So, your toilet is rocking, and you’ve tried tightening the toilet to floor bolts, but you still can’t seem to get the toilet secured. Chances are your toilet flange (also called closet flange) is broken or deteriorating because it wasn’t installed properly. Although rather common, a damaged toilet flange must be repaired as soon as possible to prevent leaks that could cause serious damage to your flooring or tile.
A broken flange will cause the toilet to move because it is no longer secured to the flange, which is anchored to the subfloor. The constant rocking will likely break the wax seal (located between the toilet and the flange), allowing water to leak onto the substrate and the ceiling below when the toilet is flushed.
The good news? With the proper tools, a little know-how and a trip to the local hardware store, most people can effectively repair their own toilet flanges without breaking a sweat (or the bank!)
Toilet Flange Overview
A toilet flange is a pipe fitting that connects a toilet to the home’s drainage system. It also mounts a toilet securely to the finished floor. There is a variety of toilet flanges to choose from on the market today, such as PVC, ABS, cast iron, copper and stainless steel, depending on your particular application needs.
Assessing the Problem
In addition to your toilet rocking, there are other warning signs that may indicate your flange is broken including:
- Visible leaks beneath the toilet
- Flooring surrounding the toilet feels soft
- Water spots appearing on the ceiling located directly below the toilet
If any of these issues are present, it’s time to visually inspect the toilet flange for damage. Refer to steps 1-10 in the section below.
Prepping Toilet for Repair
- First, turn off the water supply to the toilet by turning the valve in a clockwise direction. The water supply valve should be located behind the toilet just to the left. If a valve is not present, you will need to find another valve located in the basement or crawl space area of the home.
- Remove the lid of the toilet tank and flush the toilet. Hold the toilet handle down so as much water as possible drains from the tank and the bowl.
- Use a water absorber, like LiquiLock, to temporarily solidify the remaining water, turning it into a gel, which will help prevent drips and leaks when removing the toilet fixture. The gel will dissolve when additional water is added.
- Disconnect the water supply line from the toilet fill valve and the 3/8” compression nut. This will help when resetting the toilet after the wax seal (also called toilet wax ring) is replaced. You should always consider replacing the toilet supply when replacing the wax seal.
- If your toilet is caulked to the finished floor of the bathroom, score the caulking all the way around the toilet base with a razor knife.
- Place protective covering on the bathroom floor or bathtub, depending on where you will be placing the toilet while repairing the flange.
- Remove the caps that cover the bolts and washers. This can be done by inserting a flat head screwdriver under the edge of cap and gentle prying upwards. Be careful not to apply to much pressure on the porcelain because it may chip or crack.
- Remove nuts and washers from the bolts at the toilet base using an adjustable wrench. If the bolt spins as you turn the nut, you will have to grasp the bolt with a separate pair of pliers while removing the nuts.
- Grab the toilet under the sides of the bowl and rock it gently back and forth to break the old wax seal and lift the toilet off the floor. Set it down on the protective covering.
- Scrape the old wax seal off the base of the toilet and toilet flange using a putty knife. Scrape the caulk off the toilet bowl and finished flooring.
Repairing Toilet Flange
What You’ll Need:
- Eye protection
- Screw gun
- Caulk gun
- Rust-proof screws
- Flange repair ring
First, inspect the toilet flange for any cracks or decay. If the drain section of the flange is damaged, a licensed plumber will be needed to completely replace the old flange. Flange selection depends on the type and size of pipe it is being connected to, as well as other application-specific variables.
Some flanges are specifically designed for cast iron connections, and others can be solvent welded for PVC or ABS pipe connections. For new construction or remodels, there are flanges with knockout plugs that allow you to test the system without having to use a test ball or plug, while also keeping sewer gases from escaping.
If just the flange is broken, you can use a convenient flange repair ring, like Oatey’s Fix-It Flange Repair Ring, to securely reinstall the toilet. A product like this makes repairs easy because it can be installed above the broken toilet flange with four screws and silicone sealant. It doesn’t require solvent cementing or special tools to install, which is ideal for the average homeowner. For professionals, ease of installation results in a faster service call, saving time and costs.
Follow these steps to properly repair your flange using a flange repair ring*:
- Remove broken or corroded sections of the flange. If pieces are loose, they can be removed by hand. Then, apply a liberal amount of 100% silicone sealant to the top of the existing flange.
- Inset new Johni-Bolts into existing ring slots if still in place. Be sure the bolts are centered with the toilet flange opening and parallel with the wall behind toilet tank.
- Press the repair ring down into the desired location for correct bolt alignment and secure the repair ring to the subfloor using appropriate screws and anchors.
- Secure Johni-Bolts to repair ring using supplied fasteners.
- Wipe off any excess silicone and allow time to cure.
*Please read manufacturer instructions and recommendations on products to ensure best practices for safe and effective use.
- Place new wax ring seal on top of repair ring. Make sure it is centered.
- Reinstall toilet by using Johni-bolts (the bolts that connect the toilet to the floor) as a guide. Make sure you hold the toilet as level as possible when placing it onto the new wax seal. The toilet tank should be parallel to the wall behind it.
- Do not rock the toilet as it is placed on the new wax seal. Use a slight side-to-side twisting motion until the toilet bowl is resting on the bathroom floor.
- Install washers and nuts in their original order and location.
- Tighten nuts down while alternating from side to side until toilet bowl is seated firmly and evenly on the floor. Be careful not to overtighten the bolts, or you could crack the toilet bowl.
- Connect toilet supply.