The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that American households waste an average of 10,000 gallons of water annually through leaks. Leaking toilets are among the most common sources of water waste.

Early leak detection and promptly making any needed repairs are critical for property owners. Smaller, often silent, toilet leaks may waste roughly 30 gallons of water per day; however, more significant leaks may cause losses of several gallons per minute.

Aside from wasting water and driving up utility expenses, leaking toilets may also cause property damage. For example, toilet tank leaking might result in water damage to the floor, walls and cabinets in your bathroom. Leaking toilets located above the ground floor can also have devastating ramifications for areas positioned below as water softens up planks, floor joists and ceilings.

Leaking toilets might also pose health risks as water-damaged wood, drywall and similar materials often begin to develop harmful mold.

Identifying a Toilet Leak

Leaks are often detected audibly as the toilet continues to “run.” Slower leaks running into the toilet bowl are often much less obvious. In these cases, place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 30 minutes to see if any colored water has leaked into the bowl. 

If you find water or watermarks on floors, it is likely that the toilet is leaking from the base or the toilet fill valve is leaking.

Keep in mind that condensation may form moist droplets on the toilet’s exterior when warm and humid air interacts with a toilet containing cooler water. Here, you might consider buying an “anti-sweat” mixing valve or improving the ventilation in the bathroom.

Homeowners are encouraged to proactively check their toilets for leaks several times each year, even without visible signs.

Causes of Toilet Leaks

What commonly causes a leaking toilet?

  • Faulty wax rings: Positioned beneath the toilet base is a “waxy” ring, which may deteriorate and cause toilet seal leaking.
  • Loose connections: The bolts that connect the toilet bowl to the toilet tank or those connecting the base of the toilet to the floor may loosen.
  • Cracks: Water might be escaping through a crack in the toilet.
  • Flapper issues: Internal leaks are often the result of a toilet flapper leaking, which is typically composed of rubber and is located within the tank.

Using Technology to Detect Leaks

For whole-home, 24/7 management and detection of potential water leaks, homeowners should consider employing the Flume® Smart Home Water Monitor. The system features a battery-powered sensor, which connects to your water meter and monitors the flow of water into the home to detect any variations in the rate of flow. Deviations in water flow rates as small as .01 gallons per minute (gpm) are detectable, making it capable of revealing very small leaks.

The Flume system provides real-time, early leak detection as part of a comprehensive water conservation and utility savings solution for homeowners. The Flume Bridge connects to your WiFi network and interfaces with the Flume App, which operates seamlessly on your smartphone.  

DIY Fixing Methods

Are you wondering how to fix a leaking toilet? Some of the do-it-yourself methods include:

  • Wax ring replacement: After turning off the water line and removing water from the toilet bowl, loosen the floor bolts and remove the unit. Remove the existing wax ring, using a putty knife to clear remnants, and replace it with the new wax or silicone ring.
  • Tighten connections: Securely tighten any loose floor bolts or those connecting the toilet tank to the toilet bowl.
  • Fill cracks: Small, hairline cracks in the toilet can be patched (filled) using plumber’s putty, epoxy or a similar compound. Generally, toilets with cracks exceeding 1/16 of an inch should be replaced entirely rather than repaired in this manner.
  • Adjust or replace toilet flapper: Access the flapper inside the tank and clean any deposits and/or adjust the guide arm adjustment screw as needed to ensure a proper fit. For replacement, purchase and install a compatible flapper, which should include a new chain that connects to the flush handle.

When to Seek Professional Help

If the aforementioned DIY methods prove unsuccessful, property owners should contact a qualified professional for assistance. Immediately having professional help is recommended when large cracks exist, improper items were inadvertently flushed, sewage odors exist, or similar conditions.  

Preventive Measures

Homeowners should regularly inspect and maintain their toilets to reduce the likelihood of experiencing leaks and for early detection of minor problems. For example, wiggling the toilet to ensure the bolts are tight, gently wiping down the flapper to remove any deposit buildup, replacing any worn seals or rusted components with quality parts and having professional service and installation when needed.

Water is a vital resource, as EPA data indicates that the average American uses approximately 80 gallons each day. Property owners must recognize that properly maintaining their water system is critical to minimizing property damage, health risks and utility expenses.

Failing to properly address a leaking toilet may damage floors, ceilings, drywall, structural components and other areas, which may result in costly repair or replacement costs. The accumulation of excess moisture and humidity that often results from leaks may also create ideal conditions for mold and mildew development, which can generate airborne particles that adversely impact indoor air quality and lead to respiratory problems and allergic reactions.

Promptly detecting toilet leaks is vital, as relatively minor problems can worsen over time. The Flume Smart Home Water Monitor is a system that monitors both indoor and outdoor water use in residential environments in real-time so that home occupants are promptly notified via their mobile devices if a leak exists.

The Flume system is also affordable and easy to use, with self-installation in a matter of minutes without performing any plumbing work. In fact, a recent LA Times report stated that the Flume product was “absolutely worth” the investment.

The Flume Smart Home Water Monitor is a valuable tool for proactively detecting leaks and conserving water. The system allows you to monitor usage for individual toilets and the various appliances in your home and represents an excellent means of minimizing your water utility bill.