What is the best toilet – button or handle?

Most older toilets operate with the use of a handle which in turn works a siphon type valve when the lever is pressed it raises a polythene diaphragm which lifts up the water inside the valve and starts off a siphoning action. The water in the older cisterns was more plentiful i.e. 9 litre and due to the longer flushing action would be able to cope with most things flushable.

Toilets these days conform to the water regulations and generally have a 6/3-litre flush, so the cisterns are slightly smaller or even very narrow in design (because they can be) A lot of newer cisterns operate with a push button which operates the flushing valve either by rods attached to the button or via a wire from the button to the side of the valve. In either instance a washer is raised up allowing water to flow through the cistern and into the pan and flushing away waste. The valve has a two-part button for a large or a small flush.

So, what can go wrong and how is it fixed?

There isn’t much that can go wrong with the older type siphon valve apart from the diaphragm splitting/ripping over time which then means no siphon and therefore no flush. To remedy this the diaphragm needs to be replaced which in a lot of cases means the cistern needs to be taken off of the pan and the flush valve should then be repaired or better still replaced for a 2-part siphon which would mean future problems can be rectified without the cistern removal again.

The push button flush valve relies on the sealing washer stopping the water from running from the cistern through to the pan. In hard water areas (welcome to Wiltshire!) a buildup of scale on this washer over time invariably causes water to seep out and drip down the back of the toilet pan – sometimes almost invisible to the eye unless a piece of toilet paper is used to blot the side of the pan. The upshot (apart from a waste of water) is the filling valve then kicks in to refill the cistern to the correct level and will keep doing so until you call ABC Plumbing or turn the water off! Whilst these valves generally can be removed and the washer cleaned or replaced the results are not always successful and the problem can persist due to scale build up on the valve seating or actually inside the valve affecting the movement. To remedy this the cistern needs to be taken off again to access the nut that holds the valve in place and a suitable replacement installed. A Water softener can radically improve the life of a pushbutton type flush valve.