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  • Writer's pictureJohn Coleman

How to Fix a Rocking Toilet on an Unlevel Surface

Updated: Feb 6

Fix a Rocking Toilet on an Unlevel Surface
Fix a Rocking Toilet on an Unlevel Surface

Have you ever experienced the unsettling feeling of a rocking toilet. No matter which way you shift your weight, it doesn't seem to correct. So what actually causes a toilet to rock? I decided to dig deeper into this question and share with you the answers I found. Continue reading and I will layout the causes of a rocking toilet and how you can get it fixed asap.

The causes of a rocking toilet are usually related to an unlevel floor, loose anchor bolts, a damaged wax ring, or a damaged flange. An unlevel floor can be addressed by strategically placing shims under the toilet or by leveling the floor with a self-leveling compound. Other ways to fix the rocking toilet are to tighten or replace the anchor bolts and replace the damaged wax ring and/or flange.

What is a Rocking Toilet?

A rocking toilet is when a toilet is not securely anchored to the floor and rocks back and forth when weight is applied. This can be a frustrating and sometimes even dangerous issue, as it can lead to leaks or even a broken toilet if left untreated.

How Much Does it Cost to DIY Fix a Rocking Toilet?

The cost of fixing a rocking toilet can vary depending on the cause and severity of the issue. Typically, it is an inexpensive fix when you DIY. Please see the estimated cost of materials below.

  • For Floor Leveling: 

  • Shims - $15 or less (used to stabilize on unlevel floor)

  • Self-leveling Compound - $70 or less (used to fill in gaps or dips on an unlevel floor)

  • For other damaged parts:

    • Anchor Bolts - under $10

    • Wax or Waxless Ring - under $10 (I find it to be good practice to replace the wax ring anytime the toilet is removed from its position or significantly rocked back and forth.

    • Flange Repair - around $25 (Repair if your existing flange is damaged, warped, or cracked. Be sure to note whether you have a 3" or 4" pipe to ensure you get the correct part)

  • All-inclusive kits - around $20-$25 (includes wax ring, anchor bolts, and flange repair)

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DIY vs Hiring a Professional

If you're handy with tools and have some experience in home repairs, fixing a rocking toilet can be a DIY project. However, if you're unsure or uncomfortable with tackling this issue on your own, it's always better to hire a professional. Not only will they have the necessary tools and expertise, but they can also quickly identify any underlying issues that may be causing the toilet to rock.

It will likely cost you less than $100 if you can DIY the repairs. The cost of hiring plumber is going to vary according to what the problem is. You can estimate around $100-$300. Keep in mind, that if you attempt to DIY the project without the proper skillset, you could potentially cause more damage which will end up costing you more to fix than if you had just hired a plumber.

Preventing a Rocking Toilet

To prevent a rocking toilet in the future, it's important to ensure that it is properly installed from the beginning. This includes using appropriate shims, securely anchoring bolts, and making sure all parts are in good condition. Regularly checking for any signs of movement or loosening can also help catch and fix any issues before they become major problems.

Why is it Important to Fix a Rocking Toilet?

A stable toilet is a critical fixture in any home. When your toilet begins to rock or feel unstable, it's more than just an annoyance—it can lead to leaks, damaged flooring, and even a cracked toilet base. Rocking toilets are often a symptom of an unlevel floor, and fixing this issue requires a cautious and step-by-step approach. From assessing the problem to re-installing your toilet properly, this guide will walk you through the entire process of fixing a rocking toilet on an unlevel surface.

Assess the Problem

The first step in fixing a rocking toilet is to identify the underlying cause. The rocking motion may be due to a few different issues including an unlevel floor, loose anchor bolts, a damaged wax ring, or a flange that is no longer seated correctly against the floor. Once you've identified the cause, you can plan the appropriate fix.

Removing the Toilet

Removing the toilet is necessary to assess and repair the underlying issue. Below are the steps to remove the toilet:

Water Shutoff Valve
Water Shutoff Valve
  • Shut off the water to the toilet. You will find the shut off valve coming from the floor or wall close to the base of the toilet tank.

  • Flush the toilet completely to drain all the water from the bowl and the tank

  • Disconnect the water supply line from the toilet

  • Remove the nuts from the anchor bolts at the base of the toilet.

  • Gently rock the toilet from side to side to break the seal created by the wax ring.

Toilet Anchor Bolts
Toilet Anchor Bolts
  • Once the toilet is free, you can lift it and set it aside.

  • Using your putty knife or scraper, gently scrape away any residual wax from the flange where it meets the floor. This will ensure a clean and secure seal for the new wax ring.

Inspect and Identify What Needs to be Repaired

With the toilet removed, you can now inspect the flange, wax ring, and floor. Common issues that may need to be addressed include:

  • Loose or broken anchor bolts

  • A cracked or damaged flange

  • A wax ring that is not creating the appropriate seal

  • Uneven flooring causing an unstable base for the toilet

If the anchor bolts, wax ring, or flange are damaged, they will need to be replaced. It is always a good idea to replace the wax seal if you remove the toilet so it will be sure to have a good seal when the toilet it re-installed. If there are any gaps or uneven areas in the flooring, you will need to use shims or a self-leveling compound to create a level base for the toilet.

Gather the Necessary Tools

Before beginning any repair, gather the tools you'll need. Here's a list of commonly required tools:

Leveling the Floor

With the toilet removed, you can now address the unlevel floor. Use a level to determine the degree of the slope and take the appropriate measure to level the floor. In some cases, this may involve simply adding shims under the toilet to support it, while in others you may need to use a self-leveling compound to create a level surface.

Shims vs. Self-Leveling Compound


Shims are wedge-shaped pieces of plastic or rubber that you can place under the base of the toilet to prevent it from rocking. Shims are used for minor rocking issues. To use shims, place the toilet back in its location and use a level to ensure it's as straight as possible. Then, slide the shims under the edges of the toilet until it is stable and no longer rocks.

(Ensure that the toilet is sitting in position before placing the shims. If you intend to replace the flange and the wax ring, do so before reinstalling the toilet.)

Self-Leveling Compound

If your floor is significantly unlevel causing major rocking of your toilet, you may need to use a self-leveling compound. This special kind of cement-like material is poured onto the floor, where it seeks its own level to form a solid, smooth surface. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mixing and applying the compound, and make sure the area is well-ventilated.

How to Use Shims to Level a Toilet

  1. Prepare the shims by cutting them into smaller pieces if needed.

  2. Place the toilet back in its location and use a level to ensure it's as straight as possible.

  3. Slide the shims under the edges of the toilet until it is stable and no longer rocks.

  4. Trim any excess shims that may be visible above the base of the toilet.

  5. Once the toilet is securely shimmed and leveled, use a caulking gun to apply a bead of silicone caulk around the base of the toilet to create a watertight seal. PVC Sealing Tape can also be used around the base of the toilet instead of caulk. It tends to make less of a mess and is easier to remove if needed.

How to Use Self-Leveling Compound

  1. Measure the area where the compound will be applied and mix an appropriate amount according to manufacturer's instructions.

  2. Pour the compound onto the floor, starting from the lowest point and working towards higher areas.

  3. Use a trowel to spread and smooth out the compound, making sure it fills in any low spots.

  4. Allow the compound to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

  5. Once dry, sand down any high spots or imperfections using a sander or sandpaper.

  6. Vacuum or sweep the area to remove any debris

  7. Follow all safety precautions and wear protective gear, as the compound can emit strong fumes during application and drying process.

Using shims or self-leveling compound are both effective ways to level a floor and stop a toilet from rocking., but it's important to choose the method that best fits your specific situation. If you have a severely uneven floor or are dealing with an old, uneven toilet, self-leveling compound may be the best option as it can fill in larger gaps and provide a more stable base. However, if you only need minor adjustments or prefer a simpler method, shims can be a quick and easy solution.

Re-installing the Toilet After the Compound has Dried

(Tip: It is a good idea to replace the anchor bolts when re-installing the toilet)

  1. Once the self-leveling compound is completely dry, it's time to re-install the toilet.

  2. Place a new wax ring on the flange of the drain pipe.

  3. Carefully lift the toilet and place it back over the bolts on the floor.

  4. Press down gently but firmly to create a seal with the wax ring.

  5. Reattach the bolts and tighten them evenly to secure the toilet in place.

  6. Reconnect the water supply line and turn on the water.

  7. Test the toilet by flushing and checking for any leaks around the base.

  8. If there are no leaks, use a caulk gun or PVC sealant tape to seal around the base of the toilet for added stability.

  9. If you choose to use caulk, allow it to dry before using the toilet.


A stable toilet is essential for the smooth operation of your household. An unlevel floor can cause a myriad of problems, but with a bit of patience and these step-by-step instructions, you can fix a rocking toilet and ensure it's as good as new. Remember, it's always worth taking your time and ensuring that the job is done right. Your efforts will not only stabilize your toilet but also give you the satisfaction of triumphing over a home maintenance challenge!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What type of wax ring should I use when reinstalling the toilet?

A: There are generally two types of wax rings available: wax and waxless (made of rubber). A waxless (rubber) ring is known to create a better seal and is a good option for most toilets. You can also find some ring kits that include a flange replacement.

Q: How long does it take for the self-leveling compound to dry?

A: Generally, it can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for the compound to completely dry, depending on the thickness of the application and the environmental conditions.

Q: What if I see leaks after reinstalling the toilet?

A: If you observe any leaks, make sure the bolts are tightened evenly. If the problem persists, it may need a new wax ring or professional plumber assistance.

Q: Is it necessary to use caulk or PVC sealant tape around the base of the toilet?

A: It's not absolutely necessary but highly recommended. It provides added stability and prevents any potential leakage.

Q: What if I am uncomfortable performing the task myself?

A: If at any point you're uncomfortable or unsure about the task, it's best to consult a professional plumber. Doing so can prevent potential errors and ensure the job is done correctly.

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