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Thread: Is there a way to replace closet bolt without removing the toilet?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member TheBreeze's Avatar
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    Question Is there a way to replace closet bolt without removing the toilet?

    Hi All,

    My wife was cleaning around the toilet and discovered that one closet bolt was rusty and loose. In fact, it came right out. I had to remove the toilet three years ago to paper behind it, so these closet bolts are only three years old! (At that time, I used new closet bolts and a new wax ring.) But, I didn't put the caps on the bolts because I didn't want to cut them short enough to let the caps fit, so that might have sped up the rusting process by failing to protest the bolts from toilet condensation (but still--three years?).

    I went into the basement, and can see that there is no leak. The hole in the plywood floor is just slightly larger than the toliet drain pipe, so I can't see the underside of the flange or the wide part of the bolts. But, I can see that there's no leak.

    Is there a way to replace a closet bolt without removing the toilet? Besides that hassle of removing it and replacing the wax ring, my wife has a shelf unit that would have to come out to let the toilet come out. I can't think of a way to do this, but thought I'd ask you plumbing experts before taking out the shelving unit and removing the toilet.

    Thanks,

  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    You can't replace a closet bolt without removing the bowl.
    Pull the bowl, and next time pick up brass bolts. Not the coated steel bolts. Those few pennies saved weren't worth it.

  3. #3
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    When you go to the hardware store, take a moment and examine a flange. You will notice the flange bolts fit into a slot that is wide on one end. Flange bolts had a wide flat head that slips into the wide end and then follows the slot around. When you do this examination, you will realize why the toilet has to be pulled to replace the bolts. One other thing. You will need a new wax ring. Wax rings are not reusable. When the toilet is installed, it compresses the ring to create the seal. Once the seal is broken, the wax does not reform itself to the original size. Be sure you get a ring that does not have a plastic funnel on one side. When you reset the toilet, disregard the instructions on the box, and place the ring on the flange then lower the toilet into place. Most of us buy 2 extra nuts to go the bolts. Put the bolts in place and secure them to the flange with these nuts. That will keep the bolts upright while you lower the toilet. The is plenty of room under the toilet for these nuts. As Terry says, get brass bolts not steel plated. Also pick up a tube of Dap caulk to recaulk the toilet base. This is a latex caulk and is preferred over silicone.

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    DIY Junior Member TheBreeze's Avatar
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    Thanks, guys. I'm fairly expericed with home repairs, and didn't see a way to replace that closet bolt without removing the fixture. It was a shot in the dark to see if there was some "old plumber's trick" or special fastener to save the time and trouble, and no shock to find out there isn't anything like that.

    The 2-nut suggestion and tip to use brass bolts are new, though, and I'm going to use them. When I pick up the brass bolts, I'll get a spare set--the ones that rusted came out of my spare parts drawer, and I'd rather have the right stuff in there.

    Thanks again.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If the subflooring is wood, you could use a hanger bolt through the floor, but that is less than ideal, since I've never seen one in SS or brass, and it would eventually rust out (or at least could). By far, the better way to do this is just put in the bolt designed for it. What you MIGHT find when you pull the toilet, though, is that the toilet flange was a painted steel ring, and it, too is rusted. They do make a SS repair one - it comes in two pieces that fit into the slot of the old one you have to carefully cut off. Or, it could be a plastic ring, and those are notorious for breaking.

    ALso, what I've found is that some of the flange bolt kits (especially at the big box stores) are not threaded down far enough to actually use that second nut to anchor it to the flange...found that in the last package I bought at Lowes...pissed me off, since I'd bought some extra nuts and washers. THe ones bought at a plumbing supply house are more likely to work, and those often come with the second set of nuts and washers.
    Last edited by jadnashua; 12-28-2013 at 10:07 AM.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member TheBreeze's Avatar
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    OK, I replaced the wax ring and closet bolts, using brass bolts that were 1/16" larger than the ones I removed. Although one old bolt was so rusted it didn't even hold any more, the other was pristine--it was easy to unscrew the nut (no rust!). I found some plastic closet bolts in my "plumbing supplies drawer," but opted to get new brass ones.

    Out of curiosity, why couldn't I have used one of these:



    It would have been nice to leave the non-leaking wax ring alone, and not spend over an hour removing the cabinet around the toilet. (All the fasteners had to be removed an eighth of a turn at a time from the side, with bad access due to the tub on one side and sink cabinet on the other.
    Last edited by Terry; 01-02-2014 at 08:53 AM. Reason: added picture

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    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBreeze View Post
    Out of curiosity, why couldn't I have used one of these:
    http://c.shld.net/rpx/i/s/pi/mp/2434...sm=0.9,0.5,0,0

    It would have been nice to leave the non-leaking wax ring alone, and not spend over an hour removing the cabinet around the toilet. (All the fasteners had to be removed an eighth of a turn at a time from the side, with bad access due to the tub on one side and sink cabinet on the other.
    How would you have gotten the existing bolts out of the way? And if you could have somehow done that, maybe through-bolts would have been easier. Just speculating... it's not as if I have ever done either.

  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBreeze View Post
    Out of curiosity, why couldn't I have used one of these:


    I did suggest that as a possibility, but it has problems...the better way is to do what you did.

    Yes, I know those come in various sizes, but it is not solid brass or SS, so could rust out. Look at where the wood screw ends and the machine screw starts. You'd have problems getting it installed where it had a good bite on the subflooring and still have threads where you could anchor the toilet. If you found one in the right non-rusting material and where the length was proper so it could get a good grip AND there was actually solid subflooring under there to screw into, it could work...it might not. Back to the better to bite the bullet and do it right situation.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Junior Member TheBreeze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reach4 View Post
    How would you have gotten the existing bolts out of the way? And if you could have somehow done that, maybe through-bolts would have been easier. Just speculating... it's not as if I have ever done either.
    As I wrote in the original post, "one closet bolt was rusty and loose. In fact, it came right out." I would have left the other "regular" closet bolt in place because it was pristine.

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member TheBreeze's Avatar
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    The toilet sits just above the furnace in the basement. There's a lot of water around the furnace right now, so the installation must have had something go wrong. I can see a little bit of water on the vertical pipe that goes to the main drain pipe which connects all the sinks. It was really difficult to get the two toilet holes over the bolts, so maybe there was some side motion instead of only vertical.

    Plus, I suspect I made a mistake (although I don't think it would account for the leak). Each closet bolt has a captured washer, and I put that under the collar...maybe I should have put just the oval bolt head under the collar and put the washer above the collar to help hold the bolt vertical?

    Anyway, I need to pick up yet another wax ring and try again.

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    When you pull the old wax ring, note how tightly it was smashed. See http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...-two-wax-rings -- particularly #8.

  12. #12
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The pros like to use two sets of nuts and washers...one set to firmly anchor the bolts to the flange, and a second set to anchor the toilet. Some of the cheaper bolts don't have threads cut far enough for that to work, though (but would if you bought a pack with them already in it).

    Normally, if the toilet flange is on top of the finished floor, one wax ring is fine to seal it. But, also realize that if the toilet rocks at all on the floor, it will break the seal, regardless of the wax seal.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Senior Member wjcandee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBreeze View Post
    Each closet bolt has a captured washer, and I put that under the collar...maybe I should have put just the oval bolt head under the collar and put the washer above the collar to help hold the bolt vertical?
    If you're not going to double-nut, you are correct. We usually double-nut. One nut to hold the bolt sticking up from the flange; one nut and washer to hold the toilet in place.

  14. #14
    DIY Junior Member TheBreeze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBreeze View Post
    The toilet sits just above the furnace in the basement. There's a lot of water around the furnace right now, so the installation must have had something go wrong. I can see a little bit of water on the vertical pipe that goes to the main drain pipe which connects all the sinks. It was really difficult to get the two toilet holes over the bolts, so maybe there was some side motion instead of only vertical.

    Plus, I suspect I made a mistake (although I don't think it would account for the leak). Each closet bolt has a captured washer, and I put that under the collar...maybe I should have put just the oval bolt head under the collar and put the washer above the collar to help hold the bolt vertical?

    Anyway, I need to pick up yet another wax ring and try again.
    I had found some water around the furnace, so I had a son flush the toilet while I was looking directly at the toilet drain pipe. About 4 ounces of water came out...Yuk! So, I put in a new wax ring. I picked up a bunch of extra items with the intention of retuning what I didn't use. When I removed the old ring, some of it was squeezed into the center. I also checked the spacing: The drain exit (sealing surface) was at the bottom surface of the toilet, and the spots where the closet bolts would go had about "one nuts thickness" of space. The drain flange was right at floor level.

    First off, I did double-nut the closet bolts. That made lining up the toilet to the bolts a 15 second job instead of a several minute exercise. Since the horn and the flange would be really close, I didn't use Terry's suggestion to use a plain wax ring *and* one with a plastic horn...but I found an extra thick wax ring with plastic horn, and used that. Had there been more space to take up, I'd have used that idea. Also, I put the wax against the toilet (like the directions said) instead of placing the ring on the drain flange which I'd always done before.

    Now, everything works the way it should. Thanks for the help.

  15. #15
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    I don't know any plumbers that take the wax box instructions seriously.
    We put the wax seal on the floor flange.

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