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Given that there are so many manufacturers of toilets, it's a surprise that most toilets use the same parts on the inside. Of course there are many toilets that do not. From experience, about 70-80% of toilets fall into the common category.

For this reason, we will start with the most common toilet parts first. In the future, we will try to get to some of the more "common" out of the ordinary toilets too.

Let's start by opening the lid on a regular toilet. Here's what we'll see....

  • 1. Fill valve. Many different versions are now available(see below)
  • 2. Toilet handle(left-handed thread makes this nut screw on backward)
  • 3. Bowl fill tube. When the fill valve is filling the tank, this small tube is filling the bowl.
  • 4. Tower. The tower assembly is attached with a large nut on the underneath side of the tank.
  • 5. Flapper. This is the most common replacement part. Also, probably the reason(if) you hear the fill valve randomly filling.

The first step for most fixes is to shut the water off. There should be a valve below the toilet. It should work, but sometimes it gets stuck and is hard to move. Other times the handle will turn and stop, but the water won't shut off completely. If there is any question about the valve, don't touch it. Shut the water off somewhere else or call a professional.

The flapper is one of the simplest fixes(normally). Unhook the chain from the handle, then pull the flapper ears off of the studs on the tower. The studs aren't very strong so be careful with them. Put the new flapper ears onto the studs, then reconnect the chain. The chain needs to have a bit of slack in it, but if it has too much, the flapper won't open all the way, leading to the popular phrase "oh, you have to hold the handle down on that toilet".

The next most common problem is with the fill valve. There are times when just replacing a seal inside the fill valve will fix the problem, but if it's reasonably old, it's best to replace the whole part. When the fill valve is replaced, the entire tank needs to be dry. A sponge can be used to dry it out.

The fill valve to the right is made by BrassCraft. This is a newer replacement version. There are many replacement fill valves on the market. Most have gotten away from the ball/rod float style like in the tank picture.

The float is adjustable as well as the height of the entire body. It comes with a fill tube and most of the time they come with some form of clip to attach the loose end of the tube to the tower. The bottom nut is the fill valve retaining nut. The top nut is a supply nut, which is not used with a flex supply. The round rubber piece is actually two seals. It needs to be broken apart into two. The inner "cone" can be used in a flex supply, but often a new supply or the old seal is used. The outer seal is for the fill valve. It goes on the fill valve before it is installed in the tank, tapered side down.

It is fairly rare to have to replace a complete tower. It is also a job probably best left for a plumber. It requires replacement of the tank-bowl bolts and gasket as well. There are some possible problems you can encounter, and you're working with porcelain which can easily break.

This standard tower(left) uses a large nut underneath the tank, with the rubber seal on top. The flapper is included.

The picture to the left is the tank-bowl set up. The gasket gets slipped over the bottom of the tower. There are quite a few different sizes too. Normally, the bolts have one rubber washer in the tank, and then just a metal washer and nut under the bowl. Tightening the nut will seal the tank as well as tighten the tank to the bowl.

The bolt setup to the left is a professional replacement. This uses two rubber seals and two nuts. The order on the bolt is as follows: rubber washer, tank porcelain, rubber washer, metal washer, nut, bowl porcelain, metal washer, wing nut.

These kits work very well, but unfortunately, they don't always work in every situation. Tightening down the tank to the bowl can be quite tricky. You're working with two unsupported pieces of porcelain, but they also need to be tight. If assembled correctly, when the tank is set onto the bowl, it should be sitting loosely on all rubber. Then the sides need to be tightened down alternately little by little until the tank is level with the bowl, as far as you can safely go. Some toilets are designed for the tank to just contact the bowl for added support. Try this with one that isn't and you'll surely break something.

It's better to have a leak than to overtighten. Finding the balance is key, but use caution with porcelain, which leads us to our last part of the toilet. Where it meets the floor.

Mounting the toilet. Mounting a toilet can be a relatively simple job, but something like a broken flange can make it much more dificult. Typically, a wax seal is used for the floor joint. These work as long as nothing shifts over time. Wax can break the seal fairly easily. Some professionals use a foam type seal. These seals are excellent, but require carrying and trying a few different sizes to find the best one. Most homeowners would not choose to go this route, and even many plumbers don't use them for the same reasons.

The bolts in the picture above slide into the slots in the flange. The flange on your floor may be rusty and dirty, but chances are that it looks like this flange. If you're using a wax ring, simply put it in place on the flange and set the toilet on it. Once the toilet is put down on a wax ring, it can't be pulled up even a little or the seal will be broken. Foam seals will flex and continue to seal even if things shift or settle.

The brass colored washers in the picture are for holding the bolts straight. They just push on. If you are using your bolt caps that come with a new toilet, the plastic washers should go down first. Next is the metal washers, then the nuts. If you are using a foam seal, then it's a bit more difficult. The toilet must be sitting completely on the foam, but can't be too far off of the floor that you can't tighten it to the floor. From experience this is about a gap of 1/4" to 1/2" between the toilet base and the floor when the toilet is set on the seal.

After everything is in place, the last step is to connect the water. See our compression section for details, click here

Free Online Plumber does not warrant any of the information on this page, in regards to the accuracy or effectiveness of these procedures or this information. Always check and follow all applicable local plumbing codes.
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