Notes from Windward: #67


Back to the Bath

turning our attention to indoor work

  December 19:

     Now that the critical outdoor work is done, and especially since this December is an especially wet one, we're turning our attention back to some of our indoor projects such as the dining hall's bathroom.

     After a bit more work on the sheet rock, the next step was to put a coat or two of primer on the walls and ceiling.


     At our favorite salvage shop, we were able to find a nice faux-marble counter top with a built in sink, so the first step was to build a carcase to fit.


     A final check to see that the counter actually does fit the carcase, and it's time to remove the carcase and paint the wall.


  December 23:

     Painting the bathroom has been a most pleasant winter pass time given the warmth of the kitchen's woodstove, and the great smells created by all the holiday baking going on. Haven't put any thing up on the web though since the old saying of something being about as exciting as watching paint dry describes the last couple of work sessions, but now that the paint is dry, it's fun to mount the lights and outlet covers, and see the bathroom starting to look like a finished room.

Karen puts the finishing touch on one of the new light fixtures

     There's still a good deal of work to do--indeed, there's a lot of work to do in order to get ready to lay all the tile that's going in there--but it's to the point where it's starting to feel like a bathroom.

  December 24:

     One advantage of our seasonal approach to projects is that while we're working on other things, we're often able to track down needed materials in the re-use market or at auction. For a variety of good reasons, we take delight in being able to salvage materials that are as good as--and in many cases better--than currently available materials. The dining hall's bath is a good example in that most of the fixtures, from the sink to the toilet to the medicine cabinet, have been acquired off-market.


     Today, we installed a three-door mirrored medicine cabinet that I found this summer at The Bins for a few dollars--what fun.
  December 28:

     We're happy to use energy to improve our enjoyment of our life here in the woods, and one way that we try to see that the energy is well used is by laying in more circuits than is usually done. A key aspect of that involves zone lighting so that we can light up an area fully when it's in use, and then turn it off when it's not.


     In this case, that involves installing a light bar over the medicine cabinet on its own circuit. The installation was actually a little tricky and involved creating a riser to mount on the top of the cabinet. A mount for a light switch was morticed into the back of the riser, so that people can reach up and turn on the extra lighting when desired.


  December 30:

     Now that we know where the sink is going to be, we can install the verticals that the doors will mount to. With the locations marked, the sink is removed and the carcase leaned over so that the location of the two risers can be marked and cut. The two outer edges are carefully cut to a depth of half a 2x4, and then a series of cuts are made between to two boundary cuts.


     Then a chisel and mallet are used to remove the waste so that the already half-lapped riser can be screwed into place.


     Then the case is up-ended and screws are used to anchor the riser into the base. One of the values of using these special construction screws is that they'll give a good enough purchase into end-grain, something that wouldn't be true using standard glue-up techiniques. The traditional techniques would be best if one was creating a joint that had to function under a good deal of stress, but for a situation such as this, the construction screws are up to the task. They also allow the work to be undone and adjusted when we find that we've made an error, or down the road we see a better way to go.

     For the record, we special order in these screws from Screw Products, Inc. They have a number of features which make them better than standard screws for this sort of work including the use of a special "Star Drive" bit that performs better for us than the traditional phillips or square bits.

  December 31:

     Here's a pic of the carcase with the vertical risers installed. That's about as far as we can go before making another run into town for supplies. One of the reasons we usually have a variety of projects underway is so that when we get to the point where we need something to continue, instead of running into town for one thing, we just add it to our shopping list and go work on something else. That tends to drag projects out, but it saves on gas, and my sense is that we actually get more done because we spend less time driving around.


  January 2:

     After a run to the hardware store, we're able to make some quick progress on a couple of fronts. The first was the installation of a low-volume toilet that uses about half the water used by a standard toilet. It uses line preassure to fill a pair of pressure vessels located in the tank area. Then, when you toggle the flush handle, a jet of water shoots in the direction of the drain, thereby pulling the bowl water and waste along with it into the drain. It's a smart idea, but we'll see how well it performs over time.

     Traditional toilets use gravity to move water from the holding tank, through the bowl and down the sewer. The problem with the federally mandated standard that toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush is that the traditional designs didn't perform well causing clogs, the need for multiple flushes, etc. The pressurized toilet is one solution that many consumers rate as being as good, if not marginally better, than the traditional three gallons per flush toilets.

     For a better explanation of how a low-volume energized flush toilet works, Click Here.


     Next task was to install a new drain assembly for the sink. Here's a pic of Amanda making sure that the internal stopper is properly adjusted.


  January 4:

     Assembling the drain pipe for the new sink turned out to be a bit more challenging that expected in that our stockpile of pile, which between gray (electrical), black (sewer) and white (potable) covers a goodly size area, all of which was covered with a foot of snow. After rooting around a bit, we found what we needed and headed back down to the kitchen.


     Lots of cut, check the fit, and cut again work, but the trick here is to get everything cut and dry fit before you start to glue anything. Once all the fittings and pipe lengths are looking right, take a pencil and make an alignment mark on both the pipe and the fitting. That will allow you to put various parts of the design together without having to guess as to how to position the fitting before the glue sets, which is about twenty seconds.

     The vertical pipe rising out of the tee is the vent pipe. It's important to remember that P-style drains such as the one under the sink need to be vented. The purpose of the P shape is to trap a bit of water in the drain so that the water will prevent sewer gas from working its way up the drain and into the bathroom via the sink. Draining water would tend to siphon the water out of the P trap, but the vent line prevents that by insuring that no suction can develop--no suction, no siphon, no problem.
  January 7:

     The connecting hoses we had weren't long enough, so we took them back to Home Depot and exchanged them for longer. The hoses needed to be 1/2" pipe on one en and 1/2" compression on the other, but unfortunately I the second hose I grabbed off the rack was 1/2" pipe on both ends. Adriann and I hiked down to the garage and pulled out the box that contains our miscellaneous plumbing parts, and fortunately there was just the hose we needed--sometimes it works like that.


     Adriann screwed the hoses into place, and powered up the sink. Unfortunately, that revealed that the flaucet that came with the sink leaks. That's not too suprising, but we didn't was to replace it with a new faucet until that was really necessary. As a final chance option, we disassembled the faucet and will take the inner workings into town on our next run to see if we can find a rebuild kit for it. Probably not, but its worth the effort--just another part of the challenge of re-using construction materials.

  January 13:

Adriann writes:

     We came back from a day in Portland with a faucet kit. This contained all of the parts that were inside the facet when the top was unscrewed. By simply replacing the springs and rubber seals that fit between the moving parts of the facet the leak was stopped.

     The faucet is a bit stiff to operate at the moment, but works well otherwise. Thus ends the saga in which the cheap 'repair and reuse' philosophy triumphs over the expensive and wasteful 'throw out and buy new' norm.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67