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Common Toilet Problems and How to fix them

Oct 6

Common Toilet Problems & How to fix them

Fixing a toilet is something that every homeowner will need to tackle themselves. Not only because the job seems easy enough to do but because a broken toilet can seem like an emergency. Nature likes to call at the most awkward of moments. 


There’s also the downside to calling a plumber to fix your broken toilet. Their visit can cost you an arm and a leg and you might have to wait a while to get a fixed toilet. 


Thankfully, if you have some handyman skills, there are common toilet problems that you can easily fix yourself. You’ll just need to know how a toilet works and a guide on the process. You will also need a few tools such as a wrench, pliers, toilet plunger, and a screwdriver. 

How a toilet tank works

So how does a toilet tank work? The purpose of the toilet tank is to keep some water until you need to flush the toilet. When you flush the toilet, the water will flow down through a hole at the bottom of the tank and into the toilet bowl. 


This water flowing down from the tank will push the waste of the toilet bowl into your home’s drain and sewage system. The fill valve and the flush valve are the parts of the toilet that make this process possible. 


The fill valve (also known as “refill valve” and “ballcock”) is the part of the toilet that fills the toilet tank with water. When you look down into the tank after lifting off the lid, you’ll typically see the fill valve on the left side of the tank. 

There are four different kinds of fill valves: 

  • Float cup fill valve: This is a new variation that’s typically made from plastic.
  • Floatless fill valve: This is another new design but some codes don’t allow this valve. 
  • Diaphragm-type ballcock: This is a mechanism that is an older design made of brass. However, the newer ones are made from plastic. 
  • Plunger-type ballcock: This is another older style of fill valve that’s made from brass. 


With each of these designs, the fill valve will automatically open the water supply valve when the water level drops as you flush a toilet. The fill valve will then automatically shut off when the water level increases to a certain level in the tank. 


The valve can either be operated by a float cup moving up or down with the tank’s water level or a floating ball. This will depend on the valve’s design. A floatless fill valve works by feeling the water pressure at the bottom of the tank. 

Common toilet problems 

A clogged toilet 

As a homeowner or even as someone who rents their home, a clogged toilet is the most common toilet problem that you’ll encounter. In most cases, you won’t have to call a plumber. 


To unclog your toilet you will need a specialised toilet plunger with a flange or an internal cup. If you have a particularly stubborn clog in your toilet, you might need to invest in a specialised drain snake tool called a toilet auger or closet auger. 


It’s recommended that you invest in a force-cup plunger instead of the standard plungers you’ll find in most houses. 


To fix a clogged toilet, you’ll need to place the bulb down the drain and pump the object causing the clog in the drain. You should check if the drain is still clogged without removing the bulb. 


If it takes a few tries to unclog your toilet, you might need to use a closet auger. You need to be careful not to scratch the sides of the toilet as you push and twist the rotor down. 

A leaky toilet 

You’ll find that many common toilet problems happen in the toilet’s tank. However, a leaky toilet takes place around the base of the toilet bowl and on the floor. 


In Summer, it will be normal to find a little condensation at the base of your toilet. However, if you find a puddle of water on the floor near the base of your toilet, you’ve got a problem with a leaky toilet. 


It’s important to remember that there is a good chance that the water will be dirty. It’s recommended that you don’t use the toilet until it’s been fixed. You don’t want to make a bad situation worse. 


Typically, a leaky toilet is caused by a wax ring that seals the base of the toilet (horn) from the drain opening set into the floor. To replace the wax ring, you’ll need to remove the toilet. 

A loose flush handle 

If you find that your toilet’s handle is loose, don’t worry. A loose handle is another easy problem to fix. You have two options when it comes to fixing this issue: 


You can lift the chain that connects the flapper to the lift arm or reconnect the lift wire. 

You can also try fixing the handle mounting nut that’s inside the tank. You’ll need to use an anti-clockwise motion to tighten the mounting nut. 

A running toilet 

Another annoying problem for homeowners is a running toilet. Luckily, this is a common toilet problem that you can easily fix yourself. 


A running toilet happens when the flapper isn’t positioned properly in the opening of the flush valve. Another cause of a running toilet is that the water level is either too high. If the water level is too high, it will go over the top of the overflow tube.


You can simply adjust the water level and the flapper valves. They are even to replace if it’s necessary. 

Fixing the Ballcock 

A ballcock is an older variation of a refill valve. A ballcock is the hollow floating ball that works the valve (cock) that controls the water levels in the tank. 


In some cases, a “ballcock” can refer to any kind of fill valve in a toilet. However, a “ballcock” technically refers to two types of fill valves; the diaphragm-type and the plunger-type. These valves have the signature float ball that works the valve with a long arm. 


If you live in an older house, there’s a good chance that you’ll find these older styles of valves in your toilets. This valve’s mechanism works in a straightforward way and adjusts to the water level. 


The valve does this by moving the float arm either up or down. This movement will change the point where the float ball cuts off the water supply. 


If you’re in a situation where your toilet keeps running after you’ve flushed it, this is because the water level is too high in the tank. By moving the float arm down, the ball will cut off the water at a lower level. 


Phantom Flushes or Ghost Flushes

When your toilet suddenly makes a flushing noise all by itself, you might be dealing with a “ghost” or “phantom” flush. When you hear this, it’s the toilet tank that’s being refilled with water. 


When you see water dribbling into the toilet bowl, it could mean that you have a faulty toilet flusher or flapper that’s covering your flush. 


To fix this, you will need to drain the water from the toilet tank so you can check the flapper. If the flapper is damaged, you’ll need to replace it with a new flapper. 

Final thoughts 

A broken toilet or even a running toilet can be an annoying, even an urgent, issue for any homeowner. Fixing some of the common toilet issues doesn’t have to be a complicated task. In some cases, a simple adjustment or replacing a small mechanism will do the trick. And doing this yourself will save you a few quid. 

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