DIY: Toilet Repair

DIY project collage

It was one of those weeks, when everything seemed to go wrong at the same time.  That seems to happen these past few months.  🙂  This time, it was the toilets.  We have two bathrooms in the house and both toilets were running between flushes.  This meant water was leaking out of the tank due to either a bad stopper or a float that was not set right.

The inner workings of the tank of a toilet are fairly simple.  First, at the bottom of the tank, you have a hole that opens into the bowl (which is where your business takes place).  This hole is covered by a stopper, called a flapper, so the water does not flow out automatically.

Next you have a handle of some sort that is attached to a chain.  The chain opens the flapper when the handle on the outside of the tank is pushed.  This is what lets the water out of the tank and causes the contents of the bowl to be flushed.

The last part, that I will point out, is the float.  The float looks different in various toilets, so for the purpose of this post I am going to use the ‘balloon like float on the end of a rod’ example.  The float follows the level of water in the tank.  When the water leaves the tank it lowers to its lowest setting, waiting to be raised by the returning water.  Think of this as turning on the faucet.  When the water raises enough, the float turns “off” the faucet and the water stops running.

Simple enough, right?  You push down the handle,ha bar is raised, the chain is pulled, the flapper opens letting water out and the float is lowered,   Somewhere along this route things were not working right and water was leaking slowly, but enough to make the toilet refill with water a little bit over time.

Why is that a bad thing?  It wasn’t hurting anyone.  It was not running across the floor.  Why is it a bad thing to have a running toilet?  The water bill.  Yup, it costs more money every time you have to refill the tank of your toilet.  You would be amazed at how much water is wasted by a running toilet.  Now imagine 2 of them.

With my massive knowledge of the inner workings of this wonderful contraption, I set out to fix the problem.  Beginning with our upstairs bathroom, I took off the tank lid and looked.  And looked.  I may have mumbled a few not nice words to this Porcelain Throne, as I had recently replaced the flapper valves on both.  {sigh}

toilet tank collage

First step was to check the chain.  Had it come unhooked from the float?  No.  Had it come unhooked from the flapper valve?  No.  Was it too loose and need tightening?  No.

Second step was float.  Was it set low/high enough?  These can be adjusted, though the method varies depending on the style you have.  It all looked okay, though I sat and watched it a bit to see what  was happening.  Sure enough, the float eventually got lower and the water switched on.

I fiddled, a very technical term by the way … I fiddled with the float but that did not seem to help.  So I called in reserves, my Dad.  “HELP! What do I do?”  He suggested I try, carefully, to bend the rod going to the float.  Maybe it just needed to be down a bit.  If that did not work, I may need a new part.

To save you all the edge-of-the-seat action, I’ll just tell you that this did not work, but it did show me what needed done.  While moving the rod that held this particular float, I noticed a screw sticking out further than I thought looked normal.  I had no reason to think this, it just came to mind that it looked odd.  Being a rubber ‘screw’ I knew a screw driver wouldn’t work, so I used my hands.  Turns out all it took was a simple push, while holding up the rod to the float, to get it back in place.  And THAT Ladies and Gentlemen, is what was wrong with my toilet.  The ‘screw’ that held the rod to the float up high enough to shut off had worked it way almost completely out and was not doing its job. (In the photo above, the ‘screw’ is on top of the round piece and under the rectangle piece.  It is black.)

Sometimes the fix really is as simple as that.  And, yes, I am very glad I did not call a plumber out to push a ‘screw’ back into place.

Now, for the other toilet … let’s not mention that one yet.  🙂

If you ware wanting a bit more information, here is an infographic by Benjamin Franklin Pluming out of the Twin Cities:

How Flushing Works – An Infographic by the team at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Twin Cities Ben Franklin Minneapolis


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