Toilet leaking at the base is a very common problem but don’t presume that it is the base where the problem is. Water can drip from other parts of the toilet and the cistern, only to accumulate at the base. This will create the impression that the base of the toilet is leaking and yet you would find no problems when you remove the toilet or when you have the base inspected.
There are different circumstances when you would find water accumulated at the base of a toilet. You may find water seeping down or out after you flush the toilet. You may go to the bathroom after several hours and find some water at the base. There can be obvious drips from the cistern or the toilet may have been emptied due to the leak. Whatever is the cause and the manner in which the toilet is leaking, you ought to fix it. The sooner you fix it, the better.
Stop the Water
The first step is to stop the water supply to the toilet which is routed via the cistern or the flush tank. You need to turn off the water supply using the valve next to the cistern. You may have only one valve for the whole bathroom which should be somewhere close to where the plumbing lines are routed into your bathroom. Most toilets with cisterns will have a valve next to the installation. Turn it off and flush the toilet to ensure there is no water in the cistern. If the toilet is leaking at the base then you would find some foul odor or noticeable smell. You would also see the bowl inside the toilet emptied or with reducing water levels. This kind of leak is the most damaging because the water is not the cleanest and is possibly contaminated with bacteria and other germs. This kind of leak will almost always damage the flooring, the subfloor and possibly the ceiling beneath the floor hosting the toilet. The leak will also adversely impact the hygiene of the bathroom.
The second step is to wipe off the water or to wash the base so you don’t have contaminated water buildup. Use a disinfectant as you clean the base since you don’t want germs and bacteria to accumulate at the floor. Now that the cistern is empty and the toilet is almost dry or completely devoid of water, you can check the tightening bolts. You may notice that the toilet is loose. This happens mostly when the wax ring fails to properly seal the base. In some cases, extremely tightened bolts can also cause leaks because some part of the base may get damaged. If there are cracks or dents or the wax ring is damaged then the seal will be ineffective. You should tighten the bolts and see if the problem is solved.
Check Wax Ring
It is likely that you will have to check the wax ring. Just tightening the bolts will not be enough. The bolts are usually connected to the flange. The wax ring is between the base of the toilet and the flange. This is the watertight and waterproof seal that prevents leakage. The wax ring is not a flexible material despite its name so once it has been installed in its place after being compressed it doesn’t have the ability to spring back or come undone. Hence, if the wax ring is causing or facilitating the leak, then tightening the bolts will not help you at all. The leak will persist.
Now, you need a few checks as you plan to tighten the bolts or fix the wax ring, which could also be the replacement of the wax ring. You must have the toilet perfectly in alignment on the floor. Get rid of the plastic covers atop the tee bolts. Take an adjustable wrench and secure the bolts. The bolts may be frozen or too rigid. Such bolts must be replaced. Do not try to be too strong on them. Additional pressure or excessive force will not do the job.
Repair or Replace
Damaged wax rings cannot be repaired. You must replace it. Look for the seal at the bottom of the toilet and check if it damaged or broken. Worn out wax ring should also be replaced. It doesn’t cost much so it shouldn’t trouble you. Only get a compatible wax ring and not a random one. You need to remove the toilet, remove the worn out or damaged wax ring and install the new one. Reinstall the toilet and see if there are any leaks. Let it be for a day and use the toilet to see if it leaks again. If it does, then it is time to call in the plumber or the handyman.
You may think caulking will be a fitting solution but it is not. Do not caulk the base of the toilet to fix the leak.