replacing 2-piece cast iron toilet flange

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by MrBoylan, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    Hey, folks.

    We recently noticed a bad leak in our basement that was coming from the pipes leading up to our second floor toilet. Have traced it to the toilet drain.

    I was hoping it was simply a wax seal that needed replacing but when I got the toilet out of the way, replaced the wax seal and started to reattach the bolts that hold the toilet down, the rotten old cast iron flange broke. I was able to detach the broken piece from its base by loosening the 4 bolts holding it down.

    I'm wondering if they still sell these two-piece cast iron flanges and if the size and bolt layout is still the same? I've been looking at videos and found one where the flange was sealed to the pipe with lead solder, and also saw a compression fit pvc flange that goes inside the drain pipe.

    The drain pipe is old cast iron. I'd like to replace the flange the best way possible - best as in the way that be leak-free and last the longest. If I can find a replacement bolt-on top piece for the flange, do I need to add any additional sealant other than the wax seal? Also, should the flange be flush with the tiles or suface mounted on top of the tiles? The plumber who installed this toilet 10 years ago (using the existing 70-year-old flange) had put a bunch of what looked like spackling compound under the toilet to raise it up slightly and I'm wondering if he did this because it was loose or wobbly.

    Here's a couple of pictures. The first is the flange top separated from the bottom part. The second is what the current (broken) flange looks like when set into its location. It sits on top of the tiles (not flush to the floor).


    20131002_234723.jpg 20131002_234551.jpg

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

    -Chris
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
  2. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,901
    Location:
    New York, NY
    I'm not persuaded that the flange alone is responsible for your leak. However, I will let others more knowledgeable weigh in on that.

    What you saw under the toilet was a "base" of plaster of paris which many old-timey New York plumbers use to "set" a toilet. It's an ancient art that some still practice -- and those that do will massively condescend to those of us homeowners who have installed an ever-enlarging number of toilets ourselves without the "base" in which to "set" it. It's totally-unnecessary, because shimming the toilet if the floor isn't level is all you need to do, and no manufacturer recommends that you do a plaster of paris base. It seems to be a very local practice; a thread I wrote earlier this year turned up almost nobody outside the NY tri-state area that had ever even seen it.
  3. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    Hi,

    Thanks for the reply and the insight into this local practice (we are in Astoria, NY so what you are saying makes sense). The edges of the plaster of paris were cracking and it came up easily once I moved the toilet. Will check to make sure the floor is level before mounting the toilet.

    I am hoping that the only real problem was actually the 10+ year old wax seal, but since the flange is now broken and needs to be replaced, I'm also hoping that I can do that properly the first time. I want to make sure that I follow any best practices and use the best solution to provide a watertight seal between the flange and the drain pipe. We are probably going to be sealing up those pipes into the wall downstairs when we renovate the basement so I don't want to have to deal with this again in 10 years.

    Thanks,

    -Chris
  4. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    Any other opinions out there? Is this the type of flange that needs an oakum/lead pour to set properly or is there an alternative? Because I'm thinking that's probably beyond my skill level. I'd like to be able to keep the bottom piece of the flange in place if possible as it means a lot less demo work, but obviously I want something that will not leak. I will break the bottom part of the flange out if that's necessary to replace the entire flange with a new compression-type rubber gasket fitting.


    Thanks,

    -Chris
  5. Smooky

    Smooky Member

    Messages:
    624
    Location:
    NC
  6. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    I ended up replacing the broken flange with a PVC flange that goes inside the cast iron waste pipe with a gasket to form the seal. Had to cut the PVC down to fit as the lead bend (which is actually cast iron) turns a corner to the drain pipe only about an inch down. I used steel wool inside the pipe to get a decently smooth surface for the gasket to form a seal.

    But that wasn't the problem. Even with a new flange, new wax seal, I'm getting a river down in the basement (flowing around the waste pipe) every time I flush. So I called in a professional. Looks like the waste bend is probably damaged and needs to be replaced. They tell me they should be able to do the work from below with just a 12-inch square hole in the ceiling (hopefully). As long as I don't have to demo the bathroom walls and bathroom floor (which has electric heated tiles), I'm happy enough. We'll see how it goes.

    -CB
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Location:
    IL
    I suspect you mean that one or more oakum-lead joint seals in the cast iron fittings are leaking, and the lead seal cannot be easily repaired. Does that fit what you see?

    Please let us know how this works out.
  8. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,901
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Looks like we were right. It didn't seem to me that you'd have a "river" downstairs just from some water flowing around the wax seal. The toilet outlet is smaller than the waste pipe, and shoots into the center of the drain. Maybe a little splash, but generally not a big flow.

    If your plumber is going to replace the bend, then might as well do a proper flange on top. Those gaskety things aren't generally recommended on here, precisely because getting a seal against that pipe is going to be difficult.

    Good luck. (And it might not just be the bend; there could be an issue where it is joined to the stack or perhaps in the stack itself. They won't know until they get the ceiling open, I suspect.)
  9. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    Can't see anything until we open up the walls. No damage to the sections of pipe or joints that are visible (except the old cast iron flange that only broke when I tried to reattach the toilet initially with the new wax seal).

    So I won't know more until next week.
  10. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    Yup. Won't know for sure until they look around. Thought about buying a scope to look around inside the waste pipe, just out of curiosity, but probably not worth it.
  11. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
  12. MrBoylan

    MrBoylan New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Astoria, NY
    Thanks. I saw that one in my research online but didn't see it locally. The plumbing supply store I went to closed 10 minutes early the day I went there so I had a limited selection of flanges at Home Depot. That type probably would not have worked well for my purposes as the waste bend only has about 1.25 inches of straight pipe before it angles toward the main drain pipe.

    The plumber will install a new lead bend and new flange (most likely with an oakum/lead joint) as part of the job.

    Thanks,

    -Chris
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