Save Money - Repair your own Toilet

DuitByJamesStarred Page By DuitByJames, 20th Oct 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>DIY>Plumbing

When faced with a malfunctioning toilet, don't get heartburn worrying. Keep calm and think about the problem. Toilet science is pretty simple if you look at the separate parts. Knowing how it works and what tools you need are the fist step. Each part has it's own definition and type of potential for problems. An explanation of each one will help you diagnose, repair, and prevent future problems. Things to watch for and not do.

Old Faithful

You can't live comfortably with out it. Some would say this invention is the most important appliance in the home. And not too many will argue the point even if they disagree.
After repairing them for over twenty years, it has become obvious that many take their toilet for granted until something stops working. Don't get mad at the toilet, it has only helped you and never complained.
The best thing to do is learn about the problem and solve it as quickly as possible. Many get excited and create greater problems with out taking time to think.
You want everything to stay in there, so if it doesn't flush down; calmly close the seat lid, place the tank lid on the seat, reach down in the clean water filled tank, and push the round rubber stopper down to stop water from flowing out of the tank.
Now do not flush the toilet.
Turn off the water supply down low on the wall at the back of the toilet.
Keep reading and I will do my best to share what I know about TOILETS.

Toilet Science

Water is collected in a tank so it can be released into a bowl, washing and forcing the contents up through a goose neck shaped pipe, down into a 3 to 4 inch pipe that runs out to a larger main sewer line usually under the street out side the building.
In the picture you will see the correct amount of water to keep the bowl clean and primed.
The most important function of this water is to keep sewer gas from coming into the building creating health issues and the possibility of methane gas fire.
The size of the bowl and tank are matched to supply just the right amount of water. There is a small hole; not visible because of it's angle in the picture, called a venture y that forces water to the back toward the goose neck; working with the released tank water, enough pressure is created to eject the contents and rinse the bowl.

Toilet Tools

This is a toilet auger and best friend for any one dealing with a clogged toilet.
They come in different lengths starting at 4 feet, some are able to extend to 10 feet.
The average toilet is not very far from the vent to the roof or junctions with other drain lines, where clogs are found very often.
From my experience this tool will do the job 98% of the time, so I will choose this over a plunger every time.
I prefer the augers that have the extendable feature when I am unsure about the layout of the sewer line. A note of caution: If there are two toilets in different bathrooms back to back with a wall between them the auger can very easily go up into the other toilet.
If you are not able to open the clog with this tool then, this might be the time to call a plumber with a snake. Snakes can be rented but are dangerous to bones and muscle if not used properly.

The Goose Neck

As you look at the picture you see how the water in the bowl blocks the pipe which turns up keeping contaminated air leaking out.
It is important to remember that this air be blocked at all times.
If the toilet is removed then block the opening with a wet rag for a short time or proper plug if longer.
Note the threaded bolt with a mettle washer and nut holding the bowl flange tightly to the ground.
Be very careful when snugging them down, porcelain breaks with too much pressure. Normally the bolt would be trimmed off with a hack saw so a special plastic washer would be under the metal washer with and plastic cap snapped on over the nut and bolt.

The Anchor and Seal

This is the toilet flange with slots designed to accept the large flat lug-head of the toilet hold down bolts, mounted on the floor so to place the bolts parallel to the wall and centered 12 inches away from the wall.
Note the plug being used, has a wing nut to expand a rubber seal and close it tight. When setting a toilet I insert the bolt lugs into the slots and align them with the wall. then I place a wax ring with flange so it goes do into the hole.
Make sure the wax ring is thick enough that it will be compressed at least 1/4 inch all the way round. it is OK to double up if needed.
This is messy with that wax sometimes but will protect you from unwanted mess and repairs.

Inside The Toilet Tank

Just like a dam is used to store water so is this tank. The weight of the water sitting up above the bowl is used to create a fast rush of pressure, when you push down on a handle out side the tank, the lever inside pulls the chain up, which is hooked to the top of the flapper ( tank plug ) ; pulling it open releasing the water into the bowl.
Note : The FLAPPER is what you want to CLOSE in the case of an OVERFLOW!
The blue thing is a float valve.
The white tube going from the float valve, into the top of the white pipe, is called the siphon tube.
The white pipe is called the overflow tube, and is what the flapper is hinged on so it pivots into the center of the tank after all the water flows out.

Water Supply

This is the supply valve, you will find almost always on one side or the other, approximately 6 inches off center left or right of the drain hole in the flange, and 4 to 8 inches above the floor.
This is Where you turn off the water before working on the toilet or stop flooding.
It is connected by a feed line to the float valve, mounted inside the tank with a rubber seal inside and tightened with a nut out side on the bottom of the tank.
On most toilets made in the USA this will be on the left.
Like many things, plumbing is one thing where the word always gets thrown out the window.
Note I caution to be careful when tightening plastic fittings and the supply lines; as most of the new seals are softer then the old ones and do not need to be cranked down like a compression fitting.

The Three Friends

Water is siphoned from the float valve into the overflow tube so the toilet bowl and tank will be filled at the same time.
Now you know; any water entering the overflow ends up in the bowl.
The top of the overflow tube is lower then the top of the tank.
Lets look at the flapper. It has a hollow area like an upside down cup that traps air in it so once you pull the chain and break it's seal it floats up, staying open until the water is gone.
If it does not seal the water will keep running. Handle stuck in up position. Chain to short. Flapper worn.
Water from the siphon runs down from the lip on the top inside of the bowl, while the flush is taking place until the tank is full forcing the float valve to close.
If one end of the siphon tube comes off, water can spray outside of the tank.
If the float is adjusted to high the water will flow into the overflow and keep running.
If the float valve wont shut off or turn on replace it or the worn part inside it.
Make sure you have a rubber washer on the inside for tank bolt and another rubber washer on the bottom of the tank outside with a metal washer then nut, before attaching to the bowl. If you don't pressure on the tank can make it leak

Other Tools and Dont's

Ark pliers, crescents, screw drivers; large screw driver for changing the seat.
Don't put large objects in the tank to save water, this does not work the way the myth says it does.
Do not stand on the toilet unless you are prepared to pay for any consequences.
Do not leave a toilet bowl without water for more then half an hour.
Check your toilet regularly and maintain it.

If you have questions, or feel i have made a mistake, or am not clear on some thing please let me know by commenting.


Copy write protected : 1-21-2013 Author DuitByJames
Photography by: James A McFarlin

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Clearing A Clogged Toilet, Diy, Diy Plumbing, Toilet Leaks, Toilet Problems, Toilet Repair

Meet the author

author avatar DuitByJames
Cheerful craftsman that enjoys remodeling, new technology,
quality time in the out doors. Married with children and grandchildren.
Now working as skilled tradesman on assignment.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
21st Jan 2013 (#)

Detailed picture with nothing left to imagination. One needs basic skills and common sense to become hands on and, of course, the right tools. Thanks James for the tutorial - siva

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author avatar DuitByJames
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

Thank You Siva, I had to make some adjustments to the article. The moderator shared some wisdom to help me learn; so please read again and let me know what you think.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

You have improved on the post with more photos to embellish it. One need not look further to get into the act. Indeed a useful share, thanks, James - siva

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author avatar DuitByJames
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

Thank You Siva.

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author avatar DuitByJames
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

Thank You johnnydod, let me know how I did.

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author avatar Irene Nevins
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

Ah, to solve the mystery of the phantom flush!

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author avatar DuitByJames
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

Funny you used those words; they remind me of what happens when the tank has too much water in it. The toilet may flush two times. Thank You Irene!

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author avatar DuitByJames
22nd Jan 2013 (#)

Thank you for the advise and the STAR johnny!

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
27th Jan 2013 (#)

Nice workmanship. Thanks.

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author avatar DuitByJames
27th Jan 2013 (#)

Thanks Md, It is difficult to give more information on float valves with out working agreements from the manufacturers.

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author avatar philpalm
9th Jun 2013 (#)

A lot of times the flapper is leaking because it is old and deformed. If the leak is for too long there will be a groove on the spot where the flapper leaks.

A resurface tool or an epoxy glued new surface for the flapper can be bought in a kit.

However most folks change the old toilets and put in a new water saver toilet.

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author avatar Karin
16th Jul 2014 (#)

HELP! My Lab dropped his steak bone and it was flushed up to the bottom of the neck of the toilet. I can feel it but it is stuck and I can not get it out. Any advise on how to get it out. Mike Diamond, did not have any tools to help and said if I can't remove I will need to buy a new toilet. the bone is from a rib eye so is half a cirlce and is very rough because it's been chewed by my dog for 3 years! Thanks for any advise!

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