How to fix a leaky toliet your self.
Object: A short “how to” article on fixing a leaky toliet so that you don’t have to hire a plumber, thus saving yourself a lot of money.
Toilets leak for a variety of reasons.
One of the most common leaks is one that causes damage to the floor. One of the primary reasons for this is a wax seal that is not working. A toilet typically sits on the bathroom floor, on top of a 3” or 4” sewer line, which has a flange atop it, which is screwed to the floor so that it does not move. The base of the commode is then fastened to the flange using brass commode bolts with a nut and washer. The wax seal is positioned between the flange and the base of the commode. Its purpose is to seal in sewer gases and water-keeping them from entering the room. The wax seal is about ¾” thick and may have a plastic funnel attached to it. The funnel is placed so that it sticks down into the sewer pipe.
There are several reasons that the seal may not be secure. For one, the screws that hold down the flange might have rusted away, causing the flange to move around, thus causing the seal to loosen. Another might be that the brass bolts worked loose over time, causing the commode to move back and forth sideways when someone sits down on the toilet. This movement will break the seal. A floor that is not solid might also cause movement that would break the seal. Termites, or a floor that is too thin, or has rotted from staying wet could cause this. You will be aware that the seal has broken when you begin to notice “stuff” oozing out around the base of the commode. The first step to take is to determine why the seal leaked. Look for the loose bolts, sagging floor, etc. When you replace the seal (found at local hardware stores such as Lowe’s), be sure to fix the problem before replacing the seal.
Another source of a toilet leak may be a cracked bowl or cracked tank. This can usually be determined by examining the bowl and tank, wiping them dry with a towel and watching for fresh water to form on the outside. The only real way to fix this type leak is to replace the broken article. Normally, it is best to replace both parts, as it is hard to match tanks and bowls unless purchased together.
Another type of leak might be something as simple as a screw-on fitting that has worked loose, typically either end of the supply pipe that leads from the cut-off valve to the bottom of the tank. The fitting at the tank end of the pipe is designed to be tightened by hand, but sometimes may need a little help from a wrench or pliers. The end on the cut-off almost always needs to be tightened with a tool.
Finally, the other type of leak is an internal leak where water leaks from the tank into the toilet and does not end up on the floor. This is typically due to the rubber “flapper”, which is made of rubber becoming hardened and brittle. It loses shape and becomes warped, thus allowing water to leak out of the tank and into the bowl. It is very simple to replace these rubber flappers. They are very inexpensive and simply are hung from a couple of hooks on the tall plastic or brass water tube in the center of the tank. They will have a chain or rubber strap, which is attached to the flush handle. This is the simplest and perhaps the most common of leaks to repair. There are several other types of flush valves, which may require other types of replacement. It is important to fix these leaks, as they will cost you when the water bill comes.
One way to determine if your tank is leaking is to put food coloring in the tank. If, over a period of time, the color shows up in the bowl without the benefit of a flush, you have a leak.