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Emergency Toilet/Floor Repair: Not for those with Delicate Sensibilities!

What happens when you have only one toilet in your house, and said toilet malfunctions...at Christmastime?  You make the repairs as quickly as your skill-level allows!

Allow me to preface this; I'm not going to go into all the gory details of what happens in the meantime, I'll leave that to your imagination.  Suffice it to say - thank God for nearby stores!

173 is an old house, and as an old house it has its quirks, foibles and age-related problems (sounds kinda like me!).  As an old house, it frequently dates itself, or rather - stands as a time capsule into how construction codes and/or methods have changed since 1928.  Here's the story...

It began one week ago today with a small water spot on the kitchen ceiling.  Water spots anywhere are a problem, spots on the kitchen ceiling call for immediate attention, especially in light of the fact that the spot was coming from under the toilet and directly over the stove.  IMMEDIATE attention.  On inspection, it was noted that the tiles on one side of the toilet felt a little punky.


I knew I was in trouble, I just didn't realize how much trouble.  When I removed the toilet a bunch of tiles came with it, right out of the floor.  A fairly large area of the floor was absolutely soaked, ground and all.  When I removed all the loose and wet grout and tiles, here's what I had:


A couple things to notice...there was a very thin piece of tin covering a large hole around the drain pipe, AND you are looking at the top of the pipe, notice anything?  Nope - I didn't remove the flange, there just wasn't one!  That's right - no flange.  And, you can't really tell in that picture, but the mortar (and that's what it was) was about and inch-and-a-half thick, so I had to dry it up - and quickly!   On goes the fan.


It took 'til after work the next day for the whole area to dry. Also, see that yellow towel on the floor?  I learned very quickly to stuff a rag into the drain pipe.  They say it's so you don't drop anything down there...fact is, every time the wind blew outside, it sent a gust through the pipe...use your imagination!

Anyway, after it dried, I used a grocery bag to draw an outline of the hole in the floor, transferred it to 1" thick plywood, cut it out and screwed it to the floor.


Still looking pretty ugly, but it was gittin' there!  Then came the problems.  The first was that I went to Lowe's and described my situation to the guy in the tile section. He recommended I use an "Adhesive/Grout" combination product.  I spread it out, raked it with the trowel, installed the tiles and let it sit.  TWO DAYS LATER (did I mention this is our only toilet?) the Adhesive/Grout still hadn't dried!!  With mounting frustration and urgency, I took out the tiles and cleaned up this "product".  I got some thinset, troweled it on, laid the tile and started to wait.  


The guy at Lowe's also told me that the flange should sit on top of the tile - so I installed the flange.  I include a generic picture here because there came a point when I just wasn't thinking - pictures.


For once, I had a stroke of genius - I should gently place the toilet to make sure everything fits!  And it didn't. With the flange sitting on top of the tile, my old toilet didn't sit on the floor.  Thaaat's right.  I thought about buying a new toilet just to avoid re-tiling again.  But the thinset was still wet, I couldn't justify such laziness.  So I tried to remove just enough tile to get the flange to be on the same level, but as I was gently hammering the flange further into the pipe - I used my left hand to balance myself - leaning directly on the tiles with the still-wet thinset.  Yup.  Lots of "$^%*(#" going on!  Out came the tiles, thinset cleaned up.  Only commode or not, I was done for the night.

Now we're up to Saturday.  It's been a looong week, but - wuddaya do?  I got the flange to level with the tile, and laid the tile for the 3rd time.  Aaaand - waited for that to dry.  When I awoke this morning - the thinset was hard as a rock and the tiles were solid!  Time to install the toilet!!  I used 3" exterior deck screws to attach the flange to the floor and did a few dry fittings.  As it turned out, because the toilet is so old, the openings on the flange for the Johnny Bolts didn't line up with the bolt holes on the toilet.  So, with the toilet in place, I drilled holes to screw in hanger bolts.  


The course threads go into the floor and the other end sticks up through the toilet base to secure it to the floor.  Then I removed the toilet, made sure the floor was clean and the underneath of the toilet was clean, put the wax ring in place, placed the toilet!!  Then bolted it in place like so:  


Six veeeery long days later, 173 has a functional toilet!!!  All that's left is the decorative bolt caps and caulking around the base.  I think that can wait 'til after Christmas.


This whole episode has me looking around the house for a good spot for a second commode, those of you who have more than one - count your blessings at this special time of year!!

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