Monday, May 21, 2012

Pleasantly Surprised by the Home Depot's Plumbing Section

The plastic flush lever in my basement bathroom's American Standard toilet tank broke a long time ago. Here's a view of the broken lever out of the tank.

'Not much chance of repairing that. I replaced it with a salvaged metal lever that I had on hand, like so.

That repair job served its purpose, but it was a finicky thing to deal with when the bead chain would periodically break and need repair, and I could never get the action quite right -- the lever needed to be held down for awhile for a flush cycle to fully execute[1]. I finally got fed up with it and went shopping for a proper replacement lever. (And getting me to go 'shopping' is like getting a cat to go fetch the paper, so you can be well and truly assured that I was fed up with the salvaged, jury-rigged lever.)

Owing to the toilet's age, I had the notion that a replacement lever might not be easy to come by. I figured I'd try the plumbing trade supply outfit near where I work -- that they'd be more likely to have one than the Home Depot would.

I went there after work one day with the old, broken lever, and they didn't recognize it; couldn't supply me with one. Their attitude was that something that old may well be obsolete and unobtainable.

I had nothing to lose by trying the Home Depot, so I went there a week later and they had it, like so.

They had them in white and chrome, but not in grey. I took a chrome one.

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Installation is pretty straightforward. One little wrinkle is that the threaded ferrule is a left-hand thread, which is always a bit disorienting. Also, it's easy to get the plastic nut started cross-threaded. The ferrule has flats on it so it 'indexes' to its hole in the tank's wall, but the indexing is sloppy and ambiguous. Biasing the thing fully CW looked like the way to go -- the left-hand thread makes it want to go that way anyway. Attach the ball/bead chain[2] so it has slight, but minimal, slack when the flush valve's flapper is seated, and the lever's action will be correct. Here's how it looks when it's ready to go.

That works fine now; the lever's action is 'press-and-release' as it ought to be.

Anyway, I must give the Home Depot credit where it's due -- they came through for me on that when the plumbing trade supply didn't. I'll revise my opinion of the Home Depot upward accordingly.

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[1] It's a very simple looking mechanism, but it's remarkably difficult to adapt another lever to; the geometry and dimensions of the lever/chain arrangement have to be just so, else it will not work as designed.

[2] Some call it 'ball chain'; some call it 'bead chain' -- whichever.

The chain used here is stainless steel. Ball/bead chain is one of those things that's sized according to some arcane, arbitrary numbering system. This chain has 1/8" diameter balls, which makes it #6 chain. There's an excellent table of chain sizes/specs here.

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