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Easy DIY #75 Replace A Toilet Cistern

Toilet cisterns are probably one of the last things most people will ever think of, at least until they start to give them trouble. In this episode I’ll tell you how I replaced a cistern, and how you can too!

Somewhere along the line, someone thought making toilet cisterns out of thin, brittle plastic was a good idea. Trouble is, they wear out. The plastic becomes brittle, turns yellow or cracks and flakes off, and as time goes by, you begin to realize you have a potential flood situation threatening your bathroom! I mean, one hard knock, and that fragile plastic box could come apart, sending a flood of cold water spilling all over that nice neat bathroom, which would mean a lot of scrambling about to turn off water mains and blocking off the inlet valve – not to mention cleaning up!

It’s a nightmare, right?

Over the years I’d realized the approaching need to replace our cistern, and when it came down to it, I planned ahead. I went looking for a nice replacement cistern, starting at some of the big hardware stores. Not only were these fairly expensive, they were also very pretty to look at and came in a variety of styles and materials, varying from the cheaper plastic to the more expensive porcelain. I didn’t mind laying out cash for a good quality new cistern… trouble was, they only seem to make them in smaller sizes these days. I hate that, don’t you? The point of a smaller cistern, allegedly, is to reduce water usage which they do by limiting the amount of water available on hand for each flush… which essentially means you invariably need to flush two or three times to do the job of one single more powerful flush that you would get from a larger cistern. This sort of false-economy pretense is annoying, that’s what it is.

So I went looking at a breaker’s yard for recycled or used cisterns, and found a lovely porcelain item in a light blue color to match our bathroom tiles. It cost me just fifty ronts and aside from a little cleaning up and effort to remove some old plumbing fixtures from it, there was nothing wrong with it. Best part was, it was a proper cistern, not one of the more expensive, half-scale imitations that make flushing a chore.

I started by turning off the water cock that fed the cistern, which allowed the cistern to stay empty once I’d drained it by flushing. Then I removed the flush mechanism, handle and the float and valve. Then I unscrewed the overflow pipe on the side of the cistern, which led through the wall beside it. After that I unscrewed the flush tube that leads from the cistern to the toilet bowl, and then it was safe to unscrew the cistern from its wall mountings.

Once free from the wall, I took the old plastic cistern outside to deal with later. (I reused the old PVC cistern in the garden as a planter. Once painted green, it blended right in, and now it contains my gooseberry bush!) Then I took the replacement porcelain one to the bathroom to measure and fit where it would need to be mounted. Fortunately it had the same mounting holes in the same place, and all I needed to do was to fit it using new, stronger screws. Due to the different positioning of various holes, I had to modify the original layout. For example, I had to shorten the flush tube at the top because the replacement cistern reached lower down than the old one. The overflow pipe in the wall had to be closed up because the porcelain one had a different arrangement, allowing the excess water to drain into the toilet bowl instead. I used crack filler to close the hole and once dry, painted over it so that it matched the tile grout. I also replaced the old ball and arm float water regulator valve with a new float chamber mechanism, and connected it to the water pipe in the wall with a braided stainless steel pipe, and added another water cock inside the bathroom for convenience.

Once all that was done, all I needed to do was open the valves, refill the cistern, check for leaks, and try it out! Not only does it all work as well as it did before, I no longer need to worry about those cracks and thin spots in the old plastic cistern giving way and flooding the bathroom! It also looks much prettier!

That’s all for this time! Pictures included!

Have a DIY day!


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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2021.

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