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Thread: No plumber, on island two miles at sea, bad toilets

  1. #1

    Default No plumber, on island two miles at sea, bad toilets

    We have a relatively new home -- 12 years old but being renovated over time -- with new toilets (at the time), and all of them get clogged up a lot. We've dealt with this for some time, now now we have to DEAL with it. What used to be an annoyance has now become a major catastrophe each time it happens -- as we've completed the rest of the house, the overflow drainage is now going through the finished ceilings. Our luck with plumbers has been horrendous, because we live on an island two miles at sea, and no one wants to come out here, and usually when you can get someone, it's because they don't have a lot of work elsewhere, which can mean you're not getting the best. So this morning we had 'the last straw' toilet overflow from one of the second floor bathrooms, through the kitchen ceiling, and through the newly finished ceiling in the basement. "Yech" does not describe it.

    So I'm a very smart person on computers but totally illiterate in plumbing, yet need to self-drive a lot of the 'solutions' here due to the lack of qualified plumber assistance. All the work on the house has been done by contractors; none of it is DIY, so I have to assume it is to code. We're technically part of the City of Portland, ME but their building department won't come out here to inspect either (but they are happy to take our taxes).

    I'm wondering:

    - How can I know if a pressure system would improve the number of times these clog up. They clog a LOT. Not because of even of excess paper or bad items -- just normal usage. All the toilets have plungers next to them as a result.

    - Could it simply be the types of toilets we have? Our present models are all 1.6 GPF/6.0LPF toilets, two are Celite and one is Kohler. I don't know how to tell what model they are but they are circa 1996.

    Plunging the toilets always resolves the situation. The PVC running from the toilets measures 4-1/2 inch PVC (which in construction terms might be a 5" PVC) but I have no idea what type of plumbing is local (directly underneath) each toilet as I don't have access to that visually.

    Does anyone have any advice for how a plumberless person could approach deciphering what to do here? All help is MUCH appreciated. Once I have an idea as to the direction to go, I can try to find a plumber to come and provide a second opinion and weigh in, but it could take 3-5 months to find someone to come out here and even then, it's only 50/50 they'll show up. So we generally have to fend for ourselves, and hopefully someone will have some ideas. THANKS!

  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Check the toilet report link below, it's made for this question.

    1996 was not a good year for toilets.
    If you replace them with the new highly rated ones, it should help a lot.
    Most people with good toilets forget where they put the plunger after a while. And forget about floods anymore.

    I do wind up selling a lot of the Toto brand toilets, they work, and the quality control is fantastic.
    You should be able to find them on the mainland near where you live.

  3. #3

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    Thanks SOOOO much Terry, great report. Question: So how do I determine that a gravity toilet will work versus a pressure one? Obviously, I only want to replace these toilets once and want this to do the trick. Also, how do I know the 'constraints' I'm working under. Some of these say they have a 3-inch this versus a 2-inch one....will any of these likely 'fit' my existing plumbing, or is it possible that I'd get a toilet and it won't fit?

  4. #4
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    There really is no difference between pressure and gravity, they both use the same amount of water.

    The good Gravity tanks with 3" flush valves speed the water through the bowl.
    Both the Gravity and the Pressure use a trapway that is about 2-1/8" size. Anything Toto with G-Max works very well.

    Gerber mentions a 3" average trapway on their pressure assist, but the outlet of their trapway is less than 2". It's a convenient misprint on the pdf spec sheet. Wrong, but there is always some engineer that believes a misprint or clerical error more than a plumber that has seen hundreds of them. Too bad for them.

    Good point Redwood below, adding this now,
    A standard rough in is 12" from the finished wall to the center of the drain. though most will work with 11-1/4"
    Last edited by Terry; 08-10-2008 at 10:59 AM.

  5. #5
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    A simple measurement from the finished surface of the wall to the bolts holding the existing toilet down to the floor is a good place to start. Note: I said finished surface of the wall and this does not include molding.

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    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    I'm just curious as to what Island this is.

    Some plumber would do well to move, provided the population is more than ten.
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  7. #7

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    It's Great Diamond Island in Maine, in Casco Bay. The few plumbers that come here have a lousy reputation and we're hurting for a reputable, reliable plumber. One plumber took a $1k deposit from me and never showed up -- I'm still waiting for it back one year later. Another plumber doing a job here comes whenever he wants, doesn't return calls, won't commit to any time at all, and does fairly iffy work. I'd die for a reliable plumber. There are about 200 homes here on the island.

  8. #8
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbriere View Post
    It's Great Diamond Island in Maine, in Casco Bay. The few plumbers that come here have a lousy reputation and we're hurting for a reputable, reliable plumber. One plumber took a $1k deposit from me and never showed up -- I'm still waiting for it back one year later. Another plumber doing a job here comes whenever he wants, doesn't return calls, won't commit to any time at all, and does fairly iffy work. I'd die for a reliable plumber. There are about 200 homes here on the island.
    I used to live in ME, strange people, beautiful country and thats the way they like it!
    Ayup!

    200 homes might just barely be enough to keep one plumber alive, but I don't see one moving there for that purpose alone.

    As for the fella that took your money, pursue him, seek damages, punitive, admin and any other trumped up fee you can in court, let the judge decide whats frivolous, I bet he'll be frugal in that decision.
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  9. #9
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    When your home was built, low flow toilets were in their infancy. There were many, many problems with clogs and poor flushing. I think most of the manufacturers just tried using less water with their same old basic designs. Obviously, that did and doesn't work. You indicate these toilet problems have been ongoing, so I question the point of trying to fix them. I would suggest you install new Toto Drakes and your problems will be over. You may have to search to find them, although Toto is the world's largest manufacturer of toilets, they are not readily found in some areas yet. You can't just go into a Big Box store and pick one up. The effort to find them, and their higher cost will be worth it in the end.

  10. #10
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Frank Webb's Bath Center in South Portland will have them! Ahhhya!
    They are a gold Toto dealer.

    I used to vacation on Peaks Island when I was a kid.
    I was up in South Portland a couple of weeks ago for my Nephews wedding.
    He got married on the beach at Southern Maine Community College where he teaches.
    Last edited by Redwood; 08-10-2008 at 06:23 PM.

  11. #11

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    I'll tell you what, I wouldn't even mess around. Drop
    the dough for some of the higher end Toto's and forget
    about it. I installed a Drake a while back and it's been
    one of the best things I've done here at the place.

    Being you're out yonder and would probably like this
    to end, you just can't go wrong with a good Toto and
    get em with the G-Max flush system at the least..

    Then yer good to go.

  12. #12
    Customer Service Manager Plumbing Wholesale Peanut9199's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bg View Post
    Then yer good to go.
    No pun intended

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    DIY Hillbilly Southern Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    ....

    1996 was not a good year for toilets. ......
    I can vouch for that. That's when my house was built, and I've replaced all but one, and have to unclog that one at least once/ month.

    The good news, dbriere, is that a toilet is relatively easy to replace. Just ask Strawberry Blonde in another thread.

  14. #14
    Web and graphics designer. StrawberryBlonde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Man View Post
    The good news, dbriere, is that a toilet is relatively easy to replace. Just ask Strawberry Blonde in another thread.
    So true! Other than an itsy bitsy problem with a defective bowl, I managed to put the sucker in in under an hour. And it works perfectly. (Can you see the shock on my face? LOL)

    Strawberry

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