OK, so I called the plumber to check out the toilet upstairs, after it was still malfunctioning a few weeks later. He did the “bucket test” (pour a bucket of water into the toilet, and see how well it flushes on its own), and got a good healthy flush. This would indicate that the vent system was working just fine, and nothing was clogging the drain system. However, when we flushes the toilet using the handle, it went much, much slower. The water wasn’t getting into the bowl fast enough to create a big flush. I’d never realized this before, but all around the bowl of the toilet, under the rim, are a bunch of tiny little holes that let water into the bowl. These holes can get clogged, over time, with sediments from the water and other miscellaneous gunk. He pulled out some dental tools to see how clogged they were (how much he could get scraped out, which wasn’t a whole lot), and determined that the best solution was simply a new toilet.
He said that the toilet could be saved (for sentimental reasons?) if I really wanted; they could pour some acid into the tank and let that work out the clogs in the little holes… however, the time it would take for him to do that would be more expensive than having him install a new toilet. He quoted me on installing a new toilet (A plain-jane Gerber toilet, which he referred to as “the working man’s toilet.” A basic, no-frills reliable model. 12″ rough-in, round front, standard height) for about $100, plus installation for about $250 — as long as the flange was in good shape. (The flange, I’ve learned, is the thing that sticks up out of the floor, connecting toilet to drain pipe.)
I shared this information with the boyfriend, and he suggested that it would be better for me to spend a little more on the toilet and get “someone that I know” to install it for me. He must really think a lot of me if he’s willing to do toilet installations in my rental property for me. 🙂
He’s installed toilets before, and apparently is quite passionate about the subject (well, compared to me anyway). He immediately linked me to a page on Kohler’s class 5 “flush technology” (why you need class 5). He put in a toilet like this at his old house, and described the flush as “strong enough to rip your arm off.” Sounds good to me. He picked one up at Home Depot for around $150, and was able to install it in less than an hour (that’s even less than the plumber had estimated!) It works beautifully, and the tenants even thanked me for it. The supply line did develop a slight leak, however, so that will probably have to be replaced as well.
With such a small bathroom, I wanted to keep the toilet as small as possible, so I got a standard-height model. Apparently, though, “comfort-height,” which is a couple of inches higher at “bowl height,” is the new trend in toilets… Which really kind of creeps me out, I have to say. Never have I sat on a toilet and thought “gee, if only this toilet was a couple of inches higher, I would be so much more comfortable right now. In fact, I might be inclined to lounge around and read a magazine or something… ” Of course, I’m only 5’6″… so maybe I’m missing something?
In a perfect world, there would be only one style of toilet, all toilets would always work perfectly, and I would never, ever have to think about them again…