What I've learned about owning a house is that maintenance requires trial and error, as well as making do with all the tools you don't have. My latest venture was fixing a toilet leak from the tank to the bowl, causing the water to run incessantly.
Diagnosing the problem didn't take too long. Toilets are simple machines, even though mine is a Mansfield with a slightly different flush mechanism than more common varieties. All the parts were moving properly, but the flush valve seal was corroded and folding up to create the leak at the flapper.
After some online research, I saw that at worst the fix would require replacing the entire flush system for about $20. Determined to get the problem solved Sunday before going to a local old-time music jam, I visited my local Sears hardware store.
The only problem was I didn't actually look at my toilet to learn that it was a Mansfield (rather than, say, a Douglas style) until afterward, but I was confident I could look at the products on the wall and figure it out.
Of course, I didn't see a valve seal like the one on mine (basically, a simple four-inch diameter rubber gasket). Instead, I got a thicker tank-to-bowl rubber gasket for about $3 and a universal flush valve replacement system for about $13, just in case.
When I got home and read the instructions for installing the gasket, it said to remove the tank from the bowl. And that's where I ran into a big problem.
I needed to detach the water supply and loosen the locking nut to get the tank off. My large crescent wrench and vice-grip pliers went missing between moving from the apartment to the house last winter. There was no way for me to remove the tank.
By this time I'd discovered the type of toilet I had. There was a short-cut guide for installing a flush valve seal without removing the tank. The next problem was that my tank-to-bowl gasket was a bit different than the Mansfield flush valve seal I needed. The one I bought had conical shape to it, but it seemed about the same diameter. I figured I'd give it a try.
I managed to get the gasket in place. I turned the water back on and let the tank fill. At first, I thought I had won. No leak. But then I flushed the toilet. The problem returned.
I tried repositioning the gasket, but nothing worked. It was the wrong part. But now I knew what I needed.
By that time, though, I had to leave for the jam. There was another Sears at a mall on my way. I would stop there, exchange my wrong parts for the right parts and fix the toilet when I got home that night.
Next problem? That Sears is fucking worthless. Once upon a time, it had a nice hardware section along with its old-people clothes and appliances. Now, the hardware section is stuffed in the back corner of the store and is just a glorified tool section on par with your local Walmart. No toilet repair parts. Hell, the guy wouldn't even let me return what I had bought from the other Sears store.
After the jam, which ended at 8 p.m., I tried Lowe's (closed) and Walmart (didn't have the right part). My mission had to be delayed until Monday.
When I got off work last night, I went straight to the Sears I had gone to in the first place. Guess what? They didn't have the right part. I returned the items I purchased Sunday ($16.17) and drove around the corner to Lowe's. There it was: a Mansfield flush valve seal, $1.98.
It took to me two seconds to fix the toilet when I got home. No more leak. My next task? Mow the lawn, which grew a foot overnight because of our recent flash floods. The work never ends.