How To Fix a Wobbly Toilet

A wobbly toilet has to be one of the most frustrating things in the world. Chairs and concerts are much more suited to rocking. When a toilet rocks, the feeling it gives is unsettling.

When a toilet wobbles, it means that it is not held securely to the floor. Many times, this is caused by loose bolts, and other times, the problem is with the flange, a round pipe fitting underneath the toilet base that connects the toilet to the drain pipe. If the flange of a toilet isn’t leveled with the surrounding flooring, the toilet gets raised in the center. This causes the toilet to get shaky and rock to both sides.

If you have a wobbly toilet on your hands, it’s high time you fixed it. Delaying any longer might cause bigger problems such as sewer gas leakage. It can even cause a water leak that can damage your home! Why risk that when you can fix it yourself?

A wobbly toilet can be simply fixed by tightening loose bolts. In a more serious case of an unlevel flange and floor, you have to locate the gap and cover it with shims. Then, seal the base with caulk and let it dry.

Fixing a wobbly toilet might not be the easiest chore — it does take some time. But with this guide, you can get it done and have your toilet back in shape. Let’s get right into it!


Check the Bolts

Before springing into full plumber mode, you should check the bolts first. The problem could be a simple loosening of the two flange bolts at the base of the toilet. Check the one on each side and if any is loose, tighten it. If you find a broken bolt, you should replace it.

You’re working with a delicate material, so it is important that you do this carefully. Tighten the bolt slowly just until it is snug. Once you feel some resistance, let it be and move to the other one.

After tightening the loose bolts, check if the toilet still wobbles. If it still does, you can proceed with the main fix.


Look for Signs of Leakage

The first major step to repairing a wobbly toilet is looking for signs of leakage. Check the base of the toilet carefully for signs of water. If you don’t find any, you can proceed to the next step. But if there are leaks around the base, it means that there is something wrong with the wax ring sealing the toilet horn to the flange opening.

If the wax ring is broken or compressed, you can easily repair it with a repair kit. If it’s old and beyond repair, you would have to remove the toilet and replace it.


Test the Floor for Gaps

Check the floor around the flange opening and try to find any gaps between the toilet and the floor. Watch out for small spaces, as even the smallest one can be an issue.

To increase your chances of finding the gaps, try swaying the toilet from side to side, and if the gaps are too small to see, you can slide a shim under the base. You can determine the extent of the holes by how far the shim goes in.


Insert the Shims

Once you identify any gaps, insert some shims to help level the toilet. The best shims to use are the small plastic ones with ridges. Wooden shims work, yes, but I do not recommend them as they are prone to moisture damage. They also compress with time, and since you can easily find plastic shims at hardware stores and home centers, you should totally get those.

Throw in the shims in different positions depending on the holes. Don’t just assume the toilet is leveled. Sit on it and rock in all directions to test for stability. If the toilet doesn’t move in any direction, you’re good to go. But until it’s steady, keep throwing in the shims.

Once you’re satisfied with the level of stability the toilet has attained, you should secure the shims. Apply a dab of caulk under them and let it stay overnight.

Once the caulk is dry, the next step is to trim the shims. Using a sharp utility knife, trim closely to the base of the toilet so that no part is stuck out. You should do this part carefully as you don’t want to cut into the flooring.


Caulk the Base

Now that you’ve done a good job of balancing the toilet, all you need to do is seal the gaps along the floor with caulk. This step is necessary for a finished look. It will also prevent mop water and crud from getting under the toilet base. 

Apply an even amount of caulk around the base of the toilet. You might want to stop with the caulk when you get to the backside of the base. Sealing all around the base traps water from a leak so that you don’t even realize there’s one. But if you don’t leave a part of the base without caulk, leaking water will run out onto the floor when there’s a leak, so that you know. And the best part to leave is the backside, where no one can see.

Once you’re done applying the caulk, smoothen it with your fingers. This might be a little messy, but you can frequently wipe your finger clean with a paper towel or rag while you do that. Then, let it dry. This can take one to three days, depending on the product you use, but standard caulks get fully cured in a day.

You’re all done! Your toilet should be pretty stable by now. Now, you can do your business without any of the nervousness of a toilet suddenly rocking to one side.

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