A stain on a ceiling below a toilet, or moisture or water stain on the floor around the toilet base are indications the wax sealing ring under the toilet is leaking. While a new wax ring only costs a few dollars, the price for ignoring this seemingly minor problem is a rotted floor under the toilet, loose floor tiles and damage to the ceiling below. Once you've made sure the water on the floor isn't condensation dripping off the toilet tank or a leak from the tank, you need to separate the tank and bowl and lift the bowl off the flor.
Begin by turning the water supply off, flush the toilet and sponge up all remaining water in the tank and the bowl, then disconnect the supply line, and loosen the coupling bolts holding the tank to the bowl before separating the two. (See Fixitips: Removing a Tank.)
It is possible to do this job without separating the tank and bowl, but you'll have to be able to lift the toilet bowl and tank as one piece and then reposition it down over the hold-down bolts. A toilet is heavy and awkward; it is difficult to handle in one piece. A professional plumber who has lots of experience with this task can make it appear easy.
Next, remove the ceramic caps that cover the hold down bolts, clean the putty away, and spray the nuts with a penetrating lubricant. Then unscrew the hold-down nuts with a socket wrench. After lifting the bowl, turn it on its side and scrape all the old wax and putty from the bottom of the bowl. Stuff an old towel in the drain opening to prevent sewer gas and odors from escaping from the drain while you work.
Center a new wax ring over the hole on the bottom of the bowl and press down to seat it. Then insert a new set of hold-down bolts in the pipe flange slots and use plumber's putty to hold the bolts upright while you lower the bowl down over them -- don't forget to remove the towel. Tighten the nuts on the hold-down, without overdoing it or you'll crack the bowl. Reinstall the tank and you're back in business.
There is an alternative to the typical wax-ring that can solve many stubborn problems...such as a change in floor level after a new floor is installed. Easy to install, the Fluidmaster Wax-Free Bowl Gasket is a reuseable replacement for the wax ring normally used for connecting a toilet to the drain pipe. It will seal to a flange that is below the floor level, and can accommodate fixture and structure movement. For more details on replacing a sealing ring see Wax Ring Replacement .
Emergency Toilet Supplies
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