Understanding the Basics: What is a Toilet Flange?
Let’s start with the fundamentals – what exactly is a toilet flange? Commonly known as a “closet flange,” it is a crucial fitting that connects the toilet to the drainpipe. Fixed securely to the floor using rustproof screws, the flange serves as an anchor for the toilet, which is attached to it with bolts. To create a watertight seal and prevent leaks or sewer gas leakage, the toilet’s horn is connected to the flange using a wax ring.
The Height Dilemma: Should the Flange be Flush with the Floor?
Ideally, the toilet flange should be positioned slightly above the finished floor. For instance, if your bathroom has a tiled floor, the flange should rest on top of the tiles. As a result, the top of the flange will be slightly elevated from the floor surface, around ¼” to be precise. However, it’s worth noting that flanges can vary in height, and some may even be level with or lower than the floor surface.
Fortunately, even if the flange is flush with the floor or positioned up to ¼” below the surface, it is still acceptable for proper toilet installation.
Understanding the Variation in Flange Height
There are several reasons why toilet flanges may deviate from the ideal height. One common explanation is that during the initial installation, plumbers may not have anticipated the thickness of the finished floor. Consequently, they might have positioned the flange directly on the raw surface.
Alternatively, newly laid floors can cause flanges to be too high or too low. If the material used for the new floor is thicker or thinner than the previous one, it will impact the relative height of the floor surface in relation to the existing flange.
Generally, a flange positioned around ¼” above the floor surface is ideal. However, any height difference up to ¼” below the surface is still acceptable for toilet installation. In cases where the flange is significantly higher or lower than the floor, it may complicate the installation process – but worry not, there are simple solutions available.
Best Practices for Installing a Toilet Flange
The best approach for installing a toilet flange is to wait until the floor is laid. This way, you will have an accurate measurement of the finished floor surface’s height. Simply position the flange over the drain, ensuring that the underside of the top of the flange rests on the floor surface. This method guarantees the perfect flange height for installing your toilet.
Another option is to use leftover tiles or other flooring materials to create a sub-layer beneath the flange. Placing these materials when fitting the flange will provide the necessary clearance.
If you’re unsure how these installation methods work, check out this helpful video here.
Solutions for a Low Flange
When faced with a low flange, don’t panic! There are a couple of quick fixes available.
1. Using Wax Rings
If the flange is too low, there is a risk of water leakage or sewer gas escaping from the toilet. Typically, a wax ring creates a seal between the toilet horn and the flange. However, if the flange is too low, a standard wax ring may not establish a satisfactory seal. In this case, using a thicker wax ring or stacking two wax rings can solve the problem.
First, turn off the water supply to the toilet and empty both the tank and bowl. Next, remove the nuts and lift the toilet to gain access to the flange. If the toilet is grouted in place, you may need to use a hammer and chisel to remove the grout carefully. Be cautious not to damage the porcelain surface.
Once the flange is clean, place a new, thicker wax ring or two stacked wax rings in position. The weight of the toilet will generate the pressure required for a watertight seal between the rings. Finally, reinstall the toilet, turn on the water, fill the tank, and flush to test for any issues.
2. Using Extender Kits
While wax rings are effective, they are not a long-term solution, as they will eventually wear out. Using a toilet flange extender kit is an alternative option. These kits are specifically designed to provide extra height to your flange.
Various types of extender kits are available. Some consist of a simple ring that is fixed to the existing flange, offering additional height. These rings come in different thicknesses, allowing you to choose the right amount of height.
Another type resembles a toilet flange and is inserted within the existing flange. The top of this extender sits on the old flange, thereby increasing the height relative to the floor surface.
Certain extender kits come with spacer rings that can be stacked to achieve the desired height. Depending on the number of rings used, you may need to purchase longer bolts to secure everything in place. Some kits include a rubber gasket or washer for an airtight seal, while others require silicone caulk for sealing.
These kits are user-friendly and come with clear installation instructions. They provide a long-term solution, making future flange issues unlikely for many years to come.
Solutions for a High Flange
Although less common, a high toilet flange can still occur. This situation usually arises when replacing a bathroom floor with a thinner surface than the previous one. Another reason could be a plumber allowing too much height for the yet-to-be-laid floor during drain installation, resulting in an overly high flange. In some cases, a high flange can be caused by poor plumbing work.
Identifying a flange that is too high is relatively easy, either by visual inspection before installation or a wobbly and unstable toilet after installation. However, this is a minor issue, and you have several options for rectifying it.
1. Adding a Sub-layer
If the high flange is due to the new floor surface’s reduced thickness, you can resolve the problem before laying the floor. Simply insert a layer of subfloor with the appropriate thickness before installing the top floor surface. This ensures that the new floor is level with the old one and that the flange is at the correct height.
2. Using Grout
If the toilet sits too high on the flange, it may wobble. However, if the difference is only slight, the issue can be easily resolved by applying grout around the base of the toilet. First, place shims to level the toilet, then apply grout around the bottom. Once the grout is dry, remove the shims and fill in the holes with additional grout. This should prevent the toilet from moving when you sit on it.
3. Cutting Back the Drain
A slightly more complex solution is cutting back the drain to ensure that the flange is at the correct height. Measure the flange’s height above the floor surface and determine the necessary amount to be cut off. Remove the upper part of the drainpipe, allowing the flange to sit at the desired height.
Conclusion: The Flange Height Matters
To summarize, a toilet flange should not be flush with the bathroom floor surface. Instead, the bottom of the flange should rest on top of the finished floor, with the top of the flange elevated approximately ¼” above the surface. However, if the flange is flush with or slightly below the floor, it is still acceptable. Even in cases where the flange is significantly too high or low, there are solutions available to rectify the problem. Remember, having the correct flange height ensures a successful and reliable toilet installation experience.