As annoying as it may be, a broken toilet handle or lever is a fairly common plumbing problem. Toilet handles get a ton of use, and, like everything else, they can eventually break and need replacement. The good news: This is probably not a fix you need to call a plumber for—in fact, it's an at-home repair most homeowners feel fairly confident about doing themselves.
The biggest issue you'll probably run into when trying to replace your toilet handle or lever is making sure you choose the right replacement part. There are various types of toilet handles to choose from, so like with any other plumbing part purchase, it's a good idea to be prepared when going to the hardware or home improvement store. Your best bet is to remove the old handle and bring all the parts with you. The reason: Even though you might have a front-mount handle, for example, you may need a model that has a certain arm length, or one with an arm that swings at a particular angle.
Here are some of the different types of handles that you can get for your toilet.
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Best for: A toilet with an existing front mount
This is the most common type of handle. A front-mount handle is located at the very front of the toilet tank, usually off to the top left-hand corner, but you may have a toilet with a top right-hand installation, as well. Typically, you can spot a front-mount handle because the flush rod that fits inside the tank moves parallel to the direction of the handle lever itself.
Note that just because front-mount toilet handles are the most common type doesn't mean that any front-mount handle will work on all toilets. For best results when replacing a front-mount handle, measure the lever or bring the old handle to the store with you to match it.
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Best for: A toilet with an existing side mount
A side-mount handle comes out at the side of the toilet tank—if the handle comes out perpendicular to the wall behind the toilet, that's a pretty good indicator that you have a side mount handle. If you examine a side-mount handle, you'll notice that the flush rod fitting inside the tank has a 90-degree bend in it, which allows the rod to pivot up and down when the handle lever is operated.
Side mount toilet handles are less common than front-mount handles, but you should still be able to go to any hardware or home improvement store and find one easily.
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Best for: Rounded toilet tanks
When a toilet tank is not rectangular, but instead has a little more rounded shape to it, you have what is called an angle-mount toilet handle. The angles of angle mount-toilet handles can vary, so this type of handle can be the hardest to match up.
Some replacement handles have an adjustable flush rod, allowing you to change the angle of the rod to accommodate wherever the handle is attached along the curvature of the tank. To get a replacement for this type of handle, bring the old handle with you into a store for an exact match, or call the manufacturer of your toilet and order one from them.
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Extended Long Reach Cistern Lever Handle
Best for: Concealed cisterns hidden behind the bathroom wall
Extended long-reach cistern lever handles are best used on hideaway or concealed cisterns (meaning the actual tank of the toilet is hidden behind a wall or other feature, and all you see is the seat). Unlike the previous types of levers mentioned, extended long-reach cistern levers can be cut to the length that's needed, oftentimes just using a hacksaw or handsaw.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Universal Toilet Lever
Best for: Any type of newer tank
As the name implies, universal toilet levers are meant to be paired with any modern toilet tank as a replacement solution. That said, if you opt to go the universal route, it's a good idea to still shop with your old part in hand so that a pro can confirm that the new universal lever will work for your needs.
Choosing a Toilet Handle
When replacing a toilet handle, you're not always limited to reinstalling exactly the same type. There are many different styles of handles available to choose from. To see if a particular handle will work for your toilet, call the customer service number for the brand, give them your toilet name and model number, and ask them to check compatibility. Another way to get the type of handle you need is to purchase one from the manufacturer of your specific toilet.
There are also universal handles that will fit almost any toilet, no matter what type of tank lever you currently have. With universal toilet handles, there are sometimes adjustments that have to be made to ensure a proper fit.