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Fix It Friday: How to Stop a Running Toilet

There are few sounds at home more grating than the constant whir of a running toilet. It’s a noisy reminder that something in your home needs to be fixed.  Although, if there’s one thing even more annoying than the sounds of your running toilet, it’s the sight of the resulting water bill.

Don’t let a running toilet take over your home when you can fix it with only a couple of tools and a few bucks (if necessary).

What Causes a Toilet to Run?

A toilet runs when its tank isn’t filling properly. Here are four common reasons why that might be happening, and some ways that you can remedy the problem.

Bad Flapper

running toilet

The most common cause of a running toilet can be attributed to the condition of the flapper. The flapper is a rubber valve at the bottom of the tank, which keeps the water in the tank. Normally, when the toilet is flushed, the flapper chains lifts the flapper from the hole, thereby draining the water. As the water drains the flapper should settle back into place.

If the flapper is the cause of your running toilet, it’s because something is preventing it from fitting tightly into the hole at the bottom of the tank. This means that the tank is constantly draining and refilling, causing it to “run”.

Inspect the flapper for warping or damage. Over time, the rubber can become hard and brittle, a condition that prevents it from properly sealing the hole in the tank.

It’s also possible that your toilet’s flapper may have become jammed or misaligned. If the jam or misalignment cannot be corrected, or if the flapper is damaged, you can easily (and inexpensively) acquire a replacement from your local home improvement store.

Faulty Fill Valve

running toilet

Another common culprit in the case of running toilets is a faulty fill valve. If not working properly, the fill valve can cause your toilet to continuously try to refill itself. If the fill valve is at fault, some homeowners may want to bring in a professional to remedy the problem. However, if you’re more inclined to DIY, it can certainly be done.

A new fill valve can be acquired from your local home improvement store to replace the faulty valve.

With the water turned off access the toilet tank and locate the fill valve.  Since removing your fill valve can result in water leakage, you’ll want to flush the toilet and set a bucket under your work space before you begin.

With the tank drained, you should be able to see a nut at the base of the valve assembly. Unscrew it and remove the whole component. Then, install the new valve.


Incorrect Float Position

running toilet

Adjusting your float is probably one of the easiest fixes for a running toilet. You’ll first need to determine what kind of float your toilet has. Older toilets will likely have a ball float. If this is what you have, simply lower its height by turning a screw at the base of the float arm. You should also check the float for any cracks or the presence of water.

Newer toilets have a float cup attached to the top of the fill valve. If this is what you have, you’ll be able to lower its position via screws located at the top of the fill valve.

Ill-Fitting Flapper Chain

Sometimes, the flapper chain is the reason for a constantly running toilet. This is the metal chain that attaches your toilet lever to the flapper. If the chain is too long, it won’t open the flapper wide enough to complete the flush. If your chain is too short or if it’s tangled up it can prevent the flapper from properly closing. This allows water to leak into the bowl.

The fix is simply a matter of adjusting the chain so that there’s just a small bit of slack when the flapper is closed.

While there are other reasons that a toilet isn’t filling properly, these are among the most common.

No time or simply not in the mood to DIY? Browse the listing here on to connect with a plumber in your local area.


running toilet

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