Do It Yourself

Tightening bolts at base could stop toilet leak

By Gene Austin
Friday, December 10, 2010; 9:28 AM

Q. One of my toilets has a small leak around the base. Is there an easy way to fix this? - T. Gooldich

A. You can try slightly tightening the bolts on the base of the toilet. Be careful not to over-tighten these bolts because too much pressure could crack the toilet's base.

If that doesn't stop the leak, the best bet is to replace the wax ring under the toilet. The wax ring seals the toilet to the drain-waste pipe.

Unfortunately, replacing the ring means removing the toilet from the floor to gain access. The ring itself is inexpensive and can be bought at a home center or hardware store. Also buy a new pair of bolts to secure the base.

When the toilet is removed, carefully examined the top of the drain-waste pipe for any damage. The flange on top of the pipe secures the hold-down bolts, and any damage to this flange also should be repaired.

It is important to stop the leak as soon as possible. Delaying repair can lead to a rotting floor under the toilet and mean more complicated and expensive repairs.

Q. I plan to convert my basement to living space by refinishing the walls, floor and ceiling. I get conflicting opinions on whether I can use drywall in the basement. The basement has an interior drain and sump pump and gets humid in summer but is generally dry. Can you help? - B. Hardy

A. You can use drywall in the basement if there is no serious water problem, but you should use so-called paperless drywall. This is a relatively new product that is resistant to mold, mildew and other problems associated with moisture.

Ordinary drywall, of course, has a paper covering on both sides that is prone to moisture problems. Paperless drywall, however, is covered on both sides with fiberglass mats. An example is Georgia Pacific's DensArmor Plus, which is sold at many building-supply outlets and some home centers.

You will pay more for paperless drywall, but you will get extra protection. The use of drywall indicates that you plan to insulate the basement walls; if that is true, I recommend using rigid foam insulation panels instead of fiberglass blankets because foam is more resistant to moisture problems.

You also might consider a product such as the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System. This is a contractor-installed system that uses prefinished, insulated panels to dress up the walls.

The Owens Corning system is a lot more expensive than doing the work yourself with drywall and similar products, but you'll get a fast, attractive basement remodeling job. If you want more information, visit and click on "building materials," then on "basement finishing system."

Q. I want to use a solid-color stain on my new deck of pressure-treated wood, but the stain salesman says it should not be applied for at least six months. This stain has a 10-year warranty. However, the deck builder says I should apply a sealer right away. Who is right? - W. Florence

A. Both are correct, but you need more information.

It is a good idea to apply a water-repellant sealer to a new pressure-treated deck to help stabilize the wood while it dries out. But you should be sure to apply a sealer that is appropriate for new decks; one such is Wolman RainCoat Clear Water Repellant. This is an oil-based sealer. The clear sealer should be allowed to weather for six months; then the deck can be thoroughly cleaned with Wolman Deck & Fence Brightener.

After the deck dries from the cleaning, you can apply an oil-based solid-color stain. If you don't want to apply a sealer and cleaner but do want to use that particular stain, you still should wait six months for the deck to dry out.

Solid-color stains are much like paint in that they form a film on the surface that will peel and blister if applied to wood that is too wet. Be sure to read the directions on any product you apply and observe the temperature limits for application. Also, good luck with long-term warranties on deck finishes. If a stain holds up for 10 years on a deck and still looks good, it is a very superior stain.

Warranties on paint and finishes generally cover only the product, not the cost of labor to apply it. You also should check the terms of the warranty if you ever hope to get any refund.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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