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Toliet leaking at base around caulk

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May 14, 2013, 09:50 AM
Lynn F.
Toliet leaking at base around caulk
I noticed a little bit of water leaking downstairs in the laundry room. Looked up to see the subfloor wet in some places and dry in others. I thought I had some pipes blocked. I have now figured out that the water is coming from the base of the toliet around the caulk. Is this something that I can fix by myself? Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!
May 14, 2013, 10:31 AM
The question is where is the leak coming from? If it's a small bathroom (and the shower is near the toilet), maybe shower water is coming over the edge of the tub and puddles around the toilet and then drips below. Maybe the caulk needs to be redone. Or did the toilet overflow, then the caulk needs to be redone.

Or whoever installed the toilet may have used a cheap wax ring, which would have saved them about one dollar. It's best to use a wax ring with a rubber attachment to it. So pulling the toilet and replacing the wax ring would be the thing to do. It's not hard to do, empty the toilet, disconnect the supply line after shutting the water off, remove the bolts at the floor holding the toilet, lifting the toilet out of the way, cleaning off the old wax ring, replacing the ring with the right one, and then reinstalling the toilet. It's not difficult. And then recaulk the bottom of the toilet.

click for a picture

You remove the white shipping protector, and that ring in the picture is upside down to the position it goes when installing it.

Here's another picture

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Re-mdlr,
May 14, 2013, 11:17 AM
Hi Lynn F.,

If you suspect that you have a leak below the toilet, you should make corrections to fix this leak as soon as possible so that further damage to the subfloor and other structural members of your home are not damaged further. Leaking water is a main cause of wood rot and this could be occurring in the subfloor in your bathroom.

The leak you have described may be occurring between the base of the toilet where it connects to the drain in which case you need to remove the toilet and replace the wax ring seal on the bottom of the toilet. Below is a link to step by step instructions on how to complete this task. This is a good DIY project but does require some strength as well some careful inspection of the subfloor, once the toilet is removed, to assess the extent of water damage to the subfloor and determine whether the subfloor in the area of the toilet should be replaced or not. Simply replacing the wax ring and reinstalling the subfloor may solve the temporary leak but if the subfloor is damaged your repair will need to be repeated in the future and will include replacing some areas of the damaged subfloor around the toilet and then reinstalling the toilet.,,202149,00.html

The above link starts by assessing where the leak occurs around your toilet and describes in detail how to assess the problem and then walks you through step by step what to do to fix the problem with tips along the way. It is 5 pages in length and includes some diagrams. On page 4 it lists all the steps in order making it easy to follow. On page 5 it provides links to some recommended supplies to simplify installation. The link to the specific parts it recommends is below and the parts can be found in most big box stores.

Below is a link to a replacement wax ring which you will need to purchase to make your toilet repair. You will note that this ring is thicker and this may require more force to seat it properly when reinstalling the toilet. However, this ring also has a flexible funnel shape embedded in the wax which extends deeper into the drain where the toilet discharge occurs which makes it less possible for a leak to reoccur. Standard sized wax seals are available with this same feature. I have found these style wax rings far superior to just a wax ring seal alone.

Using Google and doing a search using how to repair a leaking toilet will bring other sites which offer assistance quite a few with videos. Some of these may be of some help.

These are some thoughts to consider.

Good Luck!
May 14, 2013, 12:05 PM
this is a perpetual problem. YOU DO NOT CAULK AROUND THE BASE OF A TOILET! that forces any leaks down to rot the flooring. you WANT to see the water on top of the floor.

commercially, for sanitation purposes, NSF might require it. you DO NOT want that silliness in the home. you know your home is not full of drunks voiding on the floor, unlike a restaurant or store. if there is an issue, you want to see it so you can fix it.

the leak is almost certainly due to deterioration of the wax ring. the previous two posters have covered issues well. but in brief, you need to pull the toilet, make sure the floor and subfloor are not damaged or spongy, and reinstall with new rings. the toilet CANNOT be allowed to rock on the floor, that guarantees it will break the seal again.

I also agree that the "funnel ring" is worth doing. incidentally, if there is a flooring gap around the ring, I just seriously recommend you get another plain ring or two for packing any spaces with ring wax. the purpose is to make sure that any leakage becomes quickly apparent right where it's happening, at the base of the toilet, and does not seek its natural path down to cause damage.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
May 14, 2013, 12:19 PM
There are two thoughts -- to caulk or not to caulk, that is the question.

I use to 'not caulk', but have changed over the last years. Caulking a toilet base is not done to prevent leaks from coming out onto the floor. It is done to prevent overflowing toilets from putting contaminated water under the toilet and raining to the structure below or causing damage to the floor.

Also, for people that have a smaller bathroom, and the shower is near the toilet, if water runs down the top lip of the tub and spills over near the toilet, it can get under the toilet and start rusting out the toilet flange and the bolts. And I have had to do repairs on this type of situation. Therefore, caulking under the toilet is what I prefer to do.

And if the toilet is on the second floor of a structure, and the toilet overflows, the water will rain down onto the sheetrock below, damaging insulation and causing mold, or find a way thru the downstairs bathroom vent, and it will rain water on the bathroom below. How disgusting is that?

I have seen far more damage done due to 'not caulking' than I have from a leaky wax ring.

Therefore, I caulk.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Re-mdlr,
May 14, 2013, 06:16 PM
I learned to caulk all around the sides and front of the toilet base only. But always sure to leave the back uncaulked. This way one can still be alerted to a wax ring failure, but it makes cleaning and appearance much better.
May 14, 2013, 08:09 PM
Conrad and I must have gone to the same toilet caulking class - I do mine the same way.

May 14, 2013, 08:49 PM
Yep, that plumbing class I had 25 years ago at the local Community College....paid for itself 20 fold at least.
Sometimes it's also just good to know what you don't want to tackle (as in when to call in a pro).Wink
May 15, 2013, 09:49 AM
Lynn F.
Thank you so very much for all of your replies! I apologize, I had already determined that the water was not coming down along side of the shower wall. I will go and get a wax ring and recaulk the toliet -leaving the back open. Thank you again!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Lynn F.,