PlumberFilter: I have turned a big toilet leak into a small one. How can I stop it entirely?
October 17, 2011 3:20 PM   Subscribe

I have replaced the flapper, flush valve, overflow tube, spud washer, bolts, and gaskets. A big leak (spontaneous refilling every 1-2 hours) has become a small leak (2" drop in water level in 12 hours). Now what should I do to make it stop entirely?

I have a Kohler 1.6 gallon two-piece toilet and it is 6 years old. For a long time now, it has been refilling spontaneously, indicating that there is a slow leak between the tank and the bowl. We tried cleaning the flapper and the flush valve. This just made it harder to flush, but did not stop the leak.

Recently, the refilling was occurring much more frequently. I turned off the water to the toilet and the tank was empty within a couple of hours. I decided that more serious tactics were required. Over the course of a weekend, I have replaced the various parts involved in draining the tank. I have succeeded in slowing the leak, but it hasn't stopped entirely. Over a 12 hour period, the water level in the tank drops by about 2"

What should I try next? The only thing left to replace is the fill valve. I can't imagine how this would cause water to leave the tank without creating a puddle on the floor.

Should I be satisfied with my repair? In other words, do all toilets leak a little and I should stop fussing over a 2" drop in 12 hours? In practice, this shouldn't be a noticeable problem, because we'll flushing the toilet so often that there won't be any spontaneous refilling.
posted by mausburger to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
AFAIK no toilet in my house leaks. Whether you need to fix this or not depends on how much the added water is costing you and your own opinions on wasting water (not such a big deal here in Canada).

The only thing I can think of is that the flapper isn't aligned properly or that it is slightly non-standard and so the replacement doesn't fill the hole entirely.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:40 PM on October 17, 2011

If its not leaking onto the floor, its probably the flapper.

And no, toilets should not leak.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:51 PM on October 17, 2011

A good resource.
posted by Danf at 3:57 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would look under the toilet to make sure that there is not a leaky wax ring that is not showing up at floor level. If you can get under there. . .
posted by Danf at 4:00 PM on October 17, 2011

Could be the wax ring needs replacing. (On preview, agreeing with Danf).

Also, you want to be sure the toilet is level. Sometimes the house could shift a little over time and if the toilet is no longer perfectly level, the flappers, etc. might not do their job well. Google "toilet shim".
posted by Right On Red at 4:04 PM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: I bought a flapper, flush valve, and overflow valve combination, so the flapper was made to work this hole.
posted by mausburger at 4:07 PM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: I don't think it's the wax ring. There isn't any water on the floor-- that I can see. If it's secretly going into the underfloor, I'm not sure I want to know about it.

Also, how would replacing the wax ring on the bottom of the toilet fix a leak between the tank and the bowl? Thanks.
posted by mausburger at 4:09 PM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: Oh wait, is replacing the wax ring supposed to make the toilet level, so it works better?
posted by mausburger at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2011

Best answer: I think you've got a small different leak.
slide a clean sheet of paper between the tank and bowl to be sure the leak's not around the bolts - if not, pull the tank and crank down on the spud a little more.

PS - a plumber friend recc'd coating the bolt heads, spud gasket & threads with a little ring wax. Beats chasing down the mystery leaks.
posted by Orb2069 at 4:24 PM on October 17, 2011

Buy a better (or different) flapper and/or flapper seat. (Or take the existing one out and check it.) I'm betting there is an inconsistency in the sealing surface of the seat/hole thing, or in the flapper.

Something to try, if you can find a weight that will work, is to temporarily weigh the flapper down a little bit and see if that stops the seeping. That will prove that it just isn't sealing very well, and that you need to figure out how to make it seal better.
posted by gjc at 4:50 PM on October 17, 2011

Don't know your specific unit, but there is often a gasket between the tank and bowl. Pardon me if I didn't see where you addressed that. More likely since it drains when you've shut off supply I think you need to look at the wax ring for leak. It's a bit messy but no worse than you've done already. See if you can figure out if you need standard or extra thick ring or just get both and return one you don't use.

Oh, and have something available to put toilet on when removed since there's gunk under there. Several plastic bags are handy when taking old ring off - even work well as disposable gloves.
posted by mightshould at 5:02 PM on October 17, 2011

Toilets should not leak at all. A very slow leak at my old place used over 10,000 gallons of water in a month!

Also, be advised that many water utilities are currently offering a 100 dollar refund for installing a 1.28 gallon flush toilet with a powerful flush (EPA watersense certified). Our landlord just replaced our tempermental toilet with this 98-dollar, highly rated beauty after we pointed out what a good deal it was for him. We are thrilled with it, since we no longer have to plunge daily(or ever, actually. Also, no double-flushing!) It might be worth a check before you fuss more with your current commode.
posted by rockindata at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: @Orb2069 I just tightened the bolts some more I'll keep an eye on it and see if the water level stops dropping. I can try the wax the next time that I have the thing apart.

@gjc That will be the next thing to try-- it doesn't involve taking the thing apart yet again.

@mightshould I've replaced the big gasket between the tank and the bowl. Thanks for the pro tips.

@rockindata Aside from this leak, I'm pretty happy with the toilet and I like keeping things out of landfill.

Thanks all. I'll let you know it goes.
posted by mausburger at 5:40 PM on October 17, 2011

Ours was doing that. I tried replacing the flapper too.

What I eventually discovered was a thin bead of clear silicone (that holds the styrofoam tank liner I place) had come loose was getting caught under the flapper. Feel around the underside of the styrofoam near the drain hole for anything that's loose.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:30 PM on October 17, 2011

Best answer: A new flapper, properly installed, shouldn't leak/overflow. (To me, a leak is the kind that ends up outside the plumbing.) One possibility is that the flapper can't make a seal because you have an irregular coating of calcium (lime) on the opening, common if you have hard water. You could break this up with a delimer such as CLR or even ordinary household vinegar coupled with a scrubber or brush to abrade remaining material.

The other parts really don't affect this type of problem directly. Often a flush valve can be adjusted wrongly so that it fills and overflows constantly, but you said the tank was emptying, which means the flapper. And if you don't have a wet floor, pretty much just the flapper.

posted by dhartung at 10:32 PM on October 17, 2011

A properly installed flapper will not leak at all -- not a single drop even overnight. You can put a dye tablet or strip in the tank and you should never see any dye in your bowl even hours later. You may be able to get free dye strips from your municipal water company.

There really is only one way for water to get from your tank to the bowl and that is through the overflow and/or flapper valve. You can verify the water is going from the tank to the bowl by filling the tank, turning off the supply valve, and scooping the water out of the bowl. If the bowl refills, then your flapper or overflow are leaking.

As bonobothegreat suggested, make sure there is not something nearly invisible getting between the flapper and the seat -- a piece of thread or something else. It doesn't take much. The flapper and seat should both be perfectly smooth.

It is also possible you cracked the overflow tube near the base while wrestling it into place. Empty the bowl and then gently work the overflow tube around to see if the leak into the bowl increases.

One other possibility is one of those flappers with an adjustable valve on the top to regulate the amount of a flush. Sometimes they will leak.
posted by JackFlash at 12:09 AM on October 18, 2011

Response by poster: I screwed the bolts tighter and fiddled with the flapper and the leaking/overflowing seems to have stopped. Thanks all.
posted by mausburger at 9:36 PM on October 20, 2011

Food coloring can be a good additional diagnostic if you are having to find an unusual leak. Put a few blobs in the tank and see if you can see where they migrate to.
posted by plumberonkarst at 10:26 PM on October 30, 2011

« Older Help identifying weeds to photograph.   |   What is this brick construction in my yard? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.