Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Is a Toilet Flange?
- 2 What Do You Need To Know About Replacing a Toilet Flange?
- 3 How Do You Replace a Toilet Flange?
- 4 When Should You Hire A Professional To Replace a Toilet Flange?
- 5 How Much Does Replacing a Toilet Flange Cost?
- 6 What Should You Look For In A Toilet Replacement Specialist?
What Is a Toilet Flange?
Your toilets sit just above the flooring in your bathroom, and the drain pipe that removes waste and delivers it to your main sewer line sits below the floor. A toilet flange – also called a closet flange – is a PVC or cast iron piece of material that connects the toilet above the floor to the waste line below.
Additionally, a toilet flange gets screwed to your subfloor and has slots for mounting bolts that allow you to affix your toilet to it. The flange not only provides access to the toilet drain but also acts as a mounting bracket to keep your toilet stationary and prevent tipping.
Toilet flanges are also installed with a wax ring that gets compressed between the toilet bowl stand and your flooring. This wax fills the space around your flange to prevent any water and waste material from leaking out onto your bathroom floor.
What Do You Need To Know About Replacing a Toilet Flange?
Replacing a toilet flange may seem like a straightforward task, but there are several things you need to know before attempting to tackle this home improvement project.
Whether you plan to DIY the replacement or hire a professional plumbing company to do it for you, it helps to understand how a flange works, when and why they need to be replaced, and why issues with your toilet flange can be severe.
How Does a Toilet Flange Work?
The bottom of the toilet stand is flat, and your drainpipe is situated flush with the subfloor, so you need a piece of piping that can connect the toilet to your sewer line. A toilet flange consists of a flat piece of PVC or cast iron that sits against your subfloor and a small section of pipe that fits snugly inside the drainpipe below.
When it’s installed correctly with PVC glue around the pipe piece and a wax ring above, it creates a perfect seal that prevents water and sewage from entering your home. The flange allows for waste from your toilet to drain toward your main waste line and keeps your home protected from hazardous sewer gases that could otherwise enter your living space.
Once screwed and cemented into place, the flange also holds your toilet in place and prevents it from sliding along the floor and potentially cracking your PVC piping.
Why Do Toilet Flanges Need to Be Replaced?
Many homeowners use their toilets on a daily basis and never consider that pieces need to be replaced regularly, even if renovations aren’t being done. Your toilet flange is designed to last for years without causing any problems, but several things can lead to a failed seal in your flange.
One of the most common problems you’ll run into is with the wax ring, which keeps water from leaking out of the base of your toilet and prevents sewer gas from entering your home. Over time, the wax can dry out and become inefficient at maintaining a good seal. Degradation of the wax ring will require replacement of the flange and the wax.
The nuts that screw onto the mounting bolts and hold your toilet in place can loosen over time, especially as the toilet is repeatedly used. If your toilet shifts or moves in any way, the wax seal will crack and cause a failed seal. Water may not leak out depending on how severe the crack is, but unpleasant and potentially dangerous sewer gases will undoubtedly seep into your home through the break in the wax.
Finally, if you’re doing any kind of renovation in your bathroom that requires a toilet replacement, relocation of the existing toilet, or removing the fixture from the floor to access areas for painting or other work, your flange and toilet wax ring will both need to be replaced. Re-using flanges and wax rings is not wise, as this will undoubtedly lead to a leaky toilet base and issues with sewer gas.
When Do Toilet Flanges Need to Be Replaced?
Toilet flanges can usually last many years without needing replacement, but there are some circumstances that signify it’s time to swap out the flange and the wax ring.
If you ever notice water trickling out of the toilet base or pooling around the toilet on the floor, this is a reasonable indication that the seal beneath the plumbing fixture is broken and needs replacement.
Sewer gases will readily seep out from a flange if the wax seal is broken, so foul odors in your bathroom that aren’t linked to everyday use can signify a problem with the flange and wax ring.
Toilet movement is another good sign that your flange and wax need replacement. The wax seal beneath your toilet will dry out over time and can crack if the mounting bolts come loose and allow the toilet to move. If you ever notice the toilet move when you use it or if you can physically shift or rock the fixture, it’s time to replace the flange.
As we mentioned above, you should also replace the flange and wax ring if you ever need to carry out a toilet installation or replacement during a renovation or to access the drainpipe to clear a clog. Any time the wax seal is broken around the base of the toilet, the flange and ring should be replaced.
Is a Leaking Toilet Flange a Severe Problem?
Most of the time, when a toilet flange leaks, you’ll notice a minimal amount of water puddling on the floor around the fixture. It may seem like a relatively minor issue, but it’s very severe and should be addressed with urgency.
Part of the reason is that most of the water leaking out of the wax ring above your toilet flange will seep onto your subfloor and won’t be visible from above the bathroom flooring. Your subfloor will gradually get wet, causing it to deteriorate and rot. The floor can become spongy and weak over time and leave you with instability.
Wet wood material, including your subfloor and floor joists below, can promote mold growth under your flooring. Mold will not only eat away at your building material, but it can also release spores and affect your indoor air quality. You may experience allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock in severe cases.
Lastly, if your toilet flange is leaking water, it’s also leaking sewer gas into your home. Sewer gas is a significant health hazard and should never be inhaled, as it can cause severe illness.
Additionally, sewer gas can contain methane and hydrogen sulfide, both of which are combustible. Leaving a leaking toilet flange unrepaired could cause your home to fill with explosive gases and put your house and family at risk.
Can You Replace a Toilet Flange Yourself?
Replacing a toilet flange is a relatively straightforward process in theory, and experienced DIYers might be able to tackle this home improvement project themselves. However, mistakes can be very costly and potentially put your home at risk of flooding, explosion, and severe property damage.
As such, we recommend hiring a professional plumber to replace the flange for you. The job is quick and painless for an expert, and the relatively low cost for the plumbing service is worth the peace of mind you’ll get.
How Do You Replace a Toilet Flange?
The first step to replacing your toilet flange is removing your old toilet. You can begin by closing the shut off valve on the water supply line behind your toilet and disconnecting it from the tank. Next, make sure that the water in the toilet tank and the bowl is emptied.
You can do this by flushing until no more water comes out and then using a plunger on the dry toilet to push any water caught in the trap out of the fixture.
Once the toilet is empty, disconnect the tank from the bowl and set it aside. Pop off the bolt caps on the base of your toilet with a screwdriver, and then begin unbolting the bowl stand. Once you have the nuts off, lift the bowl off the bolts, and set it aside on an old towel or tarp.
The bowl contains that trap that prevents sewer gas from seeping into your home, so stuff an old rag into the drainpipe in the floor to prevent excess gas from entering your bathroom. Be sure not to let the rag fall deep into the pipe.
Next, use a scraper to remove the wax from the underside of your toilet and the old flange. Unscrew the flange from the subfloor and remove it. You may need to use a Sawzall and a chisel to cut the cemented flange out, but be very careful not to damage the pipe to which it’s attached. Clean up the area and ensure no debris is left behind that will compromise your seal on the new flange.
Remove the rag from the drain. Then, using PVC primer and cement, attach the new toilet flange to the existing drainpipe. Make sure to position the bolt slots on the outside of the flange so that your toilet will sit straight once mounted. Screw the flange to your subfloor, and then wait for the PVC glue to dry.
Slide the bolt heads into the bolt slots on the flange and position them so that your toilet sits properly. Place your new wax ring on the flange, and then lit the bowl onto the new wax ring and toilet flange, making sure the bolts slip through the mounting holes on your bowl. Wiggle the toilet back and forth gently to compress the wax ring appropriately.
Place washers and nuts on the mounting bolts and tighten with a wrench. Replace the bolt caps, and then re-mount the tank and attach it to the bowl. Then, reconnect the supply line, set the flapper and flush valve properly, and turn the speedy valve on.
It’s best to test the seal by pouring a small amount of water into the bowl and ensuring that none leaks out of the base. Once you’ve confirmed the seal is good, you can let your tank fill and then use the toilet as usual.
Check out the below video for a visual instruction guide on how to replace your toilet flange:
When Should You Hire A Professional To Replace a Toilet Flange?
Replacing your own toilet flange can be a reasonably straightforward process, but mistakes can be dangerous. If you’re at all uncomfortable with the project, don’t hesitate to call in a plumber for help. The cost is relatively low, and the peace of mind they’ll provide is certainly worth the investment.
Additionally, if you’ve replaced your own toilet flange in the past and continue to have issues with sewer odors in your bathroom or leaking on the floor, it’s best to call in an expert to do the job correctly. Neglecting to do so can cause severe water damage to your home and potentially fill your house with dangerous and explosive gases.
How Much Does Replacing a Toilet Flange Cost?
If you plan to replace your toilet flange and wax ring yourself, all of the supplies you need will usually cost under $40. If you’re using a cast iron flange rather than a PVC flange, your total installation cost will be closer to $75.
The national average cost to have a plumber replace your flange is around $175. This includes the parts and labor cost, so it’s one of the most inexpensive plumbing repairs for your bathroom.
Keep in mind that the above costs don’t include mold remediation or replacement of damaged materials like subfloor, floor joists, or sheetrock. These additional costs may apply if your leak has persisted for some time without being repaired.
What Should You Look For In A Toilet Replacement Specialist?
When you’re searching for an expert to replace your toilet flange, it’s best to choose a licensed plumber with years of experience.
General contractors and handymen may be able to do the job for you for a more affordable price, but with a master plumber, you’re far less likely to get an improper installation that can result in property damage. A plumber will cost a bit more, but it’s usually worth the higher pricing.
Plumbers typically either charge a flat rate or hourly rates for their work. For a simple job like a toilet flange replacement, we suggest opting for one that provides flat-rate pricing. This will ensure you don’t end up spending more for a slower installation or any errors made.
Additionally, we recommend choosing a professional who offers a warranty or satisfaction guarantee. A plumber who promises you’ll be satisfied with the job is far more likely to carry out a professional and proper installation.