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Know When to Replace a Toilet: 10 Signs It’s Time


Signs it's Time to Replace a Toilet

Toilets don’t usually make good table talk. They’re a sensitive subject for some people and if you talk about them at dinner, someone may kick you under the table. That’s too bad because we all have at least one amusing story about a toilet gone bad.

Not talking about toilets results in something worse than a swift kick to the shins.

You may miss out on advice about your own troublesome toilet. Without answers, you could end up spending a fortune in repairs. Or worse, you might ignore the problem and end up with a plumbing disaster.

Knowledge is everything, so we’ve put together a guide designed to help you know when to replace a toilet.

1. The Toilet and You Share a Birthday

We’re not saying you’re old. We’re only making a point that toilets don’t last forever.

You’ll likely hear varying opinions on how long a toilet should last. We’ve heard 50, even 100 years. Keep in mind that’s the fixture itself, not the inner workings.

Also, know that even if your toilet is a little old, it may still do the job. Older toilets do often suffer from inefficiency. Replacement saves money and water.

Believe it or not, the federal government even has something to say about your toilet. According to the Energy Policy Act of 1992, toilets installed after 1994 must have a flush volume of 1.6 gallons per flush. Toilets manufactured before this policy went into effect used between 3.5 to 5 gallons.

The bottom line on aging toilets? If you know your toilet is at least 25 years old, consider replacing it.

2. A Crack in Your Tank

Have you noticed water puddles near the base of the toilet? Unless you have a child who hasn’t learned the art of aiming, it’s possible you have a cracked tank.

You can start with your own inspection. Examine both the inside and outside of the tank.

The location of the crack determines whether a repair will suffice. If it’s below the water line, you may need a toilet tank replacement. At that point, most homeowners replace the entire toilet.

Tank cracks aren’t always visible, especially if you have a hairline crack. If you can’t find a visible crack, a plumber should come in and do a more thorough inspection.

3. The Leaking Toilet

Even though we just said cracks aren’t always visible to the human eye, cracks are easier to detect than leaks.

Toilet leaks may go undetected for several months. It’s not that you’re a negligent toilet owner, you simply don’t realize you have a leak. You likely won’t see water on the floor like you would if you had a cracked tank.

Since leaks are sometimes sneaky, how do you know you have one? Look at your water bill! Leaking toilets use an excessive amount of water. If your bill suddenly increases without any other explanation, check for a leak.

Damaged flooring and subflooring is an unfortunate result of a rogue toilet. Left to its own devices, a leaking toilet in an upstairs bathroom can cause water damage in the rooms downstairs.

If you have an older toilet and it’s leaking, replacing it is the most cost-effective move you can make.

4. The Never Ending Flush

One of the most annoying plumbing issues is the constantly running toilet. Of course, water flowing for a short time after you flush is completely normal. When water continues running from the tank to the bowl, that’s not a good sign.

Other than the irritating noise, a running toilet wastes water. While a running toilet may not qualify for an immediate replacement, you shouldn’t ignore it.

Running toilets are usually caused when the flapper valve doesn’t seal. Sometimes wiggling the valve fixes the seal—temporarily. Once the toilet starts running again, you’ll probably end up replacing the flapper.

While we don’t suggest replacing a toilet if this is the only problem, sometimes this fix doesn’t work. The toilet could have a broken fill valve in the tank (or another problem).

As you’ll see next, one way you can decide when to replace a toilet is when you find yourself repairing it every other weekend.

5. You’re the Weekend Plumber

Most people don’t sit around drawing schematics of toilets. Therefore, unless you’re a plumber or a DIY fanatic, you likely don’t know much about the insides of the porcelain throne.

Toilets aren’t that complicated, but they do have several working parts including:

  • Tank Lever
  • Flush Valve
  • Flush Valve Chain
  • Float Ball
  • Float Arm
  • Overflow Tube
  • Inlet Valve
  • Bowl Refill Tube
  • Filler Tube
  • Inlet Tube
  • Tank to Bowl Gasket
  • Bowl to Floor Seal

Whew! As you can see rebuilding a toilet can include quite a few items. Most toilets don’t need every part replaced at the same time. However, you should consider the cost of parts and your time.

If you’re spending even one weekend every month fixing a toilet, you should start hearing a small voice (it’s your conscience) telling you it’s time to change the toilet.

So far, we’ve only discussed the minor issues of age, cracks, leaks, and frequent repairs. Now we’ll get down to business and look at the serious signs of a toilet that needs replacing.

6. You Deal With Frequent Clogs

Most toilets clog occasionally. If you have children who get a kick out of flushing toys and other objects, yours may clog weekly. However, if you plunge every other day and it’s not due to preventable human activities, you have a toilet problem.

Be aware that older toilets may need more than one flush. They’re also susceptible to random clogs.

First, make sure the clog isn’t caused by a problem further down the pipeline. If your plumber determines that’s not the case, consider replacing the old toilet with a new fixture.

7. The No Flush Toilet

Unless you have a compost toilet (and we hope you don’t), there is no such thing as a no flush toilet. There is, however, the toilet that won’t flush.

You can’t plunge this one and you can’t jiggle the handle and make it work. The non-flushing commode means you have serious toilet trouble.

We know a broken toilet is a real inconvenience, especially if you only have one in the house. Many people make a non-flushing issue worse because they start poking around in the toilet with various objects.

Ruling out any other plumbing issues always comes first. But barring a problem in your plumbing system, when a toilet stops flushing, it’s a good sign you should replace it.

Now You Know When to Replace a Toilet

Hopefully, we’ve taken some of the mystery out of the most used fixture in your home—the toilet. Or at least we’ve helped you know when to replace a toilet.

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with an old fixture, a crack, a leak, multiple repairs, clogs, or a toilet that stops flushing. We’re here to help you figure out the best solution.

If you’re ready for a new toilet or need other plumbing services, contact us today and we’ll schedule a visit.

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  1. Ellie Davis

    I like that you mentioned that a crack in your tank is the major sign that you need to replace it. I noticed a crack in the back of my toilet tank, and I was thinking of replacing it. I will take your advice into consideration while looking for a good option for my toilet.

  2. Phil

    You did not mention a sporsdic weak flush. My situation now. So before a major situation at the worst time, I have decided to replace my 30 year old toilet. A wise decidion?

    • Tanya Miller

      So a new toilet fixed your weak flush? I’m currently having a very weak flush and the plumber can’t figure out what’s wrong.

      • William Pearson Sr.

        I’m also having a weak flush problem. What did yours end up being??

  3. John Reiter

    My problem toilet is 1 of 4 in the house all the rest work great. The one flushes but very slow and not completely. I have plunged and snaked nothing is blocking the drain. Should I replace it with a new one?All of them are 6years or less new home 6years ago. We didn’t have problem until about 1 month ago. No children

    • michael mcdonald

      toilet will not flush completely no matter how many times it is flushed. I have plunged repeatedly, replaced the entire tank components, removed the toilet and snaked thru the drain. ran 50 feet of high pressure hose thru the outside clean out all to no avail. Is my next option a new toilet?

    • Anna

      I just bought this house and I’ve been scrubbing the inside of that toilet and nothing seems to work. It is so black in there I’m a senior and trying to figure out where I can get a free toilet.

  4. Barbara Morris

    Frequent clogs. A nightmare.

  5. Jane

    How do you know if the ball in the Toilet Inner drain is damaged.

  6. mel

    where the tank meets the back of the bowl is a small space that looks brown and rusty, where there should be a gasket. It is quite hard to see, but bits of brown pieces are present. Otherwise toilet still works. what is happening?

    • Scarlett

      there is a gasket between the tank and toilet, if you have a 2-piece toilet (most are). Could be that it is dry-rotting. Could also be that bits of dirt got under there and accumulated.

  7. Chris

    There’s also the toilet that runs occasionally, like in the middle of the night, and then stops. Just enough to wake you up!

    There are environmental consequences of toilet replacement, however. They go straight to landfill and do not decompose. Also toilet manufacturing is damaging.

    • Scarlett

      Chris, no one would disagree with you. I would also submit to you that having a non-working-or sporadically working toilet is not good for the environment either. I would go so far as to say that humans are the worst thing that ever happened to the environment/earth and at some point we will destroy it and there won’t be anything left to mess up., as there won’t be anything left. I for one think that the end of people would be the best thing that could happen to the universe…at the rate we are going, it won’t be too long. At any rate, that is rather philosophical and I must go and fix the toilet at my client’s house…


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