Elegant Toilet

Discovering that our house has two bathrooms comes as a surprise to long-time friends, for as long as anyone can remember only one has ever been used, the Pepto-Bismol pink bathroom off the back bedroom. Few friends have ever seen the equally hideous yellow and brick-red bathroom off the front bedroom. Unlike modern houses, ours does not have a guest lavatory accessible from a neutral hallway.

Since the boy moved out, we’ve used the front bathroom mainly for storage and laundry. The toilet was leaking where the tank meets the bowl and AJM couldn’t get the bolt off to fix it. The tiny toilet is in a small recessed space with a couple inches clearance on either side. On top of the toilet problems, the tiny sink kept stopping up and sink trap had corroded through leaving a nasty rust stain beneath it. With these problems the bathroom made a better closet than a bathroom.

The City of Austin keeps begging us to replace our old toilets with water-wise new toilets which they’d give us outright. This seemed to be a solution; if we can’t fix the old toilet, I reasoned, let’s replace it. So I signed up for one. (I realized at the time that replacing a non-working toilet with a toilet that used some water, no matter how little wasn’t going to reduce our water consumption, but…)

We received our voucher from the city and picked up the toilet. I called a plumber to install it. (This sequence of events did not unfold with the rapidity implied in the telling of the tale, but played out over six weeks.) The plumber arrived last Friday and looked at the toilet. “Why do you want to replace this. It’s beautiful! It’s an antique! Do you know what people would pay to find a toilet like this?”

His ardor did not move me to a new appreciation. “It leaks. I want you to install the new one.” (Note: It’s illegal to resell old water-wasting toilets.)

photo: toilet

He looked at it. “Can’t. This has four bolts. It’s not standard. The new one has two bolts. I could take this one off and see if the new one fits, but I can’t guarantee it. You might have to drill a hole in your floor. Could cost up to to $300–just for the plumbing. Someone else would have to do the carpentry.”

We discussed my options and he agreed to take the tank off the old toilet to see if he could diagnose the problem. It was simply the seal. “I don’t have one like this. I could get one and come back tomorrow. Cost you a $50.00 restocking charge.” I declined his offer and paid him $97.00 (for diagnosing the problem and taking the toilet apart). He sent me off to Crump’s where I got the seal for $1.65 and returned the next day for a $2.00 toilet flap. AJM put the toilet back together. I bought a new toilet seat.

Without a companion sink the working toilet did not yet qualify as a guest bathroom. So I snaked out the drainpipe and bought a J-bend sink trap. (I had tried fixing this sink before, but had bought the wrong part.) This part of the project took only a couple of hours and cost about $10.00.

photo: bathroom

The bathroom is now usable but just as ugly as ever. The tile is cracked and chipped. The wallboard on the main wall has a huge wrinkle in it. And I’m wondering, now where will we keep our laundry hamper?

AJM would like to redo the whole room as a laundry room. We could remove the built-in tiled shower and using the space for a stacking washer/dryer. The plumbing is there, but the electrical support isn’t. We’d also have to find a good way to vent the dryer. I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

I’d like to get rid of the toilet in the back bathroom and turn that room into a true bath room. Is is only in America that our bathroom’s are designed so that we are forced to stare at the toilet while we bathe? I prefer the Japanese approach.

Update: 2005-10-14 Friday

DF has persuaded me that the medicine cabinet is charming in its own right, and practical. Yes there are some rust stains inside, badly painted over by the previous tenant. Yet it has glass shelves, a curious razor blade disposal, and a mirror that looks new. Instead of being a plain rectangle, the top side arcs into a point. So I’ll keep it.

Update: 2005-10-17 Monday

The most difficult part of this saga has been returning the unused toilet. I called the number provided by the city and was told to take it back to the store. I waited to Saturday so that I could use AJM’s car and muscle, but the store wouldn’t receive it. So I had to wait until today, call the city again and be told to take the toilet back to the store again, and go to the store again. This time they took it, but not without a lot of fuss and paperwork and phone calls to higher-ups.

One Response to “Elegant Toilet”

  1. M2 Responds:

    Ah, me. That very much reminds me of the first time I met AJM…also the first time I suspected he was a good match for you. You were complaining about the kitchen cupboards being too low for modern appliances, and he waved at the room’s 1940’s style and proclaimed, “but you’re suffering for ART!”

    My mother would paint the tile. MarkII would plaster over it, possibly including saran wrap in the plaster to give it a unique texture, or maybe just glue cut out cardboard shapes on the tile, paper mache over the cardboard, and paint that. For you…hmm…maybe some novel use of washi paper?

The surface and beneath the surface