Stubborn Toilet Requires 2 Flushes

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by Gaelic, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    I have a ground floor two-bath 20 year old condo unit over a crawl space. The toilets are about 10' apart. The hall toilet works well, but the master bedroom toilet always requires a 2nd flush to get solid matter to go down. The first flush is lethargic, with everything moving slowly around in a lazy circle which produces little effect. A minute later, the 2nd flush is considerably more vigorous and everything goes down.

    I have talked to two different plumbers who were in on different occasions to fix other items. They looked the toilet over, but they had little to offer. I think one did try probing the entry holes with a wire or something (didn't seem to have an actual tool available for this). They didn't seem to think a new toilet would necessarily solve the problem. I believe obstruction in the pipe to the street was raised as a possible suspect, but not with much conviction. I don't see how that could be the cause if the hall toilet works OK, as does the problem toilet on that 2nd flush. All opinions welcomed. Thanks.
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,062
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    You may have an older American Standard Cadet toilet, but ANY toilet can have your symptoms. It is caused by the fill valve NOT supplying enough water into the bowl after a flush to refill it. Your first flush uses most of the water to refill the bowl and there is not enough left after that to make the flush. Once it is full, the second flush performs normally. To prove this, slowly pour water into the bowl until the water level is at its maximum, then flush the toilet.
  3. Smooky

    Smooky Member

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    629
    Location:
    NC
  4. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    Better, but no brass ring...

    OK.The water level was approx 1/2" below the top of the pipe, so I poured additional water into the tank yesterday. By this morning it had gone down to where it was yesterday, so I assume that means the flapper isn't seating quite right or is worn?

    I filled it up again and followed with a real world test. It flushed better, but did not swirl vigorously and about half the solid stuff remained. On the second flush [I did not pour extra water into tank] I noticed that it built up a good swirling motion before half the tank is empty... which leads me to believe that extra water isn't the solution, but something different happens between the first and second flush. Any other suggestions?
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,676
    Location:
    IL
    Note that there are two levels being discussed here: bowl and tank.

    Regarding "so I assume that means the flapper isn't seating quite right or is worn? " that would depend... It would be normal to have the water level maybe 1/2 inch below the overflow. That will be a setting of the tank float valve. If you lose signifiant water from the refill level overnight, then your flapper or seat would be the problem. So I would think you want to record the two levels before the flushes to see if they correlate with the flush vigor.

    I am following this with interest.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,273
    Location:
    New England
    You're not quite getting this...when you flush, the refill valve does two things: refills the tank, AND refills the bowl. If EITHER of those are not full to their design depths, the toilet may not flush properly. The factory refill valve likely did a good job of refilling both properly, but some aftermarket ones do NOT!

    As stated already, both the BOWL AND THE TANK must be properly filled. So, the tank level dropping over time is one issue (usually the flapper valve), but to test that the BOWL is properly filled, you need to SLOWLY add some water to it until the level stops rising. Also note that it can take a few seconds-minute or so for the bowl level to stabilize. Once you reach the level it won't go up and stabilizes, THAT'S the full level, and the bowl MUST be refilled to that level to produce a proper flush.

    If it doesn't get refilled properly, you need a different refill valve that has the balance right (some are adjustable) so that just as the tank is filled, it is finished refilling the bowl. As to the tank level, most have some sort of mark in the tank, but if it doesn't, about 1/2" or so from the top of the overflow tube is usually correct. That level is adjustable, the amount that goes to the bowl, often is not, and is based on the size of the opening to the hose that goes to the overflow to fill the bowl.
  7. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    tankBedroom.jpg
    Looks to me like the tank level is right on the line. I added water to the bowl, but it does not appear to rise at all.
  8. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,676
    Location:
    IL
    When you are in that situation, do you get a lazy flush, or a good flush? Check those levels tomorrow before the first flush.

    Your pull string seems odd. I was concerned that it might get caught under the flapper, but I guess it does not. I would possibly take some slack out of that while still leaving some slack.
  9. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    The only time I get a vigorous whirlpool action is on the second flush. I will take some slack out of the string.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,062
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    You do NOT put the extra water into the tank. That would accomplish NOTHING. You pour it slowly into the toilet BOWL until it is as high as it is going to be. THEN, immediately flush the toilet, not the next day. If the flapper were leaking you would not have the problem.
  11. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    OK. Since I noticed that the water seems to be right at the mark on the tank, I had no intention of adding any more there.
    Well, as I have written - when I tried adding water in the bowl the water level did not go up. It maintained the level I found it at. I can't force it to go higher, can I?
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  12. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    OK, looks like this one has lost interest... but maybe someone might yet take a stab at my question above and the follow-up:
    If there isn't enough water in the bowl, can this be corrected?
    Or does it mean a new toilet is the only option?
    Thanks to all.
  13. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,387
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Water level in a toilet bowl is determined by the weir that is part of the built-in trap. A weir is like a dam and it can not be changed. If the toilet is as old as the house, it is likely an early low flow toilet. These early models were fraught with problems. They gave low flow a bad name because they were so bad. If your toilet is one of these old timers, it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a new one. Newer models have been redesigned and function much better. The leading manufacturer is Toto.
  14. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,676
    Location:
    IL
    I have not lost interest, because I am interested in the cause in your case. Since you wrote "when I tried adding water in the bowl the water level did not go up.", you will not be able to raise the level of the water in your bowl with that toilet.

    I hesitate to say this, but I wonder if there is something about your plumbing that could cause your symptom, such as a vent problem, wax ring admitting air, partial blockage in sewer. I don't have an explanation of how any of those would cause your symptom. Well, I have a partial idea that you somehow get a better siphon action on your second flush. But I just can't come up with a model that would explain this. Yet you do have the symptom and you have eliminated bowl and tank water levels as the cause. Why is the second flush more productive?

    A new toilet is probably your best option, but I was hoping somebody could solve the mystery.
  15. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,316
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    You may have something in the trapway slowing down the siphon.
    Pull the bowl and run and auger from the bottom, and reset.
  16. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    Wouldn't the fact that the 2nd flush always is fine indicate that nothing is in the way?

    Re toilet age -
    Two story building constructed in 1991; toilet probably original. It is a Briggs. Inside tank: BRIGGS 493 Upside down: 958 (large numbers, last one partial impression) and 8-8190 (smaller)
  17. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,316
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Not always.

    Sometimes the trapway collects things that may catch and then not catch. It can be variable.
    The main thing that has been mentioned above, is the same starting point in the bowl. The bowl water level should be at it's fullest before you try flushing.
    If the water level has dropped in the bowl, then the first drop from the tank will need to replenish the bowl first, and then start the siphon. If you have things like pens or q-tips in the trapway, they can slow the siphon too.
  18. Starwarsith88

    Starwarsith88 DIY kid who loves toilets

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Sparta NJ
    Gaelic, I have an idea. Maybe try to replace the entire flush valve assembly. if so, it might be that the toilet needs to be replaced. If you get a new toilet, I recommend a TOTO Drake or Kohler Cimarron Class 5. They are both very good toilets and flush amazing. If you want to cut down on your waterbill, try out the TOTO Eco drake. Same as the TOTO Drake with the GMAX flush system (1.6 Gallons Per Flush) the Eco Drake will flush 1.28 gallons per flush at probably the same performance. Anyways, if you need the flush valve, try out the Korky one. They tend to be pretty good. Also replace the fill valve with a Korky 528MP, maybe the refill ratio needs to be higher.
  19. Gaelic

    Gaelic New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Indiana
    Throwing in the towel(?)

    OK, my latest and most extensive experiment. Luckily, I am on a [mostly] vegan diet, so nature always cooperates.

    Today I flushed right before using and allowed the water to settle. After business was done, flushed. Two experiments so far today. The first time, the bowl's flush was not vigorous and most, but not all, of the stuff went down. The second experiment, same procedure, but this one a total failure. The swirling in the bowl was lethargic and almost nothing went down. This was followed immediately by another flush that cleaned things out.

    I am not young enough to give serious consideration to pulling the toilet up to run an auger. Nor do I have the ambition to replace the entire flush valve assembly in the, seemingly slight, hope that we can hold on to this 20 year-old toilet. So, I guess we have to decide whether we get a new one or accept this inconvenience.

    Thanks to all. I am always cheered by the helpfulness found in forums such as this one. http://www.terrylove.com/forums/images/smilies/cool.png
  20. u.s.coins

    u.s.coins Member

    Messages:
    35
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think I would address the rim holes once again. clean them out with a piece of coat-hanger. take a look and see if the commode has a siphon hole in the bowl. this can and will become clogged with deposits over time and definitely needs cleaned out also. this is what gives you the oomp in emptying the bowl. it is located opposite the flush hole in the bowl. just my 2 cents.
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