Commode Catastrophe

Last week I noticed that the floor in our downstairs 1/2 bath was wet…an apparent leak from the toilet. My hubby shut off the water to the potty, flushed a couple of times to get all the water out of the tank and proceeded to check out where the water was coming from. It turned out to be a corroded bolt/nut/gasket problem. So the water was leaking out around the rusted out hardware. It was early in the week and we had a lot going on with work and other things, so we decided to make fixing it a weekend issue.

Saturday morning we took a trip with the old, rusted out hardware in a ZipLock baggie, down to our Home Depot store. I love Home Depot. Especially since we bought our house. I can wander up and down those ginormous aisles for hours dreaming and planning. But that day we were on a mission to get new hardware to hold the tank in place and stop the leak. We wandered through the plumbing aisles amidst the plethora of faucets, sinks, stoppers, towel racks, hampers, pipes and fixtures and finally asked a guy in an orange apron for some help. He got us to the right section, compared our old bolts to the new ones and for $4 we had the solution to our leaky toilet.

Or so we thought.

We got home and proceeded to figure out the proper way to bolt that tank back onto the bowl. There were several pieces in that $4 bag including washers, gaskets, bolts and nuts. You take the bolt, thread a metal washer, then a gasket onto the end toward the head of said bolt and stick it through the tank, down through the hole in the bowl (hey, that rhymes!) and then from the bottom side you slide another gasket and washer up to the bowl side and start threading the nuts, two for each bolt (because, I guess, one just wouldn’t be enough?). Because our downstairs bathroom is quite tiny, you do all this nearly standing on your head! Then you take a large flathead screwdriver and hold the bolt in place while your husband gets the socket going to screw that little nut. Hubby’s standing on his head now, trying to effectively use the ratchet in this precarious position and I’m hunched over the bowl with one hand on the wall to brace myself while trying to keep the flat end of the screwdriver on the head of the bolt and hold it in place so it doesn’t just spin around and around while hubby screws on that nut.  It was like a sick game of Twister. We repeat this whole scenario for the other side of the tank.

Once the tank appeared to be securely fastened onto the toilet hubby turned the water back on. The tank filled up and was flushed and water promptly started to leak from it again. Sigh…

So we decide that it needed to be tightened to make the gasket’s seal a bit more snug to prevent leaks. We don’t need the screwdriver to hold the bolt in place anymore so it’s just the ratchet/socket combo now.

This is where it gets ugly.

Did you know that if you tighten the bolts too much…you’re going to hear a nasty, high pitched, cracking sound. That will be your tank…splitting from the bolt all the way to the top. It will be unfortunate if this happens. It will be disastrous if you’ve got a tank full of water and haven’t turned the water to the toilet off again. We had water all over the bathroom floor (tiny as it is, that’s a LOT of water) and it was spreading out into the hallway and kitchen. It took four large bath towels and a mop to clean up that mess.

Husband is not happy. He’s cussing. A lot.

I’m cussing too. A lot.

We got the tank off the stool and hubby hauls it out to the pile of bulk garbage we need to put out for the truck next time it comes around. He’s pissed. He goes in to play Madden ’08 and cool down. I’m not as pissed so I offered to go back to Home Depot myself and get another tank. He agreed to let me go by myself only on the condition that I didn’t try to lift or carry it myself (toilets are HEAVY!). I promised I would get someone to help me with it.  I got the specs off the old tank (Crane, manufactured in 1996, part number) and drove to Home Depot.

Guess what! Home Depot doesn’t carry Crane toilets. GREAT!  

The helpful guy in the orange apron told me that there might be some plumbing companies still open who carry Crane products and he gave me two names. But since this toilet was manufactured in 1996 I wasn’t sure that they’d even have the part, or figured they’d have to order it. And we wanted our bathroom back in working order. So I called my hubby and told him what was going on. We both cussed and then decided that we’d buy a new toilet and install it ourselves.

Did you know toilets can cost as much as $1500??? Holy crap! I didn’t.

We had hoped to get an all in one (one piece) model, so we wouldn’t have to go through the nightmare of attaching the tank again. But those were all around $350-$500. Of course the $99 all-in-one toilet was out of stock so I ended up getting this old fashioned two piece’r for the low, low everyday price of just $144! This included the seat and the wax ring so I had everything we needed to get “going” downstairs again. I found someone to load the box onto my cart, paid for it and got a kid to help get it hefted up into my Pathfinder and headed home.

We removed the old bowl and found that instead of a caulking seal around the base of the stool, the brainiac builders had used grout. My husband had to get down on his hands an knees and carefully chisel away at this mess until it was all smooth and then cleaned up the floor. I don’t want to tell you how nasty a job it was removing the old wax ring residue. EWWWW!

My hubby and I unloaded the heavy box into the garage and took the parts out one at a time. We brought the new bowl in and got it installed. We’d learned our lesson about overtightening the bolts on the tank and so this time that was a breeze. Of course this installation couldn’t go off entirely without a hitch. The old hose that connected the tank to the water outlet was too short by about 1/2″. (More cussing!) So, shoving the too-short hose into my purse,  back to Home Depot I went.

This time a gal in an orange apron helped me find a hose with the properly sized fittings on each end that was long enough. She found one and I took it up to pay, but there was no price and no UPC code on the dang thing. She kept trying to look it up in various ways and the people in line behind me were getting impatient. I finally offered to go BACK to the place where I got the hose and write down the code and price for her…since her tiny brain couldn’t compute the fact that she needed to call back for a price check. I got the required information, had to track her down again because by the time I got back up there (it was like a whopping 2 minutes) she had changed registers, paid for my hose and went home. We got the hose screwed on, turned the water on, flushed and GLORY BE!!! It works!!

 Whew. What a day!


10 thoughts on “Commode Catastrophe

  1. You and your poor husband! I hope you are able to relax after a day like this. Just think of all the pride you can enjoy every time you behold your new toilet though!!

  2. I think that may have been worth hiring a plumber! My BIL is a plumber, but sadly he lives in MI. Oh well.

    I saw a similar thing on This Old House where they help out viewers with stuff. They made it look easy, of course, and didn’t break the toilet.

    I think it would have been more entertaining watching you guys do it!

  3. We’re having toilet drama at our house too. We finally figured out the reason the bolts keep coming loose is because the floor is UNLEVEL of all things. It isn’t even the toilets fault. LOL
    I did learn though, that when you tighten those bolts, you have to dry them, and watch to see if they drip, tighten a little more, dry and wait. It can take hours!
    But at least you have a nice new toilet that hopefully won’t cause any problems for awhile.

  4. Cussing no not you or your hubby. Remeber all it takes to be a plumber is to remember, that hots on the left, cold is on the right, shi* flows down hill and payday is Friday. Well thats always what I have been told.

  5. Both of you must be quite talented at changing toilets. Years ago M and I added a hot water faucet to the kitchen sink. It leaked for hours, while I was laying under trying to get it right. I hate under sink places. They make be nauseous. I wouldn’t allow plumbing work after that. Now he thinks he is putting in a garbage disposal. He thinks it going to be easy. Easy wasn’t written into the directions for plumbing.

    Maybe you could come over and do our plumbing. I think you have it down.

  6. What a day, what a day! Glad that it’s over and you have a new throne. Just be sure to not invite any of those crazy people from over at i, Wright over to your house.

  7. Ok I understand the panic at the price of crappers but we watched a show on how they are made, wow. After you watch that show you treat your bowl ith a little more love and begin to understand the cost. Check it out sometime.

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