15 Toilet Tune Ups
Toilets need regular maintenance. They are probably one of the most frequently used mechanical objects found in the residential home. They rank right up there with the refrigerator door hinges, kitchen faucet and television channel control knob with respect to number of uses each day. If your toilet is making you crazy, here are some things you can do that will make it work like new.
1. The Night Moaner
As people retire for the night to sleep, water pressure in municipal water systems begins to rise. This increase in pressure can be transferred to a worn ball cock valve and cause it to vibrate ever so slightly. This is the moaning you are hearing. Get a new valve.
2. Ghost Flushing
Does your toilet tank start to fill on its own? In other words, run for 5 or 10 seconds and then stop? This can almost always be traced to one of two problems: poorly fitting/leaking flapper and/or a refill tube that is too long. A worn flapper or corroded flapper seat will cause water to slowly drain from the tank into the toilet bowl. After an hour or two the water level drops enough and the fill valve kicks on. This same thing can happen if the flexible water line that runs from the base of the fill valve to the inside of the overflow tube is too long. This will siphon water from the tank. New fill valves come with a special clip that holds the end of the water line up and ensures that water will stay in the tank where it belongs.
3. Multiple Flushes
Do you flush your toilet and get two for the price of one? If so, the water level in the tank may be too high. Adjust the float control on the fill valve and try to drop the water level in the toilet tank one inch or so. Do a trial and error test to get the water level just right.
4. Partial Flushes
You flush the toilet and get cheated. The flapper valve can get waterlogged over time and flop down too quickly. The chain that connects between the flapper valve and the flush handle may be too tight. Adjust it one link at a time. The water level in the toilet tank may be too low. Adjust the fill valve so that more water enters the tank. You may have a first generation low flush toilet. If so, you are toast! These toilets have basic design flaws. They simply don't have enough energy to flush the toilet bowl correctly. If you have one of these 1.6 gallon flush nightmares, hold on, help might be on the way. It appears that the 1992 law requiring these bad boys might be repealed. If this happens, 3.5 gallon toilets may come back.
5. Whistle While it Works
As the toilet tank fills and is almost done, it makes all sorts of high pitched noise, right? You probably have an old fashioned ball cock fill valve with a float ball on an arm. These valves close slowly as the water level rises and the valve starts to vibrate as this happens. The solution is a new fill valve. These new valves stay open completely until the toilet tank is filled. The shut off is instantaneous.
6. Tough Toilet Bowl Stains
Do you have stains in your toilet bowl that just won't budge? If so, DON'T use abrasive cleaners! Use white vinegar or muriatic acid to clean the bowl. White vinegar is safer, but takes longer. Muriatic acid can clean a toilet bowl within minutes. Be careful!
7. Toilet Bowl Water Level Drops
After you walk away from the toilet and the tank has filled, does the water level mysteriously drop? If so, two things can be wrong. The toilet may be partially clogged. The clog can actually cause a siphon and pull water from the bowl. The other possibility is more severe. There can actually be a crack or small defect in the colon of the toilet. This is the channel that water passes through to get to the drain pipe. A colon crack or defect means it is time for a new toilet.
8. Low Energy Flushes
If you have hard water, the water release holes in the lip of the bowl my be clogged with hard water deposits. Pour a quart of muriatic acid down the overflow tube in the tank to clean these holes. You should hear a sizzling sound if the deposits are heavy. The acid will not harm the toilet. You can also try to open these holes with a toothpick if you do not have acid.
9. Shaking Toilet
Does your toilet rock when you sit on it? If so, the grout between the toilet and the floor needs to be replaced. Grout should be used instead of caulk. Caulk is flexible and will allow toilet movement.
10. Water Leaks at Base of Toilet
If you see water leaking around the base of the toilet or in the room below when it is flushed, the wax gasket between the toilet and the drain pipe flange has to be changed. This is not a DIY friendly task although the TV shows make it seem so! If you tackle this, make sure you have access to another toilet as you may be opening a can of worms!
11. Shut Off Valve Leaks After You Service the Toilet
After you have turned the water on to the toilet, the pesky little valve develops a leak around the handle. To solve this problem, use an adjustable wrench to tighten the outer packing nut that surrounds the valve stem. Just turn it clockwise a little bit to stop the leak.
12. Water Supply Tube Leaks
The supply tube between the toilet tank and the floor or wall leaks at one or both ends. You need to use a flexible tube and make sure that it is entering the valve at a 90 degree angle. If not, the compression ring will leak for sure! Tighten the nut at the toilet first and then make sure the supply tube enters the valve at a 90 degree angle. Then, tighten the compression nut at the valve.
13. Save Water With Brick?
Installing brick in a toilet tank to displace water may help save a little water, but it often causes greater problems. Drop one while installing it, and you will crack the tank. The brick can also interfere with the operation of the moving parts in the tank.
14. Loose Toilet Seats
Inexpensive toilets seats often have inferior tightening bolts. Buy a quality toilet seat and follow the instructions to get a tight fit.
15. Slow or Noisy Refill Water Flow
If the water entering the toilet enters slowly, the shut off valve may be only partially open. Check to make sure this valve is open all the way. If water rushes into a toilet tank and you think it is going to explode, try to adjust the shut off valve so that the water flow is more controlled.