Plumbing might seem like a foreign language to many of us, but the inside of a toilet is actually a pretty simple thing. With two simple parts and one moderately confusing one, you can overhaul the workings of any toilet.
The Parts Of A Toilet
Inside of a toilet there are three main components, all of which can be swapped out without too much difficultly. Replacement parts are affordable, practically universal, and easy to obtain. This means in about 90 minutes and for under $50 you can completely overhaul the workings of any standard home toilet.
A toilet’s inner workings consists of a:
The handle and filling assembly can easily be replaced with universal parts while the flap is more specific to your brand of toilet, but it’s still easy enough to figure out what you need.
Replacing The Handle
If your toilet’s handle is loose or it’s getting stuck, I’d recommend buying a Korky universal StrongArm handle. This kit sells for about $16 and it’ll work with any toilet handle — horizontal or vertical and then front mounted, side-mounted, or whatever else you can find.
The Korky handle is sold in any finish you want — nickel-plated, brushed, white, oil-rubbed bronze, and so on. It’s spring-loaded so it has a nice action to it, and it’s just about infinitely adjustable on the inside so it’ll have no problem with any from American Standard to Kohler to Toto to Duravit. It won’t work with push-button mechanisms, but if your toilet has a handle you’re good to go.
The installation time for the replacement handle and arm is about 10 minutes with no tools required. The only things you’ll have to note is that your toilet handle tightening nut is a reverse thread and that the Korky doesn’t include a chain to attach it to your flushing mechanism, so don’t throw the original one out!
Replacing The Fill Valve
This is the part of the toilet that is the least likely to break, but it’s good to replace sensitive, fiddly old balloon valve designs with something new, especially when it’s so cheap.
The simplest way to replace your fill valve is with the Korky 528 toilet fill valve, which will cost you under $10. You can also get the Korky 528MP for slightly more money, which will work better with toilets with under a 1.6 gallon flush. If you have a Toto toilet you need the 528T, but past those the other parts are universal and will work with any standard toilet.
Installing the filling mechanism is super easy and requires no tools. For this you’ll need to turn off the water and have a bucket to drain the toilet’s tank, but it’s still a job you can do in 15 minutes.
A new fill valve will make your quieter and much easier to adjust, also it’ll be less prone to running all the time because the awful floating balloon valve will be replaced with a better, more modern mechanism.
Replacing the Flush Valve
Replacing the flush valve is a much more involved job than the other two, but it still isn’t hard to do. For this you will have to remove the entire tank, which is, frankly, annoying, and you will need a large set of channel locks (usually a 4-inch opening one) which will cost you at least $30.
This part will be more specific to your toilet vendor, so you’ll have to look into your toilet before you buy the part. A Kohler, for example, will have a column design and 3-inch opening at the bottom where another brand might have a traditional flap and a 2- or 2.5-inch opening. While you can shift from your brand’s design to a universal flush valve, it’s usually easiest (and hardly more expensive) to stick with the kind you have.
In short, the “universal” flush valves are not nearly as universal as those “universal” handles or fill valves!
The good news about this job is that it’s not expensive (about $20) and while it’ll take you about 60 minutes, it’ll be something that you don’t have to worry about for 5+ years if you do the job right. The job will replace all the main gaskets which means this job if the fix you need if your toilet tank is losing water and refilling on its own.
The downside or replacing these important gaskets means this job comes with some risk of leaks if you don’t seat the new gaskets properly. You can also crack your toilet tank with those huge channel locks if you over-tighten the assemble, so — please — read the directions and actually follow them.
So, in under 2 hours and with the following parts:
- handle ($15)
- fill valve ($15)
- flush valve ($20)
… and costing you about $50, you’ll basically have a new toilet.
Replace the toilet seat and hinges and it’ll be as new as possible without actually replacing the porcelain.