A leaking toilet handle can be unsettling even for the most seasoned homeowner. The good news is that the solution is usually one of a few relatively easy fixes that can be accomplished with a few simple steps.
Water levels in toilets should not be high enough to leak out of the handle opening on your toilet. To fix this, adjust the water fill height and verify the leak stops. If the leak continues, this indicates a failure of one of the following parts:
- Overflow tube
- Fill valve
- Flush valve
Detailed steps for checking and replacing each of the components that could be the culprit of your leak are below.
Fixing a Toilet Leaking from the Handle
Even novice homeowners can work on fixing a leaking toilet. However, there are some important steps to take before you start working on your toilet to ensure that you don’t cause further problems:
- Turn off the water supply at the wall. There is a small turning valve that connects to the wall. Turn it clockwise gently until it is completely turned off.
- Protect your flooring. Leaks and standing water can be extremely damaging to your flooring and subflooring. Dry any leaks and puddles thoroughly.
- Drain the tank completely. Flush the toilet again. This should empty the tank, and with the water supply off, it will not refill the tank. If the tank does happen to refill, double-check the shut-off valve.
- Remove the lid and place it in a safe location. It’s important to place the lid in a safe place to not have it get bumped and broken.
- Gather the necessary tools. Things you’ll need could vary depending on what you fix, but things like a level, rule, pencil, wrenches, hand saw extra towels, and disposable sponges will help you be prepared.
After you have prepared the above steps, it’s time to start narrowing down the cause of your leaking toilet handle. Usually, leaks that come from your toilet handle will be related to the water level and how well your toilet is managing the water level.
Adjusting the Water Fill Level
An important component of how your toilet tank fills the toilet bowl is the overflow tube. The overflow tube and fill level should be set up correctly to ensure that the water filling the tank is siphoned into the toilet bowl. These parts also work in conjunction with your fill valve and float to adjust how much water enters the toilet tank after flushing.
To see if your overflow tube is too high, take a level or ruler and line it up on the fill valve. The fill valve should be on the toilet tank’s left side, with a small tube connecting it to the open toped overflow tube. This indicates the max fill level for your tank. Then:
- Turn the level so that it aligns with the back of your tank. Use a pencil to mark the height.
- Remove the small tube that connects the fill valve and the overflow tube by gently sliding the clip that anchors it up and off the tube.
- Lay the ruler across the top of the overflow tube and tilt the other end to the side of the tank, where you marked the fill level. Use a pencil to mark the top of the overflow tube.
- Measure the distance between the two marks. The level between the fill valve and the top of the overflow tube should be one inch. If the distance is less than one inch, the fill valve can usually be adjusted by gently screwing the adjustment screw on the fill valve or pinching the metal spring clip if not a screw-type adjustment.
Checking the Float
After adjusting the water fill level, slowly turn the water back on at the wall, and test to see if this fix will stop the leak at the handle of your toilet. Watch carefully when your toilet refills and ensure that the toilet float matches the fill level you adjusted.
Toilet floats are attached to the fill valve. The traditional ball floats used to be widely used. More often, on newer toilets, a floating cup is used. If your float is failing, you’ll find that it is sticking instead of floating with the water’s surface level, which is sometimes caused by build-up from hard water sources.
If your float does not look like either the ball float or cup float, your toilet may have a floatless valve. These types of fill valves will be using pressure sensing to determine the water fill level. Check for an adjustment screw. Turning the screw clockwise raises the water level and counter-clockwise lowers the water level.
If your water level adjustment did not fix the leak, or you find that your float is failing when you restart the water on your toilet, it may indicate a need to replace the internal components of your toilet tank. Failure of one of the main components like the flapper, fill valve, float, or overflow valve can often indicate it is time to replace all of the components.
Replacing the Tank Components of Your Toilet
If you have tried the adjustments above and are still seeing water levels rise too high in the toilet tank, obtain a toilet component replacement kit. The replacement kit will typically include the float, fill valve, flush valve, and lever.
Replacing all of the components of the toilet tank can be an effective way to ensure no additional leaking occurs. You will have to remove the whole tank off the toilet to replace all the parts properly. Steps for replacing the parts will be included with the kits. Follow all steps in the directions carefully. Ensure proper seals are maintained.
Before purchasing your kit, be sure that you measure the existing parts and that the parts you are replacing are sized to match your current tank. If you take the current part with you, many stores can help you match the new parts to size.
Best Practices for Replacing Toilet Components
Replacing the tank components and removing the tank on your toilet will mean that you must take certain steps to protect your bathroom and toilet. Taking steps before starting the project will help make sure that you’re prepared:
- Have a bucket or basin on hand. You will have to disconnect the water supply and divert any residual water into a container.
- Have lots of rags or towels available in case of any leaking water.
- Avoid overtightening, as many of the components are plastic, and overtightening can damage the parts.
- Use caution when lifting the tank as it is cumbersome. Use proper lifting techniques to avoid injury.
- Have a place set up and designated to work, with a towel laid down to place the tank once removed. The cardboard underneath the towel can help protect it.
With any do-it-yourself project, keep it within reason. If you begin the project and something looks wrong, or a part isn’t working as expected, reach out to a licensed professional for help. Most toilet part replacements don’t require a professional. Still, if there is damage to the flooring around your toilet or components like the water supply seem to be damaged, it may be time to call a professional plumber.