Toilet repair

Sometimes, particularly in houses with small children, articles are flushed down the toilet, become stuck there, and cannot be retrieved without disconnecting the toilet. In such a case, unless the obstruction can be fished back up into the bowl, the only alternative is to remove the toilet and work back into the pipe. Leaks and worn or broken seats constitute other common repair problems.

Removing the toilet

Figure shows the steps necessary to disconnect a toilet with a wall-hung tank. The tank is also removed first if you have one that is free-standing, i.e., set directly on the back of the toilet bowl.

The first step, of course, is to shut off the water supply. Use the shut-off valve below the toilet. If you do not have one there, you will have to turn off the water at the main valve in the cellar. Then, bail, pump, or sponge all the water out of both tank and bowl.

Disconnect the water supply line to the tank and unscrew the slip joint under the tank. If it is a wall-hung tank, sit straddling the bowl facing the tank and unscrew the wood screws that hold the tank to the wall. At the same time support the tank on your knees as it comes loose. Lift the tank up from the slip elbow and away from the wall.

The bowl is fastened to the floor with bolts that go through a closet-bend floor flange attached to the sewer pipe. The nuts to these bolts are probably covered with porcelain caps held in place by putty or plaster of paris. Insert a knife point under each cap and gently tap or pry it loose.

Then clean out the plaster of paris or putty and unscrew the nuts. The bowl will also be sealed to the floor flange with plaster of paris or putty, but once the nuts are off the bolts, you can jar the bowl loose by hitting it with the flat of your hand. Lift the bowl up and remove the article clogging it.

Use new washers or gaskets in replacing the toilet. Mix some plaster of paris in a small pan of water. Sift in the plaster of paris until the mixture is the texture of putty. Do not stir, as stirring will cause the plaster of paris to set quickly. Place plaster of paris around the flange and bolt holes but be careful not to get any inside the sewer pipe. Also place it on the floor inside the outline of the toilet.

Dampen the bottom of the toilet bowl to make the plaster of paris adhere easily, and then set the toilet back in place over the bolts. Any excess plaster will be squeezed out. Put washers and nuts on the bolts and tighten. Turn them alternately to keep the bowl level. Wipe away any excess plaster with your fingers.

When replacing the tank, reverse the removing procedure. Straddle the closet bowl and lift the tank into position, supporting it on your knees. Screw it to the wall and tighten the slip joint. Reconnect the water supply —and you are ready to turn on the water again.

Replacing a toilet seat

Since toilet seats are not removed frequently, the nuts holding them are often rusted. In that case, cut them off with a hack saw instead of trying to force them and possible cracking the bowl. First the thick, seat post-hole rubber washer, then a thin but wider rubber washer, a thin metal one, and finally the nut.

Leaking toilet tanks

One of the plumbing fixtures most likely to wear out and cause annoyance in a home is the flush valve in the toilet tank. One part of this system is likely to wear out after a few years. Thereafter the water will not shut off completely. But before going into how to repair this, it would be wise to understand how the flush tank operates.

Operation: Water enters the flush tank and goes directly to an inlet valve in which there is a washer; the flow of water, therefore, stops completely when the valve is closed. The opening and closing of this inlet valve is controlled by a copper-ball float, which is connected to the valve by means of a rod.

The float is airtight and rests on the surface of the water inside the tank. When the water in the tank rises, it forces the float up until it reaches a predetermined point at which the inlet valve is closed by the rod attached to the float. Thus water ceases to flow into the tank. That is the inlet part.

Pressing down the handle on the outside of the tank lifts wire rods which are attached to a rubber flush valve at the bottom of the tank. That valve opens and all the water in the tank pours down into the toilet bowl to flush it. As the water level in the tank drops, the copper-ball float naturally drops with it; and when it gets far enough down, it opens the inlet valve and water begins to flow into the tank. In due course the flush valve drops over the valve seat and prevents any more water from flowing out of the tank into the bowl.

Water in the tank rises until the float shuts it off. You will notice that there is an overflow pipe which permits water to flow into the bowl if the inlet valve should fail to close at the proper time. Water can never rise higher in the tank than the level of the overflow pipe.

This combination of two valves and several small rods is a fairly delicate mechanism, with several parts that will eventually get out of order. Fortunately the sound of water running and continuing to run after it should have ceased is an indication that there is something wrong. Lift off the top of the tank and look at the water level.

If the level of the water inside the tank is high and water is flowing out of the tank by way of the overflow pipe, the inlet valve is not closing entirely. If the level of the water is low and water is flowing out of the tank, then you can be certain the flush valve is not closing.

Leaking flush valve: A leak at the flush valve may be caused by any one of three conditions. If the rubber flush ball becomes worn, soft, rotten, or out of shape, it no longer will fit tightly over the valve seat. This is possibly the most frequent cause of trouble—and one of the easiest to fix.

Replace the old ball with a new rubber flush ball. To do so, first shut off the water supply. If there is a valve just below the tank, turn off the water there. If there is no valve, you maybe able to keep the water shut off by propping up or tying or holding the copper-ball float in its highest position. When that is done, you can flush most of the water out and unscrew the rubber ball and put in a new one.

Examine the valve seat (sometimes called ground seat) for dirt or rust. If it is rough, smooth it by rubbing the rim with a piece of emery cloth. If there are large pieces of scale or rust, remove them with an old knife and then smooth the valve seat with emery cloth.

If ball and valve seat are both in good shape, examine the rods to see if they are bent. The guide should hold the wire tank-ball stem attached to the rubber ball (called rubber float washer) directly over the flush-valve seat. If the guide arm has worked out of the correct position, restore it to a position directly over the valve.

If the upper lift rod has become bent, it should be adjusted so the trip lever outside the tank makes the upper lift rod and tank-ball stem operate smoothly. If either metal rod is badly rusted, it should be replaced. Sometimes the tank-ball stem does not slide through the guide arm easily;. a bit of graphite rubbed on it will make it slip through better.

Leaking inlet valve: A leak at the inlet valve may be caused by any one of several things. It may be due to a worn valve washer or a rough valve seat. Or the rod connecting the inlet valve to the seat may be bent. Or there may be a leak in the copper float, preventing it from going high enough to shut off the water completely. Such a leak is easy to spot, as the float will stay deep in the water. Lift the float and shake it to see whether there is water in it. If there is, unscrew it, drain the water out, and solder up any tiny holes. However, if the holes are large, you had better get a new float.

If you find water in the copper float and only one tiny hole, it will be quite difficult to shake the water out drop by drop. An easier method is to punch a tiny hole on the opposite side of the float and then blow through the second hole. All the water inside will be quickly forced out through the first hole. Then solder both holes. Be sure to clean around each hole carefully with emery cloth. Apply flux, and then solder, to both holes. Allow it to cool, and then test its water tightness by holding it under water.

To replace a worn inlet washer, shut off the water and keep flushing the toilet until water stops flowing. Then disassemble the inlet valve. Generally this valve is situated near the top of the tank but sometimes it is placed near the bottom. In the full view, the copper float is down and the valve is open. In the central sectional view, the valve is closed with the ball-cock washer resting against the washer seat, and the lever (not shown in that view) is up, almost horizontal.

The plunger of the valve is held in place by two screws. Remove them and you can lift the plunger up. The washer is held in place by a screw and a brass ring cap. This latter may break while you are removing the washer and you will need a new cap as well as a new washer. While the valve is disassembled, feel the valve seat; if it is rough, smooth it down with emery cloth.

The rod connecting the valve and float controls the level of the water in the tank, and that in turn controls the amount of water that will be released each time you flush the toilet bowl. If the rod is bent upwards, the level of the water in the tank will be close to the level of the top of the overflow pipe. If the rod is bent downwards, the water level will be low and perhaps not enough water will be released to cleanse the bowl properly. To correct this, straighten the rod or bend it so that the water rises to the desired level of the tank.

Leaking high toilet tanks

Many years ago it was the fashion to install the toilet tank near the ceiling. This is called a high toilet tank, and naturally many of them are still in use. Quite reasonably, some of these can be expected to wear out and spring leaks. When, that happens, the smart thing to do is to replace it with a modern low tank.

These old high tanks were made of wood with a thin copper lining, weighing about eight ounces per square foot. To be sure, it is possible to replace an old copper lining with a new one, but this is an ill-advised stop-gap measure. If such a tank starts to leak, it warps the wood out of shape and a new copper lining will never fit properly, and after a few months is very likely to spring a new leak. Therefore, the best advice is to install a modern tank ( and toilet bowl as well if necessary) instead of wasting money on repairs.

Leaking one-piece toilets

The modern one-piece toilet uses a large rubber disk washer instead of the rubber ball found on the outlet valve of other modern toilets. In time the rubber disk washer wears out and causes the toilet to leak. To replace it, shut off the water supply to the tank and then flush the toilet to empty the tank. Loosen the three screws near the bottom of the tank and lift out the valve shell. Remove the screw that holds the metal disk against the rubber washer. Take out the old rubber disk washer and put in a new one.

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