Toilet Wax Ring-How it Works, Sizes, Leaks , Replacement
What is a Toilet Wax Ring?
A toilet wax ring is a ring of molded wax on a short plastic pipe that is used to create a water tight seal between the bottom of the toilet and the drainpipe. Rubber gasket seals have in recent times proved to be an excellent alternative to wax rings.
A wax ring is mounted on top of the toilet flange and then the toilet is installed on top of it. Toilet bolts on each side of the toilet are used to firmly hold the toilet on the floor and also squeeze it hard against the wax ring creating a watertight seal.
A toilet flange which is also known as a closet flange is a circular pipe fitting that is used to secure the toilet to floor and also connect it to the drainpipe. The name closet flange dates back to the time flush toilets were known as water closets.
Toilet Wax Ring Sizes
While buying a new wax ring, you will need to make sure that you buy one which will fit into your your toilet. Toilet wax rings are universal but the size has to be right.
To determine the size of wax ring to buy, remove your toilet and lay it on its side. Measure the outside diameter of the toilet outlet which is also called an elbow neck. Use that measurement to buy a new wax ring
It is also important to note down the size of the toilet drainpipe. Most toilet drainpipes have a standard size of 3 or 4 inches. It is also possible that your drainpipe has an old size so make sure you measure. Most wax rings are fortunately designed to fit in both 4 and 3-inch drainpipes.
Another important measurement is the wax thickness. A wax ring will either have a standard thickness or a double thickness.
As a rule of thumb, if the toilet flange is installed flush of the floor you will need a standard thickness wax ring. If the flange is installed below the floor level you will need the double thickness wax ring.
How Do I Know a Toilet Wax Ring is bad?
A toilet wax ring can last for many decades or as long as the toilet will last. Due to varied reasons however, sometimes it will not work as anticipated and will therefore need to be replaced. These are the telltale signs that your toilet wax ring is bad and a replacement is needed.
1. Water pooling around the toilet base
If you ever notice water collecting around the base of your toilet, it is one of the clearest indications that your wax ring is leaking. How this happens is that every time someone flushes the toilet some water does not flow down the drainpipe but rather leaks out through the wax ring.
You should however be carefully since it is not always when water pools round your toilet that you have a leaking wax ring. Sometimes you might have a leaking toilet tank, water supply line or shut off valve.
It therefore helps to do a little investigation to find the source of the water. If indeed it is a leaking wax ring you will need to replace it as soon as possible.
The problem with having stagnant water on your bathroom floor for too long is that it might cause it or the subfloor to start rotting especially if it’s wooden. This can result into more expensive repairs.
2. Water leaking from the basement ceiling
Sometimes when the wax ring is leaking, instead of the water pooling around the toilet base it penetrates through the floor causing the basement ceiling to start leaking or just be dump.This happens especially when you have caulked around your toilet.
When you notice water leaking from your basement ceiling, you would be well advised to quickly replace the wax ring, lest you will have to replace the entire ceiling. A dump ceiling and walls also make the house really cold and uninhabitable.
3. Sewer smell in the bathroom
Have you ever entered your bathroom only to be met by a horrific sewer odor? Apart from being watertight, the wax ring should also create an airtight seal. If there is a small opening between the wax ring and the bottom of the toilet, sewer gases will leak from the drainpipe to the bathroom through that opening.
Do you see the water at the bottom of the toilet bowl? It acts as a barrier for the sewer gases and that is why you should always make sure the bowl has sufficient water. A small opening between the wax ring and the toilet is enough to let out a really bad smell in in your bathroom.
It is however not every time you notice a sewage smell in your bathroom that your wax ring is bad. Sometimes this smell comes straight from the bowl. It is caused by a clogged toilet drain or vent stack.
As a result, the sewer gases build up pressure in the drainpipe and finally break the toilet bowl water barrier. When this is the case, you are most likely to hear your toilet bubble and/or gurgle every time you flush it.
4. A wobbly toilet
A wobbly/rocking toilet is caused by several factors mostly a broken toilet flange or loose toilet bolts. Each time the toilet wobbles it compromises the integrity of the wax ring. If the toilet wobbles for a long time it will finally break the wax ring seal resulting in a leaking toilet.
If the toilet flange is broken, it will need to be replaced. Replacing a toilet flange means removing the toilet first. Every time you remove the toilet you must replace the wax ring too. Wax rings cannot be reused.
Another thing that can make you replace your toilet wax ring is when you are replacing the entire toilet or just the toilet bowl. Even if the wax ring was in perfect working condition, it will need to be replaced.
Toilet Wax Ring Alternatives
For a long time, wax rings were the only seals used to install toilets. Over the last couple of years however, a toilet wax ring alternative has been developed. This is the rubber gasket seal.
“But what is wrong with a wax ring? It has been working for all that time. Why change it then”? One may ask.
If you have never replaced a wax ring, you may never appreciate how challenging it can be to set it properly and not have a leak later. Wax is easily deformed. Rubber is not.
If you make a mistake when installing the toilet and deform the wax ring, there is a very good chance that you will have a leak when you turn on the water. And when you deform the wax ring you cannot remodel it. You will need to buy another one.
Another thing about wax ring is that they are messy. It will therefore stick on your hands and the floor which will not be the case with a rubber gasket seal.
Having said that, some homeowners and plumbers still prefer the old good toilet wax ring. Ultimately, the decision to use the wax ring or the wax ring alternative comes done to the home owner.
If you need to buy a rubber gasket seal, these ones are among the best ones to buy:
1. Fluidmaster Universal Better than Wax Seal
2. Next By Danco Perfect Seal
The Best Toilet Wax Rings
All wax rings are not the same. Some are well made than others, which is needless to say. If you are looking to buy a good wax ring to install with your toilet, these are the ones we recommend:
1. Fluidmaster Extra Thick Wax Ring
2. Lasco Extra Thick Wax Ring
How to Replace a Toilet Wax Ring
If you toilet ring is bad causing water to leak or bringing in bad odors in your bathroom, you will definitely have to replace it. Replacing a wax ring toilet is not a quick repair since you will need to first remove the toilet.
It is however an easy task that you can comfortably do without the need to call in a plumber. Just remember that while lifting the toilet you might need an extra pair of hands.
If you have a 2-piece toilet, you may decide to first remove the tank then the bowl. This is a long process but it will be way safer.
On the other hand, if you own a 1-piece toilet you will need to lift the entire piece at once. Toilets can be very heavy and are definitely very fragile. This is why it makes sense to have someone help you with the lifting.
This is detailed guide on how to replace a toilet wax ring