Leaking Toilet or Low Pressure

How to silence a running toilet

by Gene Gary, Copley News Service

Question:

I am plagued with the contstant "running" of one of my toilets. This isn't major enough to hamper the flushing of the toilet, but the slight murmur is annoying and its probably wasting water. A brief inspection of the water tank has revealed no problems. Rather than call a plumber, can you give me a list of things I should check? Any suggestions you have on correcting the problem would be appreciated.

Answer:

There are two major factors that cause a toilet to "run." Either the float valve inside the ball cock assembly isn't shutting off, or the tank ball (or flapper) is worn and not seating properly. To find the exact problem, first lift up the float ball to see if the water flow stops; you should be able to hear the change. If the flow stops, try bending the float arm down slightly so the water level will shut off the valve sooner and with more force. If this works, simply replace the toilet tank's lid. If the problem continues, turn off the water shut-off valve behind the tank, then flush the toilet and use a sponge to completely empty the tank. If the ball or flap-type valve at the tank bottom is worn or rough, remove it and take ti to a plumbing shop for an exact replacement. Also check to see if the valve seat is rough, scaled or corroded. If it is, dry it with a cloth and use emery paper to smooth it. With the new ball or flap installed, turn the water shut-off valve back on. If these remedies don't help, then the ball-cock assembly's washers or valve are probably worn or faulty. You can replace individual parts or the entire ball cock assembly. Many packages have full installation instructions.

Longs for Pressure

Question:

The water pressure in our house is miserable. The home itself is 15 years old, but we have only lived here about a year. During that period the pressure has always been poor. The showers barely function. Can anything be done to raise the water pressure?

Answer:

In older homes the clogging of pipes can be due to buildup of corrosion and scale. This is unlikely in a home of that age. The fault could be with your water supplier, or it could be an obstruction in the system (such as a foreign object in the piping). If there is a restriction, increasing the water pressure of the system could cause major damage.

Your first step is to check with the water supplier in your area and find out what the water pressure should be. Also, check with your neighbors to see if they are having water-pressure problems.

If your water supplier is not at fault and your neighbors do not share the problem, it's likely that your plumbing is the culprit.

You could have a kinked supply pipe or other restriction. Often you can find the location of a restriction by determining which fixtures have good flow and which ones don't. For example, if the only fixture that has low flow is the shower, the restriction is in the pipe supplying that fixture, or within the fixture itself.

Sometimes the flow-restrictors in newer faucets are the culprit. Unscrew the aerator at the end of the faucet and look for a small rubber or brass disk. Remove it and see if your problem disappears. Check further by removing the entire shower head, and then check the water flow. If there is no improvement, replacing the supply pipe is probably the cure. This can be a simple do-it-yourself project or a major job for a professional, depending on the location of the supply piping.

If your problem is not a local restriction, you have two options: Adjust the pressure regulator (if you have one) next to the water meter, to increase pressure; or you can install a booster pump. A half-horsepower pump will increase your pressure by about 20 pounds per square inch. If you are not an adept do-it-yourselfer with plumbing projects, it's probably best to call in a pro.

There can be problems, however. The pump may be pulling water from a line that already has low pressure. This situation creates a slight vacuum in the supply line. This means that previously minor leaks that meant only a tiny loss of water into the ground now become an entry for dirt, contamination and other undesirable substances into your water supply. If the supply line runs near a sewer line, the problems can be major. In some areas the installation of such a pump is illegal, so be sure and check with your local water supplier before proceeding.

In older homes that do have clogged pipes, corrosion and scale can be cleaned out with an acid formula introduced through the cold and hot water pipes.