the curious case of the exploding toilet :: a True Story
When Steve B. returned home from a seven-day vacation — this is what he found:
Approximately 2″ of water in his basement.
A saturated master bedroom carpet.
2 full sheets of sheetrock lying on his bed.
A recent wallpapering job peeled down . . . and . . .
He found the source of the damage listed above — a toilet in his upstairs bath had apparently exploded.
Okay, it didn’t explode — the exploding toilet, its tank had developed a rather large crack that ran from its base all the way up to the flush handle.
The worst nightmare
Steve lives in Ellicott City in a 2500+ sf contemporary that he had built in the ’80s. This particular toilet sits in a second floor bath immediately above his master bedroom. Living alone, it is not used frequently.
At this point, we do not know why and how this happened. And I really do not want to speculate on it too much. My immediate feeling is — it is possible that a small crack had gone unnoticed from the time the toilet tank bolts were cranked down.
Was this the original toilet? I am not sure.
The reality is that regardless of how or why it happened — it happened. And if you ever wondered what kind of water a toilet inlet, unrestricted by a fill valve, can put out in a week — this is your answer. Enough water to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Did the crack begin to stretch before he left for vacation? I am not sure. My guess is – the condition appeared shortly after he pulled out of his driveway on his way to fun, sun, and relaxation.
This has got me thinking — how could this have been prevented? I mean, if you are like me — five o’clock Friday the week before vacation, I am packed and ready to slide down the dinosaur’s back.
Arrangements made for all ours animals — with our cats, someone is always paid to come in, feed them, clean the litter, and to check for anything weird around the house.
With that little tidbit worked out — mail on hold, windows and doors locked, security system engaged, and a few strategic lights turned on — We are out the door without a second thought to the oven or the ironing board.
A Vacation Checklist
I did a quick search of both Google and Bing this morning, and came up with a few decent articles on “How to prepare your home for a vacation.” Surprisingly few results were actually returned, but I will link below to a pretty comprehensive list provided by doityourself.com.
Outside of the basics (mail, security, yard, plants, pets, and plugs), these are the first two things that pop into my head. 1. Most traditional hot water heaters have a vacation setting on their thermostat — why not use it. 2. I usually set my heating/cooling thermostat by season (override programmables) to a position that won’t melt my pets in the summer and/or freeze my pipes in the winter.
And this is the advice I would typically go with. But Steve’s situation has caused me to rethink my short list: What is stopping you from shutting off the house main when going away for anything more than a day or two? An irrigation system might have me revising this advice, but I think — nothing. Only takes a twist of a valve.
Further — where gas/propane/etc. applies — why not shut the gas main off (only in the summer months of course)? Sure you will find yourself possibly re-lighting pilots, but — most newer appliances are equipped with automatic pilots, and this process probably wouldn’t take more than a half an hour at start up. Besides this inconvenience — can you think of any reason not to?
Yes, I was on vacation with Steve last week. He is my mom’s long time boyfriend. And this is how I come across this story. Amazing really and I know I (with my limited knowledge) have never heard anything like it.
When my wife and I got the call after we arrived home, all I could say was — “Wow! Take pictures, call the insurance company, and start drying her out.” The problem here — Steve was not sure whether or not his policy would cover this kind of water damage. Double Wow!
Anyway, I will try to get my hands on pictures and keep you abreast of the restoration process.
>> More Moxie (Related Thoughts and Links):
We have all heard or seen condensating toilets. Could this have been a factor advancing a small crack? Possibly — but I will stop there. What do you think?
Preparing Your Home for a Great Vacation :: doityourself.com: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/hotelgetaways
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About jb bartkowiak (311 posts)
A one-time construction manager, and always handyman, turned blogger and editor - Your Home Project Assistant. My wife, Jen, and I are on our 6th property (. . . yes, together). She is a real estate agent. We have two beautiful daughters Evyn and Eva. We currently live and are restoring an 1889 farmhouse in Baltimore's Lauraville area.