When the conversation turns to toilets, it’s sometimes hard to keep your inner adolescent from coming out. However, a toilet that leaks is no laughing matter. An undetected leak can run up your water bill and damage the surrounding floor and/or subfloor – as well as waste a valuable resource. Depending upon the source of the leak, the water may also be contaminated, creating a health hazard.
Learning how to tell if your toilet is leaking is the first step in avoiding additional expense and a possible unsanitary mess. Our team of state-certified master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing want our Central Florida neighbors to be proactive in this important area of home maintenance and repairs. Herewith is our guide to what you need to know about toilet leaks.
How much water can a leaky toilet waste?
As our colleagues at Ken Neyer Plumbing in Cincinnati point out, the toilet consumes a greater volume of fresh water than any other indoor household fixture. More than a third of your home’s indoor water use each month is due to flushing the toilet.
Since the water flows down the sewer (or into the septic tank), leaking toilets don’t necessarily leave any signs of a leak, until you get the bill. According to the City of Daytona Beach, the average leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water per day. That’s over 6,000 gallons a month for just one leaking toilet – giving new meaning to the phrase, “flushing money down the toilet.”
How many ways can a toilet leak?
There are different places a toilet leak can start. Here are the most common.
The fill tank – A toilet that keeps running after you flush it, runs continually or flushes by itself (“ghost flushing”) indicates the leak is occurring in the fill tank. Problems originating in the fill tank usually involve the flapper, which regulates the amount of water in the bowl. It should lie completely flat against the bottom of the tank. To determine if the fill tank is the source, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank; wait 15 minutes to see if the color shows up in the bowl.
Around the base – If the wax seal under the base of the toilet decays, water may begin to escape from around the toilet’s base. This is particularly damaging to the floor, as well as unsanitary.
Leaky gaskets – If the gaskets between the toilet tank and the bowl develop faulty seals, water will start to leave the tank each time the toilet is flushed.
The feed line – The feed line is the line attached to the wall that brings in fresh water to the fill tank. If you see water around the base of your toilet, the problem could be from a bad feed line connection. This leak can be stopped immediately by shutting of the feel line valve, but this needs to be also immediately followed by calling a plumber.
Cracks in the bowl – Even a small crack along the porcelain of the bowl will allow water to start to drip out. This is a major problem, since the crack will only get worse over time. In almost all cases, the solution to the problem is to either replace the bowl or the entire toilet.
DIY toilet repairs
In many areas of plumbing, DIY fixes aren’t recommended. However, some toilet repairs are relatively easy, and within the ability level of those who have basic DIY skills. Replacing a flapper could be considered a “1” on the scale of difficulty. Even those who are convinced they’d break anything they touch might feel comfortable with this task. Those with more experience and confidence may want to tackle replacing the “guts” of the tank – the overflow tube, flush valve and fill valve. Flappers are sold individually, while guts can be purchased separately or packaged in a kit.
Replacing the wax ring (gasket) that the toilet sits on requires more DIY know-how. It’s also a two-person job (as in two healthy, strong people), as the toilet must be removed. Because some water from the toilet bowl will continue to leak upon the toilet’s removal, disinfection of the area is essential. This is one of those jobs that can seem deceptively simple, so if you take the DIY route, be sure you know what you’re doing.
When performing any part replacement, follow manufacturer’s instructions to avoid causing damage or voiding the warranty. Make sure you have the toilet’s brand and model number in order to purchase the right part(s).
When to call a plumber for a leaky toilet
As covered in our September 2018 blog post – “Three Common Toilet Noises That Call for Repair” – the reason for any out-of-the-ordinary sound emanating from a toilet needs to be determined. Whether or not you’re able to identify the cause, yet have decided the job is outside your comfort zone, it’s time to call a plumber.
Most plumbing repairs and replacements need to be performed by a professional. Even if you have DIY experience, you may encounter unanticipated problems that could result in damage or a more extensive repair that you’d expected.
When you need a reliable and professional plumber, look no further than Adams and Son Plumbing. We respond quickly and efficiently, preventing further damage and future repairs. Plus, we are one of the few companies that send a state-certified master plumber every time. View our full list of services, or contact us to request and appointment. We look forward to serving you!