Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Some Home Toilet Humor

For some reason, the only thing both of the bathrooms in the house had in common was that their toilets positioned your knees awkwardly under their sinks. In the not-so-pepto-anymore bathroom there isn't much we can do about this without an extensive remodel.  That wasn't the case in the master bathroom, however. There was plenty of room for the toilet to be positioned properly, as long as it cleared the inward-opening door.  Needless to say this was high on Cait's and my list of priorities, so we got right to it soon after moving in.

Since I neglected to take any before pictures, here is one from the house listing showing the bathroom pre-rotation.

Not only is this awkward, but the toilet is a low flow and really didn't flush properly. The home inspector recommended we ask the seller to replace it, but we were informed that it was supposed to work like that. That became another motivation for this project - replacing the toilet with something less....giant and unflush-friendly.

Here is a better shot of the low-flow toilet.

I started with all the normal steps; shut off the water valve to the toilet and unhook the supply line from the toilet at the base of the tank. Next I flushed the toilet to remove as much water as possible and then removed the rest by hand with a small cup (gross! but better than sloshing it through the house on the way out). I then loosened the bolts holding the toilet to the flange and lifted it off.

After carrying it outside (with a lot of help, the permanently attached tank made it very heavy) and cleaning all the wax off the flange it was easy to see why it was positioned like this in the first place - the flange only had one set of receiver grooves for the bolts, which would prevent a toilet from being installed in any other position than this one was.  However, in this specific case we ended up getting a bit lucky in an odd way; the flange was broken, which meant we would have to take it off entirely and put a repair ring on.

The flange was completely cracked all the way around. The flange is a simple metal ring that would fit around the end of the standpipe with receiving grooves for the toilet bolts that could be screwed into the floor. It looked like this:

I could get my fingers under it and wiggle it and see the seam move, with the exception of about a quarter inch where the crack hadn't made it back to itself. It came off easily with a crowbar, and I headed off to the hardware store. We got a new toilet, a new wax seal, and brand new flange.

First I had to chip away some of the tile to make room for it. A real chisel is probably best, but I found a cheap flathead screwdriver worked very well. Then, I found some screws about an inch long and screwed the flange to the floor. These screws were much too short, though. I realized later that the tile is so thick, that the screws I had on hand probably didn't bite into any of the wood sub-floor at all.  When I set the toilet over the newly installed flange and tried to tighten it down, I heard wood cracking and the toilet simply never tightened. When I picked it back up I found this:

Had the screws been sunk solidly into wood this might have held, but in this case some pulled free of the wood and some pulled through the repair ring itself, badly deforming the ring. So I went back to the hardware store and talked to an associate who sold me some giant 3 inch brass screws (to avoid reacting with the lead) and a better flange repair. I didn't take a picture of it before installation, but I've gone on the internet, and found this:

He also mentioned that I might need to hammer the jagged end of the standpipe out a bit to flatten it against the floor so this would fit over it. After a bit of light tapping to fold the edges of the pipe outward until they were flush against the floor (this was much easier than expected, folding lead pipe really doesn't take much), I installed the flange and tried to screw it in. After breaking two screws I went back to the store for more and a masonry bit; the screws simply wouldn't go through the thick masonry underneath.  After pre-drilling through the masonry, the screws went easily into the wood planks in the floor. I did angle them outward some to ensure I would hit wood. I wasn't too concerned, but a quick foray into the crawlspace had revealed, as expected, that the wood wasn't quite flush against the pipe.

The angle here is weird, but you can see what I mean.

The installed flange repair, pre-screws.

Once I had all the screws in, I stuck the new wax seal to the bottom of the toilet.  A quick note here: the man helping me at the store admonished me when I reached for the large, "reinforced" wax seal. Those apparently have too much wax; so much wax that it can get squished into the path of the water and catch debris, causing flow problems. I instead got a basic one, and that seems to have worked well. So, I set the toilet over the flange and tightened it down.  When everything was secure I reconnected the water with an unusually large hose (since the valve was no longer under the tank), and flushed it. Huzzah, success!

Everything works and the toilet is secure. The flange I eventually got may have been a bit more than strictly necessary, but I think in this case, I'd rather err on the side of caution.  Also, the shutoff valve is located at the side of the toilet instead of at the back, but that just means it's easily accessible in the event of a problem. It's not a bug, its a feature.

Has anyone encountered a different toilet repair problem, or have a bathroom with an odd configuration? Tell us in the comments!


  1. so, the bathroom door still closes?

  2. With an inch and a half or so of clearance! We measured very carefully before buying a toilet. At some point we plan to change the door so that it opens outward anyway, I just haven't gotten around to it.