A Royal Flush

Now Playing: I Know a Little, by Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Well now I don’t read that daily news, ‘Cause it ain’t hard to figure, Where people gets the blues. They can’t dig what they can’t use. If they stick to simple, They’d be much less abused.”

Or not. That’s been the problem. I’ve had toilet troubles for going on three weeks. When it started, the water in the tank wouldn’t stop running. I’m a homeowner, I know the drill. I went to Lowe’s to get replacement innards for the tank. My goal: Replace the old-fashioned ballcock with one of the newfangled flush valves that replaces the float arm and ball.

I’ve done it before. Grousing about it usually takes longer than fixing it. The only problem: There are basically two versions of the flush valve at Lowe’s, and I can never remember which is the one I want. I know from my experience that one is easy to install, the other not so much.It works but requires more adjusting than I’m usually capable of. But dammit Jim, I’m a doctor (of words, that is), not a plumber.

Sure enough, after waiting a couple of days – with water turned off, of course – to make sure the elves weren’t going to fix it overnight, I decided to repair it. Here’s the thing. I bought the one that requires more adjusting. I got it installed just fine. But I was struggling with making it work right. And then I noticed it was leaking, too, so I decided to put the old one back on.

That would have been easy enough, just a few turns of a wrench, wipe up a little water, and try again after buying the other brand.

But now the plastic screw and washer connecting the valve to the tank were stripped. They wouldn’t come off easily – not with the tools I had at hand. My good tools, of course, the ones that would have simplified this process, are scattered in the garage, left there by boys working on skateboards and other stuff. I got frustrated, I asked Austin to help me get some leverage. I got frustrated some more. I finally broke the damn valve off in the tank. And still didn’t get the screw and washer off.

Yikes. Now I had a real problem – one I couldn’t solve.

So after a day or so more of waiting for the elves to fix the problem, I called a handyman service we’d had great results with fixing the ceiling in our bedroom. No problem, they said, they’d send a guy that day at 11.

But then, just before 11, they called and said my guy had been held up on a job and wouldn’t be here until 3. Fine, I said. Here’s where I should have suspected trouble. Just why was he “held up” at the other job? But anyway, he got here a little before 3 and I told him the problem. Warning sign No. 2: He didn’t know what a ballcock or fill valve was. I showed him the carnage from my efforts and he gave me a blank look. I showed him the innards of the other upstairs toilet and he saw what had to be done. He even took the old ballcock with him on the way to Lowe’s to buy parts. Warning sign No. 3: When he got back from Lowe’s, it was with a ballcock about six inches shorter than the one he’d taken. But I figured it still might be OK.

So I let him install it. He did it, taking a bit longer than I figured. But I watched as he flushed it twice with no problems.

Everything was fine, despite the red flags. Until the next morning. That’s when I noticed that when TP was in the bowl, it didn’t exactly flush so great. And the new flapper he put on didn’t always close. Now I knew why his other job that day took longer than expected. He didn’t know what he was doing. The red flags, as they usually are, were right. So we were back to the toilet running again. I adjusted it a couple times while I waited again for the elves (they must’ve been making shoes somewhere).

Monday morning, I called the handyman service and told them my problem. They agreed to send someone out. I asked that they give us someone who had at least used a toilet before.

Handyman No. 2 showed up on time. This guy, who looked like a young Claude Akins, knew what he was doing. I showed him what No. 1 had done and he just shook his head. He went and got a new flush valve and installed it, quick as you please. It flushed great, with the proper force. Everything seemed fine. Except the flapper still didn’t close right. Not the first time. Not anytime. So he decided to get a whole new fill valve kit (which of course includes a new flapper). This took him a little longer, but everything worked great.

We’ve been flushing to our heart’s – OK, maybe some other body part’s – content since then.

Until this morning. When the flush valve came apart and launched itself at the top of the tank. And kept running, of course. I put that exploded back on, adjusted it and think I got it fixed.

Here’s the thing. The only thing that was really wrong in the first place was that the flush arm and ball needed to be replaced. I had a spare in the house. I could have unscrewed, screwed it back in and have been done with it two weeks ago. For nothing.

Guess you could say I crapped out.


“If I had my life to live over again, I’d be a plumber.” _ Albert Einstein



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2 responses to “A Royal Flush

  1. mmpotter

    Been there. Replaced that. My plumber broke it down for me really well when I was looking at replacing the toilet in my back bathroom. He said people will spend over $1000 on a new refrigerator with all the bells and whistles, but they balk at spending $100 on a great toilet. Both are designed to last years, and you use them both daily. They are equally important — treat them that way! After purchasing a great new toilet, I have to agree with him.

  2. Pingback: Out Of My Element « Rants 'n Raves

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