plumbing


I happened to catch the last bits of a home-improvement show last night that I thought might be useful to some people out there.  The show featured a homeowner with an older toilet (3.5 gallon per flush) and the fix-it people retrofitted a newer flush and fill valve to the older toilet.  The result was a toilet with two buttons — one for liquid (1 gallon per flush) and one for solid (3 gallons per flush, if I recall correctly). I thought it was a nifty idea to re-use an existing toilet, but to conserve water (at least for the liquid-only flushes).

Towel under tank to catch leaks

Since we bought this charming house in 2007, we’ve been slowly fixing problems identified by the home inspector.  This time, it’s the rocking toilet.  Besides wobbling, the flush handle had to be jiggled or held down in a cerain way to stop the water from constantly running.  Having to explain this to guests, and checking the handle each time the bathroom was used, was annoying.  Another feature of our old toilet was a leak from the tank which slowly got worse. We were worried that the leak might have rotted our subfloor, causing the wobbling. Sometimes, too, there was a slight odor.

We did not set out yesterday to install a new toilet. (more…)

When we moved in, there was no shower. Highly inconvenient. So we hunted for a hand-held shower that goes over the tub spout. Found one. It actually worked well for the couple bucks it cost. We got bolder and mounted it to the wall. Now we had a shower for very short people.

I spotted a “Converto-Shower” in an old house parts catalog. Basically it’s a tub spout with a long pipe leading to the shower. I suppose it’s the same as an ordinary shower, but the vertical pipe is outside the wall, and no major plumbing has to be redone. I thought about ordering it, but I am cheap, and didn’t want to risk the cash on something that might not work as well as it sounds.

One lucky day at the architectural salvage store, I found a really old version of this item, from the Chicago Faucet Company. It had just arrived that morning. Ten bucks and I was out the door with my prize!

All that had to be done was: remove the old tub spout, install the new one, attach the vertical pipe to the new spout, and screw the top support into the wall. Easier said than done.

The old spout was incredibly difficult to remove. It did turn counter-clockwise like the pictures in my handy repair book, but it took two people to get it to move at all. This picture’s after the old spout was taken off. Nasty!

The new spout did twist right on, after applying teflon tape to the threads to prevent leaks.

However, the problems really started when I tried to get the vertical pipe to attach to the “new” spout. The vertical pipe rests on a thick washer-type thing that sits in the spout, to keep it level and prevent leaks. It looked like a press-in fitting or something. Anyway, I got everything hooked up, but when I turned on the water, it leaked badly. Turns out the washer-thing was chipped in half, so the pipe wouldn’t be flush with the opening. I improvised a fix by using a big washer and some crazy glue to rebuild the broken part. If that failed, I had some of that metal plumber putty stuff (the kind that claims to be able to bond even underwater).

But the crazy-glue fix did work. There’s a minor leak, coming from the diverter lever, but we can live with that. Attached the thing to the wall, put on a fancy-looking yet cheap showerhead on, and voila! A shower! (The whole project took about 8 hours or so, including two trips to the hardware store for parts).