Toilet Leaking at Base

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by ShannaMar, May 7, 2007.

  1. ShannaMar

    ShannaMar New Member

    Okay, so I am new to this forum. And new to plumbing, for that matter. I am going to sound a little like ggirl here, so bear with me. My toilet was leaking from the base. My roommate said maybe it was the wax ring. She and I talked about it and she said instead of just replacing the wax ring, maybe we should just replace the toilet.

    WELL. I replaced the toilet and put a new wax ring in (we got an all-in-one setup). I did not caulk under the base of the toilet.

    Everything was fine for one night. The next morning the base of the toilet was leaking again. At this point I am at a loss. Here is some additional info: 1) when I cleaned up the flange, around the flange the concrete was erroded away and there was water down in the crevice the eroded concrete created, 2) I am not sure if the wax ring I put in was a good one; it came with the new toilet and it appeared sub-standard to another wax ring I had seen, and 3) it bugged me that when I put the closet bolts up through the flange they had no concrete or anything to rest on because the crevice was eroded and there was water underneath. This did not create a very good situation for the bolts to stick upright when I was placing the toilet on it.

    I am thinking of paying a plumber to come fix it. But, I want to know what may be wrong first. Do you think the wax ring was just not situated right? Maybe I did not twist the base of the toilet enough to create a good seal? Or do you think it has to do with the crevice in the concrete around the flange that is holding a little water and maybe it just filled up the couple times over night after flushing and leaked out of the base in the morning.

    Ugh. Please help.
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Bothell, Washington
    I'm not totally sure of what you are saying.
    I'm imagining a flange with slots?
    The closest bolts slid into the slots, and they can flop around.
    Most plumbers use bolts with extra nuts and washers, that way they can secure the bolt to the flange before the bowl is set down.
    Not that they "need" to be secured, but it is nicer that way, especially if the bolts need to be sawed shorter.

    We like to try the bowl on the flange first without wax, to see if the floor is level. If the bowl rocks, we place shims near the back, pinning the front of the bowl down to the floor,
    Pull the bowl up, set the wax down, and set the bowl.

    If the flange is above the floor level, one wax seal will do.
    If the flange is recessed, we stack two wax rings.

    If you are using a flexible supply, don't use Teflon tape with them, they will have seals on both ends, and the tape prevents those seals from touching.
  3. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

    Just to elaborate a little on Terry's comments:

    When you initially set the new toilet, did you "feel" the wax squishing down?
    If not, your flange may be slightly recessed and you will need 2 wax rings to make a good seal.

    Also, as Terry pointed out, if you decide to pull the toilet and re-set it, you need to lock the floor bolts in place by using an additional nut and washer. The bolts will then point straight up and not move around at all.

    If the toilet flange is too high, you need to shim and caulk it in place, so it doesn't rock and break the seal.

    Also, have you ruled out the possibility that the leak could be coming from higher up and dripping down from the tank?
  4. ShannaMar

    ShannaMar New Member


    So what you two are saying is maybe I need two wax rings instead of one?

    I wish I could draw a picture to show you what I mean. I am not sure I have all the terminology proper. Yes, the closet bolts are flopping around because there is big notch that you can slip them in, then they slide north and south until you place the toilet on them. But, the idea about the closet bolts is definitely helpful. I envision that I will washer and bolt the closet bolt from above the flange, right? (I am asking very specific questions because I want to make sure if I give it another shot that I won't miss something else useful like this.)

    Also, if I give it another go, without calling a plumber, should I take the new wax ring off and get two new ones? You alluded to the fact that you place the wax ring down in the flange; I read in the instructions that you place it around the bottom of the toilet -- further instruction is requested here. A flexible supply? I don't know the brand of the wax ring. Teflon tape? I didn't use any.

    No, I did not really feel the wax ring squishing around. I think there is about 1.5 inches from the top of the white PVC pipe where the closet bolts go down to the place where there is a hole for the sewer. (Of course, there is a lip that is down there that is parallel to the ground until the hole opens for the sewage.)

    Thanks you two for your prompt responses, I really appreciate your time with this.
  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Bothell, Washington
    If you don't feel the squish, there wasn't enough wax.

    You will never see a plumber put the wax on the bowl. It goes on the flange.

    1.5" down to the flange?
    That's quite a ways.
  6. ShannaMar

    ShannaMar New Member

    Is there such a thing as too much wax?
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    You must be able to feel the toilet squishing down the wax seal when you place it on the flange, otherwise, you will not get a good seal...the flange (ideally) sits on top of the finished floor (the top surface normally sits about 1/4-3/8" above to the floor), and is firmly fastened to it. They also make flange extenders that you can use to raise the flange to the proper level as well as repair rings, if yours is damaged. These are used when you don't want to replace the flange and install it properly on top of the finished floor. In lieu of that, it is fairly common to use either a double wax ring, a jumbo one, or possibly, one of the waxless seals. The waxless seals have a funnel that seals to the toilet and fits inside of the drain pipe at the flange. It works better if the pipe is a 4", but consider that the opening in the toilet is rarely much over 2", it shouldn't be a source of blockage.

    Yes, too much wax can be a bad thing as when you set the toilet, it can extrude in as well as out. Plus, if you ever have to plunge the toilet to clear a blockage, wax that is super thick can blowout, and then you lost your seal. They are designed to have the flange at the proper level...on top of the finished floor, and use a standard wax ring, which is about 1" thick - once installed, it is probably in the order of 1/3" so you can see, the proper height of all the pieces is important. Don't go more than two standard wax rings thick would be my recommendation.

    You can set the wax on the toilet first, but then you can't set it down except on the flange. It is sometimes safer to do it that way, but many pros put it on the flange first. Hard to say sometimes, which is easier, they both can work, but if it doesn't fall off of the toilet in the process, installing it on the toilet first is probably safer.
    Last edited: May 7, 2007
  8. ShannaMar

    ShannaMar New Member

    All these posts are making more questions come to my mind.

    Does the flange (the thing I put the bolts through to bolt the toilet down) need to have something underneath it (e.g., flooring, concrete, etc.) or is it okay that it is hollow? This may be part of the problem -- there is hollow space (filled with stinky water) under the lip of the flange where the toilet bolts.

    I read this in reference to someone else's question on this forum:
    You may be able to slide stainless steel repair parts under the old flange to bolt the toilet to. Otherwise, you will have to have it replaced. The flange has to be solidly bolted to the floor, with only the thickness of the flange above finished floor level, in order for the wax ring to seal properly.

    Does this sound like something that might help me? The flange is not bolted to the floor; it is only attached to the PVB pipe coming up from the sewer. Could that be why my wax ring is not sealing properly?

    ps..Yes, I am sure the water is coming from the toilet and not the tank.
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    The bolts hold the toilet to the flange. The flange holds the toilet to the floor. Unless the flange is supported, you have a problem. If the toilet rocks once it is anchored to the flange, you have a problem. Unless the toilet is snugged down to the floor by pulling up on the anchored flange, you have a problem. How big, is hard to tell without a picture or being there.
  10. prashster

    prashster New Member

    The bottom of the flange needs to sit flush with the top of the finished floor. Any lower, and the horn of the toilet might not compress the seal adequately; any higher, and the toilet base may not contact the floor, causing rocking and the seal to break.

    Shim above or below the flange to make sure it's adequately supported from underneath and properly positioned from above.

    I defer to pros who advise to secure the bolts from above to avoid 'floppage', but IMH(nonprofessional)O, this isn't the source of yr leak. I prefer the floppage bkz it allows you to position the bolts perfectly as yr setting. Once tightened from above the base, the extra nuts wld b irrelevant.
  11. Pewterpower

    Pewterpower New Member

    So the rim of the flange isn't in contact with any type of floor? Can you push down on the flange with your fingers and make the waste pipe move up and down?
    If this is the case, then that is your problem.
    You mentioned concrete, so I assume you are on a slab.
  12. ShannaMar

    ShannaMar New Member

    I'm baaack

    Okay, in response to the last question on this post I wrote over a year ago, yes, I am on a concrete slab foundation.

    Today the toilet didn't flush and I went to plunging it. When I finally was able to get the water to go down, water started leaking out of the base of the toilet.

    I'm pretty certain there was finally a break in the newly installed wax ring although I am not certain it hasn't always existed.

    An update and new part of the question: Can a plumber come and re-build up the concret surrounding the toilet flange? Otherwise this wax seal is never going to truly seal....

    I am not exactly sure if there is ceramic tile over where the eroded away concrete hole is or not. I wasn't there when the tile people replaced the toilet after tiling the bathroom.

    Any help is greatly appreciated. I don't think two wax rings will solve this problem....
  13. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Quite often when a wax seal breaks due to plunging it is a sign that the line under the floor is clogged.

    The flange should set on top of the finished floor.

    I would say that you would want a plumber for both of these problems.
  14. sham

    sham New Member

    This doesn't sound like the toilet's the problem; even if the wax seal was bad, it would only leak when the toilet was actually flushed.It sounds like water is seeping in through the foundation; your spraying the back wall seems to verify this.
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  15. ShannaMar

    ShannaMar New Member

    Okay. I think a lightbulb just went on: the flange might need to be cut down or fixed so it is flush with the finished floor? Could a plumber also fill in the area below the tile (the finished floor) so there is not a hole on one side of the pipe that was eroded away after years of waste sitting there (e.g., mortar or something)?

    Okay - so the line under the floor needs to be "cleaned" - is that like a rotor rooter job?

    What is the going hourly rate for a plumber - I live in the southeast? Do I need to get this fixed this weekend or could it wait until Monday, would you recommend?

  16. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Yakima WA
    I'm surprise this point hasn't been addressed. A flange is designed to rest on top of the finished floor, not recessed and not "floating" above. It is secured not only to the drain pipe but with screws into the sub floor or in your case, concrete. When the flange is properly installed and the floor is level, you test the fit by putting the toilet in place over the flange without a wax ring. The base should rest firmly on the floor with no spaces. It will not even be touching the flange. Now put the flange bolts in place. I like to put a nut on the bolt to hold it in place and upright during the installation process. Next, you put the wax ring (1) on the flange and lower the toilet straight down so that the flange bolts go through the holes on the toilet base and the horn on the underside of the toilet goes into the ring. Then press the toilet into the wax ring. you can use a little bit of rocking motions to help. You should be able to feel the wax compress. When the toilet is flat on the floor all the way around, you're done. Then put the nuts on the flange bolts-snugly but not torqued. These bolts are intended to just hold the toilet in place, not to pull it deeper into the wax, remember, it's already down as far as it will go. Too tight and you can break the flange bolts or even the toilet.
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