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Let’s Fix it: A Loose Toilet

  • 17 min read

Inspector Jo finds a loose, and potentially leaking toilet almost everywhere. This is such a common issue amongst toilet owners that she seems to find a loose toilet at every inspection, most road-side restrooms and many hotel bathrooms.

@inspectorjochicago

Loose toilet?? Of course you do… Almost every home inspection has at least 1 loose toilet. Lets fix it together in 10 easy steps. In between inspections Jo is doing home repairs and finishing tasks that are still unresolved from her own home inspection. #inspectorjo #chicagohomeinspector #femalebusinessowner #toilettok

♬ original sound – inspectorjo

10 Steps to Reseating a Loose Toilet

And 5 steps to toilet tank repair – link

As a homeowner or renter, one of the last places you want to be making repairs is on the bathroom commode, but unfortunately loose or leaking toilets are a regular defect found at 90% of Jo’s home inspections, even on newly constructed homes.  A loose toilet can be  frustrating, loud, and embarrassing for guests. Loose toilets are often leaking toilets whether or not the homeowner can see moisture.  Most homeowners choose to ignore the ceramic clank from the toilet every time they stand up, because it seems like an ignorable nuisance, without realizing they could be sitting on thousands of dollars in damage from unseen conditions such as:  trapped moisture, potential mold and mildew build up,  not to mention leaking bio-hazardous waste.   

Luckily, reseating a loose toilet is a relatively simple task that can be done by homeowners without professional help. The newer your property is the easier the job may be, as older vintage homes like the one in the photos and video below often come with unforeseen obstacles like: cast iron plumbing, unlevel floors, or older galvanized steel pipes that require problem solving and time. In this blog post, we will guide you through 10 easy steps to reseat a loose toilet and restore stability to your bathroom fixture. 

Since most loose toilet bowls also have loose toilet tanks, we will also explain steps to clean, repair and reseat your toilet tank assembly to reduce leaking and excess water consumption. 

Step 1: Gather the necessary tools and materials. 

  • Before starting the reseating process, ensure you have all the required tools and materials on hand. 
  • To avoid unnecessary trips to the store it’s usually helpful to have these items readily available:
  • Adjustable wrench 
  • Large sponge
  • Gross/project towels
  • 5 Gallon Bucket 
  • Putty knife – to scrape off the wax ring
  • New Toilet bolts and Toilet tank bolts (I recommend buying multiple)
  • New Wax ring (I recommend buying multiple)
  • New Flange (might be helpful to buy a couple different styles if you’re not sure what you’ll find under the toilet.  putty knife, a new wax ring, and plastic shims.
  • If you having any issues with constantly running water, rusting at the base of the toilet tank, or leaking from the tank you should also purchase:
    • Replacement tank assembly
    • and/or replacement tank flappers, or handles
    • New rubber gasket
    • Possibly other replacement tank parts depending on brand. 

Step 2: Shut off the water & empty the toilet. 

  • Locate the shut-off valve near the toilet and turn it clockwise to shut off the water supply. 
  • Then flush the toilet to drain out any remaining water in the tank and bowl. 
  • Use your sponge and bucket to gather the remaining water in the Tank and toilet Bowl. Towels are to help maintain the mess and water dripping. Wear PPE!!!

Step 3: Disconnect the water supply line.  

  • Many modern toilets have plastic connections that can be loosened by hand. If you have metal connections or are struggling to loosen the water line from the toilet tank, use an adjustable wrench. 
  • Loosen and disconnect the water supply line from the bottom of the toilet tank. Have your towel or bucket ready to catch any residual water.

Step 4: Remove the toilet and the tank. 

  • Using the wrench – loosen and remove the nuts securing the tank to the toilet base. Set the toilet tank aside and follow the 5 steps below to tank assembly repair. 
  • Using the wrench – loosen and remove the nuts securing the toilet to the floor bolts. 
  • Gently rock the toilet back and forth to break the seal with the wax ring. Set a towel down in an area where you place the toilet momentarily. 
  • Toilets aren’t HEAVY, but they are awkward to hold and made of porcelain so fragile. If you have a second person to help team-life that is suggested. 
  • Lift the toilet straight up and place it on an old towel or newspaper to prevent any water or debris from spilling.

Step 5: Clean off the base of the toilet basin. 

  • It’s going to be gross, so wear PPE. 
  • It’s also a great idea to take an old body towel and shove it partly down the toilet drain hole to plug it up and keep out any potential sewer gas while you complete the next steps.  (The towel needs to be bigger than a dish towel so it doesn’t fall down and clog the drain)
  • Scrape off the old wax ring and any residue from the flange and the bottom of the toilet using a putty knife. Ensure the surfaces are clean and free of debris so that the new wax ring makes clean contact. 

Step 6: Inspect and replace the flange and bolts.

  • Inspect the toilet flange for any damage or cracks. If necessary, repair or replace the flange to ensure a proper seal.
  • Most likely, since the toilet was loose, you will have either a damaged flange, or an improperly installed flange. To ensure proper connection of the toilet to the floor (which keeps it from getting loose), it is recommended to replace the existing flange in almost all loose toilet repairs. 
  • Ensure that the new flange is secure to the floor, and or plumbing below (my cast iron drain ended as a flange that I connected to a plastic flange). The height of the flange is also important to consider, generally most toilets now are designed for the the flange to be level with the bathroom floor. 
  • Install the new bolts to the flange.
  • ALWAYS replace the bolts for the toilet bowl and toilet tank with new bolts. Over time they are exposed to wax and moisture, and no matter how clean they look. will /can corrode and break if not replaced, causing you to have to reseat the toilet once again, when they break loose. Don’t take the chance, spend the $6.

Step 7: Install NEW wax ring. 

PVC Flange – standard style wax ring installed and ready for the toilet to be re-seated.
2 Types of Flanges in this image: Black-Cast Iron Flange attachment, White-standard PVC universal floor mounted Flange.
PVC Flange is mounted to the Cast Iron Sewer Pipe. The added height of the PVC Flange makes toilet connection and the tile level.
  • It is ESSENTIAL that the wax ring is replaced with a new FRESH ring from the store. A good wax ring seal is the only barrier between your bathroom floor and whatever goes down the toilet, so there is no safe room for error. 
  • Place a new wax ring over the flange, ensuring it is centered and properly aligned. Press it down gently to create a good seal.
  • NEVER RE-USE a wax ring. This means even if you just installed a new wax ring, if any of the next steps go wrong like a bolt breaking and the toilet needs to be taken off, a second NEW wax ring should be used before reseating the toilet. 

Step 8: Reseat the toilet. 

  • This step again is easier with a partner.
  • Carefully lower the toilet onto the new wax ring, aligning the bolt holes with the floor bolts. Apply even pressure to compress the wax ring and create a secure seal. Sit on the toilet or rock it back and forth to help it settle into place.

Step 9: Secure the toilet. 

  • Reinstall the nuts onto the floor bolts and tighten them evenly by hand. 
  • Check that the toilet is center and flush with the wall and surrounding cabinetry etc.
  • With the wrench tighten the nuts to fully secure the base, but be cautious NOT TO OVER TIGHTEN. Don’t excessively turn the wrench, go slowly using a ¼ turn alternating from side to side. 
  • It is very easy to over-tighten, this can cause even “heavy duty bolts” to break and could crack the toilet base. To complete this video I went through 3 sets of bolts, 2 types of flanges, and 4 wax rings. Have patience my friend, and buy extra supplies, you can always return them later.
  • Repeat these steps for the toilet tank attachment. For toilet tank repair steps skip to the bottom

Step 10: Reconnect the water supply and test for leaks. 

  • Reconnect the water supply line to the bottom of the toilet tank. If you’re supply connections are metal don’t forget to apply Teflon tape/plumbers tape to help ensure a good connection and reduce the potential for leaks.
  • Turn on the water supply valve. 
  • Let the tank refill, and wipe down all the surfaces around the toilet tank and the toilet base to best test for leaks.
  • Flush the toilet to ensure proper function and check for any leaks around the tank and base.

Reseating a loose toilet is a simple DIY task

Reseating a loose toilet is a simple DIY task that can save you time and money by avoiding potential water damage and inconvenience. By following these 10 steps, you can reseat your toilet and restore stability to your bathroom fixture.

Just like with many home improvement projects you will most likely run in to hiccups along the way, so be prepared for problems to arise as the project goes along. Even as a professional, Jo had to reseat this toilet 3 times just to make the tiktok video at the top, due to unforeseen circumstances like new bolts breaking, difficulty finding the most appropriate flange etc. This toilet was unseated for 48 hours, something that can only be done in a home with more than one bathroom and very PATIENT residents. Remember to exercise caution and know you’re own personal abilities and limitations. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you encounter any difficulties or are unsure about any step in the process.

Don’t forget to celebrate because you fixed something ALL BY YOURSELF!!!

For More DIY tips and tricks

Inspector Jo wants to empower fellow homeowners to feel confident doing simple at home repairs that may come up during a home inspection report, or throughout the lifetime of a home..

5 Simple Steps to Repairing or Replacing Toilet Tank Assembly Parts

Failing tank supply: Biological growth, failing seal, poorly functioning float or flapper constantly leaking water into the tank.

The toilet tank assembly plays a crucial role in the functionality of your bathroom fixture. Over time, certain parts may wear out or malfunction, requiring repair or replacement. Or like in the example below, if the parts were improperly installed they can begin to corrode and malfunction even sooner. More importantly, a poorly performing tank assembly can cause gallons of water to leak into your toilet bowl throughout the day, often silently racking up the cost of your water bill unobserved. 

If you’re here in the blog, you’ve already taken your toilet bowl and tank off and you know you have the confidence to complete these next 5 easy steps to repair or replace toilet tank assembly parts. By following these steps, you can restore the proper functioning of your toilet and avoid unnecessary expenses.

If you’re just here for toilet tank assembly repair, don’t worry you can still follow these steps to repair the toilet tank without even removing the bowl! By following these steps, you can restore the proper functioning of your toilet and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Step 1: Identify the problematic part. 

  • First, determine which part of the toilet tank assembly needs attention.
  • Common parts that may require repair or replacement include the fill valve, flush valve, flapper, handle, or trip lever.
  • The red flags that gave away the need for repair for this toilet was the constant sound of water leaking, and the rusting metal hardware between the tank and the bowl. 
  • Ideally, you will note what may be wrong with the assembly before starting the toilet removal process and purchased the right parts ahead of time. The best way to know what you may need to buy is to try to find an instruction manual for your toilet model. Often just googling the brand on your toilet and scrolling through images till you find the model that looks closest to yours is enough information. 
Due to frequent slow leaks the metal plate used to attach the tank to the toilet bowl was rusted/ needs replaced.
Often the culprit is the toilet float assembly, the part left inside the tank in the photo above. $15 replacement
The red rubber flapper or seal for this assembly was damaged and failing due to the previous use of plumbers putty.

Step 2: Gather up the required supplies.

  • No matter how new your tank assembly parts are, if you are at this stage in the blog because you are hearing water leaking into the tank, then there is something in the assembly that needs to be replaced. 
  • Just like the wax ring, try to always get a replacement rubber gasket for between the toilet bowl and tank. These are typically $4-$5 black soft rubber and protect the connection between the tank and the toilet from leaks, and from the ceramic rubbing together. They can often get pinched or smashed unevenly and cause small leaks, so replacement is always a good idea. 
  • Always replace the bolts.

Step 3: Remove the tank and old assembly parts 

  • Carefully disconnect and remove the old assembly, try to note the order in which you needed to remove parts to disassemble from the tank.
  • If you are just repairing one item like the flapper or the seal, disconnect as much or the tank assembly pieces as possible. Remove the malfunctioning part, and clean the rest of any debris.
    • Each part may have a different removal method, so consult the manufacturer’s instructions or follow general guidelines available online for the specific part you are working on.
  • If you are replacing the whole assembly, disconnect it and set it aside.
  • Clean the inside of the toilet tank.

Step 4: Install the new parts. 

  • Take the new replacement part and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install it correctly, in general you often just repeat the steps taken to remove the assembly, but in reverse. 
  • Ensure a secure fit and proper alignment, but again don’t over tighten. Take extra care with components like gaskets or seals that can slip and move when installing to prevent leaks.
  • NO PLUMBERS PUTTY is NEEDED for any part of the tank assembly. Using Plumbers putty will affect the function of your tank assembly overtime and lead to leaks and potential damages. 

Step 5: Reinstall the toilet tank and water supply. Test 

  • Once the toilet bowl is restored and secured to the floor, carefully place the new rubber gasket at the toilet base opening for the tank. 
  • Set the tank over the gasket and align the bolts with the toilet base
  • Finger tighten the bolts, and then with the wrench secure the tank to the bowl so that it does not move or shift with any contact. Once again DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN the bolts. 
  • Turn on the water supply by turning the shut-off valve counterclockwise. Allow the tank to fill up, and then test the repaired or replaced part. Check for proper operation, such as proper flushing, filling, or handle movement. Make any necessary adjustments to the float, flapper line etc. ensure optimal functionality.

Repairing or replacing toilet tank assembly parts can be a straightforward task with the right knowledge and approach. By following these 5 steps, you can tackle toilet repairs efficiently and maintain a fully functional bathroom fixture saving $$$ on your water bill, and stress down the line.

For More DIY tips and tricks

Inspector Jo wants to empower fellow homeowners to feel confident doing simple at home repairs that may come up during a home inspection report, or throughout the lifetime of a home..