How to replace the wax ring on a toilet

If you’ve noticed some dampness or leaking around the base of your toilet, chances are it’s time to replace the wax ring that creates the seal to prevent leaks. It’s a job that you may be able to do yourself or a simple fix for a Los Angeles plumber.

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Seals mostly come in standard sizes of 3 or 4 inches. There are some new wax-free models on the market that reduce some of the mess caused during installation.

Manufacturers say they are easy enough for first-time users to install and hold a near-flawless seal. Seals are inexpensive and can be found for less than $10 at most home improvement centers.

Whether replacing the wax ring is left to the professionals or a job you’re tackling on your own, understand the steps of the process to ensure the job is done right.

  • Turn the water off at the supply valve. The valve is usually an oblong faucet handle behind toilet.
  • Flush the toilet to empty the tank.
  • Wearing rubber gloves to reduce exposure to bacteria, remove any remaining water in the toilet bowl and tank with a sponge or rag.
  • Remove the tank bolts and disconnect the water supply line.
  • Lift the tank from the bowl. Remember to lift from your legs so you don’t injure your back.
  • Remove the decorative caps from the floor bolts, and use a wrench to remove the nuts.
  • Once the bolts are removed, rock the toilet bowl back and forth so the wax seal is broken and the bowl can be lifted away.
  • Scrape away remaining wax with a putty knife and plug the hole with rags so the smells of the sewer doesn’t enter your home.
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fit the new wax ring around the hole at the base of the toilet.
  • Remove the rags from the sewer line.
  • Lift up the toilet bowl and line up the holes with the floor bolts.
  • Rock the bowl back and forth to seal the wax ring.
  • You may need to insert shims to make the bowl level.
  • Tighten the bolts gradually with the wrench, alternating from one bolt to the other. Be sure not to over-tighten the bolts. Replace the decorative caps.
  • Refit the tank onto the toilet bowl and re-tighten the bolts. Again, don’t over-tighten.
  • Re-connect the water supply line.
  • Caulk around the base.

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Never caulk around the base of the toilet as indicated in your last step. If you caulk around the base, then the next time your toilet springs a leak around the wax seal, all that water will remain stuck under the toilet behind that caulk, rotting your floor, and you won't know you have a leak. Don't caulk around the base of the toilet.

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