I'm wondering if I got a bad plumber...

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Chris Branscome

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Houston, TX
We noticed that our master bath toilet was leaking around the base. It was an old toilet with a big tank and we'd wanted to replace it anyway. When I pulled the toilet up I found that the flange had almost completely corroded away and the closet bolts were no longer doing their job. After removing what was left of the metal part of the flange I found that there was about a 2 1/2" gap all the way around the waste pipe, so the flange wasn't attached to the slab. It had just been glued to the waste pipe. I saw a few videos about how to remove glued-down flanges but I didn't want to risk breaking the waste pipe so I called in a plumber.

This guy had good reviews on Google, and was recommended by a few people in our neighborhood Facebook group. He was an older guy (73) and had been a plumber for about 35 years. He successfully removed the old flange and then looked at our pipe and the gap around it. He found some roots that had worked their way into the gap (but not the pipe), so he took the roots out and poured some salt down into the gap to discourage more root growth.

But then - and this is where I started wondering - he said we should mix some rock salt with concrete and pour it down into the gap, which he did. He didn't entirely fill in the gap, but stopped about 5" from the surface of the foundation. Next, he glued a flange onto the waste pipe, mixed some more concrete, this time without salt, poured it around the edge of the flange and used his hands to work the concrete down into the gap beneath the flange. This brought the level of the concrete up to within about 1.5" of the bottom of the flange.

He gave me lots of detailed instructions for how to install the toilet. Part of that included telling me to use grout, not caulk, around the base. He said to push it under the edge really well, as this would create a mold around the bottom that would provide stability. Today, I was going to install but found that the flange is not level with the floor. It's about 1/2" above the surface of the tile on one side, between 1/4 and 3/8" on the other.

This guy has had decades of experience so I'm ready to trust his work over my uneducated opinions. I'm also well aware of people's tendency to read a little bit online and think they're an expert so I want to avoid that, which is why I want to bring my questions here.

1) Is adding rock salt to concrete okay? Won't salt absorb water and change the way the concrete sets? And won't big chunks of salt eventually dissolve, leaving air pockets in the concrete?
2) Wouldn't it have been better to bring the concrete level with the foundation and then screwed the flange to the new concrete? Is it okay that it's just glued to the waste pipe?
3) How much of a problem is it that the flange isn't level? Will the wax seal take care of that?
4) I get mixed answers regarding caulk vs grout around the base when I dig around online but the majority seem to be in favor of caulk, so long as there's a little bit of a gap somewhere so we can see if things are leaking. What's the consensus here?

Jeff H Young

In the Trades
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I never used salt I could see some salt below the concrete but mixed in I dont know about that. If the pipe goes down deep befor turning its more stable, Ive done differant things and seen differant type ways of doing a job a good way I think can work is take your rust resistant long brass wood screws bend the ends and drop down the screw holes and then pour your concrete that ring aint going no place.
I leave a gap in the caulk at the rear where you dont notice a break in the caulk . Old school grout well it holds the toilet I used to sometimes set toilets befor the floor is grouted and let the tile guy grout it in when I was new to plumbing but to me it was a tactic to being lazy thats how I got taught I disagreed but followed the bosses lead. Good luck pulling those toilets and replacing but when its good its good no rocking of the toilet
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