Plumbing experts address ghost flushing
My toilets occasionally sound like they’re flushing on their own. Is this an indication of a problem? — Angie's List member Marilyn Banks
The likely cause of the issue is the toilet flapper, which holds the water in the tank, has worn out and is letting the water level drop, according to Mike Richard, owner of highly rated Mike Richard Plumbing & Heating Services in Waltham, Mass.
“As a result, it’s turning on the fill valve, which lets water back into the tank,” he says. “It’s normal wear and tear and just needs replacing.” Richard suggests putting four to six drops of food coloring into the tank after the flapper seats itself. “Wait about five minutes. If the color of your food coloring is visible in the bowl, you have a leak,” he says.
Fernando Gonzalez, owner of highly rated Gonzalez Plumbing & Heating in Wilmington, Mass., says not fixing the issue is literally money down the drain in the form of wasted water.
“It’s not an emergency or anything, but you’re definitely going to notice the difference on your water bill,” he says.
Richard estimates the cost of fixing the problem at $160 plus parts, adding that it should take no more than an hour. Gonzalez charges $225 for a service call, but recommends going to a hardware store and buying a replacement flapper and installing it yourself. “If the toilet is 15 years old or more, and you keep having issues with it, I’d advise spending a little bit more and getting a new one,” Gonzalez says.