How to Fix a Running Toilet

Check inside the toilet tank for a leaky flapper, bad fill valve, or overflow pipe at the wrong height.

Fixing a running toilet is a lot easier than you might think. In this article, we'll show you how to identify and solve the problem. Don't be intimidated by the plumbing. The fixes are straightforward, even if you don't have any plumbing experience. So stop wasting water and fix the toilet!

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

TIME

Instant!

COMPLEXITY

Simple

COST

Under $20

Stop a running toilet

The mysteries of a running toilet can drive you nuts. Whether you hear water running constantly or cycling on and off, we’ll help you decipher the clues so you can stop most leaks. Hardware stores and home centers carry the parts for almost every repair. One cause of a running toilet is a flapper that doesn't seal. If water from the tank seeps around the flapper and into the bowl, the flapper is probably shot. Test for a leaky flapper as shown in Photo 1.

To replace the flapper, first shut off the water supply valve under the toilet (or the main supply if the valve leaks!). Flush the toilet to drain out most of the water, and unhook the old flapper. Buy a new flapper of the same type and install it according to the instructions on the package. Hook the flapper chain onto the flush lever arm so there’s a little slack when the flapper is closed.

If the flapper doesn’t leak and the water still runs, inspect the fill tube connected to the overflow pipe (Photo 1).The end should be above the water line. If the end is under water, cut it back. Next, inspect the fill valve for visible signs of wear and test the float (Photo 2). If the float is improperly adjusted, the tank water level can rise above the overflow pipe and drain into it. Replace the old fill valve if it doesn’t completely shut off or it hampers the float-arm operation (Photo 3).

Install a new “floatcup”-style fill valve as shown in Photos 4 and 5. Adjust the float according to the package instructions to establish the proper water level. Finish the installation by attaching the flapper chain to the flush lever as described above. Turn on If the end is under water, cut it back. Next, inspect the fill valve for visible signs of wear and test the float (Photo 2). If the float is improperly adjusted, the tank water level can rise above the  overflow pipe and drain into it. Replace the old fill valve if it doesn’t completely shut off or it hampers the float-arm operation (Photo 3).

Install a new “floatcup”-style fill valve as shown in Photos 4 and 5. Adjust the float according to the package instructions to establish the proper water level. Finish the installation by attaching the flapper chain to the flush lever as described above. Turn on the water and test flush the toilet.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Hacksaw
  • Pliers

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Depending on your fix, you may need a new fill valve