A toilet that runs constantly is a water-wasting, noisy nuisance. They also defeat the purpose of the water-conserving toilet requirements that many cities now have. Do you need a plumber to fix the problem or can you do it yourself?

While the idea of trying to repair your toilet may seem daunting, it is often simpler than it appears. In the world of do-it-yourself home repairs, a running toilet is on the short-list of inexpensive, fairly simple jobs. There are not a lot of parts to a toilet and there are limited number of things that can go wrong. Plus, if you get started and decide that you are in over your head, you can rest assured knowing that your efforts are unlikely to cause you to have to pay a plumber more than if you had hired one to being with.

Look and learn

The simplest troubleshooting process for a running toilet is to simply remove the top of the tank, flush and watch. Odds are that you will have one of two problems: Either the flapper is not completely closing and making a solid seal over the drain or the float is not returning to the top-most position where it will turn the water off.

A good visual check is to watch the water level. If the water rises and goes into the overflow tube, then your flapper seal is probably fine. That means the most likely culprit is your floater. If the water keeps running but never reaches the overflow, then your flapper seal is probably not good.

If the flapper is the culprit, you can either try cleaning it or just spend a few bucks and replace it. With only about three connection points and one way to put it on, it is almost impossible to do it wrong.

If it is the floater, you will have a few options. Floater assemblies have an adjuster that allows you to set the height of the floater. Simply set it so that it sits lower in the water. This will cause the floater to trigger the water to turn off sooner.

If that either does not work or you are unsure how to do that on your particular system, a time-honored work-around is to just bend the bar attached the floater so that it dips lower into the water. It may not be as refined as using the adjuster, but it has the same effect.

Of course, if you cannot determine whether it is the floater or the flapper or something else, do not worry. It is easy enough to replace the entire assembly. In fact, you can find complete replacement kits at hardware stores. You can find plenty of kits priced between $10-20. Another upside to this approach is that they come with step-by-step instructions specifically for that style of assembly, so there is no guesswork.

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