Common Problems with Toilets

Common Problems with Toilets


If you are having problems with your toilet not working properly, your toilet is clogged or you need to schedule a new installation, you can trust ACE HI PLUMBING, HEATING & AIR to help you get the job done right. We have trained and experienced technicians and 24-hour emergency service available. Call us today at 970-667-0300. We service the Northern Colorado area including Loveland, Fort Collins, Windsor, Greeley, Longmont, Milliken, Johnstown and Estes Park.

Flushing and Drain Problems

The first thing to consider when a toilet begins to flush poorly, slowly or not at all, the problem is often a clogged drain. This, no doubt could be the issue if there are other toilets or drains that are not working properly. If the other drains are working fine, a simple solution would be to ensure the water supply valve is open all the way, or you can check the problem by pouring in about a gallon of water. The drain is most likely clogged if it flushes poorly.

When flushing a toilet, clean water from the tank rushes down the flush valve to wash the bowl and provides enough water pressure to force any waste down the drain. If your toilet has a lazy flush but the drain seems to be clear, poor movement of water from tank to bowl is likely to be the problem.

Look inside the tank for a manufacturing date stamped in the clay. If a toilet was made between 1994 to mid-1997, this could very well be the problem and no matter what, it will not flush right. If the toilet was made before 1994, hard water deposits in the siphon jet hole or the angled bowl rim swirl holes may be the source. It is recommended that you do not try cleaning these yourself and should hire a trained professional.

Also, check to see if the water level inside the tank rises to within a 1/2 inch above the overflow tube, which is the hollow tube connected to the flush valve. If it does not, there may not be enough water to provide sufficient force for a full flushing action. In order to raise the water level, bend the float arm or manually adjust the refill valve and allow the water to raise to the right level. If someone as added water saving devices to the tank, remove the items to allow more water into the tank. If you are having to flush more than once, the water level may be too high. Lower the water level and look for any improvement.

If water is leaking from the tank to bowl, this could diminish the flow into the bowl when the toilet is being flushed. To determine whether or not this is the problem, you can use a pencil to mark the water level inside the tank, turn off the water supply valve located behind the toilet and check in a few hours to see if the water level is lower. A constant leak means the locknut is not tight enough, the rubber washer inside the tank has flashing (excessive rubber) or the porcelain surface inside the tank is uneven or has chips or cracks, therefore is not sealing. If the leaking occurs when flushing, the problem is the tank-to-bowl gasket.

Problems with the Roof Vent


An obstruction preventing air flow in the toilets roof vent could also lead to slow draining, however, this is not a likely cause. To inspect the vent, you must be okay with climbing onto your roof to remove anything that sits on top of the vent pipe. Also, use a flashlight to look down the vent to ensure there are no other obstructions exist. If there are obstructions beyond your reach, it is recommended that you contact a plumber for help.

Master baths are often distant from the rest of the plumbing in the house so it is common for them to have their own plumbing vents independent of the home’s other plumbing. If there is poor flushing performance and there are no obvious clogs or malfunctions, you may want to check the roof vent located above the bathroom.

Occasionally, plumbers forget to remove the temporary plug  that is used to pressure-test the lines after plumbing rough-in. If you can’t see the rubber cap clamped on the vent, climb on to the roof and inspect the vent. If you find an overlooked plug, break through the plastic with a screwdriver and pry out the pieces and the toilet should work just fine. If this is not the problem, you may have a defective toilet or an obstruction in the drain line. We recommend you get a hold of a plumber to help solve the problem.

If you flush the toilet and hear suction or gurgling noises coming from your tub or bath sink, this could also mean that the toilet vent pipe is clogged or partially clogged. You may want to check the rooftop vent pipe to see if this is the cause or you may want to call a plumber to help solve this problem.

Problems Concerning the Flapper Valve

If your toilet has a strong, but partial flush, the flapper valve may be waterlogged and dropping too fast. Observe the flapper valve during a flush. It should stay up until about 80% or more of the water has drained from the tank. If it drops sooner, you should replace the flapper.

If the toilet tank is filling with water as if it had been flushed, also known as a “phantom filler”, this could mean that the tank is leaking water. You can always use food coloring dye to determine if this is the case or check to make sure the flapper is sealing properly. If not, than in this case you will also need to replace the flapper.

While the tank is empty, test the flapper to be sure it hinges smoothly and moves up and down properly. Make sure the flush handle, when pressed, lifts the flapper all of the way open so that all of the tank’s water can rush into the bowl before the flapper drops back down onto the flush valve. With most toilets, the chain between the flapper and the trip lever should be relatively taut. If it is not, disconnect and shorten the chain. Just be sure that the chain is not so short that it doesn’t seal against the flush valve when closed.

You may also want to check the handle and trip lever to see if they wiggle or have too much play. If so, they might not allow the flapper to raise all of the way or cause the flapper to misalign with the flush valve and seal properly. If they are loose you can try tightening the nut or spud, or replacing the handle mechanism.

Problems with a Toilet’s Siphoning


Another thing to check is the toilet’s siphoning action. When a toilet is flushed, the water from the tank rushes to the bowl through passages around the bowl’s rim and through a chamber in the front of the bowl. Some of the water rinses the bowl through small holes along the underside of the rim. The movement of the water into the bowl creates pressure that forces the water out through the drain at the bottom of the toilet. A small hole near the bottom drain called the jet hole, provides necessary suction to completely empty the bowl.

So, in order to check the siphoning action, be sure the water supply is on and the tank is full. As you flush the toilet, use a mirror to watch the water cascade down around the inner rim to make sure it flows evenly through all of the rinse holes. If not, mineral deposits may be clogging some of the passages, which is most common with hard water. To clean this area if needed, you can use a scrub brush to scrub the bowl and rim. Also, after emptying the water in the bowl, you can use a bent metal hanger to clear the rinse holes, but be careful not to scratch the porcelain.

Dripping and Tank Filling Problems

If you hear dripping after the tank has filled, and then several minutes later the tank fills with water and the dripping starts again, this could also be a siphoning problem. This could very well be the cause of a tank fill valve. There is a small flexible tube that runs from the bottom of the valve to the top of the toilet overflow tube. As the tank fills, water is also sent through this tube and used to refill the toilet after a flush. If the tube drops down inside the overflow tube, it can, in some instances, siphon water from the tank. New toilet fill valves often have a clip that attaches to the top of the overflow tube and points the water flow down into the tube without actually having the tube enter the overflow tube.

Toilet tank fill valves that stay wide open until the tank is filled, has been around for over 20 years. Usually, if you hear a whistling while the tank fills, it is this older technology ball cock valve with a float on the end of a rod. As the ball floats higher, it begins to slowly close the water fill valve, causing vibrations and all sorts of noise.


If the tank is filling more slowly than usual, check to make sure that the shut off valve under the tank is open.

Bowl Water Level Drops

When flushing the toilet, after a period of time, a significant amount of water has left the bowl. Two things could be wrong. First, water could be slowly siphoned from the bowl by a partial clog of the toilet paper up in the colon of the bowl. To see if your toilet has a clog causing the drainage, empty the water from the bowl and use a flashlight and mirror to look up inside the colon of the toilet. In rare cases, the bowl may actually have a crack in the interior colon or piping of the bowl. This problem can only be solved by installing a new bowl.


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