Toilet problems are often summed up by comments like “it runs all the time,” “it only runs in the middle of the night,” “it takes forever to refill my toilet,” or “lately I have to flush it at least twice!” In the past it was quite simple to “tune the toilet” and in most instances, it still is! The basic parts have not changed that much over the years.


There are two basic types of toilets found in the home. By removing the lid from your tank you can quickly determine which type you have:

  • Gravity-Fed – The most common is the gravity-fed which relies on the weight of the water and head pressure (height of the water in your tank) to promote the flush. If you see freestanding water when peering down into the tank, your toilet is gravity fed.
  • Pressure-Assist – The pressure-assisted toilet relies on air pressure within a cylindrical tank (metal or plastic-like material) inside your toilet tank. Air inside the cylinder forces a vigorous and very rapid flush. The cylinder, along with the “roaring /whooshing” sound when you flush it, are sure signs of a pressure-assisted toilet. If you look inside your toilet tank, there should be no free-standing water visible. The tuning of a pressure-assist mechanism is a task best left to a plumbing professional specifically trained in the service of these devices. There are horror stories out there about do-it-yourselfers who have tinkered with the adjustments on their pressure-assist toilets with nothing less than “shattering” results.

Toilet Parts

Toilets usually consist of a tank and separate bowl, although there are one-piece toilets where the tank and bowl is an integral unit. The latter are usually of a lower profile design that a two-piece unit.

  • Tank -The tank is the top portion which holds either the free-standing water to be flushed (gravity-fed) or the pressure-assist cylinder (pressure-assist) . On a gravity- fed toilet the tank houses the fill valve (frequently called a “ballcock”), the flush valve (usually including an overflow tube with a flapper and flapper seat) and the flush or trip lever. These parts are called “trim.”
  • Tank Lid – It’s the top most part of your toilet tank and covers the mechanisms inside your tank.
  • Bowl -The bowl is the lower half of the toilet used to hold liquid and solid wastes prior to flushing.
  • Water Spot/Sanitary Seal -This is the water surface that you see inside the toilet bowl after the flush is completed. This water in the bowl assists with the movement of solids into the trapway and provides a liquid seal in the trapway so that sewer gasses don’t pass from the waste line into your home.
  • Evacuation – In toilet talk, this is the flushing process that you removes liquids and solids from your bowl.
  • Tank to Bowl Seal -This is the round “donut-shaped” seal between the tank and bowl in a two-piece toilet. This seal provides a cushion upon which the tank rests and acts to prevent water leaks around the coupling between the tank and the bowl.
  • Shut-off/Supply Valve -The valve on your wall near the base of the toilet with a round or oval handle that allows you to shut your water off while servicing the toilet.
  • Supply Line -This is the solid or flexible line between the shut-off/supply valve and the connection on the bottom of your tank (fill valve fitting).
  • Billy Bolt Set -A package of “T” shaped bolts, flat and dome nuts, and round and/or oval washers used to connect the toilet bowl to the closet-ring.
  • Closet Ring – he metal or plastic flange that is permanently installed at the end of your waste line (at floor level) and has slots for the “T” Bolts /“Billy-Bolts. The inside diameter is normally three to four inches. The closet ring mates with the outlet on the bottom of your bowl and provides the means for evacuation.
  • Wax Ring -The yellowish beeswax (or beeswax type material) ring between the bottom of your toilet bowl and the mating closet-ring (flange). It is ‘‘donut” shaped, about one inch thick. A seal is achieved when the wax ring is squeezed between the bottom of your toilet bowl and the top of the closet-ring.
  • Ballcock (Fill Valve) -You will only find this in a gravity-fed toilet. It is the tall mechanism you see inside your tank (left-hand side) with a float connected to it by means of a metal rod or plastic arm. Or, instead of a float mounted at the end of a rod, it can have the float sliding up and down the tube/barrel of the mechanism itself.
  • Float -The bulb-shaped sphere on the outer end of the float rod/arm OR the can-shaped float that slides up and down over the fill valve tube.
  • Float Arm -The metal rod or plastic arm that connects the ballcock’s float to the shut-off lever on the ballcock valve itself On those fill valves without the float at the end of a rod or arm, a rod-like stiff-heavy wire link with an adjusting clip connects the shut-off lever to the float, performing the same shut-off function.
  • Float Arm Adjusting Screw -This screw is normally only found where the float is connected to the shut-off lever by means of the metal rod or plastic arm. When turned clockwise, this screw causes the water flowing into the tank to shut off earlier. The same effect is accomplished by moving the stiff wire link downward using the adjusting clip for the slide-type float mechanism.
  • Douglas Flush valve -You will find this in most gravity-fed toilets. It is the mechanism you see directly in the center, inside your tank. On one side of it, you will see a hollow tube approximately one inch in diameter (the overflow tube). Connected to the tube by means of “trunion mounting ears,” is the flapper. The flapper , regulates the amount of water that passes from the tank into your bowl during the flush cycle.
  • Refill Tube -This is the small plastic tube (approximately 1/8-inch in diameter) that is connected near the top of the ballcock mechanism on one end and to the inside of the overflow tube on the other end. Water only flows through this tube during the flush cycle and is the water that replenishes the toilet’s water spot/sanitary seal.
  • Overflow Tube – is the approximately 1 -inch diameter hollow tube to which the refill tube is connected. This is the passageway for the water making up the water spot/sanitary seal to enter the bowl. When the water level is adjusted too high, then water will flow from the inside of the tank into this tube and into the toilet bowl.
  • Trunion and Trunion-ring–runion “mounting ears” are the approximately l/s-inch diameter by 3/8-inch long shafts protruding out from the overflow tube near its base. These are the “ears” to which the flapper connects. In some cases the overflow tube is void of these ears in which case, a “rubber” type round “trunion-ring” with two mounting ears slides down over the tube to provide the connecting points for the flapper
  • Flapper -The flapper is the flush valve seal and serves to control the volume of water passing from the tank to the bowl during the flush cycle. It mates with the seat on the Douglas flush valve to complete the seal and prevent water leaking from the tank into the bowl between flushes.

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