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How To Plumbing Series: Toilets, Part 3

How To Plumbing Series: Toilets, Part 3

See the first post for a brief introduction on this How To Plumbing Series

So far in the toilet portion of the How To Plumbing Series we have . . .

  • looked at how toilets work
  • the planning needed to install a new toilet
  • removal of an older toilet and
  • complete installation of a replacement

In this post we’ll look common toilet problems that homeowners can do themselves without the need to call a Decatur or Hartselle, AL plumber.

However, if you are unable to do any of these or face unexpected problems, calling a Decatur or Hartselle plumber is an option that, for the most part, is reasonably cost effective. You’ll save time and have the peace of mind the repairs have been made correctly.

We will be looking at:

  • How to stop a toilet overflow
  • How to unclog a toilet
  • How to use tools to unclog a toilet
  • How to stop a running toilet

How To Stop a Toilet Overflow

If your toilet bowl is overflowing or about to, the key is not to stand there and hope the water and contents don’t spill onto the floor. You need to stop more water from entering the bowl.

Water enters the bowl in two places and both are in the tank portion of the toilet.

  • The first step is to lift off the lid covering the tank and set it aside. The water in the tank is actually clean and fresh, so you can reach into it without being grossed out. In fact, in case of a zombie apocalypse, the water in the tank is safe to drink and is a good source of water in an emergency.
  • In the bottom of the tank is the flapper or stopper. Pushing the flush handle causes the flapper to lift up, allowing water to flow through the hole underneath. The water quickly drains out and creates the flush. If the flapper is still in the up position, quickly reach in and push it back down to close the drain. This will stop the main source of water.
  • The second way water enters the bowl is as part of the refill stage of a flush. The fill valve allows water to flow into the tank to refill it. There is also a tube that connects from the fill valve to the overflow tube. To stop the flow of water into the bowl, you can pull out this tube allow it to flow into the tank. You could also lift up the tank float, or the collar float on newer fill valves, to stop the fill valve completely. You can also turn off the water shut-off valve behind the toilet.
  • Once the water has been stopped, you can work on clearing the clog. If you wait, the water level in the bowl may drop, making it easier to use a plunger or closet auger without spilling water onto the floor.

Stopping an overflowing toilet does not require a call to a Decatur or Hartselle, AL plumber unless it continues to be a problem.

How To Unclog a Toilet

It’s obvious, but when water overflows the bowl it means something is blocking the toilet or drain. The question is whether the clog is local to the toilet, the bathroom, or a house-wide problem.

  • Usually, if the bathroom sink does not back up, then the blockage is in the toilet or close to it.
  • If the sink or another bathroom drain is backing up, the clog is further alone the drain line.
  • If drains elsewhere in the home are backing up, the problem is likely to be somewhere in the sewer line and will necessitate calling your Decatur or Hartselle, AL plumber for assistance.

We’ll concentrate on clearing clogs at or near the toilet.

Clogs farther along the drain or sewer lines requires different equipment and access through a clean-out or by removing the toilet from the floor, which some homeowners may not want to mess with (pardon the pun) and will want to call a Decatur or Hartselle plumber or plumbing company.

If the clog is an object dropped into the toilet like a toy or wad of paper towel, it’s best to retrieve it rather than forcing it through the pipe.

Other clogs resulting from flushed waste usually can be cleared with a plunger or closet auger.

Start with a Plunger

There are two types of plungers — one with a flange and the old fashioned cup style. The flange fits into the opening at the bottom of the bowl and exerts more pressure than a traditional plunger that cups over the opening. Oddly, homeowners swear by certain plumber types.

  • If the bowl is full, put on gloves and bail out water until the bowl is only half full. You might also want to put an old towel or bath mat around the base of the toilet in case of spillage onto the floor.
  • If the bowl is empty, add water to fill it to half full.
  • To avoid splash back, drape a large towel over the bowl and under the toilet seat.
  • Place the plunger in the bowl and completely cover the drain opening.
  • With the plunger completely under water, press and pull it rapidly for 15-20 seconds, careful to note if you have a good seal. The better the seal the better the suction and loosening.
  • If water drains out of the bowl, add more and plunge again.
  • When the water seems to be properly draining, flush the toilet while keeping an eye on the bowl to make sure it doesn’t start to overflow again because the obstruction may not be completely removed.

Next Try a Closet Auger

If water is not draining out of the bowl as it should, then try a closet auger, which are readily available at Decatur or Hartselle area home improvement centers, hardware stores, or plumbing supplies.

A closet auger is a drain clearing tool designed specifically for use with a toilet. It has a sharp spiral of wire on the tip and a semi-rigid wire that can flex through the bends in the toilet bowl. It also has a guide tube and an offset hand crank, to turn the spiral tip and clear the obstruction.

Do not use other types of drain snakes as they can damage the toilet.

  • Insert the guide tube with the curve facing the direction of the drain. Some bowls drain to the front and some drain to the rear.
  • Crank the auger in one direction until is becomes tight then crank in the other direction. Repeat this until the auger is in as far as it will go.
  • Crank the auger to clear the obstruction.
  • Pull the guide tube out of the toilet. If it gets stuck push and pull gently or turn a crank back and forth while gently pulling up. Do not force the auger or you may break the toilet bowl. Have an old towel handy to dry the auger or it will drip water onto the floor and make even more of a mess.
  • Repeat the process using the plunger.
  • If the water seems to be properly draining, go ahead and try flushing the toilet.

If a plunger or closet auger do not work, the clog may be lodged deeply and will require the assistance of a Decatur or Hartselle plumber, who will have additional tools to break up clogs.

How To Stop a Running Toilet

Perhaps the most annoying plumbing problem of all time.

Stopping a running toilet does not require a call to a Decatur or Hartselle, AL plumber unless replacing parts or repair is needed and you just don’t want to mess with it.

Even if you don’t hear water running, the toilet may be wasting hundreds of gallons of water, depending on when you get fed up with “jiggling the handle” and decide to do something to fix it.

There are a couple ways your toilet may be wasting water without your knowledge.

  • The tank stores water that is released into the bowl when the handle is “flushed.” Water can leak from the tank into the bowl. Extra water in the bowl just goes down the drain, silently, or you may hear a trickle, or noisily.
  • You may notice the toilet starts refilling at random. This is the fill valve “topping off” the tank after enough water has leaked out.

Finding a Toilet Leak

An easy way to confirm the leak is to pour a few drops of food coloring into the tank. The more you use, the more obvious the leak will be. It’s a good way to get rid of food coloring that hasn’t been used in years. As water leaks into the bowl, you will see the color, confirming a leak.

There are couple possible sources.

  • The flapper may not be settling tightly into the valve seat.
  • The valve seat may be cracked or the gasket between the tank and the valve seat may have failed.
  • Another way for colored water in the tank to get to the bowl is through the overflow tube. In the tank there is a large, open tube, standing above the water level of the tank. In normal circumstances, the water level should be well below the opening, at least one half inch. If the water level is set too high or the fill valve is malfunctioning, water is being wasted as it flows through the overflow, into the bowl and down the drain.

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