The Inner-Workings of a Toilet And Why They’re Important

Unless we’re in the plumbing business, we rarely think about toilets. They aren’t the subject of typical dinner time conversation, nor are they the centerpiece of an ordinary home. Yet what other appliance causes you more distress when it stops working? Unless you’re keen on digging holes in the backyard or forking out exorbitant amounts of money, it’s useful to learn more about the inner workings of your toilet. By being informed, you can save yourself the headaches associated with plumbing emergencies, repairs, and the inconveniences that spur from broken toilets. 

Why You Should Know

Costly Repairs:

In the United States, the average cost to hire a plumber is $160 to $430 per project, plus fees for parts. Broken down, that is $45 to $150 per hour with an additional fee for parts. Some plumbers charge a flat fee instead. For clogged toilets, the cost can easily run upwards of $600. Typical replacement parts for toilets average $5 to $50 each, depending on the brand of toilet. Neglected plumbing carries numerous “hidden” costs as well. Leaking water, for instance, results in higher water bills and costly replacements. Flooring, subflooring, ceilings, and walls may need replacing, depending on the extent of the damage.

If you’re able and knowledgeable about how to prevent and deal with toilet-related problems, you’re going to save money.

Plumbing Emergencies:

Ignoring a minor plumbing problem can lead to a personal catastrophe. If you’re able to fix the smaller problem on your own, you’re far less likely to need an expensive emergency plumber. Some negative results of a plumbing emergency, such as a burst pipe or sewage backup, include:

  • Serious health and safety concerns
  • Extensive damage to your home
  • Major disruption to your daily activities
  • Costly repairs

Unknowingly Causing Problems:

Many people unwittingly are their own worst enemy. The more informed you are, the less likely you are to engage in behavior that places your plumbing at risk. Many people toss items down their toilet that don’t belong there. Consequently, they experience raw sewage on their property, burst pipes, expensive bills, and clogged drains. 

What You Should Know

Toilets have moving parts and moving parts tend to wear out and break down. By becoming familiar with these parts, you’re more apt to know what to repair or replace when there’s a problem. Here are some of the most noteworthy:

  • Flapper: When you push down on the handle, the flapper lifts, which allows water to flow through the trap and into the sewer; without it, water would flow continuously
  • Flange and Wax Ring: The flange and wax ring hold your toilet to the ground. The flange is a metal rim used to attach one object to the other. The wax ring is a rim of wax that creates a seal between the flange and toilet so that water doesn’t leak.
  • Tank: This is the “brains” of the toilet and is also the largest part. It pushes water down the main sewage pipe and refills the toilet bowl with water. Once it empties, a refill mechanism kicks in that refills the tank with new water.
  • Float Ball: This prevents water from entering the toilet tank by rising to an angle that closes the flapper. 
  • Trip Lever: The trip lever lifts the flapper to flush the toilet. It is mounted on the side of the tank and often has a metal handle with a brass arm. Plastic trip levers are growing in popularity as more homeowners practice their DIY skills, although they are more apt to deteriorate.
  • Bowl: As it has been for centuries, toilet bowls are made from porcelain due to its durability, ability to shrug off water, ease to clean, and relatively low cost. It’s the first place all of your goods go before being flushed down the drain.
  • Overflow Tube: The overflow tube empties directly into the bowl. It prevents the tank from overflowing by directing extra water into the bowl. The water that enters this tube raises the water in the bowl to the height of the trapway. If it goes over this point, it spills into the drain pipe below. This serves as one way to ensure that your floor doesn’t become saturated with water or sewage.
  • Refill Tube: The refill tube directs water into the overflow tube. The water then fills the bowl after each flush. It is meant to maintain the water level in the bowl.
  • Stop Valve: Arguably the most important part for homeowners to know, the stop valve can be closed or opened by hand at will. Closing it prevents water from refilling the pipes, thereby preventing flooding. It is located in the back of the toilet close to the ground.
  • Supply Tube: This is the most common area to replace when a toilet leaks. Fortunately, it’s also an easy repair that most homeowners can readily employ. It connects the toilet tank to the water supply valve.

Knowing the ins and outs of your toilet has the potential to save you money and hassle, prevent disruptions to your life, and avoid health and safety concerns. With a small amount of information, you have great deal of power.

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