Learning Center8 Common Causes Of A Leaky Toilet

8 Common Causes Of A Leaky Toilet

A leaky toilet can cost you money. Learn how to solve these problems before they damage your bathroom.

8 Common Causes Of A Leaky Toilet (And How To Fix Them)

There is likely no fixture in the home as well-used and trustworthy as the toilet. Aside from regular cleaning every few days, your toilet is likely relatively low-maintenance. Year round, it works as it should. If something goes wrong, however, the bathroom bowl can be impossible to ignore. A simple leak causes water to pool, maybe even damage to the floor or the walls, or it can leave the internal pump to run, wasting water and raising your monthly utility bill.

It can be tempting to ignore the signs, but there are good reasons not to do so.

Damaged Flapper

A toilet holds water in a tank until you flush it. When you do, the flapper in the tank lifts and water flows from the tank into the bowl, replenishing the supply to protect the interior from stains and bacteria. The flapper is a rubber or plastic part that holds a seal to keep the water in the tank, a barrier between the tank and the bowl. When the flapper returns to its resting position, the tank fills with water again.

While flappers are simple devices, they are not indestructible. Over time, the flapper can warp, crack, or break. If it does, it is no longer able to control water flow between the tank and bowl. Accordingly, water often leaks from the tank into the bowl, creating an annoying, trickling sound. Plumbers refer to this as a silent leak, as it can be difficult for many homeowners to detect. If you have this silent leak, your water bill is probably higher than it should be. To save money, pay attention to any water sounds coming from your toilet after you flush. Once the bowl fills, you should not be able to notice any water trickling into it.

A damaged flapper is easy and relatively cheap to fix yourself. With a toilet repair kit, you can easily remove the old flapper from inside the tank and install a replacement.

Stuck Flapper

Even if a toilet flapper is in good shape, it may not be doing the job effectively. Often, flappers stick in the open position, allowing water to continually flow from the tank into the bowl. If this happens with your toilet, the flushing handle will likely feel limp and unresponsive.

For most toilets, it’s a simple five minute project to investigate. Lift the lid off the tank to double check that the flapper is connected to the flushing handle. Sometimes you’ll find the chain has slipped off and merely needs reset on the handle. To guarantee the flapper works like it should, you may need to replace the mechanism that moves it up and down. The replacement flapper is available as an individual part, and is typically included in a toilet repair kit, making a DIY fix feasible.

Cracked Supply Line

Water flows into the toilet’s tank through a cold-water supply line. When it is working properly, the line is a closed system, preventing air from seeping in and water from seeping out. With time or high-water pressure, however, the supply line can crack. If it does, you may notice water on the floor around your toilet. In more serious cases, you could have a flood on your hands. Repairing a cracked supply line often requires the prompt assistance of a plumber to minimize damage to your home.

If you want to make the repairs yourself, be sure to turn off the water to your toilet or bathroom. Then you can carefully remove the cracked supply line. After you have coated the new line with plumber’s tape, securely attach it to the water valve and toilet. Be careful not to damage the new line through overtightening. After installation, you should test the new line to ensure it doesn’t leak.

Damaged Tank

A toilet holds water inside the tank in order to refill the bowl when needed. If you notice water on the floor around your commode, you may have a cracked or broken tank. To repair a damaged tank properly, it is best to install a new toilet. While putty and sealants can temporarily stop a leak, upgrading your outdated toilet can boost your peace of mind and protect your other bathroom fixtures from water damage. If you have a two piece toilet, you can usually buy a new tank rather than the entire unit. An upgraded toilet may even save you money if you choose a water-saving design.

Bad Float

Water should stop flowing into the toilet’s tank when it reaches a certain level. The float sits on top of the water, monitoring the water level and disengaging the supply when it reaches the necessary point. If your toilet’s tank overflows, a bad float is probably to blame. Fortunately, repairing a faulty float is a simple process. In most toilets, a replacement float is easily installed as it simply slips into place without tools or much effort.

Rusted Fill Valve

If your tank overflows and the float isn’t the culprit, you may have a corroded or damaged fill valve. The valve controls the amount of water flow into the tank when paired with the float to ensure the tank is full to the expected number of gallons at a time.

Replacing the valve is not difficult, but it is usually more complicated than repairing the float. There are multiple pieces to the fill valve and each piece must be inspected to ensure it still works, or if the entire fill valve unit needs replacing. Most replacement valves will have detailed instructions if you choose to do it yourself. Because the project requires assessing the viability of various parts of the toilet, sometimes the best way to handle a damaged fill valve is to shut off the water and seek the assistance of a skilled plumber before attempting to repair your toilet fill valve yourself.

Broken Connectors

Like with any plumbing fixture, your toilet has many connectors that prevent water leaks. If any of these connections lose their seal, water may end up on your bathroom floor. Replacing connectors is usually a straightforward process, although it may require a plumber’s assistance. Check your toilet’s connections routinely to identify any problems before they turn into leaks. Whenever possible, opt for high-quality replacement parts to improve your odds of avoiding future leaks.

Bowl Damage

Finally, your toilet may have bowl damage that is causing your leak. As the bowl is designed to hold water, it will likely drain directly onto your bathroom floor if there is a crack. A crack in heavily used porcelain or ceramic ware will not be fully sealed with putty or glue and you run the risk of spilling unhealthy waste water on your floor. If any structural part of your toilet is cracked and leaking, it’s best to replace the entire toilet.

Leaky toilets might seem like a small problem, and they don’t happen often, but the small things add up to big costs if you don’t catch them in time. They can run up your water bill at best, or destroy the tile and subfloor in your bathroom at their worst. If you track the problem back to the correct source, you can better figure out how to deal with it, and maybe even fix it.