How to Adjust the Water Level in Your Toilet Bowl

While many homeowners try to reduce energy consumption to help the environment, or save money on energy and water, the most common reason that people want to adjust the water level is because of improper flushing.

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Why the Toilet Water Level is Important

One of the most significant ways to reduce water usage is to identify and repair any water leaks around a home, as well as to make adjustments to water level usage. This could mean washing laundry with appropriate water levels, or reducing water levels in toilet tanks can significantly reduce water consumption levels. A toilet is a very common reason for water loss in the household. If toilet tanks have water levels that are too low, it can cause excess flushing, which results in greater water usage (and sometimes even overflowing!).

Look at the Toilet Tank First

Water levels in the toilet bowl are reflective of the water amounts in the toilet tank. If the toilet tank has a reduced amount of water in it, then the toilet bowl will fill with less water. Additionally, when there are excessive water levels in the water tank, the toilet bowl water levels will be significantly higher. Levels that are too high can make the toilet bowl more likely to have overflow issues, even with slight clogs. Water levels that are too low can cause backups and clogs.

Ball Float Water Level Adjustment

If you’re older than 30, it’s likely that you have seen this type of flushing mechanism before. In fact, some toilets still use this apparatus, but it’s less and less common.

Looking at the inside of the tank, the ball float is looks exactly as it sounds, a big ball floating on the water level. When the tank fills up with water, the level of the ball float determines when the water stops pouring in and is ready for the next flush.

To adjust a tank with ball float in it, you’ll follow these steps:

  • Turn off the water to the toilet. There will be a water valve on the wall next to the toilet.
  • Inside the tank, find the screw that’s connecting the ball float arm to the fill valve. Loosen the screw enough so that you can move adjust the level that the float “rests” at (i.e., water line). Tighten the screw back when satisfied with your adjustment.
  • Turn the water back on.
  • With the lid of the tank still off, give the toilet a flush to test where the ball float stops and how much water is in the bowl.

If it isn’t quite where you want it to be, you can repeat the steps until it’s where you want it.

Float Cup Water Level Adjustment

The cup float, sometimes called a cylinder float, is usually easier to adjust.

  • On the side of the cylinder, locate the narrow stem that runs parallel to the cylinder itself.
  • There will be a clip on the stem, and you will just pinch it to adjust it to the level you want it to be at.
  • Flush the toilet and see if the water level adjustment is what you need.

In some cases, you may need to use a screwdriver on cylinder floats. If you don’t see the clip (it should be obvious where it is), you’ll likely need to use a screwdriver to adjust it.

Should I Put a Brick in My Toilet Tank?

Some homeowners opt to place a brick in the tank to reduce the amount of water used to fill the tank. This is accomplished by water displacement. Simply put: the mass of the brick itself allows less water to get it, while still getting the float up to the water line.

Using a brick will reduce the water consumption by about a 1/4 of a gallon (quart) per water tank fill. Bricks should be replaced every year since the material can break down. Putting the brick in a plastic sealed bag can help ensure the water does not cause the brick to disintegrate, which can cause water blockage and damage. If you opt to do this, you need to change out the brick every 6-12 months to avoid this risk.

However, putting a brick in your toilet tank is not something that’s recommended. There are much safer ways to accomplish the same goal.

Using a Container Inside the Toilet Tank

If you don’t want to adjust the water level manually, this is a much better option than the brick.

Simply find a properly shaped liter container, fill it with water, and place it in the tank. Make sure to place it in such a way that it doesn’t get in the way of any of the flushing mechanisms, or can fall on them.

Needing an Adjustment vs. Repair

Over time, toilet tank mechanisms do fail. This, in part, is often due to corrosion from continuous exposure to water and minerals. The most likely parts to see damage are the chain, the float arm, and the flapper.

If the water flap (also known as a flapper) in the tank shuts too quickly, water levels in the tank may end up being significantly lower than they should be. Problems like this can result in improper flushes, which can make one thing that the water level needs to be adjusted.

You can often tell the difference between needing a water adjustment and needing repair by inspecting the flushing mechanisms themselves. If there looks to be any corrosion, then the water may not flow correctly and will need to be replaced.

However, if everything looks good, than a water adjustment may be all you need. Additionally, if your toilet has recently been installed, it’s more likely that it’s an adjustment issue. But if you have had the toilet for a while and this is a relatively new problem, there may be parts that are in need of repair or replacement.

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