Water is Leaking from the Toilet – What do I do? (How to replace the wax seal for a toilet.)

If there is water leaking from the toilet, you need to make sure that you know from where the water is leaking.  Check the toilet itself to make sure there are no cracks or large chips in it; if you find any of these and there is water coming from those areas, you will need to purchase a new toilet.  There may be ways to ‘plug’ the chip or crack, but, in the long-run, it would really be best to get a new toilet.  If there are no chips or cracks, there are really just two places from where the water is going to leak, where the toilet bowl connects to the toilet or where the toilet itself connects to the floor.

Now, for the most part, the toilet will be leaking from where it connects to the floor.  This is due to the fact that a lot of toilets either come with the tank already attached to the toilet, or are quite easy to put together correctly.  The most common failure, when it comes to a toilet leaking, is the wax seal that goes in-between the toilet and the floor.  When this seal fails, or when a toilet is incorrectly positioned over this seal, water will leak from the toilet.  Now, assuming you’ve identified that there is a leak at the base of the toilet, where it connects to the ground, the rest of the article will focus on how to replace the seal between the toilet and the floor.

Before you do anything, you need to make sure that the water going to the toilet is shut-off and that there is no more water inside the toilet.  Often times, there is a shut-off valve or handle behind the toilet that is connected to the water supply line; turn that to the off position.  If this does not exist, you will need to turn the water off for the entire house; this valve may be located in the basement or in a crawl space.  Once the water is off, flush the toilet until it is empty and use a towel or sponge to remove any remaining water.

Next, you need to remove the toilet.  Toilets are bolted into the floor of a bathroom with two bolts that are generally located at the mid to rear of the base of the toilet.  Sometimes there are caps covering the bolts.  All you need to do is to remove the caps and then the bolts or nuts.  Make sure to do this gently so that you do not chip the toilet.  Before trying to move the toilet, make sure that you have also disconnected the water supply line from the toilet.  This is usually a threaded line that goes from the wall to the toilet and is easy to unscrew with your hands or with pliers.

Now, remove the toilet, carefully.  Grip the toilet by the bowl, not the tank!  If you pull using the tank, you may break the toilet where the tank and the bowl are connected.  Gently rock the toilet back and forth and side-to-side in order to loosen and break the seal.  Go slow here so that you do not damage the toilet or the floor.  Once the toilet feels pretty loose, slowly lift it up and set it aside.  Note that toilets can be heavy!

After the toilet is removed, you should see the remnants of the wax seal.  Remove the wax seal and clean the surrounding area.  You want to make sure that there is no debris left over so that the new seal will have the best possible chance to work.

To install the new seal, unwrap it, place it flat-side down and make sure that it is centered over the hole.  Then, just lift the toilet back over the bolts and gently set it down on top of the new seal.  Try to keep the toilet as level as possible when positioning it.  You will then want to press down on the toilet and to sit down on the toilet to help ensure that the wax seal is correctly attached and is sealing the toilet and the floor.  Try to press down evenly on the toilet so that it compresses the wax seal as evenly as possible.  Once that is done, just tighten the nuts onto the bolts and, if you have caps, place the caps back over the bolts.  Tighten the nuts with care so that you do not crack or chip the toilet.

Once the toilet is back in place, reconnect the water line to the toilet; turn the water back on for the toilet or the house; let the water tank for the toilet fill-up; and, test flush the toilet.  For the first few flushes after you have placed a new seal, make sure to check for leaks.  Leaks happen when the wax seal is not properly placed or when it moves to one side while you are setting the toilet in place.  If there is a leak, just follow the instructions above for replacing the seal and try to make sure it is correctly set this time.

So, now, you should have a working, leak-free, toilet.

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