How to Properly Set Your Toilet Flange Height
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Setting your toilet flange height can make the difference between a properly functioning toilet and a leaky toilet. Proper flange height also allows you the freedom to choose your materials from what is readily available and prevent issues with installation and maintenance.
What Is A Toilet Flange?
The toilet flange is a round disc, usually made from plastic, that also includes a sleeve that connects your toilet to the sewer line. Toilet flanges are typically PVC and are readily available at most hardware and home improvement stores.
Toilet flanges are inexpensive and will come with several holes pre-drilled that are for securing your flange with bolts. Installing a new toilet with a new flange is a relatively easy process that you can do yourself within the span of a few hours.
Flanges are essential because they create a seal between your toilet and the sewer line. Without this firm seal odors, and leaks may occur that are both unpleasant and unhygienic. Leaks in this area can also cause rotting in the surrounding materials that make up your floor and are generally best avoided at all costs.
Before installing your flange, consider your flooring height, and if possible install your flooring. Flanges can be dropped in place and secured with few other materials required, but their height is essential.
Installing a Toilet Flange
Connecting a new toilet flange starts with removing the toilet to expose the flange underneath. There are typically several bolts that hold the toilet in place against the wax seal and flange so be sure to loosen those first and save the hardware for later if you intend to reuse it.
Here’s A Video On How To Install A Toilet Flange On Tile Floor:
Out with The Old
Below the toilet, you’ll see the flange which should also be secured with bolts or similar hardware. If the height of your flange needs to be adjusted, remove the bolts and flange so that repairs can be made and the flange height adjusted.
Older flanges may be made from metal and not PVC like most other modern flanges. While it is still possible to get metal flanges, PVC ones work just as well and are far less costly.
Depending on how high your flange needs to reach, there are different styles of flanges available. The optimum toilet flange height is approximately ¼ inch above the floor to achieve the best seal and overall fit.
Purchase A New One
If the previous flange is too low, purchase one that is designed to sit on the finished floor and provide the optimum toilet flange height. These models may feature an additional metal or plastic ring that sets directly on the polished floor but is hidden by your toilet once it is reinstalled.
A flange that is too high will also cause plumbing issues and may keep the toilet from covering the hardware beneath it and sitting correctly on the floor. To fix this, you may need to trim the PVC pipe beneath to lower the flange to its proper height.
Take great care in cutting the PVC pipe, as it is difficult to fix if you remove far too much. Instead, remove a modest amount and double check to make sure the flange will rest adequately and create a good seal.
The New Flange
When ready to install the new flange, the process is the reverse of how the older one uninstalled. First seat the flange where it should go and confirm that the toilet flange height will not be more than a ¼ inch above the finished floor. Make any needed adjustments and purchase the best new flange.
Traditional flanges used if the toilet flange height is already correct. However different models exist to address flanges that are too low as well. Once you have the proper flange, install it by securing it with bolts, called closet bolts, to the plumbing line beneath it.
Bolts Snugly Secure
Secure these closet bolts snugly as they will help prevent the toilet from moving or any of the plumbing from shifting. Using a nut and washer is the best course of action, but sturdy bolts will also work. Washers can make removing the hardware easier later on. Install the toilet washers and nuts at this time as well and secure firmly.
With the flange well secured in place, it’s time to add the wax seal. The kind of wax seals that include a ring of poly in the center will provide a tremendous long-lasting seal that can last for years. These wax rings are also inexpensive and available where flanges are also for sale.
Put A Wax Seal
Seat the wax seal on the flange, so it surrounds the center opening and does not cover any part of it. Then set the toilet over that, being extra careful not to bend the toilet bolts as you make finer adjustments and seat the toilet properly in its place.
Extra thick versions of the wax seals are available; however, if your flange is the correct height, they are usually not needed. It is not advisable to use multiple wax rings to make up the height difference of the flange because this will very likely cause leaks and other problems over time.
Seating the Toilet
Once the toilet is sitting on the flange and wax ring, it is time to make sure it is level before securing it with the bolts. Gently try to rock the toilet from both sides and front and back. A correctly installed toilet should not move in either direction and should sit evenly on the floor.
If the toilet rocks back and forth, add shims to level it out and eliminate the rocking. There is no correct number of shims that should be used but be sure to carefully remove all rocking and use as many shims as is needed.
Bolt Down The Toilet
Once the toilet is level, you can trim away the shims and bolt down the toilet. So it’s secured in its final position. When tightening bolts, firmly press the toilet against the wax seal evenly. And ensure no leaks or air can escape. Be careful to tighten the bolts until snug and avoid over-tightening them to prevent cracking the toilet.
After the toilet is snugly bolted down and has achieved a firm seal. The next step is to caulk around the base of the toilet. Seal it to the floor and prevent water from getting in. Caulking the bottom of the toilet will keep shims from working out and hide them from sight.
Caulking the base can prevent a movement over time and make the area easier to clean. Caulk seals out dust and dirt that may otherwise be impossible to clean from under the toilet.
Other Helpful Tips For Toilet Flange Height
When installing a new toilet flange, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible. While installing a toilet flange can be quite easy, those who are doing it for the first time should keep these tips in mind:
- Finish each step in order
- Carefully measure when needed
- Don’t skimp on the finish work
When working on plumbing related tasks, the best thing you can do is be patient and work through problems slowly. For example, older flanges are difficult to remove. But before getting out a crowbar, try knocking it gently with a rubber mallet. That is less likely to damage your floor and the plumbing underneath.
As with any process, patience can also ensure that you do not skip critical steps. That can result in unfortunate consequences later on. Paying careful attention and finishing it before moving on to the next step. Will ensure that your toilet is free from leaks and escaping odors.
It’s ok if your flange sits a little high or a little low. But to know which way it measures before you go to the store and buy a new flange. There are few choices in both flanges and wax seals to address flanges that are too low. But a different procedure might be needed if the flange is too high.
Carefully measuring will ensure that you know which flange is right for your toilet. And which wax seal is the best accompaniment for the job. Using a thicker wax seal is not the best idea in every situation. And a flange of proper height will seal better with a standard wax seal.
Attention to Detail and Finish Work
Making sure your toilet is level, and well-sealed can prevent you. From having to uninstall and reinstall it later when it starts to leak or emit sewage smell. Proper finish work and attention to detail can go a long way. With plumbing projects as they are infrequently. Ones that individuals would care to repeat in a few months.
Shimming the toilet, caulking, and using the correct parts will all help. To ensure that your toilet is installed correctly and working well for years. Without needing much more than regular maintenance.
There is no need for difficulties like raising the whole foor just to raise a toilet, or cutting the pipe to install a new flange which is lower.
I recently raised a toilet almost 1 cm off the floor easily using grout. I had to do this after attaching a repair ring onto the flange, which has broken closet-bolt slots, but is otherwise solid. The repair ring and the bolts holding it in place effectively raised the height of the flange, not allowing the back of the toilet to touch ground.
I should mention that this is on a concrete floor which has lino over it, not tile. I used portland-cement-based sanded grout.
- I began by getting the toilet in place on four rubber shims. These shims were actually inexpensive erasers from a dollar store, providing maybe 8mm or 5/16" of height when compressed by the weight. They are excellent for this: the toilet will press into the rubber and will not move on you while you are working, even if it isn't yet bolted down.
- I then packed sanded grout into the gap all around the toilet, but leaving a bit of space around the shims.
- A day later, I removed the shims. Some were difficult to remove, but being erasers, they were easy to break by hand. I then grouted the remaining gaps, invisibly blending them with the remaining grout.
- Finally, tightened the nuts on the closet bolts. Not too much! That's what broke the flange in the first place.
This is the resulting appearance: a very thick, prominent, grout line:
For comparison of grout bead size, here is an identical toilet in another location, also grouted with the same material, but which is not raised. This toilet already sat on the floor, before the grout was applied, which was done for cosmetic reasons and any additional stability it might provide.
Tip: when leaving gaps in the grout around shims, neatly curve the end of the grout bead inward under the toilet: don't leave it ragged. This curve make it easier to create a smooth, invisible overlap when you close the gap the next day, so it looks like everything was grouted in one pass. (This is analogous to feathering the edge of a painted area, so then it blends nicely when the adjacent unpainted area is later covered.)
Tip: in the first 24 hours while the grout was hardening, I sprayed it several times with a spray bottle to moisten it (another dollar store item). Cement requires water to achieve hardness; it stops becoming stronger once the water is gone. Big concrete pours can retain water for weeks and months, so they can achieve their full 90 day cure, but small grout jobs can dry out. Maybe the spray bottle irrigation did nothing, but it took little additional effort.
Tip: the package of grout will give you ridiculous mixing instructions, like to add the whole 7 lb contents into a pint of water. You need only a small quantity that you can mix in a yogurt container. By volume, it looks like about 6:1 to 7:1 powder to water for Polyblend Sanded. I don't recommend pre-mixed; it contains VOC's, and is poor value for the money. The consistency should be such that your stir stick easily stands up in it, and it doesn't move when you tilt your mixing jar 90 degrees. I used less than two cups of powder in total, and much of it went to waste due to left overs and trimmings. Start by erring on the side of too little water. If the grout is hard to mix and lumpy, add water, in tea-spoon-sized increments.
Optional: leave a gap in the grout in an inconspicuous place (back of the toilet) for releasing any leakage. I'm aware of the arguments for it, but I decided against it. I'd rather not have a water spill on the floor going the other way under the toilet, or create a crevice for pests to crawl into.
From now on I will use grout for toilets, unless it is contraindicated for some good reason. It not only can be used to raise toilets, but it will take care of any unevenness in the floor (or the toilet itself) even if the flange isn't too high. If the toilet rocks due to an uneven floor, it can break the wax seal and damage the flange. Evidently plumbers in the "olden days" used to commonly do this as the "right way, darn it" to install a toilet. In fact, some took the time to follow a procedure which goes something like this:
- Place the toilet temporarily and trace its outline onto the floor.
- Remove the toilet, and then create a bed of grout around the traced outline. Trowel this bed flat, staying within the outline.
- When the grout starts to set, then install the toilet. It will press into the grout foundation and seat firmly, regardless of the shape of the floor or toilet base.
- Take care of the grout cosmetics around the base.
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How to Properly Set a Toilet to Prevent Leaks
- Flange extender (optional)
- Toilet wax ring or foam gasket
- Plastic toilet shims
- Silicone caulk
Check the Flange Height
When preparing to install the toilet, the first thing to confirm is the proper flange height. With the toilet removed, you can see the toilet flange and measure its height above the floor. The optimum flange height to aim for is 1/4 inch above the finished floor. This typically allows for almost any type of wax ring to be used and still ensure a good seal. If you recently tiled or changed the bathroom flooring, the flange height is likely less than optimal.
To get the necessary clearance from the floor, you can add a toilet flange extender, which is quick and easy to install. Flange extenders are commonly sold in 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch sizes to raise the height of the existing flange to either of those measurements. Most extenders come with long bolts, which may be necessary if the flange is below the floor level.
Secure the Closet Bolts
The two closet bolts that anchor the toilet base to the flange must be properly secured to the flange. These are the long bolts that stick straight up out of the flange.
It is a good idea to use a nut and washer to hold the closet bolts to the flange from the top side. This will ensure you do not knock the bolts over when installing the toilet, and it will make it much easier to remove the bolts in the future. When you are buying a toilet or replacement wax ring, check to make sure that it comes with extra nuts and washers, or buy an extra pack while you are at the store (they are sold in inexpensive sets).
If you are using a toilet flange extender, you must bolt the extender to the original flange.
Place the Wax Ring and Toilet
Choose a wax ring of the appropriate size. The type with a polyethylene plastic sleeve provides a great seal and fits most standard drains. If the toilet's floor flange height is slightly less than 1/4 inch above the flooring, you can use an extra-thick wax ring to make up the difference. Do not be tempted to stack up two wax rings because this setup tends to leak. Installing a flange extender or using an extra-thick wax ring will work much better in the long run.
Place the wax ring on the closet flange, not on the toilet. Pick up the toilet and set it evenly over the closet flange, making sure the bolts come through the bolt holes in the toilet base. Fine-tune the toilet position, so it's right where you want it, then push it straight down so it smashes the wax evenly. Push until the base of the toilet rests on the floor.
So-called "waxless" toilet rings, such as the Sani Seal, are foam gaskets that replace conventional wax rings. These are great options for DIYers because you can reuse them if you need to remove or reposition the toilet. With wax rings, once the ring is compressed by the toilet it cannot be used again.
Level the Toilet
Before you bolt the toilet down, confirm that the base is stable and level by carefully rocking it from side to side and back to front. If it does not sit perfectly flat, it will rock and is more likely to leak over time. To correct this problem, slip toilet shims between the base and the floor to stop the rocking before bolting it down.
The location and the number of shims needed depends on the toilet and the floor; every situation is different. Getting the toilet shimmed before bolting it down will help ensure it does not come loose in the future. Once the toilet stops rocking, you can bolt it down with a nut and washer on each closet bolt.
Be very careful when tightening the washers and nuts against the toilet base; they should be snug but not overly tight, which can crack the toilet.
Caulk the Base
Cut off any portion of the toilet shims that stick out using a utility knife, and caulk around the base of the toilet with silicone caulk. This will give a little more protection against movement in the future, and it will make the base area easier to clean because you will not get a layer of dust and detritus under the toilet where you can not reach it.
As an option, it's a good idea to leave the back end of the base (out of view) without caulk so that, if the toilet leaks at the floor, the water can flow out and alert you to the leak before it causes damage to the subfloor.
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Height how to adjust toilet flange
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