I got a text from a friend last week asking me if I could fix her toilet, which had broken. She sent me a couple of pictures and I knew right away how to fix it. I texted her back that all I needed to do was pick up a replacement for the broken part and swap it out. We agreed on a price and set a date for the next day.
I looked up the part, and found two models that would fit,
Fluidmaster push button toilet flush lever;
And this one:
American Standard pushbutton toilet flush lever.
Home Depot’s website said they carried the Fluidmaster, so I planned accordingly.
The next day I got on the train and headed downtown to Home Depot on 23rd Street, and the plan was to pick up the part and head over to her house to do the installation. Simple, no?
Then reality sunk in. I looked at all the flush levers in stock, they only stocked two, really, and neither one was the Fluidmaster push button. I asked a sales associate for help.
“Oh, no, we don’t carry those. We used to have them at the Northern Boulevard store when I worked there, but we don’t carry them here.” There is no way I’m going to Jackson Heights for this thing.
I knew there was a hardware store near her home, so I got on a crosstown bus and started making my way down to the East Village. Turns out True Value didn’t have it either. I called her and she said to try again the next day.
I know of a place where they boast carrying even obsolete and discontinued plumbing parts, New York Replacement parts on Lexington Avenue and 94th Street. When I worked as a handyman at 144 I was a regular there, the super would send me there to get stuff, including the elusive push button flush levers, as we had Toto toilets in the building that used them. They would have it.
So early the following day I made my way down to 96th Street and got on the crosstown bus to Lexington Avenue. I got to NY Replacement and got in the long line of plumbers, handymen, and supers waiting for service.
NY Replacement parts is one of those old-timey places where blue-collar guys in blue tee shirts behind the counter help you get what you need. When my turn came I told the guy what I needed.
“For what kind of toilet?”
“It’s called Neo-Metro urban toilet.”
“I never heard of that. You got a picture?” I showed him the picture my friend had sent.
“That’s an American Standard.”
“OK, I’ll take one.” The guy went to the depths of the store for my part. He came back seconds later.
“I’m all out. We stock them, but I’m out right now. Call me Friday afternoon.” He gave me a business card and wrote down the part number. I called my friend with the bad news.
“That’s OK, call me when you get the part.”
That was on Wednesday, and on Thursday Danusia and I went to a Russian friends’ wedding reception, more of a small gathering in Long Island City. I looked for plumbing stores in L.I.C. on line to see if maybe I could kill two birds with one stone. No luck.
The party was in a common area on the roof of the building and I got these great pics from up there. The groom, a guy named Nicolai made some awesome skewers of beef and vegetables on the grill.
Friday I went out to far Rockaway with Danusia to clean an apartment and throw my dad’s ashes in the Atlantic Ocean, so I never got to call the plumbing store, but I did check on line and the Home Depot in the Bronx Terminal market claimed to have the part.
Saturday morning I got on the Bx6 bus to goo across the Harlem River to the Home Depot there. Of course, they didn’t have the push-button lever.
I did find a regular lever that would work, you see this toilet not only uses a rare lever, but the lever is mounted on the side, not the front. But Home Depot had a side mounted Kholer lever in chrome that would work. I bought it, thinking that it would at least fix the problem until I could get the real thing; it looked more and more like I was going to have to order it on line.
I made it down to my friend’s apartment just as she was leaving for work, and I explained what I was going to do, and she said fine.
It took a little fine-tuning with a hair dryer, the plastic lever was the wrong shape for the tank and I had to heat and bend it at just the right angle for it to work.
Satisfied, I put the cover back on the tank and left.
I got a call later from my friend, and she said; “that’s a different lever, it doesn’t push in.” I guess she didn’t listen carefully to my explanation in the morning. I told her that I was ordering the right part and would swap it out once I got it.
I ordered the part from Amazon yesterday, after first checking with N.Y. Replacement parts.
“No we didn’t get them yet. Try again on Wednesday.” Right.
So now I’m waiting for the part, and some advice to friends remodeling their bathrooms.
Some toilets are like foreign cars; they are hard to get parts for. They might look cooler than run of the mill American cars (or toilets) but be prepared to spend extra time and money if you have a problem.