View Full Version : Repaired broken vintage toilet tank with fiberglass cloth and epoxy!
10-21-2011, 03:38 PM
I posted about a month ago about my old American Standard 4040 wall-mount toilet. The tank froze and broke over the winter. There weren't many options--there is no replacement tank, a Glenwall would have been $600 and required removing the cabinets opposite the toilet to allow for knee room, and the Rexmont (mount?) is still $400 and not known for quality.
So, my guy repaired the tank with fiberglass cloth and West System epoxy, the same way you'd repair the hull of a fiberglass boat. He finished it all off with lots of Silicone caulk for good measure. Then we got some new rubber pieces and a toilet repair kit and put the whole thing back together. It leaked at first, but not from the tank (operator error on the install.) After a bit of messing around, it worked perfectly and hasn't leaked for two days!
I know there were some big objections to trying this, notably about damage if the repair should fail. But the room has a tile floor which wouldn't be badly damaged in the event of a leak, even a catastrophic one, and the basement below is unfinished. Also, the location is very central, so we would notice a leak immediately. We're keeping our fingers crossed that it will work, at least for a few months while we look for a good buy on a replacement tank...
I have a photo but was unable to attach it--will try to log in again and do it.
800 pixels or less
10-22-2011, 04:29 AM
... my guy repaired the tank with fiberglass cloth and West System epoxy, the same way you'd repair the hull of a fiberglass boat. He finished it all off with lots of Silicone caulk for good measure ...
The caulk will likely be useless if the epoxy lets go, but all should be well if the epoxy remains stuck and enough cloth has been used to actually "hold the load"! (bad pun)
10-22-2011, 07:57 AM
We would love to see the photos of this. If you kept all the fibreglass inside the tank, it probably looks pretty good. I think slathering silicone around was not a good idea. Certainly not likely to help much if the fibreglass fails. But fiberglass epoxy is pretty agressive...sticks really well! You are probably ok.
As good measure, I always shut off my house water if I will be away overnight or more. Just paranoid me, maybe!
That reminds me of the cartoon pictures from the old days when tires had "bandages" wrapped around them to fix leaks, and might be just as safe.
10-22-2011, 08:45 AM
Agreed, the silicone won't work if the cloth/epoxy fail!
Hopefully the photo will post. The repair is on the back/bottom of the tank, so the front looks perfect. (The back looks pretty rough but it doesn't show.) The big triangular piece was detached completely, and you can see that the crack continues along the bottom all the way to the drain hole. There was cracking next to the bolts as well, so basically most of the bottom/back is reinforced with glass cloth and epoxy.
Turning the water off for vacation is a great idea. (And maybe draining this tank.)
10-22-2011, 08:48 AM
oops, double post
10-22-2011, 08:59 AM
When the tank finally breaks completely, this is what your basement will look like. In this picture, the water was a few inches higher, but opening the sliding door allowed some water to flow out. All the carpets were pulled and dried out. The lower drywall was removed, patched and painted. The basement was ready to use again in a few months.
It also fried the downstairs computer that was sitting on the floor.
She lost the use of her lower floor for that long. It's a good thing she had a large garage to store furniture while the repairs were being made.
10-22-2011, 09:09 AM
Just a quick additional note from the Department of Don't Try This at Home: this is marine epoxy, not hardware-store material, and the learning curve for mixing it up, using the fiberglass cloth, allowing the gunk to cure, etc., is long if not steep. It's kind of specialized. Also, my guy Dremeled some of the porcelain out of the crack in order to be able to fill it with the "right" amount of epoxy. I'm not sure how he knew how much was "right."
You guys are absolutely right about the potential for problems. Believe me, we would not have done this repair if we had access to a replacement tank, or a replacement toilet that wouldn't have required a bunch of carpentry to install. Also, it's over an unfinished basement, so if the repair doesn't hold, there's not going to be a ton of damage. We'll be keeping a close eye on it. And, we know we need to come up with a more permanent solution eventually. But the house needs a lot of work--we needed to get this bath up and running, and will definitely come back to it later.
(If anybody sees a white, unbroken American Standard tank out there in the world, let me know!) :^)
10-22-2011, 09:21 AM
When I first looked at this photo, I thought "Wow, what a nice shiny floor!"
And then saw that it was carpet.
What a horrible mess.
10-23-2011, 04:26 AM
... this is marine epoxy ... kind of specialized. Also, my guy Dremeled some of the porcelain out of the crack in order to be able to fill it with the "right" amount of epoxy. I'm not sure how he knew how much was "right."
It sounds like he did a good job, and it could easily be just fine forever.
This stuff might have worked also, and it can even be applied underwater ...
10-31-2011, 02:52 PM
From your mouth to God's ears...
11-01-2011, 02:16 AM
Considering the new Boeing Dreamliner is built about the same way, and porcelin not having much expansion issues, thats a fine solution that every 1940 Popular Mechanics fix it issue would have given you a gold star for - prior to our toss it out society.
And I'll bet you a dollar that porcelin toilets and especially tanks are are soon going to be museum pieces. the LAST piece of primitive, brittle, heavy, energy intensive material still in common use.
Coffee cups will probably endure.
05-03-2012, 11:48 AM
HaHa--well, it is still holding after a few months. Hope the plane works out too.