life projects imitate work

Life Projects Imitate Work When Fixing a Toilet: Project Management Best Practices

Sometimes, life projects imitate work projects. They go terribly wrong. But, with perseverance, they can turn out OK in the end.

That was the case when I tried to fix our powder room toilet this past weekend. Every time it was flushed, the water filling the tank would intermittently stop and start, like it was having prostate issues. Except (of course) it’s a toilet.

Let’s be honest, I’m not a very handy guy around the house. Sure, I can get some things done, like changing light bulbs and what not, but I’m pretty limited.


But I thought I could certainly handle this – a simple replacement of the toilet fill valve. So, I bought one from Home Depot, brought it home, grabbed some tools, went into the bathroom, turned the shut off valve off at the toilet, flushed to empty the tank, put a bucket underneath to catch any excess dripping water and started removing the old toilet fill valve. I got this!

Turns out that one of those steps wasn’t done correctly, but it didn’t become apparent until I had removed the water supply line from the old toilet fill valve – I hadn’t fully turned off the water like I thought I had.

Suddenly, water starts gushing from the hose, going everywhere. Crap! And I can’t seem to turn the shut off valve enough to stop it. It was like a bad dream. Out of desperation, I went into the kitchen and turned off the shut off valve for the entire house. I don’t got this!

Water was not only all over the powder room floor, it even seeped under the baseboards into the entry way on one side and into the garage on the other side. I grabbed every rag towel we had to try to sop up the water and it wasn’t enough – I also needed to use 1 1/2 rolls of paper towels to clean up the rest of the water.


When my wife Paige saw me running around like crazy, she asked what was going on, so I had to be honest and told her what happened. Her response: “we need to call a plumber, honey.” I couldn’t argue with that.

After cleaning up the mess, I was finally able to get the shut off valve turned off to the point that I could turn back on the main water. There was a small drip coming from the shut off valve, so I placed a bucket under the knob to catch the drips. It would hold for the night.

The next morning, I called and left a message for the plumber. He responded with a text asking what the problem was with the toilet, so I responded with a text message explaining what happened and that I needed help. He asked for a picture of the tank. I sent one of the tank and one of the shut off valve.

Here was his response verbatim:

“Okay we’ll have to replace toilet and replace shut off valve and supply line. Your looking at about 375”.

WTF?!? $375? Based off looking at two pictures over text?!? And don’t get me started on the grammar… 😉

After getting that response (and having washed and dried all our rag towels), I decided something radical. I was going to try again.

So, while Paige was upstairs on the treadmill (because I knew she would try to talk me out of it), I took the new toilet fill valve out of the package, put it into the tank, pushed the supply line up into it, tightened everything up and said a short prayer.

Then I s.l.o.w.l.y turned the shut off valve back on.

No gushing of water, but there was a very small drip from the valve. After tightening it some more, the drip appeared to be gone. Did a couple of test flushes and everything was working. I did it!

So, I responded to the plumber via text. Here is what I said verbatim:

“Never mind, I think I fixed it. I replaced the fill valve, tightened everything up, turned on the water, and it seems to be working. No leak as far as I can tell. I would never pay 375 for anyone to rebuild a toilet without having even physically looked at it first. Thanks.”

He didn’t respond. Shocking! 😉

So, here’s what I took away from this little temporary fiasco as reminders that could apply to any project, including work projects.

Clean up your messes.

Own up to your mistakes.

If you get a quote from a provider that seems high, shop around or find another solution.

Know your limitations, but don’t be afraid to expand them and try again.

So, what do you think? Do you have any “almost” disasters you would like to share, in work or in life? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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