A toilet is a fairly simple mechanism that relies on water pressure and mechanical principles to work effectively. Over time, there are not many changes to worry about, but there are some things that can go wrong. Some of these problems are dramatic and obvious, such as an overflow or a drain blockage. Other toilet problems may be less noticeable, and yet the medium to long term consequences can be a real problem for your bank account. One of these problems is a running toilet, this may seem trivial, but over a prolonged period it could cost you a great deal of money, and it makes sense to get it fixed quickly.
What is a Running Toilet?
Aside from the more noticeable burst pipes, overflows and drain blockages, a running toilet is probably the most common minor toilet problem in many homes. This is when the toilet seems to be in a constant state of minor flushing, and it never seems to stop. Depending upon your particular toilet model and home circumstances the toilet may make a flushing noise, or it could be completely silent. In both cases, a great deal of water is lost to unnecessary flushing operations, and this will have a dramatic effect on your water bills. If you had a tap in your home that was running all the time wasting precious water, you would turn it off straight away. Essentially, this is what a running toilet is doing, it’s running the water 24/7, and this can cost a lot of money. So, if you notice that your toilet is running, it makes good financial sense to contact a local certified plumber to fix the problem quickly.
How Can You Diagnose a Running Toilet?
As we mentioned earlier, your toilet may not be making any sound at all if it’s running and you’re not likely to hear a sound like a toilet flushing anyway. So, how can you diagnose a running toilet without any formal training or plumbing experience? The first thing many homeowners notice is an increase in their monthly water bills. This may not be noticed if you’re not paying attention to your monthly water usage and it will take a couple of months to establish a pattern of wasting water.
Another way to check if your toilet is running is to pour a few drops of food dye into your toilet tank. This will color the water, and you should leave it for 20-30 minutes to distribute thoroughly. When the time has elapsed take a look in the toilet bowl to see if the water there is colored by the food dye. If it is, this is a sure sign that the water from the toilet tank has run into the bowl without flushing and this confirms that the toilet is running.
Once you’ve confirmed that the toilet is running, there are a couple of things that you need to do straight away that may fix the problem and prevent the loss of more water. First, turn off the water supply to the bathroom to stop losing water in that room of your house. Next, remove the cover at the top of your toilet and take a look at the parts inside. There is a small opening that has a unit known as a “flapper,” and this is the mechanism that moves when the handle is pushed to flush the toilet. Sometimes, this “flapper” can become stuck open, and this will mean that there is a constant demand for water to fill the toilet bowl. In many cases, you can carefully manipulate this “flapper” to loosen it and let it fall back into its natural position. If you attempt this simple fix, you can check if it’s worked by trying the food dye diagnosis method mentioned above a second time. If there is no food dye in the toilet bowl congratulations, you’ve just fixed your running toilet problem. But, what can you do if this hasn’t worked and your toilet is still running?
Are There Any Other “Easy” Fixes?
Now that the running toilet has been confirmed as a problem and the “flapper” isn’t stuck, it’s time to delve a little deeper to get your water bills under control. The water in the toilet tank is pretty clean, so you don’t need to wear gloves, but you need to wash your hands thoroughly after they have been in the water. There are some more “easy” fixes that you can attempt without professional plumbing experience.
- Replacing the “Flapper”
We’ve already mentioned manually freeing a trapped “flapper” unit that won’t close. But, this part could be broken; it can’t be fixed, but it’s inexpensive, and it’s readily available at most hardware stores. Replacing the “flapper” is really easy, take the old unit off and replace it making sure that the chain that connects it to the flushing unit is free of any tangles. Test that the unit is working well by attempting a couple of flushes and then put the toilet top back on.
- The Water Line
If the “flapper” replacement isn’t the source of the problem, it’s time to check the water line. If the system doesn’t have enough water to flush the toilet, there will be a constant demand for the system to fill with water. Locate the water valve for your toilet and make sure that it’s fully open to provide an adequate volume of water to the toilet. If a shortage of water is the source of the running toilet, this simple fix will solve the problem immediately.
- The Valve and Float
There is a pipe running all the way up in your toilet tank; it’s usually a flat looking cylindrical pipe that’s wrapped at the side of the tank. This contains the valve and float mechanism for your toilet to regulate the level of water contained in the tank. If the level is set too high, it will put unnecessary pressure on the “flapper” which could result in a water leak. If you adjust the float to a different level it will change the water level in the tank and stop the toilet running as the demand for water is halted. This will take some time; you may have to try a few times to get the float height to the correct position.
Seeking Professional Help
Sometimes, a running toilet is caused by aging equipment or another underlying cause that cannot be fixed by using any of the methods shown above. If this is the case, it’s time to call a local certified plumber for expert help. They will be able to quickly identify the cause of the problem and suggest some ways to deal with the problem. It may be tempting to shy away from contacting a plumber to save money, but you will lose a lot more money in wasted water by ignoring the problem.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.