Can upstairs neighbor toilet leak be fixed from below?

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chan32

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I live in a condo with another unit above my garage. 6 or more months ago, there was some type of water leak that caused a large section of my garage ceiling to become soaked, sag, and have paint flake off.

The HOA sent a plumber to check it, because if it's a leak in the pipes, they're responsible for fixing it. The plumber cut a hole in the ceiling and couldn't detect any cause for the leak. And by the time he came to check it, it was dry.

He came back to check it a couple times, but still didn't see anything. The spot is directly under the above unit's toilet. The plumber said that maybe the upstairs flooded their bathroom (they told him they hadn't) or the ceiling had always been that way but the water stains just started to show (it hadn't - the drywall was wet and sagging).

I've left the hole open. For several months, I kept nothing under it so I could see if any more water came out. None did, so I figured it was fixed, but I haven't gotten around to replacing the drywall yet.

Today as I moved things in the garage, I noticed that the plastic tarps I had below the hole had a lot of water on them, which couldn't come from anywhere but up there.

I can see a black plastic ring at the bottom of the toilet that the pipe connects into. That looks like it has moisture around it. (Attached a photo -- tho apparently this site does't recognize orientation data. Left is top in the photo.)

I'd rather not have to deal with the any back and forth with the neighbors. (Don't have problems with them. Just don't want the hassle.) Is this something that sounds like it can be fixed without involving them or will it need to be fixed inside their unit?

IMG_5241.jpg
 

Sparky617

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I doubt you can fix this from below. My take would be this is one of several problems.

1. Most likely, an overflowed toilet leaked between the toilet base and the floor and came out the only hole available, the gap between the flange and the subfloor.
2. Possible, but not as likely, a bad wax seal between the flange and the toilet. This would really only be a problem if the pipe were clogged and the toilet drained very slowly. The wax seal is more to prevent sewer gases than leaks in otherwise working drain/waste/vent lines. Gravity makes the water go down the pipe and not over the floor. Unless the water backs up in the drain pipe.
3. A leaky tank and the tank bolts or filler putting water on their floor and finding its way under the toilet and down the gap.
4. Least likely, a leaky supply line in the wall behind the toilet. This would be constantly wet as the water would be coming out under pressure.
5. Water getting outside of the shower and finding its way down to your ceiling.

I think you need to invite your neighbor into your garage and let them have a look. Toilets can overflow, especially low flow ones if some tries to make a clog go away by flushing a second time with a full bowl. Usually they won't overflow on a single flush, though plunging the toilet can cause water to splash out.
 

chan32

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Thanks.

I checked with my neighbors. They've had high water bills ($120 instead of the regular $30-40) and keep hearing the sound of water running in their bathroom. They've told their landlord's property manager about it, but were told they must just be taking too long of showers.

Could one of those (like leaky tank) cause the leak into my garage and excessive water waste? There certainly hasn't been $90 worth of water leaked into my garage.

Hopefully it doesn't take too much coordination on my end for the plumber to figure it out and fix it. I'm already dealing with coordinating the plumbing company and the mold removal/drying out company from a slab leak. It hasn't been a fun week and a half.
 
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nealtw

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You neighbours should send that picture to the landlords people, something up there needs to be fixed. Two weeks ago I had a simular problem at a friends house after rebuilding the whole toilet I was still getting a little water but couldn't find the leak and it wasn't constant. It turned out to be the braided water feed between the shut off valve and the toilet. I never would have guessed it.
 

JoeD

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Sounds like two possible issues.
A leaking toilet flapper can cause high water bills.
The constant running of water through the toilet could leak to your garage if the wax seal is bad under the toilet.
 

Snoonyb

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I live in a condo with another unit above my garage. 6 or more months ago, there was some type of water leak that caused a large section of my garage ceiling to become soaked, sag, and have paint flake off.

The HOA sent a plumber to check it, because if it's a leak in the pipes, they're responsible for fixing it. The plumber cut a hole in the ceiling and couldn't detect any cause for the leak. And by the time he came to check it, it was dry.

He came back to check it a couple times, but still didn't see anything. The spot is directly under the above unit's toilet. The plumber said that maybe the upstairs flooded their bathroom (they told him they hadn't) or the ceiling had always been that way but the water stains just started to show (it hadn't - the drywall was wet and sagging).
Several things. It's obvious from the stained floor sheating that the toilet is leaking, somewhere, and the plumber should have reported this condition to the HOA, as well as gone to the neighbors and informed them of the condition and inspected the toilet in an attempt to identify the cause.

The HOA may decide that it's the toilet and therefore not their responsibility, which is not exactly true.

Plumbing must terminate in a secure cap or a water-primed trap. In this case the toilet is the trap, and the trap is above the wax ring. So, if the wax ring has failed or been incorrectly placed, the responsibility lies with the HOA.

I've left the hole open. For several months, I kept nothing under it so I could see if any more water came out. None did, so I figured it was fixed, but I haven't gotten around to replacing the drywall yet.
In leaving this, the neighbor has been exposed to carbon monoxide, and since the HOA's plumber opened it, they should have repaired it.

Today as I moved things in the garage, I noticed that the plastic tarps I had below the hole had a lot of water on them, which couldn't come from anywhere but up there.

I can see a black plastic ring at the bottom of the toilet that the pipe connects into. That looks like it has moisture around it. (Attached a photo -- tho apparently this site does't recognize orientation data. Left is top in the photo.)
I'd rather not have to deal with the any back and forth with the neighbors. (Don't have problems with them. Just don't want the hassle.) Is this something that sounds like it can be fixed without involving them or will it need to be fixed inside their unit?
The HOA should be dealing with them to determine the cause, and if it is other than the wax ring, they can accomplish the repairs or be billed for them.
 

frodo

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they [hoa] need to receive a letter

dear sirs
my name is.---------- esq. i am contacting you in regards to [[...............

you have 5 days. damages,
resolve this
 

Sparky617

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Your neighbors definitely need to replace the flapper in the toilet. If the water is running constantly it is leaking into the bowl and they are literally running money down the drain. A flapper costs less than $5 at the home center and takes 1 minute to replace.

Snoonyb's comments are spot on, this hole needs patched up for the fire code / CO protection for the condo above your garage. If the plumber cut it open, the HOA needs to fix it, ASAP.

Other causes of leaks in a toilet, like leaking tank bolt gaskets would cause water to be on the floor and your neighbors would see this as a wet floor. Tank bolt gaskets can go bad over time especially if they use products like 2000 Flushes in the tank. 2000 Flushes is a chlorine bleach based cleaner that will just eat through gaskets.

The wax ring could be bad and that could be the cause of water in your garage. It is not the cause of their high water bill.

A quick test for your neighbor to test the flapper is to put some food coloring in the tank. If the water in the bowl changes color after a few minutes without flushing the toilet the flapper is leaking water into the bowl. It would be in their best interest to fix this today, unless they like paying 2x their typical monthly water bill. Just about anyone can swap a flapper. It requires no tools.

Here is a video on changing the flapper. [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYDijBC-AX8"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYDijBC-AX8[/ame]
 

nealtw

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Water from any souce in the bathroom will find it's way under the toilet and leak here, could even be from the washer in the next room. It is a problem that should be dealt with by the people who own the unit above.
 

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