor from any damage or staining that may result from direct contact with the bottom of the toilet. If you elected to keep the tank on during the removal process, it is strongly advised that you remove the tank lid, as they are prone to falling off and breaking during the moving process.
When you're ready to move the toilet, proceed by placing one arm under the toilet bowl and one around the back and using your knees, carefully lift the toilet up and off the bolts sticking up out of the toilet flange before carefully placing it on the 2×4 dunnage laid out earlier.
Step 5: Remove Old Wax Seal And Inspect Toilet Flange
Once the toilet has been successfully lifted and moved out of the way, it's time to remove the old seal. The best way to do so is by using a putty knife or paint scraper to scrape away the waxy substance, disposing of it into a plastic bag. When removing the old wax ring, it is highly recommended that you clog the drain hole with an old t-shirt or rag. By doing this, you block the toxic gasses that rise up from the sewage system which can leave you feeling sick and noxious when inhaled.
The toilet flange (also called a closet flange) is a type of pipe fitting that connects the toilet drain to the drain pipe and fastens the toilet to the floor. As you will have noticed by now, the toilet flange will have bolts sticking up out of it, which should be carefully inspected. If they are old, rusted, or worn out, you should take this opportunity to replace them with new mounting bolts.
Similarly, you should also use this moment to inspect the toilet flange. A broken flange can cause issues down the road and result in a leaking toilet. If upon inspection you see that the toilet flange is damaged, you can replace it entirely or purchase a flange repair kit. A flange repair kit consists of a metal ring that is attached to the top of the damaged flange and gets it working like new. Sometimes, a flange cannot be removed without ripping up part of the flooring. When this issue is encountered, a repair kit is your best bet.
When replacing a broken toilet flange, it is important to remember that not all flanges are the same size, and they vary slightly depending upon the size of the drain pipe. Before heading to the hardware store to buy a new one, take some quick measurements to determine just how wide the flange is.
Step 6: Install New Flange
If you didn't detect any major issues with your toilet flange, then you can skip this step entirely. However, if your flange does need replacing, you can start by removing the screws that fasten it to the subflooring. Once these screws have been detached, the flange can be removed from the drain pipe and the new one can be put in its place. At this stage, you can secure the new drain flange to the floor using new screws or the old ones if they are in good condition.
At this stage, the toilet mounting bolts can be placed into their proper position in anticipation of reinstalling the toilet. However, before this can be done, the new wax seal must be installed.
Step 7: Attach The New Wax Ring
Installing a wax seal is very straightforward and involves placing it in the center of the flange. Once it is in place, nothing else needs to be done. The most important part of installing a new ring is to ensure that you don't squish it out of form when reinstalling the toilet.
At this stage, many people take a moment to give the area a quick clean, which can be done using bleach or some other cleaning product along with a scrubber brush or rag.
Step 8: Move the Toilet Back Into Place
Now that you have successfully installed a new wax seal, it is time to move the toilet back in place and get it ready to be installed once again. When doing this, you should take a moment to ensure that the toilet bolts (the ones sticking out of the flange) are in the correct position. If they're not, it can make positioning the toilet difficult.
After double-checking and making any necessary adjustments, lift the toilet off the dunnage and carefully place it over the drain hole, making sure the bolts are fed through the holes in the toilet base. When the toilet has been properly positioned, secure the toilet to the floor by tightening the nuts (either new ones or the old ones you saved) until they are tight and snug.
Step 9: Reattach Toilet Tank
If you removed the toilet tank now is the best time to reattach it. Having already removed it previously, reattaching the item should be fairly straightforward and self-explanatory. The main thing to watch out for is that when tightening the bolts that hold the tank to the toilet, ensure that a seal is formed to avoid any possible leak scenarios in the future.
Step 10: Reconnect The Water Supply Line
At this stage, the new seal should be installed, the toilet refastened to the floor, and the only thing left to do is reconnect the water supply line. Reconnecting the water supply line involves tightening the 3/8 inch compression nut in a clockwise direction until it is snug and tight. Once this has been done, the water fill valve can be reopened, and water can begin to flow into the toilet bowl and tank.
Sometimes people find that the disconnecting and reconnecting process causes changes to the water level in their toilet bowl and tank. If this happens to you, don't worry, as adjusting water levels in the toilet bowl and tank can be done with relative ease
Step 11: Monitor Toilet For Water And Gas Leaks
After everything has been properly installed, you should pay close attention to any sign of gas or water leaks through the next couple of days. If no such issues are detected it means the installation went smoothly and the new seal is doing its job.
If, on the other hand, you do experience problems with gas or water issues, then it could mean something went wrong during the process, and you may have to repeat several steps again.