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  • Writer's pictureJolly Plumbing

How the Toilet Works

Thankfully the days of sitting in a smelly outhouse are in the past and the time of indoor plumbing is going strong. Using the toilet is something that is learned at a very young age and is just accepted as a part of something that must be done. The toilet is a marvelous invention and no house is livable without one. No thought might be given to how a toilet works until that handle is pressed and nothing happens. How does a toilet work?

Parts of the Toilet

The toilet is attached to a supply tubing that connects to the main water supply of the house. This is what fills the tank that’s usually on the back of the toilet unless it’s a tankless toilet. When you lift the lid to the tank you should see a chain that runs from the handle all the way down to the bottom of the tank and attaches to a flap called a flush valve and the whole system is known as the flush mechanism. On the other side will be a column with a ball float, this is the refill mechanism.

The bowl of the toilet is something that everyone is familiar with. It’s what catches the waste. On top of the bowl is the seat that can be lifted to reveal the rim of the bowl. Just inside the rim, there are little holes all the way around that allow water to run into the bowl. At the bottom of the bowl towards the back is the hole where everything goes down. Just through that hole is an unseen part of the toilet that is highly essential. It’s called the bowl siphon and it is the reason the water is sucked out in the way that it is. It’s a U shape or a snake shape before it gets to the plumbing pipe.

What Happens When You Flush?

When the lever is pressed it lifts the chain on the inside of the tank and raises the flap from the drain hole. When this happens the roughly 2 gallons of water inside the tank is released and quickly rushes to the bowl. As the water rushes out, the ball float on the refill mechanism drops with the water level. When it gets to a certain point it flips a valve on the refill mechanism that turns the water on. The water is released simultaneously through those little holes around the rim and through an overflow tube.

Imagine that the tank is a bucket of water that is being poured into the bowl, this is where the magic happens. If the bucket was only filled with 6 liters of water or less and dumped into the bowl, the water level would never change. This is where that U-shaped siphon comes into play. It ensures that if too much water is poured in it spills over and goes down the drain while maintaining a full bowl. When you pour the 2 gallons of water in it makes the toilet flush and empty completely. When the bowl is flooded fast and with a lot of water the siphon is flooded, and no air remains. This causes an automatic response that sucks all the water from the bowl and creates that signature flushing sound. When the air returns to the siphon it stops siphoning and starts filling.

When all the water drains out of the tank, the flap rests back down and covers the drain hole the tank is ready to be refilled. If the flap doesn’t rest back down, the tank will not fill. The water runs from the water line and through the refill tube to fill the tank up. That floating ball that flipped the valve to turn the water on will start rising as the tank fills and eventually reach that valve again and turn the water off. When the lever is pushed, the whole process repeats.

Most of the common toilet problems that a person runs into are easily fixed without a professional. Usually, they are related to the flush valve or the ball float. Adjusting or replacing one or the other will generally fix problems associated with dirty water in the tank or the toilet not flushing all the way. Often, the chain that connects the handle to the flap is too long or too short and will not lift it up or allow it to settle. Adjusting the length of the chain is an easy fix. Fixing a leaky toilet can be more of a hassle. Call our local Colorado Springs plumbers near you for all sorts of plumbing services.

Now the inner workings of a toilet are no mystery and while sitting for nearly 3 hours a week on the porcelain throne there is a peace of mind knowing that everything will go down the way it should. Also, 3 hours a week adds up to approximately 156 hours a year, which means that the average person spends 6 ½ days out of the year on the toilet.

How To Fix a Leaking Toilet

A leaking toilet can certainly frustrate a person to the point of tears. If you’re dealing with a leaky toilet, we’re here to help! Below are some common plumbing problems, how to diagnose them, and how to fix each one. We always recommend having a local Colorado Springs plumber handle issues like this for you, but if you’d like to attempt this on your own, we’ve provided a general overview. Don’t hesitate to call us at any point during the process, especially if there is a plumbing emergency – you’ve got enough in life to worry about; let the plumbers handle the dirty work!

Common Toilet Problems

If your toilet is leaking out water, it’s likely because of one of these problems:

  1. Faulty seal

  2. Broken overflow tube

  3. Broken gasket (seals connection between tank and bowl)

  4. Faulty closet flange (toilet not properly anchored to the floor so there’s a gap in the connection between the toilet and drain pipe)

The best way to diagnose which of these problems is causing your leak is to run through a quick checklist. Keep reading to diagnose your issue!

Diagnosing the Cause of a Leaky Toilet

Faulty Seal

The seal refers to the wax ring that closes the connection between the base of your toilet and the drain.

  1. Are you consistently finding water on the floor of your bathroom?

  2. Have you noticed any leaks from the base of your toilet?

  3. Is your toilet loose (wiggles upon touch)?

  4. Do you see any water stains around the base of your toilet?

If any one or more of these is true of your situation, you may need to replace your wax seal!

Broken Overflow Tube

The overflow tube is what stops your tank (the top portion of your toilet) from overflowing with water.

  1. Is your toilet bowl filling with too much water?

  2. Is your tank water not properly draining into your toilet bowl?

Either of these could indicate a problem with your overflow tube. The overflow tube is what siphons tank water into your toilet bowl. If the overflow tube is too high, your toilet bowl could fill with too much water. If your overflow tube is blocked or malfunctioning in some other way, it may not drain water into your bowl, causing an excess of water in your toilet’s tank.

Broken Gasket

The gasket is what seals the connection between the tank and the bowl. If it comes loose or malfunctions, it can allow water to seep out of the middle of your toilet.

  1. Is water seeping out from the base of your toilet tank?

  2. Does the tank wobble?

Either of these could indicate a broken toilet gasket. Like the wax seal at the base of your toilet, it prevents water from releasing onto the floor. The connection needs to remain air tight in order to prevent leaks, so if the gasket cracks or the connection becomes loose, that could be why you are experiencing toilet leaks.

Faulty Closet Flange

The closet flange is necessary to bolt the toilet to the floor. Without a working closet flange or bolts, the water from the toilet bowl can miss the drain and spill onto the floor.

  1. Is there a bad odor in your bathroom?

  2. Is water pooling up at the base of your toilet?

  3. Does the base of your toilet wobble?

  4. Are there water stains near the base of your toilet?

This is one of the worst parts of your toilet that can leak. Instead of going directly into the sewer drain, the used toilet bowl water can seep onto your bathroom floor.

DIY: How to Repair Toilet Leaks

Now that you know the common problems that cause toilet leaks and have diagnosed what your toilet’s issue is, it’s time to fix it.

How to Fix a Faulty Toilet Seal

  1. Determine what type of wax ring your toilet needs. The diameter is what will differ. Look up your toilet make and model to see which ring diameter will fit yours.

  2. Determine why your ring failed in the first place. If your toilet also wobbles, make sure you bolt it down tighter, as the wobbling can wear down the ring prematurely. Wax rings also harden and crack over time.

  3. Drain the toilet bowl and tank.

  4. Unhook the water supply.

  5. Remove the bolts that attach the base of the toilet to the floor and lift the toilet up and away from the connection.

  6. Remove the faulty ring and scrape away any leftover wax deposits.

  7. Replace with a new ring and reattach the toilet securely to the ground. Make sure it does not wobble.

  8. Reattach the water supply.

  9. Flush the toilet to refill and monitor for leaks.

How to Fix a Broken Overflow Tube

  1. Turn off the water supply.

  2. Flush your toilet to remove the water from the tank.

  3. Remove the tank lid and locate the overflow tube (it’s in the middle between the fill valve and the float ball).

  4. Remove and replace the overflow tube using these instructions.

How to Fix a Broken Gasket

  1. Turn off the water supply.

  2. Flush your toilet to remove the water from the tank.

  3. Separate the tank from the bowl.

  4. Remove the existing gasket and take that to your local hardware store. An employee can help you locate the correct replacement part.

  5. Attach the new tank-to-bowl gasket. Tighten and make sure it can’t move around.

  6. Reattach the tank to the bowl and make sure it doesn’t wobble.

  7. Reattach the water supply and flush the toilet. Monitor for leaks.

How to Fix a Faulty Closet Flange

  1. Turn off the water supply.

  2. Flush the toilet to empty the tank.

  3. Remove the wax from the flange as much as you can (try a paint scraper).

  4. If the flange has minor issues, such as a break in just one of the tracks, you may be able to remedy with a repair plate. If the damage is worse, you may need a new ring or flange replacement.

Contact an Experienced Colorado Springs Plumber Near You

Here at Jolly Plumbing, we are experts in Colorado Springs bathroom remodeling services. We specialize in bathroom remodeling, commercial bathroom remodeling, and plumbing remodels, so you can have a lifetime partner in the plumbing industry from start to finish. We have been in the plumbing and heating business since 1955 and stand by our excellent reputation.

Whether you need to fix a leaky toilet, Colorado Springs bathroom remodel or a commercial bathroom remodeling, Jolly Plumbing can handle any job, any size. We service both residential water heaters as well as commercial water heaters, which means you get the same great customer service whether you are a Colorado Springs homeowner or a local business that requires more water capacity to serve your customers.


Colorado Springs Bathroom Remodeling Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I hired Jolly Plumbing to take care of a small leak and verify that there were no other leaks. One of their competitors did work in the house before we bought it and failed to properly secure one connection. They sent over Adam who has over 20 years of plumbing experience. Adam's father was a plumber, so this guy grew up in the business and really knows his stuff. Their charge was reasonable and I felt like Adam really had our best interest in mind. If you need an honest plumbing service, I recommend giving these guy a try. - Merlin L. on Google.

Jolly Plumbing is your local plumbing and heating company. We promise to offer you upstanding customer service, experienced workers, and a job done right the first time. If you have questions about your water heater, have a leak, or need a replacement, we are here to help. Call Jolly Plumbing today for a water heater inspection.

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