Broken Toilet

So my toilet has been “under maintenance” for almost a year. When my mom came and visited me last year, she ended up putting a post-it with the words “Do Not Use” on the toilet. The initial problem was the fact that the fill valve didn’t stop at the correct time and small amounts of water will overflow, the big air bubble thing will drop, and fill valve reopens and starts pouring in more water. Once in awhile, it’ll achieve a balance and stop.

At first I wanted to fix it, but whoever designed this bathroom was an idiot. Who only gives 1″ of clearance above the toilet tank, barely enough to take out the tank cover, and pretty much impossible to stick a normal sized hand in:

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I decided that since no one really ever uses this toilet, I would just let it sit and do nothing.

However several months ago, I noticed it started leaking again and it turns out there was a small leak in the flush valve. The rubber casing around the opening had begun to tear. Unfortunately my hand couldn’t really reach it and I ultimately just close the main water valve into the toilet.

Flash forward to a few weeks back, a bunch of friends were over to play Rock Band and the downstairs bathroom was occupied. I had to point him to the master bedroom bathroom since the hallway one upstairs was “under maintenance”. That was when I decided I would try to determine how to fix it.

I stared at the problem for quite some time. I saw 2 possible solutions. Remove the wooden board above it or pull the toilet out. Moving forward, it made sense to remove the wooden board above it, however looking more closely at it, this piece was connected directly to the sink table. There didn’t appear to be a simple way to remove the board. I asked around for a power saw, but no one I knew had one. Plus I thought it would make sense to have a carpenter do it.

I decided to give the other solution a try, to pull out the toilet. After unscrewing the main bolts and disconnecting the tank from the water valve, I tried to lift it up. Stupid 1″ clearance. It wasn’t high enough to clear the screws on the floor. Sigh… So I left my toilet in the condition you see above and was planning to get quotes from carpenters. Guess I was too lazy and put that in the back of my head.

Last week, I thought what if I tried to tilt it forward? I might be able to replace the flush valve that way. Unfortunately the tilt wasn’t enough to do much, but that was when I realized that with it tilted, I can now move the toilet out! w00t!

So I took the broken piece out and planned to go to Lowes or Home Depot today and get a replacement. At first I was seeing these flush valve repair kits which looked nothing like mine, but then later on I found the one I needed. It was only $8, cheaper than the repair kit I was looking at earlier.

So I got home and began to do my magic. However, for the love of god, I couldn’t get the existing flush valve out. I kept trying to use the pliers to twist it, but it wouldn’t budge. I was about to give up, but that’s when I noticed that the kit had a piece that went into the bottom of the tank… After reading the instructions, there appears to be a piece underneath that I have to twist off. I should really read the instructions before I attempt to do these things.

So I unscrew the tank from the bowl and flipped it upside down. There was this black rubbery thing which I had no idea what to do. Twisting it didn’t seem to work. Turns out I was suppose to just pull it off, which I found out after a few minutes. Now I see the plastic nut I need to unscrew. Unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough to twist the darn thing off. So I tried to start breaking it, which didn’t work either. I called Derek to ask for help and he said what I needed was a strap wrench (one of those things with a rubber strap that you wrap around the item you want to twist). Derek had one I could borrow, but unfortunately he wasn’t at home, so I decided I would just get one from Lowes and add it to my tool box. Was a bit more expensive than I had expected: $16 for one big and one small. I’m pretty sure my dad would tell me he could get them for $0.99.

Anyway, I get home and twisting it off with a strap wrench was a breeze. I now had the old flush valve completely removed. Installing the new one was pretty easy since it’s just the reverse of what I had to just do.

After putting everything back together, it was time to do a test. After opening the main water valve, it begin leaking immediately. Apparently using just hands and fingers to twist the nuts connecting the bowl and tank did not achieve the tightness that was needed. I turned off the main valve, flushed out the water from the tank, and began to screw all the nuts and bolts tighter with a real wrench.

Time to try again. w00t! No more leaking.

I flushed it a few more times and came back to check on it after half an hour and no leaking was detected. I fastened the toilet back onto the floor and reapplied sealant.

I guess now I know how to fix toilets. And to think I was that close to calling a carpenter or a plumber. But that bathroom designer is still an idiot.

One thought on “Broken Toilet

  1. Nice. I think toilet repair is sort of a “coming-of-age” ritual for homeowners.

    When my dad redid the bathrooms in their townhouse, he put counter over the toilet tops, but at least he had the sense to make those sections removable. At least you figured out how to get around the shoddy design. ^^b

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