When a toilet leaks into the basement it can cause you serious troubles, threatening the foundation of your property. Flooding can cause expensive, even irreparable damage. Let’s take a closer look at why your toilet may be leaking.
Although it might look simple, the toilet consists of many parts that ensure it works properly. There are various seals, valves, wax rings, and other parts that can cause leaking if damaged. Also, if there is a crack in a toilet, it can cause leaking in the basement when you flush. The bad thing is that, most probably, you will notice it too late, when the damage is already done. If you find any cracks on your toilet, you should call an expert. Of course, you can use a bit of mortar, but that’s only a temporary fix.
Water Supply Lines
On the other hand, you might have a problem with the water lines. If either inlet or outlet pipes are damaged, they can cause leaking in your basement. You need to make sure that they are properly sealed at all joints and don’t have cracks. Also, the pipes must be capable of handling the current water pressure and volume. If there is a problem with your pipes, you will need to either fix or replace them, depending on the damage.
Stopping Water Leaks into Your Basement
First, you should ensure that the toilet isn’t cracked. If it’s leaking only when you flush, the toilet probably has a crack on the base. If there is a crack in the connector pipe, you will probably need to call a professional.
Fixing the Seal
A damaged seal is the most common cause of leaking, mostly because it can be damaged in many ways. It might happen that you don’t notice the leaking, but it leaks in the room below the toilet. It might also happen that your toilet isn’t bolted down enough. Make sure to check both bolts and tighten them. However, make sure not to do it too tight, or you might break the porcelain.
Taking the Toilet Apart
If you need to remove the seal, you will need to take the toilet apart. Luckily, it’s much easier than it sounds.
- At first, turn off the water supply to your toilet and flush once. Make sure to hold down the flush lever until the tank gets completely empty. When it’s finished, use a plunger to remove the remaining water.
- Then, unscrew the water supply tube from the valve to loosen it. Remove the bolts from each side of the toilet, using a wrench and pliers if they turn. When the toilet is detached, put it aside on a piece of cardboard.
- You will notice the sewer gas that comes from the piping, so put a rag into the pipe to block it.
- Use a putty knife to remove the existing seal, then clear the floor from debris to expose the flange.
Checking the Flange
Most probably, if your toilet leaks, you have a problem with the flange. It’s a pipe that makes the toilet fixed to the floor and attaches it to the pipe. However, replacing the flange is difficult, and the best idea is to install a reinforcement ring. Simply clean the flange and drill a clearance hole, then put caulk around and place the reinforcement ring over the flange. Bolt it together and wait for 10-12 hours before putting the toilet back.
If the flooring in your house is relatively new or installed after the toilet, the flange might be too low. In that case, you will need to install an extender ring.
Is the Floor in Good Condition?
Since the toilet is removed, make sure to check the area around the flange. You should poke it with a screwdriver to make sure that it’s still solid and not rotting. If there is a little bit of rot, you should install flange support. That way, the floor will be reinforced, and you will prevent further damage.
Remounting the Toilet
If you have fixed the problem, it’s time to remount the toilet. Place the new wax ring over the flange and put the bolts in place. Remove the rag from the pipe and put the toilet in the right position. You can also check if it’s lined up by sliding the closet bolts. If everything fits properly, seal the toilet with your body weight.
Turn on the water supply valve, and when the tank fills up, flush it once to check if it’s leaking. If it is, you might have problems with the connector pipe, which would require a plumber.
Leaking Between the Tank and Bowl
If the toilet is leaking between the tank and the bowl, the first thing to do is to determine the cause. Maybe the cause for the water on your floor is that the tank is sweating? It usually happens when the temperature of the water inside the tank is lower than the temperature in your bathroom. On the other hand, maybe the water is leaking from the tank? Luckily, that’s also easy to check, but you will need food coloring. Remove the lid and pour the liquid, then let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Flush the toilet, and check the floor for the color of the liquid you poured into the tank.
But what if the water is leaking between the tank and the bowl? It can cause different levels of damage. For example, if the water comes from near the center between the tank and the bowl, you might have to buy a new sponge gasket. If the issue persists, you might also have to replace washers for bolts. If it’s leaking even more when you flush, you will have to replace the bowl gasket. On the other hand, if the leakage occurs from the sides, your washers and bolts are in a bad condition and you should replace them. However, when you buy new parts, make sure that they match your toilet model.
If you can’t actually decide where the leaking is coming from, it means that your shank gasket is not working properly. If you don’t know how to locate it, it’s usually in the place where the fill valve is attached to the tank. Since the problem is still related to the tank, you will be able to detect the issue using food coloring, too.
At first, make sure to check for any possible cracks in the porcelain around the gasket. If everything is fine, simply turn the gasket for a quarter of a turn to tighten it. However, if the problem is still present, you will need to buy a new gasket.
Other Possible Issues
It might also happen that your refill tube is too loose, especially if the leakage occurs from the back of the tank. On the other hand, you might also have tiny cracks in the porcelain, which are usually impossible to fix. Although they can be small, they will still cause leaks. In that case, you will need to get a completely new toilet.
How to Fix
At first, you need to turn off the water supply line that goes to your toilet. Perform a flush to empty the tank, then use the sponge to remove the remaining water. Then, you need to disconnect the inlet tube, but disconnect it at the toilet side. Check the lines now. Most of them have washers which you should replace. Don’t worry, you can easily find them in a local hardware store. Also, if you are buying a washer, it’s a good idea to purchase a new supply tube as well.
Now, it’s time to start repairing. Unbolt the tank from the bowl and take a look inside the tank. You will notice that there are two slotted screw heads, which you will need to remove. However, it might be a bit difficult, and if they are stiff, you will need to do some drilling. At first, drill 0.25 – 0.5-inch holes into each screw head, but start with small bits. Then, drill a larger hole, but drill slowly – if you do it properly, the screws will pop out. However, make sure to be careful with drilling since the porcelain is prone to cracking and breaking.
Then, you will need to lift the toilet tank and peel off the parts of the seal that you find. Put it in a bag and go to a store to find the same seal. Also, while you are at the hardware store, make sure to buy a new tank-to-bowl bolt kit.
Place both metal and fiber washers on the bolt and slide it onto the tank holes. Make sure to secure it with a nut, since it will ensure a leak-proof seal. Use a kit that you bought and put it on the base of the flapper. Take the tank and put it over the bowl, but make sure that it’s aligned properly. Now, you will need to tighten the bolts, but be careful – if you tighten them too much, the porcelain might break.
Now, it’s time to test if the problem is solved! Pour a few liters of water in the tank before you turn on the water supply. That way, you will check if there are any leakages.
Toilet Leaking When Flushed
If your toilet leaks only during flushing, you might have one of these five problems:
- Toilet tank is cracked
- Supply valve is loose
- Fill valve is loose
- Flapper doesn’t shut correctly
- Nuts and bolts aren’t tight
If the Flapper is the Problem
The flapper is a component of your toilet tank that goes up when you flush it. It lets the water go through the pipe and reach the bowl. If it’s not working properly, the toilet will leak, or it will flush twice.
Like in the previous case, you will need to pour a few drops of food coloring down the tank. If it leaks into the bowl, but you didn’t flush, it means that the flapper is not sitting as it’s supposed to. Remove the lid and check the flapper. If the rubber is not soft, you should buy a new one at any hardware store.
If the Gasket is the Problem
To check if the gasket is the problem, you will need to disconnect the tank from the rest of the toilet. Since it can be a bit heavy, you should call a professional. If you still want to do it, you can do it in the following way.
At first, shut off the water line to the toilet and flush once. Loosen the hold-down bolts with a screwdriver and a wrench, then loosen the jamb nut on the water supply line. Then, you can remove the tank. Once you do, check to see if the gasket is cracked.
If it is, simply remove it and put the new one. Secure it into place and put the tank back. Tighten all the nuts, and when you are finished, turn on the waterline and flush to check for leaking.
If Your Water Supply Line is the Problem
You should check the line that connects the tank to the plumbing. If it’s leaking from the fittings, you should simply tighten it with a wrench. However, if the supply line has holes, you might need to call the plumber.
Even if you have a new toilet, it might start to leak over time. The worst part is, if you don’t fix it on time, it might cause you serious problems in the future. However, as you can see, fixing the leaking problem doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive – just make sure to be careful when drilling near the porcelain.