Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Toilet Troubles

I'm having problems with my toilet. This is how it started:

The extractor fan in the en suite bathroom began making a grinding noise and then stopped. And so, like any right-thinking individual would, I stood on the toilet seat to have a look at it, failing to take into account that household fixtures, appliances and pretty much anything else these days, are not made with the same care and quality of construction that was common in my day. Consequently, the toilet seat broke.

Fortunately, it merely cracked in two while remaining gamely in place, instead of allowing my foot to go through into the toilet and me to fall backward against the sink. Had that been the case, I would be writing a different sort of post (or perhaps dictating it to a kindly nurse as she fed me through a tube).

Happily, I am merely left with an extractor fan that does not work (though, in a windowless bathroom too small to raise veal in, this is something of an issue) and a toilet with a cracked seat.

As a renter, I have the good fortune to not have to fix things myself. So I called the letting agent and explained the situation. She said she would send someone out to fix the fan but the toilet seat would be my responsibility. I knew it was unlikely she would accept the notion that, since I was standing on it only to check their defective fan, it was really their fault, so I agreed to pay for it, assuming they would fix it.

“Oh no,” she said, “you can fix it yourself. We don't have to do it.”

She said this in a way that made me believe she thought I would prefer it that way. I tried to help her out.

“Are you sure,” I enquired, “that you want me, a wrench and your toilet in close proximity to one another?”

She assured me this was so, and I hung up with the sinking feeling that my tiny—and heretofore tidy—bathroom would never be the same again.

I am not, you see, a plumber, nor have I anything more than a passing interest (except when I'm, you know, passing) in plumbing fixtures. Additionally, this particular toilet, when I did bother to look at it, seemed a complete mystery to me. First of all, it was one solid piece of porcelain, fitting flush against the wall and the floor without a wing-nut or hex-bolt in sight, and the seat fit tight to the toilet with no way to get at whatever it was that kept it from falling off. I was, in a word, flummoxed.

Schematic for a proper toilet

Schematic for my toilet

However, encouraged by the woman's misplaced optimism, I had a closer look and discovered two, tiny, inset screws that—with the requisite, tiny allen wrench—could be removed. I had no idea what might happen if I unscrewed them, but lacking any other option, I tried that one and, sure enough, I was then able to remove the toilet seat.

The electrician, by the way, had already come and gone by this time. He arrived promptly, looked at the inert extractor fan, took a photo of it with his phone and left, promising to return by the end of the week to install a new one. (NOTE: That was a month ago; I have not see him since.) I thought his idea of taking a photo so he could find the right part was a good one, so I figured taking the actual toilet seat with me would be an even better idea. And so, Armed with the broken seat, I went to Homebase. They had lots of toilet seats, but none that resembled mine. The store clerk I impressed into service helped me fine one that was close, but it was obviously not the right one.

“That comes as part of a unit,” she informed me. “You’re gong to have to buy a new toilet.”

I left the store with visions of my previous toilet debacle—the one where, for want of a proper-sized washer, the entire toilet had to be replaced—dancing in my head, and determined to find the correct one on-line.

After searching toilet seat sites for a day or so, I finally found one that appeared to be the same. (I also found that my Facebook and Outlook pages are, even now, filled with ads for toilet seats.) I ordered one for a not insignificant price and waited.

When the seat arrived, it was not the one I wanted. I also found it did not fit. So I returned it.

Sometime later I spied what I thought to be a good compromise in a local hardware store. It was definitely not the right seat, but it looked like it would fit, which by now was all I really cared about. I brought it home. It didn’t fit. I took it back.

Feeling that my busy life did not have time for this new hobby of buying toilet seats, bringing them home and then taking them back, I returned to the hardware store and bought a tube of super glue and some clear packing tape.

Yeah, it looks a little wonky, but it is the right seat. And it fits. Now if I can get the electrician to stand on the toilet when he works on the fan, I might be able to convince the landlord to hire a proper plumber to fix it.


  1. I should cut my losses and just be prepared to lose some of your security deposit when you move out! That has to be easier than this new seat buying hobby! It has to be either that or taking a sledgehammer to the whole thing, then they will surely (she says tongue very firmly in cheek) come out and fix it... Good luck!

    1. I was thinking of leaving it and just letting them charge me for it when I left, but the clerk at Homebase told me that fixing it would cost £100 or more, so I wonder how much of my deposit would be taken up for what I consider minor damage.

  2. Ugh - "We don't have to do that". Don't you love that high level of customer service.

    1. Yes. Co-incidentally, I just got off the phone with Npower (my electrical supplier). They were supposed to have changed my tariff two weeks ago but never did. This time I was told there was some sort of problem and they would "pass it on" and get back to me. Yeah, right. The customer service over here doesn't suck, it is non-existent.

  3. Next time, I suggest you might have more success at plumbers' merchants than DIY stores. Much more helpful - at least, they are round here.

    1. Not sure what (or where) a plumbers' Merchants is, but I ordered another one on-line. The lady I talked to swears it will fit. Watch this space.