Should You Caulk Around the Toilet?

caulking around toilet

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Q: I am renovating the bathrooms in my house and I understand that I have to caulk around the toilet bottoms where they touch the floor. My neighbor says it is not necessary and may be hiding leaks. So, should I do it or not?

A: Judging by many of the conversations in DIY and plumbing forums online, you’re not the only one confused. The debate about whether or not to caulk toilet bottoms can sometimes get quite heated.

Many people’s reasoning is based on tradition and personal opinion, which is fine, but not much help. Some have used ineffective fillers in the past that crumble. They may not understand the versatile and durable performance of modern sealing products. There is also a need for clarification on some of the issues that may arise and how to resolve them. We’ve researched the pros and cons in detail to help people find the right answers.

The point of contention is leak detection.

The main reason people give for not caulking around toilet bottoms is that they think it can hide leaks. If it is not discovered, the resulting damage can become serious. Without sealant, the leaking water would flow freely and be noticed right away, or so the theory goes.

While that might be true if there were a sudden and major rupture in a pipe, that is rarely what happens. The vast majority of leaks are small and do not spread onto the bathroom floor, but instead penetrate the underlying structure. They are usually noticed from the floor under the toilet when looking up. Leaks under the bath are often found in the same way. In apartments, it is common for the tenant below to be the first to notice a problem.

So this argument for not caulking is somewhat flawed and as far as we know the only one. In contrast, there are a number of reasons why caulking around the toilet has positive benefits.

RELATED: The Do’s and Don’ts of Caulking the Bathroom

caulking around toilet

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Caulk prevents water from seeping under the toilet.

The same seal that supposedly prevents a leak from being discovered is actually beneficial because it prevents “external” water from seeping under the toilet. For example, water splashed from a shower or bathtub cannot seep under the toilet if it is properly sealed to the floor.

If there is no sealant, the water that gets under the toilet can remain undisturbed for some time. It will soon begin to stagnate and form a breeding ground for fungi. Applying sealant to the toilet prevents this and the bathroom is therefore healthier.

Sealing around the toilet provides stability on uneven floors.

Bolts are usually used to secure the toilet base to the floor, but if the floor is uneven, the toilet may rock back and forth. This is frustrating, can be noisy and is a potential source of trouble for internal plumbing. Tightening the bolts beyond a certain point is a risky approach that threatens to crack the porcelain.

Sealing the toilet to the floor with caulk not only has the benefit of cleanliness, but can also provide a layer of padding to make up for that uneven floor. Once fully cured, good quality sealant provides effective and durable cushioning.

RELATED: Toilet Installation – DIY or Hire a Professional?

Plumbing codes require sealing a toilet to the floor.

This is perhaps the most important reason. In most parts of the United States, caulking around toilet bases is a building code requirement. This can apply to both new construction and remodeling, but since regulations vary from state to state, it’s a good idea to check local statutes.

Professional plumbers generally have the necessary knowledge or will make inquiries for the customer. For DIYers, it can be tempting to skip it. Unless inspection is necessary, the homeowner may not find it worth it. While there is the possibility of a fine, discovery is unlikely. Then, if they want to sell the property, something that doesn’t comply with current building codes could deter potential buyers, or at least make them more cautious in their assessment of the property.

caulking toilet on the floor

Photo: istockphoto.com

RELATED: The Best Kit for the Bathroom

It looks better and helps prevent unpleasant odors.

In the eyes of many people, a clean, white line of sealant provides a neat, professional finish. It is used around sinks, showers and bathtubs, why not caulk around toilet bases? A dark, uneven connection between toilet and floor looks unfinished by comparison.

There is also the occurrence of unpleasant odors that can sometimes come from the plumbing and under the bottom of the toilet. The problem will worsen if mold or fungus forms underneath.

Sealing the joint only takes a few minutes and has a host of benefits that certainly far outweigh the unlikely event of a leak being discovered sooner.

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