|DIY Toilet Repair
The do-it-yourself tip for the home handyman
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Toilet Repair; Flange repair
By: Ben Spofford, Housecalls Home Services
May 31, 2011
The first step in an DIY toilet repair is to determine the source of the excessive
water. In this example it was narrowed down to the wax ring/flange. The only way to
make this determination is to remove the toilet.
Shut off the water to the toilet. Flush to remove water from the tank. It is a good idea
to get as mush water out of the tank. Remove the tank lid and store in a secure
location. There is nothing good about a cracked lid. The water in the tank is fresh
water so there is little reason for sewage contamination. To sop up the water a
large sponge works fine. There will be residual water in the toilet bowl. Try using a
plunger to remove as much water as possible. The pipe connecting the toilet to the
is removed from underneath the tank.
At the base of the toilet are the 'johnnie bolts'. These can be rusted and difficult to
remove. You can use a wrench, pliers, channel locks or sockets. In some cases it
requires a vicegrip to hold the bolt and a pair of sidecutters or hack saw blade to
remove. Be careful no to crack the porcelain of the toilet base.
Once you have removed the bolts the toilet will lift out. For this task I have a pair of
'toilet-removal' gloves reserved for the task. The toilet is lifted off the floor and placed
into a 'toilet caddy'. When transferring the toilet from the floor to the caddy be careful
not to rock the toilet as this will cause the water in the trap to flow out on to the floor.
The caddy I use is simply a plastic storage box on wheels, typically used beneath a
bed for extra storage. Toilets are heavy and this caddy works great. It will catch any
water that escapes. After th e project is complete it can be washed and hosed
With the toilet removed the flange and wax ring can be observed. The excessive wax
must be scraped away and removed with any kind of flat blade. Care must be taken
to dispose of the unsanitary wax. Removal of the wax reveals the poor condition of
the flange. There was also a slight crack in the 3" pipe. In this example it became
necessary to remove the closet bend and replace with new parts and pieces.
The picture to the left shows the basement side of the flange. Notice the rusted
screws and broken flange.
To remove the bend it is nothing more than utilizing a reciprocating saw to cut the
pipe at a point that is accessible. The picture on the top left clearly shows the first
horizontal past the bend as the easiest place to make the cut. NOTE: There will be
residual waste in the stack. When cutting the pipe it is a good idea to wear heavy
'toilet removal' gloves, safety glasses and keep your mouth closed. Place some
moisture collection directly below on the floor. In this case I used multiple layers of
newspaper and cardboard.
Plastic pipe is easy to cut. It is a good idea to get as straight a cut as possible. Make
sure not to cut too close to the stack as you have to have enough room to place a
coupling on the stub.. The pipe stub should be at least 3" in length. Once the cut is
complete use a file, or heavy duty sandpaper to get the burrs off the end of the cut.
Though we are using ABS pipe the procedure is the same for PVC Schedule 40
The picture to the left shows the closet bend removed. The cut is straight and clean.
I could now see why the toilet was leaking. The homeowner revealed he hired a
ceramic tile installer a few years back. The tile job was first class. However, the
installer should have installed a flange riser to remove the gap created with the
addition of the ceramic and underlayment. The gap is about 1/2". This wax ring
eventually dried out allowing just enough to allow moisture to trickle through and
absorb in the plywood. The tight confine of the space around the flange does not
allow for natural air movement to dry out and dissipate the moisture. Plywood does
not adapt well to moisture and will eventually fail under these conditions. The
picture to the left shows the old bend.
I cut a piece of 1/2" plywood and secured it to the floor with a few screws. I angled
the screw to get into good 'meat' of dry plywood, plus it prevents the screw from
poking through the floor below. The hole is cut to allow for the new pipe. I allow
about a 1/4" space so the new pipe is not rubbing directly to the plywood.
The new parts consisted of a 3" coupling, a 90 ell, a few feet of 3" ABS pipe and a
new closet flange. There are a number of different types of flanges. In the case of a
DIY project it may be a good idea to take the old piece to the supply yard and match
it up. The pieces are easy to glue.
The flange has slotted holes to allow for the installation of the johnnie bolts. Notice
the center of the flange is aligned perpendicular to the grout joint. In this project the
grout joint happens to sit where the johnnie bolts align with the toilet. Most toilets
call for a 12" centerline though there are 10" and 14" also.
With the toilet in the caddy it is easy to install a new wax ring. There are a number of
different rings. My choice is one that includes a 'horn'. The horn is a circular ring of
plastic that projects into the drain pipe. This horn provides additional protection in
the event of a wax ring failure. When it comes to wax rings it is one-size-fits-all.
To install the ring lean the toilet back far enough to reach under and install the ring
directly over the hole in the bottom of the toilet. It usually sticks itself with no problem.
Johnnie bolts come with a T-shaped head. The T is set into the flange and aligned
with the centerline of the toilet, in this case 12". A nut is used to secure the bolt to
the flange. Once the ring and bolts are in place it is simply a matter of lifting the toilet
back onto the bolts. Be careful to not over tighten the bolts as this could crack the
porcelain. When setting the toilet it is a good idea to 'mash' the ring by slightly
twisting and applying pressure to the toilet.
Re-hook the supply line to the bottom of the tank. Place the lid on the tank. Turn the
valve in the open position. Check for leaks in the supply fittings and tighten any
fittings as needed.
Once the tank is full you want to test the drain for leaks. Flush the toilet a few times
and go downstairs and observe the area around the new pipes.
That's all there is too it.
The plywood area around the toilet is damp and soft in a few spots. I use and
sharp tool (screwdriver for example) to test the weakness to determine of the
plywood should be replaced. Though the area was damp the plywood was mostly
From the basement I could see the dampness was caused from something above
the floor and not below. The cause of the leak is either from the supply side (fresh
water), condensation around the base of the commode, a faulty wax ring and/or
flange, or from the toilet tank. An examination of the area determined the supply
line was fine, the tank was not leaking and condensation was eliminated as a
cause. The next possibility is to remove the toilet to inspect the wax ring and flange.
How to Repair a Toilet Closet Flange
DIY Difficulty (1 easy-10 difficult) 7
Time to completion: 4 hours
Material cost: $ 60
Hire a Pro $ 270-325.
The customer noticed a small puddle of water on the floor in the basement.
The picture to the left is the situated off the main stack. In
this example the pipe is 3" in diameter and is made of ABS plastic.
The view is from the basement looking up. The closet bend consists of 3"
pipe, a 90 ell, and a closet flange. Directly above the pipe sits the toilet.