DIY Disaster Doctor: This Toilet Gets the Axe!


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Howard Maxfield of Plus One Inspection Services, Inc. in Mill Creek, Washington (via The Money Pit). Courtesy of the ASHI Reporter

Someone has taken a whack at fixing this wobbly toilet using a tapered axe head and scrap of wood as shims. Not exactly my idea of a cutting-edge solution, but a common enough problem that can lead to more expensive damage in the near future.

Sure, this repair looks pretty ridiculous. But the bigger issue is the lack of a secure seal where the toilet bowl connects to the sewer drainpipe and meets the floor. Your toilet should be flush when you flush — otherwise, you’ll be inviting damaging water leaks and rotted flooring, not to mention super-stinky sewer gases that’ll seep into the space.

You’ve got to replace the toilet bowl’s wax seal ring. It’s a relatively easy and cheap DIY project that costs just a few bucks.

1. Start the job by shutting off the bathroom’s water supply and flushing away any remaining water in the toilet’s bowl. Then, remove the water supply line and the two bolts holding the toilet to the floor and lift the toilet from its position. Once you have the toilet off, there will be a fair amount of excess and rather disgusting-looking wax that will need to be scraped away. A putty knife works best for this as the wax will still be fairly soft.

2. Once you have a relatively clean connection, examine the flooring under its footprint. If there doesn’t seem to be any damage to that flooring, lucky you: you may now skip to step 3. But if the flooring is damaged in any way, you’ve just added a new step to this procedure. You’ll either need to do a small-scale patch job or replace the entire floor. The good news here is that there are several great options in do-it-yourself flooring, and if the space is small enough, you can choose from such money-savers as sheet vinyl remnants and quick-install vinyl tiles available at your local flooring retailer.

3. Install the new wax ring over toilet flange and gently move the toilet back into position. Lining up the toilet, wax seal and the bolts is a bit of a tricky alignment hassle, but once done, tighten down the bolts for a snug fit. A very important word of caution: make those bolts snug, but not tight. One turn too many and you’ll wind up with a cracked toilet bowl — and a much more expensive project!

4. “While you are at it” can be the five most expensive words in home improvement, but in this case they can actually save you money during this toilet repair session. For a few more bucks more, pick up and install new toilet flush and fill valves. Small leaks in these valves can cost thousands of gallons of water per year and drain your wallet in the process, so valve replacement is a simple way to cut toilet leaks and inefficiencies down to size.

Can I Treat This Myself?
This home improvement is practically klutz-proof. Just go easy when removing and reinstalling the toilet bowl — it’s heavy!

Tom Kraeutler delivers home improvement tips and ideas each week as host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. You can also subscribe to Tom’s latest home improvement podcast or free home improvement newsletter.

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