Understanding Your Toilet
To find out where the leak from the tank to the bowl is coming from, some detective work is probably in order. So let’s plunge in!
Observe how your toilet flushes
At first glance, the array of submerged parts may look intimidating. Don’t worry — it’s simpler than it looks and the water in the tank is straight from the water pipes and is clean.
When a toilet is flushed, the handle moves the flush arm which is connected to a chain (B) to lift the flapper from the valve seat (A). Water pours through the valve seat from the tank into the toilet bowl. Once the tank is empty, the flapper falls back down and seals the valve seat. At the same time, the ballcock opens and fills the tank. The ballcock shuts off when the float ball reaches the correct water level (C).
Listen to your toilet
Pay attention to the sound your toilet makes. If you hear continuous hissing long after your last flush it means that you have a large leak. It could be an issue with the flush arm, the chain, the flapper, the valve seat, or the water level in the tank could be too high and is continually pouring into the overflow tube.
If you hear hissing every so often it is most likely because of a small leak caused by a deteriorated flapper or corroded seat valve.
Sometimes your toilet might not make any noise at all, but it can still have a leak. Slow, silent toilet leaks are quite common and can add hundreds of dollars to your water bill each year.
Stop the Leak
The good news is that most toilet leaks are easy to repair and few tools are required. If a One Change water conservation campaign is happening in your neighbourhood, you can come to one of our events to learn how to fix your toilet. However, don’t be afraid to call in the professionals if you are looking for an easy solution. The cost of hiring a plumber will quickly pay for itself.
Preparing to fix your toilet
Gather any materials you might need including a wrench, a towel or sponge, and replacement parts if you already have them.
Turn your water supply off by turning the knob behind your toilet. Flush the toilet to empty the tank. Since the water is turned off, the tank will not refill. If you would like, you can take a towel or sponge to remove excess water.
1. Check the flapper and valve seat (A)
The main cause of a toilet leak between the tank and the bowl is the flapper. A flapper is an inexpensive rubber part that can build up minerals or decay over time.
If the flapper and/or the seat valve are encrusted with deposits, you can clean it using steel wool, or for plastic valve seats, a non-scratching scourging material. Retest your toilet to see if that solves the problem. If not, you may have to replace the flapper and/or valve seat.
Flappers come in various shapes and sizes and are available at your local hardware store. Check your toilet brand and model to find the correct replacement flapper. The brand and model can usually be found on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank (the brand on your toilet seat is often different than the manufacturer of your toilet). If you are unsure of your toilet model, you can purchase a universal flapper. Bring your old flapper to the store to find the closest match.
To replace a flapper, unlatch the clip that attaches the flapper chain to the float arm. Next, gently pull up on the flapper arms to release the old flapper from its posts. Some flappers might be connected to the overflow tub by a circular ring. If this is the case, gently slide the flapper up and off of the overflow tube.
Next, remove the clip from the chain and place the new flapper into position over the posts. With the new toilet flapper fitted in the valve seat, lift the chain that is attached to the new flapper up to the flush arm and reattach leaving two to three links of slack in the chain. There should be no tension on the chain when the flapper is in the seated position. Any excess lift chain can be cut off or left dangling (if it doesn’t interfere with toilet operation).
The Valve Seat
Examine the surface of the valve seat for any pit marks or groves. If the surface is not perfectly smooth, your toilet will continue to leak after you replace the flapper. The next step is to replace the valve seat. You can purchase a new flapper seat for your toilet model at a local hardware store and follow the instructions on the packaging or call a plumber.
2. Check the chain and the flush arm (B)
Look at the chain and make sure it’s the correct length. It might be too long and getting trapped under the flapper or too short and not letting the flapper close all the way. Adjust the chain if needed.
Next check the flush arm and make sure that the nut that holds it to the toilet handle is tight enough, but not too tight that it gets stuck. Make sure the flush arm is not bent and is properly aligned so the chain is directly over the flapper. You can install a new guide arm or chain if necessary.
3. Check the ballcock, float arm and ball (C)
If the water level in the tank is too high, it may spill into the overflow tube. The correct level should be about 1 inch below the top of the overflow tube. You can bend the float arm downward to get the water to stop at the proper level. Be sure that the float arm is screwed securely to the ball cock and will not rotate. Check the float ball to make sure no water is getting inside and replace if needed. If you have bent the float arm, checked the float ball, and the toilet still continues to refill and go into the overflow tube, then there may be an issue with the ballcock. Fixing or replacing the ballcock is not that difficult, but if you feel intimidated call your local plumber for help.
4. Retest your toilet
Turn the water supply on and allow the toilet to completely refill. Flush to see that everything is working correctly and make adjustments as needed. You can retest for a leak using another dye tablet or by placing a couple drops of food colouring in the toilet tank.
Other problems: Most toilet leaks are easy to repair; however, some are more complicated and may require a plumber. Please see our website for a list of plumbers in your area.
One Change is not responsible for conducting toilet repairs or for any damage to your home or toilet because of repairs.