Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Friday, October 19, 2007

How to replace the wax ring on a toilet

Problem: Your toilet is leaking down at the base on the floor.

Solution: Replace the wax ring gasket.

Tools you will definitely need:

  • Adjustable crescent wrench
  • Replacement wax ring (get it for about three bucks at the hardware store)

Optional tools that might help you out:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Vice grip pliers
  • Rags
  • Bucket
  • Mop
  • Flashlight
  • Rubber gloves
  • Bathroom cleaning agents
  • Bleach
  • Trash bags
  • More rags and sponges
  • More rubber gloves
  • Google
  • Credit Card
  • Beer

The first thing you may want to do is gather some information on the internet. A web search for 'fix a leaky toilet' will turn up over 40,000 results. From here you can read many fine websites describing all the different ways a toilet can leak. With diligence you can work out that the specific leak you are looking for is the wax ring. A Google search for "fix a leaky toilet wax ring" narrows your search to 3,660 results. Start reading.

Most of these how to fix stuff websites are absolute crap. Your best instructions will come from websites catering to women. The masculine fixit websites will just say "replace the wax ring" and expect your experience with testosterone and tools to intuitively guide you through the process. The women's web sites will give you the step by step instructions. If it offends your masculinity to use a women's guide to learn how to fix things then you have several options.

  • Send the lady of the house out with the credit card and instructions not to return for several hours. Use the privacy to read whatever website you need to.
  • Ask the women to help out by Googling the problem for you. Pretend to tolerate the results she finds.
  • Suck it up like a man, admit that you don't know shit about repairing a toilet and get your instructions from the pink website.

Your next step is to go out to the hardware store and buy the wax ring and any other tools you need. I really recommend a ten pack or so of latex disposable gloves. Some websites will tell you to disassemble the toilet first and take the old wax ring with you to make sure you get the right size. Don't bother doing this. The wax ring pretty much only comes in one size and the old one is nasty gross right now. Just don't.

Back at home, have your tools and some towels and rags at the ready.

Turn off the water flow to the toilet. It's a valve down in the back on the wall.

Flush the toilet to get rid of most of the water.

When you discover that holding the flush handle down only empties the tank in the back but not the bowl, turn the water back on to refill the tank and then turn it off again before giving it a proper flush.

You are right to worry about the little bit of water left in both the tank and bowl. If, like me, you cant figure out what to do about it, remind yourself that it is just tap water in a porcelain container and it is pretty clean. Besides, you have rubber gloves and rags here. Fetch the mop just in case.

Disconnect the water supply to the tank. This will take that crescent wrench. This is also a good time to come to terms with the fact that you will be crawling around on the floor in front of the toilet in the pukers position. Flashbacks to your youthful drinking days could be expected. If you haven't already this would be a good time to back up a few steps and clean your toilet. Especially those hard to reach places you are about to get intimate with.

When you get the water supply disconnected the tank will leak a bunch of water onto the floor. You could go get a bucket to catch it, but you will be too late.

Take the fancy, decorative caps off the bolts holding the toilet to the floor. These ought to pop right off, or sometimes you can wiggle a flathead screwdriver under an edge to pry them off. After five minutes of jacking around with these things just get some lock jaw pliers, clamp them on the sides and rip the thingys off. This will leave scratches and deformations in the plastic, but screw it, they are just stupid plastic things to hide some bolts and no one looks at them anyway.

Unscrew and remove the nuts and washers on both sides. Crescent wrench again. This is a good time to realize that no matter how well you clean there will still be places on your toilet that are nasty and gross. Like underneath the decorative bolt covers. Go get those latex gloves. Finish removing the nuts and washers and put them aside, you will need them later.

Now for the heavy lifting. Grasp the toilet by the lip of the bowl or any other convenient hand hold near the bowl or base. Do not lift by the tank and be careful about grips that may stress and crack the porcelain. Lift the whole toilet off the bolts. Careful, that fucker is heavy. Move it away from where it was sitting. You are going to want to lean it on its side. Don't bash it into the bathroom drywall, shower door glass, the tub or anything else, that will give you more repair work later. Just tip it over in the middle of the bathroom floor. Remember that water that was still inside? Yeah, me too. Run and get another towel that you can put in front of the bathroom door so the puddle of water now on the floor does not run out into the carpet.

Take a rag and stuff it into the hole in the floor so that sewer gases do not enter your home while you are working.

Now you are going to want to clean up the old wax ring. They call it a wax ring because it is just that, a ring of wax. When installed the wax smushes to form a seal between the toilet and the sewer pipe. Right now you have mighty blobs of smushed wax piled on the floor where the toilet was. There is also wax on the base of the toilet. There is also wax smeared all over the bathroom floor where you dragged that toilet. This aint no fancy perfumed candle wax either, this is nasty toilet wax that has been blocking your shit for who knows how many years.

When your gloves and rags get too sticky with wax, just throw them in the trash bag and get more gloves. (You did get the ten pack of gloves right?)

The floor where the toilet was sitting is probably pretty nasty right now too. Especially since that is right where the leak was. Just clean up that filth. Oh god, that is nasty. Do Not Puke! The toilet is currently out of commission. If you have to make a sudden dash out for fresh air, be mindful that there is now a toilet blocking the door and puddles of water on the floor. Sudden movement may result is slipping and injury, move carefully and deliberately when evacuating the bathroom.

After getting some fresh air and fresh gloves this is a good time to recognize that you will never again have such a fine opportunity to clean the floor and wall behind the toilet. This is also pretty nasty, just think about football and get it done. Nasty rags and sponges should go straight to the trash bag.

After cleaning nasty sticky wax until you are immune to the gag reflex (don't forget to clean the base of the toilet too) pull the new wax ring out of the box.

Press the wax gasket evenly over the horn of the toilet outlet with the plastic flange pointing away.

Make sure the bolts are lined up and ready.

Now lift the toilet back into place, you will need to carry the heavy motherfucker without smushing the new wax ring against the floor, line it up with the bolts and set it into place.

When you slip in a puddle of water and drop the toilet too soon, inspect the wax ring for damage. It is probably fine. Replace it on the horn of the toilet outlet because it is sticking to the floor more than it is sticking to the toilet.

When you can't get the bolts to line up on the first try and need to set the toilet down, inspect the wax ring for damage. It is probably fine. Replace it on the horn of the toilet outlet because it is sticking to the floor more than it is sticking to the toilet.

On the next attempt, just put the ring in place on the floor over the drain pipe and hope for the best. Besides, it is sticking to the floor more than it is to the toilet. This is also a good time to remember that you have a rag stuffed down the drainpipe. That should be removed before you install the toilet.

When you finally get that heavy bastard toilet in place over the bolts, resist the urge to lift it again to see what damage was done to the wax ring. It's probably fine. Besides, if it is damaged you are just back to where you started with a leaky toilet. Just put everything back together and see if it leaks or not.

Sit on the toilet. Use your body weight to squish the wax ring into a tight seal. Wiggle back and forth and rock the toilet around a little so that it seats itself and spreads the wax.

Put the washers and nuts back on the bolts. Get another rag too because the bolts will probably have some wax squished all over them. Tighten the bolts carefully and evenly to avoid cracking the porcelain.

Re-connect the water supply to the tank with the crescent wrench.

Have more towels at the ready before you turn the water back on.

If all has gone well, turning the water on will refill the tank and bowl. Inspect for leaks. Check the water line connection, it might have been fastened incorrectly. Check where the tank connects to the bowl, it might have been stressed or damaged as you were moving stuff around. Check the base at the floor, this is the seal we were trying to fix in the first place.

If you have leaks, you are just fucked. I can't help you. Turn off the water, flush the toilet and call the plumber.

If there are no leaks congratulate yourself. Clean the wax off your tools, Clean the rest of the wax off the floor. Mop the floor. Throw all those towels and rags into the laundry with extra bleach. Splash some bleach onto your tools to sanitize them. Rubber gloves into the trash. Wash your hands. Take out the trash. Wash your hands again. Dry your tools. Wash your hands again. Go fetch a beer. Think better of it because you feel really gross after crawling around on the bathroom floor in toilet water and nasty wax. Shower. Twice. Now drink beer.

Out of paranoia inspect the toilet for leaks every hour for the next two days.

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Comments:
My 16 year old daughter said I was enjoying this commentary way to much as I chuckled my way through it, occasionally reciting portions outloud. I pray an auger will take care of our bubbly/gurgurling.over-flowing toilet. 'Cause no way am I letting my husband handle this kind of job. It definelty will require a plumber in the end- after I clean up his mess- no thanks. After all, I am responsible for the cleaning around here; I can only imagine how disgusting it is around that thing.
Thanks again for the chuckles
DS
 
I just came down to check why the wax ream seems smaller than the 7" diameter flange thingy - and now I have a better understanding. Thanks. I also have already reached many of the pitfalls mentioned in this blog, using many of the same choice words along the way. Wish I would have read this befoer I started. Funny, both posters so far are women. Who's REALLY in charge of househoold improvement these days? Thanks, Montana Jones, I'll visit again. I need to go clean more wax up.
 
I just finished a very similar experience, complete with all the ways your "instructions" keep changing direction to keep up with, or give in to, various disasters.

You are my new favorite person. (However, my wife is very pleased that I finally got the toilet fixed -- plus the water-stained floor sanded and revarnished -- and it's bedtime, so she may become my favorite person again very shortly. So enjoy your status while it lasts. )

You're bookmarked and may get blogrolled. Thanks.
 
After reading your instructions, I thought of adding one with respect to the tools. Instead of cleaning them, before you do the job, just run down to your nearest Harbor Freight Tools or the Dollar Store, then just throw them away along with the rags and gloves!
 
My husband did commence to fix the toilet on his own and opted for option #2. At which point I, the wife, found this post and chuckled to myself as he questioned the guy at Home Depot on the phone about whether or not wax rings come in different sizes... After he hung up the phone we read the post aloud together and laughed- and also finished the job. At this point he is using the aforementioned toilet and I am sure "checking it for leaks". Thanks!
 
Laughing my arse off. You pretty much nailed it.
 
Thanks for this post! It gave us the courage to fix our toilet ourselves! $15 worth materials vs. at least $100-$200 for a plumber to do it for us. Glad we took your advice on the gloves!
 
LOL, just in the middle of replacing my toilet and this cracked me up.
 
Great post. Hilarious and informative. All "how=tos" should be written like this. Thanks.
 
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