Toilet Failure Is A Leading Cause of Water Damage

Toilet failure, in particular toilet clogs and overflowing toilets, is the leading cause of water damage. Learn how to keep it from happening to you.

Leaky plumbing fixtures and burst pipes — including frozen pipes in winter months — are common reasons for home and commercial water damage insurance claims every year. Some common issues with toilets can lead to serious water damage, but many plumbing problems are preventable with regular maintenance and a watchful eye.

If a toilet is experiencing problems, call a professional immediately. The worst damages happen for two reasons:

  1. Someone chooses not to deal with or call a professional in time, and
  2. The issue isn’t visible on the surface and continues to spread or worsen until it’s too late

Follow these recommendations to avoid costly water damage from toilet problems.

The Cost of Toilet Failures

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety studied water damage claims in homes and businesses across the United States. The determined that toilet failure is the most common reason for water damage claims. In fact, more than 30 percent of toilet failures could be attributed to either clogged or overflowing toilets. And the average cost of these claims was about $5,500.

But here’s the good news, a little maintenance can take care of small problems before they turn into major ones. Here’s what you need to know.

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How to Reduce Water Damages from Toilet Failure

Test & Maintain Your Toilets Regularly

Take a bit of time every now and then to simply test your toilet’s working order. Pay special attention to what’s actually happening with it.

  • For example, remove the lid on your toilet’s water tank (atop the toilet bowl), A
  • Watch the water to ensure that it goes through a complete flush cycle smoothly — it should not be disrupted in any way or run intermittently.
  • Look inside the tank while it flushes. Make sure the valve completely refills the bowl and tank with fresh water. Do all the parts seem to be moving and functioning smoothly? Are some seriously corroded or deteriorated and require possible replacement? Are the gaskets (seals) all doing their job?

PRO TIP: If it looks like your toilet is going to overflow during your test, immediately lift the float device upward. This is often a plastic gray or black piece, and it may be located near the toilet handle. This is a quick way to temporarily shut off the water to the tank, preventing water damage from a toilet failure. Continue to hold it up to avoid further clogging. Turn off the water supply valve — located below the toilet — until the clog has been cleared.

Check Your Water Supply Line

Also, look at the water supply line. Be sure that the water line can be turned off easily if necessary. For older valves that have screw mechanisms, it may be harder to turn them off. If these are leaking, they likely need to be replaced. It is better to replace them with a simple ball valve, which is easier to turn off quickly.

Toilet failure shut-off toilet water supply line
Your toilet’s water supply can be turned off quickly by turning the water supply line valve – located under the toilet on the wall or floor – clockwise (to the right).

Seal the Bottom Edge of Your Toilet

Another way to prevent water damage under the floor is to keep the toilet caulked around the bottom. This is a great way to prevent toilet failure. Water can seep under the floor from a slow leak, condensation or an overflow. For those who own a condominium, water damage can spread to a neighbor’s ceiling below and cause costly problems.

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If the toilet bottom is caulked well, but your floors are still wet or warping or your toilet is wobbly, you might have a broken flange or need to replace the wax ring.

Toilet failure - caulk toilet seat to prevent water damage
Check at least once a year to make sure the seal at the bottom edge of your toilet is in good shape. Otherwise, scrape off old caulk and reseal.

Final Thoughts

Regular maintenance is a great way to help prevent toilet failures like toilet clogs and toilet overflows. Inspect the supply, flush and fill valves twice each year. Doing the above tasks every now and then can cost you loads of money from the expensive repairs caused by water damage from a toilet failure.

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