How to repair a Leaking Toilet

Posted on by Andrew LeVahn


Have you ever been in the basement watching TV all by yourself and suddenly you here the toilet running? I like to call it the ghost flush. So what causes that? It likely means that your toilet flapper is not sealing anymore. The flapper is the valve inside the tank that opens when you flush letting the water exit the tank and go into the bowl.
Flappers can deteriorate over time due to in-tank cleaning products (like chlorine tablets) and also from the chemicals that the utilities put into the water. So what’s the big deal, why worry about the toilet having to refill once in awhile? Here’s why. A faulty flapper can allow water to literally go down the drain. Depending on the extent of the damage to the flapper it can allow up to 200 gallons of water a day to be lost costing you big bucks. So how do you know that it’s the flapper that’s making your toilet run? You can start by picking up a free Fluidmaster leak tester from our hardware store and place it in your toilet tank. If you see blue coloring go into the bowl of the toilet then you know the flapper is bad. Now that you’ve determined that the flapper is the problem and needs to be replaced, here’s what you should do next:

1) Shut off your water supply to your toilet. This is typically located behind your toilet bowl, below your tank, near the wall. If you don’t have a shut off to your toilet or the valve is bad you will need to shut off the water to the house. This is found in the basement, typically in a laundry or furnace room. There will be a pipe coming out of the floor with a valve on it. Turn the valve clockwise to shut it off.
2)Now that the water is turned off you should flush the toilet to remove the water out of the tank. You want as much of the water out of the tank as you can. You may need to scoop the water with a cup to get it all out.
3) Remove the flapper. Flappers are attached differently depending on the manufacturer and age of the toilet. (The directions that follow cover the most common but not all styles of flappers.) The most common style of flapper is a model in which there are two holes that fit over the plastic ears found on your fill valve. (refer to toilet diagram above). Simply slip the flapper off of the ears and then remove the chain from the handle. Older flappers may be attached by a rubber ring that slips over the overflow tube. You will need to remove the water refill tube that is attached to the top of the overflow tube in order to remove the flapper. After the refill tube is removed slip the flapper up and off the overflow tube and again unhook the chain. Another style of flapper has a hard plastic body that snaps on to the ears of the overflow tube. For this style simply unsnap the flapper from the ears and unhook the chain. Another style of flapper is an old style that is more bulb shaped. This style is attached onto a brass threaded rod that is screwed in to the flapper. With this model you just unscrew the flapper from the rod.

4) Write down the manufacturer of the toilet if you can find it. The manufacturers name is often found on the bowl near the toilet seat hinges.
5) Take your flapper with you to our hardware store. This will help us get you the correct replacement. Flappers are not universal. You will need to get the same style flapper in order for it to work properly.
6) Before you install the new flapper make sure that the rim of the outlet (what the flapper seats against) is clean. Sometimes the old flapper can leave residue on the rim or there may be calcification that won’t allow the new flapper to seat properly. If it needs cleaning use a scouring pad and scrub it clean.
7) Install the new flapper. Place the new flapper on the same way the old one came off. Leave a little bit of slack in the chain but not not too much. If there is too much slack the flapper won’t allow enough water to enter the bowl. If it’s too tight it may not allow the flapper to seat against the rim and water will be able to escape the tank into the bowl causing the “ghost flush” to occur. The easiest way is avoid trouble is to match the chain length of the old flapper.
8) Turn your water back on and make sure that the toilet is flushing properly. You can use another leak indicator to verify that the flapper is working and water is not seeping into the bowl. It’s also a good idea to make sure that the shut-off is not now leaking. Often times shut-offs valves will leak after being turned off and then back on again. If it is leaking, take a wrench and turn the nut found directly below the handle and that should solve the leak.
Visit LeVahn Brothers Plumbing and Hardware at 12700 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove to pick up a flapper or leak detector.
For more info visit our website at http://www.levahnbros.com
Or call us at 763-551-8990

About Andrew LeVahn

I am the fourth generation of LeVahn's. I have been working at LeVahn Bros. since 1994. I went to Minnehaha Academy for high school and Bethel University for college. View all posts by Andrew LeVahn → This entry was posted in DIY, home, How to, Plumbing, Plumbing Parts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to repair a Leaking Toilet

  1. Pingback: Have A Leaking Toilet? « How to Plumbing and Home repair from LeVahn Bros. INC

  2. John Mitchell says:

    I have a ghost flush in my main bathroom now, so today will repair it myself following your instructions. Thank you very much for your help.
    John Mitchell

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