How to Repair a Leaking Toilet Base

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Things You'll Need

  • Putty knife

  • Wrench

  • Towel and sponge

  • Replacement closet bolts

  • Plumber's putty

  • Plumber's tape, if needed

  • Caulk

A leaking toilet can cause damage to your bathroom and your pocketbook. If you notice a leak at the base of your toilet, the problem is with the connection between the toilet and the sewer outlet, called a closet flange. This connection is usually sealed by a wax ring. Over time, however, these can degrade, cause leaks and allow sewer gases to enter your home. If you're lucky, you can get away with tightening the closet bolts. If that doesn't work, you're going to have to replace the wax ring.


Tighten the Flange Bolts

Step 1

Remove the plastic caps that cover the closet bolts at the base of the toilet. Slide a putty knife under them and pop them off.

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Step 2

Turn the bolts clockwise with a wrench to tighten them.

Step 3

Flush the toilet. If the toilet is still leaking, go to Section 2.

Replace the Wax Ring

Step 1

Shut off the water at the inlet valve. This should be located on the wall behind the toilet.


Step 2

Flush the toilet to remove any water inside the tank. Clean out any remaining with a sponge and towels.

Step 3

Disconnect the inlet hose from the tank. Then unscrew the bolts that hold the tank to the bowl. The top of the bolts can be found at the bottom of the tank. They usually have slots for screwdriver heads in the top. Insert a screwdriver in these while you hold them in place and use a wrench to remove the nuts. Then remove the tank and set it aside. On one-piece toilets, in which the tank is integrated into the toilet, this step is not necessary.


Step 4

Remove the plastic caps at the base of the toilet to reveal the flange bolts. Unscrew these with the wrench. Remove the nuts and any plastic or metal washers.

Step 5

Rock the toilet back and forth gently to loosen it from the flange and old wax ring. Remove the toilet bowl and turn it over.


Step 6

Clean off the remains of the old wax ring on the bottom with a putty knife. Apply the new wax ring to the outlet hole.

Step 7

Insert new bolts into the flange. Then apply a thin bead of plumber's putty to the bottom of the bowl.


Step 8

Turn the toilet bowl back over and set it on the flange. You will have to ensure that the outlet on the bowl lines up with the flange on the bathroom floor. At the same time, you will also have to make sure that the flange bolts are aligned with the holes in the base of the bowl.

Step 9

Press down firmly on the toilet to make a good connection between the bowl and the floor. Thread the washers and nuts onto the flange bolts. Tighten them by hand. Then, with the wrench, tighten one side at a time two or three turns.


Step 10

Attach the tank to the toilet. Make sure to align the cone gasket at the bottom of the tank with the inlet bowl on the toilet. Insert the bolts and washers through the holes at the bottom of the tank. Then, tighten the nuts as you did with the bolts at the base.

Step 11

Wrap plumber's tape or apply plumber's goop to the threads on the inlet of the tank. This will help ensure a watertight seal. Attach the inlet hose.

Step 12

Turn the water on. Allow the tank to fill and then flush. Check for leaks. Then caulk around the base of the toilet.


Do not overtighten the nuts, as this could crack the porcelain.

Wear disposable gloves when cleaning the old wax ring. This portion of the toilet can contain harmful germs.


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