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how to fix toilet that won't flush

How to fix a toilet that won’t flush


We’ve all had that moment when the expected doesn’t happen. Why, oh why, is the toilet not flushing?

There could be several reasons why your toilet is betraying you. Here are a few suggestions that you can try at home before calling an expert:

  1. Make sure that the water valve is on.
    The water valve can sometimes accidentally get turned off, especially if you have recently been cleaning in the area or if you have an especially mischievous and inquisitive pet and/or child. Remember that old adage, “Righty tighty lefty loosey,” and ensure that the valve is open. The valve usually has an arrow that points the direction to “off” in case of emergencies. In this case, the valve should be turned all the way to the left to open the valve and allow water to fill the tank. Don’t overcrank the valve, just gently turn it one way and then the other to ensure that you know that the valve is in the left “open” position, parallel to the pipes.
  2. Remove the tank lid to check the water level.
    There should be water in the tank, and it should be up to about one inch below the overflow tube. If the water level is extremely low and the water valve is in the “on” position, there is something else in your system that is not allowing water to enter the tank. Check a nearby faucet to see if you have water pressure. If you don’t have water pressure, or if none of your drains are draining properly, then the problem is deeper into the drainpipes and is not an easy fix. A quick call to a plumber to can resolve the issue. If the water level looks good, check the action of the flush handle and the lift chain that leads to the rubber flapper. If the chain is disconnected, it won’t be able to lift the flapper to allow water in the tank to flush out the bowl. If the chain is loose, simply hook the chain onto the flapper and test the flushing mechanism. Rubber flappers are wear items, and do require occasional replacement after a period of several years. Check to see if your rubber flapper appears damaged. If so, replacements are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive at your local hardware store. Take a picture of your toilet and the mechanisms inside the tank before heading to the hardware store. Some types of toilets like certain Kohler models require a specialized flapper. You’ll need to know if your toilet is one piece (the tank and the bowl are one piece) or two (the tank is separate from the bowl), and if it requires a 2 inch, 3 inch, or 3 ¼ inch flapper unit. When in doubt, shut off the water at the valve, drain the tank and remove the flapper unit so that you can take it with you to the hardware store to find the proper replacement.
  3. Try a plunger.
    If everything looks good inside the tank, then you may have a clog. Clogs can happen when someone tries to flush too much material or a foreign material down the toilet. Common causes of clogs include using too much toilet paper, attempting to flush sanitary napkins or toys. If you have a clog, grab a toilet plunger, seal it against the drain hole and plunge, keeping the water line above the level of the plunger so that you can get a good seal. A couple of things to keep in mind:
    • Use rubber gloves, water and other debris can slosh outside of the bowl when plunging.
    • Keep paper towels handy to wipe up any excess water from the floor.
    • The first plunge should be gentle, because there will be trapped air in the plunger which can cause splashup. After that initial air is pushed out of the plunger, you can use stronger plunges to force the obstructions past the S-bend in the toilet.
    If the plunger doesn’t work, you may need to attempt a toilet auger or plumber’s snake. These more specialized tools twirl down through the S-bend of the toilet to push any obstructions through or grab them so that they can be removed. When all else fails, call a reputable plumber to fix the problem. If clogs are a frequent occurrence in your home, ensure that all members of the household know that flushing anything other than toilet paper down the drain can cause messy issues. You may even consider switching to a thinner toilet paper that is easier to break up during the flushing process.

Hamm and Sons Plumbing offers expert plumbing services to the Indianapolis area. We have been in the plumbing business since 1984 and are licensed and insured. We want you and your family to be safe, so we do background checks on our employees for your protection. We maintain a large warehouse of repair parts so that we can get your problem solved right away. We are well known in the Indianapolis area for our fast, professional service and would be pleased to assist you with any residential or light commercial plumbing repair or installation need. Our experienced, courteous team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays and weekends. To see what our clients are saying about us, check out our many positive reviews on Angie’s List.

To schedule routine or emergency service, call 317-202-9853.