I was up reading America's Cheapest Family, by Steve and Annette Economides and as I began reading the chapter about household consumption and water waste my toilet began to run for a minute or so, then turned off. It had been doing that a lot lately, and as I read through the chapter I was enlightened to find out what was often wrong with a constantly running toilet was a simple fix for less then five dollars and didn't require a plumbers professional skill to fix.
The Economides even gave an example of putting food dye in the tank of your toilet once it was full to see if the dye went in to the bowl before a secondary flush. If the food dye moved from the tank to the bowl you had a slow leak, which can typically be caused by the flapper being dried out leading to a poor seal. My son and I used a bath fizzy, because we were out of food dye. Low and behold, the dye was showing up in the bowl.
We bought a new flapper for about two dollars at the home supply store. I turned the water off to the tank, flushed to empty the tank, and removed the old one comparing old to new. The old one was stiff and felt a little brittle. The new one was bouncy and gave back when bent and released. All of a sudden I understood why there wasnt a good seal. It's recommended you change your flapper every year or two, and especially if you get the occasional toilet fill noise when no one has used the toilet recently. Funny, I remember a neighbor telling me the previous occupants of the house had complained of high water bills.....
After I flexed my plumbing muscles in the bathroom I decided to move on to the kitchen. The kitchen faucet had a nasty leak....it cost me about 20 dollars for a very generic fixture, and after watching some youtube videos I felt I could do this myself. Except the bolt underneath was rusted in place. The store I purchased the faucet from offered third party installation set up service. I decided to go with this for 100 dollars. This led to a huge cost savings. My normal plumber charges a 100 dollars to show up, and 25 dollars for every 15 minutes afterward, plus parts. Eesh!!!Here are the before and after pictures.
Between both changes, I'm saving a lot of water. It feels good to fix things. Both fixes combined cost me roughly 122 dollars. Not too shabby considering the cost if I had called a plumber to diagnose and fix everything. Of course, that's part of the intimidating part of owning a home, when you aren't handy, you know how much things can cost to have people come out and fix them. It's intimidating and daunting. What I would tell any new home owner is to slow down, get different quotes, ask someone you know who is older than you and has a home. Tell them what's going on and ask them what they would do? I dont know the Economides personally, but know they are a wise couple with great ideas and lots of knowledge. Their one small section about changing out a toilets flapper led me to not only fix my own but inspired me to do more by changing a leaky sink in to a properly working one. Little steps all add up.