Toilet problems stink. Toilet repair doesn’t have to.
And you want to know an inside secret? Repairing your toilet is easy.
Repair Your Toilet Like a Pro
The guide below covers common toilet repair issues, how to identify your problem, and repair it like a professional plumber. No more expensive plumber visits for a quick fix – this guide has for your covered.
Toilet Won’t Stop Running
When a toilet won’t stop running, it’s (almost always) caused by one of three problems:
- Bad flapper
- The water level is set too high
- fill valve is broken
Good news. You can fix all of these problems yourself. No plumber – or experience – needed.
At most you’ll spend an hour or two of your time, and a few dollars for parts.
Bad Toilet Flapper
The flapper is the rubber circle cover in your toilet tank – often red or black- that lifts when you flush the toilet handle. The flapper in the up position will let the water leave the toilet tank, and as the flapper closes again, the tank will refill and should stop once filled.
If the water in your tank keeps running, it could be because the flapper is not shutting properly, so the tank always thinks that more water is needed.
Reach inside the tank. Don’t worry – the water inside the tank is clean, regular tap water.
Hold the flapper down, and keep holding for a few seconds.
Did the water stop running? If yes – the flapper is the problem.
The Flapper and the Chain
Before replacing the flapper – check the chain that is connected to the flapper.
The chain on the flapper should have a bit of slack so that the flapper can easily fall back into the closed position. If the chain is tight, it may be keeping the flapper from fully closing – allowing water to run from the tank into the bowl.
If the chain is tight, you can unhook the chain and move the hook on the chain to allow for more slack.
Once you know the chain is set properly – and pressing down on the flapper does stop the water from running – then the flapper needs to be replaced.
Slip off or unsnap the flapper from the tank, and take it with you to your local hardware store to buy the replacement.
Reinstall the same way you took the flapper off, making sure the chain has a bit of slack.
Toilet Tank Water Level is Too Set Too High
Adjusting the water level is common when installing a new toilet, or if you’ve recently done other repairs to the toilet, the level can sometimes need an adjustment.
Take a look inside the tank. Every toilet tank has a tube or cylinder coming up from the center. This is called the overflow tube.
If the overflow tube is underwater, or if it’s at water level and water is flowing into the tube – then the water level is too high.
Adjusting the water level is easy.
Two adjust the water level, identify the type of fill valve you have.
Types of Fill Valves:
- Float Ball and a float arm (older model toilets)
This style looks like a balloon on the end of a metal rod
- Modern Fill Valve
This style looks like a small (about 2 inch) box float with a piece of pipe going through the middle.
For either style, the ball or the box float is too high. Think of the box float and ball as the water monitor. The water will fill the tank until it touches either the bottom of the box float or the ball. For less water in the tank – you need to lower the fill valves.
Lower the ball float one of two ways
- Bend the float arm
Placing a small bend in the middle of the float arm to lower the ball in the tank. Just a small bend will work, the float usually only needs to be a smidge lower
- Adjust the screw that attached the float arm to the flushing mechanism.
Loosening the screw will lower the arm.
Both methods take a bit of trial and error. A little patience and a few flushes and you’ll be good to go.
Modern Fill Valve
On all fill valves, there’s a screw somewhere on the top.
Adjust the screw to lower the fill valve box float.
The box float should be just lower than the overflow tube, allowing enough water to fill the tank, but not enough to go into the tube – which signals the fill valve that more water is needed.
Toilet Fill Valve is Broken – Easy Steps for a Quick Repair
You know the Fill Valve is broken if – you’ve checked the water level and the flapper, and both are fine. If the toilet is still running – the fill valve is the problem.
If the Fill Valve is broken – you need to replace it.
Repairing a toilet fill valve is possible but can be a pain. A new one from your local hardware store will cost less than $20.
On most toilets – the fill valve is interchangeable. So there’s no need to worry about getting a specific brand or style. Specialty toilet models like TOTO brand is an exception.
To replace the fill valve, follow these steps
- Turn off the water to the toilet. The water shut off valve is located just behind the toilet.
- Once the water is off, flush the toilet to drain most of the water from the tank. A tiny bit will remain.
- Place a small bucket on the floor, under the water supply line that is hooked up from the wall to the bottom of the toilet. This will catch the remaining water when you unscrew the waterline.
- Unscrew the water line from the toilet.
- Once the water line is out, unscrew the nut on the bottom of the tank that is securing the fill valve. Once loose, the broken fill valve can be removed.
- Install the new valve. Your new valve will come with instructions, but generally, it’s these same steps – in reverse.
- Once the new fill valve is installed, reconnect the water supply line, then adjust the water level on the fill valve. All set!
Toilet Not Flushing
Weak flush, or no flush at all? Little water in your toilet bowl? These are common toilet issues with simple repairs.
If your toilet won’t flush, there are a few main causes.
- Not enough water in the tank
- The flapper is shutting too soon
- Not enough water in the bowl
Not Enough Water in the Tank
Just like having too much water in the tank – too little water is also a problem.
Most toilet tanks have a water fill line, that shows a minimum water level. If the water is below that line, or more than an inch below the Overflow Valve, there’s not enough water in the tank.
The section above in Toilet Won’t Stop Running – Water Level is Too High covers how to adjust the water level.
Adjust the water level accordingly. The water level should be just below the Overflow Valve.
If there is no water in the tank, the Fill Valve is broken. Replace the fill Valve (see instructions above in section Fill Valve in Broken).
Repairing a Flapper That Shuts Too Soon
With the cover off of the tank, flush the toilet.
If the flapper does not lift, or lifts then falls right back down, that’s a problem. Not enough water is flowing from the tank to the bowl. There are two potential causes for this.
- The chain connecting the flapper to the fill valve is too loose
- The flapper is the wrong style for your toilet.
The chain connecting the flapper to the fill valve should have a bit of slack, so the flapper can fully shut, but not be too loose so that it falls immediately down once lifted.
If the chain is very loose, unclip it and adjust the slack by attaching the clip to a tighter ring on the chain.
Flush again and readjust as needed for the flapper to slowly fall, then close completely, after flushing.
If the flapper does not close properly, you may not have the right one for your tank. Take the bad flapper to the hardware store and explain the issue (too big, too small, not sealing properly) and they can advise you. If you know the model number of your toilet – have that information handy.
Not Enough Water in the Bowl
If there is not enough water in the bowl, the tube from the Fill Valve to the overflow tube may be the culprit.
Check to make sure the tube is not cracked or kinked. If water cannot transfer from the Fill Valve to the overflow tube, the bowl will not fill with water and the toilet will not flush properly.
Replacement tubes can be purchased and easily swapped out.
Toilet Leak Repair Guide
There are many reasons a toilet can leak. Good news is, most of them can be fixed – easily and without costing a lot of money.
The most common reasons for a toilet leak are:
- Bad Flapper Valve
- Broken Fill Valve or Fill Valve exit tube
- Tank to Bowl leak
- Broken Flush Valve (Overfill Tube) Gasket
- Trip Lever out of adjustment
- Wax Seal is broken
- Water Connector/Supply Line has deteriorated
- Cracked Porcelain
Bad Toilet Flapper Valve
The symptom of a bad flapper valve is the toilet will continue to run. Or run, stop, run, stop, run, stop – over and over again.
Flapper Valves can go bad over time. They can warp, crack, and deteriorate after years of use. As this happens, water leaks from the tank into the bowl.
In the section above, Bad Flapper will go over how to repair an old flapper.
Broken Fill Valve or Fill Valve Exit Tube
There is a seal inside the Fill Valve that is activated once the float has recognized that there is enough water in the tank. Over time, this seal can become brittle and wear down. Once the seal goes bad, water will continue to run into the tank, into the bowl, and out again.
This wastes water and keeps your toilet constantly running.
The section above, Fill Valve is Broken will cover how to easily replace the valve.
The unfortunate part about Fill Valves – it’s much easier to replace the whole thing than to try and identify the right seal. For just a few dollars, you can easily install a new valve.
Leak in Toilet Tank
There are two places where the tank can leak. Both will result in water leaking onto your floor.
If you notice water coming from the bowl, it will either be from broken seals around the bolts that secure the tank to the bowl, or from a broken gasket that seals the opening from the tank into the bowl.
A visual inspection will determine where the water is coming from. Changing either out is as easy as training the water from the tank, unscrewing the bolts, removing the tank, and replacing either the stoppers around the bolts or the gasket on the underside of the tank.
Broken Flush Valve (Overfill Tube) Gasket
Where the Overflow Tube or Flush Valve Tube seals to the bottom of the tank, there is a gasket that can break down over time. As this gasket wastes away, water will trickle from the tank, into the bowl. You won’t notice any water on the ground – but if you’re noticing a slow trickle of water into the bowl and the toilet hasn’t been recently flushed – or if the tank is constantly refilling – this could be the culprit.
A new Overfill/Flush Valve can be purchased and easily installed. But you will need to take the tank off of the toilet first, to unscrew a nut that holds the Flush Valve in place on the underside of the tank.
Trip Lever Out of Adjustment
The trip lever is the metal rod that connects the Flush handle on the outside of the tank, to the chain that is connected to the flapper.
This lever can get bent if the chain that connects to the flapper is too tight. When this happens, the flusher may not open properly, causing water to leak into the bowl or the toilet not to flush.
A quick visual check of the lever, making sure it’s not bent and the chain has just a bit of slack in it will do the trick. The level can easily be bent back into shape as needed.
Repairing a Broken Wax Ring
The wax seal goes between the bottom of the toilet and your floor. This keeps the water from leaking out when the toilet is flushed.
If water is pooling up around the bottom of your toilet, it’s likely a broken wax ring.
To replace the wax ring, drain the water from the tank, and unbolt the bottom of the toilet. Lift and remove the toilet, and check out the condition of the wax ring. If broken, cracked, or rotting, you need to replace it.
Wax rings come in different sizes. Take the broken wax ring with you to the hardware store to make sure you select the right one for your toilet.
Water Connector/Supply Line Has Deteriorated
The Water Supply Line is the metal tube that comes from your wall and connects to the tank of the toilet.
This tube is what brings the water from the plumbing in your walls to your toilet. Over time, the gasket around the connecting end can get brittle and cause a leak.
If you notice a drip from the waterline, this is the cause. A new Water Supply line can be purchased at any hardware store and easily swapped out on your toilet. Don’t forget to turn the water off first!
Cracked Porcelain in Toilet Tank or Bowl
If your toilet has a crack in the porcelain, it will leak. Unfortunately, there’s not a great solution for this, and it usually means it’s time to buy a new toilet.
With the knowledge gained in this article though, you can easily install a new toilet – no plumber needed. But don’t worry – Handyman Network is here for you if you need a hand.
Call Handyman Network for Toilet Help
While we know you’ve got what it takes to fix the most common toilet problems – we’ll never hesitate to lend a hand if you help with your toilet repair. We get it – plumbing can be scary. There’s a reason plumbers are in high demand – it is not an easy job.
But luckily for you, toilets are not complicated. They have had nearly the same design since this current style was invented, and the inside parts are fairly standard and simple to replace – making it the perfect job for DIY.
We’re here if you need us – or for any other plumbing issues that come up. Just give us a call, and we will set you up for a free estimate, and get your problem solved – together.
(1) Family Handyman https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-fix-a-running-toilet/
(2) DIY At Home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0KXt_TEGIk