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Robert Lamoureux: Many reasons can exist for a loose toilet

Your Home Improvements

Posted: February 26, 2010 11:05 p.m.
Updated: February 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.
We have designed a custom, full color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt that we will send to you, with our compliments, if we answer your question in our column. Thank you, Robert Lamoureux

My toilet is loose from the floor. I have tightened the nuts on the posts on either side of the of the base but the toilet still rocks when getting up from the seat. I would like to know what this might be. Also one of the few things I haven't done around the house is replace a toilet so was wondering what I should have on hand to get started. I'm not sure how the toilet is attached to the floor. Is there a flange anchored to the floor or the actual drain pipe?
James S.

Hi James,
You're going to have to pull the toilet for an inspection. You'll want to check if the closet ring is rotted or damaged. If so, and you have a wooden floor, remove the old ring and replace it. If you have a concrete floor, you can buy a retrofit closet ring which attaches around the old one. You then bolt the toilet to the retrofit ring.

If the closet ring and bolts are in good shape, then check to see if there is a problem with the framing that is causing the toilet to rock. Make sure it is solid and in good condition. Sometimes a slow leak will develop and will rot timbers. If any rotting is discovered, then I suggest calling a qualified general contractor as this may require structural work that could include replacing floor joists.

If all else looks good, then it is possible that your house has settled and the floor is no longer level, which could be causing the toilet to rock.

For the repair, use floor leveler which levels itself then put the new floor down. For concrete floors, you'll need to refloat the floor.

If the toilet is rocking, but is otherwise functioning fine, then there is no need to replace it, but if you do, all you need is the new fixture and a wax ring.

One more thing - once you remove the toilet, if you decide to finish up the next day or go to the hardware store, be sure and stuff a wet rag down the pipe so the sewer gasses don't escape into your home. The trap is built into the toilet, so once it's in place, everything is fine.

While the toilet is off, though, take every precaution to prevent those gasses from entering your home.

Hi Robert,
We are home shopping and found what we consider is a very nice HOA, but they are "in receivership." What are your views on this? Thank you,
Anna K.

Hi Anna,
That's not really my field of expertise, but we currently work with two properties that are in receivership - an HOA community and a commercial office tower.

In my experience, when a property declares bankruptcy, the bank will then assign a managing agent whether it be they, the bank, or a professional management company to manage until the property is eventually resold.

The homeowners still pay their dues, and the bank would pay for anything regarded as common area. In my personal dealings with these properties, they appear to at least keep up the minimum standards. It is after all in the bank's best interest to keep a property maintained and saleable for when the economy turns around.

Hello Robert,
I am the president of an HOA. Every light standard and every building is on its own photocell, which we are continuously replacing. I would be interested in any alternatives you can offer. Many thanks,
Matt L.

Hi Matt,
Go to the main electrical panel where all of the circuits are located. Disconnect them and put them on a relay. Each pole on that relay will activate one photocell.

At the main panel, the house panel, let's say you have seven circuits. Then, you would need a seven-pole relay. Each pole would have a different photocell tied to it. When it clicks on, you're bypassing all of the photocells and putting them all on one relay. It would basically act like a switch, turning all seven circuits off and on and the same time.

As I always say, when it comes to electricity especially, please use only a licensed electrician and pull permits as needed for this type of work.

We have some rotted load bearing posts on our property that I want to replace. The posts are 8" x 8" and are either badly termite damaged or maybe water rotted. There are some clamps on the bottom of the posts that are rusted, and one is broken, but it looks like we can still use some of them. My question is what's the best way to replace them and would permits be necessary? Thank you,
Edgar B.

Hi Edgar,
To replace a load bearing post, you need to shore up the building. You would use jacks with posts on either side of the post you are replacing to both support the building and take the weight off of the damaged posts so they can be removed.

For permits you need engineering. You will need to pay a structural engineer for a field inspection, a complete layout or architectural drawings, and the completed report that includes his calculations of what needs to be changed - like the dimensions of the new footings.

For example, let's say the posts are approximately 30 years old and, at the time of installation, they were placed in direct contact with the ground. Based on code changes, posts now need to rest on stand-off brackets which keep them off of the ground by about 1." This way, water is not allowed to wick up inside the posts and rot them.

For the stand-off brackets, you'll need to set them in fresh concrete, so you'll first have to sawcut and demo out for your footings. The engineer may call out footings at 2-foot by 2 foot by 2 foot deep for each.

After you mix and pour the new concrete, you'll need to set the stand-off bracket level and exactly underneath where the bottom of the new post will sit, before the concrete bangs. Any small weight on a string or plumb bob works fine for this. Remember, you're going to want that post to stand perfectly plumb when finished.

You mentioned that you weren't sure if the damages were termite related. I recommend calling out a termite company for an inspection. If you have damaged beams, now would be the time to replace those as well. Sometimes they look perfectly fine, but are actually hollow. To check yourself, you can perform a tap test. Just tap the timbers with a rod. If you've got termites, you'll be able to tell right away.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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