My In-Laws Need Your Help

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by SAS, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. SAS

    SAS Member

    Messages:
    117
    Location:
    Connecticut
    My wife's parents, who are in their 80's, live in an apartment building in Brooklyn, NY. There is a persistent urine smell around the toilet bowl in one of the bathrooms, even if the bowl and floor around it have been thoroughly cleaned. At one point there was some slight leakage around the bowl, but the super replaced the wax ring and that solved the obvious leakage. However, it still stinks in there!

    We did get the super to change the wax ring a second time due to the smell, but it didn't solve the problem. My guess is that there is a small crack in the bowl near the wax ring and the new ring is keeping any water from seeping onto the floor, but some is leaking under the flooring causing the smell. Or could the flange have a crack in it?

    The super is not going to do anything if he doesn't see water on the floor - he says it's just a matter of keeping the bathroom clean - so either I have to change the bowl myself or get a plumber to do it. I've installed toilets before; the only difference here is that it's a flushometer. Can I safely just disconnect the pipe that enters the bowl?

    Or if I have to call a plumber, how much should I expect to spend?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If urine is under the toilet no amount of cleaning is going to help.

    You need to pull and clean under the toilet then reset it.

    You could try and go to a pet store and get a product called Natures Miracle it is a liquid that will eliminate the uric acid that causes the odor, try pouring it on the floor so it flows under the toilet to where the urine is trapped.
  3. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Don't take this personal: This question comes up ALL THE TIME on these forums. EVERY plumber has had this issue posed to him, more than once.. And the answer is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, someone is peeing on the floor. It is a simple as that. A leaking wax ring could cause sewer gas odors, or even water leaking out somewhere. But it is so dilute, you would not get a urine smell from it.

    Just be gentle with the old boy. None of us are getting any younger! see if you can gently suggest that maybe the time has come to sit down to pee.
  4. grazzy

    grazzy New Member

    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Virginia
    i'm with jimbo, but the original poster did say they tried cleaning the floor around the toilet and the smell persists.
  5. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,054
    Location:
    Omaha, NE
    The problem, like Cass said, is that in all likelihood there is urine under the toilet (snuck in under the base of the toilet in the front due to bad aiming).

    Once the toilet is removed and the floor thoroughly cleaned under the toilet, caulk under the front half of the base of the toilet to prevent recurrence.
  6. SAS

    SAS Member

    Messages:
    117
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I understand that the problem might be my father-in-law's aim, but there are a couple of reasons I doubt it. First and foremost, there was a leak that required the super to replace the wax ring. Secondly, you can usually see evidence on the floor (it's white tile), particularly since my in-laws do their own housecleaning and neither their vision nor their dexterity enables perfect cleaning.

    My hunch is still that there is a slight crack near the wax ring. That would explain the original leak. And a new wax ring might be positioned such that it is mostly sealing the leak. Does this sound plausible?

    I guess I'll pull the toilet - unlesss someone tells me that there are any special issues dealing with a flushometer - and see what's going on underneath.
  7. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If te seat is old and has been there a long time there could be build up under where it attatches to the bowl.
  8. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

    Messages:
    2,051
    If the flange is too low, you can change the wax seal 100 times and it won't get a good seal. If you ever pull the toilet, see if the wax has been scrunched down. If not, you'll need to use 2 wax rings. As Cass suggested, make sure all the old wax is removed from under the toilet, if there is any.

    Also, if water had been leaking for a long time, the subfloor may be rotted or just stinking from the smell.

    If it's rotted, it will need to be fixed. If it is just wet, it will need to dry out. Once dry, you can spray on your deodorizer or even use some floor sealant if you have some exposed wood.
  9. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Any urine by the time it is flushed out of the bowl with 1.6-5 gallons of water diluting it will not smell. Therefore a wax ring will do nothing! The problem is bad aim!
  10. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    A leaking ring won't cause unrine smell. It would cause sewer-gas smell.

    It's that simple.



    If the wood subfloor got soaked in urine at some previous time, you need to soak it in nature's miracle, or vinegar. Nothing else will remove the smell.
  11. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    A bad wax ring can certainly cause a urine odor.

    While flushing will dilute the urine, if they don't flush at night, like many people dont, and the concentration builds up and the water from peeing over flows the trap and leaks out past the wax ring, it will. It is more likely to happen with low flow toilets that have small water spots, they hold less water and the concentration can build up quickly.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2007
  12. SAS

    SAS Member

    Messages:
    117
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I'm not saying that bad aim might not be part of the problem, but it can't be the only answer. Here's why:

    The definitely did have a noticeable leak, with water around the base of the bowl when you flushed. When that happened, they also had the urine smell. Now that the super has put in a new wax ring, they still get the smell but not the noticeable water around the base of the bowl. So if the original smell and leak were not because of a bad wax ring, what was the cause? A small crack at the base of the bowl? Something caused the leak and the smell, and I suspect it's still there, only to a smaller degreee so that you don't see the water but still have the smell.
  13. You need someone competent to pull the toilet, reset it properly with a new wax ring and caulk the base of the toilet to the floor, avoiding this issue with nastiness getting under the toilet.

    That way when urine shows up around the base of the toilet, you'll know it's improper use of the toilet facility.

    It's hard to get people to admit to misuse of their plumbing, with men it's bad aim or condoms, with women its female hygeine products or bf's condoms. Either way....they'll blatantly lie in front of you even though the prize is wrapped firmly around your cable, staring at you.
  14. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    A simple solution since you are in an apartment might be to caulk ALL AROUND the toilet; then thoroughly clean the floor. Any odor should go wherever the drain pipe goes into some space under the floor.

    A flushometer (I assume you mean the tankless quick-flushing devices) can be a little messy to deal with.
  15. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I'll stand by my original post... Urine smell is bad aim... Always!
    From the new revelation it sounds like there was a leaking wax ring and the only problem remaining is bad aim.
  16. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Most of the time yes, always no.

    You can ask me how I know if you like.

    You you can stand by your post, just aim well. :)
  17. SAS

    SAS Member

    Messages:
    117
    Location:
    Connecticut
    First of all, it's not a "new revelation" - look at my original post:
    there was some slight leakage around the bowl, but the super replaced the wax ring and that solved the obvious leakage. However, it still stinks in there!

    Second of all, your statement is clearly wrong because when the leak was obvious there was a urine smell. And before the leak there was no urine smell.

    I still think that the most likely explanations are either:
    1) there is still a small leak that doesn't create a puddle anymore but still causes the smell
    2) the smell is from the soaked underflooring from the prior leak

    So I'm going to follow Cass's suggestion and pour some Nature's Miracle in there in case the problem is #2. And if that doesn't work, I'll have a plumber pull the toilet.
  18. SAS

    SAS Member

    Messages:
    117
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Update

    I was at my in-laws this afternoon. My plan was to try pouring some Nature's Miracle to kill any odor under the toilet and then caulk around the toilet. First I cleaned around it thoroughly to make sure that the smell wasn't coming from the floor or the outside base of the toilet (in case my father-in-law's aim was the real problem). But then I noticed it was wet at the base of the toilet, after I had cleaned and dried the floor. So I took a paper towel and slid it under the front part of the toilet. It came out wet and dirty.

    I managed to get the super to come up and look at the problem. I couldn't really understand what he was saying (his English is very limited and his accent is very pronounced), but he did agree that there was a problem. I thought he was saying that there was a problem with the flange and that he was going to need an extension, but I may not have understand correctly. More importantly, he promised to pull the toilet and fix the problem. I really hope that he does.

    And now everyone (including my mother-in-law) can stop blaming my father-in-law for the problem.
  19. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I'm looking forward to your next update... Redwood goes all in, on mother in law is screaming she was right!:D
  20. Herk

    Herk Plumber

    Messages:
    547
    Location:
    S.E. Idaho
    I find that it's not just the old guys that cause the smell - it's often a pet. They do it when no one's looking.

    But if the toilet is leaking, I'm guessing the bad-English super isn't exactly a quality plumber. I'm afraid I've never been impressed with amateur skills in a situation like this.
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