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Question DetailsAsked on 2/4/2018

Toilet bowl water level

I have a fairly new Eljen toilet (about a year). The bowl has never filled up completely no matter how much you adjust the ballcock (which is the new version of this set up.. no floater ball). Recently, the toilet has started gurgling at the completion of "fill". I can't get it to stop gurgling and I cannot, no matter what I do, get the bowl to fill completely. Is it possible the fill tube is too short (it's only about half the height of the tank), and that I just need a whole new flush system?

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3 Answers


Eljen makes toilets ? Thought they only made septic systems. I bet you mean Eljer - a common toilet brand, generally economy bathroom fixtures - a subsidiary of American Standard but, in my experience, with not as good a reputation as American Standard (my go-to brand of choice).

OK - since this is something new (the gurgling) it is not related to the configuration in the tank - which only controls fill rate and height (fill valve and its float) and emptying rate and duration (the flapper valve or lift-stack outlet tube).

The short overflow tube is there to make it a low-flush-volume toilet - likely 1.6 gallon, even though the tank may actually be able to hold 3-5 gallons. Technically all new toilets after - oh when was it, 1994 give or take - have to be low-volume (not more than 1.6 gallons per flush) - which makes for a double-flush being almost standard practice for most toilets. The original 2.5 gallon "eater saver" standard was barely workable, but then California got into the act and mandated 1.6 gallons without any proof toilets could actually be made to work well with that low volume, so that is where we is at.

Illegal to do this in some states, but there are extension kits (or use compression coupling with piece of same-sized plastic kitchen drain pipe) for the overflow tube to allow the tank to fill to the "full tank" fill line (about 1/2" below the flush handle hole usually), making it effectively a larger capacity tank - with many makes, 4.5-5 gallons. The federal EPA regs prohibit selling new toilets exceeding a 1.6 gallon flush - but they do not actually prohibit a user from putting in an older 5 gallon toilet (for which there is a hot used market), or converting their toilet to totally fill an oversized tank. (A few states like California make conversions/recycling old 5 gallon toilets illegal too).

If the inlet valve is not filling the tank to just below the top of the overflow tube, adjust the float mechanism on it so the water level comes to just below that level - that will make for a higher volume and more forceful flush. It will also prolong the refill flow duration, which goes by a small tube from the inlet valve to the top of the overflow tube and from there down to the bowl where it comes out holes under the rim to refill the bowl after the flush. (The tank bottom drain goes to the jet hole in the bottom front of the toilet, directed at the outlet hole). This will ensure the bowl refills to its normal level, which is to the bottom (weir) of the high point of the syphon (trapway in the image below) inside the toilet.

The water in the bowl (after the flush is done) will refill to the weir level as shown above, which is commonly 1-2 inches above the top of the outlet hole in the toilet bowl. This assumes the refill flow continues long enough to do that - if the inlet valve (ballcock) float is set too low, it will not run enough time to do that after the flush, and may actually cut off during the flush, resulting in gurgling at the end of the flush cycle.

Then, if when you flush, the tank is not basically emptying completely out, if you hold the handle down for a longer flush till that water drains out of the tank, that will increase your volume of flush water going to the bowl.

You say you cannot get it to fill the bowl completely - that it should never do. When flushing, unless partly clogging during the flush, the water level should not rise over about half height in the bowl and not to the level of the underside of the rim for certain. If you mean refilling after the flush (second paragraph back), it should not refill to more than just an inch or two above the outlet hole. If the water stands above the syphon/trapway weir level (syphon may be visible as a "gooseneck" bulge on the side of the toilet) then the syphon is partly blocked with solids or paper or paper or a washcloth or such is draped over the weir, raising its level. If the problem is a partial blockage or something permeable draped over the weir, then that higher water level will gradually drop back to normal over a number of minutes or even a couple of hours as the water in the bowl leaks out through it.

Here is a link to a blog with some comments on this type of Eljer issue -

On the gurgling at completion of fill - this could be because the refill is not running long enough after a flush, as discussed above - so the syphon effect at the end of flush drains the trap in the bottom of the toilet out partly, and the gurgling is it pulling air behind the water from the bowl outlet through the syphon. The refill tube should still be filling the bowl at this point and typically for about 5-10 seconds afterwards, to refill the trap (the low point in the outlet portion of the bowl) - which provides a water "seal" to keep sewer gases from coming up into the toilet. Serves the same purpose as the gooseneck P-trap or J-traps you see under basinis and sinks.

If you are getting visible air bubbles coming up through the outlet passage (as opposed to just a gurgling noise as air is pulled into the trp from the bowl), it could be you have a partial blockage downflow and that is causing the water backing up at the blockage to displace the air in the pipes, which is then coming back up into the toilet as bubbles - and usually pretty foul smelling. If the toilet is properly vented in the drain lines, that blockage would have to be between the toilet and the air vent connection near the branch line connection - within reach of a toilet "auger", which is a plumbers snake with a protective sleeve designed to use in toilets with damaging the bowl ceramic or enamel.

If the venting is not working or was not individually plumbed to each fixture, then the blockage could be further downflow - but if not backing up in other lower elevation drains on the same line (like tub/shower or floor drains) then the blockage is UPFLOW of the lower elevation drains and downstream of the toilet.

You could try dumping several buckets of full hot water (with a squirt of liquid dish soap in the first one to help lubricate things) from the tub down the toilet as fast as it will take it, holding the water level just under the bowl rim while pouring. If it initially takes full flow fine but then starts gurgling air into the bowl and the outflow slows, then the above partial blockage is likely your problem. If the water flushes down about as fast as you can pour, then the problem with the air is most likely incomplete refill from the refill tube and setting the float height for a more complete fill to near the top of the overflow tube should take care of it.

Professionally, of course, Plumbing would be the normal Search the List category for a well-rated and reviewed vendor to fix this. Some handymen are also pretty good at toilet flushing issues - but some are, some not, so unless you have a trusted go-to one you are safer going with a plumber, at typically $75-150 for a service charge, plus any needed parts (usually none).

Answered 9 months ago by LCD


LCD lThanks for your reply. And you may be right it might be an elder (bought from Menard's...should've known better) let me clarify "fill completely" what I mean is it barely fills over the outlet hole! This causes a CONSTANT dirty bowl, if you know what I mean.

As for actually empties on the first flush everytime but will not fill up anywhere past the outlet hole.

The gurgling started happening after adjusting the float in every direction possible and now will not stop. I'm ready to just chuck this toilet in the dump and go buy a real one 😂😂😂 Not from Menard's...ugghhh

Answered 9 months ago by LilPNutAng


Refer to the parts diagram in my previous answer for location of these parts - though instead of a ball float on an arm most inlet valves these days use a float cylinder which slides up and down the support column for the inlet valve, with a squeeze-to-move adjusting stop on a metal rod to control when the float shuts off the inlet valve.


Unless the weir level is too low (due to a manufacturing defect), adjusting the refill height so the refill tube puts water into the bowl longer should solve the incomplete bowl refill issue.

Pour water into the toilet and see how high the water level in the bowl stabilizes at - if it covers the outlet hole by an inch to three, AND if the toilet (with no waste) flushes smoothly and rapidly with a good whirlpool formation, (i.e. no slow flush, which would indicate a partial blockage downflow), then all is good there and you just need to get more refill water going into the bowl AFTER the flushing is done.

For clarification - the inlet valve starts refilling the tank and the bowl refill tube also starts flowing water into the overflow tube as soon as the toilet flush handlle is operated - so water is coming into the bowl from under the rim at the same time as the toilet is flushing, then continues flowing into the bowl until the inlet valve float shuts the inlet valve off because the tank is "full". The key to the bowl refilling adequately is enough refill tube water going into the overflow tube AFTER the flushing is done - the water that goes in during the flushing just goes down the drain. So a blockage downstream which is restricting the outflow, meaning it takes longer to complete the flushing, means the flush is overlapping the refill time too much and flushing away water which should be going to refilling the bowl. The refill tube needs to be flowing for a long enough time to refill the bowl adequately AFTER the flushing is done.

Set the inlet valve float setting so the water level in the tank, when the float rises and shuts off the inlet valve to stop refilling the tank, is for a fill level about 1/8-1/4" below the top of the overflow tube, but not closer than about 1/4-1/2" to the flush handle hole in the tank or water will wick/drain out there. This will provide maximum tank refill volume and as long a bowl refill flow as possible for that height of overflow tube.

Look at your overflow tube also - is there any sign someone cut it down to reduce the water volume in the full tank ? People sometimes do that in high water cost areas. It may be your tank refill cycle is too short, hence incomplete bowl refilling time.

When tank is refilling after a flush, check the flow through the bowl refill tube from the inlet valve to the overflow tube - if it is not a good full flow through the tube or the outlet is restricted, try pulling the tube off (occasionally has a hose clamp on it) and make sure it is not partly blocked by lime deposits or a burr on the inside or such, or a blockage in the barb (the piece sticking out of the fill valve which the tubing pushes over, like if the opening is not full diameter because of a plastic burr or sprue or such) - vinegar can dissolve any lime buildup. Also make sure that tube is discharging fully into the overflow tube, not flowing partly into the tank.

Once that is done, if the bowl is still not filling adequately, then your alternatives would be changing the inlet valve to another brand like Fluidmaster which might (or might not) put more water through that tube, jury rigging a larger diameter refill tube, or splicing a length of tube onto the overflow tube to raise it, then raise the float shutoff level so the tank takes longer to fill - which will make the refill tube flow a longer time too. (If you raise the overflow tube level, tacking another piece onto the top of the overflow tube to allow higher fill, make sure it is not so high that water can flow out handle hole or overtop tank in case the inlet valve sticks open, and joint has to be totally waterproof or the toilet will "run" constantly.)

Oh - and if someone put bricks or plastic bottle of sand of water or such into the tank to reduce the tank water volume, that will shorten the bowl refill flow time too, so remove them to get a longer bowl refill time and more water there.

Otherwise, if those do not work, then maybe a new toilet is the solution. I recommend the normal American Standard toilets for reasonable cost and excellent reliability, or for smaller overall toilet profile/massiveness, their Cadet series. Mansfield is another similar economy brand with pretty fair reliability, but the tank mounting bolt washers are short life and the hoels are rough - I replace with high quality black rubber washers inside AND outside during initial installation. Typically $120-250 for economy models - be sure to check if model you buy comes with wax ring (some do, some do not) and if you have the toilet sitting on thick flooring like tile, you may need to replace it with a thick wax ring anyway.

Good Luck

Answered 9 months ago by LCD

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