Toi-La, A DIY Toilet Repair

November 06, 2012   //  Posted in: Bathroom, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  10 responses

Toi-la… that’s kind of like, twa-la. A ballerina twirl. A fancy curtsy with enthusiastic jazz hands. Toilet repairs are usually a little daunting, at least in my experience, but repairing my toilet’s filled valve was easy-peasy, and you should know how to work it too.

We can’t put our finger on it, but something combusted within our toilet’s fill valve when I turned the water to the house off during kitchen sink removal. It was only off for about two hours, and sure, maybe the break was well-timed with the other project but completely unrelated, but we think that the water pressure change between turning the water on and off was enough to damage the toilet. You know when you turn the water off and then when you turn it on again it spurt-spurt-spurts from every faucet? Right, that’s probably what happened, but inside the old, weak valve.

All things considered, this repair was an inexpensive one. I knew immediately that something was wrong with the toilet when the fill valve didn’t trigger the water to stop coming into the tank. There are several things that can break in your toilet that would contribute to it running for any extended amount of time, but we were pretty sure that it had to do with the fill valve because when we manually lifted the broken valve (whether you already have a valve similar to ours or one of those big floating ballcocks in your tank – yes, get the snarking out of the way now) the water didn’t stop flowing in immediately. A healthy trigger would stop waterflow when prompted.

Fill valves don’t often live as long as people (even the universal model by Fluidmaster that we bought for $9 at Home Depot only has a 5-year warranty), so the chances of you needing to repair this in your home are probably significant. Here’s how it’s done.

1. Adjust to being totally not grossed out being in your toilet’s tank up to your forearms. Come’on, you’re not 6 anymore, and the water is clean.

2. Buy a fill valve. Right on.

When the time comes to replace the fill valve in your toilet, be happy: it's inexpensive.

3. Turn off the water to your toilet, and then flush, flush, flush until as much of the water is removed from the tank as possible. Use a big sponge or rag to absorb whatever water remains, and wring it right into your bathtub. Mine had about 1″ left in the tank, and it took about 35 seconds to clear out.

4. Unscrew the plumbing to your toilet. This water line goes straight into your fill tank. First disconnect the water line, and then unscrew the locknut that holds the fill tank in place.

Unscrew the water line after the water is turned off and tank is drained.

5. Lift out the broken fill tank. Straight out.

6. Take the new fill tank out of the packaging and lay it side by side with the old one. This is helpful from a height-marking standpoint; the new fill tank will need to be adjusted to fit the height of your existing plumbing, and the easiest way for me to do this was by matching the length to the existing one. If you’re still confused or you are replacing other important parts of your toilet (like the overflow pipe), there are instructions inside the packaging that will be much more help to you than this post. My replacement was simple.

Match the old fill tank height to the new fill tank height.

7. Lock that height adjustment into place. 

Lock the height of the fill valve into place.

8. Stick the new valve into place in the tank. Tighten it into place from underneath by hand, but do not overtighten. You’ll threaten breaking the tank itself, and that’s a much more extensive DIY repair. Side note: My worst nightmare is breaking the toilet tank by over-tightening during a simple repair.

Reattach the fill valve to the toilet.

9. Configure the black overflow hose to the overflow drain. My kit came with that little white clip to hold it in place. Keep a hand on the valve inside the tank so that it doesn’t swivel around in there while you’re working. Also push down gently on the base of the valve to ensure a really tight point of contact.

Configure the overflow hose.

10. Reattach the water supply to the valve. I wrapped the threads with PTFE tape and hand-tightened the connection.

Reattach the water supply to the toilet tank.

11. Turn the water on. All the way. Watch every dry connection for leaks, drips, and any sign of moisture outside of the tank where the water hookup is located. If it’s leaking, chances are that it just needs a quarter-turn to tighten it a bit more. Check it about 5 more times to be sure your toilet is reassembled wholly.

12. Watch the tank fill. It should now stop filling just below the overflow drain, and if your fill valve was adjusted to size precisely, you should see that the water fills to exactly the same point that it had before. Flush it and watch it again. And flush it and watch it again. Feel all around the plumbing for any moisture and leaks, and if it’s dry, consider yourself done. That’s the toi-la moment.

The toi-la moment where a girl learns how to replace a fill valve.

Now that you’ve seen the inner workings of a very, very private part of my home, any questions?

  • jb @BuildingMoxie
    5 years ago - Reply

    “A fancy curtsy with enthusiastic jazz hands. …”

    I had to do one of these recently and was just looking at the pics the other day. but here I am scooped! well done. E. thanks for sharing.

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Haha, show yours too! Different toilets have different stories. In as least-gross a way as possible.

  • Katharine
    5 years ago - Reply

    I wish my repair was this simple. The bolts are so tight on our old toilet that we can’t budge them. Any suggestions?

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      You might be able to get it if you have someone holding the inside of the tank while someone else wrenches on it. You’ve tried loosening the nut with a wrench or a Channel Lock?

  • Cait @ Hernando House
    5 years ago - Reply

    Nicely done! So glad that fixed the issue!

    We recently had to replace the toilet in our hall bath after a new flapper failed to solve the issue we were having. The bolts holding that sucker to the floor had to be cut with a reciprocating saw. Not pleasant. Fortunately we had a brand new toilet sitting in the warehouse formerly known as our guest room. The new toilet does sort of make me want to do a fancy curtsy with enthusiastic jazz hands, too!

    Once we finish up the shower valve replacement in the hall bath I have a feeling we’re going to pause briefly on our way back to the guest bathroom in order to figure out what the heck is going on in the laundry room. I suspect it was something like the issue with your toilet valve (or really well-timed). Problem is? We can’t tell where the water that squishes up when you step near the washer is coming from. The big freezer (which is actually on the other side of the room)? The water heater? The washer itself? Leaking in from outside?

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      5 years ago -

      Sorry about the short-novel of a comment. Can I claim I was taking part in NaNoWriMo?

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Ha! Funny. I wish I knew more about plumbing. Are you saying that water is squishing up from the floor?!

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      5 years ago -

      Yeah, I suppose could have been more clear. (But I haven’t finished my coffee yet!) It seems like the water is squishing up from the floor, but I’m not sure it’s possible considering that room is on slab as far as I know. Maybe it’s residual moisture in the seams of the cheap linoleum from a puddle we didn’t notice? I guess we’ll start clearing the room out and trying to decide by process of elimination? That’s one way to work on the laundry room, right? Haha

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Ugh, what a pain. Keep us updated!

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      5 years ago -

      Will do! (Though possibly through Twitter.)

Leave a Comment