Fixing an Unstable Toilet

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Dear NH,
My toilet of 15 years is now tipping forward. Could this be caused by the original plumber's putty missing in the front of the toilet? The bolts appear to be on tight as we cannot move them. We stacked two pennies together in a couple of places and that seems to stop the tipping. Can this be used as a permanent solution?

If the flange is damaged, how would we know it? There doesn't appear to be any leaks around the toilet or in the basement ceiling under it. We really don't want to reinstall the toilet or have a plumber do it if the pennies will work.
KS from Kansas City, MO

Usually when a toilet starts moving after years of stability, my first instinct is to consider hidden leakage that has started rotting the floor or rusted through the flange. However, if you have thoroughly examined the flooring underneath the toilet from your basement and find absolutely no evidence of moisture, I would say that you just need to stabilize the toilet.

Now, there are two ways to approach this: the professional way and the cheap way. The professional way would be to disconnect the water supply and attempt to tip and/or lift the toilet. If the flange is sound and the toilet firmly attached, you should not be able to lift it. Then go on to the next paragraph. If it can be lifted, the toilet must be totally removed and the flange examined for breakage.

However, with no evidence of leakage, you can probably suffice with stabilizing the toilet. Once the toilet no longer rocks, the chance of damage to the seal is virtually zero. Your solution of the pennies as shims is on the mark, sort of. You just need to spread the load a little better to minimize the chance of cracking the bowl.

So remove the pennies and replace them with thin wood shims, making sure that they do not protrude beyond the underside of the bowl. Then fill any gaps around the base of the toilet with a quality mildew-resistant latex bathroom caulk. (I wouldn't use silicone since it is too flexible and doesn't stick as well.)

First, clean the area at the base as best as you can with denatured alcohol. Allow it to dry five to ten minutes before applying the caulk. Use your finger or a damp sponge to force it between the toilet and floor and to make a neat appearance.

Let the caulk dry for 24 hours before use and you should have a stable throne fit for a king or queen!

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