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Let’s get something out of the way first: toilet cisterns are a**holes. Absolute a**holes.

And when they leak, they are quite possible the worst a**holes in the world. They are the parking inspector of a**holes. The traffic cop of a**holes.

They are incredibly fiddly and finicky things. If they were a human being, they would be a difficult person to deal with. If they were a person, they’d be the sort of person who can’t eat gluten as a rule, but can eat wholemeal stoneground organic wheat that’s been harvested by virgins. They’d be the sort of person who can’t eat dairy, except goats cheese (but only if those goats were milked under the light of a full moon) and they’d probably be able to eat those woeful cream cheese wheels that have fruit or herbs on the outside (who eats those things? they are a disgusting hangover from the 80s or 90s imho). They’d be the sort of person with weird, unpredictable, but definite food dislikes. Dislikes in spite of never actually having tried the thing in question, so an illogical dislike as opposed to an actual preference for/against something based on experience.

That’s what toilet cisterns are: one of THOSE people. Ugh.

There are 4 places they can go wrong, 3 of them are quite simple – but incredibly fiddly – to fix HOWEVER what usually happens is that they go wrong in combinations of those 3 places. So you might fix one part of the problem, but there’s still another part – and another trip to your local hardware and/or plumbing supply store in your future.

And unfortunately, while you can certainly selectively weed out THOSE people from your life (keeping only the best of a finicky bunch); basic house planning regulations mean that you will always have to have a toilet cistern in your house, and therefore your life. At least one. UGH.

I really hate those a**holes.

/end rant

If you can see water trickling into your toilet bowl even though you haven’t flushed it: know you are dealing with an a**hole. One that is simple to problem solve, and you can fix it yourself with some basic supplies but it will be a little fiddly. But knowing how to problem solve and fix, means you can potentially save money.

What makes is confusing is that:

  • the internals of the cistern can look slightly different
  • there’s no standard washer size (remember my point about incredibly finicky things)

However, there are 3 simple things to check (and fix) before you call in someone, regardless of what the internals look like:

  • The flush or outlet washer
  • The float
  • The ballcock or inlet washer

If water is trickling into your toilet bowl even though you haven’t flushed it…this is how to problem solve

Step One: Lift of the lid of the cistern

The lid is usually held in place on the cistern by the flush button. You should be able to unscrew that, lift out the flush button cover pieces (pieces: the button will be held in place by a threaded seat) and then take off the lid of the cistern.

At this point it’s good to place the lid and the flush button pieces somewhere out of the way, where you won’t step on them.

Step Two: See if you can visually identify the problem

  1. Underneath where the button sits, you will see a piece of equipment that is broadly called the flush unit, or outlet unit. If you press the flush button (you can still do that without its cover on), you should see part of the flush unit lift up to let water into the toilet bowl. The flush unit should also have an outlet for excess water towards the top (so if your cistern gets overfull, water leaks out through the water outlet and to the toilet bowl without you flushing it). There are two things to check here:
    1. When the cistern is full (so the water stops running into the cistern): does the water level sit higher than the outlet for excess water? If it does sit higher, you will see water trickling into the bowl. Then you need to adjust the float so that it sits lower (we’ll get to where the float is in a second).
    2. If the water level does not sit higher than the outlet for excess water, then the problem is probably the washer for the flush unit. This is the easiest thing to fix.
  2. You also need to look at the other piece of equipment in the cistern: this is the unit that is connected to a pipe that runs to the tap in your wall. This is the inlet unit, where water comes into the cistern. The inlet unit also has a washer in it (called a ballcock washer normally or inlet washer), as well as a float (the float floats on the water level in the cistern; when it reaches a predetermined level, the float acts to stop the cistern from filling any further. The predetermined level is adjustable). There are 3 things to check here:
    1. The level of the float, and where you can adjust it (this is the second easiest thing to do): if the water level is sitting higher than the outlet for excess water, you need to adjust the float so it sits lower in the cistern (the water level should be 2.5cm lower than the outlet for excess water). After you have adjusted the float, you will need to flush the toilet, and let the cistern fill. Watch the cistern fill to confirm you’ve adjusted the float properly, and then leave it for about an hour and then check the water level:
      1. If the water level is still 2.5cm lower than the outlet for excess water, you’re golden
      2. If the water level is back up to sitting higher than the outlet for excess water, there are one of two things that could be the problem:
        1. The inlet washer could need replacing. This is the third easiest thing to do.
        2. If the washer is fine (or you replace the washer and the water level still sits higher than the outlet for excess water), the issue will likely be the whole inlet mechanism. Somewhere in the mechanism there is a leak(s) that is bypassing the inlet washer and filling the cistern.

Step 3: Fixes

A) Replacing the washer for the flush unit

This is the most common problem, and the easiest to fix. Although it is a little fiddly.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the flush unit to work out how you can lift it out so that you can change the flush washer.

The washer sits at the bottom of the flush valve (between that mechanism and the pipe that carries the water from the cistern to the toilet bowl), it seals the flush valve so water does not leak out. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what washer you need to purchase.

Equipment

  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • Replacement washer:
    • If the degraded washer is still in place, take it out and go to your local hardware/plumbing supplies store to pick up one.
    • If there’s no washer, you might have to google or buy a couple of different washers to see what fits

Note: sometimes the recommended washer does not sit nicely on your outlet. I use a washer that’s different to the one recommended for the flush outlet in my cistern. I tried the recommended one, and literally would have to flush 4/5 times before the valve would seal, who needs that in their life? So I bought 4 different washers and tried them until I found the one that worked best. The washers are $4-5 each normally, so not a huge expense to try a couple.

There are different ways to get to the washer, so I’ve included a couple of videos to illustrate

B) Adjusting the float level

This is the second most common problem, and the second easiest thing to fix.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the inlet unit to work out where the float is, and what is keeping it in place. That should be adjustable: you should see a little knob or screw you can turn. You might have to google your cistern brand and model to see if you can see inlet units and find instructions for where to tighten/loosen floats.

Equipment

  • Flat head or phillips head screwdriver: some floats can only be adjusted by turning a little knob, which usually can be easily tightened/loosened with a screwdriver. The type of screwdriver depends on the float.

C) Replacing the washer for the inlet unit

This is a little more fiddly, as you will likely have to take off the float to get to the ballcock washer/inlet washer.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the inlet unit to work out how you can  unscrew it so you can change the inlet washer.

The washer sits in the inlet unit, normally below the float, and when the float reaches the level, the float presses on the washer and seals the inlet so water does not leak out. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what washer you need to purchase.

Equipment

  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • Replacement washer:
    • If the degraded washer is still in place, take it out and go to your local hardware/plumbing supplies store to pick up one.
    • If there’s no washer, you might have to google or buy a couple of different washers to see what fits

There are different ways to get to the washer, so I’ve included a couple of videos to illustrate

D) Replacing the inlet unit

This is the most fiddly, and I’d only do this if I’d exhausted all other avenues as it’s also the least likely. But if you’ve replaced the flush washer, adjusted the float to get the water level right, replaced the inlet washer AND THE CISTERN IS STILL OVERFILLING AND LEAKING OUT THE OVERFLOW OUTLET AND DOWN TO YOUR TOILET BOWL…then you need to replace the inlet unit.

At this point, I call in DIY Dad (sometimes the nuts fastening the cistern and inlet unit to the inlet pipe are quite tight, and the instructions are painful to read when setting up, so it helps to have someone else doing this with you.)

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. You will need to purchase a new inlet unit. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what inlet unit you need. Or pop to a specialist plumbing supplies shop, so you’re given the right unit

Equipment

  • A spanner
  • Flat head or phillips head screwdriver: some parts of inlet units can only be adjusted by screwdrivers
  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • New inlet unit
  • Bucket

This video has two parts and includes a section on replacing the inlet unit.

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Full metal (window) jacket

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The front of the house, circa 2015

One of the jobs on my 2017 New Year’s Houseolutions list was to paint the external window frames. Given I did the front and back doors in the early part of my holidays, and was looking for things I could do without DIY Dad assistance, external window frames seemed achievable.

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Looking from the dining room window to the rest of the windows to be painted (taken in 2016)

I had scrape, sand, then use a rust converter on some of them, as they had spot rust, then prime them twice and then do 2 topcoats on them. On top of this, I had to work around when the sun hits some of these windows and also when it was too hot during the day to paint plus a 16 hour drying time between coats.

So I split the windows into 3 groups: back windows except the studio window (I couldn’t unscrew the bolt keeping that window shut, so had to wait until DIY Dad was free to unscrew it), the front windows and the studio and office windows. The back windows are pretty shaded, they get the sun from about 4.30pm onwards. The front window get the sun until 2pm by which time it’s too hot to paint, but if you get up super early (like 5am) you can paint them while the sun is lower in the sky and it’s not as hot. The side window (the office window) gets the sun from about 1pm onwards.

This is a little like one of those awful physics questions, but what it meant was that if I was painting several of these groups in a day, it had to be done in the following order:

  • Front windows
  • Side window
  • Back windows (or if I missed the window before it got too hot, I could come back and do these at 3.30-4.00pm, or after 7.00pm at night)

Back windows, looking from the bathroom, across the newly painted back door and window (they were wood), to the kitchen and on to the dining room window:

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And so it begins…

The back windows where the first to be started. I used the extra wide blue painters masking tape for the windows as some of the window parts are quite narrow, and I didn’t want to have to clean a lot of paint off the glass if I could help it.

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Primed and ready to be top-coated

It is a commonly acknowledged fact that to fix something around your house, before it’s fixed everything has to get a lot messier.

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Looking back at the priming

My front windows took ~45 minutes to an hour to mask, so I started each group of windows in waves.

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A shed load of masking tape.

In case you wondered: I used 3 x 54.8m long rolls of masking tape. That’s 164.4m of window panes that I masked. That’s beyond a shed load of masking tape, into a f*ck load of masking tape.

And once I masked them, I had to paint them x 4 times, waiting 4 hours till they were touch dry and I could close the window, and 16 hours before I could recoat. Once the last coat was on and dry, I then had to remove the portion of the 164.4m of masking tape on those panes of glass. It was an epic job.

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First to be completed, the back windows barring the studio.

I suspect I would be feeling a warm sense of fulfilment at a job well done, if I wasn’t feeling so tired right now.

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Once I could move everything back into place, I could also clean the back garden.

I’ve also painted the gas meter box (also metal) in the same colour (did that when I did the front windows). One day I will take a photo so you can admire my matchy-matchy painting skills. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the front with the windows complete and the masking tape just removed.

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More epic than Lord of the Rings.

So…15 days into 2017, and one New Year Houseolution = done AND my epic holiday window painting (exterior) task = done. I look forward to a world where I am not moving ladders, chairs or milk crates holding a 1L can of paint in one hand, and a paint brush in the other. I look forward to not having to think about temperatures and angles of the sun throughout the day. I look forward to not having to clean up with turps. Mostly I just look forward to not using my arms for a while.

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Hipsta before shot from 2015 πŸ˜€

Another holiday job was to paint the exterior windows and doors to my house. Most of the windows are steel, some with a little rust that needed treatment, so it made sense to split the job into front and back door (and window)…and windows. Apart from the different pre-painting treatments required, there are significantly different drying times for metal paint vs wood paint.

Again, I had to scrape, sand and fill the doors and their surrounds. I removed the fly screens on the front and the back doors. The back door screen is in such bad nick, I have popped it aside to chuck. I have kept the front doors but as yet have not put them back on…since I intend to get security screens at some point this year.

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Front door and meter box, pre-painting.

The back door was in particularly bad condition in terms of painting surface: a lot of the original paint had peeled and flaked away, probably as a result of the weather:

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Back door and window, pre-painting.

Given the doors appear to cop a bit of weather (mainly the back door, but since I was on a roll), I primed with an oil-based primer and did 2 coats to ensure full coverage.

Once that was done, it took 3 coats of the British Paints exterior in Ironstone (it’s a colorbond colour, not that I have colourbond but it was really nice) to coat the wood. I even did the meter box out the front (in truth: while I was painting the front door, I completely blanked that there was a wooden meter box about 1m away that could also do with a paint…luck there’s a quick drying time on these paints, so I was able to prime x 2 and paint x 3 in 2 days):

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Front door looking very distinguished.

I haven’d finished cleaning the glass to get rid of the paint accidentally splattered or painted on the doors, but that’s not an urgent job…

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The after shot. Looking mighty fine.

I did find the coverage of the wood exterior paint to be a bit painful: dark colour on light primer, so it took between 3-4 coats to do these surfaces.

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The Ginger Menace inspects the new colour…

I’ve been on holidays for the last month, with a full list of things to do. Some of which I have managed to tick off, in between binge-watching British crime TV and regular nap-times.

One of my holiday jobs was to finally paint the laundry door and window on the interior. When I moved in, I had run out of the paint I used and never quite got around to buying another tin of paint and finishing the job. It wasn’t all paint-tin procrastination, though. I had to fill a hole that had been left in the door thanks to a lock replacement prior to me buying the house, mind you I did that in 2011…there’s still 5 years of “one day I’ll get around to it…” in there.

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The before shot.

I had to remove venetian blinds, scrape, sand, fill and prime the door and window: some of the old paint was in pretty bad nick. Then, after 2 coats of primer (it’s a wet area, so I wanted to get very good coverage before I top-coated), I applied the water-based enamel.

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Job almost done.

The dark surround does make the room a little darker, but it’s so worth it. If I want the room to be lighter, I could open the venetian blinds a tad.

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This looks like…another tick on my to do list πŸ™‚

 

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New Years Houseolutions 2017

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Bluebells on my front patio

It’s Day 3 of 2017, time to think about the 2016 goals I managed to check off and what I want to carry over into 2017 (only 362 days left in the year y’all). Last year, I did pull back on house-related stuff in 2016, due to travel, family visits and some other commitments. Having said that: I did manage to cross off some items that had been carried across a couple of years of houseolutions lists. If I didn’t finish them, I did manage to make significant progress (hello Daybed).

2017 Houseolutions

Achievable:

  • Culinary and domestic skillz
    • Learn how to pipe buttercream icing
    • Make a gingerbread house and gingerbread men and women
    • Learn how to knit
    • Learn how to use one of my two sewing machines
    • Take a knife skills course
    • Make more passata and investigate other foodstuffs I can preserve at home
  • Daybed: make a mattress cover for it then transport it northwards.
  • Wet areas:
    • Finish painting bathroom cornices and fixing wall paint from last attempt to paint cornices (not a gift of mine)
    • Patch and repaint areas in the laundry (there are a couple of plugs that need to be removed from the wall, I need to fill, patch and repaint those areas)
  • Paint external window frames (done, d.o.n.e. and DONE).
  • Eaves: I need to repair, strip and repaint my Eaves. This relies on DIY Dad direction, and he’s currently busy renovating his house. So although I’d hoped to do this over summer, this will happen at some point in the future.
  • Front garden:
    • Topsoil and levelling of lawn
    • Finish front garden bed:
      • Buy agapanthus to fill in gaps and add some purple to the bed
    • Planters around patio:
      • Relocate bulbs in the patio planters (they need to be thinned and relocated from where I will be repointing)
      • Once new homes for bulbs are located, plant in Dianella Little Jess to add some year round foliage and colour to the beds
      • Relocate the reed/grass plant currently in the garden bed (to the front verge, sectioned and replanted)

Dreamable:

  • Passive Solar Measures
    • Insulation: I live in Australia, y’all.
    • Get universal tile ventilators for roof: Whirly birds destroy the roof line, imho.
  • Termite treatment: I live in Australia, y’all.
  • Front verge
    • Plant front verge with drought resistant plants that attract pollinators and/or are native bush tucker foods (with the aim of total cost of plants being less than $50, so far no money has been spent :D)
    • Mulch it like it’s hot

Longer term:

Some other goals that are optional and will probably not be achieved in 2017, but one can live in hope (and carry them over into 2018 and beyond):

  • Buy some big (preferably retro) pots and trees for front:
    • Yellow desert lime
    • Fig tree: DIY Dad has a very neglected Fig Tree in a pot at his. I will be bringing it to mine and seeing if I can resuscitate it.
  • Restore roof and then get solar panels: to make use of abundant resources and for guilt free electricity
  • Not as pressing, but on the radar:
    • Re-pointing:
      • I need to dig out sections of my patio planters, to enable those sections to be repaired
      • I’ll need to remove all my downpipes to repoint behind them
      • I’ll need to work out how to repoint in sections where there is no easy access thanks to a later wall being built (see next point)
      • I’d like to get the mortar gun working (issues to do with quality of sand are causing the problem, according to my research), as that will help with some of the trickier sections
    • Restore freecycled furniture in my garage
    • Get stainless steel + sailing wire trellises for out the back.
    • Carport: draw up a rough plan for what, where and how.
    • Grey water system to water lawn.
    • Garage:
      • Re-roof garage: making it water tight and insulated with a view to turning it into a studio.
      • Replace window and door, again making it water tight.
      • Replace garage door, making it water tight (or at least so I don’t get leaves from the street blown into the garage).
      • Invest in garage shelving to remove requirement for storing stuff on the floor.
    • Spare room: build a murphy bed, so I have space for visitors and painting. Murphy beds are the coolest.
    • Gallery hanging system: even if I can’t do the whole house, if I can do some of the rooms (or even just some of the walls in some of the rooms) it will mean I get some of my paintings and other sundries off the floor.

Previous Houseolutions

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First handful of sugar snap peas and snow peas.

Given I’m writing this post about late spring in the veggie garden in the middle of summer, you would be right in thinking I am a little behind in posting. Luckily a patch of 34+ days are crimping my summer holiday DIY plans.

Segue: crimping my holiday plans unless I get up at before sparrow fart when it’s cool, or stay up until…(actually what is the opposite of sparrow fart for the people who have to wait until sundown and cool down? Is there a colloquial expression for that? Should we make one? How does before bat fart read to you?)…until before bat fart. And I have done that: mainly the before bat fart because I don’t mind late night door and window painting while being eaten alive by mosquitoes, whereas sparrow fart is just too f*cking early. But I digress…

The veggie garden has been a very productive member of the household this year, I’ve had a couple of harvests of snow peas and sugar snap peas, in suitable quantities. I like how they become ready in handfuls, which is the perfect amount for a stir fry or salad.

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Pea plants in action.

And now, in summer, I am starting to harvest courgettes while little ears of corn grown on my dwarf corn plants. Actually I am not sure if they are dwarf corn plants, but I suspect so since they are a lot shorter than other corn I have grown. Whatever they are, they look like they will give me a plethora of corn.

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Looking out, over the courgettes…is a phrase you don’t use that often.

The silverbeet has now gone to seed, finally. These plants are 2 years old, so I am impressed they made it til now. I didn’t use it as much as I’d like, simply because I didn’t have the freezer space free. But I did make a large patch of silverbeet and potato soup plus I have some canneloni filling for when it’s cool enough to want to eat pasta again.

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Splendorous vegetable landscape.

 

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Spring in the veggie garden

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Snow peas, sugar snap peas and silverbeet

It’s spring, so I’ve cleared the veggie garden of weeds and reclaimed some of it from the dichondra that is trying to take over (next up to buy some edging to keep Dichondra on the side of the garden bed it’s welcome to cover and to keep it out of the veggie garden).

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Radicchio makes a reappearance

I’ve kept the silverbeet from last year, these plants survived over summer and are looking very lush and prolific so they can stay.

I’ve planted zucchini seeds (they are from an older seed packet so if they don’t make an appearance soon I will buy a seedling), two types of sweet corn, bush beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas.

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The peas, future beans, current silver beet and future corn.

There is a sad little padron pimiento plant in the garden, all my peppers are looking sad at the moment so I will keep an eye on it to see if it fills out with leaves and becomes productive: if not, it’s coming out.

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Future corn and future zucchini as well as a sneak peak at the invading dichondra (and weeds) and the resurfacing radicchio

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