Did you know a toilet flapper and a toilet fill valve were two different pieces of equipment a toilet tank? I didn’t. Yours truly thought those were different ways of saying the same thing, like some people call a river a brook, some call it a creek, some call it a “crick”.
This diy home goddess learned how to replace the toilet flapper a couple of years ago. Check out the story here. It was fairly easy once you got the hang of it. I had done it a couple of times, since I have three floors and four bathrooms. I thought I knew it all. Boy was I wrong.
The Story of My Broken Toilet Fill Valve
A couple of months ago, (Easter morning, as a matter of fact) my roommate was making all kinds of noise in the bathroom. The toilet would not fill after he flushed. We had been hearing the occasional hissing noise for a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t looked into the cause of it yet. Bad diy home goddess! I really need to learn to look at things immediately!
He was taking water from the sink, and putting it into the bowl to flush the toilet. And then the toilet bowl would not fill again. He was cussing up a storm. He didn’t know what to do, and didn’t want to wake me up. I think maybe I was ignoring the noise for about fifteen minutes before I got out of bed to find out what was going on.
Yeah, it was quite early on Sunday morning, but I just knew it was a flapper that had gone bad. The toilet as only about 2 years old, but I learned a flapper will disintegrate anywhere between two and five years, depending on the usage, the brand, the water supply, etc. After all, I had been through this before, and a diy home goddess learns form her mistakes, from mentors, other people, and the Internet!
My daughter confiscated the other bathroom on the upper floor years ago, so I knew to get this fixed immediately so we could use of a bathroom on that floor.
The Trip, on Easter, to Home Depot
I still had the pictures of the toilet tank in my camera, and Home Depot was open, even though it was a holiday. Imagine going to Home Depot at 7AM on Easter morning! Been there, done that. So I headed out.
At the store, I was bombarded by salespeople looking for things to do. There were actually quite a few customers, but I figured only desperate people or professionals would be there then. I explained to the salesman the story and my diagnosis, and he advised me it was not a flapper problem, it was a fill valve problem. What the heck was a fill valve? Was this something I could do myself, or did I have to actually call a plumber for an emergency call?
He said I should be able to do it myself, no problem. He looked at my picture, and asked my about my toilet. I said it was a Toto brand, and he grabbed a fill valve that was compatible. The instructions were allegedly easy (found out later he was mistaken, especially when you are talking about someone who has never done it before), and it should take no more than about fifteen minutes to complete.
The Task of Changing the Toilet Fill Valve
First off, it didn’t take only fifteen minutes, it took about three hours. We had trouble loosening pieces to empty the tank completely, and the instructions were not as easy as I was lead to believe. It took both of us a lot of time, a lot of strength, and a couple of ah-ha moments to complete the task.
I looked at all my repair manuals, and they were not helpful in figuring out why we couldn’t get the water supply disconnected. I tried the internet, and it didn’t help either. It’s amazing how everyone who does this kind of stuff all the time thinks it is so easy, that a novice doesn’t have to have their hand held. Hog-wash!
Here are a couple of You Tube video links for you to check out.
, And here is the Fluidmaster website, where they create and sell the majority of toilet replacement parts.
Thank goodness for ah-ha moments, else I would pay premium dollars to call a plumber on Easter.
The Steps You Need to Accomplish This Easy Task
- Take off the tank lid for your viewing pleasure. Just kidding, but you really do need to see what is going on in the tank.
- Find the water shut off knob below the toilet tank and rotate it clockwise to turn it completely off.
- Really, you need to turn it off, else you might end up making enough of a mess you could be racing to the phone for a plumber.
- I’ve never been able to figure out lefty-loosey, righty-tighty rhyme visually. It’s easier for me to remember tighten clockwise and loosen counter clockwise.
- Flush the toilet as many times as needed. The tank water level needs to be as low as possible.
- Use paper towels (I am assuming you don’t have a shop-vac, even though I do) to mop as much water as possible from inside the tank.
- Disconnect the refill tube from the fill valve. That’s that black rubber thing that spurts out the water to fill the tank. More than likely it is just attached to a white pipe (the overflow pipe) in the toilet tank with a metal clip.
- You see that silver snake looking thing connecting the tank to the wall? That is the water supply. You need to remove that snake on the tank end.
- Place a small bucket, or a mixing bowl, or a tupperware container, anything, right underneath where the snake touches the tank. You will have some water drop out of the hole, that I can almost guarantee!
- Loosen that nut (it’s not that easy) to take the snake looking thing off. Again, righty-tighty & lefty-loosey, or tighten clockwise & loosen counterclockwise.
- HINT: You will probably not be on the floor loosening that nut, so you have to visualize it in reverse. I spent over an hour trying to loosen the darn thing, when I was tightening the nut the entire time! Boy I was so frustrated and mad when I figured that out!
- Remove the old fill valve. If you’ve disconnected everything correctly, you should be able to just pull it straight up.
- Put the new fill valve on in the reverse order.
- This is done according to the instructions that come with the fill valve. Each brand is different, of course.
- It’s very easy to do, once you understand what the instructions are saying. Here is where You Tube can come in handy.
- You are basically putting the new fill valve through the hole in the bottom of the toilet tank, and adjusting the height so the marking on the valve is slightly higher or lower (depending on your brand) than where the water in the supply hose will come out.
- There are a few minor tweaks, depending on the brand, but it is usually just talking about the height of things, and which way things face in the toilet tank. For Fluidmaster (the brand I use), the top of the valve is 3 inches higher than the overflow pipe.
- Reattach the refill tube to the overflow pipe. Make sure the tube is aiming inside the pipe, because if it isn’t you won’t have the correct flushing action, and a mess is sure to follow.
- Put the snake pipe (water pipe for your official verbiage) back on, hand tightening the nut.
- You don’t want to use any tools here, because then it is a B— to get back off when necessary.
- And it could crack and cause damage that needs a real plumber.
- Turn the water back on.
- Flush the toilet, and watch the water come back into the tank. You might need to adjust the float cup (at least on the Fluidmaster brand) a couple of times to fill the tank to the proper level.
- It shouldn’t happen, but don’t forget to check for leaks before you walk away.
And there you have it. Another minor plumbing repair that can save you a couple hundred dollars, if you are a true diy home goddess that has patience with a learning curve.