Web allows amateurs to plunge into repairs

Hardware: Plumbing sites are flush with nuts-and-bolts information to help keep problems at bay.

January 29, 2001|By Anne Meyers | Anne Meyers,COX NEWS SERVICE

Our new year flushed in just like the old one flushed out - with plumbing problems. This time it was the toilet in the kids' bathroom. Although the problem rendered the toilet useless, it did not require the emergency assistance of a plumber.

This was a repair I could do, have done in the past and was prepared to attempt again. A recent bad experience with a local plumber created an even greater incentive for me to roll up my sleeves rather than cruise the Yellow Pages.

The plumbing issue and an unlit pilot light in the furnace were our cold welcome back to Georgia after a two-week hiatus. The pilot light was relit by my handy neighbor, Bernie.

The plumbing was, at my insistence, my job to repair. My experience with this type of repair gave me confidence, although I did not remember all the steps exactly.

The kids were eager to have their bathroom back, so I took a quick trip to the local hardware store.

I purchased my fill valve and flapper with the assistance of "the helpful hardware guy" and proceeded to the checkout. Robert asked me to sign up for Ace's Helpful Hardware Club, where buyers accumulate points each time they purchase.

The questionnaire asked for my e-mail address, which sparked a new conversation.

Robert was glad to see I had Internet access and shared his plumbing wisdom regarding Web sites. He instructed me to visit the hardware chain's site (www.acehardware.com) and recommended searching other plumbing-related sites if I had any questions while completing this job.

My curiosity led me to the Ace Hardware site and then to the Fluidmaster site (www.fluidmaster.com). Fluidmaster makes the parts I purchased to repair the toilet. They have a page dedicated to toilet know-how (www.fluidmas- ter.com/toiletknowhow.html).

When I begin a repair, I need to understand the basic mechanisms of what I am fixing. I also like to know the names of the parts. If I have to ask a question about my repair, I would rather explain in appropriate detail than call it the "whatchamacallit do-thingy."

I searched and came across MasterPlumbers.com (www.masterplumbers.com), an extensive resource for plumbers and others looking for plumbing-related information. Post a message on the MasterPlumbers.com bulletin board and await an answer from an expert.

The About.com (www.about.com) site has a wealth of plumbing information, including how-tos. I searched for plumbing and then more specifically for toilets.

About.com's Toilet Central includes a wide range of sites, some helpful and some more lighthearted. Under this category you will find clickable titles including Ballcock Installations, Fix a Leaking Toilet, How Toilets Work, Toiletology 101 and Underground Bathroom Humor.

I found humor and help at The Natural Handyman (www.naturalhandyman.com).

I am ready to roll up my sleeves for more household fix-its after clicking through the DoItYourself.com site (www.doityourself.com). This site offers estimated time of completion figured by skill level (beginner, intermediate or advanced).

My repair job went smoothly until I had trouble removing the old metal flanged tubing to replace it. I just didn't have the proper tools or the strength to get the job done.

The Internet was of no use in this dilemma. I called my trusty friend Bernie, who came to the rescue again. There's no cyber-replacement for good neighbors.

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