Toilet Problems – Our Favorite Topic

When your home is on the market, the condition of your bathroom will make a real difference in how appealing the home is to the prospective buyer. Of course, there are a multitude of other factors involved in making your home the best it can be but don’t forget about the bathroom.

Even if you are not planning to sell your home (at least in the near future) the condition of your bathroom will make a big difference in both the comfort and the safety of your home.

This brief article will focus on issues related to toilet problems, which are near the top of the list when it comes to maintenance in this area of the house. Let’s start with the leaking toilet. Finding the source of the leak is the key in getting the problem fixed. Using a little food coloring in the tank is about the best way to trace the source of the leak. After putting in the food coloring, check the toilet bowl. If you find the water discolored by the coloring agent, your problem is a flapper valve that’s not doing its job properly. You can try cleaning the sediment or chemical deposits off of the flapper valve, but these items are so inexpensive that a quick trip to the hardware store (taking the flapper valve with you to ensure a match) is probably your best bet. The valve is easy to replace and should stop the problem.

OK, the water in the tank is clean. Take a look at the area where the tank and the bowl are joined. If the colored water is leaking in this area, you will need to replace the seal that fits between these two sections of the toilet. This involves a little more work than replacing the flapper valve. The main job is removing the tank. First, shut off the valve that supplies water to the toilet. This valve is usually near the floor at the back of the toilet and should be relatively easy to turn off (turn it clockwise until you can’t turn it any more). Second, bail out as much of the water from the tank as you can and remove the mechanical components inside the tank making sure you either remember or make a sketch of how to replace them. Third, unscrew the fitting that secures the tank to the toilet bowl and carefully lift the tank up and off the bowl. It’s a good idea to put towels on the floor around the area to soak up any water that runs out of the tank. Finally, pry off the seal and take it to the hardware store to match up with a replacement seal. Reverse the process and your problem should be solved.

Hopefully you won’t end up with colored water on the floor around the base of the toilet after each flush. If this is the case, the wax seal underneath the toilet is damaged and will have to be replaced. You can try to tighten the tank bolts that hold the toilet to the floor to see if this solves the problem. Sometimes these bolts work themselves loose (but not very often). One other possibility is that the toilet bowl and/or tank is cracked. A quick inspection should let you know if this is the case. If this is the problem, you will need to invest in a new toilet (try buying one that uses less water per flush).

Assuming that crack(s) aren’t your problem, you will need to disassemble the toilet itself starting with the tank (see above). Next, you need to remove the bowl. Bail out the water in the bowl and remove the four bolts that secure the toilet to the floor. This is sometimes a daunting task because the bolts may be rusty. Use whatever methods necessary to get these bolts out or at least remove the bolt heads. Use pliers or a channel lock or pipe wrench to remove the threaded portion of the bolt. Don’t worry about damaging the threads because you will be replacing the bolts anyway.

When removing the bowl, be very careful where you put your hands (use rubber gloves). Many toilets have jagged edges inside the bowl that will cut you quicker than a freshly sharpened knife. Lift off the bowl and pry out the wax seal at the top of the floor drain. Again, this is germ-laden and requires you to be careful not to introduce an infection through any cuts, etc. near or on your hands. Wax seals are pretty much standard in size and are usually available at just about any hardware store. If the bolts were damaged, take a sample with you to make sure you get the right size replacements.

Let’s hope that the leaking that has reached the floor hasn’t done damage to the underlayment or floor tiles. If it has, you’ve got a bigger job on your hands because these damaged areas need to be replaced or you’re just in for a continuing headache. You can tell if the wood underlayment is damaged by its color and if it’s soft or swollen. Please don’t ignore the problem. Cut out the area and replace it. Damaged tiles can sometimes be difficult to match unless you have a small surplus on hand. Chances are that you won’t be able to find any replacement tiles that match the existing floor. This being the case, considers a small rug that will fit around the base of the toilet and will hide the mis-matched tiles (unless you decide to replace the entire floor with new tiles).

With everything on hand, put the toilet assembly back in place, say a little prayer, and flush it several times.

Hopefully you will have solved the problem.