Leaky Loos: Find and Fix Leaking Toilets

A 1993 study by the American Water Works Association found that up to 25 percent of toilets in U.S. homes leak, losing from a few gallons to more than 500 gallons of water per day. Until a toilet leak reaches a rate of about 100 gallons per day, it may not even be audible.

Why? The trouble is primarily because of worn or improperly fitted flapper valves. Other culprits may include improper toilet adjustment (if the toilet tank level is too high, water may spill into the overflow pipe), incorrect replacement parts, and damage to elastomeric materials from chemicals.

How can you detect leaks? If you can’t hear a leak or see a slight rippling in the toilet bowl, put a small amount of food coloring into the toilet tank. If the dye makes its way into the toilet bowl, there’s a leak. Periodically test all gravity-flush toilets for leaks. Pressure-assisted, flushometer toilets are much less likely to leak, and those leaks are more noticeable.

How do you fix leaks? Repairing leaks usually involves replacing the flapper valve or entire flush mechanism. At this time a water-conserving, early closure flapper valve can be installed on a high-volume toilet. But a leaking older toilet is also a good excuse to replace it with one of the top-performing 1.6-gallon (or lower) toilets.

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Building News, vol. 13, no. 1. To subscribe, contact (800) 861-0954; BuildingGreen.com.