Monday, July 20, 2009

My Toilet Adventures

Don't worry - this isn't a post about using a toilet, but rather my adventures over the last three days in my efforts to replace my toilet.

It all started about 4 months ago when I noticed that one of the ceiling tiles in my basement bathroom had some brown spots on it that signify a leak somewhere. I took the tile down and saw what I could see. It looked to me as though water were coming in from the outside. The sewer pipe was right in front of my face, but it didn't show any signs of leaking, so I stuck with my original conclusion. I asked a plumber friend of mine, and he concurred: no plumbing leak.

As the days and weeks passed by, more brown spots showed up on the tile, and then it began to sag. I wasn't sure what I could do if it was a foundation problem, or if the leak was coming in from outside, so I kind of left the leak out of sight, out of mind.

The last two weeks were pretty bad. The tile was really sagging, and it finally broke. Now the actual leak had finally revealed itself. There still wasn't any visible problem with the plumbing, but something above the floorboards was definitely leaking. The wood was wet around the sewer pipe. The toilet was right above where the water was collecting, so I concluded that it had to be a leak in wax ring that seats the toilet to the sewer pipe.

The first thing I did was go and buy a new toilet on Saturday. I splurged and bought the "American Standard" toilet (which, by the way, is made in Mexico - go figure). The guy at Home Depot told me their sales schtick was that the toilet could flush a whole bucket full of golf balls. What can I say, I'm a sucker for good flushing power.

So I got home with the new toilet and proceeded to take the old one up. When I got the toilet up off the floor, I discovered that the flange that surrounds the sewer pipe and holds the toilet to the floor had corroded so badly on one side that one side of the slot that holds the carriage bolt had completely rusted off. And the wax ring was practically non-existent. No wonder I was getting water in the basement.

So I took off what remained of the old wax ring, jury-rigged the new carriage bolt with a wide washer that fit underneath the flange and on top of the floor for leverage, and seated the new toilet onto the pipe. I put the nuts on the bolts and started tightening them down. The bolt on the left side took very well, and tightened up nicely. As I was tightening the bolt on the right side I heard a snap, and the whole toilet went loose. What happened? The flange on the right side of the toilet snapped whe I tightened up the nut! So pretty much all of my work the whole afternoon was for naught. Worse yet, I had no idea how I was going to secure the toilet to the floor with no flange on the pipe. I gave up for the night and went to bed.

A trip to Home Depot the next day solved my problem: they sell a flange that attaches to the floor over the opening of the pipe. So I bought one, gooped up the floor around the pipe, and screwed the new flange to the floor. It worked perfectly. I seated the new toilet onto the pipe and and bolted it down. Success.

My next task was to hook up the supply line from the shut-off valve to the tank. I ran into a problem here, though. The supply coming from the valve was a 1950's model, and the line that new toilets use didn't match the supply. So I decided to just replace the whole valve.

I went back to the Home Depot with the old valve and asked them to match it up. The guy at the store gave me a pressure valve which, unbeknownst to me, was not the kind I needed. I found this out when I went home and tried to attach the valve. It didn't work. So I went back to Home Depot and got a threaded valve and brought it home. This time, it was too big. It was a 1/2 inch, and I needed 3/8 inch. By this time the store had closed so I couldn't go back to get the right size.

So now, Monday comes and I finally get back to the Home Depot to get a 3/8 inch threaded shut-off valve. I hook it up to the water line, and then get out the supply line to connect the valve to the tank. Get this: the line is about 1/2 inch too short! Back to Home Depot. I got home, attached the right line, and the toilet works like a dream. Although I have yet to flush a bucket full of golf balls!

I probably went to and from the Home Depot a half dozen times to get all of the right parts. It was a long job, but it's finally done, and I am now free to go numbers 1 and 2 all I want. Indoor plumbing really is a cool thing - even if it takes some time to get it right.


M. Howell said...

i've decided anyone who owns a house should buy stock in home depot. since purchasing our house i think we have made 20+ trips...

Joel said...

That's not a bad idea. I got so I started buy more stuff than I needed, just so I wouldn't have to go back a hundred times. Then I made one final trip to return all the stuff I didn't use.