A Cheap and Easy Fix

Here are some numbers for you: toilets are responsible for 30% to 35% of all the water used in the average home according to Save Water America. Under even normal conditions that makes the toilet a ravenous water hog. But just imagine how much of your water – and money – is being literally flushed down toilet when it runs constantly. Moreover, the sound of water running nonstop is enough to drive you crazy. The first course of action most of us take is to jiggle the handle, however, that almost never helps. The good news is it’s easy and inexpensive to fix a running toilet.

Catch it in the act.

When you lift the lid off the back of the tank, you’ll see pieces of metal, plastic and rubber attached one to the other like a bizarre Rube Goldberg contraption. As strange as it looks, each of those parts work together to create a well-watered flushing machine. The first thing you should do before you attempt to fix a running toilet is to check out a sample flush and identify any obvious problems. With the tank lid off, flush and watch. This visual inspection will tell you if the problem is something simple like a tangled flapper chain. (See this online resource for a diagram of toilet parts.) If it’s not a tangled chain then move on to the two primary culprits, generally responsible when water won’t stop running: the valve and float, also known as the flapper.

Help! Floating here.

If the water in the tank is spilling over the over flow tube this means the problem is with the valve and float. This mechanism is supposed to stop the water when it reaches the correct level. The water should stop about ½-inch from the top of the tube. If this is your problem, it’s not so much about fixing the running toilet as it is about making a few minor adjustments.

There are several types of floats, from a ball-shaped one attached to a rod to a floating valve on a post. The fix for either of these is to adjust the level of the float. It may be a matter of a moving a metal clip or turning small screws. Your objective is to lower the float so it will shut off the valve sooner.

What’s the Flap about?

The flapper is the rubber seal at the bottom of the tank. When the toilet flushes, a chain lifts the flapper allowing the water to rush out of the tank. It then seals back down over the hole and keeps the new water in the tank.

First, reach into the tank and see if there is a piece of debris under the flapper. Then, push the flapper into place and try flushing again. If the toilet continues to run, then it may be time for a new flapper.

Replacement tank flappers are easy to find at your local home improvement store and simple to install – just turn off the water supply to toilet and follow the directions on the package.

More often than not, a few dollars in parts and some persistence will pay off and your running toilet will be fixed in no time. It’s an easy do-it-yourself project, but if these steps don’t resolve the problem, then it might be time to call in a professional.

How to Fix a Running Toilet: Corner Hardware