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What Should You Do If Your Toilet Won't Stop Running?

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If your recent water bill has been unusually high, or you hear water running after your toilet is filled, your toilet might be running and you may just need to perform a few simple toilet repairs to remedy the problem.

Each component that is involved in filling your toilet tank may be the culprit. These include:

The flapper

The flapper is a rounded flat rubber piece that covers the toilet tank's center drain. It is attached to the toilet handle by a length of chain. When the handle is pushed down, the chain lifts the flapper and the water drains from the tank to fill the toilet.

When the handle is released, the flapper falls down over the drain opening, and is held in place by the weight of the water filling the tank.

Over time, the flapper may wear out from repeated use or become warped because of mineral deposits or other factors. The flapper will then be unable to maintain a proper seal, and water will leak slowly, and often imperceptibly, down the drain.

Replacing a flapper

Luckily, a flapper is very easy to replace. It is attached to two posts on the center overflow pipe in the tank, and the handle chain. Simply pull the flapper "arms" from the posts, detach the chain, and attach the new flapper to the posts.

Attach the chain to the new flapper by its hook. Be careful not to twist or bind the chain.

The fill valve

The fill valve allows water to flow into the toilet tank, then shuts off the water supply when it reaches the optimal level, which is about one inch below the top of the overflow pipe.

The valve is controlled by a float that rises with the water level, and blocks the flow when the toilet tank is full.

You may have an older type of fill valve, with a large rubber ball on a rod that acts as the float. You can replace it with a newer model that has a self-contained float, and experience no difference in performance.

The fill valve may wear out over time, or the float may become corrupted by mineral deposits, causing water to flow continuously over the edge of the overflow pipe.

Replacing a fill valve

You can purchase an adjustable universal fill valve for less than ten dollars in the plumbing section of most stores.

To replace it, you will need to turn off the water supply to the toilet by shutting the valve that is attached to the supply line. You will then flush the toilet, and remove all excess water from the tank by absorbing it with rags or towels.

Remove the supply line from the tank with a wrench or pliers. Next, unscrew the large plastic nut that holds the fill valve into place. It should be hand-tightened, but you may need a wrench to help you to remove it.

After removing the nut, pull out the old fill valve and the black washer on which it sits. Clean the hole area before placing the new washer that came with the fill valve over the hole.

Place the end of the fill valve through the hole, then adjust the height of the fill valve by turning the top section counter-clockwise.

When the bottom edge of the top section reaches a level one inch below the top of the overflow pipe, attach the plastic nut outside the bowl to secure the fill valve in place. Hand-tighten only, or you may crack the porcelain bowl.

Apply pipe tape ( a small roll of plastic ribbon) to the threads on the bottom of the fill valve. This will minimize leaks. Next, attach the supply line with a wrench, and turn on the valve to fill the tank.

You may have a small black overflow hose attached to the top of the fill valve, attach the other end to the top of the overflow pipe, with the clip provided.

If the tank doesn't fill to the fill line, twist the top of the fill valve counter-clockwise until it fills to the desired level. If it fills to the overflow pipe, twist it clockwise until the desired level is achieved.

If you lack mechanical aptitude or are physically unable to contort your body to work under the toilet, you should consult a contractor that performs plumbing services, like Abbey Plumbing & Heating Co. they can do the job quickly and clean up the resulting mess. The money that you will save on subsequent water bills will more than offset the cost of the repairs.