6 Common Toilet Issues and How To Know When You Need a Plumber

6 Common Toilet Issues and How To Know When You Need a Plumber

Toilets typically don’t require much to keep them working properly. That said, there are a number of different issues that can keep your toilet from flushing, cause it to overflow, or lead to leaks. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most common toilet issues and how to know if your problem needs a plumber.

1. Leaky Toilet Flapper

The toilet flapper is a large rubber stopper located at the bottom of the toilet tank. It works to seal off the tank so that water can’t constantly flow into the bowl. When you flush the toilet, the flapper opens to allow a certain amount of water into the bowl. Once the water level inside the tank drops to a specified level, the flapper closes so that no more water flows.

It is common for a toilet flapper to wear out and become brittle or cracked, preventing it from sealing properly. If your home has hard water, the flapper may become coated in mineral deposits, which will also affect the seal. If the flapper doesn’t fully seal, water will constantly leak out of the tank into the bowl. While this may not sound like a big issue, a leaky flapper can result in up to 200 gallons of water wasted daily. If left unchecked, this problem could easily cost you several hundred dollars a year.

The most obvious sign of a leaky flapper is hearing the toilet run when it’s not in use. Whenever water leaks out of the tank into the bowl, the toilet will occasionally need to run to refill the tank. You can also check for a leaky flapper by putting a few drops of food coloring into your toilet tank. Wait approximately 15 minutes, then check to see if the water in the bowl is colored. If so, it usually means the flapper is worn out and needs a replacement.

Replacing a toilet flapper is a simple task that only takes a few minutes. If you decide to replace the flapper on your own, make sure you use the right type, and adjust the chain so that the flapper seals securely and the tank fills to the correct level.

2. Broken or Misadjusted Float

Older toilets typically use a rubber float to measure the water level inside the tank. When you flush, the float arm raises the flapper to allow water to flow into the bowl. Once the toilet is flushed and the bowl refills, the flapper then closes. As the tank refills, the float eventually rises to the point where it triggers the fill valve to shut off so that no more water flows into the tank.

If the chain that connects the float to the flapper isn’t the correct length, it can prevent the tank from filling enough or cause too much water to flow into it. The chain can also become disconnected, preventing the flapper from opening and making it so that the toilet can’t flush. Replacing or readjusting the float or chain is another simple fix that usually doesn’t require a plumber.

3. Tank Leaks

If you ever notice water pooling around the sides of your toilet, it indicates a leak in the tank or underneath the bowl. If you suspect your toilet tank is leaking, you will want to feel around the underside of it where the bolts secure it to the toilet bowl. If you feel any water, it means either the bolts aren’t tight enough or the rubber gasket that seals around them is worn.

You can try to carefully tighten the bolts to see if this fixes the leak. This task requires shutting the water off and completely draining the tank. The next step is to use a screwdriver and a socket wrench to tighten the bolts. Unfortunately, this job is often difficult because the nuts underneath the bowl are recessed and tough to reach. It is also hard to access the bolt on the side of the toilet closest to the wall, and you will usually need to lie on your back or straddle the bowl.

If tightening the bolts doesn’t stop the leak, the rubber gaskets are likely worn out, and the bolts must be replaced. A new set of tank bolts will always include new gaskets to ensure a watertight seal around the area where the bolts go through the bottom of the tank. Replacing the bolts isn’t all that difficult, but it can sometimes take much longer than expected.

If you decide to do this on your own, you must be extremely careful not to overtighten the bolts. Doing this could easily crack the porcelain. Should this happen, you will need to have your entire toilet replaced. For this reason, this is one job that we always recommend leaving to the professionals.

4. Worn-Out Wax Ring

The wax ring is located on the underside of the toilet bowl and works to seal around where the bowl meets the drain pipe. Wax rings become worn out over time, resulting in water leaking out from around the base of the toilet. In some cases, you may not see any leaks but notice that the floor around the toilet is soft or spongy. This issue can also cause your flooring to warp or buckle.

Replacing the wax ring is something you can do on your own, but we wouldn’t recommend it because it requires completely dismantling and removing the toilet. This job will typically take at least a few hours and has the potential to damage or break your toilet. There is also a chance that you could damage the drain pipe underneath the toilet, which is a much more serious issue.

5. Broken Toilet Flange

The toilet flange lies underneath the wax ring. It connects the toilet to the drain pipe, securing the toilet to the floor. As with the wax ring, the flange can sometimes wear out or break. Should this happen, you must have the flange replaced or use a flange repair kit. In either case, this is definitely a job that is best left to a professional plumber because it also requires completely removing the toilet.

6. Loose Toilet

The bolts that secure the toilet to the floor will often become slightly loose over time, which leads to the toilet rocking or moving when you sit on it. This problem is easy to fix on your own as long as you are careful not to overtighten the bolts. First, you will need to remove the caps that cover the bolts. Next, use a socket wrench to tighten the nuts until you feel resistance. Again, do not use too much force or tighten them too far. If you do, the porcelain will crack, and the toilet will be permanently loose.

If you need any toilet repairs or other plumbing services in the Sacramento area, Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air is ready to help. We specialize in all types of plumbing, drain, and sewer repairs and installations, and we also have a team of certified HVAC technicians to take care of any of your heating and air conditioning needs. To schedule a toilet repair or another plumbing or HVAC service, give Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air a call today!

How to Get Your HVAC System Ready for a Storm

How to Get Your HVAC System Ready for a Storm

Heating and cooling systems are built to withstand weather extremes. Even your HVAC’s outside condenser can withstand a fair amount of precipitation and heavy wind. However, if there’s a major storm system headed your way, it may need a bit of extra protection. Following is everything you need to know about getting the HVAC equipment in your Sacramento, CA home storm ready.


Store Backyard Items to Prevent Impact Damage

Temporarily store your patio furniture inside a sheltered area when high winds are expected. You don’t want anything crashing into your outdoor condenser unit.  If you have a storage shed, load the chairs, umbrellas, tables, and flowerpots in there. You can also house them in your attic, garage, or basement.

Outdoor cooking equipment is a concern as well. If a major storm moves through, your mobile barbecue pit or meat smoker could go crashing into your air conditioner’s costly outdoor component. Many outdoor cooking appliances can be chained to posts or securely mounted in other ways. Larger, rolling barbecue pits often have manual brakes. If yours does, make sure that these are engaged and that the unit is securely braced. For extra protection, use an appropriate-sized wheel chock to stabilize it further.

After your patio furniture and outdoor appliances have been taken care of, take a trip through your back and side yards to make sure that all other movable items are either secure or stored. Collect large sticks, twigs, and broken branches, and remove these too. The less loose debris that’s left lying around, the less likely your AC condenser is to sustain impact damage. 


Take Good Care of Your Roof

You may be surprised to discover that many aspects of getting your HVAC system ready for storms have less to do with your heating and cooling system’s components than they do with your overall property. Taking good care of your roof ahead of seasonal storms will obviously benefit the roof itself, but it can also prevent a number of common AC condenser damages. Loose roofing tiles and loose gutters and downspouts can come crashing down onto your condenser when the wind starts howling. Before the storm season arrives, schedule annual roofing maintenance. At the very least, you should be sure to have your gutters thoroughly cleaned. Blocked gutters can flood your AC condenser with water during times of heavy precipitation as they back up and overflow.


Have Weak, Dying, or Diseased Tree Branches Cut Down

Among the biggest hazards to AC condensers during storm season are poorly maintained trees. The more care that you take of your trees now, the less likely they’ll be to shed diseased, dying, or weak branches when subjected to strong winds. Hire an arborist to come and inspect your trees. In addition to removing at-risk limbs, this professional can also let you know whether or not unhealthy trees should be cut down. It’s always better to remove ailing trees voluntarily than it is to have them topple on their own.


Invest in Whole-House Surge Protection

Heavy wind can knock your power out. In fact, storms can cause power outages that span for miles. When power is restored, the resulting sudden surge in electricity could damage some or all of your appliances. Whole-house surge protection is well-worth its cost. The money that you save in a single power outage could easily match or exceed what you paid for it. This is especially true if you’re able to avoid HVAC damage by having whole-house surge protection installed. 

However, when thunder and lightning are in the forecast, get ready to turn your HVAC system off. Although whole-house surge protection can limit HVAC damage caused by lightning strikes, it isn’t guaranteed to prevent it all of the time. You’ll minimize damage if there is no current flowing through the system if lightning strikes the house. But, if the outside condenser takes a direct hit, the components are ruined whether the electricity is on or not.


Consider the Benefits of a Condenser Cover

To use or not use condenser covers is a contentious subject indeed. Some AC manufacturers recommend them, and others outright prohibit them. Take a minute to read through your air conditioner’s manual before deciding to buy and use one. You may find that covering your condenser during a storm violates the terms of your manufacturer warranty. Alternatively, covering your condenser during a major weather event could be essential for keeping your warranty intact. Each model and manufacturer is different, so it’s important to know which requirements and restrictions apply to you.

Condenser covers are soft-sided, and they’re largely designed to keep water and windblown debris out of the unit. Although condensers are built to stand up well to heavy precipitation, too much water can definitely overwhelm them. A cover will limit rain exposure. Despite being soft-sided, these covers can also provide a fair amount of protection during hailstorms. 

The most important thing to remember when using a condenser cover is that you should never leave one on for too long. Insufficient airflow and trapped moisture will eventually create the perfect conditions for mold formation and rust. When using a condenser cover, put it on just before a storm hits. Then, take it back off as soon as the weather system moves on. This will restore ventilation and give your condenser a chance to dry out completely.

It’s also important to note that the best cover for your air conditioner will always be one that’s been designed specifically for the model you own. This will have mesh or cutouts in areas that provide adequate, short-term ventilation for your equipment. You should never simply wrap your condenser in a sheet of plastic or cover it with a heavy tarp. These types of coverings provide absolutely no ventilation, and they cause more harm than they prevent, even if they’re only used for a limited amount of time.


Install Hard-sided Condenser Protection if Needed

Towering trees can pose a threat to your AC condenser even if they don’t have weak and dying limbs. Impact-related damage caused by conifers and fruit trees can be just as detrimental to outside HVAC equipment as passing hailstorms. Building a free-standing, hard-sided shelter around this unit will keep it both ventilated and protected year-round. The risk of hail damage will decline, and falling trees won’t be a constant fear.


Tighten Your Home’s Envelope to Limit HVAC Demand

As far as your heater goes, you’ll want to limit the amount of demand it’s subjected to by tightening up your home envelope. Even when outside temperatures aren’t excessively low, a strong wind could leave you cranking up your thermostat. To avoid this, seal up all gaps and cracks around your windows and doors. Make sure that your HVAC ductwork is in good condition too. You should also schedule your annual HVAC service so that your system is primed for what lies ahead.

Crystal Blue Plumbing Heating & Air has been serving residents of Sacramento, CA since 1976. We provide heating, cooling, and plumbing services installation, maintenance and repair services. We also offer duct maintenance and repairs, as well as indoor air quality products. We can help you prepare your home’s heating and cooling equipment for the challenges of the storm season. Call Crystal Blue in the Sacramento area now to get started!