Every once in a while everyone needs to check and/or replace the wax ring under their toilet. Your local plumber would love to perform this task for you, but if you are a DIYer, you may choose to tackle this chore yourself.

A leaky wax ring can lead to a deteriorated sub-floor. If your toilet rocks side to side or wiggles when you push against the tank, you may have a leaking seal.

To perform this task, turn off the supply valve then flush the lever to empty the tank. This will leave a considerable amount of water left in the bowl; to empty this remaining water, fill a 5-gallon bucket with several gallons of water and empty it in the bowl. This will activate a siphoning affect and pull most of the remaining water out of the bowl. Take a small cup – a paper Dixie cup works great for this – and bail out the remaining water until the last bit of water can be sponged out. Sponge out the remaining tank water, as well. Once the tank is empty, remove the supply line from under the tank.

To remove the toilet bowl from the floor, pop the plastic caps off the base of the toilet to expose the bolts. These bolts are often rusty and can be tough to remove if they spin in place, but, after removing the bolts, you are ready to lift the toilet from the floor. Have a piece of cardboard or other form of protection close by to protect the floor from any wax as you lift the toilet from its position over to the floor protection. You will need to tilt the toilet at an angle if you have a helper or rest it back against the tank if you are working alone so that you can clean any leftover wax from the bottom of the toilet. The outlet from which the water empties from the bottom of the toilet bowl is called a horn. The area around the horn needs to be cleaned from any old wax.

The next thing to do is check the height of the toilet flange. The flange should be resting securely over the surface of the finished flooring for the best seal to be achieved. There is a space between the bottom of the toilet bowl and the top of the toilet flange. The wax ring is slightly thicker than this space so that when the toilet is pressed into position, it will squeeze the wax, causing a tight seal between the two.

If the toilet flange is lower than the finished floor, a second wax ring may need to be added to ensure a tight seal. Make sure the first wax ring is one with the plastic funnel built into the wax. Most of these will come with new Johnny bolts inside the box so you can through away those old rusty bolts. If a second wax ring is needed, use one without the plastic funnel for this purpose.

Another option for the advanced DIYer is to raise the toilet flange to the proper height. This can be done by cutting the PVC pipe under the floor and using a Fernco coupling to secure it back in place after the flange has been raised. Add spacers under the flange equal to the height needed to bring the flange to the height of the finished floor to support the bottom of the flange. Insert sturdy wood screws into the flange securing it to the sub-floor.

Once you have the new wax ring in place, set the toilet over the flange being careful to center the horn of the toilet bowl over the center of the wax ring. The bolts will come up through the holes in the base and may need to be cut off in order for the plastic caps to snap in place. When placing the washers over the bolts, make sure the lip on the plastic washer faces down, then place the metal washer next, then install the nut, tightening securely but being careful not to overtighten. Snap the plastic caps back in place, connect the supply line back to the bottom of the tank, open the supply valve and check for leaks. The plumbing code calls for applying caulk around the base of the toilet. If you want to follow this detail, please do. If you decide not to, you will be able to see if the wax ring leaks in the future as it will allow water to run out from under the toilet base.

Send your questions or concerns to jdn.dm@comcast.net.

JD Norris is the owner/operator of DreamMaker Bath&Kitchen and a certified S.C. Master Builder, certified “Aging in Place” Specialist and certified Green Professional.