Plumber or IT Guy?

[topic {Book of Sean}]

A few monthsyears ago on Slashdot I commented that if I had to do it all again, I'd probably train as a plumber instead of an IT guy. Well fate finally landed me the oppertunity to try out plumbing.

We bought a little house in South Philly. It used to be a rental unit, so it's got your assortment of bodge jobs throughout to make it work on the cheap. Our toilet had a bad flap that someone had repaired a while back by weighting it down with a carabiner.

Before I bore you with my tale of woe, here is a quick chart...

Back problemsBack projects
People hire you to treat shitPeople treat you like shit
Deal with things dirtier than toilet seatsKeyboards are dirtier than toilet seats
People don't call till shit doesn't go down People only when the shit goes down.

I didn't mind that the toilet periodically ran. Ok, it started running all the time. But it was my ex-wife, who had a solution of turning the water supply off for the toilet, that finally motivated me to fix the sucker.

Looking at the rusted out guts, I pondered simply replaceing the unit with a new one. I then recalled that I am a child of science, I have replaced brakes on cars, I've built working rockets, I write firewall software, I can overhaul a toilet. And I generally liked the results when I do it myself.

Who am I kidding. I'm a cheap bastard and $40 in parts vs $110 bucks for a stripped down, base model toilet, the $40 in parts wins.

My project was complicated by the need to also re-seat the toilet. It was an old rental, and whoever installed the unit never shimmed the base. You could rock around on the john like a granny chair. That seal was toast.

So this was a complete tear-down and overhaul of the toilet. The ceramic tank and bowl would be the only thing left. In the process I learned a lot about the physics of a 1.6 gpf toilet, a few new swear words, and whether I made the right choice working on computers instead of the skilled trades.

First a bit of toilet physics. I have a simple gravity-fed 6 liter per flush toilet. Stuff it you 6 gallons a flush people, it works pretty damn well. Just do like they do in Europe and keep a brush nearby. After a flush the tank needs to be refilled, but at some point that filling needs to stop. On units like this there is a hollow plastic ball that, when the water level hits a certain level, plugs up the supply.

In case the float for whatever reason doesn't shut off the water there is a plastic pipe that runs from the base of the tank to about an inch below the handle. Any water that spills over the pipe is siphoned into the toilet, hence preventing the water from filling the tank and then running all over your floor.

To flush, there is a lever inside the tank that moves when you jiggle the handle. That lever pulls a chain that lifts a flap that lets a measured amount of water dump from the tank into the bowl.

Age had warped this flap on our toilet, so water was constantly leaking causing the supply to constantly dump water to keep the tank full.

Dismantleing the Toilet

The first step was cutting off the water, and detaching the supply from the tank. I ended up running out to Home Improvement Store for a large adjustable wrench. It was just a pair of thumbscrews holding the tank to the bowl. Once you remove the bolts you will find that gravity is the only thing holding everything together. Meditate on that when you are nursing a sore back after lugging all that heavy stuff around all night.

Cute reference to ex-wife calling me away removed.

All content copyright 2018, Sean Woods | email: | phone: 703-342-2662