What’s Wrong With Your Toilet? A Troubleshooting Guide

The toilet is an essential component of your home, so when something goes wrong with it, you want to fix it quickly before the matter gets any worse. Many, but not all, common toilet problems can be fixed by the average homeowner who has a little DIY know-how and basic tools. Here's a look at some common toilet issues, how to fix them, and when to call a plumber.

Problem: The toilet is only partially flushing.

Usually, this is caused by a weak or broken flapper valve. If you take the lid off the back of the toilet, look for a rubber stopper, about 4 inches in diameter, sitting on the bottom of the tank. This stopper, known as the flapper, opens and closes to let water go through into the toilet bowl. As a flapper ages, it sometimes develops holes that fill with water, making it heavier than it should be and causing it to "flap" back over the pipe prematurely after flushing.

Luckily, replacing an old flapper valve is easy. Turn the water supply off to your toilet (the valve is usually located near the base of the toilet). Unhook the old flapper from its chain, take it to the hardware store to find a replacement the same size, and hook the new one onto the chain. Turn the water back on, and admire your good work.

Problem: The toilet is running constantly.

This can also be caused by a faulty flapper valve -- one that's no longer sealing properly. Try replacing the flapper as instructed above. If this does not work, then your toilet float may not be resting at the proper level. Locate the float in the back of the toilet. It's usually black, and it's a balloon-like part that floats on top of the water. If it has become stuck on another part in the back of the toilet, or if it has a hole in it and has filled with water, the toilet tank will just keep filling and filling, and then emptying through its overflow pipe into the toilet bowl.

If the float is stuck, free it. If it has filled with water, detach it (just unhook it from the chain or plastic tube it's connected to) and replace it with a new one.

If your toilet is still running after replacing both the float and the flapper, then it's time to call the plumber. You may have a leaky overflow pipe, which is hard to replace on your own.

Problem: The tank takes a long time to fill up.

The most likely explanation for this is that the water flow valve is partially turned off. Check it, and make sure it is turned all of the way to the left (fully open). If the valve is completely open and the flow is still slow, call your plumber. There may be mineral deposits or another type of blockage in the pipes leading to the toilet, and it may be necessary to unclog or possibly replace them to restore a better flow of water.

Problem: The floor around your toilet is always moist.

Unfortunately, when the floor around your toilet is getting wet (and you're sure the water has not been splashed out of the toilet or sink), this means that the wax seal between your toilet and the floor has become disrupted. In order to correct this problem, it is necessary to remove the entire toilet and install a new one -- or at least apply a new wax seal. This extensive job is bet left to a plumber, since if you do it improperly, you may end up with an even worse leak.

For more information, contact a company like Lowry Services: Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Cooling