Friday, January 30, 2009

Brian the plumber

I actually have a storied history with me and fixing toilets. This past week I had a dilly of a time trying to change a toilet seat. (more on this in a moment)

It started when I was in my mid 20's and my friend Dave had a problem with his toilet running non-stop in his apartment. Both of us were somewhat new at home repair and living on our own. Despite the fact that his Dad owned a hardware store, neither of us had much of a clue as to how to fix it. We eventually figured out that the gizmo that determined when the toilet tank was full was in need of replacement. We made a quick trip to the hardware store and came back with what we thought was the appropriate part. Once the original part was out we tried to fit in the new piece but it wouldn't fit. I guess the style of toilet didn't match the part we bought.

In hindsight, it wasn't a good idea to get the hammer out. I don't think brute force and porcelain mix well. Thankfully for Dave, his ability to talk his landlord into buying a new toilet (he said it just "crumbled"!!) and having a plumber install it was much better than our first attempt at repair.

Since then I've become quite adept at toilet repair. I've even done that very same repair at least 8 times since then. (including the toilets at work) Being an experienced man in his late 30's, I had all the confidence in the world when it came to making a quick change of the toilet seat this past week. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

When will I ever learn?

For some reason, our toilet seat had developed a crack (no, I'm not talking about the crack of my ass!) on it. While I admit that it very well could have broken due to my fat ass, I will say it more likely it was the result of the children constantly slamming the seat up and down when they use the bathroom like the reckless bulls that they are. The crack was not aesethically pleasing and it tended to pinch your thigh while you sat on it. But, regardless of why the seat needed replacing, I didn't think the undertaking would be all that hard nor expensive. (it was only $9.87 at Walmart for a new seat) The actual installation of the seat took less than 2 minutes, it was the removal of the old seat that took over 2 hours.

The old seat was attached by 2 metal bolts and 2 plastic nuts. Yes, I said plastic. This choice of building materials was my undoing. The bolts had become rusty and the plastic nuts had somehow fused themselves to the bolts. Making it impossible to unscrew the nuts no matter what tool I used. My next action was to take out the bolt cutters. It was hard to get them wedged into the right position and I did manage to snip the one bolt in half (after making a small hole in the wall) but I only snipped off half the plastic bolt as it was flush with the base. That half a bolt prevented it from coming out. So, I snipped the seat of at the hinges from the top.

I think that was a big mistake.

While it enabled me to get the one bolt off, it made it harder to remove the other bolt as it took away my leverage and I wasn't able to fit the bolt cutters on that side of the toilet. I tried many tools including saws, pliers and tin snips to get this bolt out of the base. I even had the hammer out and came to my senses before I used it. I eventually came to the brilliant solution (which my wife independently came up with a similar solution at the same time) to use the glue gun.

I'm sure you're confused as to why using a glue gun worked so I'll explain. The glue gun uses heat to melt the glue in the desired surface. I thought that I took out the glue I could use the tip to melt the plastic off. 20 minutes later with the help of my wife the plastic eventually came off and we had accomplished our mission.

The moral learned here is that things aren't always as easy as they appear, either that or you'll do anything to a have comfortable place to sit while you shit.

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