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How To Plumbing Guide: Repairing Your Toilet Flush Valve

If you are constantly running to the bathroom to “jggle” the handle, than your problem may be a faulty toilet flush valve. Did you know that as much as 80,000 gallons of water a year can be wasted by an undetected leak in your toilet?

By removing the top of your tank (no fear, the water is clean) you can take a peak at two main components…the flush valve and the fill valve. The flush valve essentially flushes clean water into the bowl, and the refill valve continuously refills your tank. If your flush valve is constantly leaking water, your refill valve is subsequently refilling your tank, and your water bill is definitely climbing.

Toilet flush valves have five main parts.

1. The chain, or lift rod that connects the ball to the handle.
2. The flush ball, or flapper.
3. The Flush Valve seat (the big hole in the bottom of the tank)
4. The Trip Lever (handle to flush the toilet)
5. The Overflow pipe (the pipe standing up in the tank)

When your flush valve is working improperly, it can be one or a combination of these parts that need attention. Check to make sure the flush valve seat is properly covering the hole at the bottom of the tank. Check for rips, tears, or missing gaskets. Sometimes bowl cleaners may get stuck in the tank, or if your chain is too long, it can prevent the flush valve seat from closing properly.

If the valve isn’t connecting properly your water level will never rise to catch the float. Hence, that annoying sound in the bathroom. Often, when we jiggle the handle, we can realign the flush valve, but if you are constantly tugging at your handle, it may be time to just replace the mechanism. Often, a leak can go undetected. If you think you may have one, shut off your water supply. Mark the water level on the tank and check back in a half hour. If your water level has dropped, than your valve isn’t working properly.

Before you replace your valve try making a few minor adjustments. First of all, make sure that the chain lifting the rubber flapper is flush. If it is pulling the flapper to far off the seat, your chain might just be too taught or short.

If you’ve established your flush valve needs to be replaced, first shut off your water supply to the tank. Flush the toilet and leave the handle down until all the water drains into the toilet. Next, disconnect the chain from the handle.

Usually flappers detach usually one of two ways. Sometimes, wings slip over hooks to secure to the pipe at the bottom of the tank. Another common connector is a thick ring that you can push down over the pipe. There are two standard size plastic cylinders that may be located in your tank. Check to see if your unscrews or pulls from the bottom of the tank. Be careful, pulling or pushing with too much pressure can cause the valve to break. Unscrew the disk on top of the overflow pipe and pull it out of the tank to remove the valve seal on the bottom.

When your old flush valve is removed, use steel wool to gently clean the edge of the seat (the hole.) Be sure it is a smooth surface, rough edges will mean it continues to leek after you replace the valve.

Ideally, unless you are sure of what you are buying, bring your old flush valve to the store so you are sure to buy the proper replacement. Using your new flush valve, reassemble your toilet. Be sure that everything fits properly and is tightened securely before you refill your toilet with water.

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