We all need it, we all depend on it, and yet we deign not to understand it. We hold ourselves above the toilet, literally and metaphorically. Until it breaks. Suddenly, it’s as if the love of your life has left you. You stand outside your bathroom door holding a boombox above your head in the middle of the night. You realize, only when it’s too late, that you took your toilet for granted. If only you had appreciated it more. Maybe if you had stopped and listened–really listened–your faithful breaktime companion wouldn’t have left you. Maybe you would be together still.
Don’t despair! You can learn from your mistakes! Remember why you loved that beautiful porcelain friend in the first place! You can figure out what went wrong, and you can fix it so it won’t happen again. It’ll get better. You’ll get better. You just need a chance!
Consider Mike Diamond your reunion-wingman. We’re burst in when you’re at your lowest, pick you up, put on some Survivor, and help you make yourself the partner we know you can be! Or…you know, we’ll teach you how your toilet works. Probably more the second thing. We do believe in you, though.
The Parts That Make The Toilet Work
To understand your porcelain throne, you need to learn about the parts that make it work. The best way to learn about all the components that make a toilet flush and get ready to flush again is to see them in action. Take off your toilet’s tank lid and prepare to flush the toilet. You’ll be able to watch each component operate in sequence. We’ll start where you’d expect:
The Toilet Bowl
The toilet bowl is the circular opening beneath the seat. At the bottom of the bowl there’s a large drain opening. This drain flushes out into the main sewer line. When the toilet is flushed, the bowl fills with water from tank. The rapid introduction of this much new water creates a suction effect in the opening at the bottom of the bowl. This suction sucks all the water in the toilet bowl down into the main drain, out into the main sewer line, and–most importantly–away from your house! Simply put: the toilet bowl is where the flush happens.
The Toilet Tank
The toilet tank is where the mechanical parts that let the toilet run are kept. It is usually located behind and above the bowl. You can open the top of the tank to see inside by lifting off the porcelain lid and setting it aside. If the toilet is functioning correctly and the toilet is ready to be flushed, the tank should be filled with water up to a point marked on either the side of the tank or the overflow valve (which is in the tank). Most toilet tanks contain about two gallons of water when they’re ready to flush. The tank also holds the chain, flapper valve, ball float, and refill valve.
The Handle and Chain
As you (hopefully) know, to flush a toilet you push a handle down. This handle is connected to a chain. The handle functions as a lever: you supply force to one end by pushing the handle down, which lifts the other end of the lever. The end that’s lifted is connected to the chain, which is pulled up as you push the handle down.
The Flapper Valve
The flapper valve is also called the “stopper” or “tank ball.” The flapper is a rubber, cup-like stopper found at the bottom of the toilet’s tank. The flapper valve creates an airtight seal between the toilet’s tank and the toilet bowl. This pressurized seal prevents the tank’s water from running into the toilet bowl. When the chain is raised, it lifts the flapper valve up. This uncovers an opening leading to the toilet bowl. With this opening revealed, the pressurized water in the tank is free to flow into the bowl.
The sudden release of the tank’s water into the bowl is what creates the siphon effect necessary for the flush. The amount the flapper is raised controls how quickly the water is able to flow from the tank to the bowl, which partially dictates the strength of the flush. Most healthy flushes last about three seconds. That makes them strong enough to effectively flush down any waste in the bowl. When the toilet’s flush is complete, the flapper valve resets, allowing the tank to be filled with water again.
The Ball Float
As water runs from the tank into the bowl, the water level in the tank obviously drops. The ball float (also called the “filler float”) floats in the water stored in the tank. The ball float looks more or less exactly what what you’d think it would look like: a small, round floating ball. As the tank’s water level drops, the float gets lower in the tank, as well. When the ball float reaches a certain low point in the tank, it tells the refill valve to activate.
After the refill valve has, well, refilled the toilet’s tank and the ball float has risen back to its initial position, it also tells the refill valve to close back up. You see where we’re going, don’t you? Are you’re getting good at this!
The Refill Valve and Tube
When the toilet’s flush has been completed, the toilet tank’s water has been completely or almost completely expended. At the end of the flush, when the tank’s water is lowered, the ball float triggers the refill valve. Just like the flapper valve seals off the tank’s water from the bowl, the refill valve seals off the refill tube from the toilet’s tank. The refill tube is connected directly to your water’s main line. When the refill valve opens, water from the main line is allowed to flow through the refill tube and directly into the toilet’s tank.
Once enough water has been resupplied to the tank to return it to pre-flush levels, the ball float tells the refill valve to seal back up. This prevents too much water from re-entering the tank and overflowing all over your nice bathroom floor. Which is good; it’s bad to have water on your bathroom floor. Someone could slip or something. Once your tank is refilled to the proper level and the refill valve is closed, then your toilet is ready to begin the whole process again.
- You push the handle down.
- The handle raises the chain.
- The chain raises the flapper valve.
- The flapper valve uncovers an opening into the toilet bowl.
- Water from the tank flows into the toilet bowl.
- The ball float tells the refill valve to open.
- Water from the main line flows through the refill tube, out the refill valve, and into the toilet’s tank.
- The tank’s water refills to previous pre-flush levels.
- The refill valve closes and the toilet is ready for use again.
Now you’re ready. You know your partner, your other half, your “oval office” better than ever before. You see all the things that could be wrong with your relationship. Now, you just need to work up the courage to commit. Show that toilet you care by getting in there, finding out what’s wrong, and fixing it once and for all. And remember, your reunion wingman always has your back. If you have questions about toilet repair, want to find out what the most common toilet problems are, visit our page all about toilet repair and installation. If want us to help you figure out and fix your problem, give us a call today. We just hate to see you like this. We really thought you crazy kids were good together. Just give it another chance. For our sake.