Saga: Man vs. Toilet
November: Amber alerted me to a pool of water in our family bathroom (we have 1 1/2 other bathrooms). The leak appeared to come from the toilet and it was a substantial pool of water, so action had to be taken. Amber mopped up the water and I turned off the water supply. Not wanting to put my family on the street, I decided against calling a plumber and chose to take a look at the toilet during the Christmas break - we have 2 other toilets after all.
December: With time on my hands, I watch YouTube videos demonstrating how to dismantle a toilet safely and what parts are typically the cause of a leak. I figure I will be able to spot the broken parts if I take the throne apart first before heading to Rona to buy the replacement parts. I get all the water out of the bowl. I catch the bit of water from the tank as I unhook it. I place the tank on the ground, unbolt the bowl and lay it on the ground too. Disturbing the bowl means I have to replace the wax ring at the base - now a disgusting black sticky mass. I figure this is likely the cause of the leak anyhow... I note the rubber washers holding the tank to the bowl seem a bit iffy too, so I decide to replace them too.
Returning from Rona with new parts in hand, Blaise assists me in reassembling the can. With the water supply reconnected, I flush triumphantly!
Amber informs me of the pool of water by the toilet a few hours later. She mops it up. I shut off the water.
January: It seems clear to me that, as I am still an amateur plumber, I must not have put the wax seal on properly. I inspect the toilet carefully to see if I can spot any other issues. None spotted. I pick up another wax ring, dismantle the entire toilet and swap the recently replaced with an even newer wax ring. After reassembly, I flush and water gushes from the middle of the toilet. Clearly, I've made a mistake in reassembly. I clean up the mess this time. Take the tank off and find that the spongy ring the tank sits on has probably seen better days. I pick up a new one, certain that victory is at hand. Now you can tell by the number of paragraphs that follow that I did not cure the ailment. Water doesn't gush now, but hours later, the telltale pool of water reappears. I mop up and shut off. I need time to think.
A week later I decide that the leak needs to be traced. The pool of water is always in the same place because it is a low spot on the bathroom floor. But where is the water coming from? I choose to set up a timelapse. I sprinkle green Kool-Aid crystals on the ground, put my laptop on the counter, setup my tripod and camera so it can see much of the floor around the toilet, turn on the water and flush. I return a few hours later... nothing. It's toying with me. I know there's a leak, but it's not manifesting itself for me. I flush again.
This time a green line appears along the right bottom rim (as you can see in the YouTube clip below) and spreads like a plague to where the water traditionally pooled. Aha! I've caught it on film. But this doesn't tell me anything I don't know. Water could be dripping off the tank, rolling down the bowl, flowing to this side of the toilet edge before it touches any Kool-Aid. I'm foiled again.
February: Having taken a few weeks to cool down, I am ready to re-engage the monkey on my back: "Hello toilet. You have a purpose. I want to help you fulfill your purpose. Let's work together so I can get on with living." I take a more tactile approach. I turn on the water, flush. Flush again. Then I hug the toilet, touch every washer, bolt, and cool curve. Something is amiss where the water supply connects to the tank. There is moisture. I check a few minutes later and sure enough, there is a water drop. Victory will be mine. I have hope, mingled with doubt based on my previous defeats, but light is shining on this scourge now and I can move forward.
I decide a simple tightening will solve it. I haul out my big plumbers wrench and tighten the nylon bolt, dry the area and wait. Wet again. Hmm. How about more tightening? Worth a try, so I repeat. No success. Well, I may as well look at replacing that part. Another trip to Rona reveals that the components to this piece are not sold separately. Everything up to this point has only cost between $1 and $3. Replacing the ballcock (I know, right?) will cost $18. I'd like to find an alternative solution. I try teflon. It fails. Water is leaking out of the tank through a rubber washer, so maybe if I put a rubber washer underneath and not just above? The guys at Rona tell me that I should just use plumbers grease and stop-leak putty. I buy the putty as I have grease at home. After a big mess and a sad realization that the guys at Rona may not know what they are talking about, I give in. During the frenzied experiments, I ask Amber to help me move the shelf from behind the toilet. As we lift it, it jostles the ceramic lid of the tank, and crack, the corner breaks off. I need to buy some contact cement next time I'm in Rona. I walk into Rona to find a dual-flush toilet on sale for $130. While I'm tempted, I resist the temptation since I would have to find a way to rid myself of my current toilet. I return to the familiar "Sinks / Toilets / Showers / Bathtubs aisle and fetch a ballcock. A quick install later, some flushing tests, check-ins every hour for 6 hours and VOILÀ! Mission accomplished. Toilet loses.