In the middle of the night, I sometimes hear water, as if someone has turned on a faucet or a dishwasher is running. It only lasts a few seconds, but it is of concern. It seems to be coming from the bathroom. Any ideas?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone in hearing these sounds, and better news – we don’t need to call an exorcist! It sounds as if the noise is coming from your toilet, and the fix could be quite simple.
Lift off the lid of your toilet. At the bottom, in the center, you will see what is called a flapper valve. This is connected with a chain to the toilet handle. When you press the handle to flush the toilet, the flapper valve lifts up, allowing the water from the tank to empty into the bowl, causing the toilet to flush. As this flapper gets old, it loses its seal and can allow water to escape the tank, going into the bowl. This isn’t a water leak exactly, just water leaving the tank. As the water leaves the tank, the “fill-valve” (the tall piece, usually at the left of the tank) calls for more water, so that the tank is filled. So, without fixing this, you’re going to continually lose water. Over time, this can be costly. In fact, if you have a higher than normal water bill, this could be the cause.
Fixing the problem is fairly easy. First, turn the water off below the toilet at the shut-off valve. Then remove the old flapper by disconnecting the chain from the handle, then remove the flapper. The two most common flappers can then be completely removed by taking the “rabbit ears” off the notches, or, by lifting the flapper up to the top of the tube.
The best thing to do if you aren’t familiar with types of flappers is to go to the hardware store with the old flapper and buy a new one. The installation is just as simple as taking it off. However, once you have it in place, the chain may need to be adjusted. There should only be a slight amount of slack in the chain. If there is too much slack, the flapper may not lift up properly and you may not get a good flush. If the chain is too tight, it may cause the flapper to lift up somewhat, causing water to go into the bowl, and you then have the same problem as you did to begin with. So, be sure to adjust the chain properly. When this is done, cut off any excess chain, so that the flapper can’t get caught in the excess.
You’re done! Just turn the water back on, let the tank fill up and turn off. Then, just listen to see if any water is escaping. Or, a great little trick, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank water. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then come back and look into the toilet bowl. If there isn’t any colored water, you’re all set!