How often do you need to change the wax ring on a toilet? The question may be simple, but the answer can be complex. Here’s what you need to know before delving into a more complicated discussion.
A toilet is joined to the toilet flange via two bolts. A wax seal ring often lies between the flange and the toilet. It prevents water from dripping as it travels from the toilet bowl into the drain pipe. It also provides a seal against unpleasant sewer gas odors. Wax seals are utilized because they resist bacteria and mold growth and maintain their sealing power over time. In fact, just like the toilets themselves, wax seals are made to last for at least 30 years. That means that under regular circumstances, you won’t encounter any issues. However, if something goes wrong, the troubles it may result in will be costly if you don’t deal with them swiftly.
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The consequences of a broken wax seal
A broken wax seal won’t be able to keep the toilet water and gases within the plumbing system. that means water will seep beneath the tiles, warp any wood underneath and weaken your bathroom floor. The entire floor will need to be replaced if you wait too long. That takes a lot of money and effort, or even worse, the majority of insurance providers don’t cover it. They argue that you cannot demonstrate whether you or the prior owner of the property are to blame. It’s a dishonest tactic, but they use it to avoid their obligations. Of course, this means that you’ll have to shoulder the repair costs.
When would the toilet wax ring need to be changed?
Water spilling out from the base of your toilet is a surefire indicator that the wax ring has failed. If the wax seal is loose, you could also notice that the toilet feels abnormally unsteady. Here’s a detailed look at the warning signs:
Under normal conditions, the wax ring should provide an impenetrable barrier. As a result, your home shouldn’t be susceptible to any air intrusion from the sewers below. This is crucial because sewage gas comprises hydrogen sulfide, a hazardous substance in addition to having an awful odor. If you notice a strong rotten egg odor from your bathroom, you clearly have a wax ring problem. In rare circumstances, the bolts securing the toilet to the flange could be loose, and tightening them might solve the issue. However, if the toilet and flange are bolted tight but there’s still a sewage gas leak, then the wax ring is broken and needs replacing.
A cracked wax seal won’t contain the flowing water within the plumbing system, meaning some will leak onto the bathroom floor. However, just because you notice a puddle around the toilet’s base doesn’t mean you have a broken seal. In some cases, condensation drips from the tank, or a faulty junction where the water tube connects to the tank might be the cause. Before shopping for a replacement wax ring, confirm the source of the water leakage. Water damage to the subfloor may be sufficient to weaken the mounting bolts holding the toilet and flange to the floor. Check if the damaged subfloor has to be removed and replaced.
Is your toilet swaying back and forth? If the toilet slightly rocks so that one side of the bowl lifts off the floor, you likely have a damaged toilet flange. If so, you’ll need to replace it, which also entails changing the wax ring. Don’t move the ring around. Even if the toilet flange is intact, any wobbling isn’t good for the wax seal. Continual movement compromises and finally breaks the seal.
Every time a toilet is taken out and put back in, whether for a brief period or permanently, a fresh wax ring must be installed. Typically, toilet removal is required when changing a bathroom floor. Also, lifting the toilet or slightly adjusting it to access a clogged drain can damage the seal.
A fresh wax ring needs to be laid before reinstalling the toilet. Make sure to completely remove the old wax ring before replacing the seal. The previous one won’t be able to serve its purpose. Typically, it will come off in pieces, so get a putty knife and scrape off the remaining chunks. If you don’t completely eliminate the old wax ring, the replacement won’t fit onto the flange properly and will crack much more quickly.
What to take into account before buying wax ring replacement supplies
If you want to DIY it, you’ll be relieved to learn that new wax rings themselves typically cost only $10 each. . Some aren’t universal, so if the toilet flange is well below the floor rather than level, you might need to purchase a double ring.
How to replace a toilet wax ring in steps
You may replace the wax ring on your toilet by yourself using the instructions below, plus an adjustable wrench, putty knife, pail, towels, or paper towels.
Drain, dry, and disconnect
Close the water tube running from the wall to your toilet. The valve should be adjustable by hand; however, it might be slippery if it hasn’t been moved for a while. Flush to remove as much water as you can from the tank and bowl. Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out all the remaining water. If you don’t have a vacuum, employ a combination of hand bailing, plunging, and towel sopping to dry the tank and bowl completely. Next, unplug the water supply pipe from the toilet tank’s base. Keep a bucket on hand so you can catch any water that may still be lingering in the line.
Take the toilet off
It’s time to take the toilet off. Using the adjustable wrench, take off the protective caps concealing the washers and bolts at the root of the toilet. Now all that’s holding the toilet in place is gravitational pull and what’s left of the dissolving wax ring. Simply rock and turn the toilet gently to release it. When it’s time to remove the toilet, grab it firmly at the center so that the bowl and tank weights are evenly distributed. Push up with your knees, lifting straight up, and set it to the side.
Scrape off the old wax
The actual work starts at this point. You must use a putty knife to scrape off as much of the previous wax ring off the toilet’s base and the pipe connection in the floor, aka the toilet flange. Prior to attaching the replacement wax ring, thoroughly clean and dry the pipe connection. While at it, inspect the pipe connection for dents or damages and contact a plumber if a professional assessment is needed.
Place the replacement wax ring.
Before setting down the replacement wax ring, read the instructions on the packaging because some seals are self-adhesive, and also different brands come with different designs. Depending on which is more comfortable, most wax rings simply attach atop the flange or at the bottom of a toilet. After centering the wax ring, carefully place your toilet onto the flange, ensuring that the toilet’s baseline bolt holes align with the flange holes.
If the section of the floor where the toilet is located has bulges or dips, replacing toilet rings might be terribly challenging. In some cases, stacking two rings may help close the gap.
Sit on the toilet
Closing the toilet and sitting on it will help push it in place and compress the wax ring underneath. You might have to move your weight multiple times to complete the process nicely. Ultimately, you want your toilet’s base level with the surface. After that, just swap out the washers, bolts, and bolt covers, connect the water tube to the tank, and turn the supply pipe valve back on. Flush the toilet a few times as a test while thoroughly looking for leaks.
Although replacing a toilet wax seal is not a laborious DIY project, it’s a finicky operation that may be best left to an expert. It’s among plumbing tasks that homeowners dislike since the seal frequently leaks after installation, and you normally have to start over with a fresh wax seal once. You should never be afraid to seek professional help if this seems overwhelming. Most installations fail when trying to appropriately center and lower the bulky toilet on the bolts since it is cumbersome. If unsure, engage a plumber or handyman to perform the job.
Toilets usually sit on wax rings that help keep the water and sewage gases from escaping the plumbing system. These wax rings are built to last. Under regular circumstances, you won’t experience any trouble. However, things might happen that leave a wax ring broken or loose. When this happens, you must move quickly and replace the old wax ring lest water and gaseous leaks make a mess. Use the above guide to determine if your toilet’s wax ring needs replacing and decide whether to DIY it or hire a professional plumber.