One of the little things that’s been annoying me since we moved into this house is the general suckitude of the upstairs toilet. The whole bathroom is shite, really; the walls are uneven, the bathtub is old, the linoleum-over-tile floor is disgusting, and the sink is one of those separate-faucet deals where hot and cold come out of different spigots. Want to wash your hands with warm water? Sorry. Your choices are SCALDING or FREEZING. But the toilet has been the main offender lately. Dating back to the Korean War, it was a 5-gallon model that saw the harsher side of eight children before we ever got here. Tiny hairline cracks in the bowl refused to come clean. Stains in the porcelain (not ours) defied scrubbing and chemicals. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it had a noticable instability from side to side—not the most confidence-inspiring feeling when taking care of business. Possibly the most annoying thing, though, is the fact that it didn’t flush. There is nothing more embarrassing than having to stand in there with the door closed, flushing the thing four times to make sure the package has been delivered.
This past weekend I decided to use some of my hard-earned homeowner skills and replace the balky old beast with a pretty new low-consumption unit from Lowe’s. I did a bunch of research (in a strange bit of serendipity, the latest issue of This Old House mentioned a Canadian-sponsored study on toilets, which I found online; there was so much exhaustive data there I pretty much gave up. Apparently Canucks have nothing better to do than chart toilet flushing power in inscrutable Excel spreadsheets and debate the merits of sponges vs. soy paste for test material) and settled on the American Standard Cadet 3, which will, apparently, flush a bucket of golf balls with 1.6 gallons of water. Sold!
Last night, I gathered up some buckets, plumber’s wrenches, rags, and newspaper, and had the old toilet drained and off the floor in a half an hour. Cleaning off the flange and surrounding floor, I saw no glaring problems, and prepared the new toilet base for its maiden voyage. Settling it onto the flange, it bolted right up, and I was about to fetch the tank, when I tested it for stability. It rocked back and forth as badly as the old unit did. Bolting it as tight as I dared without breaking the porcelain, I couldn’t keep it from rocking sideways—a bad omen. Wood shims on either side didn’t correct the issue, which defied logic, and my stomach began to clench up as I realized what the issue was: I leaned the bowl all the way to the left and lifted it off the floor. Underneath, bolted snugly to the base of the toilet, was the brass flange, now unconnected to the lead pipe leading into the cement floor.
In a morning phone conversation with a trusted plumber, I was told the old-school way was to connect a lead junction up to the top of the iron pipe, and then a brass flange was fitted over the lead. The sides of the lead were hammered down over the brass to “connect” it, and the job was finished. Gotta love the old school, right?
So, until we can get a plumber out here to rectify the situation, my seven months’ pregnant wife has to use the basement toilet, which is the aesthetic equivalent of making her pee in a prison cellblock. I’ve just cleaned up the toilet out on the porch and set it up for us to use in the meantime, but that solution is also substandard at best.
In the meantime, say a prayer to the porcelain god for us: Our Dear Lord John, please show mercy on us. Let the plumber fix our problem without having to tear up half the floor in our bathroom; five projects in this house is enough.
I briefly considered posting some pictures, but you really don’t want to be looking at my toilet drain. Trust me.
Update 11:49AM: Plumber #2 is on the case.
Update 1:28AM: We have a working, functional, shiny new toilet. And the old gas line in the doctor’s exam room is capped off and gone! LET THE POOPING COMMENCE.