Whenever you remove a toilet for any reason, you will need to replace the wax ring seal between the toilet and the toilet flange (sometimes called a closet flange) attached to the floor. A wax seal is used because it resists mold and bacteria and retains its sealing ability after years of use.
What to Consider Before You Shop for Wax Ring Replacement Supplies
- Does your toilet wobble from side to side? If your toilet rocks enough for one side of the base to lift off the floor — even just a bit — you may have a broken toilet flange. As a precaution, pick up a flange repair kit.
- Replacing a sheet vinyl floor with something thicker, such as ceramic tile, can create a gap between the toilet and the toilet flange. If that is the case, add a flange spacer to fill the gap. Toilet flange should set flush at the top of the finished floor.
- Once you drain the toilet tank and disconnect the water supply, it is a good time to replace the flapper. Fixing a leaky flapper can save hundreds of gallons of water a day. To test the flapper before turning off the water, tint the water in the tank with food coloring, and let it sit for 10 minutes. If any colored water leaks into the bowl, replace the flapper.
- If you are removing the toilet because of a leak at the base or water damage in the ceiling below, confirm the cause of the damage before heading to the store. Water can damage the subfloor enough to affect the strength of the mounting bolts attaching the toilet flange — and the toilet — to the floor. Determine whether you need to cut away the damaged subfloor and replace it.
- Anytime a wax seal is replaced you should replace the T-bolts that attach the toilet to the toilet flange. Some wax rings come in a kit that includes new mounting bolts.
Tools and Materials Needed to Replace a Wax Ring
- Adjustable Wrenches
- Mini Hacksaw
Drain and Remove the Toilet
Have a bucket and sponge or some towels within reach to catch any drips when you turn off and disconnect the water supply line.
Turn the water supply to the toilet off 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 area of the home. Remove the lid of the toilet tank and flush the toilet. You will want to hold the toilet handle down so that as much water as possible drains from the tank and the bowl. Remove any water left in the bowl with a sponge or use Oatey LiquiLock to temporarily solidify the remaining water in the bowl.
Disconnect the water supply tube from the toilet fill valve and the 3/8” compression nut. This will help when resetting the toilet after the wax seal is replaced. You should always consider replacing the toilet supply when replacing the wax seal. If 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 changing the wax seal. 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 china, because it may chip or crack. Remove the 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. If you are not planning on installing new bolts, nuts, and washers, store the existing ones so they are not lost.
Grab the toilet under the sides of the bowl and rock it gently back and forth to break the old wax seal. Lift the toilet off of the floor and set it down on the protective covering.
Install the New Wax Ring
Wear a pair of disposable gloves to remove and discard the old wax ring. Scrape the old wax seal off of the base of the toilet and toilet flange using a putty knife. Scrape the caulk off of the toilet bowl and finished flooring. Inspect the toilet flange for any cracks or decay. If none, proceed with new installation. After you remove the old wax ring, immediately plug the drain with a ball of rags or an old towel large enough that it doesn’t fall into the pipe. An unplugged drain can allow noxious sewer gas to enter your home.
If installing new bolts, install them in place now. If keeping the existing bolts, make sure they are in good condition before placing the wax into place. Make sure the bolts are centered with the toilet flange opening and parallel with the finished wall behind the toilet tank. Install any repair parts or spacers as needed before inserting the new toilet mounting bolts.
Place the new wax seal on top of the toilet flange, making sure it is centered.
Re-install toilet by using bolts 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 you seat it onto the new wax seal. Use a slight side to side twisting motion until the toilet bowl is resting on the finish bathroom floor.
Install washers and bolts in the order and location they were removed from.Tighten bolts down while alternating from side to side until toilet bowl is setting firmly and evenly on the finished floor. Be careful not to overtighten the bolts, or you could damage or crack the toilet bowl. Saw off extra bolt length if needed then add the decorative caps.
Caution: Stop tightening the nuts holding the toilet to the floor as soon as they’re snugly in place and keep the toilet from tipping. Too much torque can crack the porcelain or damage the drain flange
If you do not see any leaks, seal the toilet bowl to the finished flooring while only leaving a small 1” observation opening in the back of the bowl facing the wall. If water is ever seen coming from this small opening, you have a leak, and the source of the leak should be identified ASAP before floor damages occur. For insurance against leaks, replace the water line linking your toilet to the water line coming through the wall or floor.