It’s uncomfortable, it’s embarrassing, and you’d really better fix it sooner rather than later. We’re talking about a loose, wobbly toilet. Fortunately, this is not a particularly difficult or expensive home improvement project to take care of. Whether it’s the base or the seat that is rocking and rolling, find out why and how to tighten a toilet.
WARNING: Before inspection or repairs, turn off the water supply valve and flush your toilet to drain water from the bowl.
Why you should tighten a loose toilet
Tightening a loose toilet isn’t rocket science; it’s a fairly simple fix, but whether you do it yourself or hire someone to take care of the problem, the important letters here are not DIY, but rather ASAP. Why? While a wobbly toilet is not dangerous to life and limb, it’s a warning sign that unless you take action, your toilet is likely to start leaking from the base in the near future. This type of leak is often difficult to spot, yet it can cause serious water damage to your bathroom floor — and eventually the subfloor as well (and possibly your downstairs neighbor’s unit, if you live in a condo building). As for a loose toilet seat? Well, that’s just plain uncomfortable for your family and guests.
How to tighten a toilet base
Check the mounting bolts. Pry off the two plastic bolt caps, located one on each side of your toilet base. (You may need a small screwdriver for this task.) See whether you can jiggle either of the bolts underneath with your fingers. If a bolt is loose, simply use a socket wrench to tighten the nut until you feel some resistance. (Beware of overtightening — you don’t want to crack the porcelain of the toilet itself.) A broken bolt, on the other hand, will have to be replaced, together with the wax seal between your toilet and the floor.
Check the condition of the flange. The mounting bolts attach your toilet to a flange (a sturdy ring of plastic or metal, which is bolted to the floor). Remove the bolts and check the flange. If it is metal and is just slightly cracked, you should be able to perform DIY repair with the help of an inexpensive semi-circular part called a super flange. When you position this piece on the cracked flange, you’ll give the mounting bolt a new hole to fit into. However, a plastic flange — or a metal one that is seriously broken or corroded — will need to be replaced. Remove the bolts and the damaged flange, and position the replacement flange flush with the floor. Reinsert the bolts and tighten each one, a small amount at a time, so that the new flange sits evenly.
Check the level of the toilet. Your rocking toilet may be due to uneven flooring or incorrect installation. The base of the toilet should be flush with the floor; if it’s not, try correcting the problem with rubber or silicone shims. For a more drastic situation, remove the toilet and reinstall it. (REMINDER: Turn the water supply off first.) Replace the wax seal if it is damaged and caulk with silicone. If the toilet is old and in bad shape, you might want to take this opportunity to find a plumber to replace it altogether.
How to tighten a toilet seat
While a wobbly seat is less problematic than an entire toilet that rocks, it’s still enough to give your family and guests a somewhat insecure feeling. For this, the DIY fix couldn’t be much simpler. Just tighten the bolts that attach the seat to the toilet by turning them clockwise — you probably won’t need any tools besides your fingers, but if necessary, use pliers to hang onto the nut while you turn the bolt with a screwdriver.
If you frequently suffer from the wobbly toilet seat blues, home improvement and hardware stores sell inexpensive, easy-to-use seat tightening kits.
— Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.