Everyone has been around an overflowing toilet and the hysteria, panic, and screaming associated with it. Not everybody knows how to stop an overflowing toilet immediately, and even fewer people can repair the toilet to functioning condition. Understanding why a toilet overflows is helpful in knowing which actions to take when it overflows.
How Blockages Happen
Water flows from the tank of the toilet, through the bowl, and out the S-bend to either a sewer or septic tank. Any obstruction in this water flow pattern can cause a toilet to overflow. Sewers fail far less often than septic tanks, neither of which happen often. Either a blocked S-bend or a shared drain line usually causes a toilet to overflow. The former is easier and less costly to fix, while shared drain lines require other appliances and fixtures using water to be fixed, or even worse — replace the drain lines.
What to Do When a Toilet Overflows
There is always water line running from the floor or wall into the toilet with a valve that dictates the flow of water. As soon as toilet water starts to spill over, reach for this valve and turn it off. Note that every homeowner should know where the valve is located ahead of time — preventing water from spilling onto the floor preserves the structural integrity of the floor.
A clogged S-bend can usually be fixed by plunging the toilet, but sometimes a drain snake is necessary to remove any blockages. Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t have a drain snake laying around, so most people contract plumbers to clear the S-bend. Be leary of using chemicals to pass blockages, as plumbers may be chemically burned by drain cleaning fluid.
The easiest problem to fix is a malfunctioning flapper. In the bottom of a toilet’s tank, there is a wide hole that allows water to flow through the bowl. When the handle is turned, a chain that connects the to the flapper allows the contents of the tank to flow through the bowl. Sometimes, a flapper doesn’t close when it needs to, resulting in an excess of water in the bowl, sometimes causing a toilet to run over.
Problematic Types of Toilets
Some toilets produced in the mid-1990s were designed to flow slowly, which means the toilet is substantially weaker than others. Other toilets have deficiencies or have worn down over time, resulting in restricted water flow. Instead of forking over hundreds or even thousands of dollars to fix a plumbing system, ask a professional plumber if a new toilet could be the solution.
How to Be Proactive in Preventing Toilet and Septic Problems
Refrain from flushing paper towels, napkins, tampons, or anything besides excretement and septic-friendly toilet paper. Clean out the nooks and crannies of a toilet by using drain cleaner monthly. Keep in mind that some people produce more excrement than others and “emergency flushes” are encouraged to keep a toilet in working order.
Fortunately, most homeowners are able to remedy an overflowing toilet. Sometimes, instead of trying to be the home hero, call a plumber who can fix the problem without fail.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.