My house has five toilets. Five. I know, it’s an embarrassment of porcelain riches. And they’re weird toilets, with a knob on the top you pull to flush. When we first moved in some of them ran occasionally, and I knew it was wasting water, but fixing these odd-duck toilets just seemed so daunting and confusing. It’s an easy problem to ignore, so we did.
When we finally got around to investigating, the problem was simple. The rubber flapper which controls the flow of water from the tank to the bowl was no longer creating a good seal. Instead it let a small trickle of water eek out at all times, causing the toilet to constantly refill itself. The fix was simple, fast, and cost us all of $10.
First, we turned off the water to the tank. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t or can’t, but it wastes water so it’s best to shut it off. On our toilet, and most every other toilet I’ve seen, the shutoff valve is located behind and to the left of the bowl.
Next we removed the tank lid. Our fancy top-flush makes this a little challenging. You need to tilt the lid upwards, disconnect the flapper chain from the knob, and then shift the whole thing forward to free the latch on the back of the lid.
At the bottom of the tank is the flapper, with the free ballin’ chain now that I’ve removed the tank lid. The purple thing on the left is the water shutoff mechanism. As the water level in tank rises it raises the big black float below it. When the float reaches the top it pushes the gray arm up which shuts off the water. The flapper is attached near the bottom of the overflow pipe, which will carry away excess water if for some reason the shutoff fails.
We purchased our replacement flapper at a local hardware store for about $10. The majority of home toilets use a two inch flapper like this one. It has two hooks on the back to attach to the toilet.
Replacing the flapper was as simple as prying the old one off (admittedly challenging because it was so warped and stiff) and then popping the new one on. The new flapper snaps into place and covers the hole at the bottom of the tank.
The next step was to reconnect the flapper to the flush knob. This was a little challenging because I had to hold the tank lid at just the right angle so that I could both get my hands in there and also have the chain reach the knob. There is a small hole at the bottom of the rod to thread the hook through. The chain needs to be adjusted to the right length. Too long and your toilet won’t flush, too short and it will never stop flushing. You can use the old one as a guide,but admittedly this required a bit of trial and error.
Once everything was reattached I put the lid back on and opened the water valve back up. After a few test flushes it was good to go. We replaced the flapper in three of our toilets, cutting our water bill from over $100 to just $30. If I’d known just how much water we were wasting I wouldn’t have put it off for nearly so long.