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Home Watch Best Practice: How to avoid toilet leaks


Home Watch Best Practice: How to avoid toilet leaks

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Discover how to avoid one of the most common sources of home leaks - the toilet.

Home Watch Best Practice: How To Avoid Common Toilet Leaks By Rick Virdinlia

There are a number of areas in a home that have the potential to leak water and cause significant damage. Timely inspection of these areas is always a good idea—it is always less costly avoiding a problem than it is to repair one.

One of the most common sources of home leak is the toilet—especially the two through bolts that hold the tank to the seat. When these connections go bad, the leak occurs at the bottom of the tank and water leaks on the floor. Before the bolt connections fail completely, however, water may seep out slowly and go unnoticed.

The bolts deteriorate due both to the additives municipalities add to water and the minerals found naturally in water, especially in Florida where the water is “hard”. This is why so many people have full-house water softening systems installed—certainly in areas where well water is pumped directly into the home, such as in Golden Gate Estates, Lehigh Acres, and other parts of Eastern Collier and Lee Counties.

As the bolts deteriorate, they become fragile and diminish in diameter. Pressure one puts against the tank causes the brittle bolts to deteriorate further and water to leak past the washers installed with bolts.

Now, some may offer that all you have to do should a leak occur is simply reach down behind the toilet and turn the water valve off. That’s fine if you are present when the leak begins, but that’s not always the case. The hard water can also cause the shutoff valve to fail, making it impossible to turn off. Keep in mind that a typical toilet holds upwards of two gallons of water and refills constantly once the water has drained below a certain level.

A common scenario looks like this: water is leaking on the floor and the shut-off valve is inoperable. You hurry to the main shut off valve (provided you know where it is) and hope it’s operating properly. Seasonal residents should remember, that even with the main house valve turned off, there is enough water both in the tank and the pipes to cause significant damage to your home or, if living in a multi-family building, to the unit below.

Inspecting the bolts is easy. Simply lift the cover off the holding tank where the “guts” of the toilet reside. The heads of the gold-colored bolts should be clearly visible. More than likely, if you have not changed them in two years or more, all you will see are two areas–mounds actually-of decaying, rust-colored metal (see photo). If you do not see nice gold-colored bolt-heads, now is a good time to replace the bolts and the accompanying hardware.

This is also a perfect time to replace the rubber gasket that lies between the tank, as well as the flapper inside the tank. And, if your tank still uses the old-style float on the end of a metal rod (which is probably also corroded), why not upgrade to the more conventional and quieter fill mechanism (no ball and rod). All the parts can be purchased at your local hardware store. Best of all, the total cost of all these components is from $15 to $30, depending on the fill mechanism you choose—the quieter ones are more expensive.

When it comes to doing the work, do-it-yourselfers should find the task pretty straightforward and low on the technical scale. Give yourself about 90 minutes if it’s your first time. Caution is needed when tightening the hardware. There is a risk of cracking the ceramic tank if nuts are over tightened. So, just snug them up and be sure to follow the directions that come with the parts you purchase.

If you’re not so inclined to tackle this job on your own, a plumber may charge from $100 to $150 per toilet. Another option is your local handyman—usually less expensive—perhaps between $50 and $75. In either case, be sure to have all the toilets repaired in one visit. This can save you considerable money with the “service call” charge.

The author is owner of Property Service Of Naples, LLC, a licensed, bonded and insured Naples home watch company that specializes in handyman repairs and other property services. He can be reached at (239) 537.3503 or online at The company website is:[link=Label]

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Home Watch Best Practice:
How to avoid toilet leaks Discover how to avoid one of the most common sources of home leaks - the toilet.