Wobbly Toilet? 3 Common Causes and Potential Solutions

Deane Biermeier
Written by Deane Biermeier
Updated February 14, 2022
A white toilet bowl in a bright bathroom
Photo: onurdongel / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Highlights

  • A creaking toilet may be alerting you to a bigger problem.

  • A wobbly toilet can cause damage to your home if not addressed.

  • A wobbly or creaking toilet can be caused by a loose seat.

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It’s true that your toilet contains several moving parts. One of those moving parts, though,  shouldn’t be the toilet itself. A wobbly toilet is not only unsettling for its occupants—it can cause leaks and expensive damage to your home if left unchecked. Even if your toilet looks and feels secure, that creaking noise it makes when you sit on it may be cause for alarm. 

There are three reasons your toilet may be making unusual noises. We’ll talk about them in order of severity and focus on wallet-friendly ways to repair each problem. 

1. Loose Toilet Seat

A loose seat or broken hinge may be the source of the noise. It won’t cause expensive problems, but it can be uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. Making a quick inspection will tell you what the problem is.

Tighten the Seat Hinges

It’s common for the seat fasteners to have simply loosened from the toilet bowl.

  • Access the hinge fasteners by prying open the fastener covers directly behind the lid on the top side of the hinges. 

  • Insert a wide-blade regular screwdriver into the head of the fastener. You may also need to secure the nuts on the underside of the fastener with pliers.

  • Twist the screwdriver clockwise to tighten to hand-tight. 

Replace a Broken Seat

Sometimes the seat hinges simply wear out and break. If the hinge fasteners are secured, but the seat still moves, you’ll have to replace the entire toilet seat. 

2. Secure the Toilet 

Closet bolts are the bolts located at the base of the toilet that appear to penetrate the ceramic and fasten to the floor. Before proceeding, check that the closet bolts and nuts are free of rust. If they’re significantly rusted, skip this step and go on to the next section.

Tighten the Closet Bolts

If your toilet is wobbling or rocking but you haven’t noticed any leaks, the nuts on top of the closet bolts may have simply become loose.

  • Using an open-ended wrench, gently tighten the nut on the closet bolt until it feels firm. 

  • Use caution to not overtighten the nuts. This can cause the toilet to crack and require replacement. 

Shim the Toilet

Your closet bolts may have become loose due to an unlevel flooring situation. This is a common issue with toilets installed over a tile floor. Filling voids between the bowl and the floor can eliminate the rocking toilet problem. Plastic toilet shims are available at hardware stores and home centers for just this reason. 

Check for Leaks

Retightening bolts and shimming can be effective at stopping a wobbly or creaking toilet. However, if you move a toilet at all, the potential for leaks increases dramatically. 

If it wasn’t leaking before, the repair may have caused a leaking situation and you’ll need to replace the wax ring or hire a plumber in your area to handle this task for you. 

  • Flush the toilet 10 times or more, allowing the tank to completely refill between flushes.

  • Inspect around the base of the toilet for any signs of water. 

  • Inspect the ceiling of the floor below for leaks if the area is accessible.

Tip: To thoroughly check for leaks under your toilet, slide the edges of several dry paper towels under the base and flush several times. If any water shows up on a paper towel, it’s leaking. 

3. Reset the Toilet Flange

If you’re still dealing with a rocking or creaking toilet after trying the above steps, it’s likely the flange under the toilet needs repair or replacement. 

Remove the Toilet

To diagnose and repair the problem, you’ll need to uninstall the toilet. If you’re an intermediate DIYer who has plumbing experience, you can probably handle this task yourself. If not, hire a plumbing repair company near you to ensure everything goes smoothly. 

Note: If water continues to come from the supply valve when you remove the hose, you’ll need to find your home’s main water valve and turn it off. Replace the defective supply valve before proceeding or call a plumber to assist.  

Fix and Level the Floor

If water has been leaking under the toilet, the floor or subfloor may have been damaged. If this is the case, you’ll need to repair or replace damaged flooring before proceeding or call a local flooring company to help.

Repair Broken Toilet Flange

If your existing toilet flange is in good shape, but the closet bolt slots have failed, installing a repair flange is the easiest way to fix it.

Replace Broken Toilet Flange

The flange may have broken as a result of the toilet wobbling or creaking when you sit on it, or it may be the cause. If the existing flange contains cracks or has pieces broken from it, it’ll need to be replaced. 

DIY Wobbly Toilet Repair vs. Hiring a Pro 

A plumber applying silicone sealant to a toilet
Photo: ronstik / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Performing your own toilet repairs yourself can save quite a bit of money. Tightening a toilet seat costs nothing at all if you do it yourself, while replacing a flange will cost under $50 for parts.

However, plumbing repair isn’t everyone’s favorite Saturday afternoon pastime. Plus, if you don’t have plumbing experience, you can end up making costly mistakes. It may be worth it for you to hire a nearby plumber to perform the repairs, with an average range of $150 to $300

To hire a handyperson service to repair damaged flooring or water damage caused by a leaking toilet can cost an additional $75 to $200

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