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Checking Your Toilet For Leaks

Aug 17, 2007
For the do-it-yourselfer, repairing things is important. One of the easiest things in your home to repair is the toilet. You can usually replace valves on your own, and even shore up leaks without calling in an expensive plumber. But before you can get to work on the problem, you need to find the leak. And this can be important. 80,000 gallons of water can be wasted each year due to undetected toilet tank leaks. You can save money in water costs, and you can save money having it repaired if you find the leak and repair it yourself.

Nearly every toilet tank works by using two valves. One is called the flush valve and the other is called the refill valve (there is a type of refill valve that is referred to as a ballcock). The flush valve lets the water out, and the refill valve lets the tank fill up again, preparing it for the next flush. If either of these valves is leaking, then you have a great deal of wasted water. When it is the flush valve that is leaking, then water trickles out of the tank. Because the tank registers that the water level is falling, the refill valve allows water back into the tank. What you end up with is a continuous flow of water: constantly flowing our and being replenished. This can become very expensive in terms of water usage. When the refill valve is the problem, water keeps coming into the toilet tank. This causes the water level to rise, and the extra water goes into the overflow pipe. Water continually runs through the system in this case as well.

Checking for leaky valves is fairly simple. The first test is to put some food coloring or a blue laundry soap cake into the tank. Make sure that the tank is full, and do not flush the toilet while you are waiting. In both leak scenarios, the water is leaked into the toilet bowl. So, you wait about 5 to 10 minutes to see if the coloring moves into the toilet bowl. If you see that there is coloring in the bowl, then you know that you have a leak. The next step is to determine what kind of leak it is.

To check the flush valve leak, turn off the supply of water to the toilet. To find the shut off, face the toilet. The valve is located beneath the tank on the left side of the toilet. Turn the valve, and then use a pencil or chalk to mark the water level inside the tank. It should be completely refilled when you do this. Next, let the tank alone for about 20 minutes. This will give time to determine whether water is leaking out. If the water level has fallen below your mark, then you the flush valve is letting water out and you will need to repair it. If the water level remains the same, then you know that it is a problem with the refill valve. A word of caution, however. Sometimes a waterlogged float can cause water to flow into the overflow pipe. Before repairing the refill valve on your own, you should make sure that the float is not causing the problem.
About the Author
Learn about how to repair your toilet yourself, and how to repair other things around the house, by looking at the resources at The Repair Central
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