Six Steps to Fixing a Running Toilet

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Homeowners encounter many types of projects and problems in the home. While calling a professional is always an option, many of these issues can be solved by the homeowner themselves, saving a large amount of time and getting the problem fixed much more quickly. Plumbing problems are never fun. A running toilet can be an annoying problem and can cost quite a bit of money in wasted water. Many people are intimidated by the prospect of making this fix, as they imagine all plumbing related repairs to be difficult, dirty, and expensive. Often, plumbing repair projects meet all three of those criteria. Fixing a running toilet is usually inexpensive, easy, and rarely leads to much of a mess. While there's no reason to delay in making this fix, there are a few specific steps to follow to identify the exact cause of the problem. These steps are covered below.

1. Test Flapper

A very common cause of a running toilet is a flapper failing to close properly. The flapper is the piece of the toilet that creates a seal in the tank and holds water before a flush. It opens to allow the flush and closes to allow the tank to refill. The handle is connected to the flapper and lifts it when the handle is actuated, letting the water flow. If the flapper has failed, when the tank lid has been removed, the flapper will look to be closed, but water will be leaking into the bowl around it. It is easily checked by using a stick or other item to push the flapper down to make the seal function properly. The running water sound should stop. If it does, the flapper is bad and will need to be replaced. Another situation that may be encountered is that the flapper isn't closing due to the connection between handle and flapper becoming dysfunctional. This is usually an easy fix, bending a piece of metal or adjusting a chain.

2. Replace Flapper if Necessary

If the flapper itself is damaged or has failed, it will need to be replaced. The water will need to be shut off at the supply valve. This is located under the toilet. The toilet should be flushed to drain the tank, and the handle should be held down to ensure that all the water has left the tank. The old flapper will need to be removed, usually just unhooked or disconnected from a hinge. A new flapper can be purchased at this point. It needs to be of the same type being replaced. The new flapper's package should include instructions for installation and they should be followed. After the flapper has been replaced, it may need to be hooked to the handle lever via chain or strap and There should be a small amount of slack when closed.

3. Check Fill Valve

The next most common cause of a toilet running is a faulty fill valve or improperly adjusted float or float arm. The fill valve is how water gets into the tank, flowing up the column of the part, past the valve itself and out through the fill tube. The valve is actuated by a float that is attached to a float arm, which then attaches to the valve. When the water level rises, it lifts the float, causing the valve arm to rotate the valve closed as it reaches the appropriate height. One valve-related problem that could lead to the toilet leaking includes the valve itself failing to close even when properly actuated. This can be tested by lifting the float arm and listening for the water flow to stop. If it doesn't, the valve is failing. If it does, it may be related to a bent float arm or float that no longer works.

4. Check Float Arm and Float

A bent float arm or failed float can be tested by letting the toilet fill completely. If the toilet fills to the overflow pipe and the water continues to run, the homeowner should lift the float arm until it can't be lifted further. If the water stops at this point, the float arm or float is likely to blame. The float arm can usually be bent to adjust where the armrests at maximum fill. A broken float will need to be replaced.

5. Remove Fill Valve

A broken float, significantly damaged float arm or malfunctioning valve will likely lead to having to replace the valve assembly. This isn't a particularly difficult process. The water supply will need to be shut off beneath the toilet. Then the toilet should be flushed to remove all water from the tank and any remaining water in it should be removed. The water supply line underneath the tank should be disconnected, the valve lock nut should be removed and the old valve assembly can be removed.

6. Install New Valve

Installation of a new valve assembly is pretty straightforward and should follow the instructions on the new assembly's packaging. Ensure that the lock nut is tightened just a bit more than hand tight, to avoid leakage. The homeowner may need to adjust the overflow pipe by cutting it down if it extends above the critical level mark on the valve body. The new valve will come with a new fill tube which will need to be attached to the valve and to the included clip, which should then be attached to the overflow pipe.