7 tips for common toilet repairs

July 28, 2015

A toilet that won't flush is a hassle, but here are seven fixes for common toilet issues, that can resolve your issue fast and possibly save you money over calling a plumber. 

7 tips for common toilet repairs

1. Puddling water

  • If you see water puddling on the floor under the toilet tank and the tank isn't sweating, try tightening the water-supply line connections on the underside of the tank and the bolts connecting the tank to the base.
  • If there's leakage on the floor around the base, tighten the nuts on the flange bolts on either side of the base. (To avoid cracking the toilet, tighten the flange-bolt nuts alternately, a little at a time on each side.)
  • If tightening the connections doesn't work, call a plumber.

2. Problems with the flush

  • If a toilet won't flush, make sure that its water shutoff valve, usually located under the tank, is open. Then look inside the tank. Chances are that the lift chain is disconnected from the trip lever. (Lift wires are less likely to come loose.)
  • Just slip the hook at the end of the chain into one of the holes in the trip lever. The chain should hang straight down with about one cenitmetre (1/2 inch) slack. Adjust the chain length, as needed, by moving the hook to another hole.
  • Also check handle. Remove the tank lid, and hold the handle with one hand. Reach inside the tank with the other hand and tighten the handle locknut with a wrench.

3. Water level issues

  • To raise the water level in a toilet with an older ball cock/float ball assembly, bend the float arm up slightly from the centre; to lower the water level, bend the arm down slightly.
  • Newer models have a screw at the top of the ball cock that allows you to adjust the float level. In a float-cup ball cock, pinch the clip on the side of the cup and slide the cup up to raise the water level and down to lower it.
  • Turn a floatless ball cock's adjustment screw to raise or lower the water level.

4. Reduce sweating

  • When warm, moist air hits a cold toilet tank, the tank can break into a sweat. One way to keep a tank from sweating is to insulate it with rigid foam tank liner, which is sold in kits at hardware stores and home centres.
  • Follow kit directions, taking care not to block the flush-valve assembly.

5. Tank ball problems

  • If the tank ball isn't fitting tightly in the valve seat, turn off the toilet's shutoff valve and flush to empty the tank.
  • Loosen the set screw on the tank ball's guide arm, and reposition the ball so that it drops straight into the valve seat.
  • If a flapper doesn't seat properly, adjust the length of its lift chain. If necessary, use needle-nose pliers to remove a link from the chain.
  • Replace a chain that's too short.

6. Brass valve

  • If a brass valve seat is caked with mineral deposits, empty the tank as described above, and use fine steel wool to scour it; use a plastic scouring pad on a plastic valve seat.

7. Clogged rim holes

  • Clogged rim holes (the holes underneath the rim of the bowl) can slow flushing; bacteria in clogged holes can also cause a foul odour to be released with each flush. Check for clogged rim holes with a mirror, and clean them out with a curved length of coat-hanger wire (use the mirror to help you see what you're doing).
  • Afterward, pour several cups of household bleach down the overflow tube. The flow of bleach through the rim holes into the bowl will kill any bacteria lurking in them. If the odour persists, call a plumber; an obstruction in your roof vent may be backing up sewer gases.
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