If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you’re probably interested in how everything works — especially for systems and units you depend on daily. One such unit is your toilet.

You probably understand the basic mechanics of how it removes waste from your home and understand the functions of the obvious parts. But how about the not-so-obvious parts that are also very important, like the flange?

In this article, San Francisco’s plumbing repair experts from Works Plumbing dissect the function of this part and all you need to know about it.

What Is a Toilet Flange?

A toilet flange, or closet flange,  is an accessory that helps make sure your toilet is bolted securely to the floor. It also connects the toilet to the drainpipe, ensuring it is secure and water-tight. 

How Does a Toilet Flange Work?

Toilet flanges have multiple slots around their flat collars. The holes are connection ports for the bolts connecting the flange to the toilet floor.

Plumbers install the flange directly above the sewer drainpipe. To ensure adequate protection against potential leaks, your plumber will put a wax ring between the flange and the toilet.

A properly installed toilet flange ensures waste leaves your toilet through the sewer drain pipe without leaking onto your toilet floor. Thus, an old or wrongly installed toilet flange is a significant health and safety hazard inside your home.

The Different Types of Toilet Flanges

Toilet flanges come in different materials. We’ll look at the different options below.

Plastic Toilet Flanges

Most toilet flanges in many modern homes are Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based. The plastic is the same material you’ll find in many other plumbing fixtures. PVC flanges are affordable because the material is readily available, and the production process is straightforward.

Some manufacturers make plastic flanges from ABS plastic, which is arguably a better material than PVC. It is cheaper and resistant to everyday environmental factors like water and heat.

Plastic flanges are a good option for drainage systems with three- or four-inch drain pipes.

Copper Toilet Flanges

You’re unlikely to find a copper toilet flange in many homes, but these units are also great, offering a few distinct advantages.

The most important benefit is that your copper toilet flange is highly corrosion-resistant compared to other metals. Copper’s malleability also makes these flanges easier to install. The toilet structure will not make installation difficult.

Cast Iron Toilet Flanges

Cast iron flanges are not common in modern homes because the material is more expensive than others. However, it is highly durable.

Cast iron flanges are available in various sizes and can fit different sizes of drain pipes. Your plumber may recommend a cast iron flange if you have a low drain pipe. The design of cast iron flanges allows them to reach deep down into the pipes.

Aluminum Toilet Flanges

Aluminum toilet flanges are lightweight and less likely to suffer from corrosion. They are also highly durable and long-lasting.

Stainless Steel Flanges

Stainless steel flanges are uncommon variants you’re likely to find on older toilets. As you’d expect for any material made of stainless steel, these flanges are highly resistant to oxidation and corrosion. They also have impressive durability and life expectancy.

Brass Toilet Flanges

Brass toilet flanges are long-lasting options available both as regular toilet flanges and offset or deep-seat toilet flanges. Some manufacturers add an elbow joint to their drain pipes, allowing a more direct connection to an elbow joint. You need the wax ring to ensure a tight seal between the brass flange and the toilet.

Is a Toilet Flange Really Necessary?

A toilet flange is very necessary. Without a toilet flange, you can experience the downsides of not having one quickly. It’s possible to bolt your toilet straight to the floor, but it will cause your floors to rot as sewage will leak out of the improperly aligned toilet bowl.

Therefore, a toilet flange is a must-have in any modern bathroom.

When Should You Replace Your Toilet Flange?

Even the most durable toilet flange will need replacing at some point. They must endure unsavory conditions around the clock, so wear and tear is almost unavoidable.

However, it may take more than a decade for a quality toilet flange to wear out.  As such, people typically ask, “What is a toilet flange?” for the first time when theirs wears out.

When the toilet flange wears out, you will start to notice leaks at the base of your toilet. The toilet will also become unstable when you use it, rocking back and forth. If you start seeing any of these symptoms, it’s time to replace the toilet flange.

If you’ve only just replaced yours within the last year or two, the plumber did a poor job, and you must call a professional to reinstall or replace it.

Should You Replace a Toilet Flange on Your Own?

Replacing a toilet flange is a straightforward DIY project for anyone who has the right tools and is willing to get their hands dirty. The replacement process is straightforward. However, it’s still challenging.

In most cases, you’re better off calling in a qualified plumber for the job. Your toilet weighs at least 120 lbs, so moving it alone may be impossible. Until you’ve moved it out of the way, it can be difficult to know what the problem is.

In some cases, you may find out that you have more than just the flange to deal with. Any toilet with a flange that’s been leaking for some time will likely give you other problems to worry about that may require breaking down concrete or cutting through floorboards.

For example, the drainpipe may break when the toilet becomes wobbly, increasing the difficulty of the flange replacement job. Thus, you need to be sure you can handle the requirements.

How to Replace Your Toilet Flange

If you’re up for the toilet flange replacement job, here’s what to  do:

  • Turn off the water supply to your toilet tank.
  • Flush the toilet multiple times to ensure there’s no water left in the tank.
  • Disconnect the water supply pipework from the tank.
  • Lay some oil towels around the toilet floor to protect it from leaks and scrapes.
  • Unbolt the toilet. Start with the tank first, then the bowl. You can find mounting bolts on both sides of the tank. Unscrew them to lift the tank from the bowl.
  • To remove the bowl, take off the bolt caps around the toilet base and the nuts on the floor bolts.
  • Shake the toilet a bit to release it from the wax seal (not necessary if it is already loose).
  • Block off the drainpipe with an old towel to keep the unpleasant odors from spreading in the bathroom and the rest of the house.
  • Remove the wax seal to reach and remove the old toilet flange. You can scrape off the wax using a paint scraper.
  • Using a screwdriver, unscrew the bolts holding the flange to the floor. The flange should lift off easily. Otherwise, use the flat edge of the screwdriver to reach underneath it and force it out.
  • If you don’t have a replacement flange, you can visit your local hardware store to look for a good fit. Remember to evaluate the options available to choose one that’s in line with your needs.
  • To install the new flange, secure it to the floor just like the old one. Insert the bolts and tighten them in place with your nuts and washers.
  • Place the wax ring on the center of the flange and carefully lower the toilet bowl into its position.
  • Reattach the toilet bowl using its bolts, and reinstall the tanks using the mounting bolts on both sides.
  • Reattach the water supply and wait for the tank to fill with water.
  • Flush the toilet and then watch for leaks. If you can’t find any leaks, you’ve successfully replaced your worn-out toilet flange.

If you find leaks, don’t fret. Turn off the water supply and repeat the process, making sure to reposition the flange correctly. You may need to replace the flange if it doesn’t match your drain pipe.

If all else fails, call a professional to avoid damaging your bathroom floor. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Replacing your toilet flange is one of the more demanding DIY projects — especially when you don’t have help.

Reach Out to a Professional Plumbing Service Near You in Pacifica, CA

If you need extra help with your toilet flange, don’t hesitate to contact Works Plumbing. Our team of dedicated professionals delivers high-quality workmanship and top-class customer service on every project.

If you are still wondering, “What is a toilet flange?” or have other questions, we are happy to help! 

Is your toilet backing up at the worst possible moment? We operate a 24/7 emergency line and can reach your home in the shortest time possible.

Call our professionals at Works Plumbing today at (650) 414-5831 for all things toilet flanges in Pacifica, CA.

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