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October 07, 2007

How to reset (or re-seat) a toilet

Seal of Fortune - Resetting a toilet

There are many reasons to remove a toilet and store it elsewhere. Maybe you want to paint the bathroom or re-tile the floor, or you’ve got house guests who just won’t leave.

I have some tips for you when it’s time to put the old porcelain potty back on her moorings.

P1010877_smallFirst, you’ll need a new gasket.  If you’ve ever been measured for a bra, you’ll understand the subtleties. You want a snug fit that discourages lateral migration of substances that should be contained within the restraining device.

Measure the opening of your drain-hole prior to shopping. Most are 3 inches in diameter, but you may have a husky-size 4-incher.

The plumbing aisle will thrill you with its range of gaskets in different materials, sizes, heights and styles. Let’s discuss your options.

Wax Facts

P1010854_wax_ring_small Wax rings are cheap, easy to use and come in one shade of ever-fashionable Beeswax Brown.  Available in 3- or 4-inch diameters, wax gaskets are about an inch thick. You can get double-height gaskets if you’ve added flooring tile and need extra thickness to connect the now-recessed floor flange to the horn of your toilet. Some wax rings have a black polyethylene sleeve that’s designed to funnel waste into your drain pipe and pretty much guarantee freedom from toilet leaks forever.


Rubber, I Hardly Know ‘Er

P1010842_rubber_gasket_small Rubber gaskets are a recent development in the history of plumbing. Designed to be reusable indefinitely, the latex rubber compresses under the weight of the toilet and forms an impressive seal. Because they’re a pain to measure for (i.e. Subtract the thickness of the flooring flange minus any flooring (i.e. tile) from the depth of your toilet’s ‘horn’ - the protruding opening on the bottom of the toilet that allows contributions to flow downwards into the waste hole - and then add one-eighth of an inch) I recommend that you avoid rubber unless you’ve got someone in the family who lands hard on the toilet every single time, in which case rubber is a good idea since it reseals itself after being disturbed, whereas wax just gets dislodged and oozy.


Waxless Wonder

P1010845_waxless_gasket_small Fluidmaster (plumbing suppliers have the most optimistic names) now makes a waxless gasket kit that works with both 3- and 4-inch drainpipes, and includes a fresh set of bolts. Rubber 0-rings secure the gasket in the drainpipe so you get the all-important snug fit.


Steps to Resetting your Toilet with the Classic Wax Gasket


Heat the new wax ring in its container by microwaving on ‘high’ for 5 minutes.P1010778_small

P1010790_small When the ring is soft, press it into place on the floor flange, not on the underside of the toilet horn, since it will drop off and/or knock the bolts askew and cause projectile swearing. 

Insert the brass ‘closet bolts’ into the slots on the floor flange. Slide them into position so they’re lined up directly across from each other, making a line parallel to the wall behind the waste hole. Gob a little wax onto the bolts to keep them vertical. 

Next, get a helper to assist you in lifting the toilet into place. If space is tight, one person can duck-walk the toilet into position by gripping the toilet rim near the seat hinges and lifting by placing the elbows on the knees and leaning backwards slightly. A good way to approximate the strain of childbirth with less screaming.  Either the toilet carrier or the assistant must now guide the toilet into position over the bolts. It’s easiest for the person unencumbered by the toilet to press her cheek against the floor and shriek directional commands until the holes are lined up with the bolts. 

P1010802_cropped_small_2 After lowering the toilet onto the bolts, sit on the toilet to compress the wax enough that you can screw the nuts onto the bolts.  Install the brass washers and cap washers on the bolts – heed the ‘This Side Up’ memo on the plastic cap washer or the decorative caps will not snap into place properly later.P1000537_cropped_small

P1000540_cropped_small Finger-tighten the nuts. Then use a small wrench to tighten one side, then the other, back and forth until there’s resistance in the nuts, a feeling that is difficult to sense for some people, who then over-tighten their nuts and bust the ceramic base. Use restraint.      

Snap the decorative caps into place. If the bolts are too long to accommodate the caps, reduce the height of the bolts with a mini-hacksaw.  If that's just too darn slow, use a Dremel equipped with a cut-off disc to shorten the soft brass bolt.


Hook up the water supply line by attaching the valve end of the supply line first. Then attach the coupling nut under the toilet tank – finger-tighten it – don’t use a wrench except to snug it a quarter-turn at the end. Turn on the water.  Flush the tank a few times to make sure the supply line is not leaking. If it leaks, replace it with a Watts Floodsafe supply line, which automatically shuts off the water supply if it senses excess flow. Yes, we live in the era of psychic plumbing equipment. Are we lucky or what?

 Note: Beeswax candles are expensive, but toilet gaskets aren’t. I’m experimenting with drilling wick-holes in wax gaskets and using them as inexpensive centerpieces for Thanksgiving. I’ll get back to you on that.


carla rylant

OMG!!!! U r 2 funny!! I thought I was the only woman on earth that does her own house repairs!!! Thank You for making my job easier and giving me a giggle on the way!!!


You're welcome, my fellow ToolGirl!

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