Answers to Questions About Toilet Repair

A toilet against a green wall.

Q. My toilet bubbles when flushed. The vents are clear, and "Bubba" who plumbed house has no clue. If you hold the flush lever down slightly when flushing and let a little water drain, it does not bubble. I tried lowering the water level in the tank, which helped some, but there's no more room to adjust it and I'm afraid any lower level may keep the toilet from flushing properly. What can I do to fix this?

A. It sounds like a partial clog. Keep the water level in the tank at the inside horizontal indentation where it's supposed to be. Have "Bubba" snake the drain line from that bathroom to the main.

Q. I laid tile over a cement sub floor so now the toilet flange sits lower than the top of the tile. How do I bring up the flange so it is level with the tile? I am assuming it has to be even with the top of the tile for the toilet to sit right. Is there a way to put a new flange in?

A. They make an extended wax ring for just what you need. You can also double up regular wax rings. To add even more to your choices, you can buy flange spacers. Generally, the extended size wax rings are enough to do the job. You could replace the flange but that would be a fair amount of extra work with no real benefits.

Q. My toilet double flushes. I've replaced the flapper twice but it still happens. Any ideas how to fix this?

A. If the toilet you replaced the flapper in is a low volume flush style and you installed a standard toilet style flapper in it, then yes you will get a double flush every time. Resolve this by lowering the water level in the tank or buy a 1.6 gallon flush flapper.

Q. We have one toilet (closest to the septic) that will not flush and gets backed up every time we get a heavy rain. The other two toilets work fine. The tub and sink in that bathroom seem to drain fine as well. We don't think it is the septic because we have tried running the water all over and we never get a backup in the tub, and just running the water for a long time does not cause the toilet to back up. Why does this happen?

A. You may have a partial clog of leaves or something in the stack on the roof above this bathroom, and when there is a heavy rain, it compacts the leaves and clogs the vent. It makes a seal that will not allow the large volume of water from a toilet to drain.

Smaller fixtures, such as the sink and tub, don't fill the drain line so there is no vacuum pulled. You can look down the vent from the roof with a flashlight. If there is a blockage, try to get most of it out and then flush it with a garden hose. When it dries out, it's OK. This scenario would only apply if the other bathrooms were on another stack. Normally, when a septic system backs up, it backs up into the lowest drain (tub) also, and not just a toilet only.

Q. I am trying to install a toilet on concrete basement floor. My question is, how do you attach the toilet to the floor? On my upstairs toilet there are studs coming out of the floor.

A. The toilet doesn't directly attach to the floor. It attaches to a toilet flange, which itself is attached to the floor. This flange is shaped like a wide ring, with various slots and holes around it, and the middle fits into or sometimes around the drainpipe. The type of drainpipe you have will determine the flange to use. The flange top will be 1/4" about higher than the floor, and needs to be well supported by the floor, not the pipe.

Ideally, you'd use a brass flange bedded in mortar because it's rock solid and lasts forever. More commonly, plastic flanges join to plastic pipe with solvent-cement. All flanges have slots like long keyholes, which the toilet bolts trap into — the toilet with wax seal is lowered over these bolts and then nuts draw it all together. In any case, the flange needs some kind of non-corroding screws (stainless) securing it to the floor.

Q. When flushed, my toilet starts to flush (water spins around) but doesn't empty. The tank itself empties and fills back up but the bowl doesn't. The water level in the bowl goes up and slowly backs down to the normal level but doesn't empty. Any ideas?

A. It sounds like a clog either in the trap of the toilet or the main drain after the toilet. You could try a Closet Auger to see if it is in the trap. These can be rented. If this doesn't work, you may have to remove the toilet and run a Plumbers auger through the main line.

You may want to try a drain cleaner called Drain Care. It is an enzyme drain cleaner that clings to the clog and "eats" it, unlike caustic drain cleaners that just go by the clog and down the drain. Depending on what the clog is, it may take more than one application. Put it in at night and let it work. It's about $8 at home centers, hardware stores, department stores, and even some grocery stores.

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