Yes, today’s subject is the WC, the humble toilet. It’s one that almost every English person coming to France will almost certainly have to address at some time, especially if they buy an old house like I did, so we might as well get it over and done with. Mine was in a hideous shade of pink that didn’t match the rest of the bathroom, which is in white. Whoever had installed it in goodness knows when had managed to crack the foot of the pedestal when they’d tried to tighten the bolts holding it to the floor and had therefore decided to leave it as it was ie loose. And to cap it all, when I first moved in and was giving it a clean before using it, I’d let the cistern lid slide over on the tiled floor, breaking it in two places. I’d saved the day with super glue but it was obvious that the whole toilet would have to be replaced at some time. I’d been hoping to leave it until I ripped out and re-did the whole bathroom, but events took a hand.

The French toilet cistern works differently from what we’re used to in England. The English cistern uses a siphon system whereas the French merely opens up a tube in the bottom of the cistern allowing the water to flow out downwards into the toilet. As it’s a very simple system, it’s fine and dandy until the rubber sealing the tube begins to wear, at which time water flows constantly out of the cistern and into the toilet. This is what mine was doing. I’d managed to stop it for a while by putting in a new rubber but this only worked for a short time before the problem re-started.

So I decided I’d take matters firmly in hand by replacing my old toilet with a swanky new suspended design. Brico Depot have an offer going at the moment so I picked one up a couple of days ago and today I was so peeved with having to keep turning the toilet supply valve off to stop gallons of water being wasted every day that in the end I decided just to do it. I haven’t got a recent pic of what my old toilet looked like, after all, it’s not something that you photograph every day, is it? Anyway, here’s one I took when I originally viewed the house before buying it.

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It doesn’t look like much, but believe me, it was even worse in reality. I had visions of having to smash it out but after removing the aforementioned two bolts that didn’t hold it to the floor, I was able just to lift it out and carry it out into the garden. I did then have to attack the floor around the outlet pipe with a cold chisel, because the new suspended WC needs a vertical inlet no more than 14 centimetres from the wall, whereas the old one’s was over 23 centimetres. This was the only time when I was a bit concerned, because obviously I had no idea what I might find when I got under the floor. Here’s a pic of what I eventually found. Note the hole in the top of the pipe that I guess someone had made by accident, and then filled with a blob of silicone 😐

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I was pleased to find that whoever had fitted it had used a standard 100mm diameter PVC tube and that after breaking my way into the stones of the wall itself there is a joint just beyond the surface of the wall. At that point I nipped down to Les Briconautes and picked up a joint collar and a 90 degree bend together with a small can of PVC pipe jointing adhesive. It was only when I got these home and began to measure things up that I found that in order to get to the 14 cm distance limit that I’d mentioned earlier, I’d have to cut back the pipe in the floor and also the horizontal stub of the new 90 degree bend and also reduce the length of the jointing collar. Having done this it then occurred to me that I’d be better off having just a single 90 degree bend with female joints at both ends so off I went again to Les Briconautes to pick one up (only another 4€) plus a bag of concrete and a small bag of cement to make mortar with when I get to the finishing-off stage.

It was an interesting journey, because it appears that a classic car rally was using the route that I took. Initially, there was just an elderly grey, UK registered Sunbeam Talbot convertible with a strap over its bonnet in front of me, but later when I returned there was a stream of classic Astons, Jag D and E Types, Porsches, Healeys, Ferraris and lots of other types streaming past, together with all the support crews in vans with trailers. I did a quick search but haven’t yet managed to find out any more details.

Back home again, my thoughts about using the single bend were proven right, and in no time at all I had the pipe in the floor cut back and the new bend fitted, as the following picture shows.

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I’d used my angle grinder to make the cut edge of the pipe nice and straight and even though I was cutting plastic, I realised when it was too late that the machine itself was blowing clouds of dust into the air. I dashed to open the window and the kitchen door before it managed to penetrate the whole house again – what a nightmare that was 🙁 – but some must have. Making the new joint with the special adhesive was a piece of cake and then I was able to drop some of the stone I’d taken out earlier back into the hole and pour in some concrete to fill up the gaps and support the pipe.

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The above pic shows from the footprint of the old toilet pedestal just how much I’ve managed to move the outlet pipe back. I’m just relieved I was able to do so as easily as I did. I’m not quite at the making good stage yet, I still have to finish breaking out the old tiles around the edges of the hole, but it won’t be long before I’ll be able to fit the metal frame to take the new WC. Until then I won’t have a toilet, so I won’t go into what that means in reality. I’ll just leave it to each individual reader’s imagination 😉

Foot note to today. It was exactly one year ago today that my UK house sale completed, I finished loading up the 7.5 tonne van with the help of my son and step-son, that I’d hired to bring my stuff down to France and started my journey that night to my new life in France.