Sewage smell after toilet was removed and put back

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PoppyNYC

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Hi. We live on the 18th floor of a 21 story apartment building and water was leaking from our apartment down to our neighbors. Ultimately, it turned out to be compromised caulking around our tub (and our teenage son's long showers).
At first though, our super suspected a leak from under our toilet (we did not) and brought in a licensed plumber in to remove the toilet and inspect. Our toilet is a Toto Carlyle Gmax from about 2003. The plumber removed the toilet and of course, found no leak. They reinstalled the toilet and caulked around the base of the toilet. The caulk degraded after a few days so they returned and plastered around the toilet which has since held. But, since the toilet was removed and then reinstalled, we get a sewage smell that comes and goes from that area. Because the water had been off for a few days, I thought maybe something "grew" in the tank so I emptied the tank and filled it with vinegar overnight, emptied, and then scrubbed the tank, the bowl, everything. I also vinegar'd/baking soda'd the sink and shower drains. We still are getting the smell and like I said it comes and goes. I don't believe our brand toilet has the usual wax seal of which I read about and I would think the plaster around the base would be sufficient to contain gasses? Of course, I could be wrong. Any ideas? It's stinky and driving us nuts. Maybe unhealthy, too?
 

Terry

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The Carlyle takes a Unifit adapter.

flange_03.jpg


I don't know why your caulking was needing to be replaced in a few days unless something was leaking under the bowl.
The back of that bowl is open, can you take a mirror and give it a look?
 

Reach4

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I would get some cheap plastic drop cloths. Drape one over the toilet, and drape one over the lavatory. Make sure that the smell is strongest when you sniff under the drop cloth over the toilet.

husky-drop-cloth-2.jpg


For disinfecting, I would add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the full tank. Stir that a bit. Only then add 1/4 cup of liquid household chlorine bleach. Stir a bit. Flush.

Do not add bleach directly to vinegar, because that will make chlorine gas:eek: if the pH is too low. Reducing the pH some will make the bleach more potent. Then try flushing, and see if the smell gets knocked down. I am not a pro.

I you have the two big output holes up top at the rim for flushing, you could also try using a big bottle brush into each hole for cleaning.

The Unifit toilets rely on the caulking to prevent the front of the toilet from sliding left and right. The caulking is structural/mechanical. It does not contain the smells. It's the rubber gasket on the Unifit that mates with the porcelain horn that drops into that.

There are some devices that inject a bit of chlorine down the overflow tube with each flush.
The Fluidmaster Flush n Sparkle, and Kaboom Scrub Free bleach cleaners are good, because they go in series with the bowl-refill tube and dump the chemical down the overflow to the bowl. The Kaboom can be reloaded, not only from the product they sell, with a slow-dissolve swimming pool or spa chlorine or bromine product. They put no chemical into the tank water.

The downside is that they pass the refill water through the gadget and more tubing. So it is possible that they could reduce the refill. If you used a refill with an adjustable refill rate, you may be able to compensate.

The downside of using a chlorine puck that puts chlorine into the tank is that chlorine is harmful to your flush valve rubber over time. A short exposure is not significant.
 
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wjcandee

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Um, yeah. It's unhealthy.

Dollars to donuts the "licensed plumber" didn't reinstall the toilet properly, in particular the methodology of sealing out sewer gas. Either he messed up the connection from the Unifit to the toilet (such as damaging the integrated gasket), did something that cracked the Unifit, or somehow moved the Unifit around enough to breach the wax seal between the Unifit and the flange. It might be as simple as pulling up the Unifit and changing the wax ring, or it might not be.

If they came in and tried to make a plaster "base" like a lot of NY plumbers do to "set" the toilet, that process is absurd when dealing with a toilet that uses the Unifit. In fact, the problem may be as simple as they have set it too high for the connection between the toilet and the Unifit to make a seal.

In NYC, someone who breaks something that you can't see is not-unlikely to just cover it up and walk away, leaving it for the next guy. All of you professionals who are appalled by the idea that I would suggest that the guy could screw it up, know that, but leave anyway, haven't lived here.

I'm a NYC resident and the owner of a Carlyle II, so I can tell you that the sewer gas odor in any NYC apartment's piping is the worst in the US, and I can also tell you that most plumbers don't have the slightest clue what to do when they see a Unifit. Many will take the time to figure it out or look it up. Many won't. A small breach in the gas seal and in NYC, you're gagging.

So that's what I would have your Super explore. Kind of funny that he insisted the water leak was the toilet rather than the more-obvious shower, which gives us a good idea of his competence level. Also not uncommon in NYC that someone clueless would have a position of responsibility like that. I know it sounds crazy, but Welcome to NY.
 
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Reach4

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Dollars to donuts the "licensed plumber" didn't reinstall the toilet properly, in particular the methodology of sealing out sewer gas. Either he messed up the connection from the Unifit to the toilet (such as damaging the integrated gasket), did something that cracked the Unifit, or somehow moved the Unifit around enough to breach the wax seal between the Unifit and the flange. It might be as simple as pulling up the Unifit and changing the wax ring, or it might not be.
When I put my Unifit in place, I packed it with wax, forming the wax to the shape I wanted. Not the normal thing to do, but I was doing some non-standard stuff. So I wanted to make sure there was good squish on the wax. I agree with your assement -- the Unifit may have cracked, or the wax was inadequate. A nice thing about the unifit toilets is that you can freely shim the toilet without affecting the wax seal.


If they came in and tried to make a plaster "base" like a lot of NY plumbers do to "set" the toilet, that process is absurd when dealing with a toilet that uses the Unifit. In fact, the problem may be as simple as they have set it too high for the connection between the toilet and the Unifit to make a seal.
Not sure of that. There is nothing in the forward 2/3 of the toilet keeping the toilet from sliding. If the flooring is glossy, things could move with a bump. The acrylic caulk is usually enough. Maybe their caulk stayed soft longer.
 

Terry

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I went to one home where they had installed a Carlyle without the adapter. What a holy Gawd Awful mess that was.

874cut.jpg


The adapter takes the waste from the bowl and moves it over to the drain in the floor.
The adapter is normally installed with a wax seal, but you can also use a waxless seal of some sort. I carry extra 12" Unifits, and have installed them on resets where it was an old installation.
 

PoppyNYC

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Hi Terry - Thanks for responding so quickly and sorry for the lag in my reply...dealing with my freezer problem yesterday. Yes, I recall seeing that Unifit adapter (or similar). Tight fit but got in there with a mirror (hope magnified was ok) and a flashlight. Photo attached and when I went back there, it did seem to smell stronger. I can also see how messy they were with the plaster. Hopefully the photo provides some extra clues. Much thanks!

The Carlyle takes a Unifit adapter.

flange_03.jpg


I don't know why your caulking was needing to be replaced in a few days unless something was leaking under the bowl.
The back of that bowl is open, can you take a mirror and give it a look?

Kids toilet unifit smell issue.jpg
 

PoppyNYC

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Reach4 - Thanks for the support and all the tips. You mentioned "the rubber gasket on the Unifit that mates with the porcelain horn that drops into that". Perhaps that is a clue that it was not put back right or not sitting flush or it deteriorated after 18 years.

We did try "2000 flushes tablets" when the smell first emerged thinking maybe some mold was brewing in the tank after shut off. What a mistake that was. It dislodged a lot of built-up gunk but it made a mess of everything else - the filler tub (had to be cleaned out), gunk stuck to the bowl, stuck to the flapper, etc. Would not go that route again. I also did the vinegar scrubs. Will check to see if there are the big output holes you mentioned.

The disinfectant down the overflow tube sounds like a good plan B if nothing else resolves the situation (which I hope is not the case).

Thanks again.

I would get some cheap plastic drop cloths. Drape one over the toilet, and drape one over the lavatory. Make sure that the smell is strongest when you sniff under the drop cloth over the toilet.

husky-drop-cloth-2.jpg


For disinfecting, I would add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the full tank. Stir that a bit. Only then add 1/4 cup of liquid household chlorine bleach. Stir a bit. Flush.

Do not add bleach directly to vinegar, because that will make chlorine gas:eek: if the pH is too low. Reducing the pH some will make the bleach more potent. Then try flushing, and see if the smell gets knocked down. I am not a pro.

I you have the two big output holes up top at the rim for flushing, you could also try using a big bottle brush into each hole for cleaning.

The Unifit toilets rely on the caulking to prevent the front of the toilet from sliding left and right. The caulking is structural/mechanical. It does not contain the smells. It's the rubber gasket on the Unifit that mates with the porcelain horn that drops into that.

There are some devices that inject a bit of chlorine down the overflow tube with each flush.
The Fluidmaster Flush n Sparkle, and Kaboom Scrub Free bleach cleaners are good, because they go in series with the bowl-refill tube and dump the chemical down the overflow to the bowl. The Kaboom can be reloaded, not only from the product they sell, with a slow-dissolve swimming pool or spa chlorine or bromine product. They put no chemical into the tank water.

The downside is that they pass the refill water through the gadget and more tubing. So it is possible that they could reduce the refill. If you used a refill with an adjustable refill rate, you may be able to compensate.

The downside of using a chlorine puck that puts chlorine into the tank is that chlorine is harmful to your flush valve rubber over time. A short exposure is not significant.
 

Reach4

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The back of that bowl is open, can you take a mirror and give it a look?

Nice call on the mirror picture thing!

That looks wrong to me. 12 inch Unifit adapters are often sold cheap, because when you buy a toilet, it comes with the 12 inch. https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Toto-TSU01W-12R-Modular-UniFit-Rough-In-12/184113781538 Those who need a 10 or 14 inch adapter will be disposing of a 12.

I don't know if that existing black seal can just be restored, or if a new Unifit is needed.

IMO, the last guy to lift that toilet off either messed this up, or failed to see what somebody earlier had messed up.

I think that uses the Toto TSU01W or TSU01WR unifit, with a suffix-number of .10, .12, or .14. I would tend to think a lot of the Unifit toilets are sold for use with 10 or 14, since there are a lot of toilet choices that fit 12.
 
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PoppyNYC

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WJCANDEE - Super is a good guy, capable on other matters, but indeed was initially off-base on this case. I'll cut him some slack. But, some really good ideas here, all plausible. Also, I did not realize there was a wax ring under the unifit piece; good to know. Would love to understand why the smell comes and goes...is it when the apartments above us flush and pass ours?...I'm assuming the respective poops in the line feed into the same vertical pipe? Thanks.


Um, yeah. It's unhealthy.

Dollars to donuts the "licensed plumber" didn't reinstall the toilet properly, in particular the methodology of sealing out sewer gas. Either he messed up the connection from the Unifit to the toilet (such as damaging the integrated gasket), did something that cracked the Unifit, or somehow moved the Unifit around enough to breach the wax seal between the Unifit and the flange. It might be as simple as pulling up the Unifit and changing the wax ring, or it might not be.

If they came in and tried to make a plaster "base" like a lot of NY plumbers do to "set" the toilet, that process is absurd when dealing with a toilet that uses the Unifit. In fact, the problem may be as simple as they have set it too high for the connection between the toilet and the Unifit to make a seal.

In NYC, someone who breaks something that you can't see is not-unlikely to just cover it up and walk away, leaving it for the next guy. All of you professionals who are appalled by the idea that I would suggest that the guy could screw it up, know that, but leave anyway, haven't lived here.

I'm a NYC resident and the owner of a Carlyle II, so I can tell you that the sewer gas odor in any NYC apartment's piping is the worst in the US, and I can also tell you that most plumbers don't have the slightest clue what to do when they see a Unifit. Many will take the time to figure it out or look it up. Many won't. A small breach in the gas seal and in NYC, you're gagging.

So that's what I would have your Super explore. Kind of funny that he insisted the water leak was the toilet rather than the more-obvious shower, which gives us a good idea of his competence level. Also not uncommon in NYC that someone clueless would have a position of responsibility like that. I know it sounds crazy, but Welcome to NY.
 

Reach4

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Would love to understand why the smell comes and goes...is it when the apartments above us flush and pass ours?...I'm assuming the respective poops in the line feed into the same vertical pipe?
Could be that, and it could even be a partial function of the wind.

I think you have located the culprit!
 

PoppyNYC

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Reach 4 - As far as I know, none of the legacy hardware was replaced when they pulled off the toilet, inspected, and put it back. So, if that was the size of the unifit adapter, it has been there since Day 1 without us having an issue. Can I ask, because I am not understanding from your last response (likely due to my layman understanding), are you seeing something in the photo that looks off in general or particular to the seal? The upper right looks a bit off in my eye but maybe it was my camera angle. Thx again!
 

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Reach 4 - As far as I know, none of the legacy hardware was replaced when they pulled off the toilet, inspected, and put it back. So, if that was the size of the unifit adapter, it has been there since Day 1 without us having an issue.
I only mention size, because if you replace the adapter, you will need the same size. And if that size is 12, it can be cheaper, especially percentage-wise. However I expect a $50 differential is not significant at this point.

Does anybody think the plumber who pulled the toilet last did not mess up?

Can I ask, because I am not understanding from your last response (likely due to my layman understanding), are you seeing something in the photo that looks off in general or particular to the seal? The upper right looks a bit off in my eye but maybe it was my camera angle.
See Terry's picture in post #2? The toilet stuff that inserts is all white. Your picture shows black stuff, probably the rubber seal, where it shouldn't be. Can that seal be put back and be OK? Or should the Unifit be replaced? I don't know. I did not try to tug my seal out when I did mine.

I actually had both a 12 and a 14, and was going to modify things to fit my ~13.2 inch rough. I decided to modify the 12, because the 14 had resale value.
 
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Terry

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unifit-terrylove-01.jpg


What a new Unifit looks like.

unifit-terrylove-02.jpg


unifit-terrylove-03.jpg


I have lot's of these on hand. I would pick up a new one for the reset of the bowl.
The picture you posted of yours looks to have a big gap where the spigot of the bowl drops into the rubber seal at the back, and I'm looking at a big gap in the rubber.

Kids-toilet-unifit-smell-issue.jpg


And looking at this picture, it doesn't really look like a standard Carlyle bowl setup.
 

PoppyNYC

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UPDATE! You all are so helpful. Went back under and had my son flush while I was recording, shooting into the mirror. Lo and behold, drops of water emerged which of course is not good and also maybe explains the bad smell (Terry, maybe you can confirm if my thinking is correct on this about the likely source of the smell?). Here is the link to the 6 second video so you can see (recording was too large to upload). Will go see the super in the morn and insist a new plumber come in. If anyone reading this has plumber recommendations for Manhattan, I will gladly take them! Thanks.
 

Reach4

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Will go see the super in the morn and insist a new plumber come in. If anyone reading this has plumber recommendations for Manhattan, I will gladly take them! Thanks.
It may be that plumber would be fine after recognizing the problem, and could be willing to learn from this and deal with it. Maybe a switch is in order.

I know it has been stressful for you.
 

wjcandee

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Hey, Rob. The smell is not the water. But the water is a BIG clue.

The smell is sewer gas, which is putrid stuff that comes from the decomposition of organic waste, and in NYC typically flows up from our sewers throughout all the waste piping in a building. It is smelly because is it a brutal mix of things like ammonia, sufur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

You typically don't smell it because all plumbing fixtures are installed with some kind of water trap to block the gas at the trap. Under your sink, for example, that's why you have the U-shaped pipe bend. Water in there forms a seal against the sewer gas. Dump a bunch of water in the sink, it pushes out the water at the far end of the U, and the new water settles to maintain the seal. There's a similar u-shaped trap under your shower and tub, too.

With a toilet, the water trap is built into the fixture. So, when you install the toilet, you need a gas-tight seal between the fixture and the pipe. Usually, this is done with a wax ring or similar between the "horn" of the toilet and the flange on the floor. With a Unifit, you indeed use a wax ring to seal the Unifit to the flange, and the porcelain horn of the toilet "plugs in" to a rubbery gasket at the end of the Unifit closest to the wall, which is what you are looking at with your ingenious mirror photo and video.

The porcelain horn from the toilet is supposed to plug into a rubber gasket, as shown in Terry's photo. The gasket is supposed to be in the center of the Unifit. Your rubber gasket seems to have been pulled up and flopped over the top of the Unifit when they "unplugged" the toilet, and it looks like they just dropped the toilet back on the Unifit, but without any seal around the horn. And maybe cracked it, too. Hence your water leak when you flush.

That there is water leaking from the seal between the toilet and the Unifit means there is no seal (or a damaged seal). And if there is no seal against the water, there is no seal against the sewer gas. So you're smelling the sewer gas.

It comes and goes because the pressure in the drain lines and risers is going to come and go, and where the drain lines are vented, sometimes air will blow in and pressurize the drain lines and sometimes it will not. Sometimes there is air pressure into your apartment, sometimes there is air pressure out of your apartment. Where there is negative pressure in your apartment, it will draw air from under your door to the hallway, and -- unfortunately -- sewer gas from this failure to seal the toilet to the Unifit. If you have vents in like your kitchen and bathroom as many NY high-rises do (mine does), sometimes the rush of air is louder and sometimes less so. Same thing with your toilet.

Maccarone Plumbing is an excellent plumber that is based in Glen Cove, Long Island but has a NYC division and does a lot of work there. The LI guys are fantastic; I'm not as sure about their guys that only do the City. Repair plumbing in the City is a racket, where there are a lot of unqualified handi-hacks using (or just stealing) a plumber's license. The building explosion in the East Village in 2015 that killed people and levelled several tenements was caused largely by a non-plumber essentially "renting" a real plumber's license and doing all sorts of incompetent gas plumbing when renovating a building, ultimately resulting in a huge gas leak in the basement and the enormous explosion. One reason Maccarone may do so well in the City is that they are real, licensed, Union plumbers who are basically-honest, albeit not cheap. If you call them, be sure to tell the nice lady that you have a Toto one-piece Carlyle toilet with a Unifit and you need someone with experience installing Unifits, because the last plumber destroyed the one you have. Again, I have no experience with their City guys, although it's the same company and their country guys are excellent; we have used them on Long Island for more than 30 years, and one of their guys, Jim Brown, is a virtual encyclopedia of older plumbing fixtures, who can look at a shower faucet handle and tell you that it's a Crane Dial-Ese from the 1950s and he can still get parts for it, then tell you what makes it interesting and different and what issues there are with it. (That one is actually easy, but he knows more arcane ones as well.) Very-useful in some of the fine older homes he repairs on LI. Exceptional person; great plumber. Trust him to the moon and back. Wish I knew a specific guy like that who works in Manhattan...
 
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Reach4

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The porcelain horn from the toilet is supposed to plug into a rubber gasket, as shown in Terry's photo. The gasket is supposed to be in the center of the Unifit. Your rubber gasket seems to have been pulled up and flopped over the top of the Unifit when they "unplugged" the toilet, and it looks like they just dropped the toilet back on the Unifit, but without any seal around the horn. And maybe cracked it, too. Hence your water leak when you flush.
PoppyNYC is on top of it now. What we don't know is is that seal replaceable, or should a messed up seal be cause for replacing the Unifit. I suspect the seal is held in by an adhesive, and replacing the Unifit would be the reliable repair.
 
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