How to Repair Common Toilet Problems

  • 01 of 07

    How to Repair Your Home's Toilet

    Toilets need occasional attention but it's not difficult if you know some basic tips. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

    The toilet tank is where all the major plumbing takes place in a toilet and where most of your toilet repairs will occur.

    The purpose of the tank is to contain the water needed to flush the toilet and to conceal the plumbing apparatus that fills and empties the tank. The tank may contain a variety of different parts that need repair.

    Before you can begin your repairs, it's important to have a basic understanding of how your toilet tank works.

    Toilet Tank Overview

    Open any two toilet tanks and you'll often find very different components inside. Why? Well, new technologies and materials have evolved over the past several decades, but in the end, there are just two major components with several variations.

    The two major components are:​

    The toilet fill valve is the mechanism that fills the tank with water. It is also known as a "ballcock" or a "refill valve." Fill valves comes in four basic variations:

    • Plunger Type Ballcock (oldest style brass type valve)
    • Diaphragm Type Ballcock (older brass style and newer plastic type valve)
    • Float Cup Type Ballcock (newer plastic type)
    • Floatless Type Ballcock (newer plastic type)

    The flush valve is what releases the water stored in the tank, closes the flow of water into the toilet and allows the tank to refill for the next use. It is the assembly that bolts to the bottom of the tank and includes the overflow pipe and the valve seat. The flush valve has two common variations used to seal the valve seat:

    • Tapered Rubber Float Ball
    • Flapper Ball (tank flapper)
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  • 02 of 07

    Flush Valves: Flapper or Tapered Float Ball

    Toilet cistern with home-made water saving device (a plastic water bottle with the top cut off, placed in the cistern)
    Peter Anderson / Getty Images

    The flush valve can use a tapered rubber float ball or a flapper ball to control the flow of water into the toilet.

    Flapper balls are common on newer flush valves and are connected to the handle lift arm with a lift chain.

    Float balls are more common on older-style flush valves and are designed to lift and drop into the valve opening. The float ball is connected to the handle lift arm by a lift wire that runs through a guide arm attached to the overflow pipe.

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  • 03 of 07

    Toilet Tanks With Float Balls

    Man using screwdriver to adjust screw on float arm in toilet cistern
    Gary Ombler / Getty Images

    Two types of ballcocks have been around the longest. They are the plunger fill valve and diaphragm type fill valve ballcocks.

    The float ball and plunger or diaphragm fill valve or ballcock combination have been used in toilets for many decades. The float ball is hollow and floats on top of the water as it is being filled in the tank. When the water gets to the desired level, the float ball moves the float arm and turns off the water flow in the ballcock. By bending the float arm you can "fine tune" the point at which the water turns off and stops filling the tank.

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  • 04 of 07

    Toilet Problem: Toilet Runs Constantly

    Toilet and bathtub in the bathroom
    Basic toilet. Rob Melnychuk/Photodisc/Getty Images

    A running toilet is a nuisance and the constant sound can just about drive you crazy. Not only that, but it can cause your water bill to go up as well as reduce your home's energy efficiency. To locate the source of the issue, be sure to check your flapper (be sure the chain is connected properly), fill valve, tank water level and float. 

    How to Fix It: Running Toilet

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  • 05 of 07

    Toilet Problem: Flush Handle Loose

    Flushing toilet
    Sarah Musselman / Getty Images

    Sometimes you're flush handle can become disconnected from the rest of the tank. Luckily, although this can be a common occurrence, it is an easy and quick fix.

    Possible Solutions:

    • Reconnect lift wire or lift chain from the handle if it is disconnected.​
    • Adjust handle mounting nut inside the tank. It has reverse threads, so rotate counterclockwise to tighten.
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  • 06 of 07

    Toilet Problem: Water on Floor

    Close up of water spill in bathroom
    Adam Gault / Getty Images

    While a little condensation is normal in the summer months, a small puddle of water at the base of your toilet indicates a real problem. There is a great chance this water is dirty, so to keep the problem from worsening, it's best to avoid using your toilet until it's fixed. You may find that your wax ring is what's causing the issue, in which case you'll have to remove your toilet from the floor to address the situation.

    How to Fix It: Leaking Toilet Base

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  • 07 of 07

    Toilet Problem: Toilet Clogged

    Toilet clog
    BanksPhotos / Getty Images

    A clogged toilet is probably one of the most common toilet problems you'll encounter. Knowing how to deal with a clog is a necessary skill everyone eventually needs to learn.

    How to Fix It: Clogged Toilet