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Toilet Got You Up the Creek?


Forget sliced bread, indoor flushing toilets are the best invention ever. Life would be unbearable without them, as you’ll know if you’ve ever had a problem that’s left your lavatory out of commission for any length of time. Unfortunately, loo trouble is quite common (it’s pretty much what keeps plumbers in business), which is why home emergency insurance is so important – especially for landlords and even more especially if landlords have multiple properties.

According to Jason McClean, recent research has revealed that 4% of all emergency claims by landlords are related to the WC. The average claim is £204.82. Now consider that some loos are more prone to problems than others, especially if tree roots and pipe corrosion are involved – that can add up to quite a lot of money over a year. Landlords will definitely want to be covered so that they aren’t out of pocket on regular basis.

Most common problems

What are the most common problems that can make our trips to ye olde water closet a nightmare?

If water keeps dripping in the toilet bowl, the problem is usually washer-related. This is a fairly simple problem to fix on your own; all you need to do is replace washers at the top of the ball valve. You’ll have to open the cistern, take out the pin holding the float and remove the float, and then undo the screw at the top of the ball valve. Take off the screw and remove the underlying washer, as well as the rubber grommet (you might need some tweezers or something similar to pry them loose). Replace both washers and put it all back together. You can check to see if the problem is fixed by adding some food colouring to the water in the cistern. If it seeps into the bowl you know you have a more serious problem and it’s time to call the plumber.

It’s better to have water leaking into your toilet bowl than the other kind of leak – water leaking onto the floor. This could be a rather serious (although unlikely) case of a cracked porcelain base, or it could be a relatively simple matter of a faulty wax ring, which, according to Brian Simkins, you can fix yourself. If your toilet rocks every time you sit down chances are good that it hasn’t been properly attached to the floor. The rocking causes the wax ring to loosen. You can fix the problem by:

  • Shutting off the water supply and giving it a final flush to empty the loo completely.
  • Unhook the water supply and undo the bolts attaching the loo to the floor.
  • Pull the loo up and off the drain pipe.
  • Remove and replace the old, loose wax ring.
  • Replace the loo, exerting enough pressure to seal the wax ring completely.
  • Replace the bolts, also ensuring that they are secure – you don’t want any more rocking to undo all the work you’ve just done.

Rising water levels after a flush usually indicate a blocked drain. You can stop the alarming rising tide by opening the cistern and propping up the float to halt water flow, so you don’t have to worry about a messy floor. As far as the drain is concerned, you can get yourself some tools that can cut away pesky plant roots that cause routine blockages, but if the problem is tree roots, or cracked or misaligned pipes, you’ll need to call a plumber.

Toilets that require double flushing are a pain, an embarrassment and a waste of water. There are number of methods you can try to fix the problem. For example, you can shorten the chain that runs from the flapper cap to the flush handle. Sometimes the chain breaks outright, in which case the toilet won’t flush at all. A handy quick fix is simply to replace it with some household string or even a thin shoelace. You can also check the toilet bowl rim holes (you’ll need a mirror). Give them a clean (a small nail and acid-based porcelain cleaner are recommended) and you should be good to go. You should also check all the valves. It’s important to note, however, that if you have no clue where all the valves are, or what to do if any are faulty, you should definitely call a plumber.


Were you wondering about the most common emergencies that landlords claim for? Well, burst pipes and leaks are number one at 35%, central heating is second at 32%, water failure is at 7%, electricity problems are at 4% and pest infestations are at 3%.

If you’re not properly insured for any home emergency, it high time you did something about it.