How to Fix a Leaky Toilet Base

Hand in a Rubber Glove Cleaning a Tiled Floor in a Bathroom
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Standing water at the base of your toilet could be the result of several potential problems. Here’s a quick guide to help you diagnose and address them:

Before You Begin

Avoid using your leaking toilet if possible. The water seeping from your toilet is dirty and can cause unpleasant odors and potential health hazards. The presence of standing water near your toilet can also damage your flooring and sub flooring — as well as your first-floor ceiling if your affected bathroom is on the second story.

Identifying and Fixing the Leak

Loose Tee Bolts. Tee bolts are plastic-covered bolts found at the base of your toilet. Loose or faulty tee bolts can break your toilet’s internal wax seal, causing leaks. Remove the plastic covers from the tee bolts and use an adjustable, open-end or box-end wrench to tighten the bolts. It’s important to also ensure that your toilet is positioned correctly on the floor. A skewed or un-level toilet can break your seal and place undue pressure on your tee bolts. You’ll need to replace your tee bolts if they’re frozen or spin freely.

Damaged Wax Ring. If you still experience leaks after tightening your tee bolts, you may have a damaged wax ring. Replacing a wax ring is simple, but it will require removing your toilet from the floor. Always call a professional if you’re unsure about performing this repair. Here’s a quick guide to help you replace your wax ring:

  1. Purchase a new wax ring. Wax rings come in several varieties. If you’re unsure about which replacement will work for your toilet, ask a pro or hardware store employee.
  1. Remove the toilet. Begin by shutting off the water to your toilet. Flush the toilet to drain water from the tank and the bowl. Next, unscrew the nut that holds the fill valve in place (this should be the largest nut closest to the tank bottom) and use a bucket to catch the remaining water as it drains. Use a plunger to force any remaining water from the toilet basin. Remove the water supply line by loosening the nut that holds the line in place. On many models, the nut is located below the toilet tank and attached to the line itself. Once the nut is loosened, the water supply should slide out. Lastly, use an adjustable, open-end or box-end wrench to loosen the tee bolts. If your bolts are corroded and won’t turn or spin in place, use a hacksaw to cut each bolt.
  1. Lift the toilet. Lift the toilet and set it on its side. You may have to rock the toilet gently to break the seal. Toilets have an usual center of gravity, which can make lifting by yourself difficult. It’s a good idea to have someone help you to avoid injury or damage to your toilet. After you have removed the toilet, inspect the tee bolts. Purchase a new set if they’re rusty or corroded.
  2. Remove the old wax ring. Scrape the old ring away, making sure to remove any stuck-on wax. Older wax rings build up a grimy residue over time, so be sure to have gloves and trash bags ready. Don’t forget to clear out the keyed slots for the tee bolts in the flange (the metal ring that sits over the drain).
  3. Install the new wax ring. Place your new wax ring over the flange and slide your tee bolts into the keys on the side of the flange.
  4. Replace your toilet. Lift your toilet, aligning the holes on the side of your toilet with the tee bolts and set the toilet down.
  5. Use your body weight to press the toilet into the wax ring to create a watertight seal.
  1. Secure the toilet. Place the washers and nuts back on the tee bolts and tighten. Make sure the tee bolts are snug but not too tight. Overtightening can lead to cracked porcelain.
  2. Reconnect the water line. Reconnect your water line and turn on the water supply valve.
  3. Test the toilet. Flush your toilet once the tank is full and watch for leaks.

Condensation. Heavy condensation can sometimes drip, resulting in standing moisture around the base of your toilet. Here are four ways to combat excessive condensation:

  1. Install a tray. A small drip tray is a simple and affordable way to keep water off of your floor. Drip trays aren’t a permanent solution, but they will give you time to find a suitable fix.
  2. Change bathroom habits. Taking shorter, cooler showers, leaving on fans, and keeping bathroom doors ajar when unoccupied will help eliminate condensation-causing conditions.
  3. Insulate the tank. Tank insulation will help keep the water in your tank warmer, reducing the risk of condensation. Applying tank insulation is a tricky DIY job, so it’s best to hire a pro.
  4. Check the flapper. A faulty flapper will allow a small, constant stream of cool water to flow into your tank. The lower temperatures of the in-tank water will cause a buildup of condensation. Check your flapper to ensure it is creating a proper seal.