Loose toilet repair

A loose toilet can lead to leaks, which can damage the floor and create an unsafe environment. Better to make timely repairs now than big repairs later.

One of the things I do when inspecting a bathroom is to take my leg and press it against the toilet bowl. If it wobbles or starts to slide, I enter that fact into the report as a recommended repair. St Paul TISH considers a loose toilet as Hazardous.

The quickest and least effective repair is to simply tighten the nuts holding the toilet down. Most likely, you will need to tighten them again in a very short time.

Better to pull the toilet and replace the wax seal as well as the hardware that connects it to the closet flange. (They call the toilet flange “closet flange” sometimes. A long time ago, bathrooms were called “water closets” Go figure.)


You will need a small hacksaw, a pair of pliers, scraper, painter’s tape, bucket and sponge, a level and a section of cardboard to hold the old seal. 

You will also need replacement hardware, plastic shims, wax seal and clear caulk.

1. Turn off the water. The valve should be easy to reach, on the floor behind the toilet. Shut off the valve, flush the toilet and use a sponge to empty the bowl and tank. Put painter’s tape on the floor nest to the toilet outline. You will put a generous bead of caulk on the inside of that outline when you replace the toilet.

2. Remove the nuts from the carriage bolts. If the bolts are too corroded, it might be easier to cut them off with a small hacksaw. Take your time and don’t scratch the toilet.

3. Squat over the toilet and pull it straight up. Pivot right or left and set the toilet on a thick shipping blanket or rug.

4. The flange has slots that hold the bolts. You should be able to slide the bolts along the slots and take them out by hand. Using the scraper, remove the seal and the old wax.

5. Push the new seal onto the flange. The weight of the toilet will squish it into place. 

6. Install the new hardware. Pay close attention to the little picture that come with the hardware. It’s easy to mess this part up. It’s also easy to do it right. 

7. Put a generous bead of clear silicone on the floor, just inside the painter’s tape. When you set the toilet down, any silicone that squeezes out will stay on the tape.

8. Holding the toilet over the opening, carefully line up the carriage bolts with the holes on the toilet base. (You might need some help here). Place the plastic washer and metal washer on the carriage bolt, then the nut. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN!

9. Sit on the toilet and squish it into place. Place a level on the tank. Nearly level is level enough. Use the plastic shims to make it level enough. Give the bolts a few more turns-not too much.

10. Turn the water back on, check for leaks and clean up. Done!