Emptying a Toilet

  1. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    [Yeah, I realize what I'm opening myself up to here....have at it.]

    Ok, so I have a plumbing problem. I have a seldom-used bathroom that today I discovered has a leak at the base (squish, squish, floormat). I can't fix it now and I'm going out of town tomorrow for a night, so I'd really like to drain it down to avoid coming home on Tuesday night to find the ceiling of my kitchen caved-in.

    So I'm looking at this thing and I realize I don't have a clue how it works, nor how to drain it, nor if I even need to!

    Here's an animation I found: http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/plumbing/how-to-repair-a-toilet.htm

    First, the obvious: Once the bowl drains below the level of the top of the siphon, how does the whole thing keep draining? Looking at my toilet, it looks like there is a lot more going on behind my toilet than is shown in the animation. It looks like there is a large pipe connecting the tank to the back of the siphon and another small one connecting the bottom of the siphon to the drain. I'm wondering if some of the flush tank water goes straight down the drain behind the siphon to work as an inductor to pull water out of the bowl. That would explain how the bowl can be emptied completely and make a glug-glug sound, breaking the siphon/induction action, and letting it fill. So how do I drain the siphon?

    Next, if there isn't any water around where the seal at the base unless it is in the act of being flushed, do I even need to drain the siphon or can I just leave it full?

  2. jcsd
  3. You 'should' just be able to scoop most the water out of it with a small cup then sponge the remaining water. After securing the water supply of course. That's all I did when I had to replace one in my old house.

    Does it look as though it's leaking through the wax seal?
  4. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    To drain a toilet, first turn off the valve on the service pipe/tubing. Then flush the tank. You might have to drain the tank with a cup.

    If you flush the toilet bowl with the water turned off in the tank, it won't fill, and the level will be low - and should be below the chamber that leads to the whole in the floor.

    Otherwise, one can drain the water by a cup or siphon. When lifting the bowl, tip it slightl forward, not backward, and the water won't fall through the hole in the bottom.
  5. Didn't you have a similar problem few months ago?
  6. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    It could be a dried out wax seal, or it could be a crack bowl or leak between tank and bowl. One should be able to place a paper towel around the based of the tank where it drains into the bowl, and where the two bolts that hold the tank in place are located to see if it gets wet.

    There's always a chance that it's the drain line, or leaking service line. Which means removing floor or wall board.
  7. how does it work? nonlinear dynamics.

    before taking it off, i'd spend a bit of time on my hands and knees hugging the bowl so to speak and searching for leaks. could be a hose connections, shutoff valve, where the riser tube/flushmaster seals to the bottom of the upper tank. in fact, i'd cut off the water at the wall, give it one last flush to empty the top tank (remove any excess with a towel), leave the tank lid off and see if the leak is still there (requires waiting a while to see if the squish dries up).

    if you empty the bowl, then you also empty the trap, and it will smell as gas comes up from the sewer.
  8. If you have matlab, type in 'toilet'.
  9. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    I dried-off the floor with paper towels, then waited to see where, exactly, the leaks came from: the water is, indeed, coming from between the base of the toilet and the floor. So it must be the wax seal.
  10. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Um....the only plumbing problems I've had with the toilets in the past are leaky flappeer valves. I've heard they get damaged by the drop-in, slow-dissolving toilet bowl cleaners, but it's worth it if that's the case.
  11. lol

    yuck. haven't had to do that one before, and it sounds like no fun.
  12. I was going to write something like this out, but How Things Work did a much better job than I can. And! They've got good tips on how to move the toilet around without breaking it, even.

    And yes, removing the pre-existing wax seal is messy.
  13. Mark44

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm about 99% sure it's your wax seal, Russ. The last time I bought one it was about $2.

    You'll need to turn off the water supply valve at the wall, flush the toilet, scoop out as much water as you can per Astronuc's advice, unfasten the supply line, take off the two (or four) nuts holding the toilet to the floor, then lift the toilet up off the studs holding it to the waste pipe.

    If your shutoff valve doesn't seal well, you'll need to shut off the water at the main shutoff valve for the house.

    After the toilet is removed, take out the old wax ring, and put in another, then reinstall the toilet.
  14. MATLABdude

    MATLABdude 1,723
    Science Advisor

    I hate the wax gaskets, since the seal can break rather easily (plus they're a PITA to remove, scrape off, and clean when replacing). I'd seen the neoprene gaskets, and I've used the Fluidmaster waxless gasket, but they're both a little pricier than the $2 wax special. Same with a new rubber one made by Fernco, that I've just recently seen around. However, these are great if a toilet gets shifted around, or isn't on completely level ground (and can't be shimmed or caulked for some reason).
  15. Chi Meson

    Chi Meson 1,767
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    You DON't want that. Trust me. Ewwww.
  16. when I've helped others with their stool to find the leak, I suggest putting tp around the base, taping tp tightly around and up at the narrowest place of the bowl, then flushing. Identifying exactly where the leak is most important.

    Riser supply valve, connection at the tank, overflow (if its running all the time/off and on), the connection between the tank and bowl if there is one (more common sometimes, again, if its running all the time/off and on), and at the wax seal (only after flushing).
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2010
  17. I don't think that it IS the wax seal since this is a seldom used toilet. The trap is part of the toiltet itself and once the thing has flushed and everything settled down, the water will remain in the trap where it belongs and everything below that will run down the pipe. I have had toilets removed for weeks at a time with something stuffed in the pipe to block the gas and everything stayed dry. As I understand Russ, this is on the upper floor of your house so nothing is above it drain-wise, and as long as no water continues to run into the bowl, I think you could leave it until you have a bit more time to dedicate to it.
  18. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    If you need a stop-gap solution until you get time to dig into the problem, shut off the supply valve, and flush the toilet until the tank is empty. That will dry up the leak regardless of the source, so you won't have a caved-in kitchen ceiling. Even if the tank is feeding some kind of inductor (very odd toilet), if you drain the tank, you have no more water available to leak out. The water in the bowl can't leak out unless the bowl is cracked, so leave it.
  19. My advice turn off the water to the toilet clean up the mess and then never use it again :)
  20. Chi Meson

    Chi Meson 1,767
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    ehhhhh, "stool" means something else in that dept.
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