ANYWHERE IN AMERICA (from L.A. to Bangor Maine, from Seattle to Miami)… How to save $378 on a home leak, or TESTING THE TOILET TANK WATER FOR A LEAK INTO THE TOILET BOWL

February 1, 2019

That’s the amount that was charged very recently at one of our managed properties by a professional company that found the water leak inside a toilet.  We got a call from one of our tenants. She said that her water bill had gone up 325%  from the previous month. About 5 gallons of water per hour (or 120 gallons per day) was leaking somewhere out of the home. A city water inspector was called in, she couldn’t find anything. We then went over to take a look at the home, we couldn’t find anything. We even looked outside everywhere and found nothing. Then, the next day, we hired American Leak Detection to take a look.

Previous experiences have taught us that there might have been a water broken pipe somewhere in or below the home. If it was under the home’s foundation (& yes, we’ve been in that situation, twice) : this meant probably digging up the flooring, then the cement foundation, digging for the pipe, replacing the pipe, filling in the hole, pouring new foundation, replacing the flooring – you get the idea, about $3,500 to $7,000 in repair costs. The leak detectors did their examination for $378 and they found the problem. There was an undetectable water leak in the guest hall toilet. With the new water saver toilets there probably is a design flaw. In the old days when you heard the “water running” in your toilet you knew immediately that one (or both) of the two inside main devices was broken and probably needed replacing. A simple $130 to $250 fix (to replace all the toilet’s insides) if you hire a plumber.  Or about $40 in parts plus 2 to 4 hours of your time if you Do-It-Yourself (about 4 hours if you replace all the toilet’s insides).

Today with the newer toilet models there is no noise, and you can’t see the water moving down the main water valve into with the naked eye.

With this particular toilet situation, it was one or two screws that weren’t doing their job hidden underneath the top cap assembly (see diagram below, upper left of inside of the tank).





So, there is a thing called the “Dye Test” and another one called the “Check The Water Level Test” – and either one of these takes about 10 to 20 minutes to accomplish.


The Leak Detector Dye Tablet TEST

Leak Detector Tablets or food coloring can be used in a tank to confirm a leak but these tablets do not verify where the leak is occurring. The best troubleshooting procedure for determining the leak point is using the Water Test below. Back to the Dye Test: note that you probably can ask for a couple of tablets for free from your local Water Authority. If you buy them at Lowes, you only can buy them in bulk ($145 for 576 of them… sheesh). OR you can ask your favorite plumber for a couple of tablets – in other words make friends with your plumber who is one of your best friends now, if you own a home. You can also use food coloring but it will stain the inside of your toilet tank.

So this leaves us with an in-expensive test called:



  1. With a full tank, turn the water off at the shut of valve. DO NOT flush the toilet.

  2. Make a mark in the tank at the current water level.

  3. Wait 30 minutes. If the water level has dropped make a new mark at the new water level and continue to wait.

  4. Repeat step 3 until the water level no longer changes.


The water level will drop down to the level of the leak and stop.

  1. Water drains to the lip of the flapper –

A) The flapper may be worn.

B) The drain seat that the flapper rests on is damaged.

Recommended Solution A:  Change flapper

Recommended Solution B:  Repair flush valve drain

Please watch this video to see how to repair the flush valve drain: 

 (& yes, this is a commercial for the Fluid Master Brand – and we don’t care about the brand -- but it’s a good video of how to DYI.)


    2. The water drains to the bottom of the tank – This happens when the gasket that seals the flush valve into the tank is deteriorated and worn.

Recommended Solution: Change flush valve

  • If a leak occurs at a flush valve gasket in new installation, the lock nut securing the flush valve to the underside maybe leaking. Fluidmaster instructs that the flush valve lock nut should be tightened no more than 1/2 turn beyond hand tight.

    3. The water drains down 1/4 to 1/2 inch from your mark and stops.

A) The refill tubing may be positioned incorrectly.

B) The overflow pipe may have a crack.

Solution A: Re-position refill tube so it does not enter into the overflow pipe – if possible attach tubing to a clip to hold refill tube above pipe opening.

Solution B: Change flush valve


When one of the above happens to your toilet, and it will in time, please drop us an email and tell us your “toilet story” ( or if this article was helpful to you – or you may want to print it out and save it for a future emergency toilet situation).

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