Toilet Leaks Cause Expensive Water Claims – Consider Some Preventive Maintenance

It Could be Time to Replace That Wax Ring Seal Beneath Your Toilet

Does the vinyl or tile flooring around the base of your toilet look stained or even swollen like it could be leaking from underneath the bowl? Is the toilet kind of wobbling on its base? It may need a new seal between the bowl and the drain. The mounting bolts may also need to be replaced or tightened. The water supply line could also be dripping and need to be upgraded with a higher quality line. These are not very expensive maintenance items as long as you don’t wait too long to do them.

Do not delay. Small amounts of black water and sewage leaking from under a toilet can over time cause expensive water damage to the bathroom subfloor or even adjacent walls! (It’s also a serious sanitary issue.)

Are these repairs something homeowners can take on themselves? The answer is probably yes – if you are not squeamish about getting up close and personal with the dirty side of a toilet. Mechanically this is not a difficult or time consuming task if sanitary precautions are taken and you follow some easy steps. Otherwise, call your friendly neighborhood plumber.

Following the steps below will guide you through this first time project.

The Tools & Materials You Will Need

Tools

  •  Open end adjustible wrenches or water pump pliers
  •  Toilet Plunger
  •  Wet Dry Shop Vac

Before You Shop for Wax Ring Replacement Supplies

  • If you lift or remove a toilet for any reason, always replace the wax ring seal between the toilet and the toilet anchor flange (sometimes called a closet flange) attached to the floor.
  • Wax? Why wax? Made from a molded wax loop formed around a stubby plastic tube, wax rings are mostly foolproof, inexpensive and shape themselves to fit almost any toilet and floor drain. They also resist mold and bacteria and retain their sealing ability after many years of use. They don’t last forever though, that’s why you are doing this project. If your toilet wobbles even a little bit from side to side or your toilet rocks enough for one side of the base to lift off the floor — even just a bit — you may have a broken toilet anchor flange. As a precaution, pick up a flange repair kit.
  • Speaking of floors, replacing a sheet vinyl floor with something thicker, such as ceramic tile, usually will create a gap between the toilet and the toilet anchor flange. If that’s the case, add a flange spacer to fill the gap. (Heavy duty, thicker wax rings are also available to fill the space.)
  • Once you drain the toilet tank and unhook the water supply, it’s a good time to replace the flush valve. Fixing a leaky valve can save hundreds of gallons of water a day. The savings in water use can pay for this entire project in no time.
  • If you’re removing the toilet because of a leak at the base or water damage in the ceiling of the floor below, inspect that damage before you head to the store. Water can harm a subfloor enough to affect the strength of the mounting bolts attaching the toilet anchor flange — and the toilet — to the floor. Determine whether you need to cut away the damaged subfloor and replace it. Sanitize the area thoroughly.
  • Check the condition of the mounting bolts that attach the toilet to the floor. If they’re corroded, you’ll need a can of penetrating oil to help loosen them. Even if they’re not visibly corroded, plan to replace the bolts as a precaution. Some wax rings come in a kit that includes new mounting bolts.

Drain and Remove the Toilet

Step 1

Shut off the Water Valve

Shut off the water supply to the toilet at the supply-line valve beside the toilet or at the main water source. Then flush and shop vac the water from the tank until it’s dry. Use a plunger to force most of the remaining water in the bowl down the drain and sponge out the rest.

The wet /dry shop vacuum empties toilet tanks and bowls in an instant. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for how to set it up to suction water.

Step 2

Detach the water supply-line hose from the toilet tank and catch any water in the line using a bucket or towels. Loosen and remove the nuts holding the toilet to the floor.

If the bolts have corroded, first apply penetrating oil and allow it to seep over the threads for a few minutes before loosening the bolts. Apply only moderate pressure to loosen the bolts. Anything more may bend or break the toilet anchor flange.

Step 3

Lifting the Toilet

If you’re working in an awkward space or the toilet appears too heavy to lift, consider removing the bolts attaching the tank to the bowl and moving the two parts separately. Before lifting the toilet, place four 2 x 4 x 6 blocks on edge on the floor to hold the toilet drain off the floor. Choose a corner of the bathroom away from the drain to give yourself room to work. Angle the blocks slightly so they won’t tilt as you rest the toilet on them. Carefully lift the toilet while keeping the base parallel to the floor. Check the drain to make sure the old wax ring isn’t still attached. Set the toilet on the blocks.

Caution

It’s hard to empty everything from the drain trap that loops from the bowl to the floor drain opening. That’s fine as long as the toilet base remains parallel to the floor, but tilting it back and forth will probably spill water from the trap all over your floor.

Install the New Wax Ring

Step 1

New Bolts

Wear a pair of disposable gloves to remove and discard the old wax ring. (It’s extremely sticky and, let’s face it, was under your toilet for years.) Provide plenty of ventilation and use a plastic putty knife, followed by a rag soaked in mineral spirits, to clean any remaining wax from around the toilet anchor flange and the drain on the bottom of the toilet (if you’re reinstalling it). Remove the old mounting bolts and check the toilet anchor flange for damage.

After you remove the old wax ring, immediately plug the drain with a ball of rags or an old towel large enough that it doesn’t fall into the pipe. An unplugged drain can allow noxious sewer gas to enter your home.

Step 2

Check the Flange

Remove the old bolts from the toilet anchor flange and check the flange for cracks or missing pieces. Install any repair parts or spacers as needed before inserting the new toilet mounting bolts.

Caution

You wouldn’t think something as heavy as a toilet could fall over, but it can if not anchored down. A broken flange means a useless anchor bolt, so install a flange repair kit if you notice leaks or wobbles.

Step 3

Press the New Ring Into Place

Again wearing a pair of disposable gloves, press the new wax ring into place around the raised ring at the bottom of the toilet drain on the underside. Seat it firmly enough to hold it in place, but don’t press it out of shape.

Step 4

Lift the toilet with the bowl drain directly over the floor drain and lower it in place with the mounting screws coming up through the holes in the base. Press gently and rock it slightly to help the wax ring form a tight seal.

Step 5

With the toilet base firmly against the floor, attach the washers and nuts holding the toilet in place. Tighten them enough to keep the toilet from rocking — even just a bit. Then add the decorative caps.

Caution

Stop tightening the nuts holding the toilet to the floor as soon as they’re snugly in place and keep the toilet from tipping. Too much torque can crack the porcelain or damage the drain flange. (You really don’t want to lift that thing again to make another repair, right?)

Step 6

Apply fresh thread tape to the tank inlet threads and attach the water-supply line to complete the project. As a precaution, check the base of the toilet for leaks an hour after flushing it and again the next day to make sure the ring formed a waterproof seal around the drain.

Good to Know

For cheap insurance against leaks, replace the water line linking your toilet to the water line coming through the wall or floor. Carefully select the correct length and use a high quality braided line for added protection from future leaks or line breaks.

If you find yourself in over your head, give Floodco a call. We can recommend a friendly, affordable and qualified plumber in your area. Our phone is 406 892-1717.
Information for this project is provided by Lowes. They will probably appreciate your patronage and offer additional helpful suggestions in the store.
Posted by Lloy  February 23, 2015

Look What the Mailman Brought Today!

One of our minor chores each day is stopping by the Post Office for mail. When the mail brings Comment Cards from our customers we always appreciate and nearly always thrill to the kind words our customers write.

Comment Card

This comment card above reads:

Thank you for all your help. The guys were very nice and offered advice when asked. Not easy to to get in and out with all the snow–but they did it! Thought the expense was very reasonable!            (Would you refer FloodCo to your friends and family? Yes is circled.)

 

It matters greatly to us that our customer is satisfied and seriously delighted with the services we provide during the worst experience they may ever have as property owners. Our customers were never planning to call us on the day of the flood or some other disaster like smoke or fire overwhelmed them.

Returning lives to normal as quickly as possible is what we do. Our technicians respond to property loss scenarios that are often unpleasant and very stressful and disruptive to our customers. Hearing that our technicians’ work was appreciated means so much to all our staff!

Thanks to our customers who take a few moments to write and appreciate us and the good value provided.

Posted by Lloy on February 16, 2015. Comments are always welcome if you would like to, please email lloy@floodco.net or call 406 892-1717.

What is Your Mold Prevention Strategy?

Mold inspection photoWhy Do Mold Prevention?

Mold has become such a nightmare for property owners, contractors, suppliers, and employers, that if you haven’t developed a prevention program, you probably should. Particularly if you have any direct or incidental responsibility for residents or tenants or employees and customers. Here is a quick outline for what should be in a basic mold prevention program. It’s not complicated.

You’ll want to craft a written prevention program to educate your organization on the impact mold “liability” can have on the company. Should you wish to insure mold’s risk, the likelihood that any insurance company will offer any mold coverage these days is slim to none. ‘Mold/fungus’ has become a standard exclusion in most property/casualty insurance policies.

How do you get started? What follows is a brief outline of what a mold program can include. This will get you thinking in the proper direction. (If you want to develop a complete staff training program, it would be a good idea to talk to a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) or a mold specialist to address any specific needs of your organization or property.)

1. Mold Awareness

This section provides some background information to site personnel, residents and tenants.

  • Current industry issues with mold.
  • Describe mold/mildew/fungus. How it proliferates, what it looks like, why it exists, where to watch for it, how it smells, etc.
  • Impacts on human health – actual or perception of hazards and symptoms.
  • Risks related to customers or other third parties.
  • Addressing mold awareness with tenants.

2.  Mold Prevention

This section addresses most ways to prevent water from entering the building and should be shared with on-site personnel and tenants.

  • Overall description of how water can get into a structure-leaks, floods, vapor and ventilation deficiencies.
  • Addressing mold issues (and other housekeeping) with company staff or with tenants in your lease agreements.
  • Use of mold resistant materials/products—caulks, paints, sealants, carpets, etc.
  • Notification process for staff or tenants. Do’s and Don’ts on housekeeping.
  • Documentation process.
  • Reducing moisture/water infiltration:
    • Type of construction, specifically with building envelope, type and maintaining roofs.
    • Quality of construction.
    • Sequencing or construction.
    • Quality control of contractors on new construction and maintenance.
    • Are contractors aware of mold issues?
    • Procedures for drying out wet/damp areas. Why urgency matters.
    • Infrared imaging to identify possible areas of water intrusion in building envelope

3.  Mold Control Program

This section addresses the remediation once mold is found in the structure/building. Depending on the extent of the impacted area, experts in the field of indoor air quality or water and mold remediation should be engaged.

  • What do you do if mold is discovered or suspected—documentation, photos, notification, isolating impacted areas.
  • Remediation—evaluating and selecting a remediator, developing reports, referring environmental consultants (should have contacts list), safety (Personal Protection Equipment and the plan for treatment.)
  • Selection of remediation contractor—references, contracts, insurance requirements, statement of qualifications.
  • Areas of concern during remediation:
    • Impact of cleanup
    • Extent of cleanup
    • Cleanup standards
    • Protecting other materials in structure
    • Ventilation and air cleaning

Conclusion

The key element to an organization’s mold program is prevention. Not of mold, but of water intrusion. Mold can too easily become the nasty by-product of the real culprit, water intrusion. In order to truly avoid future mold problems and significant liability, you must be vigilant to prevent water from spilling into or entering your structure. That is usually easier said than done and requires the help and attentiveness of everyone working in or living in the structure.

Please call Floodco LLC for additional help or questions on mold prevention issues.    406 892-1717

Posted by Lloy. Source material from Institute of Risk Management & Insurance.