“Did you ever go to a party, go in the bathroom, flush the toilet, and the water starts coming up? That is the most frightening moment in the life of a human being.” -Jerry Seinfeld

Almost no home repair strikes as much fear in the heart of a homeowner as does a plumbing project. Okay, well maybe electrical. But in all fairness, electricity is supremely dangerous. Plumbing, on the other hand, has lots of water involved which, all things being equal, is at its best when it is contained in one place. So the prospect of it going everywhere, unchecked, is terrifying. And when the water involved comes from the toilet…most of us are on the phone to the plumber within seconds.

But you know what? The big secret is that the toilet is not nearly as mysterious and complex as most people think. In fact, troubleshooting a toilet issue is actually pretty easy, since it is a very simple device that has not changed much in the past hundred years or so. The principles have remained the same. So, before calling the plumber, take a deep breath, screw up your courage, and give it a shot.


This is the most unpleasant of problems. Especially if, well…you know. But it is also the most straightforward of issues. You can use either a plunger or a snake to clear the clog. We have a few plunger models that differ in their method of clearing the clog. Some have shallow bases for shallower toilets. Others have a deep seal to apply as much pressure as possible. Still others use air as a missile to blast the clog out of the way. There are many styles, but they accomplish the same thing. Yes, it can be icky, but it is also an easy fix that a plumber will charge a premium to fix.


This one is the most annoying because, much like the dreaded smoke alarm low-battery beep, it usually occurs at three in the morning. But, again, it is easy enough to fix. That sound means that water is coming through the inlet valve and isn’t stopping as it should once the tank is filled. First, check the float. Is it stuck? Can you readjust it? Half the time, that’s the issue. Is the refill tube inserted too far in the overflow tube (the tube where the water disappears)? It should only be about a quarter-of-an-inch below the rim. If these two fixes don’t work, you will need to replace the ballcock assembly. You were about to stop reading right there, weren’t you? It’s easy to do this. Trust us. It is extremely low on the complexity scale for novices.


Have you ever been in the house alone and heard the toilet flush? That will give you a moment of pause, right? Don’t worry. That’s a common issue and an easy fix. If that happens, it is for one reason. You have a slow leak from the reservoir tank into the bowl and the only cause for that is a bad flapper or flapper seat. Turn off the water at the base of the toilet, flush to drain the tank, and then check the parts. If they’re worn, get a picture with your phone and come in for a replacement. It takes five minutes to fix.

Weak Flush

This one is not as common, but it happens. You flush, but the bowl empties slowly. If there is plenty of water in the reservoir tank, then the problem is clogged holes under the rim of the toilet bowl. You can clear these holes with a piece of wire or a coat hanger. It’s an easy fix, but it is kind of tough to get to, so you’ll need to use a small mirror to see under the rim.

If you have any questions once you identify an issue, take a few pictures with your cell phone and bring them in. We’ll help you diagnose the problem and come up with a solution. And, we’ll admit it, YouTube can be your friend when it comes to home-repair solutions. Once you tackle a toilet repair, you’ll be emboldened. Your toilet will never bully you again. As weird as that sounds.