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Quick And Cheap Toilet Repair

December 15, 2010 · 38 comments

Probably two months ago now, I noticed water accumulating on the floor around the toilet. I had no idea where it could be coming from, but my only guess was that someone was missing. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t me. That was until one day, for whatever reason, I happened to flush the toilet with the tank lid off (thinking that the cause was the tank overfilling), and lo and behold, the fill valve is spraying like a Las Vegas casino fountain. Being that the fill valve is in the corner of the tank (naturally), not only did the water just hit the bottom of the lid and come back down, but it hit the edges of the lid, and out, down the side of the tank, to the floor.

The obvious solution was to replace the fill valve. A new Fluidmaster would only cost me about ten bucks, but it was the actual replacing of the assembly that I didn’t want to deal with. Not because it’s a toilet – face it folks, that’s perfectly good drinking water in the tank (unless you have a habit of pissing in the tank for some reason) – but because of the limited amount of room to work inside a toilet tank, and the general pain in the ass nature of it all.

So I’ve been brainstorming since then, trying to think of what I could put over the valve that would be heavy enough to not get sprayed off while successfully diverting the water downwards. I had been thinking in terms of a plastic cone of sorts to sit on top of it. Then tonight, when flushing the toilet and having a slew of water come running out, I finally decided to do something about it. I ran downstairs for a Ziploc bag, figuring that that ought to be good enough, but when I opened the cupboard to get one, I had an even better idea.

Aluminum foil! I realized that whatever I used, it didn’t have to be heavy – if the water managed to push it upwards, it would just hit the bottom of the tank lid and stay in place. On top of that, I didn’t have to worry about it not fitting, as foil is easily shaped around other parts. And that one foot of foil was probably cheaper than the Ziploc bag. Did one test flush, it didn’t get in the way of anything, and the problem was solved. Saved myself ten bucks and a half hour of work.

So, what cheap-ass fixes have you managed to come up with around the house?

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah December 15, 2010 at 1030

I repaired a knob in my now-husband’s car with dental floss and superglue on our third or fourth date. Probably why he married me.

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Jake December 16, 2010 at 0403

Darn, another good fish left the sea!

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cage December 21, 2010 at 1028

I used to always be on the lookout for a girl who would do things with my knob the fourth date, but I don’t know about the dental floss and superglue.

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Alex December 20, 2010 at 1028

I had this same thing happen to my toilet. For my repair I took a plastic cup and cut it to size with a exacto blade. Placed it on top of the fill valve and it works like gangbusters. Took me maybe 2 minutes.

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Jake December 20, 2010 at 1445

Ah, plastic cup, of course! Not sure if I have any of those around… Jael’s idea is good, too, but then I’d have to go buy a 2 liter bottle of soda and drink it first :-D

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Drrogera December 20, 2010 at 1913

I too use the plastic cup, just cut a notch on one side and it does the trick. I use the ubiquitous Red cup found at most cheap parties. There should be one left under the couch from teh last one.

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retirebyforty December 20, 2010 at 1225

Awesome fix! Nice picture too. :)

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Jael December 20, 2010 at 1308

I fixed the same kind of problem in one of my toilets with a 2-liter Pepsi bottle. I just cut the top out of it and cut a slit in the side to fit over some pipe or tubing, popped it over the fill valve assembly and Bob’s yer uncle! Even if the water pressure popped it up, all of the spray was contained in the bottle and ran down but not out.

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k0ma December 20, 2010 at 1643

This is ludicrous. It takes like 15 minutes and a $8 to fix this the right way. When that valve *really* breaks you’re really going to freak out.

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Jake December 21, 2010 at 0228

I don’t know about ludicrous, but considering it took me a half hour to replace the tank bolts a while back, this would’ve taken an hour. And no, if that valve breaks, I’m not going to freak out – I’ll just go to work and get a new one. Oh, did I forget to mention that I work at a plumbing supply warehouse? Bwahahahaha…..

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Pejeno December 20, 2010 at 1655

“face it folks, that’s perfectly good drinking water in the tank (unless you have a habit of pissing in the tank for some reason) ”

And unless you live in a third world country, like me, who live in México =)

Your fix was neat man. Also, since you’re using aluminum foil, rust wont be much of an issue.

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Jake December 21, 2010 at 0225

Well, Mexico isn’t really considered a third world country…. but yeah, I wouldn’t be drinking *any* water in Mexico, nonetheless toilet tank water.

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Z.Fox December 21, 2010 at 1449

I still consider it a third-world country, but then again I also know what that actually refers to (alignment with capitalism and NATO). See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World

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Linh December 20, 2010 at 1839

A plastic piece holding two metal rods together so my door handle would work had broken in my car. To replace it would mean replacing a significant portion of the opening mechanism. All I needed was to keep the two rods aligned and it’d be fine.

Velcro straps to the rescue: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lnguyen/163652886/

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Jake December 21, 2010 at 0224

Yeah, and doing that “the right way” would be a lot more expensive than fixing my toilet.

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Tom December 20, 2010 at 1920

Wow!! I’ve had the same problem for about a month now, and always assumed it would require some complicated fix. Just deployed my foil and it’s working like a charm. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

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delectate December 20, 2010 at 2218

good idea, you’re a creative guy, lol

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Andrew December 21, 2010 at 0814

I really don’t intend to sound like a troll here, but…

So you saved $10 and 5 minutes of “pain in the a..” toilet repair (and it isn’t really that bad), but you failed to see the fact that this “solution” isn’t permanent and could cause additional leaks that will likely happen just after you leave on vacation (don’t forget about Murphy’s Law)?

Penny wise and pound foolish.

Repairing a flooded house will cost THOUSANDS. Repairing the toilet right will cost less than $10.

This is not “DIY”, this is “DIW”: doing it WRONG.

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Jael December 21, 2010 at 1507

Oh, I completely understand that. My 2-liter Pepsi bottle trick was just a band-aid to keep water from going everywhere yet still have a usable toilet until I could get it fixed permanently.

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omgwtf December 21, 2010 at 0833

How about simply closing the water valve and slowing the flow of the water to the point that it doesn’t spray? Even a dribble (ahem) would eventually fill the tank.
Other ideas: #1 in the sink and #2 in the yard, or better yet just fill the toilet with clumping cat litter and scoop it occasionally (bonus: if your bathroom is near the kitchen, you could even avoid purchasing a scooper – a slotted spoon works great).

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Paul @ brokeforcollege December 21, 2010 at 1247

In the restaurant industry we call these type of solutions “system D” and a master of system D fixes can be the most valuable person in the kitchen. I don’t claim to be a master but I don’t know how many times I’ve solved a small problem with my leatherman and the wire handle off of an old saurkraut bucket. I’ve fashioned tools for cleaning the fryer, hanging other hand tools, creating dispensers for butcher twine, etc. I once broke the handle off of a fryer basket in the middle of service and bound it back on with two pieces of wire handle and it held for another three months before we replaced it.

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Jason December 21, 2010 at 1456

Ummmm….you guys do realize that the part that’s gone bad costs about $15-20. And that by the way replaces everything in the tank. The job itself doesn’t take a plumber, the directions are in the box. I say this is really dumb.

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Mike December 21, 2010 at 1501

My roommate lost one of the tiny screws that kept our toilet paper holder attached to its wall mount so I hammered a wooden skewer in its place. Worked fine.

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Kevin December 21, 2010 at 2212

Sorry, that is one of the stupidest thing I have ever seen.

1. If it is spraying up like that you are going to have problems later that tinfoil cannot fix.

2. Replacing the fill valve is a 10 minute job. Turn off the water. Empty water into toilet bowl (flush the toilet). place bowl/bucket underneath the fill valve hookup on the floor. Remove fill valve. Replace fill valve. Turn on water.

3. New fill valves are more efficient and less buky and less likely to break on you in the near future.

4. Don’t drink the water out of your tank. Sedement

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Kevin December 21, 2010 at 2216

Sorry, wrong button. Stupid phone.

4. Sediment will build up inside your tank and therefore you should not drink the water out of it, especially if you have ever put any cleaning solution in there.

5. It would have taken you less time and effort now and 3 months from now when this utterly fails for you to just fix it right in the first place. Find a how-to video on YouTube and get it done.

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GC December 22, 2010 at 0640

So instead of spending the 10 bucks you decide to waste one of the planets most valuable resources – water. I’m not a tree hugger by any stretch but jeez! Spend the money!!!

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Jake December 22, 2010 at 0653

Woah woah woah – wasting water!? I’m saving water, by having it actually go in the tank where it belongs, instead of on the floor. On top of that, I’m a mellow yellow kind of guy.

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GC December 22, 2010 at 1231

But it’s constantly running…

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Jake December 22, 2010 at 1448

Uh, no, it’s not. Re-read the article.

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GC December 22, 2010 at 1619

I misunderstood. I thought it was only redirecting the water back into the tank, constantly flowing. I didn’t realize the shutoff valve would still work. Apologies.

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Shabbypenguin December 22, 2010 at 1136

how is this a waste? the water that would be spraying onto the floor is now dripping down into the tank, where the rest of the water is. the system is still only going to let you have so much water in the tank..

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ceta December 28, 2010 at 1133

Well done. Ignore these nay-saying posters. You are a creative genius and they’re just jealous they didn’t think of it. If it breaks again, you can always go out and buy the part you need, but in the meantime, look who’s pooping in the bowl!

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Dolly Iris December 29, 2010 at 0204

2 points

1 -creativity

2- making me laugh

However maybe next time you are at work and remember about your little situation you could pick up a replacement part. Just sayin :0)

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yarnbomber January 25, 2011 at 2336

The first night in my apartment, the toilet wouldn’t stop running. The flapper valve wouldn’t close on its own, and the handle/lever was also pulling the thing open. Found some washers and wired them to the end of the lever as a counterweight. I raided my jewelry and found some old heavy plastic bracelets I never wore: they weighted the flapper valve.

BTW, I did go out and replace all the guts in my tank; it’s doing the same thing again. My “system D” fixes worked better!

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Johnny February 24, 2011 at 1408

Hilarious… I used duck tape… a little bit to stuff into the port that was spewing, and then a ring of tape to hold that plug in place. But I like the aluminum foil idea better.

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