When I’m not Frida’s Nurse

Our toilet was leaking into the bowl.  Toilets have two valves.  One that stops water from filling the tank when it is full (I’ll call this the supply valve–my term as I don’t know the correct term).  Another that holds the water in the tank until you want to flush (I know this is called the flush valve).

The rubber stopper that keeps the water in the tank was torn.  Water was free to leak into the toilet through the tear.  When the flush lever was operated, a rod pulled the rubber stopper up.  It took a fair amount of pressure to lift it.  The rubber was old and it finally gave up.  Torn Triple Seal Tank Ball

I am used to seeing flush valves with a hinged rubber flapper that is lifted but remains in place due to the hinge, ready to drop once the water leaves the tank.  The flush valve in this toilet was different.  Two rods connected the flush lever to the rubber stopper.  The lower rod ran through a guide attached to the overflow pipe on the flush valve (my term–I don’t know the correct term).  I’ve since learned this is called a Douglas flush valve.  Designed by John Douglas whose first name is sometimes credited with the slang term for toilet–john.Douglas Flush Valve

I wanted to keep the Douglas flush valve.  It is simple and made out of nice brass.  A new one would be plastic.  Also it is much easier to simply replace the rubber stopper on the Douglas flush valve than replacing the Douglas flush valve with a new flapper type.  That’d require removing the tank, which would require removing the supply line.  All that disassembly on a 50 year old toilet could create a whole new set of problems.  At minimum I’d want to buy a new tank to toilet connection kit with a gasket, screws, rubber washers, etc.  Too much.

Problem was, even after I learned I had a Douglas flush valve, it took me a couple of hours to find that the rubber stopper is called a triple seal toilet tank ball.  If you have a Douglas valve, that’s the term you want to search on Amazon or ask for at your local supply house.

The one I was replacing measured 3″ across.  I found a number of 3″ triple seal toilet tank balls on Amazon.  Looked just like the one I was replacing.  When it arrived, it was 3-1/4″.  It said 3″ on the box.  It sealed the tank but would hit the side of the tank and the overflow pipe so that it wouldn’t reseat itself after a flush.  Not good.  Path of least resistance–I ordered a 2-3/4″ ball.  It arrived and measured 3″ (and a natty red color–see above picture).  The size I wanted all along (and a color I could have only dreamed about).  Maybe something I don’t know about measuring tank balls.  I measured the widest part.  Whatever.  It is in and working.  Took ten minutes to install once I had the right size, but the toilet was out of commission for two weeks while I learned what I’ve shared here and then waited for parts.  Good thing we had another toilet!  Maybe it would be best to go to a good hardware store or plumbing supply house.  Probably wouldn’t even need to know the name of the part if you brought the old one along.

Also good to clean the brass pipe that the tank ball seats on.  It will likely be calcified, preventing a good seal.  I used a brass bristle brush but a little steel wool should do the trick.

Hope this helps someone!  Take care.


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