Finding correct wax seal for 70-year old bathroom. Smell won't go away!

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by KCEdds, Nov 25, 2008.

  1. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    I have a 71-year-old house, although I believe the toilet in our upstairs bathroom has been replaced at some point. A few weeks ago I noticed a smell in the bathroom. The toilet was not loose and didn't wobble, but I decided to replace the wax seal anyway.

    After pulling the toilet I was looking at the 7th level of hell. What used to be wax looked like... well, indescribable filth. I cleaned it all up and noticed that I had what I think is called a closet flange? It was metal, raised off the floor so that I could stick a screw driver under the lip, and seemed soldered onto the drain pipe. There were slots, not holes, for the screws.

    I pulled out a black plastic funnel thing from the flange that was utterly disgusting. Then when I went to the hardware store I bought a wax ring with the plastic piece already installed in it. There was only one kind to choose from so I thought it was universal.

    It seemed like it was smaller than the old dirty one I removed. Like it wouldn't fit as snugly. But I thought the most important part would be the wax seal. So I fit the wax onto the bottom of the toilet -- that part fit perfectly -- then reinstalled the toilet.

    Everything was fine for the first day, but now the smell is back. I'm thinking that I might need to dig in the trash can and pull out the original black plastic funnel piece and just buy the wax ring by itself.

    Is this a good plan? Are there different size black plastic funnels in the wax rings? Should I just buy one that fits, if it actually exists? I'd hate to have to clean that nasty old one.

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,298
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    If the flange is high enough, you don't need the funnel.
    And not having the funnel will not make a diffence in smell.

    Did you take the toilet outside and wash between the tank and bowl?
    Think about it...........
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,386
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    There is another DIYer who is experiencing the similar problem trying to use a wax ring with the horn. Generally, these are of no value in sealing between the flange and toilet, and can cause problems such as you are experiencing. Technically speaking, the flanges should be sitting on top of the floor and be screws down to the sub floor, but since you say the toilet sets solidly on the floor and the flanges is solidly attached to the drain, you probably are OK. Just use what I call a "Plain Jane" wax ring.:D
  4. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    Thanks Terry. I removed all water from both the tank and the bowl and I thoroughly scrubbed the bottom of the toilet. The bottom of the tank was actually pretty clean.

    I will say that the water in the tanks, while initially clear, got kind of brown and murky when there was only an inch or so left. Do you think that the tank could be causing the smell?

    I also replaced the spud gasket between the tank/bowl since the old one had started to deteriorate.

    After a seven-hour stint replacing the wax seal I am so depressed about this smell coming back. Perhaps I didn't sit on the toilet hard enough to properly seal the wax? The screws in the flange kind of wobbled a bit since the slot was so wide, but they seem to be straight up and I tightened them pretty well, without cracking the bowl. And the toilet doesn't wobble.

    I read that the smell could be coming from the exhaust pipe that exits through my roof, if a critter fell into it. But that pipe doesn't seem to be right above the toilet. It seems to be above our shower, which shares a wall with our other bathroom. So both baths' might share one exhaust pipe. Since the other bathroom doesn't smell I figured this wasn't the problem.

    Oh boy.
  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,298
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    You should have been able to feel the wax squish.
    If not, then there wouldn't be a seal between flange and bowl.
    If it's sealed, it doesn't matter what is in the pipe.
  6. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    The toilet seemed to sit two inches off the floor when I set it down. Then I sat on it and squished it into place.

    I wonder if it was sitting up because of the black sleeve and that caused it to not seal properly. I guess the only way to tell is to take it off again and put a new seal on either without the funnel or with the old one.

    Crap. Literally.

    If the smell comes back I don't know what to do.
  7. kingsotall

    kingsotall Plunger/TurdPuncher

    So I assume the smell you are smelling is the same smell if you put your face down near the opening to the "7th level of hell"?

    Quit using the wax ring with the horn and use a jumbo wax ring instead.
  8. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    You need to have enough wax under the toilet so when you place the toilet on the flange you feel the wax compress slowly until the toilet finaly rests on the floor...kind of slowly floating down...hard to describe...you might also try placing the wax on the floor instead of the toilet...this is how I do it but then I do it for a living....

    It sounds like you have a brass flange and lead arm.

    If you pull the toilet again scrape the flange with a screwdriver or test with a magnet...you also need to check the lead carefully for holes...

    If all else fails you may need to call a plumber that is familiar with this problem...there is a way to do this but it can be hard to figure out when your a novice.

    One other thing...when you have the toilet pulled check the floor around the toilet and be sure there is no movement...by placing your foot next to the flange and transferring your weight from your 2 feet to the one next to the flange...be carefull...
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2008
  9. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    Thanks Kingsotall and Cass. Fortunately the floor is solid as a rock. I pushed down all around the flange and their was no give whatsoever.

    While the flange was dirty as all hell it didn't have any holes in it. I scraped the heck out of it and it had a little bit of rust, but seemed pretty solid.

    I did get the "reinforced" wax ring -- I'm not sure if that's the jumbo though. And the toilet did sit up a few inches off the floor until I sat down on it and slowly squished it down. With the flange being raised, maybe I do need to get the Jumbo kind so that the wax goes all the way around it.

    I did notice last night that the smell wasn't as bad. I wonder if through use by the family (i.e. us sitting on it) the toilet got pushed down a little more and tightened the seal. The toilet doesn't rock at all, so I don't want to tighten the nuts and break the bowl. I felt like I tightened them pretty good. Maybe through a little more "use" the seal will finally take completely (fingers crossed).

    Thanks again everyone for your advice.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,045
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    ring

    1. The funnel is part of the wax ring, not something you add to it.
    2. Few plumbers use wax rings with funnels because they cause more leaks than they fix.
    3. An thick wax ring is used when the flange is too FAR away from the bowl, not when the flange is in the air.
    4. Screw the flange to the floor so it does not move upwards when you tighten the bolts.
    5. IF you do everything correctly, and you still have an odor, you have some other problem, not a bad seal.
  11. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    What I meant by me retrieving the old funnel from my trash was that the new funnel, which I know is part of the new wax ring, seems smaller. The old one seemed to fit snugly into the closet flange and then the old wax ring was on top of that. That's why I thought I should go back to square one. The new wax ring with the funnel inside of it didn't seem to fit as snugly. But as Terry mentions, I probably don't even need that funnel in the first place.

    I can't screw my flange to the floor because it's an old closet flange made of metal that is soldered to the pipe. It's meant to be off the floor. It can't move upwards.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,045
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    funnel

    There were no funnels that were installed first and the wax ring installed over them. They were ALL part of the wax ring, regardless of what they look like when you remove it. You would be surprised how much lift a closet bolt can exert when it is tightened. And I have never seen any flange, even metal ones, without anchoring holes in them.
  13. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    Gotcha. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I may need a professional.
  14. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,386
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    You seem to be ignoring much of the advise several of us have offered. That's your choice of course, but if you review the basics of what has been said, there are two things that you should do that will almost certainly solve the problem. First, use several stainless steel screws to anchor the flange to the sub floor. Second, use a plain wax ring, no plastic horn or funnel. A third suggestion to replace the interior fitting flange would be of possible benefit, but would require some amount of effort and may or may not be necessary and can always be done in the future if the first two suggestions don't work.
  15. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    I'm not ignoring anyone's advice. I may have misunderstood the suggestion about anchoring the flange to the sub floor. But I will say that I tried to see if there was any movement with the flange (that is soldered to the drainage pipe) and there was none. I didn't see any anchor holes anywhere on that flange (I scraped it down pretty good, but maybe I missed them), there seemed to only be slots where the screws go that connect it to the toilet. Like I said, it's a 71-year-old house.

    My next course of action is to remove the wax ring I just installed and try a jumbo wax ring.

    If the smell goes away though, since last night it seemed to not be present, I wonder if I should just let it be and keep the wax seal with the funnel on there. I'm wondering if using the toilet has caused it to seal tighter. Or should I remove the plastic funnel no matter what?

    Thanks!
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,266
    Location:
    New England
    The funnel, or horn, often can distort and partially plug up the opening. This is especially true with a 3" pipe and even more so if you use an internally mounted flange. If it isn't leaking and isn't plugging up, you can probably leave it.

    Using a jumbo wax ring when not needed also creates problems. Just where do you think all of that extra wax goes when you squish the toilet down? Some of it could end up narrowing the drain line. If it doesn't you still have a lot more to clean up whenever the toilet needs resetting or replacement.
  17. kingsotall

    kingsotall Plunger/TurdPuncher

    If the flange is really flying in the sky like it sounds then, yes, get a pro to plumb a new flange.
  18. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    Well, I went to inspect my work and saw that one of the bolts attaching the toilet to the floor had come out of the slot in the flange so that when I tightened it, the bolt came up so high the decorative cap wouldn't fit over it any more.

    So I started over again replacing the wax seal. This time I put the wax over the flange instead of over the hole on the bottom of the toilet. This allowed me to not knock the bolts out of place which is probably what happened last time when I set the toilet down on the flange. Then after I put the toilet down and pressed it down to the floor, I held the bolts with some needle-nose pliers while I started to but the nut on. This held it steady and didn't allow it to spin. I got the toilet on perfectly, with a great seal, and the bolts are straight up in the air and locked solid.

    Then I wake up in the morning and I have the smell again. Arggghh! It's a second floor bathroom, so I don't think it could be coming from the shower trap. Our basement shower gets that smell, but we just run the water for a second and it's gone for a week. Could it really be our shower? We've lived in this house for five years and it's NEVER had this smell. What could have it start to smell all of a sudden?

    I've already checked in the attic for dead mice that might have fallen into the vent area for the exhaust fan, but nothing. I'm at my wit's end.
  19. T_Finan

    T_Finan New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    NJ
    We purchased house last year that had incredible strong sulphur/sewer smell that came after the master bath shower was used. After pursuing a variety of solutions(drain cleaning, water filter and softener), the fix was to eliminate standing water under the shower tile which was causing mold to form. Perhaps your tile has begun to fail?
  20. KCEdds

    KCEdds New Member

    Messages:
    23
    You know, T Finan, that might be it! I notice that when I take a shower water pools up in one corner of the shower and doesn't seem to drain that easily towards the middle where the drain is. I thought that it might just take a while for it to slowly drain down after we turn the water off, but there's enough that I can take my foot and drag a bunch towards the drain.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
Similar Threads: Finding correct
Forum Title Date
Toilet Forum discussions Help finding traditional style toilet with concealed trapway. Dec 17, 2012
Toilet Forum discussions Terry, help with finding a 1.28 gallon flush! Jul 19, 2011
Toilet Forum discussions need help with finding particular size Apr 2, 2011
Toilet Forum discussions Trouble Finding a 10", ADA, Elongated Bowl Nov 4, 2010
Toilet Forum discussions Help finding 10 inch rough in toilet Jul 31, 2010

Share This Page