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If you have ever experienced a broken toilet flush, it probably wasn’t in the most convenient of circumstances. Needless to say, there are plenty of reasons to want to fix your toilet flusher immediately, and likely quite a few extra reasons why you would want to take preemptive action to make sure the problem never crops up in the first place.
Toilets are remarkably simple contraptions that, nevertheless, are best left to professionals for a variety of reasons (more on that below), but when they do stop flushing, it is only natural to want to know why even if you can’t do anything about it yourself.
The problem is, as simple as the mechanisms in your toilet are, there are still quite a lot of areas where something can go wrong, which can make identifying the cause of the problem a little tricky, and very infuriating. Especially if you have no experience with this kind of thing.
On top of that frustration, there is often an “icky” factor about going near the mechanisms that power your toilet. Even the most thoroughly cleaned and disinfected toilet is still… well, a toilet. It’s not glamorous and most of us have little desire to go poking around in there.
There are, of course, warning signs to look out for; things that might give you a heads up that your flusher is on its way out. If you notice your flush is getting weaker, for instance, it probably won’t fix itself, and will most likely get worse. Similarly, if you notice water on the floor near your toilet. Even if the leak isn’t affecting the flush, you should get it looked at immediately. Another red flag is any unusual noises coming from the toilet when flushing or when it is filling up after a flush.
Before we get into the 6 most likely reasons why your toilet bowl won’t flush, we thought it would be useful to familiarize ourselves with what we are dealing with. Few people put much thought into how their toilet works, let alone what might cause problems in the future.
Your toilet is, of course, one of the most important fixtures in your home for hygiene reasons. Some of the biggest outbreaks of disease in modern times can be traced back to insufficient sanitation, and having a way to quickly and cleanly dispose of your waste is essential, especially in densely populated areas like cities and large suburbs.
In addition to the very serious health concerns that your toilet prevents from being an issue, there is also the matter of general comfort in your home, something that can be disturbed by the kind of unpleasant odors that a toilet mitigates if not removes entirely.
So there is little doubt that the toilet is important, but how does it work?
We’ll save some of the detail below, but the basic premise is simple enough. Your toilet stores water somewhere above your toilet bowl. For regular toilets, this aspect is crucial. When you flush the toilet, a flap is opened inside of that storage tank—also known as a cistern—and gravity does the rest, forcing the water down through the open flap and into the bowl. From there, the water forces the contents of the bowl down through the waste pipe and into the sewer system (or septic tank). As the system relies on gravity to do the work, having an insufficient amount of water in the cistern can result in the flush being inadequate.
The waste pipe also incorporates an air trap that will usually take the form of an S trap, P trap, or something similar These are essentially pipes that follow the basic shape of the letter they are named for. This is another simple mechanism that traps some water in the pipe, cutting off the upper section (where you are) from the lower section (where the sewers are) and thus, keeping the unpleasant smells in the waste pipes.
So, your toilet bowl isn’t flushing. We’ve pulled together the six most common reasons that this can happen. For the most part, you’ll likely still need to call in an expert, but it should help give you a little peace of mind if you have a good idea of what is going on.
The most obvious cause of a lack of flush—and the easiest one to diagnose if for those of us who are not trained—is a problem with your water across the whole property. If the water feeding your home is cut off for some reason, that will prevent your toilet from refilling its cistern after a flush.
The reasons for your water being off could be because someone has accidentally closed the master valve, or because work is being carried out nearby and the water has had to be turned off on your street. Whatever the cause, diagnosing this problem is simple enough. If the water is off throughout your property, it will be off for your toilet as well.
From the point of view of your toilet (if it had a point of view) this problem would be indistinguishable from your water being cut off. The inlet pipes going into your toilet carry water into the cistern. If they become blocked, it cuts the water feed to your toilet, preventing it from refilling after a flush.
Unfortunately, identifying this problem tricky. Unlike with the cut-off water above, there are no external factors to check. Your only symptom will be an empty cistern (which can be caused by other things, unfortunately). The good news is that you can manually fill the cistern up with a bucket or other container while you wait for an expert to come and put things right.
The flushing mechanism is the most complicated part of the toilet. This is the part that contains mechanisms for detecting the level of the water, letting water in through the inlet pipes, and opening the flap to let water out. Naturally, if this stops working, you won’t be able to flush.
Another problem with this is that it can manifest in different ways. Your cistern could be full but not flushing, or empty and not refilling. There are other faults that can develop that don’t affect your ability to flush, such as a constant trickle of water being released into the bowl even when the toilet is not being flushed.
A faulty handle is straight forward. Your flushing mechanism (specifically the flapper) is attached to the handle, and when you pull, twist, or push the handle, it activates the mechanism. If your handle becomes detached or otherwise broken, it will not work.
Often times this will just require a new handle, in some cases the existing handle can just be re-attached.
The flapper is the specific part of the flushing mechanism that keeps water from pouring into the toilet bowl (and allows it to pour in when you flush). It is essentially a sealed plug that sits at a low point of the cistern and opens up when it is flushed.
If it becomes jammed or clogged, it will not open, and water will not be able to get out. On the other hand, if the seal becomes broken or perished, the flapper becomes jammed open, the water will continually pour out into the bowl, and may escape too fast for the cistern to fill up.
A low water level can happen as the result of some of the above problems, but also as a result of a faulty flotation device. The exact method differs from the flushing mechanism to the flushing mechanism, but the basic premise is something buoyant that is forced upwards when the water fills up. If this mechanism becomes jammed near the top, the system will never refill because, as far as it is concerned, the water level is topped off.
Similarly, it can be adjusted incorrectly or bent, causing the system to behave as though it is full when it is far from it. As a general rule, the water in a full cistern should come to around an inch below the top, though there is usually a mark inside to indicate the proper water level.
Though the average toilet is remarkably simple in its design, there are many areas where well-meaning yet poor repair work can result in situations that are even worse than the problem you started with. And, given the potential health risks—not to mention property damage in the case of leaking water—it is best to leave it to someone who knows what they are doing, such as the vetted and qualified experts that can be hired through MyTrustedExpert.com.
In most cases, broken toilet flush repairs can be completed quickly and with minimal disruption to your life. That being said, more involved repairs may be necessary if you are experiencing water leaking, largely because your water will need turning off to carry out the repair.
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