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greenjp 02-18-2019 03:55 PM

floor & toilet problem
5 Attachment(s)
My mother in law has a small full bathroom in her home that was remodeled about 10-12 years ago. Unfortunately her husband passed away a few years ago and there's not much record of who or what was done exactly.

I was asked to take a look at the toilet when I was there for the holidays and found that it was not stable, rocking back and forth pretty easily. The nuts were screwed down pretty tight but it didn't appear to be shimmed at all and had no caulk around the base. I said I'd bring my stuff with me next time and check it out...

... so this past weekend I arrived with tools in tow, removed the toilet, and found this disaster.

Crumbled grout, cracked tiles, rusted closet flange, rotted subfloor (both layers of plywood), and tiles set directly to plywood and with zero coverage. That cracked piece popped off with a gentle finger tug. Yikes. Note the flex supply hose is routed down the drain for now as the valve wouldn't stop the flow completely so I had to do something with it. It's all sealed up with plastic and tape for now.

So it looks like I'll be tasked to fix this. The good news is the basement below is unfinished so access for plumbing is easy. I have no idea what kind of drain that is, the top of it is above the floor but it didn't have the flange built in. The flange was a separate, two piece metal ring screwed into the floor with about 6 screws. There was a thin, wide rubber gasket atop the drain that I suppose was serving the role of the wax ring but didn't look like any of the wax ring alternatives I've seen.

I figure the order of operations will be to remove the tiles (6 of them, 12x12s) that are around the toilet, cut out the top layer of plywood, and see how bad the bottom layer is. With any luck only a relatively small section spanning the joists on either side of the drain will need to be replaced, which I can then go over with a second layer of an appropriate thickness, install a new drain with an integrated flange (like this maybe? https://www.homedepot.com/p/4-in-x-3...HD43/100344019), and tile on an appropriate substrate. I advised her that unless there was a box of spare tiles lying around somewhere the new ones wouldn't match and that it might be tricky to get the finished height exactly the same, but got the impression she'd rather go that route than have me demo and redo the entire floor. This being 3 hours away and me having no shortage of work to do in my own home struck me as a good compromise :D

Any thoughts or tips as I do my planning? I'm probably not going to be working on it until April. Thanks.

speed51133 02-18-2019 06:26 PM

i would only use an ABS flange like you linked if your drain pipe is ABS.

If it were me, I would cut the drain out from the basement and replace it with new material. If the pipe below is ABS, use ABS. If it is cast iron, I would use a transition fernco coupling and switch to PVC.

Keep in mind once you remove the tiles and repair the subfloor, the toilet closet flange is mounted and glued LAST, after all tile work is finished. The flange should rest on top of the tile. You can just cut off the flange now from below, finish all work in bathroom, then patch in pipe from below and install the flange last. It looks like that drain was set too high...

Davy 02-18-2019 06:28 PM

I wouldn't patch it in. Since it's a small floor, I'd try to talk her into retiling the whole thing. Especially since it's stuck right to the wood and some of the wood is rotten.

Gozo 02-18-2019 06:31 PM

Wow; that story is VERY familiar sounding to me. It was exactly that same scenario that started by bathroom redo.
The 2 halves of metal on the toilet flange is a repair kit. Obviously the original flange cracked (most likely due to the rocking toilet vs. vice-versa) and an attempt was made to fix it. You’ll find the rot and damage to the plywood extends further than you think. If you can limit it just the damaged parts and have a solid joist structure to attach new plywood to, you could get by with just that and find some tiles that are close-ish, you might get a serviceable fix.
It’s going to take some time to get the various stages done. The travel time is what’s going to get you.

greenjp 02-18-2019 08:05 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Mike I was planning on doing exactly that, cutting the drain off down in the basement and then replacing it all when the time comes. The drain piping in the basement is weird, some of it is white (PVC?) and some is black (ABS?). I am fairly clueless about plumbing in case it's not obvious :loaded: No cast iron from what I can see. Pic attached.

Stupid question about the flange being on top of the tile - so you set it there, then drill through the tile with an appropriate bit (have those already) and screw it down into the subfloor through the tile? When I did my bathroom floor I kept the existing drain and flange so I tiled around it and ended up with the flange under the floor. Worked out OK.

I suspect you guys are correct that just doing the entire floor will be the way to go. It's a small room, probably on the order of 15-20 ft^2 of floor. I've got a bunch of leftover Strataheat mat and all of the tools unless there's something special I need for the demo.

The demo is what worries me, even if the tiles pop off I'm going to have a bunch of mortar stuck to that top layer of ply which I imagine is going to make it a PITA to get up. I suspect I'm going to need a toe kick and/or oscillating type saw to cut it from around the walls, tub, vanity, etc?

cx 02-18-2019 08:38 PM

Looks like somebody has done a little bit of plumbing change there, Jeff. Unless there's been some recent discovery, I don't know of a cement that's legal to use for bonding PVC to ABS plumbing inside a dwelling. That could become important if you need code compliance approval for your work. And I've never needed to do any such bonding so I don't honestly know that it will/will not actually work well with either type of cement that's available.

Maybe one of our plumbing experts can 'splain us that.

speed51133 02-18-2019 09:23 PM


They make a solvent to transition, but it isn't code compliant.

The flange should go on the tile, drill the tile, screw to subfloor

lati_cz 02-18-2019 09:59 PM

Fernco connectors should be used inside house.
Green transition glue can be used only where the city sewer connects to the DWV from your house (if I remember correctly).

jadnashua 02-18-2019 10:46 PM

Fernco is a company like 3M, and each make lots of different products. Inside a house, you can use a product made by Fernco, it's a banded coupler, not a rubber sleeve with two clamps on it, which they also make.

You really don't want to use that flange you referenced...you want a flange with a SS ring so it won't rust out. An all-plastic flange ring tends to bend and crack.

A toilet that rocks typically results in two things:
- water leaks
- sewer gas leaks

The magic to a reliable install is to first set the toilet in place to locate where and if shims are necessary (it generally works best to try to shim in the back to pin the front down when possible), remove the toilet while preserving the shim placement, set the wax, then set the toilet.

Especially over tile, the flange bolts alone usually won't keep it from moving, and on a plastic flange ring if you try to tighten it too much, warps and later cracks the flange...you need to seal it around the front. This also does a couple of things:
- keeps the toilet from moving
- keeps crud from accumulating under the bottom from misses or mop water, etc.

When making a plywood patch, you really want to bridge two full joist bays so the patch isn't hanging by the fasteners on the edges...it needs support in the middle. You can get by if you add bridging to provide that support if you can't.

greenjp 02-19-2019 07:02 AM

This bathroom and the adjacent master bath were both remodeled (a couple years apart by different people) and the PVC pipe seems to be related to those jobs. The original piping looks to be ABS. Whatever they did it doesn't seem to be leaking :shrug:

Fortunately I should be able to replace the drain without having to touch any of the PVC. In the photo it's the black one to the lower right, there's plenty of length so I figure I can cut it out a couple feet below the floor, install the new drain, then have plenty of room to fit the pipe.

Jim that is exactly how I was planning to set the toilet when the time comes. It's how I did the one at my house which is rock solid. I found the stainless flange and will use one of those instead of the plastic one.

Copy on the plywood patch. I suspect it's going to be easier to plan on pulling all the tile, cutting out the top layer of ply with a toe kick saw (can rent one for a day from HD for $31, or buy a cheap one from HF for ~$55) or multi tool, then see what the first layer needs.

Gozo 02-19-2019 07:10 AM

Multi tool works fine for that. Handy tool to have anyway.
On the plywood patch, especially around the perimeter, you can sister 2x4’s or larger to the joists and sill plates to have a solid framing to screw the new plywood edges to, and I’d also recommend some cross members under the toilet area to spread out the weight concentration that would naturally be in that area.
Plan on surprises when ever you’re pulling out water damaged wood. Just the way things tend to go.

greenjp 03-02-2019 10:42 PM

I am back at the house with every tool and spare supply I think I could use. Took a closer look at the joist structure and found the following:
The joists are 9"x1.5" on 16" centers.
They are marked ILMA S Dry 1, 37 SPF. I gather this means they are "surface dried" spruce, pine, or fir, grade 1. The house was built in the 70s I think.
The supporting beams running perpendicular are 15' apart, so I take it the joist length for the calculation is 15'.

If I plug all that into the Deflecto I get L/226, ruh roh. Here's some additional info that perhaps would improve the situation?
- the area in question is adjacent to the support beam. The drain is ~18" away from it.
- the joists in this area are overlapping, so 24" out from the beam (about 6" further out than the drain) it's a double wide joist section. For some reason there's a 3rd piece sistered in on the ones immediately next to the drain. You can see this in the photo above.

For what it's worth the floor in the area not adjacent to the toilet looks OK, no cracked tiles or grout.

Tomorrow starts with tearing out the 6 affected tiles and determining the extent of the damaged wood. If it's contained to that area I'm figuring to remove both layers of ply, put in some additional blocking, and then go with whatever combination of ply layers and ditra or Strataheat mat (I have large enough scraps of both to cover the space) will get the new tiles to the same height as the existing ones.

Kman 03-03-2019 12:38 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Jeff, did someone cut into a joist near all that plumbing? It looks like a bolt and nut poking through one side where there's a triple joists, which I figure might be a repair attempt.

Right there:

Attachment 207429

greenjp 03-03-2019 06:21 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Good eye. That's the end of a long bolt running through all three joists, the other end can be seen in this photo. It appears they put the 3rd one in, probably when the house was built, as one of the other two joists was carved out a half inch or so to make clearance for the shower drain in the bathroom that's on the other side of the wall the toilet here backs up to. You can see the drain I'm dealing with to the right. The carved out joist is on the other side of the supporting beam, which I was standing under when taking this photo.
The 3rd joist is about 8' long and there are 4 or 5 of those bolts holding them all together.

greenjp 03-03-2019 09:28 PM

1 Attachment(s)
First order of business this morning was replacing a leaking coolant hose on the MIL's car. With that out of the way I turned my attention to the bathroom...

The tiles came up very easily, just the tip of a small prybar under and a tap with the mini sledge and they popped right off. Hardly any mortar coverage. Both layers of ply were rotted around the drain, so I used an oscillating saw with a grout blade to cut the grout and mortar down around the perimeter, then wood blades to cut through them. They both pried out pretty easily.

The top layer was 3/4", the bottom layer only 1/2". Seemed backwards. Nails only no glue between the bottom layer and joists. I was able to get them up without disturbing the adjacent tiles. Cut the supply and drain down below the joists.

I'm looking at using a 5/8" bottom layer and 3/8" top layer, with Ditra on top of that for the substrate. I'll then use whatever sized trowel will get the selected tile to match up to the existing ones.

I'll sister in some 2x4s and run some between the joists as Jim suggested. The tricky spot is on the left side here where the vanity is. It's very crowded under there with HVAC ducts and the drain from the sink. I don't think I'll be able to get any parallel to the joists but should be able to get a couple in perpendicular.

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