View Full Version : Toilet problem

John Schreiber
04-07-2009, 2:25 PM
Without getting too graphic, both of the toilets in my house will clog if there is much to go down them. My family has adapted. Unfortunately, it's a problem for guests. (There's nothing like a guest at a party trying to subtly get your attention for this purpose.)

I've tried regular applications of drain cleaner. The toilets were original equipment on the house about 1986. Our neighbors have identical toilets, but do not have the same problem.

Any ideas?

Rob Cunningham
04-07-2009, 2:52 PM
There could be an obstruction somewhere down the line. Tree roots can grow through sewer lines and cause problems. A plumber can run a power auger through the pipe and cut out anything that's in the way.

Carlos Alden
04-07-2009, 3:19 PM
Do you have teenage daughters?

My neighbor got a major clog taken care of last year. The plumber ran a video camera down the drain out to the street, looking for tree roots and other blockages. The report came back that it was a big wad of "feminine hygiene products" from my neighbor's wife and two teen girls.

Could also be tree roots, which are not normally a problem with regular daily flushing but might be due to really dry conditions.


Lee Schierer
04-07-2009, 3:35 PM
We had clogging problems with our original toilet due to the feminine hygene products and lack of a vent to let the air out of the system when the toilet was flushed. Both problems were fixed.

When we remodeled the bath room we replaced our outdated toilet with a new Kohler one and it works really great. Only one clog when someone young got really really carried away with paper.

Joe Pelonio
04-07-2009, 3:48 PM
There are other possibilities too, like a lot of soap scum built up on the inside of the main line out, reducing the diameter and causing debris to catch. Sometimes birds or bees will nest in the vent pipe on the roof and cause the
toilet to drain more slowly.

On a previous, even older house I tried to sort it out myself, a messy and fruitless job, and eventually had a rooter guy come in and it turned out to be tree roots. You can rent a power auger but it's worth paying them to do it! :o

Prashun Patel
04-07-2009, 3:52 PM
I'd call a pro. Time spent on the TerryLove plumbers forum has taught me that when it's a clog it's usually a pro's job.

David G Baker
04-07-2009, 4:21 PM
There is a similar problem in my Michigan house but I think it is the toilet and not the drain. I think a few of my guests may want to try some Metamucil a day or so prior to visiting my house if they wish to avoid the embarrassment. :D
Had a similar problem in California when my youngest son would visit. He must have a diet of concrete, I had to go to the hardware store and purchase a special tool to take care of the problem he created.
A bathroom remodel is on the near future to do list, my plan is to do some serious shopping prior to purchasing a new toilet. We are getting older so the higher stool for old folks is also going high on the list. My vent pipes are also too small so they are going to be replaced as well.

John Schreiber
04-07-2009, 4:37 PM
Thanks for the ideas. I doubt it's tree roots because there aren't any trees along the way to the sewer. It affects both toilets equally, so I'm sure it's not related to my daughter. I suspected the toilet too because I think the house was built when the first low flow toilets came in, but my neighbors with the same unit don't have any problems.

How do I identify the vent as a possible problem? How big a vent should I have? I could go up on the roof and tape it closed to see if that made any difference. Would that be a bad idea?

Stephen Beckham
04-07-2009, 4:40 PM
I'm waiting for someone to say "no photos, it didn't happen..." but I guess this is a family oriented forum so it's likely to get a pass....:eek:

Butt - seriously. Have you tried RV toliet paper? Quite a bit less comfortable, but try a package and see if it makes a difference. When we bought, we had no choice but use it until we found the problem. The last foot of pipe before the tank was on a slight upgrade, so solids sat and waited for a push up the hill.

Give it a shot, if it works, use it until you can find time or money to get it fixed right.

Benjamin Dahl
04-07-2009, 4:49 PM
John, replacing the toilet with a newer model might be the way to go. I helped do that for a friend and that solved his family's issue. I think the new low-flow technology addresses a number of the old issues.

Gene Howe
04-07-2009, 5:33 PM
Before replacing the toilets, I would snake the line.

Wes Bischel
04-07-2009, 6:13 PM
Had a similar problem with our older toilet. The gent at our local hardware store (the real old time kind) suggested Calci-solve or Urinakleen. I used as directed and it took care of the problem. I won't say it flushed like new, but it was a noticeable difference.
http://www.nucalgon.com/assets/prodlit/3-93.pdf (first and last page)

Might be worth a shot. Cheaper than new toilets and less nasty than snaking the pipes. :D

Good luck with a thankless job.


Tom Godley
04-07-2009, 6:32 PM
John: Some of the early lower flow toilets are notorious for clogging. If you have always had the problem and the toilets are the same I would suspect that that is the problem. Kohler had some really bad ones that were early water savers in the 80's prior to the 1.6 gallon rule. When the 1.6 rule was finally adopted they were all bad for a while. I installed Kohler 1.6g one piece toilets in a house a house around 1990 and they were horrible.

You can get really good ones today -- I have used both Toto and a Duravit -- both excellent. I have also installed a pressures assist unit for a difficult installation that will suck you in if you stay too near :)

Joe Pelonio
04-07-2009, 6:39 PM
The early low flow toilets came out in the early '80s and in some areas, like where I was working for a water district at the time, became required by code soon after. They used 3.6 gallons and the cheaper ones were terrible, in many cases people had to flush 2-3 times which wasted water.

The modern ones are now 1.6 gallons, required since 1995 by Federal law for the entire U.S.

The design is better though now, so the 1.6 actually flushes better than the early 3.6, but again, avoid the cheapo $49 versions. Expect to pay $250-$400 for a good one.

Of course, if you need heated seat, bowl lighting and push button seat activation, then this is the one at $4,331 :eek:


Corey Wilcox
04-07-2009, 8:04 PM

I would suspect one of three things: tree roots, soil settling may have caused your pipe to get a "V" in it, or you could have scaling/blockage of the line between the tanks if you're on septic. Bad, bad things eventually happen from all of these. Do you notice the toilets not flushing "strongly"? I mean, if there's nothing in them does the water go down fast or is it a lazy swirl? If it's lazy then the problem doesn't likely have anything to do with the toilet itself and is probably in the line (by line I mean the drain line outside to the street or between the tanks). If they flush well with just the water then it may just be a low flow toilet issue. I agree with the other guys here. Get a plumber to check the issue out and have him/her give you a full report. If you're on a septic system make sure to give everyone in the house "the speech" about what they can and can't do. Whatever you do, don't wait. My dad ignored his impending septic problems for too long and he's now paying for it. As of Saturday he was digging up a collapsed tank and trying to cut the top off with his sawzall. Hot sawzall blade + grey water and solids = memorable moment.

Ed Breen
04-08-2009, 4:25 PM
Don't know if you are rural or urban. Our line was put in by the original builder and he was cheap. He used thin wall plastic whic collapsed.
I dug it up and put 4" sked 40 in the line.
One other thought, we were making some changes in our office bathrooms and had to change plumbers in mid stream thru no ones fault. Well the second guy we called "the plumber frm hell" He took out the 4" pipe and replaced it with3" simply because the zity allowed it.
Don't cut off the air supply at the vent. You might want to put a wire screen up top to keep the birds out. Do check and see if a pipe has collapsed, you never know what went in before you bought the house.:cool:

Rick Moyer
04-08-2009, 7:55 PM
I would get a plumber and have them snake the drain. If this has not always been a problem then likely the drain is partially clogged, whether from roots or something else. I would doubt it's the toilets or the vents.

Rich Engelhardt
04-09-2009, 5:46 AM
Call Roto - Router.
Pay the $250.00 to get rid of the roots & other "stuff".


Get a Gerber & replace the wimpy "water waster" (how can something that requires 3 or 4 flushes possibly be a "water saver???").

We put a Gerber back flush in our downstairs bath.
The thing'll scare you the first time you trigger it:eek:.

No kidding, I think that thing could flush a bath towel w/no problem.

The design is better though now, so the 1.6 actually flushes better than the early 3.6, but again, avoid the cheapo $49 versions. Expect to pay $250-$400 for a good one.
We had a $49.00 "cheapo special", 1.6 that worked fine.
We replaced it with a $500.00 - "4 flush" Kohler four years ago.:rolleyes:
Seems like Kohler hasn't gotten it right yet.
I hate that thing!
But - since we have $500 in it, and my wife likes the low profile look of it,,,
(It may suffer a terrible accident some day when I redo the trim in the bathroom, hehehe).

Prashun Patel
04-09-2009, 8:25 AM
IMHO, the best toilets are Toto's. The Drake's their old stanby, but they have a bunch that are jet assisted, should you need that.

Dave Lehnert
04-09-2009, 9:41 PM
The problem with the low water toilets in the beginning was when it was required to do so the mfg's just put a smaller water tank on an old designed base. Did not work till they got around to redesigning the whole unit.

If you have a vent problem. When you flush you will hear a Blub, blub, blub, blub sound. That is the air trying to escape back into the bowl.

keith ouellette
04-09-2009, 10:06 PM
what dave said about the vent problem (post just before mine) is usually true but not always. You can have a partly clogged vent and not get a "burp or gurgle" at the toilet.

Do the shower/tub drain slow also?

They will be on the same waist line if you have a two tank system and if the problem is in the line then they would have to drain slow also. If nothing else drains slow then it very well could be the toilets.

If tubs drain well;
If the water in the toilet goes down when it is flushed and the solids stay then it is because the toilets either have a poor design or the little holes in the top of the bowl have clogged over time (that is where the water flows into the bowl from the tank, the holes are up at the top under the rim)

You can un clog those holes and getter the toilet to work better but unless you are really strapped for cash I would just buy a new toilet.

If the vent is partially clogged the tub will drain a little slow but you may not be able to notice it un less you compared it to a faster draining tub. In this case it could be enough to keep the toilet from flushing out efficiently.

When I was about twelve I remember we had this very problem. My father had me climb up on the roof (it was not steep at all) and put a garden hose in the bathrooms vent stack. I pushed the hose as far down as I could and he turned on the water. The I could tell the vent stack was slowly filling with water by the noise it made. My father told me to try and cover the vent stack with my hands as best I could ( i know now it was to create extra pressure in the vent) I herd a different noise and then felt suction on my hand and could just see the water in the vent as it went down the drain.

The problem was solved.