plumbing

Replacing a toilet cistern

Have you ever seen just how curious a 4 year old can be? My 4 year old wondered what was under the impossible-to-replace vitreous china Cistern lid. As a result, I needed a new cistern lid (my 4 year old survived unscathed).

Turns out that you can’t buy a Cistern lid in Brisbane, so read on and learn how to replace the entire toilet cistern…

Materials List

  • Toilet Cistern
  • Small metal strip

The Problem

Here is a picture of my old cistern lid:

Smashed cistern lid

Oh dear.

I decided to try and fix it. Multiple people advised me that this was a bad idea, and I wouldn’t be able to do it. I ignored common sense, experience, and reason and pressed onward.

I glued the lid back together with epoxy. I sanded it. It fell apart. I re-glued it with building glue. I made the mistake of not using expoxy filler and tried to compensate with extra paint (expoxy enamel).

Do not try to fill gaps with extra paint.

It doesn’t work. You end up with a layer of thick ugly paint, which may be liquid paint underneath. The finish will be terrible. You will need to sand it. I ended up with this abomination:

Badly painted cistern lid

I tried to sand it, but the paint hadn’t bonded properly, causing patching of it to lift. There’s a reason why people tell you not to paint ceramic/china toilets.

Time for Plan B!

I managed to find a whole new Cistern on Gumtree for $20. Brand new, never used, but from a different model of toilet. I checked out the measurements on Caroma’s website, and it seemed like a close fit - with only 1mm difference between the mounting holes. Caroma were able to confirm that was a match.

If you are buying a Cistern, measure up the mounting holes for your old cistern (the holes in the top of the toilet bowl), then call the manufacturer to confirm that it is compatible. You will save yourself a lot of potential pain.

Tools

  • 2 x Shifter spanner (to remove the water line)
  • Power drill/driver

Steps

  • sizing up the enemy

    1

    The before shot. Turn off the water line next to the toilet. Unscrew the seat (this is usually a couple of thumb screws underneath the hinge at the back). Flush the toilet to clear out the excess water.

    Use the shifter spanner to undo the water line. There should be a braided line with a screw on connector. You can use the 2 shifter spanners to undo that connector. Use one to hold the connector, and the other to unscrew the fitting.

  • removing the cistern

    2

    There should be screw(s) holding the cistern to the wall. Remove them, taking care to catch the cistern if it falls away from the wall. In my case I found a large amount of silicon as well, which I have to remove with a knife. Lift the cistern off the bowl. Once the cistern is out of the way, take this opportunity to clean around the bowl where the seat normally sits.
  • Fitting the new cistern

    3

    To secure the new cistern, there are 2 attachment points. The cistern will have 2 bolts that go through matching holes on the bowl, and there will be the screw points on the cistern. Lift the cistern into place (putting the bolts through the holes). Holding the cistern in place with one hand, use your other hand to screw the nuts onto the end of the bolts. Only hand tighten at this point.

    In the photo, note the metal bracket I used to secure the cistern to the wall. Any flat piece of metal will do, I just used a spare bracket I had lying around. Use an appropriately sized screw and fix to a wall stud if possible, or use a plasterboard anchor.

  • put it all back together

    4

    Use your shifter spanner to tighten up the bolts you placed under the bowl earlier. Be very careful not to over-tighten, or you will break the bowl. Attach the water line using the reverse process to step one. Turn it on and allow the cistern to fill. If you see water leaking, turn the tap off immediately and check that the connections are tight enough.
  • all done

    5

    Put the lid on, and give it a test flush. Reattach the seat. All done! Easy, right?

/eof

Installing a new bathroom basin

When I moved into my house 2 years ago, it had one glaring problem…. a strip of rust around the front of the bathroom basin. Because I’m not the best at prioritising things (and there happened to be some great sales on Steam, and I have 2 young kids, etc etc), my solution was to put a piece of white duct tape over it for 2 years and get on with my life.

I happened to impulse buy a sink a few weeks ago (I had the old sink measurements saved on my phone!), I decided to have a go at installing it.

Materials List

  • Basin
  • Bathroom silicon caulk
  • Dishwashing Soap
  • Paddlepop Stick

Tools

You only need two tools for this:

  • 2 adjustable spanners (wrench for our friends in the US and Canada)
  • a paddle pop stick (yes really)
  • a spray bottle

Missteps

It’s surprisingly easy to stuff this up. Learn from my stupidity…

  • stupid sink was too small
    Measure twice
    Most import, make sure you have measured the basin accurately! I thought I had, but actually hadn't - so I had to rush to Bunnings 30 minutes before closing.
  • stupid wrong connections
    Check your connectors
    Make sure you have the right hose/pipe fittings! I didn't the first time. My taps and my water connection both had *female* fittings - so it was off to bunnings again for a coupler (those 2 things in the middle of the photo)

Time to fit that basin!

  • sizing up the enemy

    1

    Take a final look at your old sink, yes that is duct tape. Yes, I am embarrassed.
  • water off

    2

    Turn your water off. Some of you will be lucky enough to have a tap under your sink to do this. I don't, so I had to shut off supply for the whole house.
  • sink gone. goodbye.

    3

    The old sink may have a few clips holding in place underneath. Undo those. The old tapware will (hopefully) have braided lines with screw on connections. These can be removed with a shifter spanner. If you have copper lines that are soldered in place, you are going to need a plumber to replace them with braided lines.

    Once the taps are disconnected, and any screws undone, unscrew the pipe connected to the drain. I found wrapping a rag around it helped me get enough grip to unscrew it. If you are wondering, that is rust around my old sink.

  • setup new sink

    4

    Before putting your new basin ready, we need to fit the tap and drain. Before you do that, measure the old sink hole to check the new basin will fit.

    Your new tap will look something like this, with two braided lines (hot and cold).

  • don't over tighten the taps

    5

    Slide the braided lines from the tap through the hole in the sink. Note in the photo the brass nut. That has to end up underneath the sink. Once you have done that, use the shifter spanner to tighten that brass nut. The idea is that you tighten it just enough to stop the tap rotating. If you over tighten, the sink will crack, so go easy here mate.
  • put the drain in

    6

    Screw the drain into the bottom of the basin. Some basins come with a drain, some have to be purchased separately. Generally, they all require you to push the drain in from the top, and then screw one or more plastic rings onto the bottom (sometimes with a rubber washer between the sink and screw on ring.)
  • bad pipe work

    7

    Now you can settle your sink into place. Connect up your braided lines first. I hit a snag here. Both ends of the braided line had female connectors. This is where I had to go back to Bunnings and get a female-to-female coupler.

    Once you have done that, it's time to connect the drain. Notice something about the pipes under my sink? They suck. Yeah, they probably could be fixed, but a new trap is all of $5. Do yourself a favour and buy one.

  • nice new trap

    8

    This is in the new trap, ain't she a beauty. If you are wondering, this is an S-Trap. An S-Trap does a full S, with the entrance pointing up, and the exit pointing down. If the exit points sideways, you have a P-Trap.
  • plumbing done

    9

    Here is the new trap plumbed in. On the bottom left, I used a 90 degree bend with an inspection opening. The inspection opening is handy if anything gets stuck in the bend or I need to clean the pipe. I also used a straight section of pipe and joined it to the existing with a slip coupling. Anything that can't be screwed together is held in place with plumbers cement - that blue glue seen in the picture. For cutting pipes, a hacksaw works best.
  • nice sink

    10

    Nearly done, but missing one thing - silicone!
    (Note: you may notice that the basin has mysteriously changed between here and step 6. I had to swap it with a different basin because I didn't measure properly, and the first basin was too small!)
  • putting on silicone

    11

    I used Parfix Bathroom and Kitchen silicone, with the cheap $5 caulking gun from Bunnings. Make sure the area is dry before you start. You will need more than you think - we are going to wipe the excess off and smooth it after application. You want enough to fill the gap between the basin and the bench top. After you run the initial ring around the basin, spray it with a light mist of dish washing detergent and water.

    Use a paddle pop stick over the silicone to give it a nice smooth edge. You will need to wipe the excess off on a rag pretty frequently. This detergent stops the silicone from bonding with the paddlepop stick.

  • stupid wrong connections

    12

    Ta-Da!

/eof

Replacing a shower head

A bad shower head is more annoying than you might think. It’s something we use every day, but it amazes me how many people will put up with a rubbish shower head for years. You wouldn’t put up with a crappy text editor for that long, would you?

It takes 10 minutes to replace, so lets get started!

Tools

You only need two tools for this: - adjustable spanner (wrench for our friends in the US and Canada) - knife or flat head screw driver

You may notice instead of a spanner, I’m using a rusty pair of vice grips. The photos below were taken at a family member’s house… possibly the only house I’ve found without a spanner.

Steps

  • Old shower-head

    1

    Here is the shower head we are going to replace.
  • Not using a spanner

    2

    Turn the nut at the base of the shower head in a counter-clockwise direction (lefty-loosey, righty tighty!). Use the spanner for this, not the vice grips pictured.
  • Removing stuck trim

    3

    The trim piece is usually stuck on pretty well with a combination of rust and 10 years of soap. A butter knife or flathead screw driver will come in handy to remove it.
  • Taping it up

    4

    Wrap some plumbers tape around the pipe to get a good seal. Your new shower head probably comes with some plumbers tape.
  • Screwing the fitting in.

    5

    Put the new trim piece over the pipe, then screw the new shower fitting on (in a clockwise direction). Hand tighten it. If it feels secure and doesn't leak, hand tightening is fine. Otherwise lightly tighten with your spanner (if you do this, put a bit of masking tape on the shower fitting first - so you don't scratch the chrome finish).
  • Admiring the finished item.

    6

    Ta-Da!. Check for leaks, then have a well deserved beer/Coke/RedBull.

/eof