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How to fix a toilet

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Let’s face it: a broken toilet is an inconvenient and inevitable part of life. Learning to deal with a faulty toilet immediately can be an invaluable skill that could save you time and money, and prevent mess and water damage. Although tackling your broken lavatory may seem like a daunting and complicated task, repairing a toilet can often be a quick and simple procedure requiring little more than some basic tools and a little elbow grease. Here’s a quick guide to fixing a faulty toilet.

Diagnose the problem
There are many reasons that would cause a toilet to break down, so your first step should be to assess which problem yours is experiencing. The most common faults among toilets are blockages and leaks. A blockage should be immediately apparent, as water in the toilet bowl begins overflowing or filling to an unusually high level. A leaky toilet, on the other hand, can be much more difficult to detect. Often, your toilet will still function properly, or may simply become noisy or temperamental. The most common sign of a leak is a buildup of water around the base of the toilet, though you may also have trouble flushing properly.

Unclogging
Although it is the single most common cause of faulty toilet woes, clearing a clogged toilet is usually a rather simple undertaking. Once you’ve noticed the problem, do not test it by flushing again, as this can cause the water to overflow. There are several different methods for unclogging a toilet that won’t require you to pay a plumber, the most common of which is plunging. By inserting a plunger into a bowl and pressing down slowly and firmly, you should be able to clear all but the heaviest blockages. If plunging fails to produce results, a wire hanger or plumbing snake may be used to break down a particularly tough obstruction. Alternatively, pouring hot water, dish soap, chemical drain cleaners, or a combination of baking soda and vinegar into the bowl can also help to clear blockages.

Finding a leak
Though not as pressing an issue as clogging, a leaking toilet can result in inflated bills, water damage and disruption to a toilet’s normal flow. The prospect of repairing pipes and valves may send novice plumbers running for the hills, but fixing a leaky toilet can often be done quickly and easily.

To do so, you’ll first need to locate the source of the leak. An easy way to do this is by removing the lid of the tank and placing a few drops of food coloring into the water inside. Leave it alone for an hour or so, making sure no one flushes the toilet, and then check where the colored water has ended up. If it drips out the back of the toilet then the seal between the tank and bowl is faulty, and a pool of water at the toilet’s base indicates a crack in the wax ring. These can be complex issues that may prove too difficult for inexperienced plumbers. If the colored water flows into the in the bowl, however, the flapper valve is leaking — a problem which can be easily solved.

Flapper valve
To fix a faulty flapper valve, you should first turn off the water supply at the shut-off valve, which is typically located where the toilet attaches to the wall. Next, drain the water by flushing the toilet, while observing how the flapper settles on the valve opening. If it’s not settling properly or getting caught on the flush arm chain, reach in and adjust its position. If the flapper simply isn’t sealing the valve correctly, it may be worn and need replacing.

Float ball
The leak may also be caused by a faulty float ball – the large ball floating in the tank water. If the water stops when you lift up the float arm, it’s a clear sign that the ball isn’t rising far enough to lower the valve plunger. This may be a symptom of a leaking float ball that has filled with water, which may need to be replaced.