Five Minute Project

One of the problems with owning vintage real estate is that “vintage”, beyond it’s connotations of “charming” and “classic”, also means “old”.  That being the case, it is not uncommon for what should be a five minute project to turn into something much larger.

This past week, the flushing mechanism on our toilet broke.  All that was really wrong with it was the wire that connects the lever to the stopper (which lifts the stopper allowing the water to run from the tank into the toilet) broke.  It was old and had corroded through.

Now, I could have just replaced that one part.  Instead, I figured that I would replace the lever too, since it was also beginning to corrode.  Might as well do it all at once, right?  It was this desire to do things right, instead of half-assed, that turned out to be my undoing.

So, I went to the hardware store and bought the parts that I would need.  I returned home and began removing the old, corroded parts from the toilet.  In trying to remove the lever, I found that the nut holding it on to the tank was corroded and fused to the “bolt” part of the lever.  It wouldn’t budge.  I got a larger wrench, in order to get a little more to torque to try to get it off.  I began turning it, when I heard “CRACK”…

Shit.  I cracked the damn tank (why are these things made out of porcelain, anyways?).  So, I went back to the hardware store to see if they had a replacement tank.  The gentleman at the hardware store told me that, even if I found a tank that would exactly fit my bowl, since I had an older, 3 gallon toilet, and all of the new tanks are 1.6 gallon, it probably wouldn’t work properly.  I asked him if it was possible to fix the crack, and he pointed me towards some 2-part epoxy putty that might work.

Returning home, I diligently set about working the epoxy into the crack.  This took some time, and the epoxy seemed to want to stick to my fingers, not the inside of the tank, but eventually I completed the task.  I waited for it to set, applied another layer, waited for it to set again, and let the tank fill with water.  Then, I waited…

I waited to see if the crack in the tank would start leaking.  Unfortunately, it did.  It took a long time, but eventually there was moisture at the bottom of the crack.  Ugh.  I began looking up tips for repairing a cracked toilet tank.  The usual answer was “don’t”.  The crack will gradually expand, and eventually you’ll have a huge mess on your hands.

I ended up having to replace the entire toilet.  It’s a shame to have to give up a 3 gallon toilet for a 1.6 gallon one.  I checked online, and you can buy salvaged 3 gallon tanks, but they’re hard to find (the website I found didn’t have the one for our particular model in stock), and they’re expensive.

What should have been a five minute repair, costing less than $20, turned into most of my weekend and costing over $250.

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3 comments on “Five Minute Project

  1. That was my first thought, too!  But, I decided do it “properly”.  I guess some times it pays to do things half-assed!

    The really unfortunate part (aside from losing a great deal of my weekend and spending too much money on it) is going from a 3gpf toilet to a 1.6gpf.  That really sucks.

    Apparently, 3gpf toilets are one of the biggest (illegal) imports from Canada!

    Had I had more time, I probably would have sought out and spent the money for a 3gpf tank, but I wanted to get it fixed before it became a big problem.

  2. Well the other thing that I’d’ve done is, if I were buying a new toilet, is I’d see if I could find a dual flush toilet: They have toilets that have two handles. One uses 0.8 gallons (when there’s nothing solid to flush) and the other gives a 1.6gal flush. The problem is that they’re not very common in the US and you can’t just go to the local Home Despot to pick one up. I guess living in Los Angeles where water is at a premium, spending 3 gallons of water on each flush seems really wasteful. Not to mention that this is 3 gallons of treated-to-be-drinkable water. When we buy a house (probably in about 2 years, we’ll have seen the confluence of dropping housing prices and rising savings reach the point where we can get something nice), I might set up our plumbing to give us a grey water reservoir to feed the toilets (we’ll have the soapy water coming out of the bathroom sinks go into a tank which will then go into the toilet tank).

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