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I have a toilet which was both running and leaking and I tried to fix it myself.

I replaced the fill valve, the flush valve and the main gasket, all with items from Home Depot. Home Depot had one model of everything, all cheap plastic, so there was not much to choose from.

After doing all the work, it was still running into the bowl, the tank was not filling and there was still a tank leak. So, I called a plumber who charged me $200 to fix it. He said:

  • the brand new fill valve was defective
  • the flapper (that came with the flush valve) was wrong
  • the main gasket (that the guy in Home Depot specifically said was right) was too small

So, I asked him how could a brand new fill valve be defective. He said it was "hit or miss". The guy in Home Depot who described himself as a plumber said the fill valve was "rock solid simple" and would work "forever", which I guess was a lie because apparently it did not work at all. Also, how can a flapper be "wrong" when it CAME WITH THE FLUSH VALVE IN THE SAME PACKAGE???

So, where am I going wrong here?

Is there any place I can get high quality reliable toilet parts? Is a brass fill valve better than those cheapo Fluidmaster plastic fill valves?

  • A local plumbing supply store will have higher quality parts, but if you're asking for a specific name of a store, that's off topic. – Tester101 Jun 28 '16 at 15:59
  • You either go to a plumbing supply store (you just have to know about these in your area as the ones that advertise that they are, aren't) or you can try a big national store that rhymes with brainger! – DMoore Jun 28 '16 at 20:14
  • Wait. You go to a store you specifically chose because they are reputed to be cheap. You buy the only thing they have, a "one size fits all". And it explodes. Sounds like "cheap" isn't working out so well for you. I propose trying it the other way for a year: shop only where you can shake the hand of the owner. Where if he hands you a part with a straight face, he believes it's quality. I do that, and it's not that much more expensive, and actually cheaper when you account for $200 fiascos. – Harper Jul 8 '16 at 5:14
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One problem (and not just with home cheapo) is that there are many models of toilet that all do the same thing, with somewhat different and not always compatible parts. Some have 2" flush valves, some have 3" flush valves - etc. Two problems with home cheapo and lowes and other things like them is that the help are often not particularly knowledgeable, and the selection is not comprehensive. Quality on many parts is "hope you live close to the store, because you may need to take it back for a replacement" but that is hardly limited to them, as many of the same poorly made parts are available elsewhere. A real plumbing supply will have a wider range of parts and possibly better quality as well, but they will come at a higher price, and some won't sell to the general public (being setup as wholesale only, they don't want to collect sales tax or compete with their regular, high-volume customers, who are plumbers. If they do sell to the public you will pay a lot more than your plumber does for the same item.)

In your case you probably would have been money ahead to simply buy a whole new toilet (all parts compatible), rather than call in the plumber. The cheapo near me has 18 in stock that cost less than $200 for the complete toilet. I'd personally avoid the cheapest of those, and I'd factor country of origin into my buying decision. It's not a thing I buy often, and having it break is annoying.

Brass is not inherently better than plastic. Either can be made well or poorly, and for some water supplies, plastic is a far better idea. No fill valve lasts "forever."

  • Big Box's policy is to buy the cheapest stuff on earth, mark it up as high as the market will bear, and just take a lot of returns, knowing it's junk. This works because few people actually bother to return a broken $20 thing, and they don't pay your other costs of failure. If anything they want you to fail, so you'll give up and sign up for their contract referral program. They make money coming and going - they even ding the supplier the cost of the return. – Harper Jul 8 '16 at 5:20

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