How to Fix a Leaky Toilet

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Written by Eric

Last Updated: 11/12/2020

How to Fix a Leaky Toilet

If you have dealt with a leaky toilet, you definitely know how annoying it can be. Wet and messy toilet floor all the time is not a pleasant sight. The good thing though is that some of the causes of a leaky toilet are easy to diagnose and fix. Luckily, this guide will help you through identifying the cause (s) of the leak and how to fix each.

Leaking Toilet Base

How to identify the cause of a leaking toilet base

You won’t tell where the water at the base of your toilet is coming from by just looking from a distance. You will need to dry the standing water first then take a closer look and see if you can locate where the buildup is coming from. You can also flush the toilet several times.

Possible Causes of a leaky toilet base and how to fix them

  • Wrongly positioned toilet

Sometimes everything about the toilet will be perfect, except the positioning on the floor. An un-leveled toilet will potentially break the wax seal while also placing too much pressure on the tee bolts, thus loosening them. This is a good place to start checking because you don’t want to buy and replace what you suspect might be the cause only to catch the real cause when too much damage has already happened.

  • Loose Tee Bolts

You will find the tee bolts at the base of the toilet. For them to cause a leak, they will either be faulty or loose. What happens is that they break the internal wax seal of your toilet thus causing leaks.

The good news though is that fixing toilet’s loose tee bolts is easy. You just need to remove their plastic covers, then using a box-end wrench, tighten each. Now, to avoid a repeat of the same problem, make sure to identify what’s making the bolts loosen or just commit yourself to be tightening them after some time.

  • Broken wax ring

As noted above, this is as a result of faulty or loose tee bolts, and the only solution is to replace it.

Replacing a toilet’s broken wax seal

Mostly, if there are no advanced damages, your toilet will stop leaking once you have tightened the tee bolts. However, if the wax ring is damaged already, the only way to fix the problem is by replacing it. This is simple to do, and it won’t take too much time.

  • The first step is to remove the toilet from your floor.

This might seem like too much work but it’s really not, and you can always involve a professional if you doubt your skills. Remember to cut the water supply to the toilet to avoid more mess then flush to drain any water the bowl and the toilet tank.

  • Put the toilet aside

Toilets are quite heavy, and you might find it too difficult to lift by yourself so having someone to help you might be a good idea. Again, when placing it down, do it gently to avoid damaging it.

  • Inspect the tee bolts

Once the toilet is out of the way, inspect the condition of the tee bolts. You will need to replace any corroded or rusty tee bolts to avoid a recurrence of the problem.

  • Removing the broken wax ring

This is easy. Just scrap it away, including any build up grimy residue.

  • Installing a new wax ring

This too is quite straightforward. Have the wax ring on the flange then slide the tee bolts in the keys that are on the side and you will be all done.

  • Re-installing the toilet

Get the toilet and align its holes with the tee bolts then set it down. To create a perfect watertight seal, press it down with your body weight then secure it without over tightening the tee bolts. Lastly, reconnect your water line and test to see if there are any leaks.

Fixing a leak from the shutoff valve

Fixing your own toilet valves can reduce costs that you’d incur employing a plumber. It is necessary to equip yourself with a 4-in-1 screwdriver and a slip joint pliers to begin the project to save time and frustrations. The shutoff valves in a toilet can go for years without being turned off and on again. This lack of inactivity causes neoprene, and the washers become crusted out by the mineral water deposit that goes through it and therefore they will eventually lose the ability to be sealed out of leaks.

  • The fixing process

To maintain the smooth running of water in and out through the valves firstly tighten the packing nut on a one eight turned clockwise to make sure all the leaks are sealed around the nut.

In most situations, after the toilet supply valves are shut off when replacing the tank plumbing parts, you may find that the shutoff valves may leak through the packing nuts whenever the valve is opened again.

To prevent this happening every time, you are advised to tighten the packing nuts. Cloths or masking tapes are preferably used to wrap around the plier’s jaw that helps in the protection of the nut finish. While wrapping, gently apply steady pressure so that the water lines are not completely damaged.

  • What if the leaking persists?

When the leaks persist before the whole valve is replaced, turn off the water at the main house turnoff. After that, disassemble the entire problematic valve without disconnecting the valve from the water supply line or the other line that’s leading to the toilet. Open the packing nuts, the handle, and the threaded valve stem. Consider cleaning up the washers with a clean cloth and try to flex the neoprene to make it supply once more.

NOTE: The shutoff valve should not be gummed up; avoid using a plastic tape or a pipe dope on the valves stem thread.

After this successful application, reassemble the shutoff valve and turn on the main house valve back to check on any other leaks. If the valve leak persists then turn off the main water supply shutoff valve, disconnect the valve and replace it again.

Fixing a Leaking Toilet Flapper

If you feel that’s your toilet is refilling too often, or there is a steady hiss sound of running water then definitely the flapper may be leaking. When the flappers wear out then water trickles out. It is then recommended to fix the flappers.

  • How to go about it:

Remove the old flap and try to fix it. Begin by closing the valve that directs water to the toilet by turning it clockwise. Flush water out of the toilet while holding the flapper to drain from the tank, then use a sponge to clean up the remaining water. Inspect the rubber in the debris surface. Also, wipe the slime from the underside.

Check on the chain and cut on the excess because it might be interfering with the seating of the flapper. The chain should not be too straight because it might lift the flapper from the seat. Maintain on the ¼ to ½ slack in the chain. If the rubber is warped then consider replacing it. Turn on the water and begin your test by flushing water.


Fixing a leak from the toilet handle

Two reasons can make water to leak from the handle; when the water level is too high or the handle is damaged.

  • Adjusting the water level

The water level can be adjusted by the following ways; remove the toilet tank lid and identify the float valve whether it’s a ball type or an integrated assembly that is usually fitted around the valve. Make an adjustment on the integrated assembly by turning its screw clockwise at the lower side.

Alternatively, if it is caused by ball float, bend it down the rod that’s connecting the floating ball to fill the valve. Gently flush the toilet and observe the water levels as it fills again and makes any further adjustments if needed until you notice the water level has gone below the handle.

  • Fixing a damaged toilet handle to stop the leak

The damaged handle can also be replaced to avoid water leak. Shut off the water valve that directs water to the toilet and drain all water from the toilet tank. Remove the covering lid from the toilet tank. Check on the chain that is at the end of the flush handle and unhook it. Unscrew all the wing nuts that hold the tank level. Hold the handle with one hand while the other handle is reaching inside the tank to loosen the screws on anticlockwise then pull off the screws of the handle rod. Pull off the handle out of the tank and thread the handle rod all through the hole.

Lastly, unscrew the washer and the nut to prevent leaks. Insert the new handle stem on the side of the tank into the hole in the tank and the gasket assembly into the tank. Reconnect the whole chain from the flush valve to the handle Thread in reverse the washer as it slides over the handle stem and screw the nuts into place. Lift the lever to push its end down through the hole at the stem of the handle. Tighten the wing nuts to hold the toilet lever in place. Open the turnoff water valve to flush water into the toilet to check on leaks.

Toilet tank leaking into the toilet bowl

Your toilet tank might be leaking into the bowl and this might be hard to suspect because the water won’t be causing any mess but it’s easy to find out.

  • Test to help you determine if your toilet tank is leaking into your toilet bowl:

Put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet’s water-holding tank and do not use the toilet for the next few hours. If you go back to check and find your toilet bowl has the same water coloring as the toilet tank, then for sure there is a leak, and you need to identify the cause to fix the problem.

Possible causes of toilet tank leaking into the toilet bowl

  • Toilet-flapper malfunction

If the rubber flap that’s at the bottom of your holding tank is worn or malfunctions, it won’t close as tightly, and that’s when the water starts to refill into your holding tank.

To fix the problem, take off the holding tank’s lid and flush the toilet as you hold the flapper. Next, create a seal by drying it off and applying a generous amount of petroleum jelly on the rubber, where it connects with the tank opening. If the leak problem persists after this, just buy a new toilet flapper and replace the faulty one.

  • Cracked holding tank

Cracked holding tank might leak into your toilet bowl, and the only solution here is to replace it as soon as possible to avoid flooding the house.

  • Loose toilet tank-to-bowl assembly

This is another common cause of toilet tank leak into the toilet bowl. To fix it, tighten the nuts, but not too much because the porcelain tank cracks easily.

Why should you avoid using a leaky toilet?

Dirty water = potential health hazards and unpleasant odors

Just like you’d expect from any dirty and stagnant water, standing water in your toilet poses many health hazards combined with unpleasant odors. Now, you don’t want to risk your health or peace of mind each time you visit the toilet because of some easy to fix leaking causes.

Damaged floor

Stagnant water on your toilet floor will damage both the flooring and the subflooring. To avoid extra and avoidable costs of repairing or replacing your floors, fix a leaky toilet as soon as you notice any standing water at the base.

Leaky toilet on the second story

Things get even worse if your leaky toilet is upstairs because if left unfixed for a long time it will not only damage the floor there but also the first-floor ceiling.

Messy floors

Standing water in your toilet will not only cause a messy floor in the toilet but also around the house once someone steps on it. The view itself is not pleasant, and you cannot afford to be on standby to dry every drop that touches the base.


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