Some plumbing repairs require professional help, but there are many simple repairs that you can make yourself, saving both the time and expense of calling a plumber. Below you'll find a list of some common easy-to-solve toilet problems and their solutions.
How a Toilet Works
To better understand how your toilet works, take the lid off of your tank and flush the toilet a few times. Here is what you will see:
When you push the handle, the chain lifts the flapper valve (also called the stopper or tank ball).
Water in the tank flows through the flush valve opening into the toilet bowl.
The water from the tank forces waste water in the toilet bowl through the trap and into the main drain.
Once the tank is empty, the flapper valve closes and the fill valve/ballcock refills the tank.
When the tank is full, the float ball shuts off the fill valve/ballcock.
Common Toilet Problems
If you have water on the floor around your toilet, fix the problem right away so moisture does not damage your subfloor.
Start by checking all connections - the tank bolts, the fill valve/ballcock mounting nut and supply tube coupling nut. Is everything tight? If so, you may need to replace the washers.
If water is dripping from the tank during humid weather, it may be condensation. You can fix this problem by installing a toilet liner kit, a foam panel placed inside the tank. To install a liner, cut off the water, drain and clean the inside of the tank. Cut the panels to fit your toilet and attach them to the tank.
Is the toilet tank cracked? If so, you need to buy a new tank. In fact, unless your toilet is fairly new and direct replacement bowls are readily available, consider upgrading to a 1.6 or 1.28 gallon per flush toilet. This will eliminate the potential problems associated with trying to find a tank that matches the old bowl. For more information on what is involved with this project, see How to Replace a Toilet.
Water around the base of a toilet could be caused by a wax ring that no longer seals or by a cracked toilet base. If the toilet leaks constantly, the toilet base is cracked and must be replaced. If leaking occurs during or after a flush, replace the wax ring.
Toilet Won't Flush:
Check the flush handle, flush lever/lift arm, chain, flapper valve and the connections between each of the parts to make sure all are functioning.
The handle may be too loose or tight.
The lift arm may be bent or broken.
The connection between the lift arm and lift chain may be broken or out of adjustment, so it does not raise the flapper valve far enough.
Toilet Won't Flush All the Way:
You may need to remove excess slack in the lift chain.
If the water level in the tank is set below the toilet manufacturer's recommended water line (usually stamped on the inside wall of the tank or on the flush valve overflow pipe), adjust the fill valve to set the water level to the manufacturer's recommended height (setting the water level too low in the tank weakens the flushing performance of your toilet).
If you have installed a new toilet flapper, ensure proper installation and confirm flapper is the correct model for your toilet.
Stuck or Loose Handle:
Remove the tank cover and clean the mounting nut (located on the inside behind the handle) so the handle operates smoothly.
If there is a buildup of lime around the mounting nut, clean it with a brush dipped in vinegar.
Fill Valve Filling Tank Slowly/Not Filling
Make sure the main water valve is turned completely open
Clean the fill valve/ballcock; some valves can be easily disassembled and cleaned (see valve manufacturer's instructions or website for details)
If water supply line is flexible, turn off the water supply supply line and detach the water supply line from the base of the fill valve/ballcock. Redirect the water supply line into a bucket and turn the main water valve on. If the water flow does not improve, there may be a restriction or problem with your plumbing.
Make sure the water supply line is turned completely open.
Some fill valves/ballcocks can be easily disassembled and cleaned (see valve instructions or valve manufacturer's website for details).
If possible, replace the fill valve diaphragm seal. Replacement seals are available for several fill valves/ballcocks.
Replace the fill valve/ballcock. It's easier than it may sound. Replacement fill valves/ballcocks are reasonably priced and can be installed simply by following the manufacturer's instructions.