Know Your Way Around Construction Equipment

Toilet Won't Flush? Here's How To Fix It

It's never a good day when the toilet won't flush! Luckily, most possible causes of a nonflushing toilet are easier to fix than you might imagine. Just follow the steps below to get to the bottom of your toilet failure issue and hopefully solve it.

Step 1: Check for clogs.

If the flusher lever does seem to be engaging but nothing else is happening, chances are you have a good old-fashioned clog. A clog that fully blocks the drainage pipe can prevent water from going down at all. To fix this problem, start by immersing a plunger in the toilet bowl. Make sure it completely encircles the "mouth" of the toilet drain, and then use forceful strokes to try and loosen the clog. Eventually, you should hear gurgling and the water should go down. Then, you should be able to flush the toilet.

If you're confident that you have a clog but cannot seem to dislodge it with a plunger, it is unfortunately time to call a plumber. There may be a more solid object, like a toy or sanitary pad, blocking the drainage pipe—and the plumber will have to disassemble the toilet to free it.

Step 2: Adjust the chain.

If the flushing lever does not seem to be engaging at all (in other words, it feels loose and wiggly when you push down on it), then the issue is likely a loose or disconnected chain. Open the top of the toilet tank and look for the chain that connects a long lever to a rubber flapper (this sits over the pipe that leads into the toilet). If one end of the chain has become detached, hook it back onto the lever or flapper.

If both ends are attached, there's a chance the chain is too long to pull the flapper up when the flusher lever is pushed. Push down on the flusher lever while watching the action of the flapper. If the chain does not pull the flapper up when you flush, then you'll need to adjust its length. Usually you can just hook it to the flapper at a different point along its length. Experiment with shortening it a few links at a time until it effectively pulls the flapper up when you flush.

In rare cases, the chain may become rusted and split in half. All you need to do then is detach the chain, take it with you to the hardware store, and buy another one to put in its place.

Step 3: Check (and replace) the flapper.

If the chain is in good condition and is pulling the flapper up properly when you flush, then the issue is most likely the flapper itself. Since this part is often made from plastic or rubber, it can crack or warp over time so that it no longer properly blocks the pipe. The water then flows, unregulated, from the toilet tank into the bowl. So, when you do flush, there's no water in the tank to flood into the bowl.

Look carefully at the flapper. If it appears to be damaged in any way, remove it from the end of the chain. Then, purchase a new one and hook it into place. Flappers are a standard size, so any one you buy at the hardware store should work. Give the toilet a flush after letting the tank fill up and admire your work.

In most cases, either a clog, a faulty chain, or a broken flapper is to blame for a lack of flushing. However, if none of the fixes above seem to cure your problem, there's a chance that a bigger problem is to blame. Contacting a professional for plumbing services is your best bet.