How to Fix a Wobbly Toilet – 6 Causes and Solutions

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A wobbly toilet can be a rude awakening when you’re heeding nature’s call oh so early in the morning. Surprise rides aside, your rocking toilet can also be a cause of leaks or pungent odors into your bathroom. It can become near impossible to invite guests over without dealing with a fair amount of embarrassment. You’ll want to know how to fix a wobbly toilet as soon as possible.

If you find yourself in this kind of a rocky situation, you needn’t worry. In fact, chances are you may not have to call a professional. While it may seem technical, some causes of an off-balance toilet can be easy to fix.

If you’ve got a wobbly toilet seat, the solution to your problem may be as simple as replacing the toilet seat. These can be inexpensive because if you’re a tenant, the good news is you can probably fix it yourself for under $20.

Read on for some quick tips and tricks on how to fix a wobbly toilet effectively.

How to Fix a Wobbly Toilet

How to Fix a Wobbly Toilet — Here’s What You Need to Do

What Causes a Toilet to Wobble?

Loose or wobbly toilets are often the guilty party for most of the issues you can face within a bathroom. But a ‘loose toilet’ is way too broad a target for you to get started on the fix.

For starters, you’ll learn how to fix a wobbly toilet by familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of your toilet: there’s the drainpipe, the flange (a metal or PVC ring that’s connected to the drainpipe), a sealing ring around the flange, the toilet bowl that’s nestled in this wax ring, and two closet bolts holding the base in place.

Once you’re sure you know what goes where, these are a couple of places you want to check out if your toilet has been showing a bit of a teeter in recent times:

Toilet Seat

Your toilet may be wobbling and you may notice that the problem is the toilet seat. Are you able to move your toilet seat from side to side? If so, you may be looking at a simple solution of replacing your toilet seat.

Most toilets are a standard build. Unscrew the bolts attaching them, and then place the new toilet seat on. Tighten the bolts.

First, you will want to take a quick measurement of the toilet, how long and how wide it is. Look at your toilet and determine if you need a Round toilet seat or an Elongated toilet seat.

Closet Bolts

These are probably the first thing you want to inspect in the case of a rocky toilet — and thankfully, they’re also quite an easy fix. Closet bolts essentially hold the entire set-up of your toilet to its place on the ground.

Years of leaning your weight in an unbalanced manner on the toilet can cause these bolts to wear out faster, which will, in turn, cause the trademark wobbling you so desire to fix. Tightening or replacing these bolts is very often more than enough to fix your toilet stability problem.

Flange Locks

One of the easier fixes for a wobbly toilet, loose or perhaps damaged flange locks can mean that there is nothing actually holding the base of your toilet in its place on the flange — thus the instability.

When checking out these bolts, looking to see if the bolt is stripped is just as important as checking if the washer is loose. Overlooking one of these two aspects is a very common mistake and something you want to actively keep in mind.

Flange

While the flange bolts are something you want to look into, the flange in and of itself also needs to be appraised. A broken or warped flange can raise and even tilt the base of your toilet, causing it to rock because of the uneven seating.

In such situations, looking for chips or cracks in either the seal or the neighboring floor panels can help you determine if your flange is actually the problem — short of taking your toilet entirely off the ground, that is.

Wax Rings

Wax rings, aside from keeping your bathroom floor dry and leak-free, also help keep the base of the toilet bowl firmly in place. Long-term exposure to water drainage can corrode the seal or cause it to deteriorate, thus weakening your toilet base’s hold on the ground.

If you see any sort of discoloration near the rim of the base, a damaged wax seal is at least one of the fixes you’ll be having to make to keep your toilet from tipping.

Flooring and Toilet Base Gaps

While most of these causes are associated with faults in the toilet itself, your uneven floor could also be a potential problem. If you happen to have wooden flooring or even wood panels in the foundations of your floor, there is bound to be an eventual warp from constant exposure to moisture.

But because fixing the floor can be quite an expensive and time-consuming project, you can make do by looking for how the gaps in between can be balanced out. 

How Do You Stabilize a Wobbly Toilet?

Once you’ve identified the source, or even narrowed it down upon a general area, it’s time to get your hands dirty (hopefully not literally). While the nuances of the procedure will change with the make and the style of the toilet in question, the essence of how to fix a wobbly toilet boils down to the following six steps:

1. Dry Your Toilet

This might seem too obvious to mention, but it’d surprise you how often this step is overlooked. But this makes the difference between a dry toilet-fixing experience without any major clean-up hassle and a sopping wet one.

Turn off the water supply valve and drain the bowl by holding down on the flush lever until all the water has fully flown out. Then use a rag or a sponge to soak up any remnant water in the tank before you disconnect the supply pipe altogether.

2. Detach the Main Body

When you’ve fully made sure that the water supply to your toilet has been nullified, you can get to work on the removable caps at the base of your toilet. Use a wrench to loosen the hex nuts. Once off, make sure you keep them someplace safe because you’ll be needing them once more.

Make it a point to keep lots of old newspapers on hand so as to keep your bathroom floor clean. The bottom of your toilet is not going to be very clean, and you don’t want that filth rubbing off on your floors, especially if they’re wooden or laminated.

3. Fixing or Changing the Closet Flange

If the damage to your flange is minimal, you won’t really need anything more than a repair plate to remedy the situation. Fit the plate beneath the old groove — you might have to chisel into the track to make place — and basically thread through it with a bolt.

If the damage is more major and you need a replacement, you might want to look into cast iron flanges. This is a bit more technical than the other steps listed in this procedure on how to fix a wobbly toilet, so if you’re still new to these kinds of projects, you might even think of calling a professional in for this.

But if you’re confident you can take this on yourself, start by prying away the old flange and fitting in the new one (on the cast iron end). Slip the brass ring over a rubber gasket that you’ve pre-fitted into the flange, and bang it into place with a rubber hammer. Try pushing at the new flange to see if it holds, and if you’re satisfied, you can secure the bolts with a spanner.

This is also a very good place to be checking your wax or rubber sealing ring for any damage, so you can replace it along with the flange.

4. Checking Closet and Flange Bolts

When putting your toilet back into place, you can also get to repairing any damage you might have noticed among the closet or flange bolts. If the problem you’d picked up on was just loose bolts, you could fix this by ensuring that you tighten your bolts properly when reinstalling your toilet base — although, make sure that you don’t go overboard as that can crack the porcelain.

But if you find that the bolt is stripped or even that their washers are loose, you want to look into getting yourself a suitable replacement. Look for 5/16” hold-down bolts. These are usually a secure choice in either situation.

5. Reinstalling the Toilet

Align the base of the toilet over the wax ring and insert the two corresponding bolts into their holes on either side of the flange. Once the base is safely settled, slip the washers on before rolling the nuts into place down the thread. Once the flange bolts are in place, follow the same procedure for the closet bolts.

Once everything is screwed into place, test the set-up for any movement or give before tightening up any loose corners with a spanner and putting the caps onto the bolts.

6. Getting to Floor-Base Gaps

If you take your entire toilet apart only to realize it was the uneven floor’s fault, no need to worry. Just reinstall the entire toilet back in place, fixing any minor wear you might have noticed during the dismantling process.

Once the set-up is more or less the way it was, start by testing how the base of your toilet moves and how it balances — you’re looking for a point it will balance its own weight. When you get a fair idea, insert shims into the gaps below the base to bring it as close to the balancing point as possible. Keep doing this until the toilet doesn’t move in any direction when pushed.

After securing the shims into place, trim them close to the edge of the base with a utility knife so that there are no awkward wedges jutting out from below your toilet. Just make sure you keep the knife off your floor.

7. Sealing with Caulk

Coat an even base of caulk around the rim of your toilet as an additional foundation; it doesn’t hurt that this will also help hide any ugly stains in the process. You can smooth it place with a palette knife, but a finger will work just as fine.

Make sure the caulk seal is fully dry before you switch the plumbing to your toilet back on. If prematurely started, it causes the seal to crumble.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Wobbly Toilet?

Even if fixing your wobbly toilet seems like a feasible project, you need to have an idea of how much it will cost you before you can go ahead with it. Well, it depends on the extent of repair you’ll have to undertake.

Replacing a flange can cost up to $125, whereas the wax seal can be anywhere between $60 and $150 to replace. Fixing the bolts can go up to $150 as well. Worst case scenario, you can expect yourself to spend about $700. But on average, the expense of fixing a wobbly toilet swings between $60 for minimal repairs and $150 for slightly major ones.

Takeaway

Now that you’re up to speed on how to fix a wobbly toilet and even how much it can cost, ugly morning wake-up calls need no longer be a reality. Here’s to a peaceful bathroom experience, whatever time of the day it may be!

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