Q: In the past you guys wrote about setting a toilet after installing a tile floor in a bathroom. I have a problem. The tile guy who installed the floor also tried to reinstall my toilet. He replaced the wax ring twice and the toilet still wobbles. I’ve taken it upon myself to fix it and wanted to know how to go about placing two wax rings on the toilet so that it doesn’t wobble.
A: We recall answering a question from a reader about reinstalling a commode after replacing an old vinyl floor with tile.
The question wasn’t directed at a wobbly toilet, and we suggested that all things being equal, two wax rings on the base would provide a leakproof seal on the new commode.
Another reader, who identified himself only as Rufus, expanded on our advice. We think his comments are well-written, well-founded and worth passing along. Rufus writes:
“I have set hundreds of toilets. You are absolutely right in saying a wobble is just a young leak. I would like to add some points based on my own experience.
“The two flange bolts secure the toilet, but they do not prevent it from wobbling if it does not already sit perfectly flat on the floor.
“Most toilet-bolt kits come with some kind of press-on plastic pieces that are supposed to temporarily hold the bolts upright while you set the toilet. Throw them away and use another set of nuts and washers to secure the bolts to the flange before installing the toilet. This will hold the bolts firmly while you jiggle the toilet onto them. Also, when (not if) you need to remove the toilet, the bolts won’t spin, something that can force you to use a hacksaw to cut them off.
“If installing a new toilet, it’s much easier to install the bowl first all by itself, then assemble the tank onto it, in place. If you choose to disassemble your used toilet you may have to replace the rubber gasket where the tank meets the bowl.
“To set a toilet properly you must first clean and prepare the flange and install the bolts. Remove any large pieces of old wax from the bottom of the old toilet (if you’re going to reuse it). Place the toilet over the bolts (this is a test fit, no wax at this time) in the position you like — there is a certain amount of ‘play’ possible and it lets you align the toilet with the wall.
“Now press strongly down on the edges around the bowl (not the tank) of the toilet and see if you can get it to wobble; especially press hard on the very front of the bowl. If it wobbles, you’ll need to place shims to stabilize the bowl. I have found the long cedar shims sold in bundles serve best. There also are soft plastic shims, but I find them difficult to cut off later.
“Install the shims with the narrow end pointing toward the center of the toilet so that they support only one point; break the shim to approximately the correct length so that not too much pokes under the toilet. I usually need two shims, but I have used five or more on some nasty installations.
“Give the toilet a final wobble test — press hard around the rim. Then, without disturbing any of the shims, lift the toilet straight up off the bolts and set it right next to you.
“Place the wax ring (which you have previously unwrapped and set within easy reach) onto the flange. Pick up the toilet and lower it straight down onto the bolts without twisting. Be careful not to move any of the shims.
“Now install the plastic cap washer, the steel washer and the nut onto each bolt and tighten evenly. Don’t be a gorilla. On many marginal plumbing installations, it’s possible to pull the toilet flange up out of the floor.
“Now test the toilet again for wobble and add or adjust the shims slightly if needed. Tighten the bolts 1/4 turn more, connect the water supply and test it five or six flushes to be sure water doesn’t show up on the floor, or worse, downstairs.
“Use the point of a new utility-knife blade to cut the shims right at the base of the toilet.
“There are differing views on caulk; the cons say that if you caulk you can’t see leaks. I do caulk but leave about 4 inches at the back of the toilet clear.
“Caulk serves a couple of purposes. Most important, it keeps the shims in place. I have had callbacks where a cleaning crew had carefully removed my shims. It hides the shims, and it adds a little extra ‘glue’ to keep the toilet in place. Because caulk shrinks when it dries, you may need to do it again the next day.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Thanks, Rufus, for the tutorial.