The Happy Homeowner: On Plumbing

Cross-posted from Cherry Blossoms The Blog.


While renting from landlords who didn’t communicate well and hated to do maintenance on the property I became an elementary plumber, fiddling with the tank mechanisms of the toilet and plunging all things great and small.  (I took more than a few courses from Toiletology 101.)  I learned that our kitchen garborator was only good for moving water through the tubes.

(***side note:  NEVER, no matter how good your machine, run potato peels through your garborator unless you have a crush on your plumber.)

Even once we’d committed as a family to never run anything down the sink and we would still run the garborator when the dishwasher was going to make sure everything was clean in the pipes, we’d still get clogs and slow drains.  Our pipes were ill-fitting at best.  I became quite a pro at fixing the problem before the kitchen became submerged in two inches of water.

I considered it all part of my apprenticeship for homeownership and did a little victory dance every time I had saved us from making the dreaded call to the landlords who would invariably ask us what we had done to cause the problem and would be quick to hike up our rent at the next available opportunity.

In the three months since we’ve moved into our house my plumbing prowess has grown.  Not once have I had to plunge, neither sink nor toilet.  Not once has my garborator growled at me.  (Mind you, we compost everything a person would put down the sink, but like I said we did so with the old apartment and still had problems.)  Yet I have already once called a plumber and since then tackled a new scary task with only plucky determination and a few youtube videos.

The plumber had to cut off an improperly installed frost hose bib that was leaking, per our home inspection.  Do not ever let someone solder the pieces together instead of proper assembly!  My plumber was good enough to explain everything to me, if your plumber isn’t talking to you then you need to find a new one.

A month or so after he came we concluded that we needed to replace the wax seal in the toilet of our hall bathroom.  It being Christmas and we had just had to pay a mason to fix the hole in the wall from the frost hose bib stuff, I really wasn’t keen to write another cheque.  Besides, my friend Andrea had just pulled up her toilet a few weeks before.  She’s devastatingly more clever than I but I figured that if she could do it then with a lot of research so could I.

We did it at a time when my husband could help.  We have tall toilets and I knew they’d be too much for me to move myself.  (I was right.)  I’m not going to lie and tell you that it was painless or odorless, but I can honestly say that it was not nearly as horrible as I had thought.  If we can do it then you can too.

Start to finish the project only took a couple of hours out of our Saturday and a couple of dollars out of our bank account.  Wax seals are cheap, wrenches we already owned.  We pulled off the toilet seat as well and soaked all the components in bleach before scrubbing to fully insure everything was clean.  We discovered that the seat had been assembled incorrectly, like the rest of the toilet installation, and that explained some of the problems with comfort and cleanliness we had seen.  We were so encouraged by the results of our work that we did the same with the seat of our other toilet, which, as it turns out, had also been incorrectly installed.  Within such a short time I suddenly felt so much better about our bathrooms.  It was a very empowering experience!  I am relieved to know that it is now done correctly, that our toilet seats are properly set, and that everything has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized!  I know that we could do it again when the time comes!

Note:  While we wore disposable rubber gloves (79 cents a piece at our local hardware store and surprisingly sturdy) for the grossest toilet stuff, once the toilet was reassembled I tossed the gloves with the other supplies.  I was then foolishly soaking and scrubbing bolts and washers in a bleach dilution without any protection for my hands.  I massaged SkinFare into my knuckles that night and while I smelt like bleach for three days, I had averted the cracked skin disaster that I thought was inevitable.

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