Expert Answers: Resetting a Toilet

When your bathroom remodel involves raising the height of the floor, how do you build up the height of the toilet? HANDY has the answer.

Q: We had our bathroom’s vinyl floor upgraded to porcelain tile (including a cement backer board). The two layers raised the floor height, leaving the toilet drain 3/4 in. lower than the floor surface. To build up the drain, our contractor installed extra wax rings and reset the toilet; now the toilet often requires an extra flush to clear the bowl. Should the drain have been replaced so it reaches the floor level? - John Huston, La Marque, TX

A: Licensed plumber Joe Robillard of Robillard Plumbing in Plymouth, Minnesota, says that fixing a recently reset toilet is one of his most frequent service calls. "A lot can happen [in resetting the toilet], and I can't tell what that is until the toilet is pulled up," he says.

When remodeling involves raising the height of the floor, the ideal solution is to bring the flange up to floor level, Joe says. But that approach is complicated and costly (at least $300 to $400) -- more than most people want to pay for simply replacing a toilet. So flooring contractors and DIYers often tackle the job another way: adding extra wax rings or flange extensions. Joe cautions that flange extensions are not foolproof to install: You can damage the drain, the toilet and/or the flooring and end up with hidden leaks – and a really high repair bill down the line.

Another common hazard in setting toilets is that objects easily fall in the drain while resetting the toilet or in the course of remodeling, leading to clogs or slow draining.

Most often, Joe compensates for a higher floor by stacking a couple of wax rings over the flange and carefully guiding the toilet straight down onto the drain, avoiding squishing the wax toward the opening. Squarely seating a toilet is a delicate maneuver, and an imperfect attempt can lead to the problems you're experiencing. - HANDY

Check out the photo above. To reset a toilet after adding a new layer of flooring, you can accommodate the extra thickness with (A) additional spacer rings (sealed between each ring by a bead of silicone, (B) a flange extender, (C) a double layer of wax rings or (D) a SaniSeal gasket (or two).