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The Workbench: It's easy, cheap to fix a toilet

Have you noticed that the people we most depend on in life are addressed in the possessive form, as in, my doctor, my lawyer or my plumber?

We definitely can't perform home brain surgery, but many home-dwellers are qualified to tackle basic plumbing repairs. Parts to fix an aging toilet cost less than $25, and a simple tip from Rohnert Park plumber Einar Prado will keep the pipes running clog free.

Toilets are quite simple mechanisms, with just two active parts: the flapper and the fill valve.

Technology has rapidly evolved in recent years, with super low-flow (1.6 gallons per minute), rapid flush capabilities and an array of sophisticated flapper units. But since most toilet problems evolve over time, we will focus on the traditional models that have been around and unchanged for years.

To determine whether the problem is solely a worn flapper valve, place colored food dye in the water tank. Let sit overnight without flushing. If there's colored water in the toilet bowl in the morning, you need a new flapper.

Replacing the flapper:

Materials needed: Corky brand flapper, $2.98 to $15. Request the top-grade flapper as it has more flex and greater resistance to decomposition from harsh water.

Directions: Shut off water-supply valve. Flush toilet to evacuate water.

Remove old flapper (disconnect chain to flush-handle arm) and inspect the rim of the flapper valve-seat. If it looks rough, buff with a scrubby sponge to ensure a watertight fit.

Install new flapper and connect chain (leaving minimal slack) to flush handle arm.


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