You flush the toilet, wash your hands, and sit down with a good book, but after several minutes, it sounds like the toilet bowl is still flushing. The continuous running water in the toilet bowl is likely the sign of a faulty toilet flapper. Have no fear, though—it’s easy to replace the toilet flapper, and it’s not nearly the dirty job you might think. Here’s how to replace an old or broken toilet flapper.
Flex your DIY muscles.
Get a running start on that running toilet with this useful guide
What you'll need:
- Scissors (optional)
- Rubber gloves (optional)
- New toilet flapper
Shut Off the Water Valve
Before removing the old flapper, reach down to the water shut-off valve behind or near the toilet. Turn it clockwise until it stops moving. Then, lift the tank lid on the back of the toilet and empty the tank by holding down the flush handle.
Identify the Problem
As you’re emptying the tank, watch the flapper, which is a piece of black or red rubber connected by a chain. If the chain is too long, it may get stuck between the flush valve and the flapper, allowing the water to run. Or if the flapper isn’t aligning with the flush valve, it can prevent itself from sealing, causing a constant running water sound. Sometimes, the flapper is just too old to hold a seal and needs to be replaced.
Remove the Old Flapper
Handle old flappers gently because the rubber and plastic components can become brittle and break if you apply too much pressure. Start by unlinking the chain connected to the flapper, but you can leave the chain for now—you'll either connect it to the new flapper or remove it completely if the replacement part has a chain.
The flapper is connected via two small pegs on each side. Either snap the flapper off the pegs if it's plastic, or slide the flapper off if it's rubber.
Purchase a New FlapperPhoto: ben-bryant / iStock / Getty Images
Note the make and model of your toilet, then head to the home improvement store or order a flapper online. You could do this step first if you wish—especially if you only have one toilet in your home or apartment. You could also take the old flapper to the store to find the same or similar replacement part.
Install the New Flapper
While there are different types of flappers, most flappers for home use will be made of rubber. Start by aligning the flapper with the small pegs and sliding or snapping it into place over the flush valve. If the new flapper includes a chain, unclip the old chain from the flush handle lever, which is a bar toward the top of the tank, and connect the new chain. Otherwise, clip the bottom of the old chain to the new flapper.
Check the Chain
Once you’ve clipped the flapper to the old chain or connected a new chain to the flush handle lever, check the slack on the chain. It should have some give and not be too tight, but it also shouldn’t be too loose.
Test the FlapperPhoto: digitalreflect / Adobe Stock
Leave the tank lid off and turn the water valve back on. Let the water fill the tank above the flush valve before pressing the flush handle. Flush a few times, ensuring the water refills the toilet bowl in about 30 seconds and the chain doesn’t get stuck in the flush valve. When you’re satisfied with your work, replace the lid on the tank.
DIY Toilet Flapper Replacement vs. Hiring a Plumber
Replacing a toilet flapper is a simple job for most homeowners. The only problem you may come across is if the old flapper is particularly brittle and hard to remove. Hiring a top-rated local plumber to fix a toilet costs around $50 to $100 or more. Replacing a flapper yourself will cost $10 or less for the new flapper and about 30 minutes of your time.
Additional Questions About Replacing a Toilet Flapper
How do I know if I need to replace my toilet flapper?
If your toilet is running after every flush or the toilet won’t flush fully, you may need to replace the flapper. You can see if the flapper is old or if the chain length is too long or short by opening the tank lid. A number of different causes can lead to a running toilet, though, so if replacing the flapper doesn’t fix it, you may need to hire a plumber near you to determine the problem.
How much is a new toilet flapper?
New toilet flappers are about $1 to $10 for standard models suitable for home toilets.
How often do I need to replace the toilet flapper?
Toilet flappers can naturally lose their sealing power or begin to crack over time. With regular use, you'll need to replace the toilet flapper about every three to five years.
Are toilet flappers universal?
Not all flush valves are the same size. There are toilet flappers on the market that are labeled as universal, but to ensure your new flapper is the right fit, it's best to buy one designed for the make and model of your toilet.