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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
AGE of PLUMBING MATERIALS & FIXTURES
AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
ANTI SCALD VALVES
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEPTIC
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BACKWATER VALVES, SEWER LINE
BATH & KITCHEN DESIGN GUIDE
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DEPTH of SEPTIC TANK
DRAIN & SEWER PIPING
FAUCETS & CONTROLS, KITCHEN & BATH
FAUCETS, OUTDOOR HOSE BIBBS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
LEAD IN DRINKING WATER, HOW to REDUCE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS SEWER GAS in COLD WEATHER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
ANIMAL or URINE ODOR SOURCE DETECTION
PIPING IN BUILDINGS, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RELIEF VALVES - TP Valves on Boilers
RELIEF VALVES - STEAM TP VALVES
RELIEF VALVES - Water Heaters
RELIEF VALVES - Water Tanks
REPAIR BURST LEAKY PIPES
METHANE GAS HAZARDS
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMPS & TANKS
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
How to diagnose and fix a toilet: this article series discusses the cause, diagnosis, and repair of toilet problems (water closet problems) such as a toilet that does not flush well, clogged toilets, slow-filling toilets, running toilets, loose wobbly toilets, and odors at leaky toilets. Here we explain how to diagnose and repair problems with toilets, leaks, flushes, odors, noises, running and wasted water.
Our page top photo shows ugly staining in a toilet bowl - strong evidence that this toilet has been running, wasting water, possibly flooding the septic system, and sometimes giving bad flush performance as well.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
If your toilet is overflowing or about-to see TOILET OVERFLOW EMERGENCY
All modern toilets receive human waste, urine, feces, and are intended to dispose of that matter in a sanitary fashion.
By the late 1800's the development of the modern flush-toilet, replacing chamber pots and outhouses, toilets have relied on a dose of water to flush waste out of the toilet bowl into sewage piping or into a private septic system for wastewater treatment and disposal.
Some sources refer to a toilet as a water closet. Thomas Crapper & Co. (London) called their scary-looking toilet contraption an "Elastic Valve Closet".
Early flush toilets like this 1890 model used a high wall-mounted reservoir tank, typically wooden, to provide adequate pressure and flow rate to clean and empty the toilet bowl.
Contemporary toilets use a tank attached to the toilet bowl itself, relying on improved flush valve controls to provide the water flow rate into the bowl to empty it and clean the bowl sides.
We discuss onsite waste disposal systems - septic tanks, drainfields, separately at SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
Before launching into our series of articles on diagnosing and repairing toilet problems such as clogged toilets, toilets that don't flush properly, running or leaky or noisy toilets, toilet odors, and loose toilets, take a look at the simple connection between a typical reservoir-tank toilet and the soil stack (waste piping) in the Carson Dunlop Associates sketch (above left).
At page top or left please see our list of toilet trouble diagnosis and repair articles.
You will see that some toilet problems are fixed easily and right at the toilet by a simple adjustment, while others may not be the toilet's fault at all, and may need more thoughtful diagnosis and repair.
Taking off the toilet tank top: Some of these simple toilet diagnosis steps require that you look into the toilet flush tank on the back of the toilet.
Just lift the top off of the toilet tank and set it carefully aside on the floor where you won't break it or trip over it.
If you leave the tank top on the toilet seat (as we did for this photo) you're asking for trouble, and also, it's a bit in the way.
Our sketch below shows the parts you'll see inside the toilet tank. You may want to refer back to this drawing while reading the details of each class if individual toilet problems listed above and how they are detected, diagnosed, and repaired.
While there have been improvements in toilet tank fill valves, flush valves, floats, and water savings, the design has remained about the same.
A flush lever moves an arm to lift a flapper valve or tank ball to permit water to rush into the toilet bowl below, washing away waste into the sewer pipe.
At the end of the flush cycle, a float arm, or a float moving on a vertical stalk (newer valves) drops to open a valve permitting the toilet tank to refill with water.
When the toilet tank water level reaches the proper level, the float closes the toilet tank fill valve.
If the toilet won't flush at all, what happened when you pushed the flush lever ?
Is the sewer line or soil stack clogged? Our grandson Chase Patrick Gilligan, learning toilet training, flushed his peed-in underpants down the toilet. We have also found child's toys, and once, a dog's bone clogging the waste line just below the toilet.
If other building drains are working fine, but one toilet is flushing poorly, it is possible that there is a local blockage close to the toilet itself.
Brian found this drain clog by asking Chase what happened to the missing underpants. He then removed the toilet from the floor, and by luck, the underpants were able to be easily retrieved - unblocking the clogged toilet drain before a backup and toilet overflow catastrophe had occurred.
See Toilet Drain Clogged to continue with blocked or clogged toilet diagnosis and repair.
See TOILET TYPES, CONTROLS, PARTS for a guide to identifying toilets by type, brand, parts & features. Also see ALTERNATIVE & WATERLESS TOILETS for a discussion of camping toilets, chemical toilets, emergency-use toilets, waterless toilets, graywater systems, composting toilets, home health care toilets, incinerating toilets, outhouses, and latrines.
For toilets (and urinals) that are operated by building water pressure alone and without a reservoir tank, see FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS.
Stains in Toilets
Question: pink or black algae in toilet bowl
My toilet bowls develop a pink and / or black algae (?) after only a week of non-use (or use, for that matter). Is there something I can safely add to the tank water (I have a septic system) to prevent this? Why does it happen? - Anon 6/7/12
Anon, indeed I occasionally find both mold growth and algal growth in toilet bowls, usually when a toilet has been left un-used for a time (not flushed often enough to wash contaminants down the drain).
Try cleaning the toilet bowl thorougly with any toilet cleaning product. While you're at it, if your water is supplied from a private well or cistern, you might have your drinking water tested for contaminants as well.
Also check to be sure that the toilet is not running constantly like the one shown in our photo just above.
Question: Disaster zone toilet guide - emergency toilet flushing procedure & alternatives - can I use lake water to flush toilets?
Post hurricane sandy question:
Can I use lake water to flush my toilets. We still have no power, heat or water in Stamford, Connecticut - S.D., Stamford CT 11/5/2012
Reply: Suggestions for emergency flush procedures for conventional toilets when heat, electricity, or water are not available
Here are some suggestions for & warnings about using lake water or other reasonably-clean water from other sources to flush toilets in an emergency. Details about various options for flushing toilets in a disaster zone or ways to come up with emergency toilets are at DISASTER ZONE TOILET GUIDE
Watch out: if you flush via the toilet tank and flush valve and the toilet starts to back up or overflow, quickly
Other emergency toilet options for use when your home or building have no power, water, etc. include some simple and easy expedient methods for holding feces, toilet paper, and if necessary, urine such as using a plastic bag lined bucket or just using a plastic bag alone.
Continue reading at TOILET WON'T FLUSH or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Suggested citation for this web page
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: toilet makes a loud noise after it is flushed
why does my second floor toilet make a loud noise after it is flushed (not a water hammer noise) - Sandy 10/22/11
Sandy, we'd need more information - like the toilet brand and model or type. Some toilets designed to use the smallest possible volume of water to flush the bowl may use water pressure or even a mixture of compressed air and water to scour and clean the bowl; these as well as toilets using a flushometer valve often make more noise than a gravity-operated standard tank-type flush toilet.
(Jan 31, 2013) Joe said:
going back to Sandy's question ? please ,,how do we avoid that noisy toilet flashes on the 2nd floor ? some plumbers are asking me remove the wall and cover the drain pipe with special sound proof material . is it a good idea?
If the complaint is around the noise of wastewater passing thorugh the drain line, sound insulation around the drain piping is the common solution.
Question: how to I determine if a toilet has a leaky wax ring seal?
So I am interested in inspected whether or not I have a leaky seal on my wax ring, and here's my situation:
[Some plumbers use two wax rings, mashing the first one onto the bottom of the toilet to be certain of a perfect seal, then placing the second ring in place just before the toilet is pressed down onto the floor drain flange for securing.]
Question: sound of draining pipes after new toilet installation
My husband just installed a new toilet. When we go to the bathroom it sounds like the pipes are draining. I just poured water into the toilet so I could figure out where the noise was coming from. It's not coming from the tank area. I can hear it clearly when my ear is at the bottom of the toilet, by the floor. I don't feel or see any leaking. Any ideas what this noise is and if it's a problem? - Mary 10/17/2012
I presume "when we go to the bathroom" refers to entering the room, not actually using the toilet. If you hear drainage noises continuously most likely somewhere a fixture is sending water into the drain line. Look for a running toilet, either this one or one that also shares the same drain.
I live in a multi-unit building, the gentleman on the bottom floor was experiencing soap suds coming though his toilet. The plumbers came and installed longer pipes, which solved his problem. Immediately after, however, my toilet (I'm on the top floor) stopped flushing and my water pressure in all faucets/showerheads increased tenfold.
Could these things be related in any way? Plumbers have come back twice and said they fixed the problem, that the toilet was just clogged, and that it's a new "green" toilet so it doesn't have as powerful of a flush. Unfortunately I am now stuck with a toilet that has not been flushed in days and threatens to overflow every time I try.
I've tried plunging to no avail multiple times. Thank you. - Kristen 10/23/2012
Try looking through the additional toilet repair articles found Related Topics.
Question: toilet backs up through tub drain
(Oct 27, 2012) james said:
hi just earlier today i had a backup happen in my one and only bath, it didnt overflow but some watse came up threw the tub, then slowly drained back out, i went to go look at the pipes downstairs and found water had escaped out from what looks like under the toliet and ran down the pipe. This is a recently purchased home and was not lived in for the prior 2 years, i went and purchaced a toliet snake and some septic treatment products, im still unable to get a full flush so i havent used the treatment yet but the snake gave me no results. any ideas?
What you describe sounds like a partially blocked drain line. The plumbing snake may not have been long enough to get to the blockage. Sometimes a drain treatment will clear a blockage, but if not, the plumber won't be happy to have to work with acid or otherwise dangerous chemicals in the wastewater. I'd guess, if the drain works slowly you can go ahead and try it.
Question: how much water is used when flushing a toilet - normally?
(Nov 23, 2012) ISSY said:
When flushing the toilet there seems to be a lot of water filling up into the main water system in the loft, is this normal? Thanks
A conventional tank type toilet uses about 1-2 gallons of water per flush; if your water system is doing something else, there should be a different reason for it.
Question: toilet flushes but water doesn't spin or clean the bowl
(Nov 30, 2012) Cassy said:
So, my toilet suddenly stopped working. It will flush, but no "whirlpool" action occurs and it over flows. I've tried plunging it, it doesn't help. It's a traditional toilet, one commonly used in apartment buildings(I don't know the brand). The tank fills normally, but the bowl itself seems as though there is too much water in it when it's calm and filled. Any advice would be appreciated!
Typically we see this problem when the toilet drain is partly blocked, slowing the toilet drainage. It may also occur if the dose of water entering the bowl is too small, for example if the toilet is flushed a second time before the flush tank has re-filled.
Question: toilet sounds
(Dec 12, 2012) Allan said:
when I go to the bathroom, I sometimes hear the toilet like its finishing up... What is causing that
Baffled in Boca Raton - I don't understand the sound description
Question: repeated toilet clogs
(Jan 2, 2013) DONNA KRUPINSKI said:
What causes toilets to overflow when plumber has been called each time and he snakes out to the main line.
Most likely either the plumber hasn't been able to clear the actual blockage or the main drain line is damaged, leaky, root invaded, or is feeding into a failed septic system.
Question: toilet water disturbances
(Jan 5, 2013) Dorothy said:
I have two toilets back to back in separate bathrooms. After remodeling in both bathrooms, (both toilets were removed and replaced) the water moves a lot in the other toilet when one or the other is flushed! There is nothing leaking on the floor (as this is been happening for more then a year). Can you help me with this problem.
Water zooming down the waste line is perhaps creating a vacuum due to inadequate, blocked, or improper plumbing vent piping. The vacuum from the flushed toilet may then disturb water in a nearby toilet. You may also hear gurgling at nearby sink or tub drains.
Question: water from the toilet splashes bystanders
(Jan 18, 2013) Donna said:
water shoots up in bowel when flushed must shut lid when flush.
This sounds to me like a power-flush low-water-consumption toilet whose flush mechanism needs adjustment. If you tell us the brand and model of the toilet I'll research the question further.
Question: sink gurgles when toilet is flushed
(Apr 2, 2013) Tammy in Wiscconsin! said:
Hi Mr. Plummer! Wondering why my sink in Bathroom gurgles & "spits" up water when the toilet is flushed! Seems like the water pressure in toilet is low. Any suggestions_? Thanks
Tammy there are twi usual explanations for gurglilng at nearby drains when a toilet is flushed
One is that the plumbing vent system is defective or incomplete or blocked.
Two, gurgling at nearby drains might be heard if the main drain is partly blocked.
(Mar 2, 2014) chentell said:
hello, my toilet is running water/a steady stream constantly in the back of the bowl. then every 2 minutes it sounds as though it's just beginning to flush every 2 minutes and i hear and see even more water flowing into the bowl. then the clang clang of the pipes/whatever. then it goes back to just the steady stream of water running in from the back of the bowl and repeats this process OVER AND OVER AND OVER. i wish i could fix it myself, just don't know what to do. please help me b/c it could be days before i can get someone who might be able to help and this is driving me nuts as well as a terrible waste of water. i'd at least like to know what is wrong.....and thank you so much in advance!
i might also add that when i actually do go to flush the toilet, it does feel the same like a definite flush used to. like the flapper is not sealed to begin with or something. it used to just feel like you pushed down and it definitely flushed now it's just so weak, i don't know if it's going to flush or not but it does. i just wanted to add this to my question b/c my problem might be two-fold. thank you so much.
Chantell, in the links at More Reading just above you can take a look at
Question: toilet bowl doesn't fill to normal level after a flush
Mar 16, 2014) Jim in pgh said:
After flushing the bowl dose not refill to the usual level. There is about two inches of water in the bottom of the bowl. The tank refills to the usual level. If I add water to the bowl it stays at the filled level but when flushed again the bowl does not refill.
(Aug 6, 2014) Bryan said:
My tank fills up after the flush but it seems the bowl is less than full.. Any ideas??
Lift off (careful not to drop it) the toilet tank lid and look inside.
Flush the toilet. Watch what happens.
If the small diameter fill tube that is supposed to be sending water into the toilet bowl (it connects from the toilet tank fill valve to the top of the toilet tank overflow standpipe) is not connected properly the water level in the bowl post-flush will be too low.
Let me know what you find. Send along photos using the CONTACT US link if you wish and I can comment further.
Lift off the toilet tank lid and check to see if the small diameter bowl-fill-tube that is supposed to be inserted into the overflow tube in the tank (where it sends water into the toilet bowl during fill cycle) has come out of its proper postion.
Question: toilet clogs up with feces
(Mar 29, 2014) MARIE said:
My toilet always clogs up when you do #2. I have been able to unclog by using a plunger and it take a while to unclog. I tested the toilet by pouring a bucket of water down the toilet, i can hear a gurgling noise once all the water drains out and also when i use the plunger. When you first unclog and flush , dirt is always in the bottom of the toilet.
Look for a partly clogged main drain or a failing septic system.
Question: toilet flush tank fills too slowly
(June 10, 2014) Sharon said:
I don't understand why my toilet takes so long to refill now. It used to refill rather quickly. Now it seems to take forever before it finishes refilling. I'm assuming it's using the same amount of water, but it takes soooo much longer.
Perhaps the valve on the toilet water supply line is partly closed, or the valve or small diameter piping have become mineral-clogged. Minerals can also clog the fill valve assembly itself. I'd start by replacing that.
Question: toilet bowl empties too slowly
(June 12, 2014) Vicky said:
When I flush my toilet the bowl will fill with water but goes around the bowl and goes down slow until all the water is gone. Then the water fills the bowl to normal level. If I put toilet paper in it acts like is getting stopped up. What could be the problem?
Vicky if the flush waster quantity is normal then the drain is clogged.
Provided that the flush volume remains normal, the most likely explanation of a slow emptying of the toilet bowl is that the main drain is partly clogged. A second cause of slow toilet bowl draining can be a clogged plumbing vent.
Question: contagious toilet flushing
(June 13, 2014) jim said:
we flush the toilet on the first floor and second floor toilet will also flush just for a few seconds. What is the problem?
That's a curious problem, Jim. Perhaps a surge or drop in water pressure is stimulating the fill valve in the second toilet.
Jim, I suspect the toilets are not properly vented, or perhaps not vented at all.
Question: hearing water in the walls
(June 17, 2014) beth said:
hey. since my husband replaced our toilet, i keep hearing water switching on and off (in the walls. almost sounds like the icemaker in the fridge.), and it appears to be going in to the toilet bowl. happens every several minutes. wtf?
Reply: check for running toilet
Beth it appears that the toilet is running. Look for a leaky flush valve, fill valve, or at the gasket between bowl and tank.
Question: toilet flush handle direction causes stress
(July 29, 2014) Scott said:
I installed a new toilet handle (Danco Universal Toilet Handle) and something is wrong because in order to flush the toiletI have to pull the handle up instead of pushing it down. (It is a side mount Toto toilet)
I have tried the handle every which way I can (handle pointing forward, handle pointing backward, handle pointing upward) without solving the problem.
The geometry of some replacement flush control handles might indeed swap the direction of movement. You may have found a flush lever intended for mounting on the right side of a flush tank but installed it on the left side. Some of these levers can be inverted by disassembling the flush lever and flipping over the plastic or metal handle-limiting lugs.
Question: toilet sounds like it's flushing but no water enters the toilet bowl
8/21/14 Rachel Foulger said:
On some occasions I press the flush lever and the toilet makes a flushing sound but no water enters the bowl. This happens about once a day but the rest of the time the flush is normal.
What a fabulous question - I'm baffled. If the toilet is "flushing" where is the water going if it doesn't enter the bowl.
If your toilet has a removable top lid, please lift it off and carefully (not to break it) place it on the floor.
Look into the toilet tank. Grab a camera and use the email at our CONTACT link to send me some sharp photos of what you see along with an image of the toilet brand (usually on the base). If there's a date stamped in the lid or in the tank tell me that too.
I wonder if your toilet is an older "low flush" water saving toilet that uses an internal baffle in the tank.
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