Although squat toilets comprise the majority of the world's toilets, back flush toilets dominate in Western society. These brilliant feats of ingenuity take our bodily wastes out of our homes and into the sewer systems where we no longer have to worry about them. Unfortunately, as with any product, sometimes things don't go exactly as planned and problems arise causing either a malfunctioning toilet or, even worse, end up with sewage in your home. For this reason, we've put together a few common problems that might arise and how to solve them.
Indication: toilet overflows when attempting to flush.
This is probably the most common problem and requires only the use of a common bathroom tool, the plunger. Simply form a seal around the hole of the toilet bowl and apply pressure in an up and down motion. If the obstruction is cleared you are good to go, if not, you will need to drain the bowl and inspect it with a flashlight and mirror. In most cases, the toilet will become unclogged within a few plunges.
Constantly Running Toilet
Indication: The sound of running water constantly coming from the toilet.
This may be caused by several things. First, you should check that the lift chain/wire going to the flapper isn't disconnected or kinked, which will cause the flapper to not properly seat. If you have a float ball mechanism it could be that the float ball does not have the proper clearance on the side of the tank and is rubbing against the side. Also associated with the float ball is the common issue of the diaphragm or plunger type ballcock not shutting off completely, which requires you to slightly bend the rod leading to the float ball so that the float ball is angled slightly more downward, allowing the ballcock to shut. Additionally, the water level may be too high in the tank, causing water to spill into the overflow pipe. The tank level in this case will need to be adjusted by either adjusting the valve screw (float ball types) or by squeezing the spring clip and moving the float up and down (newer collared types). The float ball may also have a leak or the flapper may be worn, which requires replacement of the associated item. If all else fails, the trouble may be with a faulty ballcock valve and you may need to replace it.
Loose Toilet Handle
Indication: Toilet Handle jiggles or spins freely.
In some cases, the toilet handle may become loose. This is usually caused by two things. First, the chain may have become detached, which requires only that you reattach it. Second, the nut that fastens the toilet handle to the tank may have become loose. This nut is reverse threaded so to tighten you will need to turn counter-clockwise.
Water Leaking on Floor
Indication: Water formed around or in the back of the toilet bowl.
Water leaks can cause serious damage to your flooring and your sheetrock, and can also lead to the growth of mold. This is why when leaks are discovered they should always be immediately handled. If you notice water at the back of your toilet, the first place to check would be the water lines going to your toilet. Sometimes the fittings can become loose and need little more than tightening with a wrench to fix. If the water is formed around the base of the toilet, chances are that either your tank nuts need to be re-tightened or that you need a new wax ring.
When tightening the tank nuts, be sure not to over tighten, as this could cause the porcelain to crack and may require you to replace the entire toilet bowl. To replace the wax ring simply loosen the nuts, twist the bowl slightly to unseat the bowl from the wax ring, lift up, and replace the old ring with a new one, making sure to scrape clean the old wax to provide the best possible seal.
With these common problems in mind, you should be able to troubleshoot the basic back flush toilet problems. Remember, if you aren't completely confident that you can fix the issue without causing damage, you should always contact a professional.