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Fixing a Toilet That Is Leaking At The Base When Flushed

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Is there water seeping from under your toilet every time you flush?

Gross, isn’t it?

A leaking toilet is a problem almost every homeowner has to deal with eventually. But a leak that’s coming from the base of the toilet? That is not a leak you can simply ignore. For one thing, water that’s coming from the bottom is almost always dirty. It’s a stinky situation (literally!) that can compromise your home as much as it does your health.

Fortunately, a toilet that’s leaking at the base is a problem most homeowners can fix themselves. That is, if they’re aware of the proper procedures.

On this page:

As such, we’ll be more than happy to provide you with this comprehensive guide. Want to turn a stinky situation into something pleasant?

Read on.

Dangers of a Water Leak

toilet in a modern bathroom

But before we get into the procedures, let’s touch on the usual dangers associated with a leaking toilet. After all, a problem that needs solving has to be respected first. Besides, a little urgency shouldn’t hurt.

Here are the reasons why you can’t afford to have a leaking toilet unchecked.

You’re losing water… and money

Don’t look now, but did you know that a single leaky toilet can waste an extra 22 gallons of water a day? If you do the math, that amounts to 8,000 lost gallons of water in a year!

It goes without saying: when you’re losing water, you’re also losing money. Keep ignoring your leaking toilet and you’re going to drown (yes, pun intended) in high water bills.

Structural damage can happen

A leaky toilet, if left unchecked, can damage your home. All that foul water can seep into the floorboards, causing wooden components to warp, deteriorate, or rot. These leaks can also result in cosmetic damage to surrounding walls as your wallpapers get soggy or peel away. Moreover, the attendant water damage weakens surrounding dry walls and framing materials, which eventually leads to structural damage.

It’s hazardous to your health

Any water that runs through a home’s plumbing system contains bacteria or microorganisms. Obviously, prolonged exposure can compromise your health, causing diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, malaria, amoebiasis, and more.

Too much moisture can also lead to mold and mildew buildup. As such, exposure to these microorganisms can cause respiratory issues, headaches, coughing or wheezing, skin irritation, and many other diseases.

Bathroom Floods

You know your toilet leak problem has gotten worse if it has turned your bathroom into a mini pool… and a foul-smelling one at that. A flooded bathroom is a serious issue that must be addressed immediately. When you have that much amount of contaminated water in your bathroom, harmful bacteria tend to spread more rapidly, which makes the spreading of diseases even more likely.

A flooded bathroom can also cause severe damage to electrical appliances nearby, increasing the likelihood of electrical shock. That’s why you must turn off the main electrical switch or circuit breaker as soon as you notice that the bathroom is filled with flood water.

Floodwater, by virtue of its sheer volume, can cause severe damage to your home’s structural integrity in a short amount of time.

How to Tell If Your Toilet Is Leaking Underneath

So, you’ve got a toilet leak to deal with. But how do you tell for sure where the leak is coming from? For one thing, it might look like the leak is coming at the base, but considering how water flows, determining the source of a leak is no easy feat.

To accurately diagnose the source of the problem, it bears noting that a leak could only come from either of the following:

  • Toilet tank
  • Toilet bowl

Our goal is to find out which part of the toilet is leaking water. We can do this by doing the dye test.

The Dye Test

The dye test is a simple, tried-and-tested method that helps homeowners and professionals alike to detect the source of a toilet leak.

If you suspect that the leak is coming from the toilet tank, lift the tank’s lid and apply 10 drops of dye inside. Wait for at least an hour and then check the toilet bowl for any signs of dye or food coloring. If you see some, the reason for the leak is a faulty tank.

If it looks like the leak is coming from the toilet’s base, apply 20 drops of dye or food coloring into the bowl. Flush the toilet after an hour. If water starts escaping at the base and you see traces of food coloring or dye in it, then the source of the leak is the toilet’s base. The dye test can also be used when you’re trying to detect where a swimming pool is leaking from.

Why Is My Toilet Leaking At The Base?

You’ve just confirmed that the leak is issuing from the bottom of the toilet. The question is, why did the leak happen in the first place?

There are a few reasons why such leaks occur. Let’s go over them and discuss what you can do to fix them.

The tee-bolts are loose

Examine the plastic-coated bolts located around the base of your toilet. Try twisting them from side to side. Are they damaged or loose? If yes, that explains why leaks are issuing from the bottom of your toilet. After all, the primary function of these bolts is to maintain and secure the positioning of your toilet bowl. Once these bolts become loose or damaged, the internal wax seal becomes vulnerable, eventually resulting in leaks.

How to fix loose or faulty tee-bolts:

Before you begin, make sure the toilet is in its proper position. Tighten up the bolts with a wrench. If the bolts are still loose or stuck, you have no other recourse but to buy a new set.

The wax ring is damaged

So, you’ve tightened up the tee bolts but the toilet is still leaking at the base? Looks like you have a damaged wax ring. Located exactly where the toilet meets the bathroom floor, the toilet wax ring is the seal that prevents the water from gushing out from the pipe at the bottom. Once this ring is damaged, you have no choice but to replace it with a new one (preferably one manufactured by Kohler or American Standard).

How to tell if the wax ring is leaking

One obvious sign of a wax ring leak is when there’s sitting water around the base of your toilet. If the area between the toilet and the floor is caulked up, you’ll notice water invading the basement or the room below. A damaged or misaligned wax ring causes air from the toilet’s interior to escape. If you keep noticing unpleasant odors in the bathroom even if you always flush, then chances are your toilet’s wax ring is leaking.

Choosing a new wax ring

Before you head out to the nearest home improvement store to buy a new wax ring (they’re pretty cheap, costing anywhere between $4 and $8), you need to know the appropriate size to order. The general rule of thumb is to take the damaged wax ring with you so that the store can easily find a replacement of the same size.

Considering your current circumstances, chances are you want to buy a wax ring that lasts longer. In that case, it’s a good idea to buy a wax ring with a sleeve. Also called a deep seal bowl wax, a wax ring with sleeve comes with a positive seal that serves as a cushion between the closet bowl and the flange. Not only does this provide better protection, but it also makes the seal more watertight. Another option would be to buy a wax ring with felt. Felted wax rings are reinforced so that the wax is always kept intact.

How to replace a damaged wax ring

You got a new wax ring? Good. Now let’s get down to the business of installing it.

Step 1: First, shut off the water supply via the water valve from the back of the toilet. Flush the toilet to drain any remaining water. You might want to use a small container to catch any leftover water that could spill out. If there’s still some sitting water left, remove them from the toilet’s base with a plunger.

Step 2: Unscrew the water supply line (either by hand or wrench, whichever is easier) from the stop valve. Next, unscrew the mounting bolts that secure the toilet bowl to the floor. Remove any remaining putty around the base with a putty knife.

Step 3: Rock the toilet from side to side until it’s loose enough for you to gently lift it from the floor. Once it’s off, lay it on the side.

Step 4: Scrape away any remaining wax ring, putty, debris, and dirt from the flange with the putty knife.

Step 5: Once everything is cleared, grab the new wax ring and install it on the flange, making sure that the tee bolts are tight and secure in their positions.

Step 6: Lift the toilet and then put it back in its original position. Making sure that the toilet is properly aligned, screw the bolts back on and replace the caps.

Step 7: Reconnect the supply line and then turn the water valve on. Now flush the toilet. If you’ve done everything correctly, then there shouldn’t be any leaks anymore.

Caulk around the toilet’s base


To caulk around the toilet’s base or not? That is a question that has stirred a ton of debates among the plumbing and DIY community.

Now the main idea behind caulking is that it prevents foul water and grime from getting trapped under the toilet.

But then there’s another slice of the plumbing community who argues that caulking only serves to hide the problem.

The latter argument does make sense. For one thing, when you have caulk around the toilet’s base, the water from a leaking toilet has nowhere to go but down. As such, the toilet would leak right onto the floor, causing further damage.

While it’s understandable that most would arrive at this conclusion, it actually couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, if any leaking should occur, it would be into the basement. And this doesn’t happen very often.

As you can already tell, we’re all for caulking.

More to the point, caulking around the toilet’s base has a few benefits that make the case on why you should do it.

  • Caulking prevents undesirable odor. When you don’t have caulk to prevent smelly mop water from getting underneath the toilet, the foul remnants can get trapped. Not only do they stink up the place, but they’re also difficult to clean up.
  • Caulking secures the toilet to the floor. A wobbly toilet is a disaster waiting to happen. Caulk it up!

Get Quotes from Plumbers

Let’s face it—fixing a toilet leak that is leaking at the base is hard work, not to mention a little gross. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it yourself if you’re not up to the task. You can always hire a professional plumber to do the repairs for you.

But don’t hire the first plumber or plumbing company that you come in contact with. If you want to protect your investment, you’d do well to hire a professional plumber who is equal to the task. You also want one who will charge you a fair price.

You have to screen every candidate and pick one with impressive credentials. Do online searches and go through their reviews and testimonials. Ask family and friends for recommendations.

More importantly, you need to acquire as many quotes as possible. The more choices you have, the better your chances of finding a professional plumber who meets your qualifications and budget limits.

Admittedly, doing all of the above takes a lot of work, and a little money (some plumbers charge for quotes).

But here’s an idea: How would you like to receive at least 4 quotes for free?

All you need to do is fill out our form. Once that part is done, your information will be forwarded to competing contractors, and all you need to do is wait for their response.

Remember, these are competing contractors and they know it. Which means that each plumber is likely to send you a quote you can’t resist.

And remember, there’s no commitment involved here. If you’re not satisfied with any of the offers that come your way, you don’t have to hire anyone.

The important thing here is that you’re able to take that first big step.

After all, your toilet is not going to fix itself.

Ready to have your leaky toilet fixed once and for all? Get ready to fill out the form!

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