Sunday, January 4, 2015

How to DIY: The Toilet Edition, Part I

Here are five no-fail steps to becoming handy around the house:

1.Marry someone who's already handy, thereby postponing the need to learn how to fix things for a decade or more.
2. Get divorced.
3. Find yourself at the intersection of broke and broken toilet, fueled by the determination to prove to yourself, your teenage children, and your ex-husband that you CAN TOO FIX THINGS.  (I live in a two-toilet house, so I am fortunate that this is a relative, rather than absolute, problem.)
4. Google "how to fix [insert name of broken thing here]".
5. Watch the YouTube videos that other, handy people have posted FOR FREE.

At least, that's been the most expedient route for me.  To bring you up to speed, I will share my DIY Toilet-Fixing tips with you:

1. Plunge it. (If you don't know how to do that, check out this helpful how-to, complete with a hilarious cross-section diagram of a toilet that (if nothing else) will remind you to tell your kids not to flush crayons). Then try a couple of test-flushes.  If it still doesn't work...

2. Go out of town for a weekend or so and ignore it.  When you get home, the blockage may have liquefied itself and will just flush easily.  Let's say it flushes, and there's no obvious blockage, but future flushes are less...robust than they should be.  Like, say, hypothetically liquid waste isn't a problem, but solids disappear briefly only to reappear, drifting back into the bottom of the bowl like fecal zombies and TP ghosts.  Then it's time to...

3. Snake it.  If you're also short on conversation starters with your neighbors, you can wander out into the cul-de-sac and ask if anyone has a snake you can borrow.  This may work well with your ex-husband, too, who will lend you his snake (heh) only to omit the key bit of information that there are TWO kinds of snakes (at least): a drain snake and a toilet snake.  The drain snake looks like this:

Thank you, Home Depot
Whereas a toilet snake looks like this:

Key difference, it turns out, because that rigid tube with the curve at the bottom allows you to get the snake (technically an "auger") around the bend in the toilet.  Without that, you're left jamming the flexible spring down and around the toilet trap and it's just...impotent to solve your problem, if you catch my drift.

But you don't know that yet, so you...

4. Get frustrated. (optional step)

5. Remember that you have a cleanout right outside the master bedroom, where the toilet is.  Decide to try snaking the cleanout:

(Not as gross as it looks, but still worth wearing rubber gloves)
6. Post it on Facebook so everyone can virtually high-five you on your DIY skills.

7. Do some test-flushes and feel guilty about wasting potable water.

8. Become prematurely optimistic.

9. Conduct a live-fire test later only to discover you haven't fixed the problem.

10. Learn about the difference between a drain snake and a toilet snake.

11. Leave town for a week to visit your ailing parents to take your mind off your toilet problems.

12. Borrow your brother's toilet snake, complete with bonus poop jokes because he is still your kid brother even though he is masquerading as a grown-up.

13. Repeat steps 5-9, this time snaking the toilet instead of the cleanout.

14. Decide (based on your ex-husband's advice) that it is possible you may have a blockage at the wax ring, which could be solved by PULLING THE TOILET OFF OF THE FLOOR and cleaning it out.

15. Google and YouTube the living crap out of this topic. Home Depot actually has a decent tutorial.

16. Price-check plumbers.

17. Decide to go for it.

I'll share the steps for actually REMOVING THE TOILET in PART II of this series, but just to spare you the suspense, I will share the BIG REVEAL of what my bathroom looks like RIGHT NOW:

What do you mean, something's missing?
Yep.  Toilet problem? SOLVED.