Indoor plumbing is indeed essential to our health and happiness, but if your toilet breaks down, things can get bad quickly. Although toilets don’t have many moving components, the ones they do have are essential to their operation. One of the components that might break is the flapper.
So, what exactly is it, are there different types, and how do you choose the right one?
What Is a Toilet Flapper?
A toilet flapper is that device or contraption that looks like a flat plate with a ball (cut in half) fitted to the bottom, hinges at the rear, and a chain attached to the top. This toilet flapper sits on the drain or valve of the toilet tank, where the water exits the tank to flush through the bowl.
When a person flushes the toilet, the lever pulls on the chain, which pulls the flapper up, thus opening the valve or drain in the toilet tank and allowing the water to flush into and through the toilet bowl.
As you can probably tell, although this is a very simple device, it is extremely important to the operation of a toilet. Without a toilet flapper, also known as a toilet valve flapper, a toilet is rendered useless and inoperable.
Are Toilet Flappers Universal?
Although most toilets look quite similar on the outside, their interiors can differ quite a bit from one another. In terms of universality, the answer here is no, toilet valve flappers are not universal. Now, most modern toilets use the same size of flappers, but this is not always the case.
When it comes down to it, as we will cover in the two following sections, toilet flappers can differ by size and by type. There are three types of toilet valve flappers available, and just as many sizes, if not more.
Three Different Types of Toilet Flappers
Let’s start with the three distinct types.
1. Seat Disk Flapper
The seat disk flapper is the first and original type of flapper out there, one that due to a variety of issues is generally not used anymore. The seat disk flapper features a small and circular disk that covers the drain or overflow pipe, and therefore stops water from flowing through.
When a person flushes the toilet, that overflow valve becomes exposed, thus allowing water to flush through to the bowl. When it is flushed, the water reservoir actually holds the flapper open, and when the reservoir or tank drains, the disk flapper closes automatically.
2. Tank Ball Flapper
The second and more common type of flapper is the tank ball or tank ball flapper. This takes the shape of a ball, usually rubber, that sits on top of the toilet tank’s overflow pipe, which is attached to the flushing mechanism with a chain. When a person flushes the toilet, the chain lifts the ball up, thus exposing the overflow pipe, thus allowing water to flush into and through the toilet.
An important thing to note here is that these balls don’t always do the best job at covering the hole, and they may move out of place or not cover it completely (especially with age). Moreover, to function properly, that chain needs to be of a very certain length.
3. Rubber Flapper
The rubber flapper, which coincidentally does not always have to be made out of rubber (it’s just the name), is now the most common and widely used type of toilet flapper that can be found in manufactured toilets. This is like a combination of the first two (and it’s the main type we are here to discuss today). It looks like a ball combined with a disk (imagine a baseball stuck halfway in a wall), which is attached to a chain.
When the toilet is flushed, the chain lifts the flapper up and allows water to go through the overflow pipe. These tend to be the most effective at creating a good seal.
Overview of Toilet Flapper Sizes
What is also important to note is that toilet flappers come in different sizes. What is funny to note is those toilet flappers used to be universal, but not anymore. Toilet flappers can be anywhere from 2 to 4 inches in diameter. However, recently, 3- and 4-inch flappers became the norm, with 2-inch flappers not being used too often anymore.
The size of the toilet flapper is determined by the size of the overflow pipe, as well as how many gallons per flush the toilet in question features. As you can tell, choosing the right size of flapper is very important.
How to Choose the Right Toilet Flapper Type and Size
There are a few different ways to determine what type and size of flapper your toilet needs. Let’s take a look.
Perhaps the easiest way to figure this out is by reading the owner’s manual. The manual should tell you exactly what type of flapper you need, as well as the size.
Date of Manufacture
Although this is not definitive, it does help narrow things down. Toilets that are manufactured recently usually always use either 3- or 4-inch flappers, and most will use the rubber flapper variety.
Gallons per Flush
Something else that can help you determine what type and size of flapper you need (mostly size), is how many gallons per flush your toilet features. Low-flow toilets tend to use 3-inch or smaller flappers, whereas full flush toilets generally have larger flappers, up to 4 inches.
The Make and Model
Another super-easy way to determine what you need is by researching your specific toilet online. The internet is a wonderful thing that can teach you everything you need to know about your toilet.
Measuring and Some Common Sense
The other way to figure this out is by doing some measuring and eyeballing. If the inside diameter of the drain is 1-7/8 or 2-3/8 inches, then you need a 2-inch flapper, and if the drain is around 3 inches, you will need a 3-inch flapper, and so on and so forth. Moreover, if you can see that the drain opening is about as big as a baseball, you may very well need a 2-inch flapper, and if it is about as big as a softball, a 3-inch flapper is called for.
When it comes down to it, you most likely need a 3-inch or 4-inch rubber flapper.
However, just to be safe, always read the manual for your toilet, or look it up based on the make and model.