Simple Household Projects Never Are

On Wed I taught my class (kinship and family this week), it came off beautifully and I was so energized I decided that even though it was 9:30 at night when I got home, I’d take on a quick little project to make my life a little nicer. When I bought the house the previous owner had somehow missed the state of the upstairs toilet seat in their process of getting the house ready for sale. I thought it was a little weird, after all they changed the downstairs one and did other things around the house. Though not as far as to put in baseboards upstairs, so I didn’t worry that much about it. Still I’ve been here a year and had said enough was enough. The worn state of the seat brought shame to my house. I would endure this eyesore no more. Went to Home Depot, picked up a very cheap seat (which made me wonder even more – $5 and how hard is swapping really to do?), and left it in the bathroom for when I had time and energy for a quick upgrade.

The cat, who considers all bowls of water as his decided he should also be involved. You can see the enamel was gone around the edge and it just looked ick.


Since I was feeling energized, I decided to go for it. After all this should take 15 minutes with the proper tools, which I had, a brand new set of vice grips from the parental units.


I went to work. Naturally, I started on the outside. Got the first nut loosened. Was very surprised to learn that in the 80’s (when the house was built and given the degraded nature of the seat I assume it was original) they used metal bolts and plastic nuts. I don’t know why, but then again it was the 80’s. Then I tried the inside bolt and got nowhere. Some contortions and I managed to get my head around the toilet to find that you can in fact strip a plastic nut. Spent 10 fruitless minutes trying get a grip and turn it from above. Failed. Moved to the floor. Spent considerably longer down there. Then I remembered the existence of WD-40.


I had bought a small can when I moved in and never touched it. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the makers of WD-40 for creating an effective product that actually smells good. This becomes incredibly important when you have to work in a cramped, confined, though well ventilated, space. Sprayed the area around the nut and waited.  The cat was puzzled by my insistence on spending so much time on the floor by the toilet.


A few minutes later back I went. One other thing to realize is that in order to access the bolt, and see it, I had to lay on the floor with my back against the radiator and my cheek against the bowl of the toilet. Fortunately I’d just cleaned the toilet a few days ago, and do to an unfortunate incident with a hanging glass soap dish (came with the house, still blaming the 80’s), the floor had been cleaned within an inch of it’s life to remove all traces of glass shards. 10 minutes of it turning now, but due to the angle a 1/8th of a turn at a time, and I decided a new strategy was in order. I was starting to wear through the plastic! If only I could spin the seat from the top maybe that would work. I discover the problem with that plan was the first bolt. It was free but so long I couldn’t turn the seat. So I needed a tool not usually involved in the bathroom:


I had gotten one as a gift from my parents so I could take care of some chicken wire fencing on the deck. I’ll let you know how that goes when I get around to that project….Went down stairs, got them from the closet, went back upstairs, and went to cut the bolt. At which point I realized you can’t use bolt cutters and hold the seat up to access the bolt without growing a third arm. Mutant powers not being one of my strengths, I grabbed the closest towel, used it as a prop and cut the bolt. This cause the towel to promptly fall into the toilet. Fished it out, hung it up, and will bleach it on laundry day. And at this point I learned that due to the shape and design of the American toilet seat and toilet there is no spinning the seat from any angle. Back under again. More time turning. At this point I’m really losing plastic and really getting nowhere. Then I decided the problem was from the top and sprayed the WD-40 at the top. I’m starting to worry now because this nut isn’t coming loose, and I’ve destroyed the other bolt so I can’t even reattached the icky seat if I wanted to. Now I’m starting to freak out. Back under again. Turning but no progress. So I have a small moment of madness. I grab the seat and start pulling. Suddenly the bolt pulls free of the nut and I’m staring in shock at the freed toilet seat. Clearly, I had been continuing to use proper tools after the point where brute force had become the answer.


Finally! I could put the new seat on. It was late and I was more than ready to be finished with the almost 2 hours long ’15 minute’ project. Turns out since the 80’s, the toilet seat making people got smart. Plastic screws and bolts. 20150701_231214

The new toilet seat went on in less than 5 minutes and I crashed into bed with a valuable lesson learned: No matter how easy or short a project is supposed to be, don’t start it at 9:30 at night.


I am officially a domestic goddess. With bolt cutters. And a shiny new toilet seat that does not shame my house.


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