Home & Living

Ask a Plumber: Fixing a leaky toilet – it’s easier than you think

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No matter what kind of home you live in, at some point or other you’ll have to deal with a plumbing emergency.

Sometimes, with the help of a YouTube video, your basic toolbox, and a bit of common sense, you’ll be able to deal with the situation without calling a plumber.

On other occasions, attempting to solve the problem yourself runs the risk of flooding your property or damaging your kitchen or bathroom so badly you’ll never want to embark on another DIY project again in your life.

According to Adam Hines, the general manager at H&H Plumbing and Mechanical, you need to carefully weigh up the task at hand.

“The good thing about taking on your own repairs is that you can gain a level of confidence in completing the job yourself,” Mr Hines said.

“The risk is breaking something while the system is live, which would mean you end up needing to try to find an available plumber in a hurry.

“We do receive calls occasionally when a project has gone past a homeowner’s skill set. Most of the time, we find a wrong part has been purchased or the tools required are not available to the homeowner. We are happy to come in and complete the repair.”

Generally, your first step should be to shut down the water supply before attempting any repairs, which means it’s less likely to be critical if something breaks.

Mr Hines provided the following advice on some plumbing jobs we all face from time to time.


The good news – providing your brave enough – is that you can do this job yourself.

“We do recommend homeowners taking on toilet repairs,” Mr Hines said. “A good video on YouTube can guide a homeowner through a basic toilet repair.

“A pair of pliers and set of screwdrivers are the only tools needed. Most plumbing supply stores will walk you through the parts needed, if you bring a picture of the inside of the toilet tank or model number of the toilet.”

Here’s our step-by-step guide based on sources including The Home Depot and ServiceMaster Restore.

First, find the cause of the leak by removing the toilet tank lid and looking inside.

If water is constantly running into the tank and into the overflow tube, that probably means your fill valve needs adjusting or replacing.

If the water runs intermittently without going into the overflow, that probably means you need a new flapper.


STEP 1: Lift the float cup. If the water flow stops, the float cup probably just needs adjusting. If the fill valve has a long spline running down the side, turn the screw anticlockwise so that the float cup lowers, and so does the water level. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you’ll need to replace the fill valve.

STEP 2: Shut off the water supply at the stop valve behind the toilet.

STEP 3: Flush the tank to remove most of the water and soak up the rest with a sponge.

STEP 4: Place a bowl under the valve to catch any water that spills out.

STEP 5: Loosen the nut at the bottom of the tank by turning it anticlockwise, using your pliers if necessary. Remove the fill tube from the overflow and take the entire fill valve out of the tank.

STEP 6: Place a rubber washer on the bottom of the new fill valve. The cone of the washer should be facing down. Put the new fill valve into the hole in the tank and secure it with the retaining nut – turning clockwise with the pliers.

STEP 7: Place the nut back, tightening it by hand.

STEP 8: Attach the fill valve tube to the special holder, which is over the top of the overflow tube.

STEP 9: Turn the water back on at the stop valve.

STEP 10: Finally, replace the toilet lid – job done!


STEP 1: Shut off the water supply at the stop valve behind the toilet.

STEP 2: Pull the flapper off the studs of the flush valve.

STEP 3: Remove the chain from the flush handle lever.

STEP 4: Install the new flapper in the place where the old one was.

STEP 5: Attach the chain to the flush handle lever.

STEP 6: Turn the water supply back on and flush the toilet to see if the leak is fixed. If the flapper isn’t seated perfectly, adjust the chain length.

STEP 7: Finally, replace the toilet lid – job done!

If the toilet base is leaking, the most likely solution is to tighten the anchor bolts. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace the wax ring around the flange. Do this by emptying the tank, shutting off the water supply and unbolting the toilet base so that you can put a new wax ring in place.


This is more likely to be a job for the professional.

Mr Hines said: “Leaking faucets and showers tend to be a more skilled repair level than toilets, hose bibs and minor PVC connections. “Unless you are an experienced handyman, this one is best for the professionals. We often see homeowners damage faucets trying to remove parts and attempt to install the wrong parts.”


To keep on top of this, you’ll probably need a combination of your own efforts and professionals.

Things you can do yourself, according to Mr Hines, are:

• Keep trees cut back from the roof.

• Aerate water in the tank by letting the freshwater hose cycle in the tank above the water level and adding small doses of bleach periodically.

• Visually inspect the tank water at least twice a year.

By law, Bermuda’s water tanks must be cleaned every six years. Mr Hines recommends hiring an expert for this.

“Water tanks are confined spaces. Without proper training, the use of bleach and any other chemicals in confined spaces can be very harmful to the persons in the tank.”

For more information, check out Bermuda Government’s guide on tank maintenance: www.gov.bm/file/safe-tank-water-guide

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