Toilet Leaks

Is your toilet letting your money go down the drain?

Did you know that toilets can leak in several different ways, all of which can result in damage or increased utility bills?

We will discuss the following types of leaks, the type of damage that may occur and what you can do to detect and repair them.

1. Overflow tube / water level leak.
2. Flapper valve leak.
3. Leaky supply line.
4. Wax ring leak.



1. OVERFLOW TUBE / WATER LEVEL LEAK

If the water level inside your toilet tank is set too high, water can actually rise above the top edge of the overflow tube and run down the sewer line.  This is what the overflow tube was designed to do, to help prevent water from actually overflowing over the top of the tank onto the bathroom floor. The problem is, if the water level is only slightly above the overflow tube, you may not be aware that it is happening.  With a small amount of water running over the overflow tube 24/7, you could be loosing hundreds of gallons of water each month.

The image below shows an example of a toilet tank in which the water level is set too high.  In this case, the water level is right at the top of the overflow tube, and only a very small amount of water was seeping over the edge of the overflow tube at that time.

To prevent water from running over the top of the overflow tube, the float valve inside the tank must be adjusted so that it shuts off when the water is at least an inch below the top of the overflow tube.  Most toilet tanks have a fill level mark on the back, inside wall of the tank, as shown in the photo above.

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2. FLAPPER VALVE LEAK

Much like the Overflow tube / water level leak discussed above, flapper valve leaks can also go on for years without being noticed and can result in increased utility bills.

A flapper valve is a rubber disk that covers the large opening at the bottom of the toilet tank.  When the flush handled is operated the flapper valve is lifted up, allowing the water in the tank to rush through the opening in the bottom of the tank and down into the toilet bowl.   See the diagram below:

When the rubber flapper valve gets old, it starts to deteriorate and can become cracked. When this happens, the flapper begins to allow some water to leak down into the toilet bowl between flushes.  As the water in the toilet bowl rises, it will rise over the level of the trap and run down the sewer line.  Again, since this is a very slow leak, most people will not no that it’s happening.

To test your toilet to see if you have a leaky flapper, add a few drops of red food coloring into the water in the tank.  Leave the food coloring in the tank for about an hour.  If the water in the toilet bowl starts to turn pink, you’ll know that the flapper valve is leaking and needs to be replaced.

Replacement flapper valves can be purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store.  There are several different styles, sizes and shapes of flapper valves, so you want to be sure to replace it with the same type to ensure a good fit.

Here is what a flapper looks like when it’s removed.  Again, there are different designs and colors of flappers, so yours may look a bit different.

If you are not sure what brand or style you have, simply bring the old one to the store with you and have a store employee assist you in finding the proper match.

After the new flapper is installed, we recommend re-testing with the food coloring to make sure that the new flapper is properly sealing.

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3. LEAKY SUPPLY LINE

While a leaky supply line can be a lot more obvious than the overflow tube or flapper valve leaks discussed above, a leaky supply line can cost homeowners a lot more than just an increased water bill.  Water can leak from the water supply valve, on the wall behind the toilet, leak from the supply line connections at the supply valve or at the base of the toilet tank or the supply lines themselves may start to leak as a result of age or deterioration.  When this happens, water drips directly onto the floor around the toilet and can cause water damage to the flooring, base molding and wall material.  If not addressed quickly, mold can start to grow and or rot can begin in the flooring, wall and floor framing.  These types of repairs are expensive.

Regularly check the area around the supply line for evidence of water.  Check for leaks or damage to the supply line itself.  If leaks are found, have them repaired immediately to prevent further damage.

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4. WAX RING LEAK

A leaky wax ring, underneath your toilet, is another leak that may go unnoticed. Because these wax or sometimes rubber seals are installed on the underside of the toilet, they are not normally visiable.

Shown to the right is a new wax ring installed on the bottom of a toilet, before the toilet was reinstalled.

This ring seal is supposed to prevent water/sewage from leaking around the base of the toilet when the toilet is being flushed.

These seals can start to leak as a result of deterioration or movement of the toilet. If the toilet is not firmly mounted to the flange in the floor, it can wiggle during use and cause the wax ring to distort, causing small gaps through which water can leak.

Common signs to look for when checking for a failed wax ring include:

  1. Softening of the flooring around the toilet.
  2. Discoloring of the vinyl flooring around the toilet.

Leaking wax rings, and any resulting water damage, should be repaired as soon as they are discovered, to help reduce the costly structrual damage than can ocurr if left unrepaired.

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