Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Improvement

I'm picturing what it's like every time you renovate. There's a big hole in the wall and two paramedics. ~ Jill Taylor, Home Improvement.

Only the deal is, it is me telling Patty, you know what it is like every time I renovate, there is a big hole in the wall and we have to call a professional. But that doesn't get me off. She says, "You are man. All men can do these things." Forty-one years married, and she still says stuff like that. The sad fact is, nobody struggles with this stuff like I do. This is a vignette of A Day in the Life.

This last weekend was Memorial Day, a three day weekend, so Friday afternoon we went up to our vacation house in Birch Bay, which is where we plan to retire in about four years. She is on a tear to improve a few things before then. Our project for the weekend was to upgrade the bathroom a bit, getting rid of some water-logged Pergo flooring and jettisoning the cheap Target vanity for a nice new pedestal sink. That of course required removing the toilet, vanity and pulling up the old flooring.

I got that sucker demolished before 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning. When Patty got up, she cut the new vinyl. She has put down a couple of vinyl floors in this bathroom over the 20 years we have owned the Birch Bay house, so it should be no big deal, right? Well, the particular vinyl flooring she picked out was about as stiff as your average plastic tablecloth. But she got it cut out. When we laid it down, it was painfully obvious, more obvious than it had every been with thicker vinyl flooring, that the floor was not, you know, actually flat. But we pressed ahead, spread the adhesive, and laid the flooring. That is when we read the direction to "roll with a 100 pound roller." Huh? Never had to do that before...but now we know why, this new vinyl has more ripples than Waldon Pond.

That is the state we left it in for the adhesive to dry while we went out on our CD25 Cruiser Daydream for a quick overnighter. Our friends Russ and Toni, who have not been on vacation in the San Juans for the last couple of weeks on their CD25 Traveler, were headed for Chuckanut Bay near Bellingham, and we planned to meet them there. David buzzed up on his CD25 Anna Leigh from Guemes Island. Sundowners in the cockpit of course. Russ and Toni were down to nothing but tuna fish after two weeks of not being on vacation, so we stood the group to a grilled flatiron steak that had been marinating for two days, Rice-a-Roni (you know, the San Francisco treat), and a tomato, basil and goat cheese salad. A couple of bottles of pretty good wine appeared as well. The next morning, cappuccinos all around from the Mukka Express, a nice breakfast of pancakes, eggs and fried Spam (which I am told actually stands for "Some Parts Are Meat"), and we were all on our way. Our way, unfortunately, was back to Birch Bay where the big Home Improvement Project awaited.

Hey, those ripples in the vinyl don't look so bad, and the really big bubbles are kind of around the edges where they are hard to see. Let's get the toilet back in! Nobody struggles with this stuff like I do. I didn't really remember that you are supposed to put the wax ring on the horn of the crapper and not on the flange on the floor, so naturally I smushed the wax ring beyond recognition when I came nowhere close trying to put the horn precisely down on the wax ring. But the big problem was those stupid little studs that you put in the flange. I put some wax down to hold them in place, and tried to carefully put the nut on the stud, holding the stud with water pump pliers. No matter what I did, the stud turned and pulled up out of the slot. One hundred fifty years of flush toilets, and this is the best system we have for holding the crapper to the floor? No good advice or foolproof hints on Google. Well, since I had to go back for another wax ring (or two, just in case), I thought I would ask the experts at Home Depot.

Got my two wax rings and found the expert, who confirmed that the world would be grateful to the person who came up with a better system for holding the crapper to the floor. He did have the foolproof hint though, and HERE IT IS. Will Google search find this invaluable hint about how to install a crapper? I don't know. After you put the stupid little studs that don't stay put in the slot, you need to put a stainless washer and nut on them and tighten it up before you drop the crapper over them. That holds the stupid little studs firmly in place. Now, none of the wax ring kits include this washer and nut, and none of the hits on Google suggest this technique. But it is the foolproof way to keep those stupid little studs in the slots from moving around or pulling up when you drop the crapper over them and put the washers and cap nuts on that hold the crapper down. And a damn fine job it did! The crapper is for the first time in years securely attached to the floor - I think since the last time I did this, it had only been held to the floor by a sticky old wax ring and body weight. There was a last leak between the tank and bowl, got that staunched - I hope - by tightening the plastic screws and wing nuts that hold the two pieces together. Total time to reinstall the crapper, including aborted attempt, trip to Bellingham, getting it installed and fixing the leak - about three hours. This should be a ten minute job, I know. Like I say, nobody struggles with this stuff like I do. We are not quite done yet though - there is still the pedestal sink to install.

The pedestal sink is designed with the assumption that the hot and cold water supply and drain will be on the wall behind the sink. Only at Birch Bay, the original sink was a corner sink. The cold water supply was on one wall, and the hot water supply and drain were on the other wall. When I put the cheap little vanity in, I brought the water supply up through the floor and abandoned the pipes in the wall. The drain pipe is at a right angle to the pedestal sink. This arrangement is completely wrong for the pedestal sink, if you can picture it.

Another trip to Bellingham, where I got some really clever little flexible drain pieces. You bend one this way, the other one that way, attach the right extension, and somehow you have a drain pipe from the P trap making a right angle turn to the drain in the wall. OK, almost home free! Now I just have to lag bolt the sink to the wall! Patty marks the center of the two holes in the sink on the wall, and I drill the recommended pilot holes.

Only problem was, the lag bolts supplied were too long to fit up inside the little indentations in the bottom of the sink to go through the holes in the back, let alone get a wrench of any kind in to turn them. Scratched head over this one, then decided the only answer was - duh - shorter lag bolts. Fortunately the building center in Blaine was open, and we got shorter lag bolts. It was then actually fairly easy to bolt the sink to the wall using a box end wrench. I got the water supply and then the drain pipe connected - almost done! Patty then installed the drain pop-up dealie - and prompty stripped the socket for the bolt that holds the vertical rod in place to activate the drain pop-up. Well, we can fix that with electrical tape! I will really fix this some other time. Time to test 'er out!

Alas, where this story ends is that the sink drain was leaking somewhere high up inside the was too late and I was too bummed to take the sucker off the wall and start over. That will have to wait for another trip to Birch Bay.

I was going to call this "The Home Improvement Project from Hell," but that would have been an exaggeration. After all, we never had to call the paramedics...


  1. Gosh, I am worried now....what happened when you drilled into the wall???

  2. This one got published accidentally when it was half finished! The pilot holes in the wall were fine, NOT the problem!