Sitting down to do your business in the bathroom, you don’t usually expect your toilet to be loose and rock back and forth.
In fact, nothing feels less secure in this room in terms of sustaining an embarrassing injury.
Fortunately, a rocking toilet isn’t going to cause you much personal harm, but a loose, wobbly toilet is still something you should fix.
This is actually kind of important since it can eventually lead to sewer gas leakage or worse, a water leak that can damage your home.
Is this an easy fix?
Most of us haven’t ever removed a loose toilet before or even have a clue how it’s done.
So, fixing a rocking toilet by say, replacing or repairing a broken toilet flange may seem daunting.
Don’t despair, if you tackle this problem with a mindset that all you are doing is fixing your wobbly toilet, then you can focus on that task and accomplish something you never thought imaginable in a do-it-yourself project.
So without further ado, let’s see what may be causing your toilet to be loose in the first place and how to fix it.
Broken Toilet Flange Causes Rocking Toilet
Your wobbly toilet may be moving because the mounting bolts that hold it down have nothing to grab onto anymore.
You might think your loose toilet bowl is held down to the floor by a couple bolts.
While this is true, you should know that the bolts don’t go directly to the floor. Instead, they secure to a toilet flange.
Think of this flange as a strong metal or plastic ring. It’s this piece that is bolted to the floor, and also sometimes secured to the drain pipe called a “bend”, which is made of sturdy iron.
Now, you might get lucky and just be able to tighten down these bolts, but if the bowl is rocking or has been for a while, it’s time to take a look at the flange underneath.
In this how-to article, you’ll need to start with lifting up your loose toilet from the floor.
This isn’t so bad, just be sure to turn off the water supply valve first.
Next, give it a flush to drain the bowl water. And finally, undo the bolts holding down the toilet.
After lifting up the bowl, you’ll be able to see the broken toilet flange that caused the unsturdy toilet. You have two choices here:
Fix the broken or cracked toilet flange or replace the broken flange altogether.
Fix Broken Toilet Flange
This is usually the more popular choice mainly because it is easier and can really do the trick if your broken toilet flange is iron or metal.
The part you’ll need is an adapter called a super flange or spanner flange (see here).
This is a semi-circle piece that fits over or underneath your broken toilet bowl flange.
It’s job is to provide a new hole for the mounting bolts to hug onto.
Pick one of these up (or two if you discover that both sides of your toilet flange are broken), using the previous link or visit your local hardware store.
Follow the directions, and your rocking toilet will be solid again.
Replace Broken Toilet Flange
You may be one of the lucky ones who finds that their broken toilet flange is beyond repair (e.g. is cracked or split into several pieces), or that it is old and corroded.
Again, this isn’t a terribly difficult task. A new toilet flange will give you years of solid toilet mounting.
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Assuming again that you’re now looking at your broken toilet flange, you can remove it by unscrewing the bolts (there should be three or four depending on the model), that hold it to the floor.
In older, vintage homes, you may not have any bolts holding it down as it was secured with lead (molten when poured in around the bend pipe).
If this is the case, you’ll need to use a chisel and hammer to break the iron flange out of position.
Be very careful not to damage the main pipe, called a “bend”.
After removing the broken iron flange, simply place in your new toilet flange.
Models with rubber gaskets (seals) and brass rings will be the best here.
Just make sure the flange is flush tight with the top of the floor, otherwise your toilet will wobble.
Follow the easy instructions that come with your product, being sure to tighten each of the four bolts a little at a time so the rubber gasket goes down evenly around the bend pipe.
Don’t forget that whenever you lift up your toilet, you’ll be breaking the wax seal that keeps water from leaking.
Simply clean off the old one and insert a new one.
Or better yet, replace with a wax free seal for cleaner, better installation.
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Loose or Broken Closet Bolt Making Toilet Wobble
Probably the easiest fix, your loose toilet may simply be due to your loose toilet mounting bolts needing to be tightened.
Simply remove the small plastic bolt caps at the base of your toilet (they will be on each side, and can be pried off with a small screwdriver).
You’ll see a nut, and it should be unmovable with your fingers. If either of these nuts is moving, tighten them down with a socket wrench.
No need to be as tight as your muscles can muster, since the material your toilet is made from can crack under too much strain.
If these bolts are actually broken, however, you’ll need to replace them. The bolts can be purchased by themselves, so don’t feel like you need to buy a whole toilet flange repair kit.
Just remove the old bolts and insert the new ones. The best kind will be made from brass.
To do this correctly, you’ll have to lift the toilet from the floor, so you will need to purchase a new wax seal to replace the one you’re breaking apart by removing the toilet.
This will be a good time to inspect your toilet flange too.
Poor Install Can Cause a Toilet to Wiggle
Your loose toilet troubles could be related to the way your toilet was last installed.
This can happen if you have your bathroom floor redone, and the level or height of the floor changed.
If this is the case, check that the installer didn’t shim the toilet to raise it up.
This is not a solid install and can easily lead to a toilet that moves when you sit down over a short time.
Follow the instructions for replacing a broken toilet flange.
You may have to carve out some of the tile or other flooring around the edge of the drain hole.
This makes it so that you can place a new flange down into the hole since the old flange may have been positioned higher for the old floor.
As with any do-it-yourself project, if fixing a loose toilet seems complicated and you wish to hire a plumber, at least review this article so that when the plumber explains the problem you’ll understand more what he’s doing.
At the very least, knowledge is power when it comes to anything plumbing.
You can even inspect that it’s done right and ask educated questions so that your rocking toilet doesn’t return any time soon!
How Do You Fix a Rocking Toilet on an Uneven Floor?
To fix your wobbly toilet on an uneven floor:
- First, replace the wax rings under the toilet.
- Take two wood/plastic shims and place them on top of one another.
- Slide them under the front of the toilet’s base, where the floor is uneven.
- Push them inwards until the toilet stops rocking.
- For extra support, add two more stacked shims on the left and another two to the right of the first set of shims (around three inches apart from the center one.)
- Cut the unneeded, protruding ends of the shims.
- Caulk around the toilet to secure it in place.
Should I Caulk Around the Toilet?
Yes. Caulk has two major benefits:
First, it prevents your bathroom from smelling foul. If any kind of dirty water or residue gets underneath your toilet, it’s almost impossible to clean it. Caulking helps prevent this.
Caulking helps keep your toilet tightly secured to the floor and prevents it from getting wobbly.
Are Rubber Toilet Seals Better Than Wax?
Although both wax and wax-free (rubber) toilet seals are good at keeping water from leaking out of the toilet’s base, rubber toilet seals are reusable as long as they are in good condition.
Wax seals can be a problem if you own a modern bathroom with heated floorings.
Tuesday 28th of September 2010
I have just gutted my bathroom, and had a man lay hardboard and tile. This leaves my floor flange just a tad higher than the finished floor. I'm going crazy. One guy says flange should be 1/4" above finished floor, while another says 1/4" below. Right now, I am about 1/8"- 3/16" higher than finished floor.
Wednesday 29th of September 2010
Your toilet flange should always be flush with your finished floor. If you lay the flange down and the bottom portion hits the tile before the inside of the upper ring comes to rest on the floor, you need to break out some of the tile. Use a sharpie and trace around the lower portion of the flange on the tile. This will show you what you need to remove so that the flange's top lip can rest on the floor like it should. Then chisel out around your trace line with a screwdriver and hammer. If the flange isn't flush with the floor, then the toilet will most likely wobble. - HRG
Thursday 2nd of September 2010
Try and find yourself some Johnny Shims. Plastic shims designed specifically for toilets and pedestal sinks. They have little saddles that lock and hold them in place, and you just lift and snap off the exposed portion.
Saturday 3rd of July 2010
Good advice for really simple problems.
Sunday 24th of January 2010
The BEND is ¼” to 1/3” above (rear) & 5/8" above (front) to the floor. Can I push the front down and place a plastic wedge between the floor & the flange in the rear to level out the flange/bend, then put Hardy Backer ¼” to ½” on the floor to reduce the gap remaining? OR, will this cause water leakage between the foundation & the floor? The plumber said it was a $200 repair. My husband doesn't want to mention this to his dad (dad owns house). I do all the repairs with much success. This one has me stumped! Or is the plumer the way to go? I need this information ASAP before the new flooring is installed in the week of 1/25/10. Your help is GREATLY NEEDED!