A friend asks about their toilet and they say it does operate but the flow of water when flushing is not as much as they want. They also make note that if they hold the handle down while its flushing they end up with better results. They are looking for a better flush and don’t seem to have major problems. So, what can we do to help them?
Toilets are pretty simple devices and for most people although they are a mystery because the don’t normally look under the lid they are easy to adjust and fix without the need of a plumber.
In our friends case they can get the toilet to flush a good amount of water if they hold the handle down. This points to two possible things that might be a problem.
Checking Your Toilet Flush Valve
The Toilet Flush Valve is the large flapper at the bottom of your top tank that keeps water in your tank. When you flush the toilet the flapper is pulled away from the pipe that sends water into your toilet bowl and as the water drains the flap is pulled back into place to seal the tank so it can refill with water.
The first thing you should do is open the lid to your tank and flush the toilet and watch the flapper work. Some flappers have a small amount of air in the rubber flapper to help keep it floating and if the rubber deteriorates and the air is replaced with water the flap will be heavy and sink back down onto the valve pipe.
The other problem you might have is that the toilet is actually designed to operate this way. If someone is urinating vs defecating then less water is needed to remove the waste from the bowl. If the flap can be shut early then you reduce your use of water and holding the handle down would improve the flush when necessary.
If the toilet is not designed to work like this or the flush valve flap has water where air should be you can purchase just the flapper at a store but often at that point you should just go ahead and rebuild the entire toilet. It will work better and you will be happier.
Adjusting The Level Of Water In Your Toilet Tank
Telling you how to do this without seeing your specific toilet is somewhat difficult because manufacturers have a variety of parts to make their toilets work in different ways so they can say they have the best method. Back in the 1960’s 70’s all toilets were about the same but today you can have a variety of methods to make your adjustments.
First look for your overflow pipe. Its a open pipe about a foot long sitting in the middle of your toilet tank. The water should come to about an inch below the top of that pipe and if you ever had an overflow situation water would flow into that pipe and through your toilet so you didn’t end up with a flood.
For many people that have a bulb on a rod you can adjust the bulb to adjust the height of the water in the tank. Other people without the bulb and rod design have a ballcock or water valve that has a float built into it. To adjust this type of float you have a variety of methods but it often means twisting the ballcock tube about 45 degrees and extending or lowering it on its notches. You need to know before you try or you might really damage something.
If the water is about an inch from the top of the tube just let things be. Another half inch of water in your tank is not going to be meaningful to the quality of your flush or its volume.
Repairing or completely rebuilding your toilet is something most home owners can do with only a couple hand tools. You might need a screw driver and wide mouth pliers and maybe a hack saw to cut a piece of pipe. The cost is really low for most brands that can take a universal rebuild kit. Expect to pay about $20 more or less. If you need to buy manufacturer’s parts the price can be much more expensive so often a total rebuild kit is better if you find you need a special part because you will be replacing everything and starting fresh with parts that are cheap.
Doing the work yourself is best if you live in a home with more than one toilet. If you have problems you can shut off the water and use the other toilet even if you have to walk down stairs and at least thats better than having to drive to the gas station at 3am.
Remember never pay more for parts than it would cost to replace everything. And in some cases that might even mean replacing an entire toilet for $160 is cheaper than some manufacturer’s specialty parts.