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What Type of Wax Ring Should I Use

10 min read • March 1st, 2024

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Heil Plumbing
types of wax rings

Embarking on DIY plumbing projects often presents a myriad of technical decisions, not least of which involves choosing the right wax ring for your toilet. This essential, yet often overlooked component, is vital for creating a water-tight seal between your toilet and the bathroom floor, effectively preventing leaks that can lead to extensive water damage. In our detailed guide, Ike from Eddie Helps offers expert advice on “what type of wax ring should I use,” exploring the various options available and their specific applications. Whether you’re fitting a brand new toilet or swapping out an old wax ring, a solid understanding of the types and functions of wax rings is key to ensuring a secure, leak-free installation.

Watch our step-by-step video for visual guidance, or keep reading to discover what type of toilet wax ring you might want to use.

What Does a Wax Ring Do for a Toilet? (0:46-1:34)

At the heart of a secure and leak-free toilet installation lies the seemingly insignificant, messy wax ring. Its purpose is straightforward and yet crucial: to create a watertight seal between the bottom of your toilet and the plumbing flange on the floor. While the flange serves to anchor the toilet in place, without a wax ring, water could easily escape with every flush. The pliable wax ring molds to fit the contours of both the toilet outlet and the flange, filling any gaps that could allow water to seep through. At the end of the day the type of wax ring you need is a wax ring that ensures that when you flush, water and waste go down the drain, not onto your bathroom floor. Not every type of toilet wax ring may be appropriate for every application. So what are the types of toilet wax rings?

Four Types of Wax Rings and When to Use Them (1:34-2:40)

Selecting the right wax ring for your toilet installation is more than a matter of preference; it’s about ensuring a leak-free seal tailored to your bathroom’s specific setup. Generally, you’ll encounter four main types of wax rings at your local hardware store:

  1. Standard wax ring size: This is the most basic form of wax ring, offering a standard thickness that works well for toilets where the toilet flange sits above the height of the bathroom floor. When the flange sits on top of the flooring, the toilet can sit fully on the flange which means you typically only need a regular wax ring to form a proper water-tight seal.
  2. Jumbo wax ring vs regular: For situations where the bathroom floor is level with the flange, the toilet may not compress a regular wax ring enough because it is not fully sitting on the flange but rather on the floor and on the flange. In this sceanrio, using a jumbo wax ring provides the extra thickness necessary to create a secure seal.
  3. Reinforced wax ring: This variant includes a reinforced core within the wax to prevent the ring from getting compressed out of shape over time. It’s particularly useful in heavy-duty applications.
  4. Jumbo reinforced wax ring: Combining the benefits of extra thickness and reinforcement, this type of wax ring is ideal for challenging installations where both height and durability are concerns.

It’s crucial to assess your bathroom’s specific situation before making a selection to ensure a lasting, leak-free installation. Let’s look at various bathroom scenarios and walk through how you might answer the question “What type of wax ring should I use?”

When the Flange Is on Top of the Floor (2:40-4:20)

Identifying the position of your toilet flange is a pivotal step before choosing the appropriate wax ring. When the flange is positioned on top of the bathroom floor, you’re presented with what many consider the ideal setup for a wax ring installation.

In such cases, a regular wax ring suffices to create an effective seal. The process involves placing the wax ring directly onto the flange, ensuring it’s centered and pressed down to mold precisely to the flange’s shape. This action not only secures the ring in place but also preps it for a robust seal once the toilet is installed.

what type of wax ring should I use depends a lot on where your flange sits in relation to the finished floor - the ideal scenario is shown here: the use of a standard wax ring for a flange above the finished floor

It’s worth noting that not all installations will have the flange on top of the floor. Variations in flooring height due to remodeling or different construction standards can result in flanges that are level with or seemingly recessed beneath the floor surface. Each scenario requires a different approach and possibly a different type of wax ring to ensure a leak-free installation. So what about these other scenarios?

When the Flange is Level With the Floor (4:20-7:32)

Encountering a toilet flange that’s level with the floor is another common scenario, particularly in homes where the flooring has been updated or layered over time. This situation can complicate the sealing process since the standard wax ring might not offer sufficient height to create a tight seal between the toilet base and the flange.

know when to use a jumbo wax ring vs regular is important and depends on the height of the flange in relation to the finished floor; if the flange and the floor are level you will probably need a jumbo wax ring

For flanges that are flush with the floor, opting for a jumbo wax ring is a practical solution. The jumbo wax ring is thicker than its standard counterpart, compensating for the lack of elevation and ensuring the toilet sits snugly against the flange. It’s essential to mold the jumbo wax ring to the flange carefully, pressing it down to adhere closely to the flange’s contours, which is crucial for maintaining a leak-free seal.

When the Flange is Beneath the Floor (7:32-9:32)

When multiple layers of flooring have been added over time, the floor’s surface can end up sitting above the flange. Does this matter when it comes to the type of wax ring you choose? Absolutely! A standard or even a jumbo wax ring alone probably will not suffice due to the significant gap created between the toilet base and the flange. So what should you do?

If Time Allows… Properly Addressing a Recessed Flange

A toilet flange that sits below the level of the flooring presents a unique challenge. The proper way to handle this situation is to pause your toilet repair or replacement and address the plumbing connection, mounting a new flange that again sits on top of the floor (as referenced above) or at the very least, even with the floor. The reality is however, you may not have the time or the resources to adjust the flange height.

Quick-Fix Method: How to Mount a Wax Ring to a Recessed Flange

In such cases, a creative approach is needed. Combining a standard wax ring on top of a jumbo wax ring can provide the additional height necessary to bridge the gap between the toilet base and the flange. This “stacking” method, while not a recommended long-term fix can be a temporary fix, ensuring a seal is formed when the toilet is set. If you choose this method, please carefully mold and place the stacked wax ring, as excess wax can easily squish into the center flange opening when setting your toilet, if you have not carefully accounted for how the excess wax will compress. Note that excess wax overhanging the flange opening can potentially cause toilet paper blockages.

can you use two wax rings on a toilet? Yes and no.

Though effective in a pinch, the “stacking” method not only can lead to blockages but can also result in a less-than-secure toilet base. Afterall, you will be relying on a pile of wax to compensate for the gap between the flange and the toilet. In other words, because your toilet is not directly sitting on the flange at all, you can end up with wobbly toilet.

All this to say, if you’re faced with a flange beneath the floor level, consult with a trusted local plumber to explore permanent solutions, such as flange extenders or replacement, to ensure a long-lasting and leak-free toilet installation.

How to Seal an Old Cast-Iron Flange (9:32-13:55)

Dealing with an old cast-iron flange presents a unique set of challenges, especially in homes built before the 1970s. These flanges are often larger and don’t accommodate standard wax rings well, leading to installation difficulties. DIY’ers typically don’t realize that setting a toilet on a standard wax ring to seal a cast-iron flange can easily cause the wax to fold into the middle of the often-oversized flange, effectively making a proper seal impossible.

So what’s the solution to address old cast-iron flanges?

Depending on the position of the flange in relation to the finished floor (do not skip over reading this section above), you have two options: 1) combine a regular and a jumbo wax ring or 2) opt for the use of a reinforced wax ring.

Method 1: combining a regular and a jumbo wax ring:

  1. To combine two wax rings, start by breaking a regular wax ring in half.
  2. Take about half of the regular wax and add it to the jumbo ring.
  3. Mold the two together to increase the diameter of the jumbo ring. This method obviously requires a bit of DIY skill, as it involves manually shaping the wax to fit the flange’s unique size.
  4. Finally, place your custom wax ring onto the cast-iron flange, setting it carefully so that the wax will not overhang the flange opening when compressed by the toilet.

Method 2: use a reinforced wax ring

Another method that some people use when trying to decide how to seal an old cast-iron flange, is to utilize a reinforced wax ring. More on that in a minute (keep reading). Just know that it should go without saying that when in doubt, always consult with a professional plumber.

What Are Reinforced Wax Rings (13:55-20:10)

Reinforced wax rings, characterized by their plastic funnel or bell embedded within the wax, offer a different approach to sealing toilets. These rings are designed to provide additional support and alignment when installing the toilet onto the flange.

what are reinforced toilet wax rings

Reinforced wax rings vs regular is a topic that often generates debate among DIYers and professionals alike. Here’s a breakdown of their advantages and disadvantages:

Pros and Cons of Reinforced Wax Rings

Pros:

  • Support and Alignment: The plastic reinforcement helps center the toilet on the flange, ensuring a more straightforward installation.
  • Prevents Wax from Entering the Drain: The funnel prevents the wax from squeezing into the drain pipe of larger flange openings like the old cast-iron flanges previously discussed, which could potentially lead to blockages.

Cons:

  • Potential for Damage During Maintenance: The plastic reinforcement can catch on augers or snakes used to clear toilet clogs, leading to damage or dislodgement of the wax ring and even blockages.
  • Limited Wax Contact with Flange: The presence of the plastic bell means less wax directly contacts the flange, which can reduce the effectiveness of the seal over time. And, if the toilet shifts or rocks, the limited wax seal can even wear away almost completely over time.
snaking a toilet with a reinforced wax ring can damage the wax ring

Reinforced Wax Ring vs Regular

So what type of wax ring should you choose? Many professional plumbers avoid reinforced wax rings because they can make future service calls (i.e. clearing clogged toilets) a difficult task without damaging the wax seal. That said, the choice between using a reinforced wax ring versus a traditional one largely depends on the specific installation scenario and personal preference. For large flange openings, especially in older homes with cast-iron flanges, reinforced wax rings can offer a solution. However, for standard installations, the potential drawbacks might outweigh the benefits. Understanding when to use a reinforced wax ring and recognizing the signs that it’s time to replace a wax ring are crucial for maintaining a leak-free toilet.

When to Replace a Wax Ring: Toilet Wax Ring Leak Symptoms (20:40-End)

Here are the scenarios indicating it’s time for a replacement:

  1. Water leakage signs: If you notice water stains on the ceiling below the toilet or water pooling around the toilet’s base, these are clear indicators of a seal failure. Water escaping from under the toilet due to a compromised wax ring can cause significant damage over time.
  2. Toilet instability: A rocking or unstable toilet can distort the wax seal over time, leading to leaks. If your toilet moves when you sit on it, it’s a sign that the wax ring may have been damaged and needs replacement to ensure a proper seal and prevent water leakage.
  3. Toilet removal or replacement: Any time the toilet is removed—for repairs, flooring updates, or replacement—it’s essential to install a new wax ring. Reusing an old wax ring is not recommended, as it won’t provide a reliable seal after being disturbed.
  4. Persistent odors — Can a bad wax ring cause a sewer gas smell: A bad wax ring can allow sewer gases to escape, leading to unpleasant odors in the bathroom. If you detect consistent sewage smells, inspecting and potentially replacing the wax ring should be a priority.
  5. Aging wax ring — How long do toilet wax rings last: Although wax rings can last many years, they do deteriorate over time. If you’re experiencing issues with an older toilet that hasn’t had maintenance in a decade or more, the wax ring could be the culprit.

FAQ: Understanding Wax Rings

Are all wax rings the same size?

No, wax rings come in standard and jumbo sizes, with or without reinforcement. The size and type you need depend on the height of the toilet flange in relation to the floor.

Can plunging a toilet damage the wax ring?

Aggressive plunging can potentially impact a wax ring, leading to leaks. If you find yourself frequently needing to plunge the toilet, it’s better to address the underlying issue causing the clogs.

Can you use two wax rings on a toilet?

Using two wax rings might be necessary if the flange is set below the level of the flooring, requiring extra height to ensure a proper seal. This method does work as a quick-fix but is usually not the best long-term solution. The use of two wax rings should be done cautiously to avoid creating blockages or other issues.

Can you reuse a toilet wax ring?

Reusing a toilet wax ring is not recommended. Once a wax ring has been compressed, its ability to form a proper seal is compromised, which could lead to leaks and potential water damage.

Live in the Baltimore or D.C. Area and Still Wondering “What Type of Wax Ring Should I Use”

Since selecting the right wax ring is crucial for ensuring a leak-free toilet installation, certain situations may call for professional expertise. Our team is here to help whether you need us to explain the types of toilet wax rings or you’ve encountered challenges beyond the scope of DIY fixes and you live in the greater Baltimore-D.C. metropolitan area.

Our Howard County plumbing team is equipped to handle any of your plumbing needs. Need our plumbers in Anne Arundel County? We’re ready to assist you! Live in Baltimore County? Our expert plumbers in Baltimore are here for top-notch assistance. Closer to Washington, D.C.? Our Rockville plumbers have you covered.

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Heil Plumbing Team

8177 Mission Rd Jessup, MD, 20794, United States

(410) 799-7727
https://heilplumbing.com

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