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Simple Toilet Tips – How Toilets Work

The toilet is quite possibly the most frequently used mechanical device in most homes. If you have a spouse and children I can say this for a fact. Think about it. How many times a day is a toilet flushed in your home? The only other device that gets as much use might be a lavatory faucet or a kitchen faucet. This heavy use means that the odds of breakdown or problems are great. Fortunately the mechanical devices in most toilets are simple, time tested and very reliable.

When Problems Happen

When a toilet problem does happen, it can be minor or major. Flushing problems are often more irritating than catastrophic, although a clog can have catastrophic results IF the toilet continues to run while the clog occurs! For this reason, it is always a good idea to watch the flushing action to make sure water and waste is moving on its way down through the drainage system.

Click here to watch a video on how a toilet works.


Don't Panic

To avoid problems before they happen and panic sets in, it is a good idea to learn how a toilet works. When you get a chance, remove the lid from your toilet tank and lay it flat on the floor. Lids tilted against walls have a tendency to slide and then break.

Note how the toilet works. The decorative handle on the outside of the tank is attached to a lever. At the end of the lever is a chain that connects to a rubber flapper valve. When you activate the handle, the lever lifts the chain and the flapper valve magically begins to float. With the flapper valve open the water within the tank can flood down into the toilet bowl. This rushing water is what flushes the toilet. Once about 80 percent of the water has left the tank, the flapper valve drops on its own to stop the flow of water into the tank. But as you watch, note that water is still running into the bowl. This water is coming from the fill valve that is now refilling the tank. As it fills the tank, it also sends water via a small tube down the overflow tube that leads to the bowl. This water flowing into the overflow tube is necessary, as it is the water that brings the toilet bowl water up to the filled level. Once the tank water reaches the fill line the fill valve should stop the flow of water into the tank and the bowl. It sounds complicated, but in reality it is very simple.

By observing a working toilet, you will now be mentally equipped to handle problems as they occur.

Parts are Cheap

You can replace all of the moving and mechanical parts inside a toilet tank for under $15 in most cases. What's more, you can get high quality parts for this small investment. The biggest challenge in removing the old parts is shutting off the water to the tank. If the valve under the toilet does not work, you need to shut off all the water to the house. If you have an opportunity to replace valves anywhere in the house, be sure to install ball valves. Ball valves cost maybe $2 more than a regular valve with a washer but they are far more reliable and rarely do they not work.

Backup Plan

Don't start working on a toilet at 9:00 pm. Don't do it if you are a rookie and don't have a second toilet in the house. What happens if something goes wrong? If you need to call a professional to bail you out, will they be available? Keep all of these things in mind before you start!

The Five Gallon Bucket

Do you need to flush the toilet without using toilet tank water? It can be done! Simply fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and pour it into the bowl. You get the same results as if you had tripped the handle. It is a nice trick to know.

Need a Special Toilet - that Flushes Up!

opens in a new windowCLICK or TAP HERE to read my column on a Toilet That Flushes Up!

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