Is It Time To Replace The Wax Ring Under Your Toilet?

Posted on: 19 December 2014

The toilet is one of those appliances that nobody really thinks about until things start going wrong. If you notice a growing dark spot around the base of your toilet or it's leaking for no apparent reason, it may be time to replace the wax ring underneath it. Here are step by step instructions on how to complete this simple do-it-yourself project.

Signs The Toilet Wax Ring Needs Replacing

The toilet wax ring is a soft, flexible doughnut that seals the space between the base of the toilet and the drainpipe. It's designed to fit around the toilet's exit hole and on top of the flange; it works to prevent water, sewage and harmful gasses from leaking into your home.

There are several tell-tale signs that it's time to replace the wax ring:

  • A malodorous smell like rotten eggs begins permeating your home. This is hydrogen sulfide gas rising from the sewer line.
  • Water begins leaking from the bottom of the toilet. It may be something as simple as condensation or as major as puddles.
  • A large dark spot forms around the base of the toilet. This is most likely mold or black bacteria growing under the tiles due to water leakage or sewage that has backed up and is pouring out under the flooring.
  • Water spots or rotting in the ceiling below your bathroom. This is most likely due to a leak that is pouring water underneath the floorboards.
  • The toilet wobbles when you sit on it. This is actually due to a broken flange. However, you must replace the ring when you replace the flange.

Any of these symptoms can advance into more serious problems. So it's critical that you replace the wax ring as soon as you suspect it (or the flange) may have gone bad.

How to Replace a Wax Ring

Replacing the ring is a relatively simple do-it-yourself project that can be completed in a weekend morning. The hardest part will be relocating the toilet itself, which is very heavy. It's a good idea to have a dolly of some kind or a toilet truck of some kind to help you move the appliance and save your back.

You'll also want to do this on a warm day or turn the heat up in your home. This will help keep the wax ring pliable while you install it.

Instructions (Here's a video demonstration for visual learners)

  1. Turn off the water supply.
  2. Empty the bowl and tank by flushing the toilet. Bail out or use towels to soak up any remaining water.
  3. Using a temporary marking tool or tape, mark where the toilet's current position on the floor, then remove the nuts bolting it to the floor. These are typically covered by caps. They may be rusted, so you might need to use a little bit of lubricant, a sturdy wrench and a lot of elbow grease.
  4. Disconnect the water line from the toilet. Grab the bowl and gently move the toilet side to side to break the existing seal and caulking and then completely remove the toilet from its spot. Do NOT rock the toilet using the tank. You could break it or the joint where it's connected to the bowl.
  5. Using a scraper, remove the old seal and remnants from under the bowl and around the flange. Place the new wax seal over the flange. The rounded side should be facing the ceiling and the entire part should be centered in the space.
  6. Keeping the toilet level, put it back in its place and then sit on it to help the new seal attach firmly to the exit and flange.
  7. Using your previous markings as a guide, inspect the bowl to make sure it is level and centered.
  8. Re-bolt the toilet to the floor. You may want to use brand new bolts for this, especially if the old ones are rusted. Tighten them manually rather than using a power tool to avoid cracking the porcelain base.
  9. Reconnect the water line and turn on the water. A rush of cold water will be temporarily diverted to the toilet, which may cause cold water to be temporarily unavailable in other locations in the home.
  10. Flush the toilet and check for any leaks. Once you're satisfied the bowl is properly situated and sealed, caulk the base.

You'll want to check the local plumbing codes in your area. Even though this is a fairly simple home repair, some places require you have it done by a professional plumber. It may also be a good idea to hire a plumber to check the pipe for clogs or any other problems that may be causing leaks.

For more information or assistance with this home repair, contact an experienced plumber in your area.