Author Topic: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?  (Read 5769 times)

chad

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Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« on: April 11, 2017, 04:31:50 PM »
My wife is laying new flooring in one of our bathrooms. We've never done this before. When she ripped up the vinyl floor, it looks a little water damaged around the toilet and next to the bath. (See picture.) She plans to mortar and screw 1/4" cement backer board to this floor prior to installing tile. The floor is dry, although it may look a little wet in the picture. I think it's possibly blackened by a little bit of mold? It feels solid--not springy or spongy to walk on. Though the wood is brittle, and I think you could probably stick a knife into the part that is most damaged in the crack between the wood and the tub.

Can anyone tell from the picture whether she can proceed as planned and just lay the cement board? Or does this call for a repair? Thanks!

Dave1442397

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 06:51:24 PM »
If it were me, now that you've gone this far, I'd want to rip up that plywood just to make sure there's no real damage underneath. It's not going to take much to replace the plywood at this point.

sokoloff

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2017, 07:22:44 PM »
I'm with Dave on a house you're going to be in for a while. You're 90% of the way to getting all the way back to known-good wood, so anything that leaves any question in my mind would get ripped out until I was sure.

AMandM

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 07:53:19 PM »
Another vote for replacing the plywood.  It's a small amount of extra work compared to redoing the whole project if the wood gives way.  I would be especially concerned that the cement board would be insufficiently supported along the edge of the tub; I'd worry that could lead to the cement board bending and tile coming off.

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2017, 06:43:10 AM »
You don't replace anything based on online opinions of pictures of a discolored subfloor. (actually it isn't the subfloor at all, it's underlayment, the subfloor is underneath)  Slight leaks at toilet flanges, due to wax seal failure, are common. This is NOT a disastrous situation. I have literally gotten the call from a homeowner AFTER the toilet fell through the floor, and my crew removed the entire bathroom floor and replaced floor joists. OTOH, I have changed many wax rings  where the subfloor looked like that, and there was zero real damage, other than light, cosmetic water staining.

The first issue is that you have an existing underlayment that needs to be removed. You are not looking at a plywood subfloor, but a layer of 1/4" Luan plywood undlerlay used to prep the floor for the vinyl you removed. This crap is not only unsuitable for use under tile, but it is typically just lightly nailed or stapled to the plywood, or OSB, subfloor. You need to tear it ALL out before you can evaluate any damage underneath. Now on to damage evaluation.

Step one:   Look for extreme rot. A scratch awl, or other sharp point is ideal, a small straight blade screwdriver will do. Now poke around the flange and see if there is rot in the plywood. This can vary from easily poking straight through, to scratching the fuzzy discolored surface of the plywood. If you can't push a small screwdriver more than 1/8" or so, into the plywood, it's fine. Hit the black area with straight bleach, rinse it off and let it dry. If you have a small area of rot, you may want to think about an epoxy patch, as replacing the subfloor in this area isn't pleasant or easy.

Step two: Evaluate the toilet flange. I literally do not see a single screw in the flange attaching the flange to the floor. If the plywood is still in good shape, pre-drill and install #12 x 1-1/4" phillips head wood screws in every one of these small holes. A lot of leaking toilet flanges are a result of slobs and morons who do a half assed job of securing the toilet flange. You wouldn't believe how many end up with three or four little drywall screws that rot and work loose quickly.

If the plywood is in fact rotted, you have a bigger issue. You need to cut back to the center of adjoining joists and replace the plywood with a new section, typically installing blocking to support the edges of the patch. The flange needs to be removed and replaced. Believe it or not, you can actually demolish the flange in this case, and save the fitting it's glued into. It is a labor intensive project that involves hammering, chiseling, cutting with just a hacksaw blade, cursing, prying with screwdrivers, and maybe some blood, but it makes the job a lot easier if you have a finished ceiling below.

At this point, demoing the luan is just matter of getting under it with a flat bar and yanking it up. You can cut through it with a utility knife, it takes a while, but it's doable. After that, and evaluating the subfloor, post some more pics. 

Finally, take a look at using the Ditra system for the tile subfloor, it is superior in every way, and a lot easier to install than cement board. Cement board is a product from the bowels of hell. Everything about it sucks. If you still want to go with a board product, use Hardie board tile backer. Not the wonder product that Ditra is, but exponentially better than cement board for simple floor work. 
« Last Edit: April 12, 2017, 06:48:20 AM by paddedhat »

CptCool

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2017, 10:08:43 AM »
Wouldn't it be fairly easy to just replace the subfloor with new plywood? It seems like all you'd need to do at this point is cut or remove out the old stuff, then glue & screw the new stuff down and make a cutout for the flange. You can assess whether the joists are rotted during the process, but that seems unlikely based on the picture. A couple hours work at most. The above advice seems a little extreme

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2017, 12:32:02 PM »
Wouldn't it be fairly easy to just replace the subfloor with new plywood? It seems like all you'd need to do at this point is cut or remove out the old stuff, then glue & screw the new stuff down and make a cutout for the flange. You can assess whether the joists are rotted during the process, but that seems unlikely based on the picture. A couple hours work at most. The above advice seems a little extreme

To repeat, nobody on this thread is viewing any structure, subfloor, or "plywood" that has any bearing when it comes to installing a new ceramic tile floor in this location. So is it " fairly easy to just replace the subfloor with new plywood" as you state? Who knows, nobody has seen the subfloor yet, and no it's not always"fairly easy", sometimes it can really suck, depending on many factors that are unknown at this point.   Therefore, the suggestion to cut out, patch, remove, etc... is of no value, since you are viewing the luan underlayment used under the previously installed vinyl floor. (incorrectly BTW, and in direct violation of the vinyl flooring manufacturer's requirements) Now when the OP removes the old luan they will be able to observe the condition of the structural subfloor.

 Just to be perfectly clear, if the OP is serious about a tile installation that will not fail prematurely, and is done properly, the existing luan needs to be removed, the subfloor need to be inspected, and repaired as required. At this point, I typically re-screw the subfloor to the joists using 1-5/8" deck screws, then give it a once over with a belt sander using a 36 grit belt, to quickly and effectively clean the floor, and address any ridged panel joints, or other raised defects that will telegraph through to the new floor.  Properly prepping for a new tile install and correcting plumbing issues IS a lot of work if you do it right.  Now you can always half-ass it, and revisit the same issues down the road when the toilet is rocking, the wax seal is leaking, and the tile job looks like shit.  That's the beauty of DIY. There are endless resources available to help you do it right the first time, or do it again, if you don't.

sokoloff

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2017, 12:46:57 PM »
paddedhat speaks the truth from experience, as usual.

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2017, 09:41:52 AM »
God I wish the tile work in this house was on a luan board or other backer board . . . but no the guy before was able to get 100% coverage of thin set on the plywood subfloor.

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2017, 02:04:45 PM »
God I wish the tile work in this house was on a luan board or other backer board . . . but no the guy before was able to get 100% coverage of thin set on the plywood subfloor.
I have seen this done, and the tile managed to crack exactly on the subfloor joint layouts. it literally had dead straight cracks on a 4x8 ft. grid.

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2017, 04:35:41 PM »
God I wish the tile work in this house was on a luan board or other backer board . . . but no the guy before was able to get 100% coverage of thin set on the plywood subfloor.
I have seen this done, and the tile managed to crack exactly on the subfloor joint layouts. it literally had dead straight cracks on a 4x8 ft. grid.

our subfloors are actually two layers, oriented in opposite directions, the first of 5/8 ply and the second of 3/4 ply. The cracks we have are a result of the joist span being too long (not a code violation though) as to allow too much deflection for tile.

I do not look forward to the remaining tiled rooms that need remodeling. Luckily a SDS hammer drill and a chisel bit make removal somewhat bearable.

sokoloff

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2017, 05:23:24 PM »
They make a decoupling mat (often orange) that helps to make tiles a little more crack resistant where they must be installed over slightly too flexible flooring.

Papa bear

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2017, 05:35:45 PM »
In a perfect world, your flange should sit on top of your finished floor, not on the subfloor, lower than backer board and tile. 

I usually cut out the old flange, and rough in my new 3" pipe higher and install a new flange on after the finish floor is installed.  This can be a huge PITA though, depending on how much room you have to work with, access from below, how much room you have off the elbow, etc.


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chad

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2017, 08:24:22 AM »
Thanks so much for all your advice, folks. I ripped up the luan board so I could see the subfloor directly. Here's what it looks like. It isn't wet, although it sort of looks wet in the picture. The dark parts still seem pretty sound for the most part. But, here and there, there are maybe three very small spots (one in the very corner, one along the edge of the tub, maybe a couple of spots around the flange) that seem soft enough to push a metal object through pretty easily. Would you guys rip up the sub floor to repair this? Also, would you worry about pulling out the bathtub in this case?

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2017, 09:40:08 AM »
First, are you actually taking a sharp tool and pushing it completely through the OSB subfloor, or is it just soft?  I would first dry the entire floor as much as possible. A small fan and a portable electric space heater really can get it dry.  Next, I would only be concerned if there is significant rot in the area where the Toilet flange is screwed down. If you have a few small areas of rot, say quarter to tennis ball sized areas, you can successfully repair them without removal. Google a product called Git-Rot. This is a flowable epoxy made specifically for situations like this. It flows into soft areas and makes them stronger than the surrounding wood. If you have significant damage under the toilet flange, as in the area is actually crumbly to the touch, you really should patch that area with new OSB.  This would allow you to remove the old flange and reinstall it at the correct height to sit on the new tile subfloor.  The patch needs to be supported by the floor joists and added blocking on the other edges. You never said if there is a finished ceiling below this? When it comes to the rot at the edge of the tub, I would definitely repair this with epoxy. Replacing subfloor under a built in tub like that is a real unpleasant situation. Tubs literally get built into a house, and removing it to repair a sublfoor is an enormous task.

chad

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2017, 06:58:38 PM »
Thanks, Paddedhat. I'm attaching a picture of the completed repair to the subfloor. We also used that git-rot stuff on the floor by the tub and it worked wonders. Great stuff. We also saw no additional water damage under the subfloor or under the tub.

The new wood doesn't fit exactly into the hole we cut--there's a 5 mm gap beetween the two new pieces of wood that you can see in the picture. Should that gap be filled with anything before we lay down the hardibacker? Also, should I seal around the edges with anything?

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2017, 05:54:22 AM »
Well, you're doing great so far. I am concerned about your patch for two reasons. First, a properly installed subfloor has no unsupported edges. The original sheets of 4'x8' OSB in your floor are fully supported by joists on the 4' edges. The eight foot edges are tongue and groove, and do not need support, since they are interlocked. It looks like your patches are screwed in place. Hopefully there is no glue used at this point. I would pull them up and cut small pieces of 1x4" pine to fit all the edges. I would glue them with yellow carpenters glue, then use screws to screw them flat to the bottom of the original floor, with half the width extending into the hole. Now reinstall your patches using glue and screw all the edges. I would also do the same technique to the seem in the center of your patch. 1-5/8" deck screws are ideal for this job.  If you continue with the repair as shown, I would expect tile cracks at the edges of your patch, since a toilet exerts a lot of lateral pressure on the floor, and will cause your subfloor to flex at the unsupported edges. The second issue is that you need to screw the existing floor at the edges of your patch.

lthenderson

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2017, 08:59:59 AM »
The new wood doesn't fit exactly into the hole we cut--there's a 5 mm gap beetween the two new pieces of wood that you can see in the picture. Should that gap be filled with anything before we lay down the hardibacker? Also, should I seal around the edges with anything?

The gaps aren't a problem and don't need to be filled, however like Paddedhat mentioned above, I make sure the entire perimeter of the patch and the original floor has something to fasten too by adding extra blocking in there. There is a lot of weight with a toilet and grown adult that will eventually be sitting on top of it.

chad

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #18 on: May 04, 2017, 08:11:24 PM »
Ok, thanks again guys. Really appreciate it. Fixed the sub-floor and got the tile down. Grouting tomorrow.

Now I have a question about the toilet.

People seem to debate endlessly about whether the flange should sit directly on the sub-floor or whether it should go on top of the tile. We went with the sub-floor. Currently, the flange is maybe 3-4 mm below the tile, and probably will go a little lower if I screw it down to the sub-floor. I've read you want the top of the flange to stick up by 1/4" above the tile. So should I use two wax rings? Should I use a collar (spacer?) on top of the flange to make it a little taller? Or what? Any advice appreciated.

Papa bear

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2017, 08:52:31 PM »
Should have listened above where i suggest you put it on the finish floor.  You're asking for leaks. 

I know they make flange extenders, but I don't use them so I can't talk about their effectiveness.


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paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #20 on: May 05, 2017, 06:05:32 AM »
There is no reason to be concerned about leaks, and you didn't fail because you didn't tear the flange off and redo the piping. There are thousands of bath floors tiled every week in this country, and many of them end up with a recessed flange once they are done.  you have several choices here, and they escalate in price and likely success. The cheapest would be to just stack two cheap wax rings. This is a pretty common technique and will probably be just fine. If you do this, stack a standard ring on top of one that has the plastic flange.

 The next option would be a rubber ring like this:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Toilet-Gasket-Flexible-Waxless-Seal-Universal-Fit-BL01/203564758?MERCH=REC-_-PIPHorizontal1_rr-_-100139961-_-203564758-_-N

This would be a good choice, for several reasons. Rubber gaskets are preferable for any floor that isn't perfectly flat, which is a common issue with tile installation. If a floor isn't dead flat, and a toilet on a wax seal is rocking, even a tiny bit, it will eventually leak.  Second, wax is not reusable, but rubber is, so you can take another shot at it, if you notice a leak. The instructions on this product make it clear that it's usable for flanges recessed up to a 1/4".

 Finally, if you really want to be sure that you have addressed the recessed flange gap,  Amazon lists a product called " the perfect seal wax ring"  by Danco. This thing can seal a flange up to 1-1/2 " deep, is only $10, and has hundreds of positive reviews.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KHSLV2G/ref=asc_df_B00KHSLV2G4970007/?tag=hyprod-20&creative=394997&creativeASIN=B00KHSLV2G&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167157107032&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1522998061758429985&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9006801&hvtargid=pla-273802231411

A few things to keep in mind when reinstalling the toilet.  First,  it is common, (and a code requirement in my area) to caulk around the base of toilets. IMHO, it's a horrible idea as it can conceal a flange leak and allow the leak to rot the floor undetected (sound familiar, eh?) If you are going to caulk the base, wait a while to see if you are leak free. Leaks of tile floors are easier to spot than on sheet vinyl, since wet grout is pretty obvious.  Next, as mentioned, a bit of rocking on tile is common, but CAN'T be resolved by overtightening the flange bolts. If you crank too hard on them, the toilet will crack. If you have a slight rock, tighten the bolts then drive a shingle shim under the base, and cut it flush. If you don't have one already, upgrade the supply line to braided stainless steel. They are cheap insurance, since the cheap plastic hoses can break without warning, and create a pretty impressive flood.  My neighbor had one split on a second floor toilet. The house was unocupied, the leak did extensive damage, and the repairs were $23K. Gotta give a high five to the plumber that saved $5 on the cheap,  plastic supply line he used. Finally, make sure you secure the flange properly, I addressed this in comment #4. Good job so far.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2017, 06:10:53 AM by paddedhat »

Jon Bon

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #21 on: May 05, 2017, 06:11:46 AM »
Papa Bear is right

The wax ring is NOT actually suppose to contain liquids only the smells. While it does this as well a property installed toilet should nest itself into the flange and could in theory be flushed with no wax ring and not leak.

What kind of finish floor are we talking here? Something thin like linoleum or LVT  you might be ok. But if your doing 1/2 tile backerboard and 1/2 tile and thinset your raising the height of your floor an inch or the flange, that is not good. To be fair you might be ok, I have had to install toilets on a flange that is lower then I would prefer. No leaks yet that I can tell but I expect to have to rip it out and do it correctly one day. 


I would try to fix it now before you spend money and time on a nice finish floor that is ruined by a leaky toilet. Then you are back to where you started a year from now.

lthenderson

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2017, 07:09:55 AM »
Another option is picking up an extra deep wax ring sold in all big box stores just for this situation. They are somewhere between one and two of the standard wax rings in height. Lots of options.

Spork

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2017, 09:06:22 AM »
I've used both the double stacked wax rings and the "extra large" wax rings mentioned above ... both successfully with no issues.

CptCool

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2017, 09:52:04 AM »
A few things to keep in mind when reinstalling the toilet.  First,  it is common, (and a code requirement in my area) to caulk around the base of toilets. IMHO, it's a horrible idea as it can conceal a flange leak and allow the leak to rot the floor undetected (sound familiar, eh?) If you are going to caulk the base, wait a while to see if you are leak free. Leaks of tile floors are easier to spot than on sheet vinyl, since wet grout is pretty obvious.  Next, as mentioned, a bit of rocking on tile is common, but CAN'T be resolved by overtightening the flange bolts. If you crank too hard on them, the toilet will crack. If you have a slight rock, tighten the bolts then drive a shingle shim under the base, and cut it flush. If you don't have one already, upgrade the supply line to braided stainless steel. They are cheap insurance, since the cheap plastic hoses can break without warning, and create a pretty impressive flood.  My neighbor had one split on a second floor toilet. The house was unocupied, the leak did extensive damage, and the repairs were $23K. Gotta give a high five to the plumber that saved $5 on the cheap,  plastic supply line he used. Finally, make sure you secure the flange properly, I addressed this in comment #4. Good job so far.

Bolded = mine. I would just caulk around the front and sides of the toilet. This way if any "splatters" occur from male users of the toilet, they won't seep in between the toilet and the floor. This allows you to still see a leak as the water would seep out the back area rather than just going into the subfloor and basement which might not be as noticeable


And I would use composite shims rather than cedar shims to prevent the toilet rocking on an uneven floor. If there is any leak, the wood will eventually disintegrate so it's a good idea to use composite shims anywhere water contact is possible

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2017, 11:54:23 AM »

Bolded = mine. I would just caulk around the front and sides of the toilet. This way if any "splatters" occur from male users of the toilet, they won't seep in between the toilet and the floor. This allows you to still see a leak as the water would seep out the back area rather than just going into the subfloor and basement which might not be as noticeable


And I would use composite shims rather than cedar shims to prevent the toilet rocking on an uneven floor. If there is any leak, the wood will eventually disintegrate so it's a good idea to use composite shims anywhere water contact is possible

I actually reached agreement with one of the few reasonable building inspectors in my area to caulk exactly as you describe. That said, I've pulled countless toilets and from what I have observed, I'm not sold on the necessity of caulking the base. As for cedar shims, they are probably only good for 50-60 years in this application :)

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #26 on: May 05, 2017, 12:06:48 PM »
Papa Bear is right

The wax ring is NOT actually suppose to contain liquids only the smells. While it does this as well a property installed toilet should nest itself into the flange and could in theory be flushed with no wax ring and not leak.

I haven't got a clue as to where in the hell you dreamed up this little tidbit, but it couldn't be further from the truth. A wax ring is there to provide a gas and liquid tight connection between the toilet and the sewer, been that way for the last century, and nothing much has changed. I have seen plenty of cases where there have been extensive leaks and damage from a failed wax seal, and no observable sewer odor, or complain of such from the user.  Your theory will work in the unusual cases where there is a significant vertical drop in the drain piping before the first fitting. In most cases however, there is a tight radius elbow attached to the flange, and considerable restriction and turbulence as the large volume of water and waste hits this area. I have flushed toilets with a defective wax seal, and watched streams of water flow out from the toilet base, after each flush.

What kind of finish floor are we talking here? Something thin like linoleum or LVT  you might be ok. But if your doing 1/2 tile backerboard and 1/2 tile and thinset your raising the height of your floor an inch or the flange, that is not good. To be fair you might be ok, I have had to install toilets on a flange that is lower then I would prefer. No leaks yet that I can tell but I expect to have to rip it out and do it correctly one day. 


I would try to fix it now before you spend money and time on a nice finish floor that is ruined by a leaky toilet. Then you are back to where you started a year from now.

It might help to actually read the thread before offering your "wisdom". A few responses up, the OP  clearly states that his tile install resulted in a recessed flange that is less than a 1/4" below the tile surface. Not a problem in the least, either stack a pair of wax rings or better yet, upgrade to a rubber ring.  Nothing to fix, nothing a pro. spends a moment thinking about when they are faced with this situation.

Jon Bon

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #27 on: May 05, 2017, 03:05:41 PM »
Lol I did not say you should do it that way!

I guess my point was I want the flange and the toilet as close to each other as possible. What I dont want is the wax ring to become a defacto pipe if the flange and toilet are too far apart.

Fair enough on my lazy reading. And I agree 1/4 inch should be no big deal.

paddedhat

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Re: Remodeling bathroom. Is this bad?
« Reply #28 on: May 05, 2017, 04:48:02 PM »
Lol I did not say you should do it that way!

I guess my point was I want the flange and the toilet as close to each other as possible. What I dont want is the wax ring to become a defacto pipe if the flange and toilet are too far apart.

Fair enough on my lazy reading. And I agree 1/4 inch should be no big deal.

Ah, I got your line of though now.  Yea, if the gap gets extreme, there is a flange and sleeve product made that can seal inside the existing pipe to bridge the gap. It's amazing how half-assed that whole assembly can be and still function. As a kid I spent some time being the gopher for a plumber who worked on some really nasty old houses. I can remember pulling toilets to find that the closet bolts were screwed  directly into the floor boards, and there was a rough hole in the floor with the cut end of the cast iron drain pipe in the hole, roughly flush with the floor boards.  Somehow it worked for at least half a century before I got there, but it sure seemed like it should of failed long before.