How long should the parts inside a toilet tank last? The answer is, "It depends." The replaceable parts such as flappers and the washers or seals inside a refill valve in some toilets may last several years. But if your water is chemically treated, if you use a bowl cleaner in the tank, if you have high water pressure, the parts are likely to disintegrate sooner. If you touch the flapper and get goo on your hands, that's a sure sign the part need replacing.
Buying Toilet Replacement Parts
Buying replacement toilet parts can be tricky, so it's a good idea to take the old parts with you to the hardware store or plumbing supplier when you can do so. Take some photos of the toilet when you aren't sure about how to remove the parts. Write down the name and model of your toilet. You will often find this information embossed in the inside back wall of the toilet tank, in the underside of the tank lid, or it may be written on the bowl behind the toilet seat hinge. You'll also often find the date the tank was manufactured embossed on the inside of the tank -- sometimes helpful in dating a house.
When a toilet is old there is always a chance that someone has changed out the original parts and what you are seeing are parts that don't match the brand of your toilet.
Never throw old parts away until you are certain the new parts are working properly!
Just because your local hardware store doesn't carry a particular part you need does not mean it is no longer available; it just means that store doesn't have it. If you can't find the parts you need in a local hardware store and you know the name of the manufacturer of your fixture, call their Customer Service Department. Check with your public library Reference Desk for a directory of manufacturer's addresses and telephone numbers.
Here are a few numbers for plumbing fixture manufacturers:
Forensic engineers in Canada are warning Canadians to check for a flexible hose under their toilet tanks. They say that, they have investigated dozens of Ontario insurance claims costing millions of dollars; all related to short, flexible hoses wrapped in a braided stainless steel mesh and topped with a substandard polymer nut. "The plastic of these nuts tends to be a low-grade polyacetal material and often shows significant porosity and evidence of generally poor injection moulding practices,” said Robert Sparling of Giffin Koerth Inc. “Most North American-brand hoses (that may also come from overseas) now include glass-filled nylon or other stronger plastic materials, which are much less likely to fail in the long run.” Be aware that once a supply line begins to leak, the water will run until someone turns the water supply valve off whether it's a few minutes or many hours. For the rest of this story click here or visit thestar.com published on Thu Jun 24 2010.
There is a phenomenon labeled the "vacation syndrome". People leave on an extented vacation and return to find that their toilets have been leaking, because the rubber gaskets and washers have disintegrated. The problem is caused by some of the toilet tank additives that sit in the tank unused for long periods of time, the chlorine concentration keeps getting stronger and stronger. In addition to the "vacation syndrome" there is also the problem of the additives causing a lazy flush where the toilet has to be flushed several times to clear the bowl.
This is the warning label regarding the use of tank additives found on a popular replacement refill valve:
Alternative to In-The-Tank Cleaners
Automatic in-the-tank toilet cleaners with bleach in them are popular with consumers, unfortunately they shorten the life of toilet tank parts and cause serious flushing problems. Fluidmaster, Inc. recently developed an alternative product that protects toilet tank components from bleach and the "blue goo" problems. Flush'n Sparkle is a small devise that hangs on the inside back wall of the toilet tank and delivers the cleaner directly into the bowl each time the toilet is flushed. The cleaner never enters the tank or touches any of the components inside the tank.
Easy to install, the Flush'n Sparkle has two small tubes attached that replace the exisitng refill tube. One tube connects to the ballcock and the other one attaches to the top of the overflow pipe. Each time the toilet is flushed the water that refills the bowl is run through the Flush'n Sparkle before flowing into the bowl. It took just a few minutes to install one in a toilet; the illustrated instructions that come in the box are detailed and quite clear; there is also a page of instructions on the Fluidmaster, Inc. site.
This new method of adding bleach to the toilet bowl water without the toilet parts sitting in the bleach for long periods is a welcome feature. According to Dr. Charles Peter Gerba, Ph.D., Microbiology, if you flush with the lid up, a polluted plume of bacteria and water vapour erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl. The polluted water particles float for a few hours around your bathroom before they all land. Some of them will land on your tooth brush.
And while the toilet stall was the beginning of Gerba’s distinguished hygiene studies, even he was astonished to find out that bathrooms aren’t the germiest of places. Your kitchen is. Gerba, who’s fond of quipping, “I’ve published several toilet papers,” says the kitchen is one of the germiest places in the house. If this doesn’t make you wake up and smell the coffee, nothing will: Your kitchen is even more contaminated with bacteria than the toilet bowl. “That’s why your dog likes to drink out of the toilet,” Gerba says. From Dr. Germ by Ana Luisa Terrazas.
Searching for a particular part on the internet is getting easier. Amazon has listings for hundreds of plumbing repair parts. I recently checked and found 239 listings for
Fluidmaster parts; 4158 listings for
Plumb Shop; 3030 listings for
Kohler Parts; 104 listings for
Chicago specialty plumbing; and 696 listings for a generic search on
Toilet Repair Parts.
The generic "fit-all" part that many hardware chains sell work as replacements for most situations, but not for every toilet. There are some toilets that must have the original equipment manufacturer's (OEM) parts. I have relearned this lesson several times. Most recently, I was helping fix a chronically leaking American Standard toilet fitted with a tilt flush valve. All indications were that the tilt valve was the culprit, but the "seal" had already been replaced several times. After exhausting all possibilities, we noticed that the valve was not closing straight; it was slightly off center when it closed against the seat. I took the part to local plumbing supply house and compared the old seal to an OEM seal. The "fit-all" seal was almost half inch smaller in diameter, in addition the screw connection on the OEM part was perfectly centered and did not wobble. The tilt valve is available in several styles; getting the proper part for this valve is critical.
If you think it's possible that a part you are buying will have to be returned to the hardware store, open the package carefully with a razor blade so that it can be neatly taped closed. Then the merchant can resell it.