Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leaky Toilet and Lousy Repair Guide

Our toilet has had a leaky flapper valve for several months, maybe even a few years. The symptoms are a toilet that runs briefly every fifteen minutes or so. The one and only comprehensive home repair guide that I bought 15 years ago offers only two fixes for this.

The first fix is simple -- a five minute job requiring no tools. You just lift off the flapper valve, coat the seal with a layer of petroleum jelly, and put it back. Of course you have to shut off the water (and lift off the tank lid first), but that's easy if your supply valve isn't frozen. This simple fix worked. But it lasted for only about three weeks. Then the stuff needed to be cleaned off and reapplied.

The second fix is only for the serious DIYer. It recommends replacing the flapper valve and seat. That involves first draining the toilet completely, disconnecting the water supply line, and removing the tank. After that you can remove the valve and the seat, and put the new ones in.

I've been too lazy to reapply petroleum jelly to my valve every few weeks, and so I've been suffering from the mysteriously running toilet, with its wasted water, unexpectedly weak flushes (and clogs) and sudden episodes of hot showers.

Until now.

I finally decided to search on the Internet for "how to fix a leaky flapper valve." I came across two interesting videos.

The first one is as simple as the petroleum jelly fix from the book. Except that it involves smoothing the flapper valve mating surfaces:

This didn't actually work for me, but it did give me the idea to replace the flapper valve without also replacing the seat, as shown in this video:

And that worked. The reason I didn't do it before is that I thought all flapper values were rigid and had to be installed with the seat when the tank was apart.

Here's another video that describes how to fix a different cause of a running toilet, such as when sediment gets caught in the flush valve, preventing it from closing completely:

And let me just mention that if for some reason your water supply is shut off, you can still flush the toilet by quickly pouring a bucket of water directly into the bowl. This is handy during extended power outages in homes that are supplied with well water, but only if you've prepared by filling the bathtub with water.


Brooklyn plumber said...

Nice and good explanation Off course it saves money but not erverybody can do it by himself
A profesional plumber is in that case the solution

Square Peg Guy said...

Sometimes operating an old shutoff value can cause it to leak, and we end up calling the plumber anyway!

Thanks for commenting.

Martha Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martha Ward said...

Thanks to the information available on the internet, you can fix little household problems like these without the need to consult with the professionals. Not that I’m against taking that route, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to take matters into your own hands, if you have the knowledge and means to do it. Thanks for sharing!

Martha Ward @ Son-Rise Plumbing

Square Peg Guy said...

Thanks for your comment, Martha. I wonder if the Internet has caused you folks to see a shift away from the easy jobs such as this flapper problem to more of the challenging ones such as frozen or broken pipes.

Lovella Cushman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.