Troubleshooting Toilet Plumbing Problems

gloved hands fixing open toilet tank with plumbing wrench

Plumbing problems are stressful, especially when they're happening to your toilet. After all, the toilet may just be the most essential piece of plumbing in your entire house! There are a number of things that can go wrong with your toilet and it's always the wrong time for any of those things to happen. Here's how to handle the most common issues.

1. Clogs

Toilets get clogged. It's pretty stressful when the toilet starts to overflow, not to mention gross. There are a number of drain cleaners on the market that advertise the easy way to get rid of clogs. You just pour the solution into the drain and let it do the work for you. However, drain cleaners are not a good choice.

All plumbers will advise you against using chemical drain cleaners, for good reason. Drain cleaner can eat through clogs, yes, but they can also eat through your pipes. This can create leaks and holes that lead to major plumbing problems.

The most useful plumbing tool you can have on hand is a plunger. This is often enough to deal with toilet clogs, which are typically caused by too much paper. However, sometimes clogs are caused because of children's toys and other foreign objects getting flushed.

This can create extreme sewer problems if the object gets flushed out into the rest of the system, rather than staying in the toilet. If your plunger won't handle the clog in a toilet, you need to call a plumber. The plumber will have a special toilet snake that can get to the clog and pull it out or force it down the drain.

gloved hands plunging toilet

2. Running Toilet

If you hear your toilet running when it shouldn't be running, you have an extremely common plumbing problem. Your flapper is worn out, which happens all the time and is actually a very easy fix. The flapper is a rubber stopper inside your toilet tank. When you flush the toilet, the toilet handle is attached to a chain that lifts up the flapper in order to release the water from the tank when the water in the bowl is flushed.

When the flapper begins to wear out, the seal between the tank and the bowl becomes weaker and this allows water to leak from the tank into the bowl. That's why you hear the sound of the water running sometimes, or all the time.

toilet flapper ribber on chain

The flapper is one of the least expensive pieces on any toilet and it's very easy to find. You can purchase a flapper at any home improvement store. Shut off the water to your toilet using the shut-off valve located on the pipes. Remove the flapper from the tank ad take it with you when you buy a new flapper, so you can be sure you get the right size. Simply replace the old flapper with a new one and you have easily solved this plumbing problem.

3. Leaking Seal

It's also pretty common for a toilet to leak around the bottom of the fixture where it connects to the floor. This happens when the wax seal between the toilet and the floor has deteriorated. You may need a new wax seal to fix this problem. Unfortunately, this job usually requires a plumber, since the entire toilet must be pulled up off the floor. It's a simple job for a plumber who has all the right tools and equipment, but it's a highly involved process for any homeowner.

4. Mystery Water

toilet with mysterious water near base

Do you have little pools of water under the toilet tank? You may have worn-out washer bolts leaking on the bottom of the tank. The bolts simply need to be tightened. You may also see puddles of water under the toilet tank for another reason—condensation. You can get excessive condensation when your toilet tank is not well insulated. If you notice that your toilet tank is "sweating," you have a condensation problem. A plumber can install insulating liners to prevent condensation from forming.

5. Loose Toilet

Does your toilet rock back and forth or wiggle instead of staying solidly in place? Your toilet can feel a little loose or wobbly even when there is no leak present. However, if you allow this rocking or wiggling to continue, the wax seal will deteriorate.

This is actually a simple fix. Start by slipping shims beneath the toilet and then caulk around the bottom of the toilet. Tighten the bolts that secure the toilet t the floor but don't over-tighten. If you over-tighten, you may crack the toilet.