When we think of a toilet, we often picture the toilet bowl, toilet seat and the cistern at the back of the toilet. Nowadays, there are various types of toilets and some of them, the cistern is hidden behind the wall. It makes for a great sleek look in the bathroom, but when the toilet is no longer flushing correctly, it can seem daunting for the repair work as the cistern is not easily accessible as a 1970s toilet. A part that we don’t give any thought to until the toilet is not flushing and filling correctly, is the float valve which during your time living in your home, may end up needing to be replaced. Toilets can be made of porcelain or a type of clay called vitreous china, they can come in glazed cast iron, steel, or stainless steel materials but the components nowadays inside most tanks are plastic, otherwise older toilets have metal parts which eventually corrode from sitting in water.
If you are in the process of upgrading your toilet as a solo project or part of a bigger bathroom refurbishment before calling in the plumber you need to know what type of toilet you currently have and what type of toilet you would like to upgrade to. The plumber will let you know if this is possible and at what sort of financial cost the project will be.
The different types of toilets are;
Close coupled toilets - the type of toilet we all familiar with, the pan and cistern coupled close together to make one toilet unit that is easy to repair and does not require too much space
Wall hung toilets - the water tank is built into the wall, these are expensive and difficult to install
Back to wall toilets - The toilet bowl is fixed directly onto the wall, while the cistern is hidden within the wall. These toilets are easier to install and less expensive than wall-hung ones
Back to wall toilets with storage units - A back to wall toilet that has the cistern hidden in the wall or the storage area
High and low level toilets - these toilets have a vintage look with the cistern fitted higher than normal, even the low level is higher than normal
Toilets also are fitted with different flushing mechanisms;
Older toilets used to have a ballcock valve, also known as a ball valve, (1970s Armitage Shanks float valve) and floated on the surface of the water. This was an obvious balloon or ball shaped valve. As cisterns have gotten small to accommodate wall hung toilets and back to wall toilets with storage units, the components in the cistern have also become more compact, meaning modern toilets now have a float valve (occasionally referred to as a cistern valve).
This valve is responsible for controlling the level of water inside the toilet tank and sometimes it stops sliding up and down correctly with the water level and may need replacing. This could be due to a build up of limescale or just general wear-and-tear over time as the float valve is permanently in water. Well known brands of float valves are Fluidmaster for wall-hung and other compact toilets or Flomaster for close coupled toilets. Both brands allow for side entry fill.
A float valve is a relatively inexpensive part to replace in a toilet. Depending on the make and type of toilet you have the part can cost anywhere from £7 - £22 plus the labour of fitting it. If you have a close coupled toilet where there is no apparent access issue, replacing the float valve is a job that will be done in under 30 minutes.
Even wall hung toilets, where it might appear trickier with the cistern built into the wall, the access is just hidden behind the flush panel on the wall. The plumber will remove the flusher plate which will uncover an access panel behind a debris plate with the flush rods. All of this unclips in seconds to reveal the workings of the toilet. From here the plumber will have access to all of the cistern components of the toilet. Most are just plastic parts that easily unclip and slot in and out.
To access the float valve in the wall hung toilet, once in the panel, the plumber needs to isolate the water and unscrew the water hose which will only add an extra minute on the job. Once the float valve is unclipped and removed from the wall hung toilet, the plumber can even unclip the toilet syphon to check it is working as it should be before replacing the float valve and reconnecting the water supply. Therefore, even changing a float valve in a wall hung toilet can be accomplished in under a half hour call-out fee.
Cost to replace the toilet float valves
Replacing a close coupled toilet ball valve
Replacing a wall hung toilet float valve
Replacing a back-to-wall toilet float valve
Replacing a close coupled toilet ball valve and flusher
The toilet float valve is the small rubber ball or device inside the cistern that stops the water from overflowing or running non-stop.
If your toilet is prone to running or filling slowly, this float may need adjusting to solve the issue.
Adjusting a ball float
Carefully lift the toilet lid to the cistern and put that one side giving you access into the cistern. Look for the ball float next to the toilet tank. This might be a ball or a rectangle device. It will move up and down along a vertical pipe with each flush.
Unscrew the valve slowly so that it lowers to the water pressure then flush the toilet and watch the tank refill. The water level should stop just below the top fill line on the float. The float can keep being lowered in order to lower the water level even lower.
Adjusting a Modern Toilet Float
A modern toilet will not have a ball float but have a more modern device like the Fluidmaster, which sits inside of a fill valve. Look for the adjustment screw or clip to move the float up or down. Moving it down should stop water in the toilet from running.
Adjusting a Toilet Float to Conserve Water
Lowering your toilet flush will use less water. Keep flushing and adjusting until you find the perfect level to flush away waste with the minimum amount of water needed.
Toilets appear strong and durable on the outside, but some toilet components that work together for the functioning of the toilet are not as tough and the plastic parts are prone to break. Aside from the toilet float valve, this is three toilet parts that are common to break that could leave you with a toilet that overflows;
This valve allows the water supply to enter the toilet and fill the reservoir tank. The float on the fill valve goes up as the water rises. The toilet will stop allowing water to fill once the float reaches the top of the fill valve. If the fill valve does not shut off once the level is reached, water will cascade out of the toilet and flood the bathroom. If the valve is not opening correctly, water will not be able to pass through to fill up the tank.
When this fill valve stops working, a plumber will have to replace the valve. This is not too costly, as the part is under £20 plus the call-out fee of the plumber.
This is a stopper located inside your tank. When flushing the toilet, as the handle goes down, the flapper lifts allowing water to be pushed through the trap into the toilet bowl. When this part is no longer working correctly, your toilet might be running water from the tank into the bowl even when not in use, wasting water. A badly worn-out flapper might even result in ghost flushes. Replacing a flapper cost about £10 plus the plumber's call-out fee to replace the part.
If you go to flush the toilet and nothing is happening, this could be a sign of a damaged handle that needs replacing. The handle lifts the flapper to allow the water to quickly drain from the tank into the toilet bowl but over time the handle is known to corrode and need replacing. Like the flapper and the fill valve, this is a similar cheap replacement cost.
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