Toilet mechanics

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We have an old house with old plumbing. One toilet, in particular, backs up about once a month, so I keep a plunger handy.
The other day, it not only backed up, but overflowed dumping about an inch of water on the bathroom floor before I noticed it and shut off the water. It has never done that before.
As I understand toilet hardware, the overflowing is caused by a double failure: the shutoff valve in the tank failed to turn off the water and the blockage in the line prevented the extra water from draining away.
I cleared the blockage and turned the water back on. It has been running normally for about a week. I stay there until the water shuts off.
My question is should I replace the hardware in the tank? I believe it was replaced just a couple of years ago. I am afraid that it is going to fail again and I might not catch it before there is real water damage.
To my knowledge, the shut off mechanism has never failed before and it has not been working for a week. Is it normal for it to fail just once without it being defective and likely to fail again?
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On 10/13/2011 12:08 AM, Jennifer Murphy wrote:

I'm not so sure you've actually "cleared" the blockage. A friend of mine had 2 bathrooms that were back-to-back and the toilets shared the drain line. One toilet or the other was constantly backing up. He's plunge it out, "clearing" the blockage, only to have the other one do the same thing. Eventually, he got tired of all this and called a plumber. Plumber removed BOTH toilets, and fished out a small aerosol can of deodorant. It appears that someone (likely the teen son) dropped the can in the can while it was flushing. The can disappeared, so he thought nothing more of it, until it was finally fished out of the drain. It had been going back and forth in the connecting drain line, effectively blocking one toilet or the other until it was finally removed.
Another friend had a toilet that was constantly backing up ... he too removed it after several instances, and thoroughly checked the drain path. Stuck inside the toilet waste path were several little plastic toy soldiers. When confronted with the "evidence", the little boy said something about "drowning" the bad guys.
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On Thu, 13 Oct 2011 00:28:45 -0400, "<<<__ Bøb __>>>"

I'm pretty sure there are no toy soldiers in the line. Shortly after we bought the house, I had a plumber out because of the blockages. It's been awhile, but my recollection is he said the line was clear, but old and not well constructed. I think he said the pipe is smaller that code today and had some other problem like a bad joint or a bend that was too sharp.
Anyhow, he said we'd get blockages from time to time and there was nothing he could do other than replace the line. He recommended making sure not to use too much toilet paper and to get a snake from the hardware store. I got the snake, but have never needed it. Flushing more often has cut the backup down by 80% and a few pushes on the plunger clears those that do occur.
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Jennifer Murphy wrote:

Hmm, I think you answered all your questions yourself. There is no simple magic solution. Do the right thing)s) to fix the problem for good.
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More often than what?
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Andy comments: Replacing the flushing mechanics in the tank is not expensive, probably under $10, and you won't feel safe until you do it.... If you are handy, and can read the directions, you can do it yourself... However, the toilet is supposed to be able to drain faster than the input water from the tank can fill it. The bigger problem is the blockage in the toilet drain. Perhaps some child has flushed a toy soldier, or equivalent, and toilet paper is hanging up on it and eventually cutting down on the drain flow (as one example)... This type of obstruction is very difficult to fix, depending on where it may be lodged (if that is the problem).....
In any case, go ahead and replace the flushing components. That is the easiest thing to do, and , regardless of the drain rate, you don't want to waste the water if the shut-off doesn't work properly...
Andy in Eureka, Texas , PE
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wrote:

That was my main question. This is true only of the line is not blocked, right? That's why I called it a double failure.

See reply to Bob.
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On 10/12/2011 11:08 PM, Jennifer Murphy wrote:

Jennifer, what a rare and unusual double failure. I don't know whose fill valve you have now, but we have gone exclusively to Fluid Master fill valves. The float ball type seem prone to more problems than the FM. Korky flush valves if required. Installing a Fluid Master is well within DIY talent level. If you will sleep better, put in a fresh one.
Any diagnosis as to why you have repeat blockages?
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I second Dan G.'s suggestion about FluidMaster. I began using their products about 30 years ago, replacing all toilet "innards," in a number of homes with the FluidMaster products.
They have improved their products somewhat over the years. Their Web site is a rich trove of helpful DYI advice.
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watch a flush under way. does the tooilet flush with dedication? or mostly just swirl water around with a anemic flush?
sediment can clog the interior toilet water paths espically the bowl rim. and lead at the beginning to occasional poor flush, and as time passes it gets worse.
incomplete flushes lead to eventual clogs:(
EASILY AND CHEAPLY SOLVED, with some acid cleaner.
its safe effective cheap and a miracle for those effected
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wrote:

Well, this is subjective, but I'd say it's closer to "with dedication". I would not describe it as "anemic", but it does "hesitate" a bit. And sometimes I notice that there is a little "material" left in the bowl after the flush is complete -- like wet dust.
Is there someplace I can post a video? ;-)

According to the plumber, our water does have high mineral content and the little screens on the taps get clogged every few years with sediment.

Is there a specific product you recommend?
Is this something that goes in the tank?
Is it a one-time treatment?
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On Wed, 12 Oct 2011 21:58:36 -0700 (PDT), tim birr

OK, thanks.
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On Wed, 12 Oct 2011 21:58:36 -0700 (PDT), tim birr

I just visited the FM website. Very interesting video about the new Dual Flush system. My FM replaced the ball float, but retained the flapper. This new design replaces the flapper with a second pole-mounted float. It also replaces the handle with a two-way handle allows for a half-flush for liquid-only situations.
Does anyone have any experience with these mechanisms?
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That's what I thought. Curses.

It is a FM and it was replaced just a few years ago by a plumber when the old float ball type failed. I guess I'll replace it again, but I;d think they should last a lot longer than a couple of years.

See reply to Bob.
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On Thu, 13 Oct 2011 00:08:46 -0400, Jennifer Murphy

You might try a different flushing mechanism in the tank. Others here can recommend them. But I've seen plenty of older style mechanisms - handle chain to flapper - not fully close, because the flapper isn't closed. Probably a kinking chain, or a loose hinge on the flapper letting the flapper close unevenly. Mine does that every once in a while. Tapping the handle once or twice sets it right every time. When that happens you can hear and see it after the flush. Water inlet sound is full bore too long and you see the water turbulence in the bowl. I always hear it after I wash my hands.
If the flapper seats normally but the water keeps running, the mechanism should be replaced - unless you have something like a deodorizer hanging in the tank, which fouls the ball float and prevents it from closing the valve. What I don't quite understand is how you could walk away from a "backed up" toilet. I thought everybody made sure their waste actually flushed down. That's assuming it was a load of waste that "backed up" up the toilet. If not, there's something else wrong with the toilet drainage. Don't ever remember hitting the flush handle and just walking away. In fact, more than once in a fairly long life I've had the same 2 toilet malfunctions happen at once, but pulled off the top of the tank to seat the flapper before water got on the floor. Keep glass off the tank top too, because when that happens whatever is stored on the tank top usually falls to the floor tiles.
--Vic
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On Thu, 13 Oct 2011 06:38:01 -0500, Vic Smith

I guess you and I have different interests. I just don't have time to spend watching my poop go round and round in the toilet. ;-)
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On Thu, 13 Oct 2011 10:12:23 -0400, Jennifer Murphy

My main interest is making sure the toilet flushes properly and I'm not going to get an inch of water on the floor like you did. Takes all of about 4 seconds while I'm pulling up my pants anyway. You'll be watching that poop now, I bet. Secondarily, I don't want to leave a floater in there for the next person to flush. One of my daughters sometimes did that. No big deal. Just preferences/habit. Hey, let's just forget about this - I'm eating breakfast.
--Vic
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On 10/13/2011 10:12 AM, Jennifer Murphy wrote:

If it takes more than a few seconds, I'd be replacing the toilet with one that flushes better. Don't buy a cheap one, research online for ones that are tested and rated for their ability to flush solids.
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American standard "Champion" is good at big loads
wrote:

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On 10/13/2011 12:08 AM, Jennifer Murphy wrote:

I'm not sure why nobody suggested this yet, but before you go about changing everything, I'd spend $3 and 10 minutes and change the flapper. Flappers deteriorate and occasionally don't close properly. Get a new Fluidmaster flapper and try it out for a while. Note: if the tank was full when you turned the water off, then the flapper was NOT the problem, but I'd bet the tank was near empty.
Also I assume you bought a Closet Auger (Toilet Snake). If so, I would use it (after you cleared the toilet with your plunger), just to make sure that there is nothing down there partially blocking your waste pipe. Another 10 minutes, no cost.
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Peace,
bobJ

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