Many people forget how important their toilet is until it stops working.
Toilet-related issues can cause understandable panic as homeowners scramble to repair the issue.
Luckily, there are basic home toilet repairs you can do that won’t require a call to the plumber.
However, not every problem can be solved by a wrench and a trip to the hardware store. Understanding when to call in the professionals is key to avoiding costly and lengthy repairs.
Here are some of those repairs you can carry out yourself when your toilet starts misbehaving:
DIY Toilet Repairs
To repair a running toilet, you should first test the flapper. This is the piece inside of the toilet tank that lets the water flow out of the tank and into the bowl when you flush. It’s a round, rubber disc attached to the bottom of the overflow tube.
To test the flapper, push down on it with a stick while the water is running and see if it stops. If it does, then your flapper isn’t sealing properly and needs to be replaced.
To do this, remove the lid from your tank and shut off the water to the toilet. Drain as much water as possible by holding the flush lever down until the toilet is completely flushed.
Disconnect the flapper chain from the flush handle lever by undoing the small clip on the top end of the chain. Slip the side ears of the flapper off of the pegs extending from the flush valve tube and remove from the tank.
Install the new flapper by placing and hooking it back onto the pegs and connect the flapper chain onto the handle lever. Adjust the chain length – when the lever is in the resting position, the chain should have a little bit of slack.
Turn the water back on and test the flapper by flushing a couple of times. Adjust the chain length as needed.
Repairing Flush Valve
If the flapper isn’t the issue, flush the toilet and look for a fill valve leak. While the tank is filling, lift up on the toilet float arm to see if the water stops.
You can bend or adjust the float arm when the water level is ½ to 1 inch below the top of the overflow pipe. The tank should stop filling – if not, you’ll need to replace the valve.
To replace the flush valve, begin by draining the toilet.
Disconnect the water supply tube/hose to the tank and disconnect the flapper chain from the tank lever arm. Next, disconnect the refill tube attached to the overflow pipe.
Underneath the toilet tank, unscrew and remove the tank bolts. Lift the tank off the bowl and unscrew the locknut under the tank that holds the flush valve to the tank. Remove the old flush valve.
Install the new flush valve the same way you removed the old one. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Once you have installed the new flush valve, reattach the tank with the tank bolts and reattach the flapper chain to the flush lever arm.
Reconnect the fill tube to the new overflow pipe and reconnect the water supply to the tank.
Turn on the water and flush the toilet to check the new flush valve for leaks.
Fixing Loose Flush Handle
One of the simpler fixes for a running toilet is replacing or tightening a loose flush handle.
To tighten a loose flush handle, remove the toilet tank cover and drain the toilet. Look for the metal nut next to the handle. Use a wrench to turn the nut until it is tighter – but don’t tighten it too much.
Push down on the lever to see if it feels and sounds right. If it still feels loose, you may need to replace it.
To replace a flush handle, follow the same steps to drain your toilet. This time, undo the clasp on the chain clip to detach the handle from the other components of your toilet.
Remove the mounting nut and pull the old handle out. Unscrew the mounting nut from the new handle and place it in the tank the same way you took the old one out.
Secure the new handle with the mounting screw and attach the chain to the lever.
Turn the water back on and test the handle. It should move easily.
If your toilet is clogged, your first inclination is going to be to grab the plunger. Hopefully, this works the first time around.
To use a plunger, place it over the hole inside the toilet bowl and gentle rotate the handle to create a seal. Pump the plunger straight down. You should hear the suction.
Keep pumping until you hear water moving through the pipes. When you lift the plunger, the remaining water should drain if the clog is cleared.
Unfortunately, plunging is sometimes not enough to remove a clog. If a plunger doesn’t work, you can always try a metal coat hanger.
Cut the hook off the coat hanger and bend it into a straight rod. Use pliers to bend a 1 inch hook at the end.
Feed the coat hanger into the toilet to grab and break up the waste causing the clog. You may need to use a plunger after this step to clear out anything the hanger couldn’t grab onto.
If something larger is obstructing your toilet, you may need to call in a professional plumber with heavy-duty equipment.
When to Call a Professional
Your home’s plumbing is not something to be messed with – trying to deal with more severe issues could lead to further damage and costly repairs.
Here are instances in which you should call in the professionals:
- Obstructions in the pipes that can’t be plunged.
- A broken wax seal.
- Frozen supply lines.
- Hidden leaks.
Basically, if you can’t fix it through simple DIY, it’s time to get a hold of a professional plumber.