Diagnosing A Leaky Toilet

Toilets take a lot of crap, literally. Unfortunately, very few people give these porcelain thrones a second thought until they start leaking all over the place. If puddles of water are constantly forming around your toilet or it sounds as though the tank it filling on a continuous basis, then you may be dealing with a leaky toilet. Here are a few things that could be causing the problem and how to diagnose them.

A Problem with the Toilet Fill Valve

The toilet fill valve controls the amount of water that fills the tank. When the water level rises, it pushes the float ball or cup upwards. This piece, in turn, closes the valve once it reaches a certain height, ensuring the tank doesn't overfill and flood the bathroom.

A bad toilet fill valve can fail in a number of ways. The metal parts may become loose and malfunction, or the floater ball or cup may deflate or become damaged. You can determine it's time to replace the toilet valve by the following symptoms:

  • There's a humming sound that advances into screaming, which indicates the valve may not opening or closing smoothly. This means the metal parts are loose and will likely fail if not replaced.
  • The toilet constantly runs. This can be caused by a bad flapper too. To determine if it's the toilet fill valve, die the water in the tank. If it doesn't change color within a few hours, then it's the toilet valve causing the problem. If the tank water gets lighter and lighter, it's the flapper.
  • The float ball or cup is at an odd angle, which means it may not be adjusted correctly. Push the float up as far as possible and then tighten the fill valve tension using a screwdriver. If the toilet continues to run or you hear humming or screaming, then it's time to replace the fill valve.
  • The tank takes a long time to fill. This may indicate the water is having trouble getting through the fill valve after flushing.

The Flapper's Gone Bad

The toilet flapper is the piece the opens to let the water in the tank into the bowl. Though the piece is typically made from rust-resistant material, it still wears out over time. Oftentimes it will fail to seal properly, causing water to leak into the toilet bowl and forcing the toilet fill valve to constant work to replace it. According to some experts, a leaky flapper can wasted up to 200 gallons of water per day.

There are a few ways to tell if the toilet flapper has gone bad:

  • The toilet constantly runs even after flushing. This likely means it's not sealing properly. You can sometimes get the toilet to stop running by jiggling the flush handle.
  • Brittleness and discoloration: If you touch the flapper, it will feel brittle and may start to break apart. The color may also flake off on the toilet and your hands.
  • Broken eyelet hole: Sometimes the hole that connects the flapper to the chain will break off, which reduces or eliminates your ability to control the flapper. You can tell this occurred when you go to flush the toilet and nothing happens.
  • The water in the tank is consistently below the overflow level. In a normal working toilet, the water level should be about the same height as the overflow pipe on the toilet fill valve.

Bad Toilet Ring

The toilet ring is a soft, flexible donut-shaped piece that sits between the base of the toilet and the drainpipe. Its job is to prevent water and sewage from leaking out all over your bathroom floor. Not only can a bad toilet ring ruin your bathroom, it can damage the ceiling of the room underneath.

Most people don't realize there is a problem until a dark ring begins form around the base of the toilet, which is typically mold or black bacteria caused by the leak. Other signs the toilet ring needs to be replaced include:

  • The smell of hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the toilet (it smells like rotten eggs)
  • Anything from condensation to puddles forming around the base of the toilet
  • Water spots in the ceiling below the bathroom
  • The toilet rocks or wobbles each time you sit on it

While you can fix all of these problems on your own, it's best to go to this site or have a knowledgeable plumber take a look at your toilet. They can save you time and money by accurately diagnosing what may be causing the leaky toilet and quickly fixing the issue. If you have a leaky toilet, contact a contracting plumber for assistance.


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