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posted: 11/30/2013 1:00 AM

Damaged flooring around toilet may mean a leak

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By Dwight Barnett

Q. I recently noticed a stain on the vinyl flooring next to the toilet. I've tried to clean the stain, but it appears to be under the vinyl flooring. What causes this and how can it be treated?

A. When I see a stain next to a toilet, my first thought is that the toilet bowl is leaking where it is attached to the sewer pipe at the floor.

Try to rock the toilet bowl from side to side to see if it is loose. A loose toilet bowl needs to be removed to see how much, if any, damage has been caused by the leak.

The vinyl flooring will need to be replaced, and you should also inspect and replace any water-damaged subflooring you might find. It would be best to install a new floor covering before the toilet bowl is installed.

Now, let's concentrate on how to repair the leak. Turn off the water supply to the toilet tank, drain the tank by holding the handle down and then use a sponge to remove the remaining water.

If you do not have a shut-off valve for the toilet, shut off the main water supply to the home. I would recommend that you add a shut-off valve for the toilet so the water to the home can be turned on again.

With basic DIY skills, the entire repairs can be completed in less than two hours. However, if you run into problems, the repairs could take a day or two.

Important: If you have any qualms about tackling this project, however, consult a professional.

Disconnect and remove the water-supply pipe to the toilet.

The toilet, including the tank, can be removed if you have a helper to assist you. Otherwise, remove the tank before removing the bowl. Remove the two nuts at the floor, one on either side of the toilet bowl, using a wrench or channel lock pliers.

The bowl still contains water that needs to be poured out so that the bowl can be turned upside down. Remove the old wax ring from the bottom of the bowl and from the flange on the floor.

If the flange is cracked or broken, you will need to install a replacement flange available at most home and hardware stores. Once the bowl and flange are clean, apply a new wax ring to the bottom of the bowl and carefully reset the bowl over the floor flange while lining up the two bolts at the floor. Press down on the bowl and reattach the two nuts. Tighten the nuts slowly and evenly to prevent cracking of the toilet bowl. Reattach the tank using new bolts and seals and install a new flexible water pipe to the shut-off valve.

Things you will need:

Channel locks or spanner wrench

Sponge and towels

Replacement wax ring

New flexible water-supply pipe

Things you might need:

Flange repair kit

New floor bolts

New tank bolts and sealer kit

Large screwdriver or a reciprocating saw with metal cutting blades (to remove the tank bolts)

Water shut-off valve

New refill valve and flapper valve for the tank

• Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at

Scripps Howard News Service

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