Troubleshooting a Stubborn Toilet Problem

Knowing the difference between what can be handled with a home toilet repair done by the homeowner versus needing a plumber can save a lot of time, headaches, and energy as well as avoid making costly mistakes. Here are some practical tips for troubleshooting toilet issues.

Problems That are Easy to Solve

One of the first issues tends to be that the toilet is running constantly. If it doesn’t stop, more than likely the rubber flap inside the water basin has gone bad. This is an easy repair to make. All one has to do is take the basin lid off, which is the heavy ceramic lid on top of the water basin, reach in, pull the rubber flap off of its hinge, replace it with a new one, and then make sure to reconnect the activator chain to the new rubber flap. Once in place, the weight of the water in the basin will keep the flap down until such time that it is pulled and triggered by the lever, which pulls on the chain and then the flap opens and allows the toilet to flush. 

If the toilet is running on and off again, that’s likely a situation where the flap is leaking. Typically, what happens with a flap as it gets older may start to warp, which causes a small leak. That small leak isn’t enough to trigger a full flush or a full refill from the water feed, but it can be enough that it happens over a time period of five to ten minutes. Then the tank starts to refill itself at a much greater speed and the whole leak process starts over again. 

The third problem can be slow or partial flushing. The problem may be that the chain doesn’t have enough tension in it. So, when it’s lifted by the trigger, the flap is not lifting completely. Again, the chain is something that can be easily fixed by the homeowner. It’s not a hard job; by shortening the length of the chain between the lever and the flap, the flap will open better. 

Medium-Range Problems

Where you have a toilet that is leaking water on the floor, it is more than likely either the water feed is leaking going into the basin, the basin itself is cracked and is leaking water out, or, worse, the seal between the toilet drain and the toilet basin drainage channel has leakage and is spilling sewer water. This is usually solved with a full unit replacement. Leak detection kits are handy for spotting these issues.

Another problem could be that the anchor bolts that hold the lower frame of the toilet to the floor, one of them has come loose. This repair involves the removal and reinstallation of the toilet base securely to the floor. If lifting a heavy toilet is something that is beyond the homeowner, then it’s probably a good idea to have a plumber come and fix it. 

Toilet Clogs

When it comes to a clogged toilet with a soft blockage, a plunger tool can be inserted into the bowl with water and pumped. The suction causes the soft blockage to move, and then the pressure of the water forces the rest to go down the drain. 

The home manual snake tool is a little bit messier. It does require insertion into the bowl, but the twisting motion of the snake will eventually cause soft material to break up deeper inside the line.

Time to Call for Help

When the blockage is deep inside the drain line, it’s not something a homeowner is going to usually be able to deal with. That’s a situation for a plumber. The plumber can bring in professional tools that can clear the drain line, especially if the blockage is deeper by a couple of feet and is a hard type of substance that doesn’t break down over time or doesn’t respond well to a simple auger or suction movement. In these cases, the professional plumber can apply pressure tools or much stronger augers and, if necessary, in the worst-case scenario, removal the blockage in the drain line and replacement of it. 

Knowledge Helps Make Big Problems Easy

So again, knowing the difference between which type of situation calls for which type of repair is a useful skill for a homeowner. Many smaller blockages and toilet problems can be fixed with a little bit of elbow grease, but when it’s a big one, it’s time to bring in a licensed plumber.

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