How to Fix a Wobbly Toilet in a Matter of Minutes

by Alexa

By Alexa Erickson

One of the most, if not the most, essential parts of the home is the toilet. It gets used often, so it’s natural for there to be malfunctions over time. One of the biggest problems you may face as a homeowner is a wobbly toilet.

Although a wobbly toilet can be an intimidating issue, the fix can be as simple as tightening the bolts at the base of the toilet, but it may require some shims and caulk as well. Regardless, this is such a common issue, and you can most likely do it yourself. Here’s what you need to know about a wobbly toilet and how to fix it.

powder room with gray walls and white shiplap

Photo via Christene @ Keys to Inspiration

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Wobbly Toilet

Noticing a wobbly toilet when you use it can be annoying, but so long as the toilet does the job, you may be tempted to ignore it. Don’t! A wobbly toilet indicates that the toilet isn’t properly fastened to the floor. Movement coming from the toilet can damage the toilet’s wax seal, ultimately causing leaks. Toilet leaks not only rack up your water bill, but can damage the floor underneath the toilet, resulting in major issues that need to be repaired ASAP.

Why Your Toilet Is Wobbly

The most common reason for a wobbly toilet is that the toilet isn’t securely fastened to the floor. Loose toilet bolts are a fairly easy fix. However, the problem could also be that the flange, or the part that secures the toilet to the floor, is corroded, broken, or set too high.

Also, the issue could be the toilet’s wax ring. The wax ring is the sticky stuff used to form a watertight seal between the bottom of the toilet and the sewer pipe. If the wax ring is too thick, it may cause the toilet to lift off the ground and wobble. 

caulking around the base of a toilet

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Fix a Wobbly Toilet

Fixing a wobbly toilet can often be achieved in under a minute if it's just about tightening the flange bolts. Other items you may need to put a little more effort in. We’ll detail the steps you need to take in identifying the problem with your wobbly toilet and how to fix it.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Pliers
  • Shims
  • Utility knife
  • Caulk

Step 1: Tighten the Bolts

Before doing anything else, check to see if the two flange bolts need to be tightened. These are located on either side of the base of the toilet. Carefully use pliers to tighten both flange bolts and test to see if the toilet still moves. If it wobbles, move on to the next step.

Step 2: Check for Leaks

If there is water around the base of the toilet, it’s a sign that the wax ring sealing the toilet horn to the toilet flange is worn out and needs to be replaced. In this case, you’ll need to follow directions for replacing a wax ring. If there are no leaks, move on to the next step. 

Call in Reinforcements

Replacing a wax ring on a toilet, although DIY-able, requires moving the toilet from its perch and turning it on its side. If you don’t have any experience with toilet maintenance, it’s probably best to call in a plumber.

Step 3: Find the Gaps, Plug With Shims

Find the gaps that are causing the toilet to wobble by using your hands to rock the toilet back and forth and from side to side. As you identify each gap, slide a shim beneath the toilet. Once all the gaps are filled, the toilet should be leveled. Rock the toilet once again to confirm all the shims have been properly placed in. You may have to readjust some of the shims to help level the toilet.

Step 4: Trim the Shims

Use a sharp utility knife to trim the shims close to and around the base of the toilet.

Step 5: Caulk Around the Toilet Base

Squeeze an even, thin bead of caulk around the base of the toilet to hide the shims and reinforce the seal between the toilet base and the floor. Use a wet finger to smooth out the caulk and allow it to dry.

removing the wax ring from the underside of a toilet

Photo via Home Repair Tutor

When to Call a Professional

Fixing a wobbly toilet ranges from easy to complicated. If you notice a leak, you’ll have to remove the toilet and install a new wax ring. As we mentioned above, while this process is not super complicated, moving the toilet may be intimidating. If you have any doubts, call the pros! 

If you’ve tried the above methods and the toilet is still wobbly, it may be due to a damaged subfloor underneath the toilet, which softens and rots when exposed to water (a.k.a. leaks) over time. This also involves an expert-level type of repair, so recruit a qualified plumber to handle the job.

Do you have any additional tips for fixing a wobbly toilet? Let us know in the comments below!

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