Caulking is a common task for people looking to hide the gap between the toilet’s base and the floor to prevent odor leakage. It’s a relatively simple home improvement project but will require preparation beforehand.
This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to caulk a toilet, some tips on how to do the job, as well as answers to some commonly asked questions.
To start, let’s dive into the debate on if there is even a need to do this task.
Should You Caulk Around a Toilet?
One of the most heated debates in plumbing is whether or not you should caulk around the base of a toilet. Both sides have valid points, and both professional plumbers and building inspectors tend to choose their side of the argument based mainly on their own personal views.
The Argument Against Caulking
Those who argue against caulking say that the task just makes an extra barrier to go through on top of the bolts and wax seal. On some floors, this may result in damage if removed improperly.
Another argument against caulking is the fact that leaks are less likely to be noticed. Larger leaks generally result in visible water seepage out onto the floor and caulking the base means water will be trapped inside and cause further damage before the issue is discovered.
The Argument for Caulking
Unlike those who say caulking prevents troublesome leaks from being noticed, those who support caulking argue by caulking around the base, water from outside the toilet cannot creep under the toilet.
Another argument that most experts will agree on is that caulking the base of a toilet on an uneven floor is a good idea. It will improve stability and greatly reduce the risk of a leak forming.
Finally, some municipalities have regulations requiring toilets to be caulked.
How to Caulk a Toilet
If you read through the above and decided to indeed caulk your toilet, below is a guide that will teach you how to do it.
Step 1: Remove Any Old Caulk
If your toilet already has a caulk seal around its base, you’ll want to remove it.
If you don’t have a caulk removal tool handy, you can use a utility or razor knife to loosen the caulk at one end and try to pull it up in one long strip.
Step 2: Clean the Base of the Toilet
Scoop out any debris, such as paint chips, dirt, or rust using a general-purpose bathroom cleaner and a rag to clean around the joint. The cleaner you get the area, the better of a seal you’ll be able to apply.
Step 3: Apply Masking Tape to the Floor
This will help you get a straighter seal and prevent excess caulk from getting on your floors. Put masking tape on either side of the joint, one following the toilet’s base and the other along the floor.
Step 4: Apply the Caulk
Pull the caulk along the joint between the toilet and floor and try to keep it at a 45-degree angle. Try to keep the application of the caulk consistent and squeeze it out slow and smooth to ensure a better seal. Having a caulk gun will help with this process.
Use the hand not holding the caulk to press the tip of the tube against the joint to ensure that the caulk is pushed into the joint. Pushing it rather than pulling it along will make it more difficult to create a consistent seal.
Step 5: Scoop Off Any Excess Caulk
Run your finger along the caulk seal and push the caulk deeper into the joint, sealing it more fully. While doing this, you’ll also be scooping off any extra caulk, which will make for a cleaner joint.
You can wear gloves for this step and when you finish, discard any caulk buildup directly in the garbage.
Step 6: Clean Around the Toilet
Peel off the tape at a 45-degree angle away from you. It should come off fairly easily and if you got caulk on the tape, be careful as you peel it to avoid spilling the sealant on your floors.
Then, use a damp rag or sponge to clean up around the joint. You don’t need to apply any cleaning solution to the sponge because its absorbency should clean up any spilled caulk.
Finally, allow the caulk to cure however long your caulk container instructions specify you to do so.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Here are a few common mistakes people will make while doing this task. While it can be a very simple process, people can become a bit negligent with it. So, make sure to read through the below.
#1 Do Not Caulk Around a Toilet to Fix a Leak
Leaking water will get trapped behind the caulk and damage your floors.
Earlier, I mentioned that people against caulking say it is because it makes it harder to identify leaks under your toilet. If you are already aware of a leak, caulking will make this problem worse over time.
#2 Cut Open the Tube Correctly
When you open a tube of caulk, the tapered tip on the tube allows you to custom-size the opening for your specific job. Cutting the tip without regard for the width of the crack you plan to seal will result in too much material on the surface, poor adhesion, and/or a sticky mess.
Be sure to cut your tip slightly narrower than the opening and use pressure and speed to adjust the width of the bead.
#3 Do Not Try to Dry the Caulk Too Fast
Sometimes, you are in a rush and can’t wait the day it may take to properly cure caulk. Some will try to put a blow dryer or heater up to the caulk to make it cure faster.
This can work under specific circumstances, but usually, the heat is too high and will actually make the caulk cure slower. There are fast-curing options available if necessary, and you’re willing to spend a little extra on it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Caulking Around Toilets
Finally, let’s go over some of the most commonly asked questions about caulking toilet.
Are there any laws that require caulking around a toilet?
Yes. Two major plumbing codes require caulking around the base of a toilet. However, these codes are not always enforced, as there is still the ongoing debate on if the caulk is truly necessary for a toilet. The two codes are:
- International Plumbing Code (2012 edition), Chapter 4, Section 405.5
- Uniform Plumbing Code (2009 edition), Chapter 4, Section 407.2
Opponents of caulking claim that the wax ring already performs this job while supporters believe that the ring is insufficient for proper compliance.
Should you caulk a toilet before or after installing it?
You can do either but you will get a better seal if you caulk before installing a toilet.
DIYers often set the toilet and then apply a tiny bead of caulk along the outside edge. That doesn’t always provide a good enough bond to the floor, and it leaves a prominent caulk line.
Should you use white or clear caulk?
You can choose either depending on how it looks in your bathroom; it is purely a choice of personal preference.
Clear caulk is a bit more versatile and blends into most surfaces pretty well, but if you have a white floor, white caulk should look perfectly fine as well.
How long does it take for the caulk to dry?
As mentioned above most caulk will take about 24 hours to cure. However, there are other options available such as fast-curing caulk, which in some cases needs only about 30 minutes.
The fast-curing caulk will be more expensive, but if you’re in a crunch for time, it will work just as well as regular caulk.
Now you have the information needed to take your side on the great caulking debate, and if necessary, caulk your own toilet correctly.
Keep the common mistakes listed above in mind and try to avoid them as best as possible.
Best of luck in your DIY journey to make your bathroom experience as comfortable and clean as possible!