Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adventures in Commode Repair

Back during our house hunting days, Danny and I spotted a house on a nice quiet street. The home, built in 1922, was beautiful on the outside. The inside was another matter. Several of the rooms had been remodeled, but each change was done in the style of the respective era: so there were 1970’s kitchen cupboards and avocado green appliances, a 1980’s fireplace, and 1950’s bookcases. It was atrocious. As it turned out, the house had serious moisture problems in the basement, so the question of that house became academic. But I determined that if Danny and I got an older house, we would try to keep it true to the period. (Within reason, I’m not doing without TV or the Internet.)

The house we bought was built in 1942. There have been several changes, including the addition of a gas fireplace about six years ago. But much of the house is unchanged from the original construction. One of the original pieces, as it turns out, is the toilet. It’s an American Standard Cadet, and the date stamped on the underside of the tank lid indicates it was built in 1939. Our hunky inspector, Greg, noticed a leak which he indicated was coming from the connection between the toilet and floor. Greg explained the procedure for fixing it, and since the seller was already taking care of some electrical problems (to the tune of $1,400), I agreed to repair the toilet.

As it turned out, the leak was actually coming from the connection between the tank and the bowl. The bolts holding the tank in place were badly corroded and needed replacement, and upon inspecting the mechanism, I determined that the parts would need to be replaced. A simple repair, I figured. I had no idea what I was in for this past Sunday.

I soon discovered a large amount of sludge between the tank and bowl, so the tank had to be removed and cleaned. It took over two hours to remove the tank, including over one hour just to unscrew one rusted bolt. I had to hammer in a screwdriver between the tank bottom and bolt to hold it in place (which was risky because I could have cracked the porcelain) while I twisted off the nut. Not a pleasant experience.

Once the tank had been removed, I carried it down to the basement and discovered the part that covered the vent was sealed tight, which made a replacement tank an easier option. However, we were unable to find a tank that fit our older toilet. So, we had to find a wrench large enough to unscrew the over 3” wide mechanism. As it happened, there were several trips to Severance Town Center Home Depot over the course of that Sunday, and I want to take this opportunity to point out that the staff at that particular location are neither knowledgeable nor helpful.

After much grunting, sweating, and straining, I was finally able to remove the part by using the wrench while Danny simultaneously held the other end and the tank itself in place. We then thoroughly cleaned the tank interior and exterior with bleach and an SOS pad. It shone like new.

Before reinstalling the tank, we painted the area behind where the tank sits that the previous owner had skipped - - fortunately, he’d left the spare paint behind. Carefully, I added piece by piece of the new mechanism while Danny handed me the parts, and after a few adjustments, our “new” commode worked perfectly: quiet, efficient, and no leaks.

Time spent on project: 8 hours

Cost of replacement mechanism and tools: $50

Satisfaction due to not having to call Joe the Plumber for help: Priceless

1 comment:

perdido said...

I just ran across your blog. Amid the classical CD reviews (which I enjoyed), I noted your comment here about the Severance Home Depot and laughed out loud. Yes! But it's not just the Home Depot--it's MOST of the big box stores over there, including the understocked Walmart with surly staff and the world's slowest checkout line at OfficeMax.