When you look at a toilet, it may seem like a straightforward, ordinary house fixture. However, in reality, toilets are complex systems made up of various components. As a DIYer, a time may come when you have to dismantle your toilet, at which point you’ll discover all of the different parts. Of these components, one of the most crucial is the wax ring, which we’ll discuss in this article today.
What exactly is a toilet wax ring? Where is it located, and what purpose does it serve? What happens when it doesn’t work as it should? We’ll address all of these questions about the wax ring in this article, so keep reading to learn more!
Table of Contents
- About a Toilet Wax Ring
- Damage to the Wax Ring
- Toilet Wax Ring – Replacement Signals
- What Happens to the Wax Ring when Replacing the Toilet?
- Replacement Frequency
- Bottom Line
About a Toilet Wax Ring
To start, wax rings are basically a ring of molded wax set on a short plastic pipe. The main function of the wax ring is to create a water-tight seal between the bottom of the toilet and the drainpipe. When installing a toilet, a wax ring is mounted on top of the toilet flange before placing the toilet on top of the flange, to seal both together.
In addition to the wax ring, each side of the toilet features toilet bolts used to hold the toilet firmly on the floor. These bolts also squeeze the toilet hard against the wax ring, creating a water-tight seal that prevents any leaking or issues from the point where the toilet connects to the drain.
In recent times, one alternative to wax rings has grown in popularity. Rubber gasket seals are another viable option for connecting your toilet and preventing leaks, just like the wax seal.
Damage to the Wax Ring
Even though most toilet wax rings are made to last for a long time, there’s always a chance of unexpected damage or other issues. In particular, both a loose toilet and a low flange can lead to wax ring issues over time:
If the toilet is loose itself, it will move around or even rock in place while in use. This movement can wear down the wax ring over time, eventually causing the wax to lose its seal and allowing water to leak out. If you notice your toilet feels loose, check the bolts or call in a professional to resolve the issue and avoid other problems in the long term.
Low Closet Flange
Another issue could be a result of issues with the closet flange. In particular, because most bathrooms use thin tiled floors, the closet flange will sit low once the tiles are installed. This low flange creates a big space between the flange and the toilet. If there’s too much space between both parts, it’ll be impossible for the wax ring to compress in the area, preventing it from creating a strong seal. If your bathroom has a particularly thin floor, professionals advise that you use special flange heighteners to adjust the flange’s height. As a result, your wax ring will be able to compress properly, forming a strong seal.
Toilet Wax Ring – Replacement Signals
As stated, the wax ring should serve you for many years. However, especially if you’re facing one of the issues above or your wax range is getting older, keep an eye out for these below signs to identify if your wax ring is starting to wear down. These are the top 4 signs that your wax range may need replacement:
1. Pooling of Water Around the Toilet Base
If you spot water collecting around your toilet’s base, it could tell you that your wax ring is leaking. Particularly if you notice more water collecting after flushing the toilet, your wax ring is likely the issue. Essentially, the leakage occurs whenever an individual flushes the toilet because, instead of all the water flowing down the drainpipe, it leaks out through the wax ring.
If you do notice leaking from your toilet, you should also check other parts to confirm where the issue lies. Make sure the water is leaking from the base and not the toilet tank, or the tank could be the issue. Check the shut-off valve as well to confirm the water isn’t leaking from the valve instead of through an issue with the wax ring.
2. Foul Odor in the Bathroom
When you enter the bathroom, if you notice a foul odor similar to rotten eggs, it could be hydrogen sulfide gas, which is prominent in sewer gases. The wax seal should trap all sewer gases within the drainpipe, so if you notice this smell in your bathroom, it could mean that the wax ring is damaged, allowing sewer gases to leak out.
You’ll want to replace the wax ring quickly in this situation because sewer gases are not only unpleasant but also hazardous to your health. Once you replace the wax ring, the gases should no longer leak out.
3. Water Leaking through the Ceiling or Floor
Sometimes when the wax ring leaks, the water seeps directly through the floor. Especially if you’ve caulked around your toilet, the toilet itself won’t show any leaking water, and instead, you may notice water damage in the ceiling for the room directly below the bathroom.
Whenever you spot water leaking through your ceiling, you should replace the wax ring as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may have to replace the whole ceiling or deal with even larger, more expensive repairs. If the leak grows for too long, it can even be dangerous, softening the ceiling to the point where the toilet may end up falling through the floor. Ultimately, the expense for an emergency plumbing repair is well worth avoiding the extreme damage a leak in the ceiling can cause if left alone for too long.
4. A Wobbling Toilet
A toilet that is so shaky that you can lift one edge off the floor implies that it is sitting on a broken flange. So, you will have to repair the flange, whereby you will have to replace the wax ring too. The wax ring may already be damaged thanks to the wobbling toilet and broken flange.
To avoid a wobbling toilet in the future, make sure the closet bolts are tightened appropriately when installed. It can also help to check the bolts regularly to make sure they don’t loosen over time. Even if there aren’t any other issues with your toilet when it’s wobbling, the movement can damage the wax ring, which can lead to the other issues mentioned above, so it’s important to fix a wobbling toilet sooner rather than later. If your toilet wobbles due to a broken flange, you’ll need to install a new flange in addition to the new wax ring.
What Happens to the Wax Ring when Replacing the Toilet?
If you ever have to remove your toilet temporarily or replace it entirely, ensure that you replace the wax ring as well. As you lift or reposition the toilet, the movement has a strong likelihood of breaking the ring apart, preventing it from creating a strong seal. Therefore, it’s best to remove the old wax ring and replace it with a new one whenever you’re moving your toilet.
Removing the old wax ring isn’t too hard. You should be able to remove it with these simple steps:
- Once you’ve gone through the standard steps to shut off the water supply and remove the toilet, you’ll have access to the old wax ring
- Using a putty knife, peel off the ring in chunks. Be sure to get any pieces from the base of the toilet as well as the floor, drainpipe, and any other parts that might have wax residue
- Once you’ve removed all pieces of the old ring, you’ll be able to install the new wax ring
When installing a new wax ring, it’s vital for the new ring to sit directly against the toilet’s porcelain base and flange without any obstruction from the old wax. Therefore, it’s worth taking the extra 10 or 15 minutes to fully remove the old wax ring before moving forward.
In most instances, the wax ring seal will last the entire lifetime of the toilet, which is about 20-30 years or even longer. Therefore, as long as you haven’t encountered any damage to the seal or other issues, you shouldn’t need to replace the wax seal regularly. However, if you do have either toilet damage that impacts the wax seal or a problem directly with the wax seal, it’s best to replace the seal as soon as possible.
It’s also important to replace the wax seal if you happen to move or replace your toilet. By installing a new seal whenever you install a toilet, you’ll help ensure you won’t need to replace your wax seal before your next new toilet.
After reading this article, you should have all the answers to the most common questions about what a wax ring is, what it does, and why it’s so important. Ultimately, the wax ring is an essential part of the toilet system that helps trap both liquids and sewer gases to where they’re supposed to be, keeping your bathroom both clean and safe.
While wax rings are made to last a long time, use the tips in this article to keep an eye out for any issues that may arise. If you do suspect you may need to replace your wax ring, it’s always a good idea to seek a professional’s services to confirm the issue and help resolve it quickly.