Quite often while performing home inspections in Tallahassee, Quincy, Crawfordville or Monticello I come across bathrooms that have toilets that are either loose or not properly caulked to the floor, or both. The first issue can sometimes be a simple fix or the sign of a bigger issue which is why I always recommend a licensed plumber perform the work. The second issue, of caulking the fixture to the floor, is relatively easy and inexpensive to take care of, but both should be done as soon as possible. Why? Because let’s be honest, if something goes wrong with a toilet, things could get messy quick (pun intended).
Most Common Toilet Installation Issue – it’s loose or rocks
First let’s talk about the loose toilet and the likely causes and solutions. I have yet to have anyone really argue that a loose or rocking toilet is acceptable and should not be corrected. Let’s start with the most obvious and simplest cause of a loose toilet: The anchor bolts that secure the toilet to the toilet flange are loose and need to be tightened. One must take caution not to over tighten the nuts as they can crack the toilet base. All too often the bolts are badly corroded and may have even broken, if this is the case the toilet will have to be removed and reset with new bolts and a new wax ring/sanitary seal.
If the bolts are tight then one should look at the flooring material to see if its level. If its out of level or there are noticeable gaps one can use plastic shims (wooden ones can compress and can be damaged by moisture) in the areas as needed. Once the toilet is stable and there is no movement, the shims can be trimmed and then the base of the toilet caulked.If Shims did not work, the toilet will need to be removed to inspect both the toilet flange and the subfloor for damage. Repairing the subfloor and replacing a toilet flange is something that is best left to a professional.
Don’t Skip the Final Step of a toilet installation – re-caulking the base
Now that one has a toilet that is firmly secured to the flange and floor we can move on to the final step of a proper toilet installation; caulking the base to the floor. Both residential and commercial codes require it but while I almost never see this defect during commercial inspection it is unfortunately all too common in the residential/home inspection side. This is mainly because in a commercial building only a licensed plumber will be doing the work.
The second issue of the toilet not being caulked to the floor is one that some homeowners argue isn’t required or is a bad idea. For them the thought process is that if the base of the toilet is caulked to the floor then any leak from the bowl is trapped under the tank and will go unnoticed till there is a major issue. Some try to find a middle ground and will caulk all but 2-3 inches of the base leaving a small gap on the back side to let water out to show a leak.
Most are surprised to learn the purpose of caulking the base isn’t to keep toilet water trapped under the toilet in, but rather it’s to keep water, cleaning chemicals and other fluids, (sorry to throw us guys under the bus), from being able to seep under the base of the toilet where it cannot be cleaned, creating an unsanitary condition.
On a recent home inspection in Tallahassee I was able to take 2 pictures of a loose and not caulked toilet that perfectly illustrated the above so I thought I would share.
If anyone would like to see a step by step guide with pictures, click the link for a great article by the Family Handyman : Step by Step Installation Guide