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The Guide on How to Fix a Running Toilet

A running toilet can be a big nuisance. It’s not only annoying because of the constant sound of running water but can also leak as much as one gallon of water per hour. This can add up to hundreds of gallons of wasted water and more money on water bills if the problem isn’t dealt…

June 27, 2022

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A running toilet can be a big nuisance. It’s not only annoying because of the constant sound of running water but can also leak as much as one gallon of water per hour. This can add up to hundreds of gallons of wasted water and more money on water bills if the problem isn’t dealt with quickly.

But many people are hesitant about tackling a running toilet repair job because they aren’t sure where to get started. And the truth is, without the proper knowledge, figuring out why the toilet tank is running can be difficult. The water level and water supply inside the water tank are regulated by a range of factors and parts, so you need to have at least a basic understanding of how the toilet bowl works in order to prevent the extra water from coming in.

The good news is that anyone can learn to fix their toilet issues if they take the time to learn the basic principles used to identify the cause of the problem. And to help you get started, let’s go over some of the most important steps (as well as the options you could consider) when figuring out how to fix a running toilet and how to perform basic toilet repair.

Why is Your Toilet Running?

Before we look at the steps you’ll need to take to fix the flow of water in your toilet, it’s important to understand the most common reason why tank water might be running in the first place.

And the truth is, different reasons might be causing the problem, which means there isn’t a single solution to the problem you can always rely on. Below, we’ll look at three common reasons that the toilet might be running.

Float is Too High

Sometimes, solving the issue of a running toilet doesn’t have to be complicated or require replacing parts. And that’s exactly the case when your toilet has the wrong float height, which results in overflow water continually leaking into the bowl.

No matter what type of float you might have, it can probably be adjusted to different heights. And if it has been set to the wrong height initially or moved higher than before over time, that can cause the toilet to be in a continuous state of overflow, even if everything was working fine otherwise.

The good news is that this problem has a very simple fix. All you need to do is lower the float on the float arm and that will ensure that when the flow fills the tank with water, it will stop at the right point and not overflow through the drain hole.

Refill Tube is Too Long

Another reason why a toilet might be running is that the refill tube is too long, which can suck the water out of the fill valve and make the water run continuously.

The good news is that the problem can also be fixed on your own, even if it does require a bit more work. You will need to shorten the refill tube so that it’s positioned the right way and stays in place.

Flapper Needs to Be Replaced

The third reason why your toilet might be leaking is that the flapper has worn down and needs replacing. The flapper plays a key role in sealing the water from leaking into the bowl, and the continuous use over years can cause it to become damaged and not do its job properly anymore.

Sometimes, cleaning the flapper might be enough to fix the issue, but other times you will need to go get a new one and then replace it. If you’re not feeling confident about this step, getting professional help might save you a lot of hassle and effort, although the DIY route is still possible.

Steps to Fix a Running Toilet

No matter which of the above-mentioned problems might be causing the running toilet, the process for inspecting and potentially fixing it remains the same. In order to save time and ensure that you don’t damage any crucial parts, you should follow the sequence of these steps every time you work on your toilet.

Step 1: Turn Off the Water Supply

The last thing you want when trying to identify and fix the issue that’s causing a running toilet is having to deal with running water. You may be removing parts and disassembling the toilet, which can be all but impossible if the water is continually flowing in the tank and down into the bowl.

Therefore, the first step you will need to take care of is cutting off the water supply from the water tank. In most setups, there will be a knob to cut off the flow of water to the tank without having to turn it off for the entire bathroom.

Look for it below the toilet or at the end of the water tube. Turn the knob clockwise until it can’t go any further, and that should stop the water flow immediately, allowing you to work on fixing the issue without obstacles.

Step 2: Remove the Lid

The problem that’s causing the water to run is most likely located within the water tank. And that means you’ll need to remove the tank lid if you want to evaluate what might be wrong and try to fix it.

If you have a push-button cistern, you will need to unscrew the button on the top, which will free up the lid and allow you to remove it. If you have another type of system, you may not need to do anything at all and the lid will simply come off with a bit of a tug.

When removing the lid, consider that it’s quite fragile and may break if it falls or is placed in an unstable way. It’s a good idea to place it on a towel or somewhere soft where it won’t have a chance of breaking.

Step 3: Check the Float Level

As mentioned in the previous section, the float in your toilet tank might be set too high, which might be causing the issue of the water continuously overflowing.

See at what level the float is currently set and look at whether it’s not as high as the drain hole. You might want to temporarily turn the water back on to see how far it fills up and whether it starts leaking because there’s too much of it.

Step 4: Check the Rubber Flapper

The rubber flap getting worn out is one of the most common reasons why toilets start running. At this point, you might want to not have the water running so that you can empty the water tank and check the sealing of the rubber flapper.

Alternatively, you could try to press down on the flapper with your fingers to see if that stops the water from running. If that’s the case, that means the flapper is no longer functional and you will need to remove it and get a new one to replace it.

In order to replace it, you will need to know the model of your toilet or at least the exact size of your flapper. It might be a good idea to consult a professional who can help you make the right choice so that you don’t end up getting a flapper that doesn’t fit or doesn’t hold water as it should.

Step 5: Look at the Flush Valve

A common reason why a toilet can start running is mineral deposits causing problems with the flush or fill valve. Check to see if debris might be causing the valve to open and close randomly, causing intermittent running water periods.

In some cases, you might even be able to remove the valve and clean it from any debris manually. Then you can put it back in its place and see if it made a difference.

Step 6: Check if the Issue is Fixed

Before you put the lid back on and restart the water flow, it’s important to check if the methods you tried actually fixed the problem. Once you put all the parts where they should be, restart the water flow into the tank and see whether everything is functioning as it should.

Allow the water to fill the tank completely and then flush it a few times, seeing how the water refills inside the tank and whether the water flowing into the tank stops once it reaches the right level.

If everything is working as it should, you can put the lid back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If, however, the problem is not fixed, you will need to consider bringing in someone who specializes in fixing these types of issues.

Alternative Option: Get Professional Help

If you aren’t able to diagnose and fix the toilet tank issue on your own or simply don’t have the time to solve the excess water issue, then your best bet is to find an experienced plumber who can come in and properly address the situation for you.

And for many people, this might end up being the most practical option for a list of reasons that make it easier and more convenient while also producing the best results.

For one thing, when you hire a professional to come in and fix the problem, you can rely on their extensive expertise. They won’t need to spend hours working through the issues and can immediately diagnose the problem you are facing. Whether it’s the valve, the flapper, or anything else, they will only need a minute to tell you what’s wrong and why it might have happened.

At the same time, fixing the problem will take very little time as well. A competent plumber will have the equipment and even the most essential spare parts to deal with the issue quickly, which means you can have your running toilet running normally again in a short period of time.

Finally, not having to worry about fixing your running toilet will free up time for other activities. Whether it’s work, spending time with family, or anything else, you can get an expert plumber to your home in no time and without having to do anything on your own.

In fact, for total peace of mind, you can even get a home maintenance monthly plan, which is basically a subscription to a network of plumbers and other specialists who will be just a phone call away whenever something goes wrong.

Whether it’s a running toilet, figuring out how to fix a clogged toilet, or other plumbing, electricity, or appliance issues, a subscription allows you to get competent and fast help without having to worry about finding the right maintenance person or figuring out how much the repairs might cost you.

The leading service providers even offer comprehensive home care plans, which not only deal with issues such as toilet installation and repair when they happen but also provide you with the necessary help and resources to ensure that breakdowns such as a running toilet don’t happen in the first place.

Bottom Line

Fixing a running toilet can seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t have any prior experience with similar issues. But the good news is that even if you haven’t fixed a toilet tank before, removing the lid and diagnosing the issue on your own isn’t that difficult.

However, if you’d rather leave the process to a professional, you can always opt for a home maintenance monthly plan, which allows you to get professional help with any issues at home whenever you need it.