DIY-Toilet Repair an Early Retirement Extreme Like Analysis

Many of the blogs that I read on a regular basis are DIY kind of guys and girls.  Mr. Money Mustache takes a vacation and works on fixing his grandmother’s roof, Early Retirement Extreme describes himself as — a combination of simple living, anti-consumerism, DIY ethics, self-reliance, and applied capitalism and the reason for the breakdown of this post as I’m currently reading his book,  1500 Days does kitchen remodels and used to flip houses in his spare time.  Then there is Even Steven Money.  What does he do when things go wrong or need to be fixed?  I DIY of course………Let the Story and Analysis Begin

As we began to go about the process of renewing our renter’s lease, they brought up a couple concerns that needed some attention.  Like any good landlord, I came and looked at it that same day.  They have not asked for anything in 2 years of renting, they are good honest people and I was more than happy to take a look.  First a confession, I don’t know $*** about anything that needs to be fixed, but I wanted to check everything out and see if I could solve the issue, you know Do It Yourself.


Toys from 1984, pictures are even grainy for effect! Click to See More.

First off the toilet, who doesn’t love getting their hands in the back of a toilet on a Monday night?!?!  Monday night football, no thank you, toilet repair is for me.  The renter explained the issue and I went through the steps to see the problem, there was a lack of water flow coming into the toilet which caused it to take an hour or more to fill up.  I was already a little nervous coming to check things out since I don’t know $*** about fixing stuff in general, so I looked at our toilet and searched Google for a few things to see if that would help.  I opened it up and shortly after I realized we would have to replace the whole system inside, it looked like it was from about 1984, which is a great year for the A-Team and Barbie Dream Store but not a great year to to still have the same toilet fill valve.  At this point I had 2 options:

  1. Go to Homedepot, buy a toilet repair kit and fix it myself
  2. Call my contractor/plumber to come in and fix it

OK all you frugal money saving DIY junkies what would you do?

The Breakdown

While I made it sound really simple, we(because we are now in this together) need to weigh our choices.  With both choices it is going to come down to 3 things:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • Knowledge and Enjoyment


Choice #1 or DIY

The cost assuming it is just replacing the parts would cost about $25 for the Toilet Repair kit and probably another $5 for the Toilet Supply Connector, I should have any screw drivers and wrenches needed since I have most of that from my Dad giving me his duplicate tools.  The great news is in choice #1 or DIY, the labor is free, because it is me doing all the work while the lovely Mrs. Even Steven Money watches YouTube clips on how to replace and install the item, all while the renters sit in the living room and watch TV, if we are lucky they will watch us the whole time because they realize we don’t know what we are doing.

Total Cost #1-$30

Choice #2 or Call a Guy

Call my contractor and/or plumber and make sure I get the best price with a simple phone call.  My contractor was busy this week so we needed to branch out.  We are big fans of Yelp when it comes to ratings and reviews, I have heard of Angie’s List, but I have never used this paid subscription service.  Has anyone else used Angie’s List, please tell me in the comments your opinion?  We decided to call someone with the best reviews and that was local to us, we also looked for any reviews that mentioned specific cost and of course reasonable.  I called the plumber but they were out of the office and the message said they would call me back when the workday was over to my surprise working with contractors they did which was great as this can actually be the most difficult part.  The estimate after I told them what was wrong with the toilet was $135 for a service call and he figured $20-30 for parts if it was what I explained, he said to send a picture for confirmation, but I felt pretty confident this is what needed to be done.

Total Cost #2-$155

Cost Winner:  

DIY Option #1 by $125.  I know everyone wants to stop right there.  It costs $125 more, save money DIY, suck it up and figure it out.  Let’s analyze some other factors before the fat lady starts singing.


Choice #1 or DIY

In both choices we evaluated the situation which would be an equal amount of time for each choice so I will leave this out for both.  First stop at the Home Depot.  I live in Chicago so the closest HD to me is about 3 or 4 miles away which in Chicago time is about 20-30 minutes each way. Ok we are now on HD property let’s buy some Man Stuff or a Toilet Repair kit, whatever.  In this case I would probably talk with the HD guy/gal and ask a few questions just to see if they have any tips or anything else that I might need for the installation.  Let’s call it another 20-30 minutes in the store.  Alright back to the house and we are ready to start the Toilet Project.  Right now we are 60-90 minutes into the process, but we are ready to begin?!

Quick glance at this amazing thing called the internet, they have all sorts of handy tutorials and video’s to show you how to do anything from replace a toilet to the common toilet repairs.  I chose to look at Pretty Handy Girl’s description because it had tons of pictures and since I can’t fix $***, pictures work best.  Everything I read said it would take 20-30 minutes, which based on my expertise is probably being kind, so I am going to double the time and call it 40-60 minutes.  Our final time count is 100-150 minutes, so a little less than 2 hours or a touch over 2 hours, let’s just call it 2 hours.

Total Time #1-100-150 minutes or estimated 2 hours

Choice #2 or Call a Guy

This is an easy one to keep track of, my total talk time was 2 minutes 49 seconds.  I then texted the renter, estimated time to make it easy 11 seconds.

Total Time #2-3 minutes

Time Winner:  

Call a Guy by a landslide in the time category, what would have taken me an estimated 2 hours I can get done in 3 minutes, that’s as large as the cost factor.  What do all the rich guys say in the movies, “Time is Money”.

Knowledge and Enjoyment-Early Retirement Extreme Sidetrack

While we make a lot of decisions and especially in the PF blogging world on cost and time spent, I think one thing we fail to interpret is the “feelings” behind our decision.  I know Even Steven doesn’t have feelings or what are you going to cry writing about toilets and money give me a break.  It is talked about infrequently because it’s such a hard if not impossible area to assign a number or simple yes/no decision, yet is the third part of the equation.  I put together a simple equation to show my thought process.

Cost X Time=Financial Decision

Cost X Time + Knowledge and Enjoyment=Financial and Emotional Decision

When the third factor is used, this is when decisions become more difficult because our emotions and individual thoughts and feelings are involved. Similar to why you will hear Paying off a Mortgage early and paying off debt versus investing argued over and over because emotion is a factor in each decision.  While the equation would figure differently, the emotional decision is still a factor.

(Investment Rate of Return + Outstanding Mortgage) or (Paid of Mortgage Rate of Return + Emotion of Paid off Home)=Financial Decision and Emotional Decision

Knowledge and Enjoyment-The Real Breakdown

Knowledge and Enjoyment-Option #1 DIY

So you can’t accurately measure that I received X worth of knowledge or Y worth of enjoyment from fixing or not fixing our renter’s toilet and if you can you are a better person than I.  Let’s stick with what I know, how I interpret each scenario

In this case I would have learned how to fix a toilet, this would come in handy the next time a toilet was broken or had a similar problem.  I would have the confidence and wherewithal to complete the task.  This knowledge could in turn save me money over the long term since to my knowledge toilets need fixing more than once in someone’s lifetime and since I have multiple toilet’s the factor would go up.  If the parts are the only cost, this could be measured as we would figure out the number of times this cost would occur and then figure out the cost savings multiple over time.  Enjoyment for me is going to be pretty low, I’m not an engineer I don’t love taking things apart and putting them back together instead it’s usually me taking things apart and then realizing I broke something only to buy a new one or ask someone more handy to fix what I took apart, realistically this might have happened if I did the DIY Toilet fix, but I was being optimistic.  Let’s say I did fix the toilet on my own, then a factor of pride and accomplishment does factor into the enjoyment portion.  I’m not sure I’m telling my friends I can fix a toilet or posting it on Facebook and Twitter for the masses, but the imaginary pat on the back is smacking away with the that a boys and congratulations from the imaginary crowd.

Knowledge and Enjoyment-Call a Guy #2

Despite not receiving any knowledge of how to DIY for fixing a toilet, I learned a few things in other areas from this option.  I learned a quality plumber in the area I can trust at a good rate and reliable service.  This is especially important in my future plans of early retirement, because our travels and living arrangements will take us frequently out of Chicago and into Miami if the plan stays to course.  I certainly wouldn’t fly back to Chicago to fix a toilet, I would Call a Guy Call My Guy to come and fix the issue.  Enjoyment for this category is not in making the actual phone call, but rather the 2 hours I received in return for skipping the DIY Toilet Project.  Since this would have taken place after work, I most likely would have skipped 1 of 3 things, 1) Walking my Siberian Husky 2) Cooking for my wife 3) Spending quality time with my wife.  Since I enjoy all 3 of these things my enjoyment would have been very high.  Even if it were spent watching TV, working on eBay, or writing on this blog, I enjoy every one of those and it would have been taken away.

Knowledge and Enjoyment Winner:

 Looking at this one I’m going to call this a draw, #1 DIY can save you future costs, but I’m not sure if that same enjoyment comes with fixing the toilet for the 5th time, I think if it did I probably would be a plumber.  #2 Call a Guy I was able to take away some knowledge for part of my long term goals, but in the next 6 years before early retirement this cost could be exceptionally high if this is a reoccurring issue.  The enjoyment of spending time with my wife, dog, or spending time on other activities is higher on my enjoyment list.  It’s tough you know what I’m still calling this a draw.



I need some help on this one based on my breakdown who is the overall winner?  Have you been in this situation in your own house or as a landlord?  Would you DIY or Call a Guy?

18 Responses to “DIY-Toilet Repair an Early Retirement Extreme Like Analysis

  • I’d always go the DIY route for the knowledge. The first time may take you hours, but then the 2nd time will be much easier. You’ll build confidence too.

    In this case, I would have considered the toilet too. We bought really nice, low water ones for about $100. A toilet can be swapped out in about 10 minutes and the only additional cost is a wax ring (~$3).

    Now I’m getting more off topic, but when we remodeled our home, we used the exact same toilet in all 3 places. We then bought one set of replacement parts. When one toilet decides to go belly up, we’ll be all ready to fix it.

    And oh man, i remember living in Chicago and Oak Park. Both Home Depots were a pain. Like you said, just getting there and back was a chore. I LOVE the city, but don’t miss stuff like that.

    Thanks for the mention!
    Mr. 1500 recently posted…Thursday Anti-Rant: Life Ain’t BadMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      That’s a good move for the toilet, very contractor/house builder of you. I think if the fix is in my own unit, I am more likely to take the time and effort to fix the issue, since it was a renter I felt like a professional was the best route despite the extra cost.

      I’m ready for that pizza, especially one paid for by you!

      • I can understand not going the DIY route on a rental too. Home repairs can be scary enough on your property. You definitely don’t want to both things up for your tenant.

        I’m gonna send you an email right now. Maybe we should have a little meetup with others too?
        Mr. 1500 recently posted…Thursday Anti-Rant: Life Ain’t BadMy Profile

  • I would go the DIY way. Like Mr. 1500 said, at first it might take you some time, but you’ll realize that is not worth paying a plumber for such an easy fix. Some things you have to pay, but most things we can do it ourselves and save us money and earn that “Man Card”

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Did I get my “Man Card” taken away? I have a beard and wear a flannel shirt, can I have it back?

  • I am perhaps much more like you where I truly lack the DIY skills. But Mr 1500 brought up a good point about maybe switching out the toilet itself, grants MOST of your time spent is going back and forth to the store, you would save some time, and have less areas in which could be screwed up. I need to eventually replaced a toilet and sink in one of my bathrooms… it is probably from 1980 when the house was built. But it still works right now.
    Kipp recently posted…Income and Expense for August 14My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I think it’s perfectly fine to fix items on your own. I guess I get a little customer focused on this one since they are our renter. For example would you fix your customer’s car if you didn’t know how to fix it or would you have a professional do it and pay the price? I feel like you do a little more for your customer, am I way off on this one?

  • I grew up watching my dad fix our toilet and decided it’s something I never ever want to do. That being said, there are several other things I’d be totally fine doing it myself.
    Ben @ The Wealth Gospel recently posted…My Life Insurance Policy is Better Than YoursMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      No toilets, got it. Sounds like it’s not the DIY part but more a childhood I told myself I would never do this, so I won’t, I can respect that.

  • +1 for just swapping out the toilet if it’s old. Newer toilets are not only more water efficient (which is nice, but doesn’t matter if you are landlording), but the are also better at avoiding clogs. That does matter!

    I’m always of the DIY persuasion. It’s not always fun, but I don’t honestly think I’d make a better financial return with those hours if I called a pro. Plus doing DIY makes you feel like a badass every time you walk by a finished project. 🙂
    Mr. Frugalwoods recently posted…How We Manage Our Household FinancesMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I’ve thought about the actual financial return in calling a pro, like during the time that he was there, was I actually making money, in this rare case yes since I was at work during the time he was there. Most of the time I don’t think this would be the case.

      The Bad*** part does factor in to the equation. If it happens to my toilet, I’m going DIY, I’m ready……..

  • We ran into this same dilemma a couple of weeks ago – we needed a new garage door opener. It was $99 to have some guy from Home Depot come out and install it. We aren’t avid DIYers, so we were estimating 5-6 hours plus probably at least one trip up to the hardware store for something we forgot. Ultimately we paid the $99 – and we don’t regret it… trying to install a garage door opener in the hot Houston summer with two toddlers underfoot – totally worth it!
    Mrs SSC recently posted…WTF Student LoansMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I’m 100% with you on this one. We installed one light fixture(trip #1 to HD), realized we couldn’t install the other(trip #2 to HD), and turned off the electricity in 2 rooms(i’ll pretend that we were able to turn it back on), my guess the electrician would be worth it right now. Candle light is the new thing right???

  • For clogs, try using baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water. Let the baking soda and vinegar flush in the drain, followed by boiling water..

    This doesn’t work well with plastic pipes though.

  • Saving as much as you can! I always love DIY projects. It adds my learning on dealing things on my own. Thanks for sharing!

Trackbacks & Pings

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  • DIY Landlord and Property Management | Even Steven Money :

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  • October Mentions, Affiliate Links and Getting Fired by Amazon | Even Steven Money :

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