DIY 101: How to fix a wobbly, rocking toilet

When your toilet is starting to wobble, it can be a frustrating situation. A rocking toilet is not only inconvenient to sit on, but it can also lead to serious issues like cracked drainpipes, water leaks, and escaping sewer vapors that can damage your floor or make your bathroom a very unpleasant place to be. Before you call the plumber, though, we’re going to talk about some ways you can fix a wobbly toilet on your own. But first, let’s familiarize ourselves with the inside of the toilet.

Toilet and sink
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Anatomy of your toilet

Most toilets are installed with the same parts and constructed in the same way across the board. The drainpipe in the floor connects to the flange, which is a ring made of metal or PVC material. A wax or rubber ring is then placed around the flange to provide a seal that stops water and sewer vapors from seeping out. The base of the toilet is placed on top of the seal and the flange and secured with two flange screws on either side of the base.

Now that you have a picture of the inner workings of your toilet, we can discuss some common causes of a wobbly toilet.

Why is your toilet rocking?

When your toilet is wobbly, it means that the bottom of the toilet is not exactly flush against the floor of the bathroom. If this issue is not addressed, you may start to see leaking around the base of your toilet, or you may even start to smell some very foul odors in your bathroom.

Several culprits can cause a rocking toilet issue, and each of them requires a different fix. So, let’s take a look at why your toilet might be rocking.

Loose or broken flange bolts

This is probably the easiest issue to fix on a rocking toilet. If a flange bolt is loose or damaged, it is likely not securing the toilet base to the floor as well as it should be.

Check the flange bolts on either side of the toilet’s base to see if either the bolts or their washers look warped or loose. You can tighten them if they’re loose, or you can replace them with new flange bolts and washers if they appear damaged.

Malfunctioning flange

If the flange itself is warped, broken, or significantly raised above the floor’s surface, this can cause the base of the toilet to raise up in the middle and tilt to either side.

To replace the flange or even repair it with a flange repair kit, you’ll first need to pull out the flange bolts and remove the toilet from its spot. You can then unscrew the flange from the drainpipe and replace it with a new one or repair it with a kit.

Damaged wax seal

The wax seal under your toilet can deteriorate or corrode over time, which could cause your toilet to rock. If you see discoloration around the rim of your toilet’s base, your wax seal is likely the culprit.

To replace the wax seal, you will, again, need to remove the toilet from its spot. Then, scrape up the remnants of the wax seal and replace it with a new one. Be sure the wax is tight and flush against the flange for proper sealing.

Uneven floor

If the bolts, wax seal, and flange are all intact and free of damage, a likely culprit for your rocking toilet is simply the condition of your bathroom floor. Due to perpetual moisture, certain types of flooring, especially wood, can start to warp, sink, or raise up around your toilet’s base. This creates an uneven surface under the base and creates a gap between the toilet and floor. If you cannot repair the floor just yet, there is an easy solution that will stop your toilet from rocking until you’re ready to redo the floors.

Shims are plastic wedges that can be inserted under the toilet’s base to raise the drooping side and make the fixture level. Since this solution may make the toilet a bit more unsightly, consider caulking around the rim of your toilet’s base to create a more aesthetic appearance.

A rocking toilet is a solid indicator that something is amiss under your toilet’s base. Whether the issue is a damaged flange or seal, loose bolts, or a warped floorboard, a rocking toilet needs to be addressed quickly. If the job is put off, this could lead to unpleasant leaks, odors, or even additional damage since the rocking motion can crack your flange or even the drain pipe. Err on the side of caution and fix the problem while it’s a small one.

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