One common plumbing problem that plagues new homeowners is a leaking toilet. If the leak is accumulating around the base of the toilet, it's possible that the source of the leak is the wax ring. You should never overlook a leak like this, because the persistent water content on your floor can cause structural damage to the floor itself in addition to wasting water. While your first instinct may be to reach out to a plumber right away, the wax ring is an easy fix that you can do on your own. Here are the basics that you need to understand to do the job yourself.
Understanding Basic Toilet Structure
To understand the process, it's best to understand the structure of the toilet. The wax ring sits at the base of the toilet, where it surrounds the drain pipe that protrudes from the floor. The ring creates a seal between the base of the toilet and the drain pipe flange. The wax will gradually dry out, which leads to cracks. In addition, if the toilet isn't properly balanced, the rocking movement can crush or compress the ring. Any cracks or physical damage to the ring can lead to the leaks that you're seeing. You'll have to replace the ring with a new one to fix the problem.
Removing The Toilet
The first step to the process is to shut the water off. This stops the toilet from refilling the tank. Look for the shut-off valve located just under the tank. Turn it clockwise until it stops moving. Drain the water from the tank and bowl by flushing the toilet a couple of times. With the water valve closed, it won't refill. Emptying the toilet makes it easier to remove the toilet from the floor.
Locate the nut connecting the toilet tank to the water supply line. Use a small wrench to turn the nut counterclockwise until you can disconnect the line from the tank. Place the line on a towel, because it might drip some residual water. Then, use a wrench to disconnect the bolts from the tank so you can lift the tank off the bowl. Disassembling the toilet makes it easier to manage the bowl.
Use a wrench to loosen the nuts securing the toilet base to the floor. Then, raise the toilet straight up to pull it out. Make sure you lift straight up because pulling it at an angle could damage the drain pipe. It might be easiest to have a helper, especially if the toilet base is particularly heavy.
Dealing With The Wax Ring
Lifting the toilet off the floor exposes the wax ring. Scrape away the remnants of the old wax ring completely with a putty knife. Make sure that all of the residue is gone, because anything left on the surface can interfere with the adhesion of the new ring. You can even use mineral spirits to wipe away any residue on the floor. Position the new wax ring so that it is centered in the same spot as the old one. Press it down gently, but not so hard that you crush it.
Reinstalling The Toilet
Once the wax ring is in place, you need to lower the toilet into place. Position it so that it is centered, then lower it straight down so that you don't shift the wax ring. Replace the bolts to secure the toilet base. Tighten the bolts till they are hand-tight, but don't go further. You risk cracking the toilet base if you tighten them too much.
Set the tank back in place and secure the bolts. Grasp both sides of the toilet bowl and try to rock it. It should not move. This ensures that the toilet is balanced before you restore the water. Then, you can connect the water line and open the water valve.
As you can see, replacing the wax ring isn't as complex as you might have thought. With these tips, you'll be in a better position to tackle the job on your own. If you're not comfortable doing it, yourself, talk with a local plumber, such as C B Lucas Heating & Air Conditioning, instead.