February 12, 2012 in Features

Do It Yourself: Wobbly toilet makes sitting uncomfortable

Gene Austin McClatchy
Quick tip

 Reader Rick Aguilar says he saves time when finishing baseboards and other woodwork by using a product that stains and applies a coat of polyurethane at the same time. “After three light coats on an old, weather-beaten door, which I had completely sanded, the results were amazing,” he said.

 The best known of these stain-poly combinations is Minwax PolyShades, which is available in a variety of light and dark stain tones. PolyShades works on bare wood, previously stained wood, and wood that has been previously top coated with a polyurethane-based finish.

 When applied over existing stain, it is best to use darker tones than the original. If a lighter tone is wanted on wood that has a dark stain, the wood should be stripped before using PolyShades.

 For directions and application tips, visit www.minwax.com.

Q. One of the toilets in our house wobbles when sat on, making it rather uncomfortable. There doesn’t seem to be any leaks, but I’d like to fix it. Can you help?

A. Start by checking the hold-down bolts in the toilet base. The nuts, which are visible on each side of the toilet base that rests on the floor, might have worked loose. These nuts should be tightened cautiously, turning the nut a little on one side, then repeating on the other side, and so on. You must be careful not to over tighten the nuts – that could crack the toilet base and you would need a new toilet.

If this doesn’t stop the wobbling, you can shim the base of the toilet. Look for a slight gap between the base of the toilet and the floor, which is what allows the wobbling. The shims need to be inserted into the gap.

Shims should be tapered and thin enough to slide into the gap and support the bow. They should be made of a material that can be trimmed flush with the base. You can use wood shims, sold at some home centers, or make shims from pieces of tapered cedar shingles.

There are also special shims for toilets; to check on these, visit www.ezshim.com and click on products. The toilet shims, called Johnny Shims, are made of a composite material that will resist water better than wood. The excess Johnny Shims can be snapped off after insertion.

Shims should be pushed snugly into gaps, but should not be pounded or forced. When the toilet is stabilized, use a waterproof caulk around the base to conceal the shims and keep out water and dirt.

Check the toilet periodically for signs of leaks around the base. If leaks occur, there is probably a defective wax seal or flange on the drain-waste pipe. To fix leaks, the toilet must be removed and the damaged parts replaced.

Q. Can you tell me why wood floors should not be waxed? My polyurethane floors were waxed and I have trouble cleaning them. Most cleaners leave a haze. How can I get rid of the wax?

A. Whether a floor should be waxed depends on the original finish. For example, some floors have an oil-wax finish that responds very well to proper waxing and buffing. However, that does not apply to polyurethane floors, which should not be waxed for several reasons.

One reason is that poly floors have their own luster – they don’t need waxing, just proper cleaning. Another is that once wax is applied to a poly floor, the wax is very difficult to remove and it might be impossible to refinish the floor without sanding off the entire finish down to bare wood (more polyurethane will not adhere to wax). A third reason is the difficulty in cleaning, such as you are experiencing.

One possibility is to try and get rid of the wax with a commercial wax stripper, but it will need to be carefully chosen to avoid messing up the poly.

I suggest contacting an experienced wood-flooring pro in your area. Have the floor examined and determine whether wax stripping is feasible and what product and technique might work best.

If you prefer to check home centers for a stripper, read the directions and cautions before buying it. Be sure and test any stripper first on an inconspicuous area of the floor. I should also point out that the best solution to your problem may be to sand the floor to bare wood and start over.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus@17aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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