Fridays at Home: Fixing a Leaky Toilet

12th April 2013

Yes, I put “toilet” in the title of a post. Yes, I am ashamed. But let’s face it, the porcelain throne is (hopefully) part of your everyday life. And if you don’t have a John in your life to fix your john, well, your options are limited.

I could, of course, hire a plumber, but after looking at this great home repair calculator, I decided I’d prefer to keep that chunk of change in my bank account and attempt to fix the leak myself. The loo was leaking from the base and from one of the tank bolts. The below cartoon should give you an idea of how this went…


                                                                                                                                        By jennigens | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

Yeah. So fixing a toilet isn’t difficult. It’s all the associated problems that can be tricky. I began by following these handy dandy instructions from Home Depot:

Easy peasy, right?
My house is on pretty high pier and beams, so ceramic tile is a no go. I had put down nice vinyl tile (I know it sounds bad, but it wasn’t!), and the leaky toilet had saturated the tiles around it, and I had to pull them up. No problem, except Lowe’s no longer carries that tile. And I couldn’t reseat the toilet without having flooring because a. I’d have to reseat it again to get the tile beneath the base and b. the height would have been off. So after buying all new vinyl tile, I was able to lay four strips before I had to make cuts. With a box cutter. I cut approximately two (2!) six-inch pieces of tile over about an hour before the angry tears came. It was not pretty.

I reseated the toilet, and the base didn’t leak, but now both tank bolts leaked, AND the water source coming up from the floor began to leak. Excellent. I called it a night and fell into bed.

Sunday I asked for help. And no, not divine assistance. I went to the pros of the privy and lay myself on their mercy. Another set of tank bolts, some silicone, a new valve and hose later, I was ready! Replaced everything, reseated the toilet again, and….drip, drip, drip drip

Confession time: I gave in, bought a bottle of wine, and called the plumber. But the plumber had to reschedule, so I got online and started Googling the heck out of toilet repair. Here’s what I learned, and here’s how I fixed it, start to finish:

  • Buy HydroCap Sure Seat Wax Ring cover, reinforced wax ring, tank bolts, silicone, valve and hose if necessary, adjustable wrench
  • Turn off the water valve at the wall or floor (all the way to the right)
  • Flush the toilet, holding the handle to allow as much water as possible to leave the tank
  • Use some old towels or sponges to get the rest of the water out of the tank
  • Remove the tank bolts
  • Remove the water hose from the tank
  • Put the tank somewhere safe
  • Mop up water in bowl
  • Remove base bolts
  • Remove the base and wipe the bottom of it clean
  • Remove old wax ring and wipe up old wax
  • Put plastic cap provided with HydroCap in hole to avoid fumes gathering
  • Put new wax seal down
  • Put HydroCap on tops, pressing firmly to get minimal gaps; make level
  • Remove plastic cap from pipe
  • Reseat base
  • Put nuts and caps back on base bolts
  • Place tank back on base
  • Add a ring of silicone to rubber gasket; put gasket closest to porcelain and insert bolt
  • Tighten metal washer and nut on base of toilet (be careful but don’t overly worry that you will crack the tank – I was paranoid!)
  • Allow silicone to cure for three hours
  • Reattach hose to tank
  • Turn water back on and check for leaks

If you must replace anything on the fittings coming from the water source:

  • Turn off water at street
  • Remove fittings and hose
  • Replace and hand tighten, then use wrench for good seal
  • Make sure valve is in the “off” position
  • Turn water on at street
  • Turn water on and test for leaks

Honestly, even with all the hassle, it was worth doing myself. I spent money, but it was nowhere near what I would have spent on a plumber. Plus, if you have a ceramic tile bathroom, you shouldn’t run into the issues I had. And that’s how it’s done, folks. My floor isn’t finished yet…but another day, another project.

Happy Friday!

  • I know I would not have had the patience for that. I have leak as well. From my car’s oil pan. It’s been taken in FIVE times and it still leaks. The Hub and his brother tried to fix it this last time and now it leaks more than ever! None of these places charged me because I provided the bolt and fitting. Apparently, aluminum oil pans are soft and after 5 years of oil changes, the opening gets worn out. Now my trusty mechanic, who I will be paying, will be drilling a new thread and using a larger bolt. He said, this is common. if I had taken it there first I would have been done with it. Hopefully, after tomorrow my leak will be fixed.

    You get a gold star for fixing yours!

    • You know, that’s what’s so frustrating. If I buy the proper tools and follow directions, shouldn’t it just work? Why all the headache? I don’t want to have to do a million searches to be able to fix something. It’s just a very weird thing. But I don’t like having to rely on paying someone to do stuff I know I’m capable of. But a car? No way. Hope it works for you!

  • Ruth Anderson

    Okay, I just have to say I am SO IMPRESSED with your home improvement skills here!!!

    • Why, thank you! I have to admit I was pretty pumped and proud when it finally worked. Of course, the bathroom is still torn up. No time during the week to worry about flooring. Maybe this weekend..

  • heidenkind

    I’m also impressed. 🙂 I would have just called my dad.

    • I absolutely love my dad…but he’s not a Mr. Fixit. He’ll come over when I need help with cutting limbs, but the toilet is beyond him, too. 🙂

  • Candy Morton

    Excellent post! I’m very impressed you fix this yourself. I do a lot of my own home improvement projects, but plumbing isn’t one of them! Good job!

    • Well, to be honest, if it had been under-the-house plumbing, it would have been straight to the plumber for me, but this? Every website said, “You are perfectly capable of doing this on your own.” And I thought, yep, I am. 🙂

  • Laurie C

    I’m impressed too! I dread home improvement jobs and have heard that reseating a toilet can be difficult.

    • Well, it most certainly can be & was for me. That’s why I thought I’d share what I learned. I think now that I know this, I could do it again with less trouble.

  • I am so very proud of you for doing this on your own. I do not have the patience. I would have been screaming and crying and throwing things and my blood pressure would have gone through the roof. Stroke city. (Okay, that sounded a little gross.)

    Anyway, good for you.

    • Thank you! Honestly, most of my DIY is out of necessity. And I do enjoy being able to do things for myself. I feel so productive and proud, too. But yes, the BP was likely high, especially when the tears came.

  • I’m really impressed! I would not have thought I could handle a toilet problem by myself. Good for you 🙂

  • Dude you are AWESOME! I’m hoping to buy a house within the next two years, and when I do I’m totally coming to your blog for inspiration and info on this sort of thing!!

  • Guest

    Good job!! I’m not so brave and my husband would prefer to call a plumber, when it comes to diy projects. Ironically, today we have a plumber en route to replace our hot water heater. Husband wonders why this is necessary, since it’s working just fine. I tend to worry about water issues and the thing is almost 13 years old. I figure, replace it before it floods the basement!

  • Good job!! I’m not so brave and my husband would prefer to call a plumber, when it comes to diy projects. Ironically, today we have a plumber en route to replace our hot water heater. Husband wonders why this is necessary, since it’s working just fine. I tend to worry about water issues and the thing is almost 13 years old. I figure, replace it before it floods the basement!

  • !! I would have broken out that bottle of wine sooner. Bless you for persevering! And brava on doing the repair — however exhausting and gruesome — I hope you’re feeling smug! My wife and I are not the handy-tool-wielding sort of lesbians, but our besties are, so thankfully they can help us when we run into minor home repair issues. Otherwise, it’s callin’ a pro and eating cheap for a few weeks…

  • Holly Klien

    Thanks for s haring this article, its been a really interesting read. I’ve never had the chance to deal much with toilets in Edmonton. I hope we can get it fixed so I don’t have to waist more money.

  • Thanks for all the advice. I’ve been really debating between doing it myself and hiring plumbers in Langley. This is good to know, I might have to give it a shot!

  • Lief Simons

    I guess it’s always better to ask help from the expert. –Lief Simons