Installing a new toilet or replacing an old one? You may be wondering whether you should take the extra step of caulking around the base. We’re here to provide a definitive answer on this surprisingly controversial topic.
Read on to learn why caulking your toilet is a smart move.
What is Caulking?
Caulking refers to applying waterproof sealant in joints and gaps to prevent water intrusion and air leaks. In construction and home improvement, it’s often used around windows, bathtubs, sinks, and other fixtures.
There are a few main types of caulk to choose from:
- Silicone – Flexible sealant that sticks to many surfaces
- Latex – Water-based, paintable, easily removed
- Acrylic – Low odor and cleans up with water
Caulking around a toilet requires a caulk gun, the caulk tube or cartridge, and a caulk smoothing tool. Make sure to choose a high-quality, mold-resistant bathroom caulk.
Why Caulk Around Toilets?
You may be wondering why caulking is necessary around toilet bases. Here are some of the top reasons this simple step is highly recommended.
Prevent Leaks and Water Damage
One of the prime reasons for caulking around your toilet is to prevent leaks. Even a minor leak can lead to water getting under the toilet base and spreading throughout the flooring and subfloor unseen.
This trapped moisture provides the perfect breeding ground for mold and causes rotting, warping, and decay in wood structures. It also ruins flooring over time. By sealing the gap between the toilet and floor with caulk, leaks are contained.
Stop Mold and Mildew Growth
On a related note, caulking around toilets is one of the most effective ways to prevent mold growth in bathrooms. Mold spreads rapidly in damp, humid areas like under a leaking toilet. Breathing in these spores can cause allergic reactions and illness.
By keeping moisture contained, caulk deprives mold of the dampness it needs to thrive. Caulking also seals out musty odors that arise from mold and bacteria buildup.
Increase Toilet Stability
If your bathroom or flooring is uneven, this can cause the toilet to rock and wobble. Caulking helps stabilize the toilet by evening out gaps and filling any low spots in the flooring.
This prevents not only annoyance from rocking, but also potential damage to the flange connection and water supply line underneath the tank. Caulking keeps the toilet firmly in place.
Meet Building Codes
Most plumbing codes require caulking around the base of toilets. For example, the International Plumbing Code (IPC) mandates that caulk or sealant be applied on toilet installations.
Failing to follow code could cause issues when you go to sell a home. Protect your investment and comply with regulations by caulking your toilet thoroughly.
Don’t underestimate the visual impact of caulking around your toilet base. It provides a smooth, seamless look by hiding any cracks, gaps, or uneven joints between the toilet and floor.
By choosing a caulk color that matches your tiles or flooring, you can create a uniform appearance. It’s a finishing touch that pulls the whole look together.
Caulking around toilet bases can also have environmental benefits. By preventing water from seeping under the toilet and into the ground, less water is wasted and less runoff enters local water sources. This can be especially important in areas prone to drought or water shortages.
Caulking around toilet bases can also help prevent the entry of pests such as rodents and insects. These animals are often attracted to damp, moist areas and can cause significant damage to the home if allowed to enter. By sealing the gap between the toilet and the floor, you can help prevent these unwanted visitors.
Do You Need to Caulk on Level Floors?
If your bathroom floor is perfectly level, do you still need to caulk around the toilet? In most cases, yes.
While caulking on uneven floors adds stability, it still serves other important functions. Caulking prevents odors and moisture from seeping out, satisfies code requirements, and gives a uniform look.
However, focus caulking on the back and sides on level floors, since stability is less of a concern.
Step-by-Step Caulking Process
Ready to caulk your toilet? Follow these steps for best results:
Start by cleaning the area thoroughly with a nonabrasive cleaner or denatured alcohol. Ensure the surface is free of dirt, grime, and oil. Let the area dry completely.
It can help to place painter’s tape along the edges to keep excess caulk from getting on flooring or tiles. Choose a paintable latex or silicone caulk rated for bathrooms.
Cut the tip of the caulk tube at a 45 degree angle to control flow. Hold the caulk gun at a consistent angle and apply a steady bead of caulk around the toilet base. Make sure to caulk the back thoroughly and do the sides in one smooth motion.
The caulk line should be about 1/4 inch wide. Release pressure before stopping to prevent excess caulk.
Smoothing and Shaping
Once applied, use a damp fingertip, sponge, or plastic shaping tool to smooth the caulk and shape it into a concave line. Work smoothly along the bead and avoid excessive pressing or dragging.
Make sure the caulk adheres fully around the toilet base without any gaps or air bubbles. Let the caulk dry fully per manufacturer instructions.
Finally, remove any painter’s tape and carefully inspect your caulking job. Use a damp sponge to wipe away any small excess bits of caulk. Avoid getting the caulk wet before it fully dries.
Reseal the toilet base to the floor following the caulk manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Caulk Maintenance Tips
To keep your caulked toilet in tip-top shape:
- Inspect it periodically for any cracks or leaks.
- Reapply caulk every 1-5 years depending on quality.
- Use a utility knife to remove old caulk completely before re-caulking.
Still have some questions about caulking toilet bases? Here are answers to some common queries:
Can caulking hide leaks from a toilet?
In rare cases, a bad wax ring seal or tank issues can cause leaks between the toilet and floor. However, most toilet leaks are minor and soaked up rather than spreading across the floor. Major leaks likely come from below at the flange.
What’s the best caulk to use on a toilet?
Look for silicone or latex caulks made specifically for bathrooms. Avoid cheaper, lower-quality caulks, which can crack or fall apart when exposed to moisture.
How long does toilet caulking last?
With quality caulk and proper application, caulking should last 1-5 years on average. Inspect periodically and reapply as needed. Duration depends on environmental factors and usage.
Sealing the gap between your toilet base and floor with caulk is a simple upgrade that prevents damage, deters mold, and satisfies code. While caulking toilet bases was once considered optional, it’s now recommended by nearly every plumbing authority.
By following the caulking tips in this article, you can easily complete this project yourself. Take care of leaks and moisture issues proactively by caulking your toilet thoroughly.
Your bathroom will look better, stay protected, and function optimally for years to come. We hope this article helped provide a definitive answer on this important toilet maintenance question.