I will confess up front. I was not taught a lot of do it yourself repair skills growing up. In retrospect that was not good. As a married man honey do lists come and you just have to tackle them. Wives do not care that you were sheltered growing up. They just want it fixed.
Thus you go fix it.
The problem emerges when you get into a project and it is way over your head. I call this the deep water. Many times you do not realize it until your looking back to shore and the shore is nowhere to be found. Sometimes that shore can be electrical wiring on the ceiling of your children's room or on a curtain rod downstairs. Use your imagination. No area do you find yourself venturing into the deep water more than plumbing. More specifically the toilet and the full line of exciting repairs that come with it.
The Toilet Is Not Working
Toilets break down. This is inevitable. It is not a question of if but when. I still am waiting for the creation of the super toilet that does not breakdown, clog, or have the irritating ghost flushing which ran my water bill up over $400 once. You are more likely to have this on your maintenance list than other projects, maybe even changing light bulbs. The idea of calling a plumber every time seems wasteful. On the other hand, a mistake here due to inexperience is going to cost you more if you do it yourself. So what do you do?
If your like me you get taught a lesson by going way over your head. Then you get to show the plumber all the mistakes you made when he or she has to come fix it. I would not recommend this strategy. Do not RELEARN this lesson unless you just have to get lost in the deep water of advanced home repair.
Repairable Elements On A Toilet
As a general rule there are four areas I think anyone can handle pretty easily on a toilet. How do I know this? Because they are simple procedures and I was able to do them. The chain, the flapper, the ball, and the lever are easy one step fixes. You go to the Do It Yourself Center, you ask the attendant their advice, buy the part, and go install it. If it is still not fixed call a plumber and cut your losses. Beyond simple fixes you are getting into things that will require experience and equipment you do not have.
As a general rule look at the thing that needs fixing. If it involves danger call an expert. If it has complicated stages call an expert. If it covers a small area and is cosmetic try it yourself. If it involves a simple repetitive process like painting, you can try it yourself. Anything with heights (danger) call an expert. If a project requires a lot of professional equipment do not do it unless you have done it before. Remember some simple criteria to determine whether to call an expert:
Is it dangerous?
Does it involve complicated stages?
Does it involve professional equipment?
There are more than this but this is not a bad starter list of criteria to use. Generally speaking electricity and heights will kill you. Cosmetic mistakes won't kill you but they might embarrass you. Professional equipment can be used if you have done it before.