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Question DetailsAsked on 4/26/2017

Will your toilet tank empty when you shut off the toilet water valve?

When we intentionally shut off the water valve to our toilet the tank empties on us. My husband believes that this implies there is a leak somewhere. Is this correct? When the toilet water valve is on there are not any sounds or evidence of a water leak.

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1 Answer


Leak yes - but if not showing up on the floor or on the ceiling below, is probably just a leaking outlet flapper or float - or possibly a leaking seal between the tank and the toilet base or at the base of the overflow tube with some models, which will still go down into the toilet bowl in almost all cases so you usually only get water on the floor if the tank mounting bolts are leaking or you have an actual crack in the toilet leaking.

Look for any minor rippling around the edges of the water in the bottom of the toilet bowl, indicating water is flowing from the tank to the bowl - if you can't see if as a minor ripple at the edges of the water in the bowl is probably not a significant issue unless you have a water shortage or high metered water cost.

Commonly a small leak like that can be solved by looking for an overly tight linkage connection or a kinked chain to the outlet valve (the about 3-4 inch flapper or vertical moveable tube which the toilet lever raises to flush. Many times you can solve minor leakage like that by wiping the mating surfaces where the flapper/flush tube and the matching surface on the fitting in the bottom of the tank touch - bits of slime or dirt can cause a minor leak there.

You can detect even very small leaks by putting some food coloring in the tank and look for it showing up in the bowl over the next couple of hours - commonly does NOT work overnight because the chlorine in the water bleaches out the food coloring over that long a timeframe.

If you have a minor leak and have free and adequate water, many people let it go until you get "ghost flushing" - when you hear the toilet tank refilling at wide intervals without having been flulshed, or until they can hear the toilet constantly "running" However, if in a high water cost area (measured with meter), then a constantly audible and/or noticeable (in bowl) "running" toilet can use 100,000 gallons (135 ccf - hundred cubic feet, if your bill is measured that way) or more per month, and a slow, barely or non-visible leak can run up to as much as about 5,000-10,000 gallons per month - about 7-15 ccf per month. In some high cost areas water runs as high as $3-5/ccf and for large or "penalty" volume-users over $11/ccf. So a "slow" running toilet in those cases can cost $20-165/mo, and a single clearly audible and visibly "running" toilet can cost as much as $400-1500/month at those rates ! Plus possible drought condition special assessments or penalties in a few areas, so if you pay for your water based on meter reading even a slightly running toilet can be a significant concern.

Look at your water bill (taking into account any seasonal watering variations) for major changes from month to month.

The flapper or flush mechanism is usually pretty easy to fix by yourself if needed - most vertical tower type flush valves have an easily replaceable press-on gasket or seal, and most flappers are easily replaced with kits from FluidMaster (my favorite brand because the kits are more universal) or Plumbshop. Simple replacing the flush tower or flapper almost always only requires turning off the water, flushing to mostly empty the tank, splashing or sponging out the rest of the water in the tank to basically empty condition, then replacing the offending part.

If leaking at the base of the overflow tube or tank drain hole (which is normally also the base of the flush valve assembly), that is more of a job - requires dismounting the tank and replacing either the flush valve assembly gasket, or perhaps the tank-to-bowl gasket. For most homeowners that is a plumber or handyman job - not that it is too tough to do, just needs a bit of experience once to learn how tight to tighten the nuts and bolts and such, and many people are afraid of dropping the tank and breaking it, or overtightening the tank mounting bolts and breaking the tank or the toilet base, which can happen if you reef on them.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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