Monday, May 12, 2008

Home Improvement

Since becoming an at-home Dad, I have taken it upon myself to save money by doing things around the house for which I would have previously hired a professional. I am now considering several home improvement projects. The first was installing new toilets.

Improving one's home by one's self should be carefully measured. From my days as the service manager at my family's garage, one concept stands out: it is one thing to change a part, it is another to diagnose a problem and then repair to solve that problem.

For example, changing brake pads is not all that complicated. Basically, you take off the tire, remove the caliper, take off the old pads, put brake grease on the back of the new pads, put the new pads into the caliper, reinstall the calipers, put the tires back. But how would you know if one or more caliper was bad? Or if you change the rotors because you're getting brake pulsation, do you change the front or the rear? Are you sure that it's not the hub and bearing?

The same can be said for home improvement projects. I had one problem with each of two toilets. On the main floor, the toilet did not flush well and would back up frequently. Upstairs, the fill water in the tank would not shut off.

Taking the toilet's information to the Kohler dealer, I found out that the new part to repair the upstairs toilet was $20, but that that toilet was old and inefficient. Of course, they recommended a new toilet as the water savings would be significant. After talking this over with my wife, I decided to replace both toilets. My Uncle would help me install them, as he was a contractor in his previous life.

Upon purchasing the toilets and spending about twice as much as I thought I would have to, my Uncle and I set to installing them. The reality is that he did most of the work. We did find out a few things. First, the people who installed the tile in the main floor bathroom did an awful job. One of the screws holding the toilet to the floor was not anchored to anything; the tile probably broke while the hole was being cut for the plumbing. We fortunately avoided any major problems. The second issue was that the main floor toilet was a 1.6 Gallon per Flush toilet, not a 3.5 gpf like the upstairs toilet. I had assumed it was the same as the upstairs one, which had prompted me to purchase rather than repair.

The installation upstairs was easier. The only issue there was a space constraint. There was a small gap between the glass shower door that swings out and the old toilet. According to the specs, the new toilet should have fit, even though it was elongated, not round like the old one. It didn't. We were able to turn it a bit so that the door swung freely. Crisis avoided.

Then we flushed the toilets. They don't seem to be any better than the old ones. I will see if time or adjustment takes care of that. The toilets have yet to be challenged, as the work was completed earlier this afternoon.

When we were done and my Uncle left, I realized that I probably should have gotten some professional advice before doing this. I should have asked for my Uncle's advice or I could have paid a professional plumber to come over and diagnose the problems. There may have been something cheap that could have been done with the main toilet's backup problem and that could have saved the time of replacing possibly a perfectly good toilet.

The point is, if I was just doing this for cosmetic or ecological reasons and all of the mechanicals seemed to be running perfectly well, this would have been a good opportunity for my Uncle to teach me about plumbing. In the future, though, if I'm having a problem, I'll hire someone to diagnose. Then I can decide if the repairs are something I want to undertake or if I'll save money or come out even hiring a pro. After all, a pro will guarantee his own work. If you screw up, the pro has to fix your mistakes while doing the job right.

No comments:

Post a Comment