any old school plumbing experts around?

hunziJanuary 26, 2014

I'm looking for a vintage toilet for our latest bathroom project. No judging! I think my 90yr old pipes like 5 gal flushes.

I promised my hubbie no more back/top spud versions like the one on the 2nd floor (1925 original to the house) - so I need a vintage close coupled toilet!

I've located a 1946 Kohler Wellworth at the local salvage yard. Looks like the china is in good shape on 1st look, I'll go back and give it a better exam before I buy it.

My question is, is there anything funky about the plumbing? Any super impossible to find parts (like Case Toilets are notorious for!) Any notorious problem parts like weird leather gaskets or the little flush flaps on the Cranes with the Styrofoam that falls off?

I'm assuming we'd need to basically replace everything, gaskets, bolts, fill & flush valves. I prefer OEM, but if they aren't available I'll take whatever works.

My favorite old school plumbing supply guy has had a heart attack recently and the inside sales is closed. Sadness, so I don't have my usual source of info. Please help!

Always ;-)

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Our house was built in 1940 and it still has the original toilet in the basement. The brand on it is "Standard" on the tank and on the bowl it has "Standard", and what appears to be "Modern US" underneath.

Most of this toilet seems to work fine with modern parts. The tank is connected to the bowl with a short, large diameter curved galvanized pipe, so the tank must be mounted on the wall behind the toilet. Other than that it seems to be much like a modern toilet.

Its not the greatest toilet for clearing solids, although it does work okay if you hold the handle down for a few seconds and let the full tank of water wash through the bowl.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 9:08PM
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What you have is a Standard "Modernus", and I seriously envy you!!! It's similar to what we have upstairs in our house in the 1925 bathroom (in that it's a rear spud) , but ours doesn't have the cool modern look (which would work great in this new bathroom). It's one of the spud toilets I've looked at many times with a bit of desire!

I promised the hubbie a "normal toilet" this time. And I can't just buy one for our powder room and just swap toilets, because that bathroom is a 12in rough, but if I found one of those toilets before the concrete in the basement bathroom is poured and locks in the rough in (most spuds toilets are 14in vs 12in)...all bets are off.

Always ;-)
if the toilet in your basement is mysteriously wasn't me

This post was edited by hunzi on Mon, Jan 27, 14 at 0:01

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 11:56PM
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The old Kohler should use standard parts. Eljer is known for proprietary parts that can be difficult to find.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 7:32AM
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Thank you!!!

That also helps me rule out any Eljers (which I saw at the ReStore & salvage yard) from the running for replacements!

Any other brands I should be watching for or avoiding? I saw some Gerbers and Briggs toilets at the salvage yard. I've heard the older Kohler Cadets were problem toilets.

I really would like an old elongated bowl toilet (request from the man in the house!) for my powder room too (to replace the round bowl 1980s toilet there now). If you know any brands/models that were especially good or bad, please feel free to share!

The 46 Kohler Wellworth I'm looking at is a strong possible for the basement bathroom where I really need a round bowl due to the space issues. I'll check with the local plumbing suppliers and see if I can locate all the needed parts.

Always ;-)

This post was edited by hunzi on Mon, Jan 27, 14 at 13:42

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 1:39PM
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I just removed a '36 Wellworth. It is a first year model. I wrote a note to Herb Kohler saying they should copy that design. It is in excellent shape. I had all ready replaced the guts of the toilet. It is heading to my daughters basement bathroom. You should be good with simple plumbing supply house parts. The toilet is in remarkable shape given its age and what it has been through.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 8:08PM
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Thank you both bus driver and Jackfre!

I think I'll head back to the yard and see how the china looks again and hopefully take my new old toilet home!

Any tips on how to clean/soak out the limescale from the trapways when it's too cold to use a hose outdoors? I'm thinking of using a big concrete pan to catch the CLR
but I can't use a hose when it's negative eleventy million windchills outside.

Any other tips?

In other plumbing adventures, I also picked up a 48 Crane Drexel sink and a 39 Standard Shelfback sink. ;-)

Always ;-)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 1:48AM
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Ok, just one more set of dumb questions:

Since my old school plumbing supply guy is still out of commission, I doubt I can sweet talk my way into any of the other pro shops, leaving me with the big Orange & Blue boxes as options.

So let's talk Fluidmasters. I would want to replace both the Fill and Flush valves. (Plus I'll be replacing all tank bolts and gaskets.)

Fill valve question - can I get a fluidmaster fill valve that will fill a 5-7 gallon 1940s tank? I know that sounds like a dumb question, but is it just a matter of adjusting the valve to be long enough to reach the waterline marked on the tank - I just want to be sure all the "water saving" features they promote won't leave me short of water.

Same sort of question with the flush valve - can I get the amount of water out of the tank I need?

Bonus question: if any or all Fluidmasters will work for me, I'm intrigued by the Dual Flush idea, which might let me save a little water, and still get the job done of getting enough water down the 90yr old 4inch pipes to move things along, but one of the things I love about this old 1946 Kohler is it still has it's original flush handle - I know those Dual Flush valves supply a handle so you can push it up for #1 and down for #2 - has anyone tried to use their OEM handle with the FM mechanism? As in just to replace their chrome (or whatever they use) bits back to original look, keeping the rest intact.

I know this is nitpicking, but if I have to choose between Dual Flush and original flush lever, I'll keep the old chrome and 5 gal flushes for #1.

Always ;-)
nitpicky on the look of things but demands good performance too!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Alas. My love affair with this particular Wellworth has ended.

The salvage yard guy was amused when I showed up with my gloves, tape measure, a flashlight and a towel - looked inside and out with my flashlight checking for cracks, laid the china over on the towel so I wouldn't scratch it up and didn't even need the flashlight to see that part of the china that mates to the closet flange was totally broken.

Oh well, there's always next time. Really wanted an elongated bowl anyway. I have time...DH hasn't poured the concrete yet.

They do have a 1960 Kohler Bolton that looked decent - anyone know anything about those??

Always ;-)
wants vintage from the salvage yard for $40 and fix it up herself, so she isn't tempted to buy from the architectural salvage restorer guys for $700 plus shipping!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 2:56PM
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I'm no expert, Hunzi, but I just put a Fluidmaster valve in our 1955 American Standard, and it was readily adjustable to fill our tank -probably in the range of 5 + gallons- in less than 90 seconds. I don't think I had adjusted it to the top of its range, either.

It cost less than eight bucks at a big box store and went in in half an hour. Since I didn't replace or adjust the flapper the toilet has a built in ability to do a "full flush" or "half flush" depending on how long you hold the handle down. The short flush will clear #1 easily and refill takes about 25 seconds! The full flush clears everything and refill takes a minute to a minute and a half. Barely time to wash your hands!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:59PM
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