This article was updated on 06/19/20
Not everybody has upgraded to plumbing fixtures like tankless water heaters but it's a sure bet that every home has a toilet. Even with such a simple fixture wear and tear takes its toll. Your toilet wax ring is a very simple device (and only about $5.00 at Home Depot), but it is responsible for keeping your feet dry when you flush the commode.It also serves another important duty — it seals your home against the intrusion of putrid sewer vapors. The photo above shows a ring mounted in the flange. This is one that I just replaced recently.
How long will the job take? If you havent tackled this job before and everything goes smoothly, about 3 to 4 hours. The hardest part of the job is lifting the toilet off the flange; thats a lot of porcelain! It pays to have a helper.
Tool and Material List
Kleins (pump pliers or adjustible pliars)
Long slotted screwdriver (at least 8 should be fine)
Assortment of wrenches
Small putty knife
A large sponge and a bucket.
A very large plastic lawn-size trash bag.
Reinforced wax bowl ring with new flange bolts. The reinforced ones have a supportive plastic ring inside the wax that mates with the floor flange. You can use the old style, but I wouldnt recommend it since the newer type is available.
Tank-to-bowl gasket and bolts (your gasket may be in good shape and reusable, but you will probably need new bolts along with the fiber washers).
Prepare for Toilet Removal
The first thing to do is valve off the water supply by turning the valve handle all the way clockwise. Next flush the toilet. This will get rid of most of the water although not all.
Remove the tank lid and put it somewhere out of the way. Use your sponge to remove all the water left in the tank and bowl. Now, spread the trash bag out in the bath tub. This is where the tank and bowl will reside while you work on the flange.
Put a rag or cup under the water supply line to catch any residual water in it. Unscrew and remove the line at the valve. More prevention equals less cleanup.
Disassemble and Remove the Toilet
Inside view of the toilet tank.
At this point it is a good opportunity to give your toilet a complete tune-up. If you want to:
Start by removing the two brass bolts that connect the tank to the bowl using the screwdriver and wrench. Note their location in the photo above, on either side of the fill tube/flapper in the center of the tank.
Use the putty knife to be sure the areas where the bolt heads seat are smooth so you get a good seal. You only want to disassemble once.
Remove the tank from the bowl and carefully lay it on the plastic bag in the tub.
Inspect the gasket on the bottom of the tank. It might seem be in good shape but it's seem some use and as long as you are already here remove it. Set it aside because you will have to get an exact size match at the home improvement store.
Remove the nuts bolting the base of the bowl to the floor flange.
Lift the bowl off the flange and carefully lay it on the plastic bag.
Use the putty knife to clean up the base of the bowl.
Toilet bowl and tank in the bath tub on plastic trash bag.
Looking closely, you can see in the photo above that the bolts came up with the bowl because the nuts had worked loose enough so that the rectangular bolt heads turned and released from the flange.
Clean-Up and Reassembly
This is the messy part. Stuff a rag into the flange. For one thing, the smell might be foul. Secondly, the rag keeps debris out of the sewer line.
Use the putty knife to get up all the old wax ring off the flange.
Remove the old flange bolts if they are still there and insert the new ones.
Install the new wax ring in the flange, wax side up.
Now comes the trickiest part of the job — setting the bowl onto the bolts. The problem is that the bolts are a bit wobbly, quite tall, and you can only see one side at a time. If you dont have a helper, it might take a couple of tries.
After the bowl is on successfully, its time to place the washers and run the nuts down on the bolts, but you dont want the bolts themselves to turn. To accomplish this, start the nuts down an inch or so while holding the bolt with your fingers. Then you can grip the top of the bolt with the Kleins. Still holding the bolt, tighten the nuts down with a wrench. Like lug nuts on a car wheel you want even pressure so give one side a turn, and then the other side. Repeat as the wax compresses.
Install the new tank-to-bowl gasket.
Set the tank on the bowl and bolt it down. It will likely feel wobbly at first, but it will snug up nicely.
Wrap the valve threads with Teflon® tape and screw the supply line on.
Turn the water on by turning the valve counter-clockwise. While it fills, keep checking for leaks. Tighten as needed. Give it a test flush.
Replace the tank lid.
I hope this how-to article on toilet wax ring seal replacement was helpful and saved you some money on a plumber's service call (expensive).
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About the Webmaster:
Kelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.