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Thread: Finding correct wax seal for 70-year old bathroom. Smell won't go away!

  1. #1

    Default Finding correct wax seal for 70-year old bathroom. Smell won't go away!

    I have a 71-year-old house, although I believe the toilet in our upstairs bathroom has been replaced at some point. A few weeks ago I noticed a smell in the bathroom. The toilet was not loose and didn't wobble, but I decided to replace the wax seal anyway.

    After pulling the toilet I was looking at the 7th level of hell. What used to be wax looked like... well, indescribable filth. I cleaned it all up and noticed that I had what I think is called a closet flange? It was metal, raised off the floor so that I could stick a screw driver under the lip, and seemed soldered onto the drain pipe. There were slots, not holes, for the screws.

    I pulled out a black plastic funnel thing from the flange that was utterly disgusting. Then when I went to the hardware store I bought a wax ring with the plastic piece already installed in it. There was only one kind to choose from so I thought it was universal.

    It seemed like it was smaller than the old dirty one I removed. Like it wouldn't fit as snugly. But I thought the most important part would be the wax seal. So I fit the wax onto the bottom of the toilet -- that part fit perfectly -- then reinstalled the toilet.

    Everything was fine for the first day, but now the smell is back. I'm thinking that I might need to dig in the trash can and pull out the original black plastic funnel piece and just buy the wax ring by itself.

    Is this a good plan? Are there different size black plastic funnels in the wax rings? Should I just buy one that fits, if it actually exists? I'd hate to have to clean that nasty old one.

    Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    If the flange is high enough, you don't need the funnel.
    And not having the funnel will not make a diffence in smell.

    Did you take the toilet outside and wash between the tank and bowl?
    Think about it...........

  3. #3
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    There is another DIYer who is experiencing the similar problem trying to use a wax ring with the horn. Generally, these are of no value in sealing between the flange and toilet, and can cause problems such as you are experiencing. Technically speaking, the flanges should be sitting on top of the floor and be screws down to the sub floor, but since you say the toilet sets solidly on the floor and the flanges is solidly attached to the drain, you probably are OK. Just use what I call a "Plain Jane" wax ring.

  4. #4

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    Thanks Terry. I removed all water from both the tank and the bowl and I thoroughly scrubbed the bottom of the toilet. The bottom of the tank was actually pretty clean.

    I will say that the water in the tanks, while initially clear, got kind of brown and murky when there was only an inch or so left. Do you think that the tank could be causing the smell?

    I also replaced the spud gasket between the tank/bowl since the old one had started to deteriorate.

    After a seven-hour stint replacing the wax seal I am so depressed about this smell coming back. Perhaps I didn't sit on the toilet hard enough to properly seal the wax? The screws in the flange kind of wobbled a bit since the slot was so wide, but they seem to be straight up and I tightened them pretty well, without cracking the bowl. And the toilet doesn't wobble.

    I read that the smell could be coming from the exhaust pipe that exits through my roof, if a critter fell into it. But that pipe doesn't seem to be right above the toilet. It seems to be above our shower, which shares a wall with our other bathroom. So both baths' might share one exhaust pipe. Since the other bathroom doesn't smell I figured this wasn't the problem.

    Oh boy.

  5. #5
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    You should have been able to feel the wax squish.
    If not, then there wouldn't be a seal between flange and bowl.
    If it's sealed, it doesn't matter what is in the pipe.

  6. #6

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    The toilet seemed to sit two inches off the floor when I set it down. Then I sat on it and squished it into place.

    I wonder if it was sitting up because of the black sleeve and that caused it to not seal properly. I guess the only way to tell is to take it off again and put a new seal on either without the funnel or with the old one.

    Crap. Literally.

    If the smell comes back I don't know what to do.

  7. #7
    Plunger/TurdPuncher kingsotall's Avatar
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    So I assume the smell you are smelling is the same smell if you put your face down near the opening to the "7th level of hell"?

    Quit using the wax ring with the horn and use a jumbo wax ring instead.

  8. #8
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    You need to have enough wax under the toilet so when you place the toilet on the flange you feel the wax compress slowly until the toilet finaly rests on the floor...kind of slowly floating down...hard to describe...you might also try placing the wax on the floor instead of the toilet...this is how I do it but then I do it for a living....

    It sounds like you have a brass flange and lead arm.

    If you pull the toilet again scrape the flange with a screwdriver or test with a magnet...you also need to check the lead carefully for holes...

    If all else fails you may need to call a plumber that is familiar with this problem...there is a way to do this but it can be hard to figure out when your a novice.

    One other thing...when you have the toilet pulled check the floor around the toilet and be sure there is no movement...by placing your foot next to the flange and transferring your weight from your 2 feet to the one next to the flange...be carefull...
    Last edited by Cass; 11-26-2008 at 04:54 AM.

  9. #9

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    Thanks Kingsotall and Cass. Fortunately the floor is solid as a rock. I pushed down all around the flange and their was no give whatsoever.

    While the flange was dirty as all hell it didn't have any holes in it. I scraped the heck out of it and it had a little bit of rust, but seemed pretty solid.

    I did get the "reinforced" wax ring -- I'm not sure if that's the jumbo though. And the toilet did sit up a few inches off the floor until I sat down on it and slowly squished it down. With the flange being raised, maybe I do need to get the Jumbo kind so that the wax goes all the way around it.

    I did notice last night that the smell wasn't as bad. I wonder if through use by the family (i.e. us sitting on it) the toilet got pushed down a little more and tightened the seal. The toilet doesn't rock at all, so I don't want to tighten the nuts and break the bowl. I felt like I tightened them pretty good. Maybe through a little more "use" the seal will finally take completely (fingers crossed).

    Thanks again everyone for your advice.

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    1. The funnel is part of the wax ring, not something you add to it.
    2. Few plumbers use wax rings with funnels because they cause more leaks than they fix.
    3. An thick wax ring is used when the flange is too FAR away from the bowl, not when the flange is in the air.
    4. Screw the flange to the floor so it does not move upwards when you tighten the bolts.
    5. IF you do everything correctly, and you still have an odor, you have some other problem, not a bad seal.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    1. The funnel is part of the wax ring, not something you add to it.
    2. Few plumbers use wax rings with funnels because they cause more leaks than they fix.
    3. An thick wax ring is used when the flange is too FAR away from the bowl, not when the flange is in the air.
    4. Screw the flange to the floor so it does not move upwards when you tighten the bolts.
    5. IF you do everything correctly, and you still have an odor, you have some other problem, not a bad seal.
    What I meant by me retrieving the old funnel from my trash was that the new funnel, which I know is part of the new wax ring, seems smaller. The old one seemed to fit snugly into the closet flange and then the old wax ring was on top of that. That's why I thought I should go back to square one. The new wax ring with the funnel inside of it didn't seem to fit as snugly. But as Terry mentions, I probably don't even need that funnel in the first place.

    I can't screw my flange to the floor because it's an old closet flange made of metal that is soldered to the pipe. It's meant to be off the floor. It can't move upwards.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. #12
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default funnel

    There were no funnels that were installed first and the wax ring installed over them. They were ALL part of the wax ring, regardless of what they look like when you remove it. You would be surprised how much lift a closet bolt can exert when it is tightened. And I have never seen any flange, even metal ones, without anchoring holes in them.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    There were no funnels that were installed first and the wax ring installed over them. They were ALL part of the wax ring, regardless of what they look like when you remove it. You would be surprised how much lift a closet bolt can exert when it is tightened. And I have never seen any flange, even metal ones, without anchoring holes in them.
    Gotcha. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I may need a professional.

  14. #14
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    You seem to be ignoring much of the advise several of us have offered. That's your choice of course, but if you review the basics of what has been said, there are two things that you should do that will almost certainly solve the problem. First, use several stainless steel screws to anchor the flange to the sub floor. Second, use a plain wax ring, no plastic horn or funnel. A third suggestion to replace the interior fitting flange would be of possible benefit, but would require some amount of effort and may or may not be necessary and can always be done in the future if the first two suggestions don't work.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Swart View Post
    You seem to be ignoring much of the advise several of us have offered. That's your choice of course, but if you review the basics of what has been said, there are two things that you should do that will almost certainly solve the problem. First, use several stainless steel screws to anchor the flange to the sub floor. Second, use a plain wax ring, no plastic horn or funnel. A third suggestion to replace the interior fitting flange would be of possible benefit, but would require some amount of effort and may or may not be necessary and can always be done in the future if the first two suggestions don't work.
    I'm not ignoring anyone's advice. I may have misunderstood the suggestion about anchoring the flange to the sub floor. But I will say that I tried to see if there was any movement with the flange (that is soldered to the drainage pipe) and there was none. I didn't see any anchor holes anywhere on that flange (I scraped it down pretty good, but maybe I missed them), there seemed to only be slots where the screws go that connect it to the toilet. Like I said, it's a 71-year-old house.

    My next course of action is to remove the wax ring I just installed and try a jumbo wax ring.

    If the smell goes away though, since last night it seemed to not be present, I wonder if I should just let it be and keep the wax seal with the funnel on there. I'm wondering if using the toilet has caused it to seal tighter. Or should I remove the plastic funnel no matter what?

    Thanks!

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