What can I do about a spot of rotten floor where I need to put in one of my toilet bolts when replacing a wax ring?

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A spongy floor around the toilet is a strong indication that the subfloor has absorbed water. Peel back the flooring around the fixture and you will likely discover swollen, discolored wood -- a sure sign that the subfloor needs replacing. The job is laborious, messy and time consuming, so take a moment to assess whether this is a task you want to accomplish on your own.

Turn the toilet’s water supply valve clockwise to shut off water to the tank.

Flush the toilet to empty the tank. Soak up the last of the water inside the tank with a sponge, wringing it out into a bucket.

Remove the two hold-down bolts -- one on either side of the toilet bowl base -- that secure the toilet to the floor.

Straddle the toilet and lift up to remove it. Toilets are heavy, so use your legs to lift. If the toilet is too heavy to lift safely, separate the tank from the bowl by removing the three bolts that hold these two components together.

Scrape away the last remnants...

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A toilet flange has a metal or plastic ring that holds the toilet to the floor, and when the ring breaks, it can render the toilet unusable. If the toilet rocks because the flange is no longer holding it securely, the wax ring seal can break, water can begin to seep out and problems quickly multiply. A flange isn't easy to replace, but fortunately it seldom needs replacement. You can buy repair plates that fix breaks in the ring, repair rings that cover the entire flange and push-in replacement flanges that fit inside existing ones.

Turn off the water to the toilet, unscrew the water supply hose with adjustable pliers and flush the toilet to empty the tank. Unbolt the toilet from the flange with a wrench, lift it off and set it aside on a dropcloth or newspaper.

Clear the old wax off the flange with a paint scraper and unhook the closet bolts from the tracks. Inspect the flange. If there is a break in one of the tracks, you can repair it with a repair plate. If the...

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Repair a spongy floor under your toilet

If you live in a mobile home, this method of repair is a little different but the basic principles are the same.

First, remove the toilet. To do that, shut off the water at the valve underneath the left hand side of the toilet as you stand facing it. Flush the toilet and disconnect the water supply. Empty the toilet bowl using a sponge, a rag, or a shop vacuum with the paper filter removed (my favorite method). Remove the caps over the bolts at the base of the toilet and unscrew the nuts. Remove the nuts and washers and pull the entire toilet up rocking it gently from side to side to break the seal underneath.

Now, mark off the floor in a square or a rectangle that takes in the spongy floor area. Cut out that area with a circular saw concentrating on a steady, even, straight cut. Don’t cut any deeper than the floor is thick because of the possibility of cutting into wires or water lines. Remove the spongy flooring. Cut...

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