The Wobbly Porcelain Bowl: Fixing a Loose Toilet

Nope. We’re not talking about a rough night at the bar.

It’s one of our favorite expressions here at the office to describe a loose toilet. “I checked the toilet on the main floor– it spun like a top!”

A loose toilet is not just an inconvenience – it could be a sign of trouble. In fact, if you’ve got a leak in your building, and you don’t know where it’s coming from, make sure you check the toilets in the building – plumbers will tell you, often a loose toilet is a telltale culprit for a mysterious leak.

When toilets are installed by an amateur plumber and deemed “good enough” despite a missing bolt or two, there’s bound to be trouble.

There are three main causes for a wobbly toilet:

1 Loose Flange Bolts

The flange bolts keep the toilet anchored to the flange (see diagram below). These can be easily tightened using a wrench, however, tightening them too much may cause breakage or damage, so be careful not to overdo it!

2 Damaged Flange

A damaged flange will cause the toilet to rock. This is probably one of the trickier items to replace. If there’s a crack in the flange, it will need to be removed and replaced completely. It can be replaced with a plastic flange and drain pipe, but if there’s a crack in the soil pipe causing a leak, the soil pipe will need to be repaired too. A good plumber will add a metal soil pipe, take out his blow torch and solder a metal flange in place.

3 Damaged Wax Seal

Quite often what happens is that after a toilet has been secured with a wax seal, an inexperienced or amateur plumber will decide to lift the toilet or readjust, lifting it off the wax seal, thus breaking the seal. Bingo! Once a wax seal has been placed, it should not be moved. Once the wax is in place, it takes the form of the bottom of the toilet and the floor. When moved, this form never takes shape correctly again.

If the wax seal is disturbed, even a small amount of toilet movement will –over time—cause cracks and breaks in the toilet drainpipe, eventually leading to leaks.

If an adjustment needs to be made, a brand new wax seal should always be used. This may be an inconvenience at the time a repair or change is done, but worth it for long term peace of mind.

Toilet is still wobbly? It might be your floor. An uneven floor can make it very difficult to secure a toilet properly. If this is the case, you might need to find a handyman to come up with a solution for your situation.

Replacement of a soil pipe and Flange in pictures:

1 Soil Pipe Damaged from Loose Toilet

2 Plumber puts 12-inch metal soil pipe in that surpasses damaged soil pipe and solders it to the flange.

3 Job nearly complete- still needs wax seal and bolts on toilet.