The Leaky Toilet Part 1of 4

Nothing wakes me up like the sound of my wife’s voice saying, “The dang toilet is running!”  Okay, it’s not like it sounds.  But outside of home invasion, my wife telling me that the toilet is running will get me out of bed pretty darn fast, because my wife is a beautiful person, who likes her sleep, and well happy wife, happy life.

So how do fix a leaky toilet?  Well that depends, on where the leak is coming from. Most leaky toilets I come across are do to the flapper that gets lifted up when you press the flush lever is no longer seating properly when it goes back down.  This can be a very frustrating problem because sometimes it seats right and other times it doesn’t, leading you to think you saved the day only to come back and taunt you.

Then there are the leaks that happen at the gasket between the tank and the bowl or at the bolts that connect the two together.  The gasket gets worn and then all of sudden you flush and there is water all over the floor and you don’t know where it came from!  Or in the case of the bolts, it is a slow drip that soon becomes a puddle of water.  

Then there is the supply line burst, this usually happens when you have gone out of town for a weekend.  No doubt just minutes after you backed out of the driveway so that the water would get maximum soakage in the walls and floors, and if it you live in a two story home, you can bet it will first happen upstairs and go through the first floor ceiling.  

As if that was the worst of it, you have the worst of the worst leaks that your throne can double cross you with, the leak from below.  This where you flush and for some odd reason you notice a pool of the same colored stuff as you just flushed down oozing from below the footing of the toilet?! How could this be?!  Is that all supposed to go to the magical land of I don’t need to think about it anymore because I just flushed all that human waste down my toilet?!  Again, if you live in a two story house, this will most likely happen to you in one of the upstairs toilets... there some guy’s law about that kind of thing.

Tools Needed                           Parts

Adjustable wrench                   Flapper

Small buckets           Tank to bowl gasket

Towels                                    Shut off valves

Channel Locks                         Supply lines

Screw driver       Complete toilet repair kit                                                                                                        (Sold at home centers) 

Okay, so how do you go about fixing these types of leaks AND is there a way to prevent them from becoming huge disasters?!  We are going to walk you through these fixes and how to keep an eye out for potential warning signs of impending trouble.

The flapper:  there are a couple of things to look at with the flapper.  The fist is do you have one.  These are the rubber “flaps” that are hooked to the chain and connected to the toilet handle.  A continually running toilet that has no water outside the toilet is usually caused by something going on here.  Now a flapper in good condition will be a solid color (red, blue, yellow, black).  There should be little to no sign of calcium around the edges.  Also the edges should not look like they are worn, they should look smooth.  The flapper should cover the entire hole from at the bottom of the tank.  The chain from the handle should have a little slack when the flapper is down, but not so much slack that the chain can inadvertently get between the flapper and the hole causing a slight gap that let water run continuously into the bowl.  

The fix is fairly easy.  Turn off the water to the toilet at the shut off valve.  This is usually located either straight up from the floor or about six inches from the floor and out of the wall to the left of the toilet.  You will have one of two types of shut of valves, a multi-turn gate shut off or a quarter turn ball valve type ( more on these later).  If a multi-turn, turn the valve to the right until the valve stops, this should turn off the water flow to the toilet.  If a quarter turn valve, turn the handle to the right a quarter of a turn, the point of the valve should be perpendicular to the pipe coming from the floor or wall.  Now you can choose to flush the toilet removing the water from the tank (this by the way is the clean water, the same as from your tap so don’t worry about getting your hands wet from this water).  Or you can leave the water in and go on to the next step.  My recommendation though is to flush the toilet, this way you know right away if you have any other issues besides the flapper.  If you still have water flow, you’ll need to change out the shut off valve, and will want to shut the main off while you do any other repairs.  So now we are ready to adjust the length of the chain.  Simply unhook the chain from the cross bar of the handle and make the chain shorter or longer as needed.  I don’t recommend cutting the chain, there maybe a time when you need to make a repair to the handle and it helps to have all the chain there Incase the new handle is shorter or sits differently.  Now turn the water back on and see if your chain adjustment worked.  If not flush the toilet a couple of times to watch how the flapper falls back into place.  Check the flapper and the connection that it covers to make sure there are no foreign objects or debris that won’t allow the flapper to seat properly.  If the flapper is worn, or has a lot of calcium build up around it, it would be a good time to just replace it.  

NOTE:  If this is happening in the middle of the night, turn off the water to the toilet and go back to bed... you can take care of this in the morning.  Unless you happen to have spare flappers in you garage or closet...

To replace the flapper, do just as we did before but now you will remove the flapper from the water overflow. Usually this just a couple of plastic hooks coming from the side of the tube.  Connect the new flapper in the old ones place, connect the chain and check its length.  Turn on the water and again flush it a couple of times to make sure it is seated properly.

So if that didn't work, move on to Part 2.

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