The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-23-2012, 07:18 AM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
I need to replace the innards of my toilet tank

Is this simple enough that I can do it myself? The flush handle broke off. The innards may be 30+ years old and their time had come.

Do I just go to Home Depot and buy some kind of kit and then follow the directions? It's a low-flow toilet with a small-ish tank.
__________________
I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no class.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 05-23-2012, 07:27 AM
Ibanez Ibanez is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Yes very simple.
Just go and buy a new resevoir. Should all be standard so no matter what you buy, it will fit. Setting it up is pretty straight forward two bolts and the water line.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-23-2012, 07:37 AM
Ibanez Ibanez is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Forgot to add: Don't over tighten the bolts, you may crack the tank. Or even worse cause a hairline crack you don't notice right away and the tank gives way while your away.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:04 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
No reason to replace the whole thing. Just "the innards". This is a pretty easy DIY project. You can get all the parts at Depot, or any hardware store.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:17 AM
CCYMan CCYMan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
I agree with the other posters - you definitely don't want to hire someone to do this. A kit to replace everything in your tank costs something like $20. This was the first do-it-yourself project I ever did. It took me longer than it should have because I had no idea what I was doing at the time, so don't get discouraged if it seems to go slowly.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:21 AM
Vinyl Turnip Vinyl Turnip is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: <--- <--- <---
Posts: 14,637
If I can do it, anyone can. May as well get the whole kit; it's not that expensive and you'll have all new innards. You'll be taking upper-deckers again in no time!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:32 AM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 14,480
Do yourself a favor - before heading to the store, take the lid off and snap a pic or two of the insides and take a note of the maker - usually their name will be either inside the tank or the underside of the lid, or in the top of the bowl between the seat and tank. Most toilets are utterly generic inside, but there are a few notable exceptions (Kohler, in particular) that need unique parts.

However, if it's just the flush handle that broke, you can replace that for about five bucks and not even need to shut off the water.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:00 AM
silenus silenus is online now
Hoc nomen meum verum non est.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 40,318
Be sure to take the old flush handle and fittings with you to Home Depot. That way you can get exactly the same new fittings to install.

But yeah, this is DIY101. If you buy a complete kit it will set you back maybe $25 and will come with all parts, instructions and pictures.

Last edited by silenus; 05-23-2012 at 09:01 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:11 AM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
First, figure out how to turn off the water to your entire house. Then do it and check that it has been done by say turning on the bathroom faucet. The reason for this is sometimes those valves behind the toilet near the floor can be pretty corroded internally/externally and perhaps behind the wall where you can't see it. Also, those valves can be pretty dicey to open/close because they have been left open and not turned for many years on end. These conditions can lead to a small but no zero chance of a pipe/valve breaking or leaking when you go to turn the water off in the bathroom. After the water is spewing everywhere is NOT the time to find out you don't know where the water turn off is or that you can't turn it off because it requires a special tool.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:18 AM
Maus Magill Maus Magill is offline
Not a real doctor.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 6,173
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
Is this simple enough that I can do it myself? The flush handle broke off. The innards may be 30+ years old and their time had come.

Do I just go to Home Depot and buy some kind of kit and then follow the directions? It's a low-flow toilet with a small-ish tank.
Exactly. It's an easy job. It will only take a half hour, at most... Unless you have "assistants" like mine.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:20 AM
Maus Magill Maus Magill is offline
Not a real doctor.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 6,173
Quote:
Originally Posted by billfish678 View Post
First, figure out how to turn off the water to your entire house. Then do it and check that it has been done by say turning on the bathroom faucet. The reason for this is sometimes those valves behind the toilet near the floor can be pretty corroded internally/externally and perhaps behind the wall where you can't see it. Also, those valves can be pretty dicey to open/close because they have been left open and not turned for many years on end. These conditions can lead to a small but no zero chance of a pipe/valve breaking or leaking when you go to turn the water off in the bathroom. After the water is spewing everywhere is NOT the time to find out you don't know where the water turn off is or that you can't turn it off because it requires a special tool.
Why not turn off the valve at the back of the toilet, then flush it? If the valve is corroded, then the tank will start to refill.

Or am I missing something?
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:22 AM
Slithy Tove Slithy Tove is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Look into any rebates Texas may be offering to replace your current toilet with a low-flow model. Here in Georgia it's $99.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:25 AM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maus Magill View Post
Why not turn off the valve at the back of the toilet, then flush it? If the valve is corroded, then the tank will start to refill.

Or am I missing something?
Because THAT valve can break or start leaking, or the pipe is attached to can when you turn that valve. Its a pretty low probability event but it can happen. Also I've encountered a few valves that were so old you could NOT close them or were so hard to turn I was afraid of breaking something so turning off the whole house water was the only way to go in the first place.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:26 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
The only thing that may be at all difficult is removing the old bolts. If they are metal, they may well be corroded tightly in place. Don't get wrench-happy trying to get them off if that is the case. Penetrating or Liquid Wrench-type products are your friend in that situation. Give it time to soak in and they'll eventually come loose. The last couple toilets I fixed had this problem and I used a dremel tool with a cut-off disk to cut the nuts off the old bolts. It's quick, but I wouldn't recommend buying a dremel just for this job. Your new kit should have plastic bolts and nuts, so the problem won't happen again in future repairs.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:28 AM
Morgenstern Morgenstern is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
I just went through this. I tried to change the valve to the toilet that turns off the water as it didn't work. That ended up being a major job. I bought a complete replacement kit for the inside of the tank and it didn't quite fit (it said fits almost all toilets). I had to modify it to fit. To make a long story short, it took forever. It required crawling under the house ( to replace the line with the shutoff valve on it) not to mention disassembling the top half of the toilet.

My advice, fix what's broken, nothing more. If it's worked for 30 years, and it's still working, it's probably much better quality than what they are selling today.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05-23-2012, 10:41 AM
cjepson cjepson is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinyl Turnip View Post
If I can do it, anyone can. May as well get the whole kit; it's not that expensive and you'll have all new innards. You'll be taking upper-deckers again in no time!
Well, I did it too (specifically, replacing the fill valve), but I didn't find it all that easy... I like to do minor fix-it stuff around the house (I don't do electrical work or major plumbing), and this was one of the more complicated projects. I succeeded in the end, but only after getting stuck a couple of times. Probably took me between one and two hours.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 05-23-2012, 11:58 AM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slithy Tove View Post
Look into any rebates Texas may be offering to replace your current toilet with a low-flow model. Here in Georgia it's $99.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
It's a low-flow toilet with a small-ish tank.
BTW, low flow toilets are evil. Bad idea. Don't save water when you have to flush multiple times. But that was here when we moved in 20 years ago.





This thread started out sounding like this task would be simple and then got more and more scary. The handle broke off because my well water has been corroding it for all of those 30+ years. The innards are all dark red from the iron in the water. I had a new water softener put in a few months ago, so that shouldn't be a problem in the future. I have every reason to assume the water has corroded the valve that turns off water to the toilet, as well as the bolts holding the innards in place. I don't want a new tank, just new innards.

The suggestion to take a picture of everything was an excellent one. I believe it is a Kohler, but being a girl, I don't stare at the back of the toilet when I'm using it. If I do happen to be facing the back while I'm using it, then I'm on my knees worshiping the Porcelain Goddess.

I'm not at home right now, but I'll look at the whole apparatus more carefully and maybe even post some pictures here!

Thanks for all the help and encouragement.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 05-23-2012, 12:02 PM
Mann Slaughter Mann Slaughter is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
I just did this about 2 months ago. I had a problem crop up last summer and I bought the Fluidmaster Complete Repair kit at Walmart for $20, but it wasn't until the toilet wouldn't flush at all last March that I finally got around to repairing it. Like you, my toilet components were old and corroded, so I figured that instead of just replacing what was broken, and wait for some other ancient part to break in 6 months, I'd replace them all. The instruction sheet listed the tools needed and said the job should take about 20 minutes, and it MAY have if I was working on a brand new toilet, or if I'd ever done anything like this before. In fact the job took most of the day, (because I had to take frequent breaks due to rising frustration) removal of the tank from the toilet to replace the flush valve and rubber gasket, (My God, was that thing heavy!) 2 trips to Home Depot for tools, and finally a hacksaw to cut the old flush valve off since it was corroded and locked solid.
I think that had I known going in what the job would require I would've called someone, but once I'd gotten started I felt it was too late. But afterward, when I turned the water back on and the toilet refilled without leaking, and it flushed perfectly the first time I must say the sense of pride and accomplishment I felt, coupled with the knowledge that now I can fix a broken toilet were immeasurable.
__________________
-------------------
Mann Slaughter
"Let's DO this!"
-------------------

Last edited by Mann Slaughter; 05-23-2012 at 12:06 PM.. Reason: corroded, not rusty
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 05-23-2012, 01:01 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
I'm at Home Depot looking at something called

HydroStop Flapperless Toilet Repair

Know anything about this or care to google?

Box says "Replaces flapper, chain & handle. Installs on minutes. No tools needed."

It looks like you seat the thing down in the drain hole that the flapper sits in (after removing the flapper and attached parts). You anchor it to the tall overflow thingie-- excuse the highly technical language.

It's $11.98.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 05-23-2012, 01:10 PM
Kimballkid Kimballkid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
I'm at Home Depot looking at something called

HydroStop Flapperless Toilet Repair

Know anything about this or care to google?

Box says "Replaces flapper, chain & handle. Installs on minutes. No tools needed."

It looks like you seat the thing down in the drain hole that the flapper sits in (after removing the flapper and attached parts). You anchor it to the tall overflow thingie-- excuse the highly technical language.

It's $11.98.
Never heard of one, but that will just replace the flush valve. If you want to replace all the innards, you'll also need a fill valve which is the thing attached to the incoming water line.

Last edited by Kimballkid; 05-23-2012 at 01:11 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 05-23-2012, 01:12 PM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Looks good in theory to me. Can't tell you about in practice however.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 05-23-2012, 03:12 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 34,269
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
I'm at Home Depot looking at something called

HydroStop Flapperless Toilet Repair

Know anything about this or care to google?

Box says "Replaces flapper, chain & handle. Installs on minutes. No tools needed."

It looks like you seat the thing down in the drain hole that the flapper sits in (after removing the flapper and attached parts). You anchor it to the tall overflow thingie-- excuse the highly technical language.

It's $11.98.
Maybe. But it is usually simpler to buy the replacement kit for what you have now.
I've replaced the innards of our three toilets several times over. The handle is the easiest thing to fix. Definitely take the one you have now with you to the store. We have three different types of handles, one quite odd. Replacing the handle usually involves only unscrewing it from the tank and then screwing the new one in and attaching the chain. (Mark where the chain hook is also so you get the same length from the new one.) You don't even have to empty the tank.
Replacing the innards is not hard, it just isn't necessary.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 05-23-2012, 03:33 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
The handle is the easiest thing to fix. Definitely take the one you have now with you to the store. We have three different types of handles, one quite odd. Replacing the handle usually involves only unscrewing it from the tank and then screwing the new one in and attaching the chain. (Mark where the chain hook is also so you get the same length from the new one.) You don't even have to empty the tank.
Replacing the innards is not hard, it just isn't necessary.
After studying all the toilet parts at Home Depot, I wound up buying just a handle replacement. I've looked inside the toilet tank enough that I think I got one that will work.

The only reason I wanted to replace all the innards is because of the 30+ years of that iron-saturated yukky water. I thought it would be nice to have new toilet tank innards. But, if it works, why bother, right?

I will try it when I get home.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 05-23-2012, 04:40 PM
nate nate is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
30 years?? That's impressive. I have to replace mine every six months or so.. And what bolts are you guys talking about? I've never had to replace any metal bolts when I replace the innards.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 05-23-2012, 04:57 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
Quote:
Originally Posted by nate View Post
I have to replace mine every six months or so..
Why? What happens to the parts?
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 05-23-2012, 07:15 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 34,269
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
After studying all the toilet parts at Home Depot, I wound up buying just a handle replacement. I've looked inside the toilet tank enough that I think I got one that will work.

The only reason I wanted to replace all the innards is because of the 30+ years of that iron-saturated yukky water. I thought it would be nice to have new toilet tank innards. But, if it works, why bother, right?

I will try it when I get home.
If your innards are made of iron, definitely keep them. The new ones are plastic, and don't last nearly as long. Mine go for longer than six months - easily five years - but still go. And the parts are sensing what I type and are preparing to fail, I just know it.

Your parts might also be nonstandard, which could be a problem. The people who owned our house before us bought closeouts for everything, and one of our toilets has a non standard hole in the bottom. We finally got things to work by using underwater caulk. You don't want to go through something like that.

If it ain't broke, flush it. That's what I say.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 05-23-2012, 07:46 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
All I know is, don't believe the box at Home Depot when it tells you that the parts are "universal" and will "fit any toilet." That may be true if your toilet is less than ten years old. But my circa 1974 crapper required a visit to Ye Olde Plumbing Arcania Shoppe to find parts that would fit it. If I'd known I was in for a "National Treasure" type scavenger hunt in the first place, I'd have saved myself a lot of time and just gotten an all-new terlit.

Last edited by Tim R. Mortiss; 05-23-2012 at 07:47 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:02 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
I'm home but don't feel like dealing with the toilet thing tonight. Too tired. Lots of good comments here.

Re "they don't make them that way anymore," when I was married the first time, my husband bought me a portable dishwasher for Christmas 1973. It's the kind you roll over to the sink and hook to the faucet. It went on many moves with me and through several relationships and into a marriage, to this house, and then into widowhood. I finally had to replace it in 2005. THIRTY-TWO YEARS LATER. The shelves had begin to disintegrate (did I mention the really bad well water???)

I bought another portable and the guy at the store said, "Don't expect this one to last as long as your first one. They don't make them that way anymore."
__________________
I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no class.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 05-24-2012, 03:01 PM
Scubaqueen Scubaqueen is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maus Magill View Post
Exactly. It's an easy job. It will only take a half hour, at most... Unless you have "assistants" like mine.
Ah yes... in my case the assistants are of the feline persuasion.

I have to do this very thing to the downstairs toilet over the weekend (it'll be too freakin' hot to do anything else outside, thank you very much central Indiana weather!!), and I have absolutely no doubt that while the boy kitty will be less than intrigued, the two ladies, especially the kitten, will want to be front and center for all the goings-on, 'helping' me as they're so fond of doing on so many home repair projects.

Maybe I can lure them into the garage for the duration of Operation Toilet Innards Replacement.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 05-24-2012, 03:44 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 14,480
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager
Your parts might also be nonstandard, which could be a problem. The people who owned our house before us bought closeouts for everything, and one of our toilets has a non standard hole in the bottom. We finally got things to work by using underwater caulk. You don't want to go through something like that.
I was once in hand-to-tank combat with an amusingly named American Standard toilet that was the epitome of non-standard. Everything about it was so weird with respect to what's on the market now that I ended up replacing the entire toilet.

One nice thing about toilets is that they are so basic and simple that you can buy a perfectly usable new one for about $70 in case things go horribly wrong, and unless you want something absurd like a Kohler Hatbox that costs more that most people's first car, better models are still not too expensive.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 05-24-2012, 09:05 PM
nate nate is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
Why? What happens to the parts?
You'll notice the quality when you buy a kit from Lowe's or Home Depot. The float valve is made from cheap plastic that cracks and leaks easily (not on to your floor, but inside the tank). This isn't a problem while your float value is still functioning, but the water cut-off valve will eventually fail and you'll have a constantly running toilet. I have one particular toilet that this seems to happen on every six months. I have another that the valve has lasted for four or five years.

On a positive note, once you've replaced the innards a couple of times, it become a five-minute job.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 06-06-2012, 09:15 AM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
Follow up report:

I bought the handle with the lever-thing attached. Mysteriously, I still didn't feel confident about my ability to install it, so when my house cleaning guy came, I asked him to do it, as he seems fairly handy. When he got ready to leave that day, he gave it back to me and said it didn't fit-- the connector on the thingie was a different size from the hole in the tank or something... I didn't really get what he said. The upshot: I would have to buy a different handle; this one didn't fit.

So later I went in the bathroom and studied the handle assembly. Immediately I saw that the lever was attached to the handle in the wrong direction for that tank. The handle I bought was for a toilet with the lever on the right side (as you face the tank) and mine is fitted on the left side. But I figured there must be a way to change the orientation, and sure enough, there was.

I flipped the direction, and inserted the handle into the hole in the side of the tank where it fit perfectly, manually tightened the plastic nut-bolt thing on the lever part, attached the chain to the end of the lever, and it flushes fine.

Lesson learned: I can figure stuff out. Still trying to figure out why I felt so daunted by this.
__________________
I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no class.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 06-06-2012, 10:20 AM
johnpost johnpost is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
often times it is good to look at a problem. think about a solution. then let it not be a constant thought. look at the problem again. go seek some solution possibilities like find parts at the store. new challenges and the anxiety than can occur can inhibit your full creative thinking.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 06-06-2012, 10:23 AM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,060
Good advice. It's true that anxiety inhibits clear thinking.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:33 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.