3 Different Types of Toilet Flappers Explained

A rubber toilet flapper with an attached chain.

There are many reasons to want to know about the different types of toilet flappers. Whether you are installing a new toilet or making changes to an existing one to make it more efficient or powerful, understanding the mechanisms and how they work will help you evaluate your options. This is especially true if you are replacing your existing toilet flapper. Regardless of your reason, the following should help you understand the differences between the various types.

1. Seat Disk

Seat disk toilet flappers are the oldest variety of toilet flappers. This particular variety of flapper has a small circular disk that covers the overflow pipe, preventing water from traveling through it. Below this is a plastic tube, which is attached to the overflow tube by a hinge. When the toilet is flushed, the entire mechanism tips and the flapper exposes the overflow pipe. Seat disk toilet flappers can also be either snap-on or threaded.

Seat disk toilet flappers use a reservoir full of water as a weight to hold the flapper open when you flush. However, being in this position causes the water in the reservoir to drain out, and as a result the flapper will close after a certain amount of time.

This particular type of toilet flapper has a few down sides. It is relatively large, taking up a disproportionate amount of space in your toilet tank. This can make it difficult to repair and gives you fewer options when modifying your toilet. Additionally, the cap can become damaged easily.

2. Tank Ball

Tank ball toilet flappers are exactly what the name suggests. In a toilet with a tank ball flapper, a rubber ball sits on top of the overflow pipe. When the toilet is flushed, the mechanism pulls the chain attached to the rubber ball and lifts it straight up, moving it off of the overflow pipe and allowing water to pass through.

Tank ball toilet flappers are acceptable, but are vulnerable to many problems. If the chain holding the ball is not the perfect length, it will either fail to lift the ball, or prevent the ball from returning to its place, causing the toilet to not seal properly and wasting a great deal of water to drainage.

3. Rubber

Rubber flappers are the most common type of toilet flapper in recently made toilets. They are a simple cap that is attached directly to the overflow pipe. When toilets with this kind of flapper are flushed, the mechanism pulls a chain attached to the flapper, lifting it. After the flushing completes, the chain allows the cap to drop back into place.

Rubber flappers may actually be made from plastic, only using an outer edge made of rubber to seal tightly against the overflow pipe.

These kinds of flapper are the most common for a reason. They are relatively simple, with few moving parts and few possibilities for failure. This makes them quite reliable. Rubber flappers do come with one down side, however. If the chain is not the perfect length, the flapper will not function correctly, just like with the tank ball variety.