Toilet Wax Ring: All You Need to Know
One day, you will decide to renovate your bathroom and install a new toilet, or a paddle under your toilet will tell you that the wax ring is bad. In both cases, you should be able to deal with a wax ring, which is an essential part of the toilet.
Although toilets don’t look complicated at all, there are plenty of facts you need to know to understand how to install a wax seal on a toilet and make it last for the next 20-30 years. It’s vital to know how the wax ring works, especially when it starts flooding the bathroom!
Toilet Wax Ring Guide
I’ve gathered everything you need to know about toilet wax rings to replace them successfully. Read this comprehensive guide to figure things out once and for all!
What’s the purpose of a toilet wax ring?
A wax ring is everything that stands between the toilet flange (which connects the toilet to the drainpipe) and the toilet bowl. This essential part keeps the water from splashing out when you flush, but, surprisingly, leak protection is not the main purpose of this part.
It’s also an odor-proof seal that stands between the sewer gases and the toilet together with the toilet gas trap (that weirdly bent pipe).
Common problems with a wax ring
Before you learn how to install a toilet wax ring, you also need to remember what types of problems can occur with this part. Here are all the potential issues:
- Loose toilet – if your toilet isn’t firmly mounted with the bolts at the base, it may start rocking a tiny bit. This motion can be hard to notice, but it’s usually fatal to the ring, especially if it’s old. If you notice that your toilet went loose, you’d better replace the wax ring without waiting for the first signs of leakage.
- Closet flange issues – I’ve seen a lot of houses across the US in which bathroom floors are higher than flange upper edge. This makes the gap between the flange and the bottom of the toilet too big, and an average wax ring doesn’t get enough compression if it’s a case.
- Using two wax seals sounds like a good idea, but it’s not gonna last. Purchase a flange heightener to even it with the floor level and install a single wax ring for proper seal. If the level isn’t too low, you can also try thicker wax ring models.
- Crumbling wax – if the wax ring is of bad quality, or it’s over 30 years old, it may start crumbling. The process will take a long time before it starts leaking, but it’s still a common reason. I’ve noticed that crumbling is a common issue for first-floor toilets that stand upon the cold basement. If the winters are cold, the low temperature may reach the ring and damage it a little, year by year.
- Bad odors – a damaged wax ring may not be leaking, but let the bad odors reach the bathroom. If you sense something like this, it’s time to call the plumber for assessment.
- Water damage in the ceiling – if you notice water stains or drop right under your upper-floor toilet, this is most probably a sign of the leaking wax ring. React immediately to prevent water damage from spreading and dry the damaged spots to prevent molding.
How to replace a toilet wax ring?
Toilet wax ring replacement isn’t a very tough job, but it takes a while anyway. Make sure you have an adjustable wrench, a putty knife, several towels (paper towels will work), and a bucket. Now, follow these steps to replace the ring quickly:
- Drain and disconnect the toilet – this goes in several smaller steps. First, turn off the water supply that’s connected to the toilet water tank. Use the wrench to turn the valve if it’s too tight. Then flush the toilet to drain the tank. Most tanks will have some water on the bottom, so use towels or a wet-dry vac to remove the remains. When it’s finally dry, disconnect the water supply pipe, but don’t forget to put a bucket underneath as there will be some water in the line. Finally, you have to remove all the water from the bowl too.
- Remove the toilet – remove the tank and then remove the bolts at the base of the toilet using your wrench. Next, rock and twist the toilet gently to loosen the ring. When it feels loose enough, lift the toilet up without tilting it to the sides and put it aside.
- Remove toilet wax ring – take your putty knife and scrape away all the old wax from the flange and the bottom of the toilet (if you want to put it back). Everything must be dried before the new ring installation. If the toilet flange is damaged or even slightly dented, I recommend calling a plumber to see if there’s a need for a new flange.
- Place & press – place the new wax ring according to the manufacturer’s instruction (there might be special requirements), make sure the holes in the toilet base match the holes in the flange and sit on the toilet with a closed lid to push it into place. Now you can tighten the bolts and connect the water supply back.
- Test it – make sure to test flushing multiple times to ensure there are no leaks and enjoy.
Below are the brief answers to some of the most frequently asked questions of our readers on on toilet wax rings.
How long do toilet wax rings last?
Replacing toilet wax seal is usually needed only when you update the entire toilet once in 20-30 years. Manufacturers understand it and build wax rings to last up to 30 years or slightly more without leaking.
Sometimes, wax rings dry out or start to crumble much earlier, which may require earlier replacement. Based on years of my plumbing experience, this happens in roughly 2-5% of all cases.
Should I use a wax ring for the toilet?
Wax ring is a classic and long-lasting solution, but you can also choose a waxless toilet bowl gasket or a foam gasket. Unlike the wax ring, both types can be used multiple times as you don’t have to break them to remove the old toilet and place a new one.
Foam gaskets are also quite flexible and don’t break even if the toilet is tilted by accident. Furthermore, foam rings can be stacked, which is strictly not recommended for wax rings.
Are toilet wax rings universal?
Toilet wax rings are universal as long as you select the right size. In simple words, the standard wax ring is needed if the flange is installed flush with the floor level, and a double thickness wax ring is needed if the flange is below the floor level. Consider this when you replace a toilet flange.
Can a toilet wax ring leak?
Toilet wax seal is generally highly durable, but it may leak if you don’t install it carefully enough and damage the ring. The ring may also start leaking prematurely if it dries out and crumbles because of the manufacturer’s fault.
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Forget About It. For the Next 30 Years
Congrats! Now you know all the important information about toilet wax rings and can set them on properly to prevent leaks for the next 20-30+ years. If installing wax rings appears to be too time-taking for you, consider other types and their benefits. However, the classic option is still reliable these days, so I don’t see any reasons to avoid using it.
Was the article helpful enough? Will you use a wax ring for installing your next toilet? How long did the old wax ring on your toilet serve? You can share your experience and ask questions in the comments below. Stay tuned for more helpful plumbing guides!