That Troublesome Toilet: Tips For Finding Toilet Leaks

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One of the most challenging things to troubleshoot with a toilet is finding the origin of a leak. If you can tell the toilet's leaking but don't know where it's coming from, there are a few things that you can do to help identify it. Here's a look at what you should know to spot a leak before you call a plumber.

Tips For Spotting Leak Sources

Food coloring can help you make a leak evident. By adding color to the water, it becomes easier to see where it's seeping out of the toilet. Put a few drops of food coloring into the water until it's tinted well, then watch around the toilet for signs of those colors seeping out. Then, you can trace the color back to the leak origin.

Turning off the water can help you see where water levels are dropping. Turn the shutoff valve to stop the water flow. Mark the current water level in the toilet with a pencil or a grease pencil. Check it after a few minutes to see if it's dropped. Mark it again at the new level. Keep watching until the water level stops dropping. The water will stop dropping once it hits the origin of the leak. For example, if the flapper is leaking, the water level will stop dropping when it falls just below the flapper.

Checking the nuts and gaskets can pinpoint exterior leaks. If there's a loose nut that's allowing water to seep, you can stop the leak by tightening it. If there's a gasket deteriorating, you should see marks from the gasket on your fingers when you run a finger across it. For example, black gaskets will leave black residue on your finger when they deteriorate.

Tips For Dealing With Leaks

If the leak is in the shank washer, which is the washer at the base of the flush assembly, try tightening the lock nut on the fill valve. If that doesn't help, you'll need to replace the shank washer itself.

Any leaks around bolts can usually be fixed by tightening the offending bolt. If that doesn't fix it, you may need to add a new washer to the bolt assembly or replace the bolt entirely if it's stripped. If there's any movement in the toilet tank, make sure you tighten the tank bolts as well. The tank shouldn't be able to rock.

Problems with the flush valve gasket are sometimes harder to spot. The food coloring trick will help you see if water is seeping from the tank into the bowl, which would indicate that the flush valve gasket is worn. If you see this happening, replace that gasket right away.

If these tips don't help you find the origin of the leak, you'll want to talk with a plumber. He or she can help you troubleshoot the issue.

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