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I went to replace a toilet recently and I found the following situation (images below):

  • The toilet flange was brass and connected to a lead pipe
  • The brass flange had a crack in it, possibly because
  • A previous repair had crammed steel inserts under the brass flange.
  • These inserts were totally rusted to a black/brown, crumbly, mess.
  • There was a pvc wax-less seal stuck in the middle of the flange.

There was no way to install a new toilet with this mess, so I removed the rusted inserts and wax-less seal. Then, I hammered the brass back into place and installed the toilet with a wax ring. It seems to be working alright for now.

However, because the brass is cracked, this won't be a long-term fix. The "right way" to fix this would be to replace the flange with another brass one. What steps are required for this? Does it look like the lead pipe is soldered to the flange? I have actually brazed brass before, so I'd at least consider doing this type of repair on my own.

Short of doing things the right way, do people have any suggested fixes? I could imagine leveling the top of the flange and putting some sort of repair ring (like a SuperRing) on top. If it's not too hard to separate the flange from the pipe, I could also imagine installing a new, expanding flange in its place. (Although maybe the expanding flange would damage the pipe? Also, the pipe immediately does a 90 degree bend, so maybe I wouldn't be able to get a good seal with an expanding flange.)

  • Initial top view: initial top view
  • Initial left-side view (that brown stuff is actually rusted steel): initial left-side view
  • Initial right-side view: initial right-side view
  • Top view after cleaning: cleaned to view
  • Left-side view after cleaning: cleaned side view
  • Close up of joint between the pipe and flange --- possibly showing poured lead or solder between the two? Close up of joint

I do not have access from below. It would also be extra complicated to replace because the drain pipe from the sink joins the lead pipe a few inches below the flange (would be visible in the fourth picture if the contrast were better), so that would have to be replaced too.

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  • It looks like there are four screws going through the flange and into the floor and that it's not soldered to the pipe... but i haven't had coffee yet. – JACK Nov 26 '19 at 13:07
  • @JACK I've added another picture showing a close up of flange/pipe interface. The thick grey layer may be lead or solder? – lnmaurer Nov 26 '19 at 13:59
  • @isherwood I am certain it is lead --- not cast iron. It's not rusty and a magnet doesn't stick to it. Also, lead drain pipes aren't that unusual in houses of this time period. Finally, lead pipes are traditionally fitted to brass flanges. Cast iron pipes typically use cast iron flanges. – lnmaurer Nov 26 '19 at 14:13
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    @isherwood I do not have access from below. It would also be extra complicated to replace because the (lead) drain pipe from the sink joins the toilet pipe a few inches below the flange (would be visible in the fourth picture if the contrast were better), so the sink drain pipe would have to be replaced/dealt with too. – lnmaurer Nov 26 '19 at 14:42
  • Of the few homes that I worked on that did have lead we replaced all of it. My grandfather said once the drains started leaking we could keep patching but it would better to bite the bullet and replace it. We had to use copper as these were registered historically accurate houses and that was the only other option to maintain the historical qualification. – Ed Beal Nov 26 '19 at 15:13

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