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DIY Fix Toilet Problems DIY Fix Toilet Problems

Yes, You Can Fix Common Toilet Problems Yourself!

The loo. The commode. The potty. Whatever you call it, no one wants to deal with a toilet that doesn’t work, especially if you are having guests over for a holiday or special occasion. The best option is to get in there now and take care of that leak, loose seat, or improper flushing (it might even save you on your water bill). Don’t worry, many common toilet problems are an easy DIY. The trick is to understand which problem it is you’re dealing with. Follow this troubleshooting guide to show off your homeowner skills and make sure your bathroom is company ready.

Toilet Basics


With proper care, toilets (usually made from porcelain) can last up to a few decades without being completely replaced. If you have ever lifted the tank lid, you know there is a series of mechanisms to make the toilet flush and refill properly.

In a nutshell, when you push down the handle to flush there is a rubber flapper that acts as a drain stop inside the tank that opens to empty the water from the tank into the bowl to flush. Back in the tank, as the water level lowers there is a float fill valve that rises and lowers with the water level. When the water level lowers, the float drops to open the fill valve that refills the tank with water from the refill tube for the next time you flush. Once the water reaches the maximum “float level”, the water will stop filling as the valve closes.

There are a few other things to know:

  • Depending on how old your toilet is, your float fill valve may look a little different. Some are plastic with a balloon-like float, some have a float cup, and some are even brass.
  • The flush handle is connected to the flapper with a chain the quickly raises the flapper to send water to the bowl, then lowers it.
  • A shutoff valve controls the flow of water from the supply line into the tank.
  • A tank o-ring seal connects the tank to the bowl and helps prevent leaks.
  • A wax seal on the bottom of the toilet bowl and a floor flange connects the bowl to the floor and waste line.
  • An overflow tube inside the tank on the flush valve drains water in excess of the fill line if necessary to keep the tank from overflowing.
  • The toilet trap is in the base of the toilet where the waste and water curves as it flows through while being flushed.

Common Toilet Problems


Before you get started, there are a couple of things to address

  • You may need to turn off the water to the entire toilet before you begin to avoid a mess. To do this, turn the angle stop valve or the shutoff valve (usually on the wall behind the toilet) to the right. Flushing the toilet afterwards will help to empty the toilet, but there will still be some water that will need to be mopped up with a towel.
  • For bigger issues, it is a good idea to bring some towels and buckets to help drain and mop up any overflowing water. Be sure to wear gloves if you are dealing with wastewater.
  • While toilets are sturdy, overtightening nuts and bolts could crack the porcelain. So, make sure they are tight enough to prevent a wobbly seat but don’t over-tighten.
  • Porcelain is heavy and will break if dropped, so remove the tank lid carefully and set it firmly on the ground.

Next, ask yourself some basic questions about what you are dealing with

Is the toilet not flushing well?

If the water isn’t exiting the bowl fully and the water level in the bowl rises after you flush, you may just have a clog and a simple toilet plunger will help. If that doesn’t work, you may need an auger which is like a drain snake that goes deeper into the toilet trap.

If your toilet is having issues flushing because of the handle, take off the lid of the tank and tighten the nut on the flush handle or check to make sure there isn’t an issue with the arm to the chain. If that doesn’t work, check the chain tension, and ensure there isn’t too much slack. Adjust or replace accordingly for a proper fit between the lever, arm, and chain. If that still doesn’t work, the water level in your toilet might need to be adjusted.

Is the toilet running constantly or is it noisy?

One of the biggest culprits for a noisy toilet is a leaky flapper seal that stops the water from flowing into the bowl after it is done flushing. If there is a leak, the water will continue to trickle into the bowl decreasing the water level which causes the toilet to keep refilling. Sometimes the flapper just gets worn out and it is an easy replacement. Just be sure to empty the tank and turn off the water before this repair.

If the flapper seems sound, check that there isn’t too much tension on the chain that is keeping the flapper from going all the way down. If this doesn’t work, check the fill valve. Sometimes the fill valve may need to be cleaned or just simply replaced.

Is the toilet leaking?

Toilet leaks can be a more serious problem or can become worse if left too long.

  • First things first. Check the supply line. Sometimes tightening the valve slightly will solve the issue but check that there is no damage along the line up to where it meets the tank. If there is some damage, it may need to be replaced.
  • Another solution might be to tighten the bolts around the base of the tank and/or the bowl.
  • If the leak is around the base of the bowl, there could be a crack in the wax seal and should be replaced.
  • You could also have a crack or leak with the tank to bowl gasket.
  • However, if the fixes do not work you could have a crack in the bowl or tank itself which will require you to replace the toilet.

Is the toilet loose?

Check the bolts. Both the toilet seat and the base of the toilet have bolts that could become loose overtime and simply tightening them could solve the problem. If the base continues to rock, you will need to stabilize the toilet. As long as there isn’t any leaking (see above), remove the old caulk around the base, insert toilet shims, and apply new caulk.

McCoy's Has Everything to Keep Your Bathroom in Tip-Top Shape


Whether you are preparing for company or just need to do some bathroom maintenance, McCoy’s is here to provide quality plumbing products and friendly advice. We even have toilet tank repair kits that come with most everything you need to fix your toilet (your wrench is sold separately). Want a bathroom upgrade? We can help with that, too, with faucets, shower heads, and more!