Caulking a Toilet

Caulking a toilet is a job many people do if they are looking to seal the space between their toilet’s base and their bathroom floor. They do this to keep the toilet from rocking or keep any unwanted odors under the toilet. 

It is a fairly easy project that many home improvers will likely perform at some point when working on their bathrooms, however the job requires some preparation before it can be done. 

In this post you will find out how to caulk your toilet step-by-step, see some common mistakes to avoid, and find a few answers to some frequently asked questions. Before we begin, let’s start with whether it is a good idea to caulk your toilet in the first place.

pressing caulk out

Is it a Good Idea to Caulk Your Toilet?

Caulking is one of the most hot button topics plumbers and DIYers will debate over. There are solid arguments on both sides and both home inspectors and plumbers will take one side or the other based mostly on either past experiences or their own personal bias.

Why You Should Not Caulk Around Your Toilet

Those who say caulking is a bad idea believe that the job creates another barrier to work through besides the wax seal and bolts. It is just more work than it’s worth and could even damage bathroom floor tiles if it is removed wrong.

Probably the main gripe against caulking is that it hides leaks as well. Bad leaks will usually be visible because of the water that seeps out of the bottom of the toilet. Caulking around the entire toilet will trap that water under it and could make matters much worse before the leak is noticed.

Why You Should Caulk Around Your Toilet

Those who support caulking typically say the noticing leaks problem can easily be subverted by not caulking completely around the back of the toilet just in case. Plus, it prevents water from getting under the toilet that could damage the pipes or wax seal underneath. 

Also, for those that find their toilet is beginning to rock from side to side, caulking is almost necessary to stop it. A wobbly toilet is something that needs to be fixed immediately and caulking is one of the easiest ways to do it.

How to Properly Caulk a Toilet

Step 1: Get Rid of Any Old Caulk

If there is already an older caulk seal around your toilet’s base, you will have to scrape off that caulk first. You can utilize a simple razor knife to get under the caulk at one point and it typically can be pulled up as one strip.

There are also fairly cheap caulk removal tools available at most hardware stores that work perfectly for the job.

Step 2: Clean Around the Toilet’s Base

Clean up debris like paint chips, rust, or dirt around the toilet’s base before applying any caulk. You can use any general bathroom cleaner and an old towel to clean around it. How tight the seal is will depend on how clean the floor was before applying the caulk.

Step 3: Put Masking Tape Around the Toilet

The tape will help guide you when squeezing the caulk around your toilet. It also will make sure that no excess caulk gets on the bathroom floor as it will just get on the tape which will eventually just get thrown away once the job is finished.

Step 4: Start Caulking

Squeeze out the caulk along the space between the floor and the base of your toilet. Apply the caulk slow and steady while trying to be as consistent as possible with how much caulk is in one spot. If you have a caulk gun for this job, it will help a ton.

Caulk all the way around the toilet or (if you are worried of leaks) leave a small spot uncaulked somewhere behind the toilet that is unlikely to get any water trapped under it. 

blue caulking gun

Step 5: Get Rid of Excess Caulk

Use your fingers to do one last run over the caulk so it is completely in the space between the toilet’s base and the floor. The caulk on your finger is part of the excess and should be wiped off with an old towel or rag.

If you are a bit squeamish about using your bare hands, find a pair of disposable gloves and do the same thing.

Step 6: Clean and Let the Caulk Cure

Peel off the masking tape from before slowly and make sure whatever caulk is on it does not spill onto the floor around you. Throw away the tape with whatever excess caulk is left on it.

Use a sponge or wet rag to clean up around the caulking area with whatever debris is left from the job so it does not dry to your floor and become much harder to clean up. There is no need for any floor cleaners or soap, the water will absorb any debris easily.

Lastly check the instructions on the caulk’s container to see how long it needs to cure for and simply let it sit. Most regular caulk will take around a day to fully cure but there are some “fast-curing” caulks available that can take much less time as well.

Common Mistakes

Caulking around a toilet is an easy task but requires a lot of attention to detail and can either look poor or damage your floors if done wrong. Here are a few mistakes to keep away from when caulking:

1. Can I Caulk to Hide Leaks?

Caulking will not fix a leak underneath your toilet, in fact, it will make it much worse. The water will get trapped underneath and cause all kinds of damage that can make for some very expensive repairs to your plumbing.

2. Cut the Caulk Tube Open Right

The tips on tubes of caulk are not pre-opened so that the user can cut them to match the gap between their toilet’s base and the floor. You should measure this gap beforehand to make sure you cut the tip wide enough to successfully caulk your toilet.

Cut the tip of the tube a little more narrow than the toilet’s gap between the floor and adjust your squeezing strength when necessary to get the right amount of caulk around the toilet’s gap.

3. Do Not Try to Speed Up the Curing Process

If you do not have the money for a fast-curing caulk do not try to heat the caulk up to force it to dry quicker. Many people make the mistake of using a blow dryer or space heater to speed up the curing but this typically has the opposite effect.

The heat from a blow dryer or space heater is too high and will cause the caulk to actually cure slower. Caulk requires air to dry out and there really is no way to speed up the curing process without altering the chemical composition of the caulk itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Required by Law to Caulk Around a Toilet?

Surprisingly, yes, there are two plumbing codes that require caulking around a toilet. However, these codes are only enforced sometimes because of the ongoing debate on whether caulking is necessary or not.

Those against the necessity of caulking say the toilet’s wax ring is enough to keep the toilet from jarring loose, while those for it say that it is not enough and there should be that safety net to keep the toilet from rocking.

Can You Caulk Before Installing a Toilet?

You can and many plumbers will tell you it will get you a better seal. It is certainly harder, for you will have to be pretty precise with the caulk to make sure the toilet fits properly in the seal. However, you can do it either way and it should work just fine.

Is There a Difference Between White and Clear Caulk?

In terms of application, no. Clear and white caulk operate the same but are simply made different to blend into different bathroom floors better. It is all a matter of personal preference whether you use clear or white caulk.

Wrap-Up

So that is the ins and outs of caulking around a toilet. The job itself is a pretty common one and easy to do with some careful application and is even easier with the right tools on hand. 

The debate on whether caulking should be required is still going on and, in the end, it is up to you to pick the side you think is right. In some cases, it is necessary while in others it could do more harm than good. 

Be sure to follow the steps in the how-to guide above as closely as possible when doing this job as it requires a good amount of precision and can get messy very quickly if done wrong. Refer to the mistakes to avoid to see how others have made this process harder than it had to be. 

Other than that, good luck on the task and hopefully you have all the knowledge you need for it now!

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