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How To Tell If You Sealed Your Toilet Wax Ring

Written by Vaughan Comfort Services on . Posted in .

Are there bad odors coming from your toilet bowl? Does it feel wobbly when you sit down? Have you noticed leaks around the toilet? If your toilet wax ring is not sealed properly at the base of your toilet, it can cause health risks to you and your family or structural damage to the subfloor of your bathroom, requiring expensive repairs.

Homeowners dread problems with leaky toilets. Need help evaluating where a leak is coming from or need someone to come repair the problem? The professional plumbers at Vaughan Comfort Services can help. Contact us today by calling 856-627-0303  or by using our online contact form.

Why Are My Toilets Leaking?

There can be many causes for leaky toilets. Some of the most common include loose bolts, misaligned valves and pipes, or a poor seal on your toilet wax ring.

Loose Bolts

Loose mounting bolts at the bottom of the toilet are a common cause of a wobbly toilet or even leaks. Fortunately, most of the time fixing toilet bolts is a DIY job. You will need an adjustable wrench and some pliers. Simply grab the bolts with the pliers and use the adjustable wrench to tighten the nuts around the bolts until they are secure at the base of the toilet. Tightening the bolts securely will help ensure that the wax seal gets an airtight seal, which is essential to preventing leaks.

Misaligned Pipes and Valves

If the pipes and valves from the water supply line are not aligned properly, you may need additional help addressing the problem. A qualified plumber should be called to check on these types of issues, as a simple error when dealing with plumbing can create thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home.

Toilet Wax Ring Not Sealing

A bad or poor wax seal on your toilet is among the most common reasons for a toilet leak. There are many reasons why the wax ring may not seal right, but perhaps the most common one is that you simply have an old wax ring that must be replaced with a new wax ring.

What Is a Toilet Wax Ring?

A toilet wax ring, located at the bottom of the toilet around the sewer pipe, is a sticky ring that ensures that your toilet seals around the sewer line drain pipe. It ensures that when the toilet drains, all the water goes down the pipe and not under your finished floor into your subfloor. A properly installed toilet ring forms a watertight seal that can last for 30 years or more with no maintenance needed.

How Often Should I Replace the Wax Ring?

In most cases, the wax ring seal will last for the life of your toilet and will not need to be changed until you install a new toilet. Sometimes, however, these rings can decay through drying out, crumbling, or simply losing their seal. When this happens, you will notice the telltale signs of toilet leaks and will need a new wax ring seal to prevent water damage and other problems.

Signs of a Faulty Wax Ring

Man changing bolts on a toilet wax ring

A faulty wax ring, or one that is going bad, may produce any number of telltale signs. These include leaks, bad smells, or a wobbly toilet.


Water leaking around the base of your toilet is the most obvious sign of a bad toilet seal. A leak, however, does not necessarily mean that your wax ring is bad. Water could come from several places in the bathroom. First, try wiping it up. If it does not come back, the issue probably is not a leak.

The source of leaks can come from different places as well. Check the fixtures and shutoff valves around the water supply line to ensure they are not leaking. Check for condensation around the toilet tank. Condensation can be normal and may cause dripping on the floor. Finally, tighten the closet bolts. Loose closet bolts can be a cause of leaks, and a simple tightening can fix the issue.

Bad Smells

Nobody assumes their toilet will smell nice, but if the smell is a sulfuric one akin to rotten eggs, or is persistent and constant, you could have issues with sewer gas leaking into your bathroom. This can be a clear sign of bad wax ring toilet seals.

If you notice a sewer gas smell, it is important to act fast. Sewer gasses can make everyone in your house sick and are even flammable and explosive. Unexplained bad odors in your bathroom are a reason to call a plumber right away.

Wobbly Toilet

If you sit down and your toilet wobbles, even a tiny bit, there is a good chance you have a compromised wax ring. It takes only a little movement to mess up a wax seal, but there are several reasons why the toilet may be wobbling. First, you may have a broken closet flange. Second, the bolts that hold the toilet flange to the toilet could be loose.

Any time the toilet rocks or you need to take it off the flange, you must change the toilet wax ring. You can assume in such cases that the wax ring seal is bad, and best practice mandates changing it any time the toilet moves or is lifted off its flange.

How to Tell if the Wax Ring Is Sealed Properly

It is fairly easy to tell if you have a properly sealed wax ring; your toilet will not wobble, will be stable, and will have no water leaks. A few specific things to check include the height of your toilet flange, the stability of the toilet, and whether the floor around the base of the toilet remains dry.

Check Closet Flange Height

The optimum flange height for a toilet is about one-quarter inch off of a finished floor. If your flange sits at this height, almost any type of wax ring can be used to deliver a solid seal. The flange height may be less than optimal if you have just installed a new floor. If necessary, a toilet flange extender can be purchased at your local hardware store. These often come with long bolts should you need to extend a flange that is below the finished floor level.

Toilet Is Stable

Sit on the toilet and shift around a bit. Do not go overboard trying to wrench the toilet off its housing; that is counterproductive. Just do the same sort of shifting you might normally do. If the toilet remains stable and does not wobble or rock, your wax ring toilet seal may be fine.

No Leaks Coming From the Toilet

Again, leaky water is a telltale and common sign of a bad wax ring. If you do not regularly see moisture or puddling water under your toilet, you may be fine. Leaks can, however, happen where you do not see them, under the finished floor and into the subfloor. In this case, look for spongy spots on the floor or loose tiles that pull up. These can be signs that your subfloor has suffered water damage.

How Long Does It Take for a Wax Ring to Seal?

man with a toolbox working on a broken toilet

It takes no time at all for your wax ring to seal. The seal is created instantly once you seat the toilet on top of the ring. From this moment forward, everything should be stable, and there should be no water leaks or other signs of a bad toilet seal.

How Do I Install a Wax Ring?

Changing the wax ring requires removing your toilet. This form of toilet repair is not an overly complicated process, but it does involve some heavy lifting, and many people are uncomfortable with it. If you are one of these people, the professionals at Vaughan Comfort Services are ready to help. Here is a step-by-step process for installing a new toilet or replacing your wax ring.

Gather Your Tools

A visit to the hardware store will be necessary. You will need an adjustable wrench, a deep well socket, pliers, a new wax ring, gaskets, possibly shims, a putty knife, caulk, washers, and possibly a hacksaw (for potentially cutting extra-long bolts short). If you are installing a new toilet, you will need to buy that as well.

Remove the Old Toilet

First, turn off the water to the toilet. Most toilets should have a shutoff at the wall behind the toilet. Turn it off, then flush the toilet. This will empty the remaining water from it. Disconnect the water line. If the existing line is flexible, you can likely reuse it. If it is solid, you may want to use a tubing cutter to hack it off and replace it with a flex line.

Next, use a sponge and bucket to get the remaining water from the bowl. Every toilet has a trap built into it, which may have some remaining water even after this is accomplished. Do not panic if this is the case.

Next, loosen the Johnny bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. You may be able to use a socket wrench to do this, or you may need your adjustable wrench. You may also need to break the bolts off if they are corroded. Be careful if you need to do this; you do not want to damage the flange to which the toilet bolts. The flange can be very complex and expensive to replace.

When the toilet is free, lift it off. You may want a friend to help with this, as you want to keep the toilet as level as possible when you lift up so the remaining water remains in the trap. You can rock it forward if you need to break it free of the existing wax ring, but try to lift it straight up when you remove it.

Set the Toilet Out of the Way

You may want to place the toilet inside your bathtub or on some newspapers. It will have some remaining wax on the bottom, and this can make a mess wherever you set it. Be sure you place it somewhere that you can easily clean up later.

Remove the Old Wax Ring

Use your putty knife to scrape out all the remaining wax from the old ring. It is important to clean the floor flange thoroughly. The cleaner you can get it, the better. If you are keeping your existing toilet, you must also clean the underside of the toilet. Get all of the wax off that you possibly can.

Install the New Ring

Put the new Johnny bolts into the floor flange, install the rubber gaskets, then line up the toilet. Check the instructions on your new wax ring. For the most part, it will go over the bottom of the toilet or on top of the flange. Once the ring is perfectly centered, you can reinstall the toilet. Simply lower it down, making sure the bolt holes line up with the flange bolts. Finally, tighten down the nuts on the Johnny bolts, and sit on the toilet. Shift your weight around a bit to ensure a tight seal. Finally, caulk around the base to further shore up the seal and stability of your toilet.

Leaky Toilet? Unsure of the Cause? Call Us!

If your toilet is leaking and you are unsure of the cause, Vaughan Comfort Services is here to help. We can diagnose the problem and take care of everything from plumbing leaks to bad wax seals to full new toilet installations. Call us today at 856-627-0303 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

NJ LIC. NO.13VH01727600
Robert W. Vaughan,
Master HVACR Contractor Lic. # 5842
Thomas J. Weaver,
Master Plumber Lic # 9521

Contact Info
212 Barrett Avenue
Magnolia, NJ 08049

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