Beneath every toilet is a sticky wax ring that forms a watertight seal between the toilet and the sewer pipe. This ring keeps your floors dry and can last for years without ever needing maintenance.
However, there are times when it will need to be replaced, and this article will take you through when to replace it, how to do so, and a few mistakes to avoid throughout the process.
When Should You Replace Your Toilet’s Wax Ring ?
If your wax ring is doing its job, there is no need to mess with it. Although, the reasons listed below, are all situations in which you should consider getting a new wax ring.
#1: If You Have to Remove Your Toilet for Any Reason
Lifting the toilet will break the seal and if the wax is old, it may not reseal.
There are a number of things that you could need to fix that will involve you moving your toilet. In all these situations, you should replace the wax seal with a new one.
#2: If Your Toilet Is Leaking
This may indicate that the wax ring itself has failed for some reason and will need to be replaced as soon as possible. If there are leaks coming out of the bottom of the toilet, this is especially a sign that you need to replace your old wax ring.
Similarly, if your toilet is on an upper floor and you notice your ceilings becoming wet, this is a sure sign that something’s not right, and the first thing to check is the wax seal. Sagging or soft spots on the bathroom floor near your toilet could also point to some water damage caused by the wax seal.
Can You Replace the Wax Ring by Yourself?
The answer is certainly yes. It is not a particularly easy task though, as you will need to move your toilet and use a variety of tools to finish everything correctly.
If you are inexperienced with tools, or unable to move a toilet you may want to call a plumber rather than try this yourself. Toilets can weigh up to 100 pounds, and mistakes during this process can lead to some very smelly messes.
How to Change a Wax Ring on a Toilet
Should you decide to do it yourself, below is a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Remove the Toilet
Shut off the water supply to the toilet at the supply-line valve beside the toilet or at the main water source. Be sure to flush and sponge the water from the tank until it’s dry. Then, use a plunger to force most of the remaining water in the bowl down the drain and sponge out the rest.
Before lifting the toilet, place four blocks on the floor to hold the toilet drain off the floor. Angle the blocks slightly so they won’t tilt as you rest the toilet on them.
Finally, lift the toilet while keeping the base parallel to the floor. Check the drain to make sure the old wax ring isn’t still attached and then set the toilet on the blocks.
Step 2: Remove the Old Wax Ring
You’ll want to wear some disposable gloves for this step. Provide plenty of ventilation and use a plastic putty knife, followed by a rag soaked in mineral spirits to clean any remaining wax from around the toilet anchor flange and the drain on the bottom of the toilet.
Then remove the old mounting bolts and immediately plug the drain with an old towel large enough so it doesn’t fall into the pipe.
Step 3: Put on the New Wax Ring
Press the new wax ring into place around the raised ring at the bottom of the toilet drain on the underside. Seat it firmly enough to hold it in place, and be sure not to press it out of shape.
Step 4: Put the Toilet Back In Place
Lift the toilet with the bowl drain directly over the floor drain and lower it in place with the mounting screws coming up through the holes in the base. Press down gently and rock it slightly to help the wax ring form a tight seal.
Once the toilet base is firmly against the floor, attach the washers and nuts holding the toilet in place. Tighten them as much as needed to keep the toilet from rocking at all, then add the caps.
Lastly, reattach the water supply line and make sure the supply valves are open. Give the toilet a few test flushes and check all around the base for any sign of leaks and you’re finished.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
While there are not many steps to this task, there are plenty of ways you can make mistakes along the way. Here are a few things to look out for to keep the process running as smoothly as possible.
#1: Getting the Wrong Size Wax Ring
If your toilet is towards the high end of the floor to flange measurements (1/4-inch to 3/4-inch above the floor), use a thinner wax ring.
Getting the wrong size wax ring will cause your toilet to rock from side to side, and that is something that will cause all kinds of problems that simply getting the right wax ring can fix.
#2: Don’t Over-Tighten the Nuts on the Toilet Bolts
Changing your wax ring requires you to take off the toilet, which means these bolts will have to come off as well.
Many DIYers have found out the hard way that tightening the nuts too enthusiastically can result in a chipped or broken toilet. This also holds true for the bolts that attach the new tank to the bowl on two-piece models.
Snug them gently, then complete installation and fill the tank with water. If you then notice any leaking between the tank and bowl, you can tighten the nuts just a bit more and this should fix that problem.
#3 Never Forget to Plug the Drain
After removing the wax ring, it is extremely important to not forget to stuff some rags or a towel to block off the drain (this is outlined in Step 2 as well).
An unplugged drain can allow noxious sewer gas to enter your home, and these can make you and others living in your house very sick.
You may not notice the smell while working around it for a long time but this is a mistake that needs to be avoided at all costs. The last thing you want is a trip to the hospital after inhaling fumes from a sewage pipe.
Hopefully, this article has given you all the tools and knowledge you need to successfully change the wax ring on your toilet. It can be a difficult job, but it can save you a lot of money on a plumber if you have the ability to do it yourself.
Remember, this is not an active thing you have to change frequently. Some wax rings will last you a lifetime, but if they or something around them fails, they are a necessary replacement.
Be sure to follow the steps in this guide as closely as possible, and always keep in mind the mistakes to avoid. Best of luck to anyone taking on this task, and be sure to stay safe in all of your bathroom DIY projects!