Toilets will leak either from the tank or from the bottom of the bowl, and the solution to the problem will depend upon which of these sources is the culprit. You may not even notice the leak itself, but rather a small puddle of water on the floor near the toilet or a water stain on the ceiling in the room below the toilet.
Either way, the situation must be addressed because of the risks of structural damage to the home and the spread of harmful pathogens form the leak.
Stopping a Toilet Tank Leak
The tank will leak from the openings that connect the tank to the bowl. The tank is secured to the bowl with two bolts, nuts, and washers. Sometimes the nuts just become loosened by repeated pushing against the tank when the toilet is in use.
Tightening the nuts will solve this problem, but great care must be exercised because over-tightening the nuts can break the porcelain surface of the toilet and/or bowl. Tighten the nuts by hand, with only a slight assist from a wrench if water again appears on the floor under the tank.
Stopping a Toilet Bowl Leak
A toilet bowl leak will only occur when the toilet is flushed, and only a minimal amount of water is usually leaked at each occurrence. However, the water will seep into the floor, corrupting its integrity over time.
A leaking toilet bowl will also promote the formation of mold, as well as release bacteria from fecal matter into the home, both of which can lead to serious health issues for the home's occupants.
Unfortunately, stopping a toilet bowl leak requires removal of the toilet to replace the wax ring that prevents water from leaking from the space between the bottom of the toilet and the floor drain.
Removing the Toilet
This is a job best left to a licensed plumber, if possible. While it is not technically difficult, it is a heavy and unpleasant task that must be performed correctly to avoid damage to both the toilet and the surrounding area.
If you decide to take the plunge on your own, you'll need to follow these steps:
- Gather an adjustable wrench, a stick level, rubber gloves, and rags or towels for cleaning and excess water absorption.
- Turn off the water supply valve to the toilet.
- Flush the toilet repeatedly, to empty the toilet tank as much as possible.
- Remove any remaining water from the tank and bowl, with a sponge or rags.
- Disconnect the supply hose from the bottom of the tank with the wrench, and place the disconnected hose end onto rags, so its remaining contents won't spill onto the floor.
- Loosen the two nuts that secure the toilet to the floor (they should only be hand-tightened).
- Lift the toilet from the floor drain, and place it on its side, on rags, to absorb remaining water.
- Place a wadded rag inside the floor drain, until you replace the toilet, to prevent sewer gas release (don't forget to remove it before installing the toilet).
- Clean old wax from the floor drain and the bottom toilet drain.
Replacing the Wax Ring and Reinstalling the Toilet
Measure the diameter of the floor drain to buy a new wax ring, unless you've already bought it using your toilet's manufacturer and model information, then perform the following steps to finish the job:
- Press the new wax ring onto the toilet flange at the bottom of the toilet (remove the wax ring's paper covering first), and push the toilet over the floor drain and the two securing bolts in the floor. You will need to rock the toilet gently to press the wax ring firmly into place.
- Use the stick level to adjust the toilet, until it is completely level, then hand-tighten the two securing nuts.
- Connect the supply hose to the toilet bowl connection, using the wrench for a secure connection.
- Turn on the supply valve.
- Flush the toilet, and check for leaks.
- Clean up your mess.