Diagnose Toilet Problems

by Darwin Hall

bright bathroom

Ever wonder why your toilet makes a subtle water running sound constantly?  What about your water bill?

When it becomes un-naturally high during this period, it could easily be a flush valve and flapper.

The rubber wears out and lets water enter the bowl when it shouldn’t, thus making the water supply constantly “feed” the toilet, increasing your bill.

Here’s how a tank toilet flushes.  Pushing the handle down raises the flushing lever.  The lever is attached to the tank ball.

The lever is attached to the tank ball (or flapper), and lifts it to allow the water into the tank to rush down into the bowl.  As the tank empties, the drop in water level causes the float ball (or float cup) to lower.

This ball is attached to an arm that operates the intake valve located in the ball-cock assembly, automatically opening the valve when water leaves the tank and closing it when the tank refills.

While the tank is refilling, water is squirting through a tube into the overflow pipe.  It flows down the bowl, rinsing and refilling after the first initial flushing.

See also:  Replace A Wax Ring On A Toilet

Water running periodically.  If the intake valve of the ball-cock assembly shuts on and off when no one has flushed the toilet, the problem is a leaking tank ball or flapper.

The leaking water causes a gurgling sound, and the intake valve must let new water into the tank periodically to replace the lost water, which flows harmlessly into the bowl.

To correct this, flush the water to empty the tank.

To keep the tank from refilling, temporarily tie the float ball up with a piece of string.  Then unscrew the tank ball from it’s guide rod, clean the valve seat, and replace the tank ball with a new one.  Better yet, replace it with a flapper.

Flappers are less prone to misalignment and they are very simple to install.  Just clip the flapper around the base of the overflow pipe and attach the chain to the flushing lever.

Water running constantly.  If water continues to run into the tank after the tank fills, the problem is the float ball or a defective valve.

To find whats wrong, pull up on the float ball.  If the water shuts off, the problem is the float ball:  It is either set too high, or has water in it.

Unscrew the ball and shake it.  If it contains water, replace with a new one.  If it does not contain water, the rod needs to be lowered.  Some mechanisms have an adjustment screw on the ball-cock.

If there is no adjustment screw, bend the rod to lower the ball.  The ball should be adjusted so that the water level is ½-inch to 1-inch lower than the top of the overflow pipe or at the waterline stamped on the inside of the tank.

If, when you pull up on the float ball, you feel resistance but the water still doesn’t shut off, the problem is the intake valve itself.

The problem may just be a worn washer, which you can change like the washer in a faucet.

If the valve is corroded, or appears to be broken, don’t try to fix it or even replace it with the same type of valve.  Instead, replace it with a new plastic flush mechanism.

toilet in bathroomOverfilling.  If, after flushing, the water seems to run an unusually long time before shutting off, the tank may be filling too high. First, remove the cover.

Flush the toilet and watch the tank refill.  If the water rises to the top of the overflow pipe, the intake valve did not shut off soon enough.

Since the intake valve is controlled by the float valve, you can adjust to point at which it shuts off simply by bending the float ball rod with your hands.

Bend it so that the ball is lower than before.

Condensation.  Moisture may build up on the outside of a tank when cold water flowing into the tank cools enough to condense vapor in the warm air.

This is called sweating, and it can be more than just a nuisance.  Constant sweating causes water to drip onto the floor, which can loosen tiles and soak the subfloor, causing rot.

If the water coming into the tank is not extremely cold, the easiest solution is to line the inside of the tank with a layer of insulating foam.

Half-inch thick styrofoam or foam rubber works quite well.  First, remove the cover from the tank and put it in a secure place; it can break easily.

Then drain the tank by turning off the shut-off valve and flushing the toilet.  Sponge up excess water and wipe the tank completely dry.  Then, use epoxy resin cement to affix the insulation to all four sides.

It should reach well above the waterline and not interfere with the mechanisms.  Make sure the cement is completely dry before refilling the tank.

If the tank still sweats, the incoming water can be warmed by tapping into a nearby hot-water line.

Put a reducing tee to both the hot-water and cold-water supply lines.  Then connect them to a mixing valve, using pipe that is one size smaller than the existing supply lines.  Connect the supply tube for the toilet valve to this valve.

Watch the VideoAnother solution is to buy a replacement tank unit.  Installing this will cost you less in the long run than it will to heat the extra water.  Tank units come already insulated and complete with all internal mechanisms.

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