Remember all those yellow and black “how to” books that cover all types of subjects and lived in the DIY section of practically every bookstore? I remember being a younger adult, seeing those “Guides for Dummies” and thinking, “Who would ever need or want a guide to that!?! And who wants to buy it, therefore admitting to themselves and others that they’re dummies!?!” Well, I take it all back now, because those books were playing the role of life saver long before simply “googling it” became the popular go to trend for people today.

Now I’m no “Fix-it Felix” but when the toilet is leaking around the bottom part attached to the floor, I can safely guesstimate that…

1) something is wrong

2) it needs to be fixed

3) I’m not a plumber and this is probably something I need to understand better to successfully fix.

With that common sense said, my fantastic husband who IS a plumber happened to be around to help me out! But will the student ever learn if the teacher is always there to solve the problem for them?


Byron decided to test my ability to follow directions and sat back to watch as I undertook the job of…

Replacing a Toilet’s Wax Ring

Step 1: Turn the water off to the toilet. The shut off is usually located near the floor on the left side of the toilet. Then flush it to empty the water out of the tank and hold the handle down to let all the water flow from the tank to the bowl. Put on some rubber gloves and sponge out the water that is in the bowl. You don’t want to try to move the toilet full of water. That gets messy. I almost did try, but following directions is good, and I only have baby muscles so I was happy to not make a mess or lift a heavy toilet full of water!

Step 2: Disconnect the water supply line to the toilet where it connects to the toilet. Have a towel handy since there will be a little water that spills onto the floor. Then take the “china caps” off. (Byron had to show me what those were since I got super confused at this, once he explained that they were the bolt caps it made more sense) They aren’t really china anymore, but that’s what plumbers still call them apparently! You will probably need a regular screwdriver to pry them off. Then the bolts will be exposed. Remove both bolts and washers. If you’ve gotten this far, then Yay! Success!

Now your toilet is ready to be pulled. Place something you don’t care about on the floor like an old towel or a piece of plastic or cardboard. Then lift the toilet carefully off the floor and set it there. (You can do this yourself or employ some extra muscle to do so, it wasn’t terribly heavy but it was awkward to try to lift and move.)

Step 3: Now you are looking at the drain for the toilet and where the wax ring goes. The old wax ring may have stayed on the bottom of the toilet. If this is the case, carefully remove it from the underside of the toilet. If it is still on the pipe, remove it and discard it.

Once the wax is gone from the flange (which is what the wax seal actually sits on and what the toilet bolts to) it is time to inspect the flange. Don’t skip this part! Look for cracks or breaks. If these are present they can cause leaks after the toilet is reset, and can cause the toilet to rock. If the flange is in good condition, then it is time to install the new wax ring. If not, then fix that before moving on! 

Step 4: Apparently, there are a lot of wax rings to choose from, (Byron had the correct one for us on hand, but did go into “teacher mode” and show me the other kinds of wax rings that he keeps ready for use in his work truck. The biggest deciding factor is the thickness needed. If the flange is sitting above floor level usually a standard wax ring will suffice, but if it is sitting below the flooring, you will need the extra thick wax ring.

Put the wax ring onto the flange and make sure the bolts are sticking straight up and the wax is sitting evenly on the flange. Lift the toilet up and place directly over the new wax ring aligning the toilet bolts to the holes in the toilet.* Then gently set the toilet down (keyword being gently).

*Important Note: Try not to move the toilet back and forth or rock it as this can compromise the wax seal.

Step 5: You’ve made it through all the difficult steps now! Once the toilet is sitting on the wax in the proper spot, gently push down on the toilet till it gets to the floor. Put the bolts back on and tighten. Do not overtighten. (If the toilet rocks at all you will need to install shims. Work with the shims to see the least amount you need to use to stop the rocking.)

Then connect the water supply to the toilet and turn the water back on. Let the tank fill all the way and then flush the toilet. Flush the toilet several times while looking for leaks. Then put the “china caps” back on.

If there are no leaks you can caulk or grout the toilet back to the floor and you are set! Clean up all the mess and make sure to get all the pieces of the old wax ring. You don’t want to step on any pieces later! Or have a pet discover them! That could lead to a whole separate set of problems nobody wants! 

Congratulations! If you managed to make it through this “how-to” post, then you’re a fantastic DIY-er who definitely doesn’t need a guide for dummies on this topic!!! Be proud!!!

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