My phone rings. A man’s voice is on the other line. After a short hello and how are you we get straight to business.
“The upstairs guest bathroom toilet was leaking water on the floor,so I turned the water to the toilet off. We don’t use that bathroom except when family comes to stay. That was nine months ago so the water has been off since then. Can you come by and fix it? We have family coming to stay.”
I moved things around to make a little time in my schedule, and headed over to the leaky toilet. My customer thought it was probably the wax ring leaking because the leak only made an appearance when he flushed. Sounded right to me so I stopped in at Home Depot and grabbed a wax ring with a flange and one with no flange. When I got to the house, I was introduced to the offending porcelain object, then the home owner left me to conduct my interview so to speak.
I found the water turned off and the toilet totally dry in the tank and bowl. I expected as much since it had not had water for nine months. I turned the water on to fill the tank and it filled, just like it should. I concentrated my attention on the floor around the toilet base (to watch for water) and flushed. Water immediately came out around the base of the toilet tank where it’s attached to the bowl. The gasket between the bowl and tank leaked. It could be dry and brittle–or not. It was anybody’s guess. But I did know the leak was water from the failed gasket. I didn’t have a toilet tank gasket in my vehicle, so I took off for Lowe’s.
In our community, Lowe’s has the best selection of toilet parts to chose from. I hurried down the aisle carrying the gasket and new tank bolts. The gasket replacement requires that I (1) turn off the water supply; (2) remove the water from the tank–I always use my wet/dry vac to remove water from the tank and bowl; (3) and then take the tank off the bowl. Emptying the tank of its water saves clean up time at the end; I learned this the first time I spilled water on the floor when I tried to move a full toilet or tank.
Luckily, this toilet only had two tank bolts; some have more. I removed the first one and started on the second when I found the secret the toilet kept from its owner: a hair-line crack through the tank bolt hole to the center gasket area. Not a good thing. Toilet tank cracks always leak. You can patch them but after a while they will leak again. There are products on the market that patch porcelain cracks, but exposed to water all the time they won’t hold and your luck will run out. I never let my customers take a gamble that could cost them a lot more later.
I needed to find a new tank, but the toilet was old so the exact replacement tank was not made anymore. The only option was to put in a whole new toilet. I gave the news to my customer, and he surprised me with “I have a used one in the garage from when you replaced our toilet with a tall one a few years back.” What a stroke of luck. I did replace a toilet of theirs a few years ago, but here’s the question: How many people keep their old toilets? I have heard of and maybe seen a toilet in the front yard of someone’s home, one with flowers planted in the bowl. No, wait: I don’t think I’ve seen that in person, either. Just on TV. I think about that toilet, stashed somewhere for who knows what, and it makes me chuckle. I wonder if his wife chuckles about it too. She keeps an immaculate house. A beautiful home with everything in its place.
As it turned out, the flapper was bad but I changed it out with the other toilet and it worked perfectly. Too bad I couldn’t just change the tank out, but it didn’t match.
And no, we didn’t keep the old toilet. I smashed it and put it in the garbage.