Tag Archives: toilet

This old house

We live in an old house. Old as in at least 90 years old. Maybe older. Here’s the thing about an old house. It’s old. Things go wrong. Things need to be fixed. While this is probably also true of new houses, I’ve never lived in one so I have what might be considered a convoluted vision of perfect living spaces. New pipes. Reliable heat. Bright, shiny faucets.

So anyway, one week ago things fell apart. It’s never just one thing…in this case, there were two.

Here’s how this scenario played out. Friday night, as we were cleaning the house, I heard the hubs groan and mumble something from the basement. It didn’t sound good. It wasn’t. The original (read: old) cast iron sewage line from the toilets, shower and bathroom sinks, had sprung a leak.

Fortunately, there is a nearby drain. Unfortunately, the drain had backed up and it wasn’t pretty. So we mopped up the mess and sent an SOS to our favorite plumber. The on-call employee and his lucky wife stopped by after their dinner out. He gave us his evaluation of what was going on and what we could do, which basically came down to flushing the toilets and taking showers only when necessary. Oh, and keep a mop and bucket nearby.  Until Monday…

Because on Monday, the same plumbing/heating company was installing our new furnace and could then determine how best to fix the pipe/drain problem. In the meantime…

We took care flushing only when necessary. At one point, the hubs announced he was running up to the town hall — I assumed he needed to pick up something from his office. But no. There’s a nice restroom there…with working toilets.

Saturday evening, instead of our planned sushi birthday celebration, we stayed home to clean up yet another flooding. Too many showers at once had overwhelmed the drain. Sunday was more of the same, although we’d learned our lesson. No more back to back showers.

Monday morning, the hubs headed off for Cincinnati at 5 a.m., while I waited impatiently for 6 a.m. so I could head to the gym. Not only is there an indoor running track which saved me from a drenching run in a cold rain, but there are also hot showers and working toilets!

After three days of this, one’s brain gets stuck on one reality of life. Where is the nearest bathroom? And yes, I did think of all of those affected by recent natural disasters and realized how lucky I was to have alternatives.

And yet….home alone Monday night, having heard the various possibilities of what could be causing the blocked drain, dollar signs flashed through my mind…a veritable slot machine racking up the possibilities.

Things only worsened when another round of flooding drew me back with my mop and bucket, only to slip and fall in the mucky water. That was it. Time to take drastic measures. Recalling how we used a large coffee can when restrooms were unavailable during a trip through France and Switzerland, I lined a bucket with trash bags and headed to bed, sleeping fitfully. Let’s just say the bucket came in handy.

Tuesday arrived and with it, an angel in the form of the plumber. I was happy to go to work and let him deal with the mess. Good old-fashioned ingenuity and some plumbing knowledge fixed the problem…at least for now.

And now my dreams are filled with visions of new houses. New pipes. No need for drains. Some day.

Out with the world’s ugliest vanity….and the toilet…

It was the ugly vanity to end all ugly vanities, and after more than 20 years of gracing the tiny downstairs bathroom, it had to go. So there we were, finally attacking the floor in the bathroom. We’d ripped out the two layers of vinyl and paper-thin plywood to expose the wood floors hidden underneath. All that remained was whatever existed underneath the toilet and the vanity.

So…taking a deep breath, the hubs and I attempted to turn off the water under the sink to see if we could remove the single most offensive piece of furniture in our house. I’m not making this up. If there were a competition for ugly vanities, this one would win…hands down.

We’re not plumbers. We’re not really even wanna-be plumbers, but we (I) sometimes think I can do things I really can’t. So we turned the water back on and decided to hold off until our favorite plumber was available.

So the next morning — Sunday, of course — and just 30 minutes before the church picnic was to begin, I hopped into the shower. That’s when all you-kn0w-what broke loose. There was — according to the hubs — a leak under the vanity and he was — unsuccessfully — trying to locate the place to turn off the main water line.

Leaving a message on our plumber’s emergency line, the hubs hightailed it across the street to fetch the neighborhood man of all trades. He who can fix all. Phil came running in, a grin on his face, and a huge toolkit at his side. He assured us we didn’t need the plumber, that he could do this. He was right. Within 10 minutes, they’d located the turn-off valve.

Then came the offer we couldn’t refuse. Did we want his help removing the vanity — which, by the way, he agreed was indeed quite ugly. In a few minutes they were carrying it to the garage.


In the meantime, I inspected the toilet, wondering if I could follow my sister-in-law’s instructions for removing it. Her directions had seemed SO easy two months earlier. I knew how to turn off the water supply and I knew I’d have to replace the seal. But getting that heavy thing out flummoxed me.

Re-enter Phil, the fixer. Did I want his help removing it? Okay, by this time, I’d lost all my pride. All I could do was grin like a goofball. Within minutes, he and the hubs had the toilet in the garage.

Lovely, eh?

As he packed up his tools, I asked what we owed him. The classic Phil response… “Nothing. I like to help my neighbors.” Someday, I’ll figure out how to repay him.

In the meantime, we’re gradually beginning to believe that this project may end. It’s a slow process but when we get the sander in place, it’ll move quickly. And someday…we’ll have a nice, smooth, wood floor on which to stand while we cook.

Houston, we have flushoff

My husband gave me permission to write this. Seriously. He said, and I quote, “You may write about this on your blog.” Usually,  his directive is the opposite, as in “Do NOT write about this.” But as our daughters will tell you, I’ve never been very good at toeing the line. This is what comes of being the youngest of five children AND the only daughter.

But I digress. This little story actually began oh…about 20 years ago…about the same time we bought this house. Which, by the way, is old. Very old. And old houses often have little glitches. This little glitch involves the toilet in our downstairs closet-sized bathroom. It is just big enough for a toilet and a tiny vanity — leaving very little room for a human being. Which, on the face of things, is completely impractical.

Despite its size, the bathroom gets quite a bit of use. For one thing, what child will run upstairs to use a bathroom when she wants to miss the least amount of whatever is on the tv? And so…after 20 years of pretty regular flushing, the poor little toilet failed us.

More specifically, it began to object to being flushed. Or once flushed, it decided to run for awhile. You know how that is. Instead of that last little gurgle, there is a hissing sound as if water is running into the bowl. So you jiggle the handle, hold your breath, and pray that it will stop. It stops, you breathe a sigh of relief…until the next flush.

In our case, we’ve probably been jiggling the handle a tad too long. It got to the point where instead of flushing, I’d beg my husband to flush it by hand inside the tank. But that only worked so long and the inevitable happened. No more flushing. Eeek.

Today, my husband came home brandishing a package of what he called “a present for you”. I’ve heard that saying before and I know a real present from a faux present. This was a faux. This was a new flusher thingy, courtesy of my favorite hardware store owner. Too bad said hardware store owner and expert fix-it guy didn’t accompany my husband, the would-be plumber.

So…after supper, we both eyed the little thingy speculatively. Off came the top of the tank, and out popped the old flusher thingy (flusher level to those who plumb). My husband’s words were (and again, I quote), “you pop this in, screw this on…um..wait maybe it screws the other way…no, maybe not.” (This was followed by a few choice, but unprintable words.)

To make a long story short, eventually, we (he) got the chain connected and reconnected and everything settled back into place. A test flush and bingo, down goes the test piece of toilet paper, and we’re back in working order.

Now that Mr. Plumber has proven his skills, wonder if I could sic him on the bathtub drain thingy. It doesn’t work. I’ll let you know when he gives me permission to tell that story.