Updated: July 2023

A basic understanding of how toilets work can help diagnose several plumbing issues. Have you ever really thought about how your toilet works and what all of its parts are actually for? Unless you’ve had to repair one yourself, it probably hasn’t crossed your mind to learn the inner workings of your toilet. This guide will help you understand toilet plumbing.

Understanding the Different Parts of a Toilet

The way a toilet works is fairly self-explanatory as long as you understand what the different parts are and what they do. This can be beneficial to you if you ever have a problem with your toilet leaking, running, or flushing improperly. If you understand what’s going on in there, it might be easier to understand what’s causing any issues you might run into.

Common Issues & Troubleshooting Tips

The anatomy of a toilet is fairly simple. Knowing how it works may be able to help you diagnose several problems you could be having with your toilet.

The base of the toilet is attached to the floor with a flange. A wax ring is inserted between the flange and the fixture to create a seal. The toilet is bolted to the flange with closet bolts.

If your toilet is rocking, it could need new bolts or a new flange. If it’s leaking at the base, that could mean you need a new wax ring.

Anatomy of a Toilet

From the tank, there is a thin pipe (the supply line) connecting your toilet to a water source. At the wall, there is a shut-off valve that will shut off water to the toilet.

If your toilet keeps running and you can’t figure out why you might need a plumber. It’s probably a good idea to turn the water off at the shut-off valve so you don’t end up with an outrageous water bill. It may keep running for a short time until the water drains from the supply line.

Inside the tank, it gets a little more complicated. All of the mechanisms that help your toilet flush is located here.

When you flush the handle, it pulls the trip lever or chain up. At the end of the chain is the flapper, so when you flush, the flapper is lifted. The force of the water pulls the water and waste you’re flushing through the trap and into your sewer.

If the handle doesn’t do anything when you push it down, something may have come disconnected or broken in the tank.

Toilet Parts to Remember

Even just understanding what these terms mean can help you decipher the mystery of your toilet’s anatomy:

Flange: a rim used for attaching one object to another.

Wax ring: a ring of wax that sits between the flange and the base of the toilet.

Closet bolts: long, brass screws that connect the flange to the base of the toilet.

Trip lever: a metal bar connected to your flush handle that is lifted and pulls up the tank ball when you flush.

Flapper: a flat stop at the end of the chain that lifts when the handle is pushed down. This keeps water from constantly flowing into your toilet bowl.

Fill valve: water flows into the tank from the supply line through the fill valve. As the water in the tank rises, a float on the fill valve rises with it. When it gets to the top of the fill valve, the toilet stops filling.

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