Monday, July 25, 2011

Triumph in the Toilet

With a title like that you'd assume we have little ones at home who are potty training. Thankfully, that's not the case!

Nope. Our challenge began with a piece of paper (and not toilet paper).

Our water & sewer bill came last week and it was a drop-on-the-floor-WTF-kinda water bill.

Now, we're used to high water bills. Afterall, there are five of us in the house so that's a lot of



Plus, we live in a county with very high sewer rates.

But, seriously?!? A $286.13 bill?!? See what I mean about WTF?

Yeah. It's like a car payment. But. for. water!

So we had the waterman come by with his waterman tools and waterman magic and he declared that indeed, the meter was read properly. But that spinning red arrow? It meant there's a leak somewhere in the house.

Uh. Oh.

And not just a regular uh. oh. But a "I told ya so UH OH!"

The toilet in our master bath has been a little noisy ever since we moved in. What started as a little trickly sound had recently become more of a swooshing (okay, maybe gushing). But we've been so busy with work and cooking and blogging and other more fun home improvement projects that we let this one must-do become a will-do then a should-do and finally a "what? You hear a water rushing sound? hmmmm, I don't hear it"

What we now hear, to paraphase the little man from Texas, is a great big sucking sound. And it's dollar bills flowing through the leaky flapper in our loo.

So, seeing as

1. We have more month than money right now

2. We believe strongly that you should know how to fix things around the house

3. I'm the resident plumber (Jason does electrical. I'd much rather be doused in icky water than electrocuted!)

I got to work this afternoon. Thought I'd share the steps in hopes of convincing you that this really isn't a tough project. It just takes a little elbow grease.

Step 1: This is going to take 1-2 hours, depending on your level of skill and how many trips you have to take to Home Depot, so put on a little music or the radio (All Things Considered for me) and find a trusty sidekick to keep you company.

Step 2: Assess your innards. See our innards?

(ooh, yuck! water is icky from rust and lime build up, there're white crystals caking the flapper and the handle lever. just gross! We're replacing the whole thing with a QuietFill Complete Kit)

Step 3: Shut off your water supply. Flush the toilet to (pretty much) empty the tank. A little water will remain, so make sure you have a bucket handy to catch the spillage in the next few steps.

Step 4: Disconnect the water supply line under the tank.

Step 5: Remove the old refill tube (the thing that's attached to the floating balloon in the picture). There's a mounting nut on the bottom of the toilet. Unscrew it and the refill tube will lift right out.

Step 6: Unbolt the tank from the bowl by removing the nuts (underneath the tank), washers and bolts.

(don't judge the ugly wallpaper or the wood toilet seat. we haven't gotten around to renovating the bathroom yet. saving the ugliest for last.)

Step 7: Remove the old flush valve and flapper (the part on the right that has the flapper thingy that moves up and down when you flush to let the water out). Okay, admission. This was the absolute hardest part of the project because the toilet is probably 33 years old and the metal mounting nut had corroded and was stuck on the shaft. See my frustrated face:

Seriously, removing this joker took about 25 minutes of my trying lots of different tools and then finally calling the resident electrician in to use his brut strength. Actually, he showed up armed with two vice grips, a wire cutter, and a drill (??). Not sure what his Plan B or C were, but thankfully strategically placed vice grips and a little muscle did the trick.

Step 8: Install the new flush valve as show in your directions. (yeah, you gotta read your own directions ... but hey, it's not rocket science!)

Step 9: Bolt the tank back to the bowl according to the directions on your replacement kit.

Step 10: Adjust the height of the flush valve (yep. you guessed it. read your directions to find out the particulars)

Step 11: Install the new fill valve. Important: hand tighten the mounting nut. DO NOT use a wrench or vice grips to do this or you run the risk of overtightening the nut and possibly breaking it.

Step 12: Adjust the fill valve height.

Step 13: Attach the refill tube and flapper chain (do not allow much slack in the chain).

Step 14: Reconnect the water supply line (oh dang!! the 'flanged metal tubing" won't fit. make an emergency run to Home Depot to buy Vinyl or Stainless Steel Braided Connector -- those things rock and make it so easy!)

Step 15: Turn on the water supply and pray it doesn't leak!

So, did I convince you it's a doable DIY job? Still a little nervous? Check out this video.

A human being: an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.
Christopher Morley

I mean, just because you're a musician doesn't mean all your ideas are about music. So every once in a while I get an idea about plumbing, I get an idea about city government, and they come the way they come.
Jerry Garcia

Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.
John F. Kennedy

My singing voice is somewhere between a drunken apology and a plumbing problem.
Colin Firth

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.
John W. Gardner

Photo Credits: dirty dish, laundry, water faucet

Quotes: BrainyQuote


  1. Now THAT is hilarious! I applaud you on your plumbing skills! LOL .... wow - that was a HIGH water bill.

  2. Thanks Nicole! It was a little bit of work, but saved us some $$ and no longer leaks so I'm happy as a clam! (well, still have to write that HUGE check to Bham Water Works ... but other than that ...)

  3. Congratulations on your handy-woman-ship! Me...I leave all things Home Depot-related to my very capable hubby ;)

  4. Haha - thanks 5 Bears! How's your summer going?