Moving, leaking or clogged toilets? Never ignore a toilet that is trying to tell you something. Repairing a “sick” toilet could be as simple as replacing the flange.
A toilet flange connects a toilet to drain pipes leading to the outside sewer. Flanges also securely attach a toilet to the floor so that toilets do not rock back and forth, leak or overflow.
It’s helpful to learn about the different materials and sizes of flanges before replacing a damaged one to ensure it’s the right flange for your toilet.
Choosing the correct toilet flange means all the difference between a worry-free toilet and a toilet that demands your time and attention for a second time.
What is a Toilet Flange?
A toilet flange lies at the base of the toilet bowl. It attaches the latter to the floor and connects to the drainpipe. The toilet flange is also known as the closet flange.
These devices can be made of PVC, rubber, metal, or a combination of these materials. It has a cylindrical shape and a flat surface. The flat surface has space for the wax ring and a section where bolts or screws can be tightly fitted.
Although it may look as though toilet bowls are attached directly to the floor, the fact is that they are mounted on top of the toilet flange.
Aside from securing the bowl to the floor and connecting it to the waste pipe, the purpose of the flange is to prevent water and gas leaks and to prevent damage to the floor during the installation of the toilet. A toilet flange is not the kind of thing that you should install on your own.
Different Types of Toilet Flanges
Copper Toilet Flanges Types
Durable and corrosion-resistant, copper toilet flanges can be soft and flexible or rigid. Hard copper flanges may require elbow joints for proper fitting into a drainpipe.
Copper is an anti-bacterial (biostatic) material used to make many plumbing components, especially components delivering potable water to communities.
There is soft copper and hard copper. Soft copper flanges bend easily and are more easily installed than hard copper flanges.
Hard copper flanges need elbow joints for them to be joined to a drain pipe.
The elbow joints will help in matching the space for a perfect fit. Copper is a popular choice for toilet flanges because they are resistant to rust and they are biostatic, which means they resist bacteria and fungus as well.
Brass Toilet Flanges Types
A zinc and copper alloy, brass is a rust-resistant, malleable and resilient plumbing material excellent for use in making toilet flanges. Brass toilet flanges are available in the deep seal, offset and regular-sized flanges.
Some simple circular flanges while others have an elbow joint attached that are designed to connect to drainpipes.
Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper, which makes it sturdy. It is also highly resistant to rust and corrosion; and it is quite malleable. Brass toilet flanges come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
These flanges are heat resistant and very durable.
Plastic (PVC) Toilet Flanges Types
Plastic or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) toilet flanges are the most commonly used flanges in both residential and commercial toilets.
Some PVC toilet flanges are made 100 percent from polyvinyl chloride while others will come with a metallic top and a PVC base. All PVC toilet flanges are manufactured to fit three-inch or four-inch drainpipes.
Stainless Steel Toilet Flanges Types
Corrosion and rustproof stainless-steel flanges offer more durability and better sealing than PVC flanges. Like brass and copper toilet flanges, stainless steel flanges are more expensive than plastic toilet flanges.
They tend to provide better and longer-term sealing compared to plastic and metal flanges. Most of the actual stainless steel in these flanges are found on the top section of the device.
The other parts are made of cast iron, plastic, or copper. However, it should be noted that stainless stell flanges are more expensive than cast iron or plastic flanges.
Cast Iron Toilet Flanges Types
Meant to use with cast iron pipes only, cast iron toilet flanges are extremely sturdy, providing years of use without cracking or disintegrating.
Designed for drainpipes existing beneath a toilet’s sub-floor, cast iron flanges can sometimes be repaired instead of replaced, depending on how serious they are damaged.
This is one of the oldest types of toilet flanges in existence. These flanges are heavy and strong, and they tend to last for more than a few decades without cracking or deteriorating. Cast iron flanges are designed to fit exclusively with cast-iron pipes.
They are best used in drain pipes located lower than the sub-floor. One of the more significant downsides of this type of pipe is its vulnerability to rust. If the flange is not maintained, it will quickly become corroded.
Aluminum Toilet Flanges Types
Aluminum is a lightweight, erosion-resistant, strong material used to make a variety of plumbing components. Unadulterated (pure) aluminum flanges are more durable than composite aluminum flanges infused with copper, zinc, and manganese.
However, adulterated aluminum toilet flanges are still considered a good choice as a long-lasting, solid flange.
Offset Toilet Flanges and Why They are Important
These flanges are a kind of subset of the devices listed above. They allow you to reposition the location of your toilet a few inches away or off the center of the waste pipe. These are convenient devices to use if you have oddly placed drainpipe openings.
Offset toilet flanges feature an elbow that enables you to make the needed adjustments. Here are some of the types you will find.
1. Spigot flanges
These fit PVC and flanges. They are great for giving a slip fitting a flanged end.
2. Slip flange
As the name suggests, this type of offset flange fits by slipping over the drain pipe. It requires solvent cement for installation. Slip flanges come in one-piece and Van Stone variations. One-piece flanges are solidly molded parts.
They require care when installing because the flange cannot be turned once glued into the waste pipe.
3. Van Stone flange
This is the two-piece variation of the slip flange. It has a loose rotating ring that allows you to align bolts easily.
4. Threaded flange
This type of flange has one female threaded end to connect to a male threaded fitting or nipple without the need for solvent cement.
5. Blind flange
This is a solid disk. It is without any interior diameter to block off a drain a drainpipe or create a top. The flange comes with mounting holes around the perimeter that allows it to be bolted to another flanged connection.
Toilet Flange Sizes
Are all toilet flanges the same size? Toilet flanges come in all different size. See our guide below to see which is your best fit.
3″ Toilet Flanges
A three-inch toilet flange has a bottom and top that are exactly three inches wide. They can only be installed to a three-inch bend or a three-inch diameter drain pipe.
If you start installing a three-inch flange pipe and discover the pipe is not three inches, you will need to position a reducing bushing to make the flange fit.
However, installing a reducing bushing means the flange’s position is forced to rise unnaturally, which could affect the alignment of the toilet’s plumbing.
4″ x 3″ Toilet Flanges
A 4″ x 3″ toilet flange has a four-inch topside and a three-inch bottom diameter. The bottom of this size flange will fit standard-sized drain pipes.
In addition, a 4″ x 3″ toilet flange is the size of most closet bend pipes. If you are not certain about your toilet pipe size, this flange would be appropriate to use.
The 3″ and 4″ flange
These flanges are three inches on the top and bottom areas. They can be easily installed into a drainpipe that is of the right size. The 4 inch flange works the same way.
However, it is rare to find a 4 inch drain pipe, so they are not as widely available.
Other Sizes of Toilet Flanges
Non-standard toilet flanges are similarly sized to 4″ x 3″ flanges. For example, plastic flanges are available with 7″ top and 3 1/2″ bottom diameters. To adapt to new floor installation, extensions kits are also available that raise a toilet flange above the new floor.
When replacing a round toilet with an elongated toilet, you can purchase offset toilet flanges providing diagonal set openings that offer additional space to accommodate the bottom shape of an elongated toilet.
Push-Tite Toilet Flanges
Easy to install push-tite flanges simply need to be pushed in to securely fasten to the floor. They have gaskets that seal inside pipes and can be used with extra-heavy piping as well. Gaskets are made from engineered elastomer and are heat and chemical resistant.
Where Can You Buy Toilet Flanges?
The best place to find a variety of toilet flanges is a home hardware store or Amazon. Department stores carry toilet flanges but they won’t have the variety offered by Amazon, Home Depot or Loew’s.
To avoid buying the wrong toilet flange, remove the toilet from the floor and examine the old flange.
Depending on the flange’s material and how badly it is damaged, you might consider opting for a sturdier copper, stainless steel or brass flange.
What Kind of Wax Ring Should Be Used When Installing a Toilet Flange?
Wax rings are seals placed between the flange and the toilet to prevent leaking. Weight pressure exerted onto the wax ring by the toilet expands the ring so that it quickly forms an effective seal against water leakage.
You don’t need to worry about getting the correct size of the wax ring because they are a “one size fits all” component.
Some wax rings come with an attached polyethylene or rubber piece that extends into the opening of a toilet flange.
Booted wax rings should not be used with toilet flanges that are high enough to prevent the toilet from sitting level on the floor. For flanges that are a little low, thicker wax rings will adequately fill any minimal extra space.
How Can You Tell a Toilet Flange Needs To be Replaced ASAP?
Toilet is Loose
If your toilet rocks even a little, it could be due to a damaged flange. Before removing the toilet from the floor, check all connections and bolts to ensure they are tight. Neglecting to secure a loose toilet could damage a flange that may not need to be replaced.
The toilet is Leaking at the Base
In most cases, it is the wax ring that needs replacing if your toilet leaks at the bottom. But to be sure, remove the toilet to inspect both the flange and wax ring.
Never attempt to “seal” the toilet leak with some kind of sealing material that prevents water from leaking.
While the water may no longer be leaking onto your floor, it is leaking somewhere and that somewhere is underneath the floor.
Don’t Know When and If the Flange Has Ever Been Replaced
Proactively avoiding expensive home or commercial building repairs means replacing questionable plumbing components.
If the previous owner says they never had any problems with the toilet, chances are the toilet flange and wax ring are old and nearing their end life.
Your Bathroom Smells Like a Sewer
Rotten egg or sulfuric odors in your bathroom without leakage at the base of your toilet could mean the flange is broken just enough to let sewer line odors to infiltrate your bathroom. If not replaced, a cracked flange will eventually allow water to leak from the bottom of the toilet.
How to Remove a Toilet Flange
It’s easy to remove a flange but not so easy to move a one hundred pound toilet off the drainpipe. In addition to screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, putty knife and a shop vac to clean up afterward, you might need someone to help you move the toilet to avoid damaging floor tile–or your back!
- First, turn off the water supply to the toilet. Turn the knob behind the toilet clockwise to turn off the water. Most toilet water supply knobs are located close to the baseboard.
- Flush the toilet repeatedly until the tank and toilet bowl are both empty. If you can’t get all the water out, use a sponge to soak up any excess water.
- Remove nuts at the base of the toilet with the adjustable wrench. Nuts are located on both sides of the toilet.
- Once nuts are removed, begin gently and slowly rocking the toilet to disengage the wax seal. (This is where you will need assistance).
- Once you’ve broken the seal, lift the toilet up off the floor and move it aside.
- Scrape away the wax seal using a putty knife. Also, scrape off any wax seal sticking to the toilet’s underside.
- Unscrew the toilet flange to remove it. Save screws that are in good condition. Use new ones if the old screws are corroded or ground down.
Old or badly damaged flanges may need to be pried out using a hammer and chisel. In some cases, really stubborn flanges should be cut and pieced using a power tool. After completely removing the old toilet flange, use your shop vac to clean away debris.
- Take the old flange with you when buying a new one at a hardware store. If shopping online for a new flange, measure the bottom and top diameters to ensure you order the correctly sized flange
How to Install a New Toilet Flange
There are two ways to begin installing a toilet flange:
- You can attach the new wax ring to the base of your toilet. To do this, you will need to lay the toilet on its side. This method ensures the wax ring is properly positioned when you put the toilet atop the flange. Or,
- You can put the wax ring on the toilet flange before putting the toilet back on top of the drainpipe.
Remember, if the floor has been replaced since the last time the flange was changed and the flooring is made of denser material, you will need to use a thicker than average wax ring.
- Once the wax ring is in place, fasten down the new flange with mounting screws and bolts. Give each bolt an extra twist to make sure they are tight.
- Carefully replace the toilet on top of the new wax ring and flange. Align the toilet’s bolt holes with flange bolts. Gripping the inside rim of the toilet bowl instead of the outer rim will help you grip the toilet more securely.
- Once you have lowered the toilet down on the wax ring and flange, apply pressure to expedite sealing. Try not to tile or move the toilet after the wax seal is sitting on the flange. This might compromise the seal and promote premature leaks.
- Tighten nuts onto bolts at the base of the toilet. Don’t tighten them too much or you could crack the porcelain.
- Set the toilet tank on top of the toilet and align bolt shanks with holes in the toilet bowl.
- Tighten tank bolts until the tank is in contact with the toilet bowl
- Slowly turn the water supply back on and let the tank fill completely. If you see any sign of leaking at the bottom of the bowl, turn the water supply back off. If no water leaks, flush the toilet twice.
Of course, is any water leaks from the bottom after flushing, you will need to remove the toilet again and check to see if the wax ring is positioned correctly or if the flange is loose.
Special tools designed to remove rusty or broken toilet flanges are available when a simple putty knife just won’t get the job done. Essentially an internal pipe cutter, flange-removing tools typically feature a circular saw appended to a shaft.
This shaft then should fit into any standardized drill chuck. Solvents are sometimes used to remove old flanges but solvents containing certain chemicals could cause pipe erosion.
Check for the possibility of a chemical reaction by researching solvent ingredients and pipe material before using solvents.