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JoSH Lehan

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Fixed leaking toilet [Nov. 1st, 2009|10:50 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[music |Silent, listening for drips]

Finally, I fixed the leaking toilet in the main bathroom upstairs! Finally, I can sleep again, without being kept awake every 5-10 minutes by the sound of the toilet refilling itself, and the steady gurgle of the leak in the tank.

The problem was, the flapper was old and worn away. It was no longer making a complete seal. So, I searched around on Google until I found the make and model of the toilet (Kohler K3386DA) and the appropriate replacement flapper part (Korky 2011BP).

Replacing the flapper was easy, but the problem was complicated by a very old shutoff valve. The valve hasn't been used in years, and most likely is damaged. When I had to shut off the water to a leaky sink a few months ago, in the same area of the house, the valve actually started to drip! That was scary, because the only way to shut off that drip was to shut off the entire water supply to the house, something I didn't want to do, and don't really know how to do. I hope I never have to do it here: who knows how long it's been since that valve was turned? What if it, too, is also frozen?

I went gingerly on the valve, and was able to steadily make a few slight turns until I felt resistance, then tried flushing the toilet. Crap, it still kept filling up. I kept going. Unfortunately, I reached the point where the valve would no longer easily move by hand pressure, so I stopped there. Crap! It still fills up with water!

Eric to the rescue: he had an ingenious solution, that worked. He used a clothes hanger, and a heavy book, to hold the floater lever artificially high. The lever kept the tank from filling up. So, I could remove the flapper entirely, and still have a dry tank, even though I couldn't shut off the valve. I took the opportunity to rub, with a towel, the area all around the hole that the flapper covers up. There were signs of gunk and corrosion there. Hopefully, I smoothed them out a bit, so the flapper will have more of a chance of getting a correct seal.

Replaced the flapper, and it seemed to fit nicely. The only frustrating part was getting the chain length correct, on the chain going to the handle: too long, and it wouldn't lift the flapper high enough to get a powerful flush, too short, and it wouldn't correctly release all tension so that the flapper could reseal itself afterwards. I even thought the flapper had failed, because I had part of the chain stick underneath the flapper! But, I sorted that out, and after much trial and error, I think I have it at a good enough length.

The leak has stopped. The tank now holds water again, and doesn't leak it through the flapper anymore. Now, I can sleep much better at night. The shutoff valve is still a worry, though.

I can't turn the valve anymore, because it is frozen. I will monitor it for drips. I hope I haven't damaged the valve. At any rate, I will let the landlord know about this. I'd love to own my own house someday. Then, I'd pay for a real plumber to come out and do the job right! A little preventative maintenance would go a long way here. I learned something to test the next time I'm walking through a realtor's Open House: try the shutoff valves on the toilets! Are they frozen? That would be a sign of neglect, and would alert me to adjust my asking price accordingly.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: cheeseboy
2009-11-02 07:38 pm (UTC)
Something else I've found that works well for adjusting the chain size easily is a small wire-tie. Put it through a couple links and tighten as needed to achieve desired result.

For some reason I thought you were also going to replace the flush valve, which definitely requires having the water turned off all the way.
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[User Picture]From: krellan
2009-11-03 05:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tip.

I wouldn't want to replace the flush valve, that job is beyond me. The flapper is about my limit of what I'm confident I can do, without worsening the problem.

Good news: I felt the floor today, a day after I did the repair. Not a single drip, from the valve! Since everything appears to be stable now, I think it will hold.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-09 07:27 am (UTC)

toilet flap

great. you get a home-repairs merit badge!
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-10 01:40 am (UTC)

Just a thought...

Check out the LeakAlertor at www.leakalertor.com Even though you were able to identify and fix the problem, many leaks are silent and often undetectable. This product can "hear" and "detect" what people often cannot, and it is very inexpensive. As for the valve: if they're not opened and closed several times each year, they do tend to fail "open", as sendiment and corrosion will prevent the internal mechanical ball or flange from fully closing. Good thing you don't own that place, eh?
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[User Picture]From: krellan
2009-11-11 04:03 am (UTC)

Re: Just a thought...

Thanks! I have a "LeakFrog" device on the floor next to the water heater, maybe I should look into the LeakAlertor also.

I am glad I don't own the place, you're right about that. There's lots of other problems as well.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-11 08:46 am (UTC)

home repairs

Josh, you can have my home repairs merit badge from the boy scouts. good job.
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