A leaking toilet pipe is among the most annoying things you can have given the complexity of finding the source of the leak and fixing the same. It’s because the source of the leak can range from an overflowing cistern to a broken toilet bowl. Luckily, this guide removes the mystery out of this issue for easy DIY solutions.
The causes of a leaking toilet include broken seals and gaskets, water condensation, cracks in the toilet seat and cistern, loose pipes, and even a poorly fixed toilet seat. The fix to the leaks is resealing the loose seals, fixing the dysfunctional parts, and replacing the toilet valves, pipes, and parts that are out of order.
Unlike the popular opinion, fixing a toilet isn’t that hard especially with the right directions and tools. Toilets are simple fixtures that don’t really need an expert to mend. However, complex issues will require expertise to handle properly.
Causes of Toilet Leaks
The first signs of a leaking toilet is water on the floor besides the toilet seat. It’s tough seeing the source of this water right away. For each source of the leak, there are tests you can carry out to confirm it.
The likely causes of water on the floor of your toilet include the following:
1. Leaking Shutoff Valve
The shutoff valve is located on the wall behind the toilet seat and controls the flow of the water to the cistern holding water for flushing. These valves are either of the compression or ball types.
Given that most valves go for ages without ever being shut off and on again, their parts especially the washers tend to be compromised leading to leaks or breakages.
2. Flanges That are Too Low
Flanges (closet flanges) are circular pipe fittings that connect the toilet to the floor of your house and the sewer. Toilets are usually bolted unto the flange rather than on the floor.
If the flange is too low into the floor, it’ll leave a space between it and the toilet. This will let out water hence the leak.
A small gap (as little as ¼ of an inch) is enough to let the water out of the piping system and unto the floor.
You can only check for the state of the flange by unscrewing the toilet from its base and pulling it up. If the screws have rust or can’t come off, simply cut them off as new ones don’t cost much.
3. Broken Flange
If your assessment of the flange shows that it’s at the right level with the floor, pry out the flange and check its structure for broken sections. If you find any, then you’ll need a new flange.
Any broken parts will let water escape from the right seal to the area around it.
4. Dysfunctional Wax Ring
The wax ring is located between the toilet and the flanges and provides a water-tight seal for the toilet. The wax used is petroleum-based and thus allows for a waterproof seal for your toilet.
The issue with the wax ring is that it may not be properly fitted to provide the needed seal. This will lead to a leak. Also, the wax may become brittle and hard with time leading to a poorly working seal below the toilet. This also leads to a toilet leak.
5. Rot around the Flange
When there’s rot around the flange of your toilet, the water will keep leaking out and causing more damage. In the first place, a rot shows that there’s water leaking out of the toilet fixtures.
6. Condensation on the Toilet Tank (Cistern)
At times, it may not even be an issue with leaks on the toilet structure as such. Rather, it may a simple case of water condensing on the outside of the toilet tank. After a while, the water starts dripping unto to the floor giving the false impression of a leak.
The condensation occurs as a result of the temperature differences between the water inside the cistern and the air outside. Often, the inside of the cistern is cold while the outside is warm and at room temperature. This leads to water droplets forming on the outside of the cistern.
The phenomenon is common in the summer and at night but can occur at any time of the year and the day.
7. Dysfunctional Fill Valve Shank Gasket
The fill valve allows water into the water cistern of the toilet. On it is the shank gasket that’s fixed to it and is often faulty due to a poor fixing or being old and dysfunctional. It can also be loose and thus allows water to leak out.
8. Cracks on the Toilet Tank
Whether your toilet has porcelain or plastic cistern, it can develop cracks from being hit or age. If this occurs, water will sip out of it and unto the floor.
9. Cracks on the Toilet Seat
Toilet seats are made of tough porcelain or enamel materials that are meant to last a lifetime. However, accidental knocks may crack them leading to leaks.
10. A Leak Between the Toilet Bowl and the Cistern
Other times, the cause of the leak and water on the floor of your toilet could be the connection between the toilet tank and the bowl. This can be due to faulty fittings such as the tank-to-bowl bolts or the tank-to-bow sponge gasket.
Any or a combination of these cases can lead to leaks and water on the floor. The best approach to finding out the exact source of the water is to start from the upper parts of the toilet such as the cistern all the way down to the flanges. Wipe each part dry then check back after a few minutes.
How to Fix Toilet Leaks
The solution to the causes identified above includes the following approaches:
1. Fix the Leaking Shutoff Valve
The shutoff valve leak can be fixed with the methods below. Always start every repair routine by shutting off the water supply. In this case, you’ll need to shut off the water supply from the main tank.
- With your pliers, tighten the packing nut of the shutoff valve. You can do this by turning it 1/8th of a turn in the clockwise direction. Given that these fixtures come with shiny finishes, you can wrap the pliers with a piece of clothing to preserve them. Let the water flow from the main tank and check for the leak again.
- If the first fix above doesn’t stop the leak, you can disassemble the whole valve and find the dysfunctional parts. The most likely culprits are the washers in the valve. With time, they become rigid and brittle and fail to provide a water-tight seal. Simply get new washers from the local hardware. If any other parts need replacement, replace them.
If a lot of parts in the valve aren’t in proper working conditions, simply buy a new valve.
2. Add an Extender Ring Above the Flange
When the flange is too low, the solution is adding an extender ring above it. This means that the toilet will rest on the extender ring and not directly unto the flanger. The screws you use will thus be longer than the original ones used for the lower flange.
Most extender rings will be screwed directly unto the flange before the toilet is screwed through aligned holes in the extender and the flange.
3. Replace a Broken Flange
Flanges rarely break unless from staying in place too long or being weakened by a rocking (unstable) toilet. If yours is broken, simply buy another one from your local hardware and replace it.
Make sure you carry with you the broken one so that the hardware can find the right replacement. The bolt holes have to match and so should the size of the holes and the flange itself.
If you can’t find an exact replacement for the broken flange (and it’s still in one piece), you can instead opt for flange reinforcement rings. These are fitted on top of the broken flange to maintain its structure. They too need to be of the exact same type as the flange to allow proper fitting.
4. Fix or Replace the Wax Ring
If you check the wax ring (it’s located under the toilet when you remove it) and observe that the wax ring is in good condition but poorly positioned, it only means that it needs to be properly positioned to prevent leakages. The right position is with the domed end upwards and into the toilet horn (the part of the toilet directly over the opening on the floor).
The right wax ring condition is a soft, flexible and wiggly material.
If, however, you notice that the wax ring is brittle or generally inflexible, it needs to be replaced with a new one. Carry the sample to the hardware store and get a new one for replacement.
5. Add a Flange Support or Replace Part of the Floor
When you have some rot on the floor around the base of the toilet, you’ll need to check it’s the extent. Simply poke the floor with a screwdriver to check for softness. If the rot is only a few inches away from the flange, you can use flange supports to reinforce it.
If, however, the rot is extensive, you’ll need to replace the part of the floor and subfloor directly below the toilet.
6. Stop/Reduce Condensation
To stop large scale water condensation of water on the outside of the cistern, you’ll need to reduce the temperature differences between the inside and outside of the tank.
The two ways to do this are using:
- Anti-sweat toilet tank valves
These valves mix warm and cold water inside the tank to reduce the temperature difference.
- Toilet tank liners
These liners work by insulating the cold water inside the tank. It thus doesn’t have an effect on the warm air outside.
7. Fix or Replace the Shank Gasket
One way to fix the shank gasket is to remove the fill valve and return it the right way. You can also simply tighten it a bit then check how it behaves afterward.
If none of these solutions work, simply replace it.
8. Fix Toilet Tank Cracks or Replace the Tank
If cracks have developed on the cistern, you can either seal them up or replace the tank with a new one. It all depends on the size of the crack and the toilet tank material.
9. Replace the Toilet Seat
Unlike the cistern which can be repaired when it develops cracks, the seat of the toilet only needs to be replaced given the weight it carries with every use.
10. Fix or Replace the Tank-to-Bowl Bolts and Sponge Gaskets
If either of these fixtures is poorly fixed after an examination, refitting them can do the trick. However, if they’re broken or simply out of working condition, replacing them is the solution.
While the focus has been on the joints and other such areas of the toilet, there’s a chance that the source of the leak can be an old pipe having a leak right in the middle (between joints). For such a case, you’ll need to replace the pipe
With these solutions, you’ll have the toilet in proper working condition and without the leaks. For most leaks, it’s a matter of tightening a few bolts and valves to restore the parts’ integrity.