Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
Even in the most remote areas of the United States, we take toilets and improved sanitation systems for granted. That isn’t the case across the globe, where 2.4 billion people — about a third of the world population — doesn’t have access to toilets, according to WorldToiletDay.info.
To bring awareness to this problem, the United Nations General Assembly designated Nov. 19 as World Toilet Day. The goal is to make toilets available to everyone by 2030. The U.N. reports diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and contaminated water kills 315,000 children every year. In addition, disease transmission from bad sanitation and hygiene practices causes 17 percent of all workplace deaths.
In contrast to the billions of people without access to a toilet, most of us have several to choose from any time they are needed. When we go to use them, we expect them to work. If they don’t, it can create a bad — if not desperate — situation.
One of the worst times to have a toilet problem is when you have a house full of guests for a holiday get-together. In this corner of the world, a toilet that backs up, overflows or won’t flush properly is not going to create a life-threatening situation. It can, however, create a major inconvenience and be a huge source of embarrassment.
To stave off potential disaster, make sure your facilities are functioning properly by calling an experienced plumbing professional to pre-emptively deal with minor maintenance issues.
While toilets seem simple, there are several things that can go wrong.
Here are some of the more common issues.
The flush valve is at the bottom of the toilet’s water storage tank. When you press the handle, it releases water stored in the tank to flush the bowl. Then it closes and allows the tank to refill for the next use. If the valve doesn’t work properly, the toilet might flush continuously, never allowing the tank to refill. Or it might not flush at all. Finally, it might leak continuously or sporadically, allowing water to drain from the tank and run up your water bill.
Overflow, float and fill tube
These components work together inside the toilet tank to shut off the flow of water when it reaches the proper fill level. If they aren’t properly adjusted or if something breaks, your toilet either won’t flush or it will run constantly.
The bowl is the portion of the toilet that holds the water and supports the seat. There is a gasket — usually a wax or rubber ring or seal — that sits between the toilet and the floor. It is the device that directs the toilet water into the drain. If the seal is leaking or malfunctioning, you might notice water on the floor around the base of the toilet. A prolonged leak can cause extensive damage by destroying the subfloor and even leaking into whatever is beneath the toilet whether that is another floor of the home, a basement or crawl space.
A blockage of any kind in the drain line under the toilet or in the sewer line can cause the toilet to back up and overflow onto the floor. A plunger will sometimes clear the problem, but a main line blockage can disable sinks, showers and tubs as well as every toilet.
While toilet repairs usually seem straightforward, they can turn out to be difficult. Bolts, valves and fittings are often corroded or rusted, so they break when you try to remove them. A broken fitting can force you to shut off your home’s main water valve until you can fix the problem — not something you want to deal with on a holiday with a home full of guests.
To avoid a toilet emergency during the holidays, consider calling a trusted, experienced plumbing professional to make sure everything is flowing properly. That should give you some piece of mind before your guests arrive and add extra workload to your plumbing system.
About Linda Stanfield
Linda Stanfield has been offering plumbing services across the Valley for 31 years. She is the only plumber in the state to have won the BBB Ethics Award three times. As a plumbing leader in the valley, she can also be found on TV and YouTube sharing and helping consumers with their plumbing needs.