How To Reset A Toilet

Resetting a loose, rocking or, leaking toilet by replacing the wax ring on a toilet is an easy task that most people can do themselves. With a few basic tools and inexpensive parts most people can reset a toilet themselves in about and hour.

A toilet is in most cases sealed to the closet flange on the waste pipe with a wax ring. The wax ring is the weakest joint in the entire drainage system but when properly set the joint will have no problems. The wax seal is designed to be crushed creating a seal between the outlet on the bottom of the toilet and the closet flange. Once the wax ring is crushed making the seal, the toilet must not move or, rock because the wax ring is not resilient and is designed for a one time crushing action to create the seal. Even if a toilet is not leaking water, if the toilet is moving the wax seal is compromised and can be leaking sewer gases into your home. Sewer gases leaking into a home can be dangerous and unhealthy, in fact a 2003 outbreak of SARS in China was traced to sewer gases leaking into a hotel. In most cases a toilet that is rigidly mounted to the floor and not moving will not have a leakage problem unless the toilet drain line gets clogged and is aggressively plunged causing the wax ring to blow out. If a toilet leaks water around the base after plunging a new wax ring and resetting is needed.

To reset a toilet you will need a few basic tools and supplies to accomplish the job.

The tools you will need are:

  • channel Lock Pliers
  • Small Adjustable Wrench
  • Close Quarter Saw or, Compact Hacksaw
  • Putty Knife
  • Caulking Gun and Latex Caulk (Matching color may be desired)
  • Small Tray To Catch Water
  • Spray Cleaner and Cotton Rags
  • latex or, Nitrile Gloves (several pairs will be needed)
  • Large Absorbent Sponge and Bucket or, Wet Vac

The supplies you will need are:

  • Wax Ring (In most cases get the wax ring that does not have the black plastic horn built into the ring)
  • 5/16” Brass Closet Bolts (Do not get closet bolts that have grooves to break off the extra bolt length)
  • Braided Stainless Steel Closet Supply (In most cases 3/8” compression X 7/8” ballcock X the length you need available in 9”, 12”, and 16” lengths. Do not get the Watts “Floodsafe” supply lines! Get a length where they can be installed without kinking, too long with a large loop is better than too short and strained or, a small loop that kinks.)
  • Latex Caulk (Do not use Silicone RTV Caulk! My personal preferences are Phenoseal or, Polyseamseal. Matching colors may be desired)
  • Shims (Many manufacturers offer plastic wedges for shimming toilets to floors that are not level.)
  • Toilet Bolt Caps (If the present caps are missing or broken)

The first step to resetting the toilet is to shut off the water to the toilet at the angle stop valve located below the toilet tank on the left side. Once the water is shut off remove the tank lid and set it on the floor out of the way, flush the toilet and hold the lever down allowing as much of the water as possible to drain from the tank. Put on your gloves then use the sponge and bucket or, wet vac to remove the rest of the water from the tank the also remove the water from the bowl. Place the small tray under the angle stop valve to catch a small amount of water that will spill, and use the small adjustable wrench to remove the closet supply from the angle stop valve and use the channel lock pliers to remove the supply line from the fill valve shank on the bottom outside of the toilet tank. Next use the small adjustable wrench to take off the nuts on the closet bolts securing the toilet to the floor. If toilet bolt caps cover the closet bolts, slipping the putty knife under them usually pops the caps right off without damaging them. Once the nuts and washers have been removed you are ready to lift the toilet off the floor. If the toilet was caulked with Silicone RTV Caulk make sure to cut the caulk between the toilet and floor or, you may damage the floor. Grab the toilet by the bowl and rock it from side to side breaking it loose from the floor and wax ring. Straddling the toilet lift the toilet straight up off the bolts then carry it aside and place it on the floor on top of a rag rolling the toilet onto its side. Take the putty knife and clean any wax remaining stuck to the toilet bottom off the toilet. Next clean the wax remaining on the closet flange off with the putty knife, and remove the old closet bolts, and use the spray cleaner and cotton rags to clean the floor under where the toilet set. Once the wax has been removed and the floor cleaned inspect the closet flange for defects. The flange should be mounted on top of the finished floor and be secured in place to the floor with screws so it doesn’t move. Any problems with the flange should be repaired before resetting the toilet or, the resetting will not be successful and you will have the leak return.

You are now ready to start resetting the toilet. Place the new closet bolts into the slots on the flange and secure them in place centered on each side of the flange. Place the new wax ring on the flange centered around the drain and lightly press down on it sticking the wax ring in place. With the dirty work complete you are now ready to put on a new pair of gloves. Take the new braided stainless steel supply line and using the small adjustable wrench secure it in place onto the angle stop valve. Turn the toilet upright again and straddle carry the toilet over close to where it belongs setting it down in front of the flange and new wax seal. Get into a comfortable position where you can lift it into place while looking from side to side at the base to see where the bolt holes are in relation to the bolts sticking up and stain marks on the floor from where the toilet was set before. Lift the toilet and carry it forward over the flange carefully lowering it into place with the bolts centered in the toilet boltholes and the base of the toilet covering the stain from the previous installation. Press down on the toilet with the force directly over the bolts compressing the wax ring. Place the bottom part of the bolt cap over the bolt making sure the right side is facing up. Place the metal washer on top of the bottom part of the bolt cap then the nut and finger tighten on both sides. Using the small adjustable wrench tighten the closet bolts evenly on each side until the toilet is held securely down to the floor unable to move. Next place the shims as needed under the toilet to prevent rocking of the toilet trimming the wedges flush with the base of the toilet. Using the saw trim off the bolts flush with the top of the bolts than snap the bolt cover in place over the bolts. Connect the closet supply to the shank of the fill valve and turn on the water checking the toilet for proper operation and any leaks. Place the toilet tank lid back in place. Finally take the caulk gun and run a bead of caulk around the base of the toilet smoothing the caulk with a wet finger. Allow the caulk to dry for 24 hours before wet mopping the floor to avoid damaging the caulk, but the toilet may be used immediately. Clean up the mess and the tools you have just reset a toilet.

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