The greatest loo, sir?


Can there be a more annoying chronic DIY subject than the humble flush toilet. A seemingly simple device, it suffers from an amazing variety of degradative failures: flakey flaps, varicose valves, and the dreaded waxseal wipeout. Hardly the ideal environment for an extended repair session, I actually dread the sheer fiddliness of the thing more than I do the aesthetics.  It remains a rocky throne.

Across the course of my adult, and especially spousely life, I have pulled the ring tabs off of countless toilets, in several continents. While I hesitate to speculate on the source of wear (and I once inherited a suburban commode that could only be explained by a decade of corn cobs), it’s the equally mystifying question of alignment that finally brought matters to a head this week.

Most of the seemingly countless toilets that have fallen victim to my wrench have been blessed by a standard size and hole configuration. Once the inevitable happens, and a seat has reached its final bottom, the only factors leading into a choice of replacement are quality and color. The local home repair superstore has a choice of white seats priced for 10,000, 25,000, or 50,000 wipes. Inside of a few minutes, the deed is done, and you’re ready for a long-deserved sit down. Until our second rental house in England, which had seat alignment weaknesses in multiple dimensions, it never dawned on me that a nation could even survive without standardizing Returning to the USA, I looked forward to a more commodified approach.

Disappointingly, it turns out that ‘American Standard’ does not refer to the hole centers for the saddle mounts. Our latest high-tech loos add a ring wrinkle: a pair of adjustable pins attach to the top of the rim with stainless steel hex screws. The seat slides down over the retaining pins and locks into place. Removal of the seat, for those who are especially fastidious with the Lysol, or for those who anticipate frequent replacement, is a simple matter of pressing a single button, neatly releasing two internal clamps from the grooved pins.

The frustration with this model is two fold.  First, no matter how seemingly snug the results of a 5/32” hex key may be (and over torqueage would almost certainly lead to denial of service, if not an expensive replacement), physics always triumphs.  The forces of leverage ensures that the pin positions creep over time, with the front edge of the seat gradually, unsightily, and even uncomfortably, increasingly cantilevered over an unwilling tile floor. Second, its a pain in the ass to adjust the pins.  They not only have to be the exactly correct distance apart to fit into the base of the seat, they also need to be in the correct fore and aft position.  As is the case whenever taking aim, windage needs to be spot on, although at least elevation is fixed.

Such a high maintenance item, let alone 4 of them, could drive a person potty, and I find it no comfort station.

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