Sunday, December 9, 2012

Charlie and I are plumbers

My day away from work this week allowed me the opportunity to install a new toilet. This was not exactly my ideal hope for a day off but when I was finished with the project I did feel pretty accomplished and good about myself. One may think that replacing a toilet is a tremendous undertaking but it really is a quick and easy job, despite the initial apprehension most people probably have about plumbing in general and the thought that you are tinkering with the inner workings of the porcelain god.

The tank of our existing toilet had cracked and water had been slowly leaking behind the bowl onto the bathroom floor for many months. The repair was long overdue. I was just putting it off because, sometimes, I am an expert at procrastination. We even had the new toilet purchased already and it had been sitting in a box in our living room for over a month.

Michelle occasionally states that the castle is not "our" house, that it is "my" house because I purchased it before we were married. I see her point. That is partially true. Her main justification is that I've put a lot of heart and effort into updates and repairs. Since we've been married, I've made a concerted effort to make sure she gets to be a part of the decision process when changes are made: she helped pick out the carpet in the spare room, she chose the floor tile in the kitchen, she approved of the new kitchen cabinets, the two bedrooms and kitchen now have new "Michelle" colors on the walls (which I really like, I might add), and I forced her to go toilet shopping with me. At first, my beautiful wife was not as thrilled as I was about this great excursion. She initially told me to buy the toilet. But now I can say she also participated in this house project too!

Charlie gets very excited when he and I are able to spend a day together during the week. Whether we're working outside in they yard, reading books on the couch, or installing a toilet, he is always right there alongside me, helping. I love the fact that he is such a loyal companion, even though he sometimes can be in the way. Here he is helping me set up all the parts to get the project up and going (no, I did not force him to pose for this picture, he was really there doing this):

 Notice how his food dish and toy ring is right next to everything else.

Removing the old toilet was relatively simple. The pictures below are actually of the new toilet going in, but the steps are the same just in the opposite order.

Turn off the water supply valve that is behind the toilet running to the tank. Flush the toilet several times after the water is turned off to empty most of the water out of the bowel and the tank. It may even be necessary to take a cup to dip out any remaining water in the tank.

Next, undo the water supply line from the tank. Put a small bucket underneath as leftover water in the supply line will trickle out as the connections are loosened. Less water mess will be made when the water goes right into the bucket.

Loosen the bolts that are attaching the tank to the bowl. Again, put the small bucket back behind the tank, as remaining water in the tank will stream out onto the floor if you don't. Lift the tank right off of the bowl.
Loosen the bolts that are holding the bowl to the sewer pipe. These may be rusted and, if so, they might just have to be cut off. Once loosened, just lift the old toilet up and off of the sewer pipe. When pulling up, the wax ring and seal will break from the sewer pipe.
A little side anecdote: Charlie was right alongside me the entire time, inspecting and approving of the process. However, when I wasn't paying attention, I heard the lapping of water. When I looked over, he had his head in the bucket that I had used to collect gross water when taking the toilet apart. Charlie was drinking it. I yelled at him. He jumped and ran out of the bathroom. I scared him. Poor guy. He can be such a gross dog.

Installing the new toilet is easy. Basically all the steps above need to be completed in reverse. But, before I did, I cleaned up the sewer pipe of any remaining wax from the wax ring. 

I noticed a pungent smell from the pipe, which is sewer gas. I know, disgusting. I Just stuffed an old rag into the pipe until I was ready to put on the new toiled. I inspected the flange on the top of the sewer pipe to make sure that it was in good shape. It was rusted but we live in an older house and a little rust it fine. The flange was still in fine condition and not cracked or broken. If not, I would have needed to replace or repair it. Here is a video for how to do that:

Before I put down the new toilet, I needed a new wax ring to establish a seal between the toilet and the sewer pipe. A bad seal will cause water leakage and it will also allow those awful sewer gases to escape into the house. While at the hardware store, I did stumble upon a product called a wax free toilet seal. Basically this is a piece that adheres to the bottom of the toilet and then fits snugly inside the sewer pipe. It is less messy than a wax ring. I was sure to measure the diameter of the sewer pipe to make sure I got the right size of seal. I was skeptical about this wax free toilet seal at first, until I decided to use it to see what would happen and was pleasantly surprised. I attached it to the underside of the toilet bowl and tried to pull it off, noticing, after much effort, that it was moving nowhere.

Charlie also seemed to think it was working just fine. (Again, this was not posed. He was there.)

Next I slid the bolts under the two notches in the flange. I carefully lined up the holes in the bottom of the bowl with the upright bolts and then pushed on the toilet, and the wax free seal went down into the sewer pipe. I had to press kind of hard but could immediately feel the seal. It was very simple. If using wax, it would work similarly: just put the wax on the flange and then press the toilet down hard so that it establishes a seal. When I was tightening all bolts, I made sure not to make them too tight because it could cause the toilet to crack.

After a couple of hours, and several flushes later to ensure there were no leaks and everything was working fine, the toilet replacement project was complete. Hopefully there will not be any more castle repairs for a while. Maybe Charlie will be able to help me with other things instead, just like he was helping me write this blog this morning.

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