Can't stop leaking around flange

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by WV Bob, Aug 7, 2014.

  1. WV Bob

    WV Bob New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Huntington, WV
    I've got a situation in a house I'm rehabbing that I don't seem to be able to get past, where the toilet leaks around the flange seal, keeping the floor wet. I noticed it first after a helper installed the toilet. The toilet looked like it had moved, because the bolt washers weren't vertical, and when I took it off, it looked like the bowl had slipped backward or been installed so it smeared the wax ring. Then, when I reinstalled, I heard the snap nobody wants to hear when the flange broke or popped since it was already broken. Either way, since then I've tried every day after work to get it to stop leaking and have had no success at all.

    1. I screwed a metal flange repair kit over the broken flange, and bolted the T bolts down to it. The repair flange thing was not made to hold the bolt from turning, so after 2 or 3 remove and replace cycles, it bent to where it wasn't usable.

    2. After giving up on the flange repair I replaced the flange and riser. The original flange was a little low due to adding a tile floor, so I used a flat flange extender under the new flange to bring it above the finished floor surface. It's thoroughly screwed down to the subfloor and level.

    3. I was having to overtighten the bolts to get the toilet to where it actually felt tight and wouldn't move. Then I realized the bum who did my flooring left the tile directly behind the toilet about half a tile low. That caused the toilet to rock backward when I tightened it, which I figured would break the seal to the wax. It also left the toilet only partly on the floor so it was not tight and could move no matter what. So I dry fit the toilet to figure out what shimming is needed to bring it to level, and since starting to use the shims I don't have to overtighten the bowl to get it mounted solid.

    4. I looked at the underside of the bowl for cracks, and found nothing obvious. I noticed that several details in the sealing surface under the toilet were leaving clear imprints on the wax seal, so I know it's compressing the wax.

    5. I have tried different wax rings including thick and regular, reinforced and not, , and one of those green sani-seal foam seals. The wax rings have been compressed and the sani-seal had plenty of squish so it should have sealed.

    I've probably had that toilet up off the floor ten times, but every single time, with every flush, I get drips of water through the subfloor and on the basement floor below. Nothing I've done has made it better, some things I tried made it worse. Last night I took special care assembling everything (used the sani-seal) and checking level more than once, but still drip, drip, drip.

    I'm at a loss as to what to try next. I'm looking long and hard at that Fernco wax-free seal solution and it seems like that would solve the problem, but then so have other things I've tried. Also, I'm leery of anything being glued to the bottom of the toilet where I can't see it.

    Any advice, suggestions, or questions on what I'm doing are greatly appreciated. This problem is keeping me from working on 500 other things that need fixed.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,249
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Set the toilet up beween a pair of sawhorses or chairs and fill the bowl with colored water to see if it is leaking. Make sure you can dump a couple of full 5 gallon buckets of water down the drain with no sign of a restricted drain.
    If this all looks good, set the toilet on the floor and set shims so it sits solid on the base with no rocking. Adhere the shims to the floor in the correct locations so they do not move when you re-set the toilet with a new wax ring.
    Do not move the toilet after you have squished it into the wax. If you need to move it, you need another new wax ring.
    Caduceus likes this.
  3. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,387
    Location:
    IL
    An easier test of just the toilet is to first turn off the water to the toilet. Mark the water level in the tank with pencil, and mark the level in the bowl however you can. Make sure that the tank and bowl levels don't fall. As a control you could fill a nearby container partially with water. Use that as a control to see how much of a drop any evaporation accounts for.
  4. WV Bob

    WV Bob New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Huntington, WV
    I know the caveat on wax rings and replacing them. I started buying them by the 6-pack and have used 3 of those so far.

    I'm definitely taking it up again after work today so I will check the bowl for leaks before putting it back this time. The dripping seems to taper off after the flush so I think the set it up and dump water through it test is the appropriate way to go. I'm also going to go ahead and get one of those Fernco seals too. It seems impossible for that to leak once it's sealed to the bowl and inserted into the waste pipe.
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,387
    Location:
    IL
    Note that the Fernco relies on a very clean surface to adhere to. I don't know how I would remove the residual wax from a not-new toilet, but I think scraping with a single edge razor blade would be maybe my second step. My forth step might be to apply heat and use an absorbent material.

    I don't know how effective the methods discussed here are: http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?259554-solvent-to-clean-beeswax
  6. WV Bob

    WV Bob New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Huntington, WV
    There are many products in the automotive market to remove wax and grease prior to painting. Rubbing alcohol would probably work too, but I've got some automotive solvent so I'll use that.
  7. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,892
    Location:
    New York, NY
    It seems to me like it's something other than the seal.

    Remember that the primary function of the wax is to prevent sewer gas from entering the room; it's not there to form a pressure-tight joint. If that were necessary, then wax wouldn't do it and a toilet would be required to be connected like any other component of the DWV system (i.e. glued, soldered, coupled with a rubber gasket, etc.). Absent the sewer gas issue and the possibility of a little teeny bit of splashback, a toilet with a 2-ish-inch outlet positioned properly over a 3" or 4" drain pipe should be able to dump its contents into said pipe cleanly without any need for wax. It should all go right down.

    If there's a backup in the pipe, then it could conceivably blow out a portion of the wax. If the wax isn't obviously blown-out, then your leak is, I think, most likely somewhere else, either a crack in the closet bend or drain pipe, or in the toilet itself.

    Put more simply, just because there's a defect in your wax shouldn't mean that you instantly get a leak.

    Less-experienced people than you install leak-free toilets all the time without having to go through half-a-six-pack of wax rings.

    That's probably why Cacher Chick, who is an experienced pro, immediately suggested, in essence, that you check for leaks in the porcelain.

    But I could of course be completely-wrong, so I am curious and hope you will let us know how this all turns out.
  8. WV Bob

    WV Bob New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Huntington, WV
    We took the bowl up tonight and the sani-seal was stuck to the bowl and came up with it so there was no way it wasn't sealed. So I went to swap out the bowl for another one we have out of a second bathroom that's still gutted. As I went to messing with it I noticed there was a couple inches of water in the bottom. Then the light bulb came on when I remembered the house sat vacant through two winters.

    We took a real close look at the leaking toilet upside down, and found it had a "pop out" about the size of a silver dollar on a curve up toward the front. There's a small passage in the casting right there, so water in that little gap must have frozen and busted the toilet. It was pretty much exactly where we were seeing the water underneath. Probably exactly what you're calling the closet bend.

    The other one had no visible damage, is installed and not leaking as of tonight. Could change after it's had some water through it if it froze and cracked too. But I'm happy for tonight. I can't believe I forgot about those toilets going through the winters like that, but you know how it is in the rush of trying to get a thousand things done, sometimes things are forgotten.

    Thanks to everyone for the advice and support, it's truly appreciated.
  9. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,892
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Glad you were able to figure it out! Congratulations!
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,815
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I had a Kohler toilet once that had a "pin hole" in the bottom just behind the outlet. If the wax seal "squished" back far enough it covered the hole and did not leak. If the seal was installed properly the hole was open and leaked, but ONLY when the toilet was flushed, so pouring water into the bowl would not have revealed it. Your litany of leaks usually means the problem is NOT in the seal but somewhere else, usually in the toilet itself.
  11. WV Bob

    WV Bob New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Huntington, WV
    I definitely learned a lesson from this.

    Both these toilets have gobbed up places that are glazed so it looks like they had defects patched at the factory.
  12. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,892
    Location:
    New York, NY
    There's almost always manual manipulation of the clay before firing; after the thing is fired, many are perfect, some will be unuseable, and some will be repairable. Where the manufacturer draws the line as to an acceptable repair is a big difference. We have seen some AS's that probably shouldn't have had repairs attempted on them (as well as some that were defective and nobody even tried to fix them but they sold them anyway), whereas the Toto standard for something that's saleable seems to be much higher.
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