Plumbing is best left to professionals.
Otherwise, it’s never gonna turn out the way you want. Unless you planned to flood the bottom floor with 6 inches of water then – yes – by all means, go for it.
So why oh why were my husband and I even attempting it?
Hubris. That fancy little word for confidence that teeters on the edge of cheery optimism from the Little Engine That Could and that kiss-your-rear-goodbye downhill skier from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” opening montage.
So when I broached the subject about fixing the leaky downstairs toilet ourselves, my husband’s reaction was utterly predictable.
“Are you crazy?”
I shrugged and said, “How hard can it be?”
He just stared at me.
I rolled my eyes and snorted in disgust, “Please. It’s a toilet. Not the space shuttle, which I have flown, by the way.”
Then it was his turn to roll his eyes. “You flew a flight simulator at Space Camp when you were 12. And didn’t you crash it, causing death and destruction along the entire Eastern seaboard?”
He had to bring that up, didn’t he? Some wounds, you know, never heal.
I took a deep breath, “In any case, it needs to be done.” Then I stared a hole right through his forehead until he squirmed and yelled, “OK! I give up!”
I smiled, crossed my arms over my chest and figured this would be a snap.
Twenty minutes later we were dismantling the contents of one Toilet Repair Kit and reading about the required tools necessary for the job: wrench, screwdriver, scissors and bucket.
“If we turn off the valve and shop vac the water in the tank, what do we need a bucket for?” I asked.
My husband, on his hands and knees with his body curled around the toilet, could only shrug in response. He reached under the tank and unscrewed the bolt fasteners. I heard a loud WHOOSH followed by "Holy Sh--! My husband scrambled to untangle himself from the base of the toilet and yelled as water flooded to the floor.
The torrent ended quickly as there was just a small amount of water left in the tank. My husband quietly muttered, “Guess that’s what the bucket was for.”
Score 1 for the toilet.
OK, so we were off to a rocky start, but I still had confidence. We continued unfastening nuts from bolts and eventually managed to remove the non-working guts from the tank.
Score 1 for us.
Then we had to put everything back together again. I stared at the piece in my hand, looked at the bolt in the toilet and quickly assessed, “That ain’t gonna fit.”
My husband took the plastic washer from my hand and laughed, “’Course it will.” He then held up said washer to said bolt and went hmmm.
Which is plumber-speak for we got a problem here.
“See? The diameter isn’t wide enough to fit over the bolt,” I said. Then added, “I took Calculus, you know.”
He looked at me and said, “What’s that have to do with anything?”
He stared at me for another moment then looked back at the washer and again tried to shove it over the bolt. As if it had magically expanded during the Calculus-portion of our conversation. I rolled my eyes.
I took it from his hand and said, “Look. There are notches in the middle. I think you are supposed to cut out that piece so it’ll fit over the bolt.”
He asked, “What do the directions say?”
Brilliant. Let’s finally consult the directions an hour into the project.
I grabbed them off the counter, perused the Pig Latin-inscribed diagrams (without even trying to decipher them) and quickly tossed them to the side.
“Doesn’t say a damn thing,” I stated.
I grabbed the scissors, took a deep breath and began snapping away at the plastic. I handed it over to my husband, Mr. Doubting Pants, who skeptically looked it over then bent over the toilet.
A short pause followed by, “Damn.”
I leaned over and saw that the washer now fit snugly over the bolt. I straightened, looked him in the eye and said, “Go ahead, you can say it.” I poked him in the ribs and said, “I. Am. A. Genius.”
He sighed, and I added, “By the way, I got an A in Calculus.” Then I mockingly saluted him and walked away.
Score 1 for me.