Sunday, February 22, 2015

How to Fix a Leaking Toilet

Is your water bill higher than it used to be?  Maybe higher than it should be?  If you've experienced this and can't figure out why, try checking your toilet.  Often times there will be water leaking inside the tank.  You may wonder how this small amount of water running can cause the bill to be so much higher.  Regardless of how much is actually leaking through, it is running 24/7.  As you can see, it adds up quickly!  This is very common and often the source of your problem.
Here's how you know for sure:  Go to your bathroom, flush the toilet, and listen closely.  After the tank fills up again, if you can still hear water running inside, this is your problem.  If this is where you find yourself, don't worry!  This is an easy and relatively cheap fix.  The next step is to determine what is causing the leak.  Before we get into that, take a look at the picture below.  This is a diagram of the inside of your tank.

Toilet Repair
Toilet Repair
First of all, let's explain how this flushing mechanism works.  When you flush the toilet, the flush lever pulls up on the lift chain, which opens the flapper.  This lets the tank water down into the toilet bowl, which forces the dirty water down the drain and replaces it with fresh water.  At the same time, the fill valve uses a float mechanism to maintain water level inside the tank.  When water is drained out of the tank, the fill valve opens up and lets fresh water from the supply line inside the tank.  It will fill until it reaches the preset level and then stops.  This process repeats every time you flush the toilet.  Now that you understand the process, you can pinpoint the problem.  Here's the potential problems and the order you'll need to check:

    Toilet RepairToilet Repair
  1. Lift Chain -  Sometimes the lift chain can get hung up and will keep the flapper from going back down and sealing off the tank.  If this is the case, free the chain up and adjust if needed.  If the chain is too long, this may cause it to get hung up and you may have to unhook it from the lever and shorten the links.  Reattach it and test to make sure it opens the flapper fully and lets it close completely and seal.  This is definitely the quickest and easiest fix!
  2. Flapper -  If the chain is not holding the flapper up and keeping it from sealing, make sure the flapper itself is not the problem.  Over time, the material it is made of can shrink a little and loose its softness or its ability to fit the drain and seal off.  One way to check this is, while there is water in the tank and you can hear it leaking, stick your hand in the water and push down on the flapper.  If you can push down and hear the water stop leaking, then the flapper is your problem.  To fix this, you'll need to replace the flapper.  You can buy a universal replacement at just about anywhere (Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) and this is also an easy and cheap fix!  The first thing you'll need to do is (1) turn the water off at the shut-off valve.  Next, (2) flush the toilet (this will drain the tank).  As you can see in the picture, just (3) remove the old flapper from the ears on the overflow tube ,(4) unhook the chain from the flush lever, and now discard the old flapper.  (5) Hook the new flapper to the ears on the overflow tube and connect the new chain to the flush lever.  (6) You can now turn the water back on at the shut-off valve.  Once the tank fills up, make sure it is adjusted correctly to make a good seal and your done!
    Toilet Repair
  3. Fill Valve -  If you've made it this far and not found the problem, then you'll need to replace the Fill Valve.  Over time, the seals inside the valve start to deteriorate and begin to let water in when it should be sealing it off.  One option is to replace the seals inside the valve, however, I find it a lot easier to just replace the whole fill valve assembly.  It doesn't take that long to replace and it doesn't cost that much either (approx. $20).  Here's how to replace it:  First of all, (1) turn the water off at the shut-off valve and flush the toilet (this will drain the water from the tank).  Next, (2) disconnect the supply line from the bottom of the tank (underside of the tank).  It's a good idea to have an old towel on the floor under the tank to catch any water that may not have drained out.  (3) You will now need to unhook the Lift Chain and the Refill Tube.  The old fill valve will have a stem that goes through the bottom of the tank with a plastic nut tightening it on the other side.  (4) Remove this nut and pull the Fill Valve out of the tank.  Now that the old valve is out, you are ready to install the new one.  Almost there!!  Remove the new valve, along with the parts from the box.  (5) Make sure to have the new washer on the stem when you place the valve in the hole!  It should seal up against the bottom of the tank.  Before tightening the nut on the bottom, you will need to make sure the correct water level is set on the new valve.  You will want the float to top out just below the top of the overfill tube.  (6) Remove the new valve from the tank and adjust the float (this usually requires twisting one way for up and the other way for down).  Once this is set, (7) Insert the new valve stem into the bottom of the tank and tighten it on the underside with the new plastic nut.  Make sure it is tightened snugly, but DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN!  You can now (8) reattach the Lift Chain and the Refill Tube.  Lastly, (9) reconnect the supply line from the shut-off valve to the tank and make sure there are no leaks present.  Once no leaks are confirmed, (10) turn the water back on.  Once the tank fills up, you should now find that your problem is now fixed!  To make sure, flush the toilet a few times to make sure everything is in good shape.
As I said earlier, this is a very common problem but an easy fix.  So if you've wondered why you got a water bill that is higher than normal, go check this out.  There's a good chance this is your problem and if you don't fix it soon, your bill will continue to be high.  The good news is that you don't need to hire someone when you can do it yourself!

Hope this has been helpful for you!  Please be sure to leave me a comment on what you thought or any input you may have.