What are the Best Tips for Toilet Repair?

Henry Gaudet

Sooner or later, most homeowners will have to deal with toilet repair. Fortunately, many common problems are easily solved and don’t require the services of a plumber. Armed with a few simple do-it-yourself pointers, homeowners can handle most common toilet repair problems without the expense of hiring a professional. The best tips for toilet repair include the fact that using a plunger can unclog the toilet most of the time and that many problems with the toilet's water flow can be solved by adjusting the ballcock.

Most toilet problems can be easily solved without hiring a plumber.
Most toilet problems can be easily solved without hiring a plumber.

Clogging is undoubtedly the most common toilet repair problem. A plunger usually is sufficient to clear most clogged toilets. One must ensure that the cup of the plunger is covering the toilet drain, and push down forcefully. Most often, a few vigorous plunges will free the clog and allow the toilet to empty.

A plunger may be useful in unclogging toilets.
A plunger may be useful in unclogging toilets.

It is important that there is enough water in the bowl before a plunger is used. Water must cover the suction cup to provide a good seal. To add water, it should be poured in from a bucket or other container instead of by flushing. Flushing the toilet could cause an overflow and only add to the problems already present.

Seat replacement is another simple toilet repair. The nuts holding the old seat in place can be removed so that the seat can be lifted up. If the nuts are corroded and won’t move, a little penetrating oil might be needed lubricate them. After the old seat is out of the way, the porcelain can be wiped clean before the new seat is bolted into place. The seat must be secure, but care should be taken to ensure that the nuts are not overtightened.

One common toilet repair problem is that the toilet that won’t stop flushing. Often, this is because of a problem with the ballcock, the arm with a ball at the end that extends inside the tank. This device shuts off water from the refill valve when the tank is full. If lifting the arm shuts off the water, adjusting the ballcock will fix the problem.

Ballcock arms are threaded like screws, making the ballcock adjustable. When the ball is turned counterclockwise, the ball will sit lower in the tank, which will close the shutoff valve sooner. If this doesn’t do the job, the ball can be removed entirely to check for water inside of it. Trapped water will make the ball less effective as a float, and emptying it might solve the problem. A leaking float might require replacement, but these are available in any hardware store.

If these steps are not effective, bending the arm of the ballcock might solve the problem. Gently bending the arm downward will push the float deeper into the tank. Less water will then be required to shut off the refill valve.

One common toilet repair problem is that the toilet that won’t stop flushing.
One common toilet repair problem is that the toilet that won’t stop flushing.

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Discussion Comments


I've had to do my share of toilet repairs over the years, and I've learned that professional plumbers will often charge substantial fees for relatively easy repairs. If you absolutely need to call in a professional, by all means do it. I'm not criticizing the plumbing industry. What I'm saying is that many of the toilet repair parts can be purchased at home improvement stores for a lot less than the professional price, and a homeowner can read "Toilet Repairs For Dummies" and save a lot of money doing the work himself.


One thing I've learned about toilet repair is that no toilet seats are ever alike. The only things that are standard are the seat lengths and the distance between the bolts. Different manufacturers use different methods to attach the seats to the main toilet, so be sure to read the instructions carefully when replacing them. The last thing you want to do is crack the bowl by applying too much torque.

I found a replacement toilet seat set one time that had self-adjusting bolts. The bolts were made out of plastic, and when they were tight enough, the bottom half snapped off. This prevented over-tightening, which was good, but it didn't make it easy to remove them later. Another company used bolts that were not a standard size, and when I lost one of them during installation, I couldn't find replacements at any local plumbing supply store. I had to call the manufacturer directly for an entire replacement kit.

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