toilet flapper

One potentially irritating problem that typically occurs in older toilets is the flapper leak. This issue generally arises when the flapper has a few years on it, having undergone some erosion or rust due to the aging process. These substances can actually eat away at the flapper, compromising the seal between the rubber and the overflow valve.

So how do you know if you have a flapper leak? Generally, you don't know until you get a huge water bill for no obvious reason. If you want to investigate whether your flapper is indeed the source of the high bills, there is a simple test you can conduct.
  1. First, you will need to obtain either some food coloring (dark colors work best) or a dye that is made for the purpose of diagnosing leaks in any water appliance, water dispensers, toilets, etc. If you opt for the dye, it can be purchased at most large home improvement stores (ACE, Menards, Home Depot, etc.).
  2. Whichever substance you choose, the process from here on out is the same. As with most toilet repairs, you will first need remove the cover from the tank.
  3. Once the cover is removed, flush the toilet and pour the dye into the bottom of the tank. If you see the dye in the toilet bowl, then you most likely have a flapper leak.
Once you have confirmed that you are dealing with a flapper leak and not something else, the steps to replacing the flapper are as follows:
  1. Start by removing the old flapper, disconnecting it from both anchor points as well as removing the chain which connects the flapper to the flush arm.
  2. Next, attach the new flapper to the anchor points. If the new flapper does not fit, then you can purchase an adapter at one of the stores I listed above in order to make it fit.
  3. Reattach the chain to the flush arm, taking up most of the slack so that it doesn't take very much force on the handle to flush the toilet. You may need to test the flush and adjust the chain a few times, removing links if you need to in order to take up more slack.
Hopefully the above information will save you the time, money, and annoyance involved in trying to contact and hire a plumber. While a good plumber is worth his or her weight in gold, they can be expensive and tough to schedule.

Photo used under a Creative Commons License, courtesy of schweb.