14 Toilet Problems You Should Never Ignore
If you spot these troubles with your toilet, don't wait around for them to go away.
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The mysteries of a running toilet can drive you nuts. Whether you hear water running constantly or cycling on and off, we’ll help you decipher the clues so you can stop wasting water. Hardware stores and home centers carry the parts for almost all toilet repairs. One cause of a toilet running is a flapper that doesn’t seal. If water from the tank seeps around the flapper and into the bowl, the flapper is probably shot.
Flush the toilet and look for a fill valve leak. Lift up on the toilet float arm when the tank is filling to see if the water stops. Bend or adjust the toilet float arm so the tank stops filling when the water level is 1/2- to 1-in. below the top of the overflow pipe. If the fill valve still leaks, replace it.
If your toilet isn’t solidly fastened to the floor, there may be trouble in your future. Any movement of the toilet damages the wax seal. That leads to leaks and ultimately major repairs. To steady a rocking toilet, cut plastic shims to fit and slip them underneath (you may have to remove caulk before adding shims). Then caulk around the toilet and snug down the nuts on the bolts. But don’t crank them down super-tight; that can crack the toilet.
Bang! Goes the Toilet Lid
Toilets are responsible for a whole lotta annoying noises. Slow close toilet seats work great at stopping the ‘clank’ when lowering the toilet seat, but if you still hear the noise of the lid hitting the tank upon opening, here’s what you can do. Put a vinyl bumper on the lid of the toilet tank. A toilet seat with a slow-close lid and vinyl bumpers are available at home centers or online.
Cracked Toilet Seat
Installing a new toilet seat is an easy two-minute job: Just set the seat in place and tighten the nuts. Removing the old seat, on the other hand, can be a frustrating ordeal. Often, the bolts that fasten the seat are so corroded that you simply can’t unscrew the nuts. But there’s no need to explode—we have the solution.
First, take a look at the bolts that secure the seat. If the bolts or nuts are plastic, they can’t corrode and will come off easily. Simply pry open the cover behind the seat to expose the bolt’s head. Unscrew the bolt with pliers or a screwdriver while you hold the nut underneath with the pliers.
If lubricant won’t free the nut, grab your drill, drill bit collection and safety glasses. Using a 1/16-in. bit, drill into the bolt where it meets the nut. Drill 1/4 in. into the bolt. Next, enlarge the hole with a 1/8-in. bit, followed by a 3/16-in. bit. Then try the socket wrench again. Your goal now isn’t to unscrew the nut but to break off the bolt as you turn the nut. If the bolt won’t break, keep enlarging the hole. Eventually, you’ll weaken the bolt enough to break it.
If summers are humid where you live and you don’t have air conditioning, you’ve probably noticed your toilet “sweating” excessively. Condensation forms on the outside of the tank, which can drip down and make a mess or even rot out your floor. Some toilets are available with insulated tanks to prevent condensation problems.
Ever worried about waking someone up when flicking on the bathroom lights in the middle of the night?
If you have air bubbles that rise up through your toilet bowl (except when it flushes) or notice the water level rising and falling, you probably have a clogged or improperly vented toilet. This toilet bubbling problem is especially true when you have an appliance like a clothes washer nearby. Your drain line is gasping for air.
When you pour liquid from a can, you’ll notice that it doesn’t flow evenly unless you have a second opening for air. The same holds true for the plumbing vent pipe. As water goes down a drain, air is needed to equalize the pressure in the drain line.
This is the purpose of a venting system. If the drain lines in your home have poor venting, water rushing down the drains will pull water from nearby P-traps. The drain in the toilet bowl is basically a P-trap. If the problem just started, it’s probably a blocked drain or plumping vent pipe that needs to be “snaked” out. And since the water in the toilet is dropping and gurgling, it’s likely that the problem is near that area.
Unfortunately, a clogged or missing vent is tough to fix, since it usually requires breaking into the walls to examine the drain system. Unless you have plumbing experience, this project is best left to a professional.
Toilet Won’t Flush Well
Master baths are often distant from the rest of the plumbing in the house, so they often have their own plumbing vents independent of the home’s other plumbing. If the flushing performance is anemic and there are no clogs or obvious malfunctions, there may be an amazingly simple remedy. Occasionally, plumbers forget to remove the temporary plug that’s used to pressure-test the lines after plumbing rough-in. They’re located at the top of the vent pipe up on the roof. If you can’t see a rubber cap clamped on the vent over the bathroom from the ground, climb up on the roof and inspect the end of the vent over your bathroom and I’ll bet you’ll find an overlooked plug. If so, break through the plastic with a screwdriver and pry out the pieces and that toilet will work just fine.
If that isn’t the problem, you probably have a defective toilet or an obstruction in the drain line. Get ahold of the plumber who worked on the house. He or she should be able to solve the toilet won’t flush problem.
If your toilet flushes slowly, the rinse holes under the rim may be clogged with mineral deposits. With a mirror and a coat hanger, you can clean out those clogged holes without ever getting your hands dirty. The photo says it all—look into the mirror to see if the holes are clogged. If they are, bend a coat hanger flat and probe the tip into the holes to poke out any mineral deposits.
For about 90 percent of clogged toilets, you only need one special tool: a toilet plunger. Buy a toilet plunger with an extension flange on the rubber bell-shaped end. A toilet plunger with an extension flange is designed to fit toilets better, so you can deliver more “oomph” to the plunge. The toilet plunger will unplug sink and tub drains, too, if you simply fold the flange back into the bell.
Toilet Not Caulked
Yes, the bathroom is a place to get clean, but it can easily be a place to trap some pretty foul smells. If you don’t caulk a toilet to the floor, you could find yourself smelling leftover residue from smelly mop water, tub water, or even worse, the remnants of your son’s potty training.
Loose Toilet Seat
Tighten a loose or wiggly toilet seat with inexpensive rubber bushings and seat stabilizers. It’s a 15-minute fix that’ll last for years. Remove the toilet seat nuts and insert the rubber bushings.
Loop the rubber band around the toilet seat and center the stabilizers so they touch the inside rim of the bowl. Drill a starter hole and secure the stabilizers with screws from the kit. Then install a set of toilet seat stabilizers, such as Safe-T-Bumpers ($6 at amazon.com). That’ll eliminate loosening caused by side-to-side movement.
Corroded Flush Handle
Toilet flush handles are another part of a toilet that can cause toilets to keep running. Often handles are toilet parts that get loose or corroded and no longer pull the flap up or drop it back down properly. It’s an easy repair, but there’s a trick to getting the flush handle out. The retaining nut inside the tank is a reverse thread. So, if you’re in front of the toilet, turn the nut to the left to loosen. Then remove the old handle and lever, slide the new handle into place, and thread on the retaining nut. Tighten by turning to the right.
It doesn’t take long for the hinge screws on a toilet seat to rust, and then you have rust dust all over the toilet rim every time the seat slams. To prevent this, all you need to do is dab a little clear nail polish onto the screw heads. If the screws are already rusted, fill the holes with caulk. (Don’t worry—you’ll never have to get at the screws because you’ll be replacing the whole seat and lid assembly someday.) — Mike Scholey.