If you have ever walked into the bathroom in sock feet only to accidentally discover that your toilet has sprung a leak, you know the frustration – not only with the issue at hand but with wet socks as well. A leaky toilet and sopping socks are no way to start the day.
The good news is that, usually, a leaky toilet isn’t a major problem. Depending on the cause, fixing it is straightforward. If your toilet appears to be leaking from its base, you should continue reading as I will explore several reasons why this could be happening and give you the information you need to stop the leak. Let’s begin with why your toilet is leaking at the base.
Why Your Toilet is Leaking At The Base
Before you can fix the issue, you need to find out why your toilet is leaking from the base. Here are five reasons.
Tee Bolts Need Tightening
Your toilet is held in place by two bolts located on either side of the base. These bolts, called tee bolts, need to be as tight as possible to keep the toilet from rocking or otherwise moving when you use it. If the toilet is not completely stationary, the seal created by the wax ring can be compromised, resulting in a leaky base. Water may seep from the bottom of your toilet every time you flush, and while this is annoying enough, it can also be hazardous as sewer gasses may also leak into your home from the drainpipe.
Rocking Toilet Seat
While loose tee bolts can cause your toilet to rock to and fro, so can uneven flooring. In order for the wax ring to be able to create a tight seal, the toilet must sit flush all the way around it. If the flooring is uneven, rotted, or damaged, the toilet may not seat evenly around the wax ring, causing a leak at the base of the toilet.
Damaged Wax Ring
There are a couple of reasons a wax ring might need to be replaced:
- The toilet has been rocking from side to side for some time, damaging the wax ring, and
- The wax ring has worn down over time. When this happens, the ring is no longer soft and pliable, which means it can no longer maintain a watertight seal.
A Loose Water Pipe
If your toilet is leaking from the base all the time and not just when you flush it, the cause is likely a loose water supply hose. The water supply hose attaches to the bottom of the toilet tank, and if it leaks, the water can run down or drip from the toilet, making it seem as though the water is leaking from the base.
Condensation Dripping Down The Toilet Pedestal
If your toilet is made of porcelain, you already know how cold the surface is. As such, the water inside the tank and bowl is also very cold. In a humid environment such as a bathroom, this combination of cold water/porcelain meeting warm, humid air can result in condensation that drips down the toilet pedestal and pools at the base. While not necessarily a leak, the condensation can certainly be annoying and damaging if left unchecked.
Fixing A Toilet Leaking At The Base
Now that you know what causes a toilet to leak from its base, you can start diagnosing the issue and get it fixed. I have provided a list of tools you might need, depending on the cause of your leak.
- Wrench – The tee bolts that hold your toilet to the floor can be tightened or removed using an open-ended wrench.
- Screwdriver – Some toilets require a screwdriver to dismantle certain parts. Grab a set of flat-head and Philip-head screwdrivers, in case you need them.
- Washers, Gaskets, Toilet Wax Ring – Most home improvement stores sell toilet repair kits that contain all these parts, or you can purchase them separately if you prefer.
- Toilet Pedestal Fixing Bolts – Again, if you purchase a toilet repair kit, the tee bolts will likely be included. If not, be sure to purchase a new set.
- Cordless Drill or Driver – The nuts and bolts holding your toilet together have likely been in place for a long time, which means they may be difficult to loosen. A cordless drill or driver can make the job easier.
- Hacksaw – Because the toilet bolts have been in place for so long, they might be corroded or become stripped, making it difficult to remove them. Using a hacksaw to cut them, rather than fighting with them can greatly reduce the time it takes to make the repair as well as the amount of frustration you feel.
- Rubber Gloves – Anytime you repair a toilet, the job is going to be messy. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
- Caulk – After you finish the repair, you will need to reseal the base of the toilet to the floor with a neat bead of caulk.
- Bathroom Cleaner – Since your toilet has been leaking, bacteria is likely lurking around its base and on the floor. A good antibacterial bathroom cleaner will kill the germs and clean the area well. It is especially important to clean the area well before caulking.
- Cloths – Have a few terry or microfiber cloths on hand while completing this project. You may need to clean up leaky water messes and they come in handy when using the bathroom cleaner.
1. Check For Condensation
Before jumping in and attempting any repair, make sure the water you see leaking at the base of your toilet isn’t simply condensation. If the weather in your area (or the environment in your bathroom) is especially humid, this could be the cause of the ‘leak.’
If you find that condensation is the issue, you can try installing a tray and/or insulating the toilet tank. Alternatively, you also need to make sure the flapper inside the tank is working properly, and perhaps take shorter, cooler showers to keep the humidity level lower in the bathroom.
2. Check the Tee Bolts are Tight
Using an open-ended wrench, check the tee bolts for tightness. If they are loose, tighten them completely to stop the leak. If they are already as tight as they will go, move on to replacing the wax ring.
Note: If the tee bolts have been loose for a while and your toilet has been rocking from side to side, the wax ring could be compromised. If tightening the bolts does not resolve the leak, you will need to replace the wax ring.
3. Unbolt and Remove the Toilet Base
Before unbolting the toilet from the floor, turn off the water supply by turning the water supply valve clockwise as far as it will go. Flush the toilet to drain as much water as possible from the tank and bowl. Use a sponge or dry cloth to remove any water that remains. Disconnect the water supply line from the toilet tank.
Next, use your open-ended wrench once again to loosen the tee bolts on either side of the toilet base. If the bolts are especially corroded or stripped, use a hacksaw to cut them off.
Finally, enlist the help of another person to assist you in lifting the toilet off the drainpipe. Lay the toilet on its side to prevent damage.
4. Replace Wax Ring
Replacing the wax ring is as simple as removing the old wax ring and installing a new one. Use a putty knife to scrape away any wax residue from around the drainpipe. Install the new wax ring with the plastic cone pointed downward into the drainpipe, making sure the tee bolts are positioned in the keyway openings on either side of the flange. You can purchase new wax ring kits on Amazon.
5. Reposition Toilet and Bolt
Carefully lift the toilet and reposition it over the drainpipe. Ensure that the tee bolts go through the holes in the base and then gently rock the toilet back and forth to compress the wax ring to create a tight seal. Install the nuts on the tee bolts and tighten them. Be careful not to overtighten the tee bolts as this could crack the porcelain.
6. Reconnect the Water Line
Once you have the toilet tightly in place, reattach the water supply line to the fill valve at the bottom of the tank. Turn the water back on by turning the water valve counterclockwise as far as it will go. Allow the tank to fill back up and then flush the toilet. Check for leaks.
Finally, if nothing is leaking, caulk around the base of the toilet.
You may find Get The Correct Toilet Flange Height | A Simple Fix useful
Common Question on Leaking Toilets
Still, have questions about your toilet leaking at the base? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.
Is the toilet leaking at the base an emergency?
The answer is yes and no. No, because the toilet will still function normally even with a leak at its base. Yes, however, because a water leak left unchecked for too long can lead to costly damage to your flooring, not to mention possible toxic gasses escaping into your home.
Does a leaking toilet need to be replaced?
It depends on the cause. If your toilet is leaking at the base due to condensation, loose tee bolts, a worn or damaged wax ring, or a leaky water supply line, then no, the toilet does not need to be replaced. If, on the other hand, your toilet is cracked and leaking, it will need to be replaced.
How much does it cost to fix a toilet leaking at the base
Fixing a toilet that is leaking from its base is not an expensive repair. With that said, it will depend on whether you fix the issue yourself or hire a plumber, what the cause is, and where you buy the parts.
How much does a plumber cost to fix a toilet?
According to Angi.com, the average cost of hiring a plumber is between $45 and $200 an hour. You can expect to pay more for emergency repairs, and the actual cost will vary depending on the nature of the repair, the parts needed, and how long the job takes. Some plumbers may also charge a flat service fee.
You may also be interested in reading How to Fix a Frozen Toilet Tank or Pipelines
As a retired Master Plumber Jamie has over 30 years of hands-on experience, making his plumbing knowledge second to none. He has also worked on both residential and commercial HVAC installation and repair projects.