How to repair a leaking toilet
HOW TO REPAIR A LEAKING TOILET
Have you ever been brushing your teeth at night and suddenly you hear the toilet refill on its own. It’s what we here at LeVahn Bros. Plumbing like to call a “ghost flush”. A ghost flush occurs when the water that is in the tank leaks out and the tank refills itself . A toilet is a simple mechanical device that can be explained as follows. The toilet bowl is the area that waste is deposited (i.e. the business end of the toilet that we are all to familiar with). The tank is on the back of the toilet and it’s job is to hold water that is going to be used to “flush” out the contents of the bowl. This is the behind the scenes workings of a toilet that confuse the bejesus out of us. When we flush a toilet we push down on the flush handle which lifts the flapper up allowing the water to enter the bowl and expel its contents. The same flush could be done with a bucket of water but that’s a bit of a pain to have to refill each time. When the water level in the tank goes down, the fill valve turns on to bring the water back up to a preset level.
When a “ghost flush” occurs it is because water is leaving the tank. After a while the water level lowers in the tank until it reaches the point when the fill valve turns on to bring the water level back up. There’s only two places for the water to go when it leaves a tank. The first place it could go is that it’s leaking out of the toilet itself. If this is occurring you would probably see evidence of water on the floor or on the base of the toilet. The most likely causes of this are: 1) you have a crack in your tank. 2) you have water leaking out through the holes where the tank bolts are. 3) your tank to bowl gasket is leaking. If your tank is cracked we would recommend that you buy a new toilet. You could also attempt to seal it with a two-part epoxy that can be applied when the surface is wet. If you have a leak occurring through the tank to bowl bolts you will need to replace the washers under the bolts. To do this you will first need to shut the water off to the toilet. Then you will drain the tank by flushing the toilet and sponging out any remaining water. Finally remove and replace the old washers with new washers that you have already purchased from your local hardware store:) If your tank to bowl gasket is leaking you will need to un-bolt the tank from the bowl and remove the old gasket. Bring the gasket as well as any make and model info you have for your toilet to the hardware store and get a replacement.
note: There is no such thing as a “universal” tank to bowl gasket so you need to make sure you get something that matches the one you removed from your toilet.
The other, more common, reason for water leaving the tank is through a faulty flapper. Normally you can not see or hear the water leaking out past the flapper. It leaks so slowly that it’s hardly detectable be sight or sound. There is a simple solution that is very effective to figure out if this is your problem. At our store we have free leak detectors that you add to the tank of the toilet.
All you have to do is open up the leak detector, place it in the tank and let it work its magic. Essentially all it does it turn the water in the tank blue. What this does is it allows you to see if water is getting past the flapper without you flushing the toilet. If you leave the toilet alone WITHOUT FLUSHING IT and after a few hours there is blue water in the bowl, you know that water is leaking past your flapper. It will look something like the picture below.
Once you find out that your flapper is the problem shut the water off to the toilet flush it and remove the old flapper. Bring the flapper with you when you go to buy a new one because like toilet tank gaskets there is no such thing as a universal flapper. We must have 20 to 30 flapper styles here at our store and there are still some other unique ones out there that we don’t carry. There are many different styles, especially since the addition of low flow toilet to the market. Here’s an image of the most common one we sell. We’ve changed over to using blue vinyl flappers when available because we’ve found that they seem to outlast the traditional black rubber models.
There are a few reasons why a flapper goes bad. One reason is that it’s just old. The rubber doesn’t last forever and eventually it gets water-logged and broken down. The other major reason for a flapper failing is from the use of chlorine tablets in the toilet tank. Chlorine tablets are an effective way to keep your bowl looking it’s best but they eat the rubber seals in a toilet away in no time. The flapper, tank to bowl washers, and fill valve seals all get eaten away by the chlorine. If you want a very effective alternative you can use Fluidmasters “Flush and Sparkle” bleach cartridges. We use them here in the restrooms here at our store and they do a great job of keeping the toilet clean without introducing bleach into the toilet tank (You can see the cartridge attached to the back of the toilet tank in the picture at the top of this post).
If you can’t find your exact flapper there may be a models that’s close enough. You may also want to clean the edge where the flapper is seating against the tank to make sure there is no debris holding up the flapper allowing water to get past. The use of a non-scratch scouring pad is advised for doing this. Whatever you do make sure you talk to someone who knows what they’re doing at the store you go in to. Nothing drives me crazier and makes me more thankful for my employees then when people tell me how incompetent the help is at the big box stores. If that’s your only option I say, good luck to you.
For more Information call 763-551-8990
Stop in and see us in the Bass Lake shopping center at 12700 Bass Lake Road, Maple Grove, MN 55369
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