This Old House

Well it’s not really old. It was built in 1988. So it’s closing in on 20 years old now and a lot of the original components are beginning to show their age somewhat. Our back deck is downright scary to walk on. A new exterior paint job is on the horizon. And I’d love to upgrade our kitchen to something a little more modern. Other than that though, it’s a great house and I love where we live.

But back to my original reason for posting. I think Bob Villa would’ve been proud of me this weekend. Well that’s probably stretching it a bit. It’s not like I built a new set of kitchen cabinets or reupholstered our living room furniture. But after my 4th trip to Home Depot over the course of the weekend it was quite obvious I was wading knee-deep in a do-it-yourself nightmare (and I know, Bob would’ve gone to Sears but Home Depot’s two minutes from my house.)

It started off innocently enough with the basics of any weekend work, a good thorough mowing of the front and back yard. And hopefully one of the last of the season. Check one item off the to-do list.

After that I started what I THOUGHT would be two small projects. And in all fairness, the first project was fairly simple - I had to put in a different thermostat upstairs. I had replaced our old analog thermostat earlier in the spring with a nice programmable unit. And it had paid off handsomely as our electrical bill was significantly lower than the previous year. But unfortunately that thermostat did not seem to work well with our furnace. It would turn it on, but it wouldn’t cut the heat off. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I had originally planned on just putting the old thermostat back in for the winter months. But I’ve gotten so spoiled by the programmable thermostat that I just had to give another one a shot. So I was off to Home Depot to pickup a new thermostat. An hour later it was up and running. And it actually worked with the furnace!! Check another item off the to-do list.

Oh wait, I now need to paint the wall where it’s mounted first as the older units were much bigger than this one and still had the house’s original ugly paint hidden behind them. So now I have to find the jar of touch-up paint we have that matches our walls. Currently the new thermostat is hanging precariously from its wires in the hallway waiting for me to finish the job. So maybe make that half a check?

The next item up started off as a simple toilet repair in Laney’s bathroom. The old fill valve was going bad and the flapper needed to be replaced too. Another trip to Home Depot to get the parts (I forgot it on the previous trip, plus I love going to Home Depot so no biggie.) I’ve replaced these things several times before (apparently the new ones aren’t made to last) so I thought it’d be a ten minute repair. I took the old one off and installed the new one without too much fuss. Then the fun began.

A quick test flush suddenly revealed a small, but steady drip behind the toilet tank. Hmmm. After fiddling with things for a few minutes it continued to leak (although instead of dripping obviously it now clung to the porcelain and sneakily took a convoluted route down to the floor.) Obviously one of the seals from the tank must be leaking. I double-checked my latest install and it was fine. I concluded that this meant it must be leaking from the flush valve seal connecting the tank to the actual toilet. I drained the water from the tank and disconnected the hose. It looks like I had go to Home Depot again.

By the time I got back it was too late to continue on with this project as I knew I’d have to disconnect the entire tank to replace the seal. So I decided to just let it wait until the following morning.

The following morning arrived faster than expected as Holly woke me unusually early . . . and for good reason. Something in the bathroom had been leaking all night long, leaving a big puddle on the floor. And to make matters worse it had soaked through to the ceiling in the kitchen below. What a way to start your day.

After assessing the damage in the kitchen (and realizing that my to-do list had just been given an item that would DWARF everything else I had worked on this weekend) I went upstairs and checked the bathroom. I had already drained the tank the previous night. And the water in the bowl (which might barely equal 1 gallon, not enough to cause that kind of damage) was still intact. Then I heard the drip coming from the hose. Apparently I had not turned the valve to the hose (currently hanging loosely over the open floor) 100% off. It wasn’t a fast drip at all. But it was steady enough. And it had had all night to do its damage. Mad at myself and stupidly cursing the inanimate valve I turned it completely closed.

After mopping up the floor I set about removing the tank from the bowl. In theory this was pretty simple. Two bolts in the tank fed through to two wingnuts below. Twist and release right? Unfortunately, both were VERY rusty and I didn’t have a flathead screwdriver massive enough to give any grip on the big bolts. I tried to fudge it using a crowbar as a makeshift flathead, but it was too sharp as well. Time for another trip to that damn orange building.

After getting a BIG screwdriver and some new bolts (the rusty old ones clearly weren’t going to be reused now) I began to work on removing the tank. In spite of having a properly-fitted screwdriver and leverage with a wrench on the wingnut the bolt still wouldn’t budge. What’s worse, it began to crumble into bits as the screwdriver attempted to gain traction. Finally the first bolt broke free and I was able to remove it.

Only one more bolt to go. Unfortunately, this one was even worse off. After 30 minutes of attempting, in vain, to remove it I finally decided I’d have to hacksaw my way though it. However, the gap between the tank and bowl was so small I couldn’t get a normal hacksaw in there. Fortunately, I remembered a smaller hacksaw my dad had given me for situations such as this. The leverage was horrible as only a tiny portion of the blade could reach it. But after having to take several breaks to catch my breath, I was finally rewarded with the sound of the bolt snapping. *cue heavenly choir singing hallelujah*

After that it was all downhill from there. I replaced the flush valve and re-installed the tank with the new bolts and washers. However, now I was beyond paranoid about leaks so I spent 30 minutes flushing and anxiously watching the toilet for signs of any more mistakes. Fortunately *knock on wood* there didn’t appear to be any.

Check another item (one much much MUCH more difficult than I expected) off the list. However, if we’re weighting things properly, I’d just added the equivalent of about ten new items in the form of having to repaint the kitchen ceiling.

I realize this is all really fascinating stuff to everybody but me. Most of you probably bailed after the start of the second paragraph. But this post is more therapeutic for myself than anything else. I needed a chance to vent. And a chance to warn anyone to be careful when fixing the toilet.

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