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Archive for the ‘The things they don’t tell you about home ownership’ Category

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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No one told me being a home owner meant I would be stalked by a 10cm long grasshopper when watering my garden.

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things-shoppingPast me is always so thoughtful…and knows exactly what future me would want.

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Sampler: Some people can water their gardens without getting most of the water on themselves, others can't. I'm in the can't category

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Sampler: Sometimes being an adult means working out what pest is infecting your citrusIn my case, it was two pests: citrus leaf miner and red scale. Treatment was a significant prune of the older citrus tree and then a hearty spray of a pest oil at 5 day intervals over all the citrus trees on my property (I think citrus leaf miner must be quite a problem in my neighbourhood): hello very large bottle of pest oil, goodbye plans for shoes this week.

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Dear Clumsy Diaries,

Today I split a bucket of bokashi + water down my front. It was supposed to go on some plants. (Bokashi, in case you don’t know Dear Diary, is a composting process that you can put meat in as well as veggies, it produces a juice which you can dilute and use to fertilise plants. It is fragrant…to put it mildly. It also lingers, much like if you accidentally step in cat pooh.) I also managed to drip some in my house, which is unavoidable…but not nice all the same.

Then I hooked my skirt in an iron chair as I stepped over some limestone edging. Luckily I managed to right myself and the chair before I hit the pavers. After I unhooked my skirt, I was very glad I did this in my back garden otherwise I would have shown the world my knickers as well as significantly hurting myself when I landed on the pavers and then having the chair land on me.

But that was not enough, Dearest Diary, because I decided to prune my lemon tree, which has scale. Scale attracts ants, for the record. Lots of ants. Lots of angry black ants who like to bite. I got ants in my hair, on shoulders, in my cleavage. To top it off, they started milling around on the ground and climbing onto my toes and feet to bite me.

I even got an ant in my eye – how many people can say they have done that?

On the whole, I think I handled today’s ant incident much better than the day I was sick and decided to treat myself to a ginger/honey/lemon drink for which I needed a lemon.

I forgot to tell you about that, but that was before I realised my lemon tree had scale and was infested with ants, so I was happily leaning into my lemon tree branches to reach the one ripe lemon (well as happily as you can be when you are running a fever and feeling sickly), only to feel tiny little bites on my arms. When I looked down, my chest was absolutely covered in those bitey black ants and they were busily biting me through my pyjamas.

That was the day I ran from the lemon tree to my shower faster than Hussain Bolt and had a shower in my pyjamas before I went up to the shops to get a lemon, even though I felt awful…..come to think of it, I think that day was the day I realised my lemon tree had scale and was infested with ants.

Now that I have had a shower and removed all the ants and the bokashi smell (even the cats were avoiding me), I feel righteous and satisfied that my plants are fertilised and my lemon tree is pruned. Although I do still have to mop up the bokashi water spillage in my laundry and hallway before my chores are done.

Yay for the glamourousness of home ownership.

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Sampler: This week I'm living on ASOS purchases and 2 minute noodles

And there you were thinking Commitment was the 10 letter C word that was hardest to deal with.

One of my buddies, Miss Fashionista, has just moved into her very own house, so I thought I add a Things they don’t tell you about home ownership, to welcome her to the club.

A big thing I learnt was that as much as I had an amazing list of things I wanted and things I wanted to do around my house, there was no way I was ever going to be able to do them all at once, pay bills and live and occasionally buy something from a store other than Bunnings.

For me this was about learning the art of financial compromise.

Things go in fits and starts: some weeks you are the mad shopper with a thousand several luxe paper bags from your favourite clothes stores and 10 a couple of new looks, some weeks you are just paying bills and buying food.

Miss Fashionista is very good at money and budgeting, so I am sure she will meet these challenges well. Probably better than I, but it can still be hard to feel like everyone else is going out but you just had to buy a shedload of bills instead of a night out on the town even when you are an amazing financial whiz.

While you don’t necessarily want to madly spend your disposable income on shoes, clothes and stuffs every week, not having the freedom and ability to do that if you wanted can occasionally grate.

I developed some coping mechanisms to make myself feel like I could shop, without actually spending any money.

  1. Wishlists: Online shopping is amazing, but wishlists are the most amazing things of all.
    The good thing about wishlists is they remove the urgency to purchase that item right n.o.w. because you have a way of tracking and remembering what it was. Yes: it is on sale and you do clearly need an amazing red tartan dress with a frill down the front from ASOS but…if you can add it to a wishlist then you have it there for when you do have $ to spend and can focus on the $500 worth of bills you will be spending your money on this fortnight.
  2. A cooling off period: for a number of reasons…
    1. the good thing about having a wishlist (or several wishlists across several sites) is you realise when you have wishlisted several things that are very similar. Clearly you don’t need 4 different variations on a studded khaki singlet, so which will it be?
    2. Wishlisting also allows me to reflect: my natural default is to immediately like anything in black and/or where there are colour options, to only select the black. The cooling off period gives me time to realise I have 6 variations on black dresses in my list: which ones are variations on a theme similar, which still stand out and which could I try in a different colour?
    3. Looking at what you already own with new eyes: I don’t always immediately connect that the thing I find most amazing on sale, is actually very similar to something (or some things) I already have in my wardrobe.
  3. Natural evolution:
    1. Thanks to the fact that there are other people purchasing things on ASOS out there, I don’t always get what I want. When I check back in to see that something is out of size in that colour/size, I let it go. There will clearly be other things that I will find on one or other of the sites that I wishlist on, so be it.
    2. Things drop off the list: ASOS save items for 60 days (used to be 30). If something drops off and you don’t really miss it, was it really there to start with?
  4. Letting go: sometimes it’s not till a week/month later when the fever of the purchase has faded, that you realise you don’t really want it after all. There are other dresses that will be more flattering to you. If it’s on your wishlist, then it’s time to let it go.
  5. Financial darwinism: When I do have money, I don’t immediately purchase what is on my list. I revisit what is on sale, I look at the prices and I search to see if there are other new and/or amazing items that I perhaps want more than what I have on the list.
  6. Reward yourself for behaving: Lastly, for when you do have $5-$20 finally free: pocket money! Reward yourself with a little something from a wishlist: positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement to create behaviour change (Google it) and gold stars don’t cut it compared to what’s on our wish list
    Of course, your decision to purchase your reward will be defined by:

    1. Your pocket money amount (Maybe all you can get is a $5.00 ring on sale on ASOS)
    2. Whether or not you have to pay postage as well (free postage sites are better when you only have pennies to reward yourself)
    3. The cost of the things in your list. If they are all super expensive, maybe you need to put that money aside until you earn more pocket money to get a bigger something off your list?

For the record: I have several wishlists. I have a wishlist on ASOS, a wishlist on modcloth, a wishlist on Amazon, a massive wishlist on etsy, I am watching furniture on ebay and on gumtree…I could go on but it would be embarrassing. With wishlists and platforms like pinterest, you can collate lists of what you like without having to make a single purchase…until you have cleared the bills and have the budget. And then…it’s up to you 😀

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