Does your toilet tank start filling randomly when nobody has used the toilet for hours? Some homeowners refer to this as the phantom flush and start joking that they have a ghost in the house. However, a more logical explanation exists: something is wrong with your toilet.
Several different problems can cause a toilet to run intermittently. Below, you'll find advice for dealing with each one.
An Old, Warped Flapper
The flapper is the hard plastic or rubber component that sits over your toilet's flush valve. Once the toilet bowl is full, the flapper closes to prevent water from moving from the tank to the bowl. When someone flushes the toilet, the flapper lifts, allowing water to enter the toilet bowl.
Flappers are usually one of the first components of a toilet to wear out. They may warp or shrink, no longer forming a tight seal with the flush valve. Water slowly seeps from the toilet tank into the bowl. When the water in the tank gets below a certain level, the fill valve is triggered, and your toilet tank starts filling again.
Luckily, replacing the flapper is easy. Turn off the water supply to your toilet, and unhook the flapper. Take it with you to the hardware store, and buy a new one of the same style. Hook the new flapper into place, and restore water supply to the toilet. If your toilet stops running, you've solved the problem for only a few dollars.
A Faulty Fill Valve
If replacing your flapper does not work, your toilet may have a faulty fill valve. The fill valve is the stack of components that sense when the water level in the tank is low and bring more water into the tank in response. Usually, you can tell if your fill valve is faulty by looking to see if the float is submerged. If the plastic float ball is not floating on top of the water, your fill valve probably needs to be replaced.
Replacing a fill valve is a bit more involved than replacing the flapper. You may want to hire a plumber to tackle this task for you. However, if you are handy and in the mood for a DIY project, replacing the fill valve on your own is entirely possible.
Start by turning off the toilet's water supply. Disconnect the supply line, and remove the nut that holds the fill valve in place. Lift the old fill valve out of the toilet, and put the new one in place.
Adjust the fill valve's height, leaving an inch between the top of the valve and the overflow tube. Connect the valve shaft with the new fill valve, tighten the nut that holds the valve in place, and then connect the supply line. Attach the refill tube, turn the water on, and then adjust the water level using the adjustment clip on the new valve. You may find more detailed instructions and diagrams on the new fill valve package.
A Cracked Toilet
If you see drops of water on the floor around the toilet or you've noticed moisture seeping from the tank, you may have a cracked toilet. Cracks can occur anywhere in the tank or bowl. Sometimes, water may only leak out right after the toilet is flushed if the crack is at the top of the water level.
Although some toilet cracks can be repaired, you are usually best off having a cracked toilet replaced. Replacing your toilet will probably save you money on water in the long run, too. Older toilets use 3.5 gallons of water per flush — and sometimes more. New WaterSense toilets use only 1.28 gallons per flush, which should bring down your water bills considerably.
When your toilet starts running randomly, do not call the ghost hunters. Instead, contact the expert plumbers at Art Douglas Plumbing, Heating, & Air Conditioning. We'll figure out what's causing the problem and then replace your fill valve or entire toilet if necessary.