Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Some nights after a good workout I seize up some in the middle of the night making that 1:00am bathroom run painful & slow. On one such night a few weeks ago I placed my hand on the toilet tank to give myself a little extra support as I coaxed my hamstrings to allow me to sit.

The extra weight on the tank was the last straw for the bolts holding the tank to the bowl & the tank tipped right over – I caught it just in time.

So first thing in the morning I called Mom to ask her if she could bring me to the hardware store to get a toilet (no way a whole toilet is going to fit nicely in my little car). She instead stopped at the hardware store & picked up all the things we needed to refurbish the old one. She walked me through it & I did all the work while Diaperbutt “helped”.

The offending bolt that 'caused all the problems. You can see that the head had rusted completely off so that when I leaned on the tank it simply popped right through the hole. The matching bolt on the other side was almost at the same point of disintegration.

The first step was to shut off the water & empty the remaining water from the toilet.By turning off the water supply & then flushing the toilet you are left with just a small amount of water in the bowl which we simply scooped out with a cup.

The inside of the tank is stained thanks to the rusty bolts - somehow the water flowing into the bowl never looked discoloured.

Then I removed the tank from the bowl (simply done as the bolts were already gone) & placed it out of the way.

Next was the hardest part of the job, but doesn’t necessarily need to be. I had to unbolt the bowl from the floor but the bolts were hopelessly seized & had to be cut off. Not an easy task with the tight space of our bathroom & the angles. In fact we needed to make a hardware store run to get a better little saw for the job.

To cut the bolt I had to hang over the toilet seat holding the bolt with pliers in one hand (to keep it from wobbling) & saw with the other. The rusty bolt was surprisingly resistant to my efforts.

Once the bowl was unbolted from the floor the bowl should have simply lifted up but someone along the line had caulked all around the bowl (something you really shouldn’t do) & so I first had to remove the caulking.

The toilet finally removed!!! (No worries - the ick on the bottom of the toilet is a combination of rust & the old wax seal)

What the floor looked like after I removed the bowl. You can see where the bolt that failed had been dripping rust onto the floor behind the toilet. It's a little hard to tell in this picture but the old wax seal was actually sliding into the flange - not where it should be - usually the seal will come up with the toilet, not be left on the floor. This was a job that needed to be done. I do wonder why they don't make the wax seal bright purple or blue - it really would make the job less icky (& more reassuring) if it was not poopy looking.

The next part of the job was to clean everything up. With the toilet completely apart it is really easy to get it really nice & clean. I also had to remove all the remaining bits of caulking around the bottom of the toilet & on the floor & scrape away all the old wax from the floor. I used a baking soda & borax mixture to give the floor tiles a really good scrub while I was at it & am really happy with how clean they came up.

All clean & ready for the reinstall. The yellow in the flange is a rag - you need to do this while you are working 'cause the gases from the pipes can be dangerous (& stinky!).

Before the toilet could be reinstalled I needed to prepare the wax seal.

Place in the seal onto the bottom of the toilet. See what I mean about the colour? Wouldn't purple be better?!

To make sure the seal stays where it's supposed to be I had to mush the seal down onto the porcelain all the way around. The wax is super sticky so it is best to use a glove or a little piece of spare plastic to do this so it's not permanently stuck under your fingernails.

With the seal in place it was time to  put the toilet back in place which should have been a pretty straight forward process but those darn bolts gave me issues again. The way they fit into the flange is to slide in from the side & then you give them a halfway turn to “lock” them in place. But they kept unlocking as I was tightening them down & sliding out of place. To make matters worse after we got it all bolted down we realized I had forgotten to remove the yellow rag & had to remove the toilet again & start over. It took several tries before I got it properly tighten down (ok – I should say we here ’cause my Mom & Grumpy Bear both had a go at it as well).

The bowl finally tightened down. The toilet does settle after a couple days & will need to be tightened a little more at that time. It is SUPER IMPORTANT not to overtighten as it is very easy to crack the porcelain - I learned that the hard way a few years ago.

Next I prepared the tank to be reinstalled by replacing all the innards.

Out with the old parts.

And in with the new. We replaced the old ball float with this newer design. The black end goes through the hole at the bottom of the tank & then the white ring is twisted onto the black end to hold it all together. The instructions are on the package.

Diaperbutt checks my work.You can see where the innards are attached to the bottom of the tank.

We also replaced the gasket that goes on the bottom of the tank.

Once the tank was all prepped I lifted it into place & reattached it to the bowl. It took a little bit of coordination to get the bolts lined up but not too much as I managed to do it all alone!

Lining up the tank with the bowl. You can see the shiny news bolts & new gasket & their corresponding holes on the bowl.

Once the tank was on I simply needed to hook up the water & let the toilet refill.

To make sure we didn't have any leaks we layed some papertowel around the toilet, flushed a couple times & let it sit for a little while. We had no problems though & after 4.5 hours we were all relieved the toilet was back up & running!

It cost us less than $30 in parts to refurbish the toilet & it really is as good as new. I did have to go back in & replace the flapper valve (blue/green in the 2nd picture) a couple weeks later as it was leaking some (again the instructions are on the packaging – very simple). I had already replaced the seat when we moved back in last summer.

I must admit that this project has had me thinking a lot more about our disposable culture. How many things have we thrown out in the past that we could have very easily & cheaply refurbished & had working great? I think there may be a few more of these projects in my future…


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My washing machine was leaking & so we put it out of commission for a couple of weeks until my Mom could come over to look at it. How lucky am I to have such a talented mother? How much money has it saved us over the years?!

One of the things that drives me batty is how many things we are sending to landfills every day because they “can’t” be fixed. It’s a combination of factors: we don’t know how or it is more expensive to pay someone to fix it than to buy a new one (how messed up is that?!) or we either can’t find or don’t know how to find the parts or it’s just plain easier to buy a new one.

Ah – my rant won’t fix the situation, so let’s move on to my machine.

A REALLY common problem for washing machines when they “break” is that the pump or sump become clogged with debris so instead of pumping the water out & down the drain it instead runs all over your laundry room floor. Another symptom of this problem is that you may find your clothes are coming out still very wet (because the water is not draining effectively). It is actually an easily remedied problem requiring only a few tools, a little no how & about 20 minutes (although this is can be variable).

My description probably does  not use the “right” terms but hopefully you can still get a pretty good idea of what is to happen. We have a Sears front loader that is about 8 years old – sorry for the non-specifics but I cannot seem to locate a model number for it.

Tools & Supplies Needed:

Some towels (these can be already soiled as it is just to sop up the water that is going to end up on the floor)


Small socket set (may not be needed)

A pair of pliers

Step #1 – Remove the front panel of the washing machine

You will need to look at your machine to figure out exactly how to do this but on my machine it simply required removing two small screws.

Removing the front panel of the machine.

Removing the front panel of the machine.

Step #2 – Locate your pump & sump

A little bit on how the machine works: as the water drains out of the drum it passes down a hose into the sump which is intended to catch any debris that has made it this far. From the sump it goes through the pump which pumps it out the outgoing hose & into your drain or sink (depending on how your laundry room is set up).

The white box Mom's hand is on is the pump, the black hose connected to it on the left is the drain hose & the large black "hose" attached at the back is the sump.

The white box Mom's hand is on is the pump, the black hose connected to it on the left is the drain hose & the large black accordion "hose" attached at the back is the sump.

Step #3 – Remove the clamps

On the hoses going into & out of your pump are clamps which are fairly easily removed by squeezing the two handles sticking out. You’ll need your pliers for this & it is likely going to be the most difficult part of the task. It’s not hard so much as a little finicky to get it just right. Once you have the clamp squeezed open you can slide it down the hose & release it leaving it loose on the hose but off of the connection point (you’ll be able to tell because the hose will be softer off of the connection point).

Squeezing the clamp to remove it. Note the towels in place ready for the waterfall.

Squeezing the clamp to remove it. Note the towels in place ready for the waterfall.

Sliding the clamp down the hose out of the way.

Sliding the clamp down the hose out of the way.

It may be easier to do this step if you first unbolt the pump from the machine giving you the ability to move the pump around a bit & get at things from a better angle – for my machine that meant using a socket to remove one nut. We also had to unplug the electrical to the pump which really is as simple as unplugging the wiring harness.

Removing the clamp to the sump.

Removing the clamp to the sump.You can see the wiring harness off to the right.

Step #4 – Remove the hoses from the pump

Have your towels ready – when you disconnect the hoses all the water in them is going to come gushing out onto your floor! The hoses now simply slide off of the connection points to the pump. It will take a little bit of twisting & pulling to do so as the rubber hose seals pretty securely to the plastic of the pump connection points.

Step #5 – Remove the offending debris

This is when you find that baby sock or bra underwire that went missing! My Mom was recently at a service school for laundromat owners & hands down these were the two biggest offenders – maybe now you’ll remember to use those $1 lingerie bags. You may also find coins, bobby pins, screws, etc. You want to do a good investigation of the sump (this is where everything “should” be) but also take a look inside the pump & make sure the impeller inside is moving freely – if it’s not there may very well be something blocking it.

Looking into the sump for "stuff"

Looking into the sump for "stuff"

Looking into the pump at the impeller which should spin freely.

Looking into the pump at the impeller which should spin freely.

Step #6 – Put it all back together

Once you have everything cleared out (& found yourself some pocket change) you will simply put everything back together in reverse order. It generally goes back together easier than it came apart.

All back together & cleaning up the wet towels.

All back together & cleaning up the wet towels.

Step #7 – Test it

You can now wash those dirty towels. We apparently have too much time on our hands as we then sat in the laundry room with the front of the machine open while we ran a full cycle of the machine to make sure it was no longer leaking. You could just run the cycle & check in periodically for any water. I would leave the cover off for this so you can get a clearer view of what is happening.

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