Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Man Versus Commode: Riding the Porcelain Throne into Oblivion

I am up to my armpits in writing assignments right now and I am having trouble getting motivated to start them -- any of them. I am all happy with myself for getting so many lined up right out of the new-year chute; but faced with the reality of getting started, I am stuck in neutral.

In that spirit, today I decided to tackle a home-repair project that I have neglected for about two months. The commode in the upstairs bathroom wouldn't stop running. Well, it would; but I had to turn off the water to the toilet tank to achieve that goal. And that valve wasn't functioning properly either, so I had to sort of coax it by shutting the valve off as far as I could and then playing with the flush control in the toilet tank until it finally stopped running.

That was far too much effort to make on a daily basis; so I have been using the guest bathroom downstairs. With company coming from Louisville this weekend, that was no longer an acceptable solution, even for a slacker.

I decided today was the day to make the fix. Two and a half hours, three trips to Home Depot, $27, and a major bathroom water incident later, the silly thing is operating just as God intended.

I had replaced the flapper at the front end of the problem several weeks ago and knew that wasn't the solution. Because the valve controlling the water flow to the tank wasn't closing entirely, I figured that probably needed replaced, but I couldn't get it apart, so I decided to do everything else and hope that by divine intervention or some bit of magic the valve would function properly when everything else was fixed. I knew I would have to replace the flush mechanism inside the tank for sure. That's where I started.

I stopped at Home Depot on my way home from the gym, but wasn't sure what to buy. I left empty handed. I needed the old part to buy the new one.

One reason I had been putting off this job, I knew it would require me crawling under the house. That's where the main shutoff valve for the water is located. This isn't quite as nasty as it sounds. I have an access door inside the house next to my office. The ground under the house is covered with heavy-gauge black plastic. I can cope. However, I hadn't been under the house in a couple of years. I haven't so much as cracked open the access door and shined a flashlight in there. There was no way to know what sort of critters might be lurking under there just waiting for an unsuspecting do-it-yourselfer to come wandering along.

If this had been a movie, someone in the audience would have screamed, "What are ya, nuts? Don't go in there!" As the scary music built to a crescendo.

I made it in and back out without incident.

Next I disconnected the water line from the shutoff valve to the toilet tank. Okay, now I was humming right along.

I removed the misfiring flush mechanism from the tank and headed back to Home Depot for the replacement part. I received a $25 Home Depot gift card for Christmas. Although repairing a crapper wasn't my first choice for spending the card, I was going to spend it on something repair related; why not this chore?

I returned home and put the new flush mechanism in. It was a little more complicated than simply swapping the two units, but I won't bore you with the minutia involved. I will tell you that at one point the instructions told me to loosen the top of the flush mechanism.

I got everything reassembled and turned the main water valve back on.

As I was crawling back through the access door, I heard what sounded like someone spraying down the side of my house with a garden hose. I ran up the steps to find a gusher of water shooting straight up out of toilet tank like Old Faithful. It was shooting out with such force that it was ricocheting off the ceiling. I tried to close the valve to the tank, but only succeeded in soaking myself.

I screamed like a girl and ran back downstairs and blasted back under the house. I got the water turned off. Returning to the bathroom, I found about a quarter of an inch of water pooled on the floor and water dripping off the ceiling.

Somehow in trying to remove the shutoff valve to the tank, I had opened it. When I reconnected everything, I didn't double check it. I had also forgotten that I had loosened the top of the flush mechanism per the instructions; so rather than the water just filling up the tank, it blew the top off the flush mechanism and spewed straight up.

I sopped up all the water and wiped down the walls and ceiling. Now I had a pile of wet, dirty towels to deal with, too.

I closed the valve for the line to the tank and tightened down the top of the flush mechanism. I went back under the house and turned the water on again. I returned to find the valve in the bathroom leaking. It was spraying a fine mist on the wall behind the toilet tank.

I uttered a few choice expletives, crawled back under the house and turned off the water yet again.

I had no choice, I had to somehow manhandle the shutoff valve in the bathroom and get it off. I eventually managed to remove it and, soaked to the bone, headed back to Home Depot for a new one.

Once I installed that and turned the main water valve on, the entire contraption worked like a charm.

Now all I have to do is fix the drywall behind the toilet tank that was destroyed by water. But that's a task and blog for another day.


  1. They have these guys called plumbers ....

    Also, isn't this the picture I took in Nawlins?

  2. I don't like to pay for anything that I think I can do myself. Twenty years ago I could barely hang a picture. Now I'll take on almost anything. Yes, the "cathouse" photo is from the Borden collection.