How To Find the Cause and Fix a Running Toilet

How To Find the Cause and Fix a Running Toilet

A running toilet is not only a noisy nuisance, but it wastes water. With water running scarce in many parts of the country, fixing a running toilet makes a difference and helps you save money. 

The good news? A running toilet is usually an easy repair. Before you learn how to fix a toilet that keeps running, it helps to understand how toilets work and why yours is running in the first place.

How Much Water Does a Running Toilet Waste?

After a flush, most toilets need about 20 to 30 seconds to refill the tank. Modern, water-efficient toilets use between 1.28 and 1.6 gallons of water per flush. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, toilets account for about 30% of a home's water usage, especially in homes with old toilets that require up to six gallons of water to complete a flush. 

If you have a running or leaking toilet, you could be wasting between 180 and 250 gallons of water per day. Even if you don't hear it running continuously,  you'll notice that running toilet when you receive your water bill!

How Toilets Work

When you flush a toilet, a flapper opens at the bottom of the tank to let the water empty in your bowl, dropping the ball float (the bulb-like component in the tank) to the lower water level. At the end of the flush, water fills the tank through a fill tube and overflow tube, which eventually lifts the float to a preset level that shuts the water off. When toilets run, the problem is usually with the float or flapper, the lever or chain, or the quality of the flush and preset water level. 

How To Fix a Running Toilet

Before you fix the problem, you have to identify the cause. Knowing how to get a toilet to stop running usually involves watching the components under the tank. 

Fixing the Flapper

At the bottom of the tank, the rubber flapper seals to close the tank and keep water in it. When you flush, a chain lifts the flapper so water enters the bowl. Over time, the flapper deteriorates so it cannot stop water from leaking into the tank, which causes the toilet to run. If your flapper is fully seated in the hole but you still hear water leaking into the bowl, it's time to change the flapper.

You'll need gloves, scissors, and a new flapper. If you know your toilet's manufacturer, buy a flapper specifically made for your toilet. You can also purchase a universal flapper. Before you buy a universal flapper, look at your old one to check the size and see how it connects to the fill tube — many slide over it or connect with pegs.

With a new flapper in hand, the first step is to turn off the water and flush the water out of your tank. Remove the tank lid. Once your tank is empty, disconnect the flapper chain and remove the flapper. You might need your scissors to cut away at one that has softened. Then, replace the flapper by following the instructions on the packaging. Reconnect the chain and turn on the water. 

Adjusting the Flapper Chain

When the flapper chain is too tight, your flapper cannot close properly. If the chain is too loose, you might have difficulty flushing. To see the chain, remove the tank lid. Inspect the chain to see if it's pulling on the flapper and not allowing it to close fully. There shouldn't be any tension when the flapper is resting. 

If you do need to adjust the chain's length, remove the chain pin and put it in a spot that gives the chain enough slack to let the flapper close completely. 

Resetting the Water Level

Your toilet's fill tube is connected to the water supply. When you flush, the water level drops, then the fill tube refills the tank until the float lifts to a point where the water shuts off. If it's filling too high, you'll notice water running back down the overflow drain at the top of the tank, and you'll need to lower the fill level.

If your toilet water level needs adjusting, you will most likely need a Phillip's head screwdriver. Look for a screw at the opposite end of the ball float arm. Turn the screw clockwise or counterclockwise to get the water level just below the top of the fill tube. 

Preventing Potential Damage

If you neglect your running toilet, it could damage your home. Running toilets can eventually leak water onto your floor, as water can drip down the tank if the water level is too high. It can also leak through faulty seals. If the water gets into your wooden subfloor, you have a dangerous and expensive problem that will need fixing. 

How Notion Can Help Your Protect Your Home From Water Damage

Toilet leaks tend to be subtle, so fixing small problems quickly can prevent larger problems. Like other household items, the components in the porcelain tank wear out, so monitoring them helps you protect your investment. One way to prevent damage from silent water leaks is to install a Notion Water Leak Detector. Users appreciate the effectiveness of the detectors: 

“Notion has already saved me from several water leak issues that would have been very costly.”

With routine maintenance and precautionary water-leak sensors, you can stop wasting precious resources while protecting your home against unexpected water damage.