Installing My New Toilet and Changing the Toilet Lever

There’s a new throne to bend the knee to in the Land of Laurel and it ain’t made of iron. That’s right! I’ve got a gorgeous porcelain throne for ya’ll to fawn over today. It’s downright spectacular. And oh so necessary. You see, back in early January 2018 I was just over 2 months in to my bathroom renovation and it was time to kick it into high gear. I had a deadline, one not set by me, one I couldn’t just ignore as it passed by, a big, important deadline. My little sister was moving into Berrybrier to live with me! Hi, Bronwyn! And well… she needed a place to relieve herself that wasn’t the tiny hell bathroom off my own bedroom. As much as that delightful little space worked for me, she was going to need a space a bit more… accommodating and far less… disgusting.

Luckily, I had a space that was pretty darn close! See the capped toilet flange below? That was my first step for getting the bathroom into more of a… useful… space. The plumber had installed it when he was doing rough in and after I’d tiled around it, and drywalled, and painted, the flange was finally ready for a toilet. The center part was just a cap that prevented the sewer gases and smells from coming into the bathroom. For which I was grateful. I popped it off with a screw driver and exposed the hole beneath.

Then I grabbed a reinforced wax ring toilet install kit from Home Depot and stuck it in the hole. The reinforced plastic part keeps it pretty centered.

Then I took the bolts that came with the kit and stuck them into the toilet flange. They slide nicely into place upside down, which is better than ones that screw into the flange from above since it’s easier to aim your toilet. I had bought the Kohler Memoirs Two Piece Toilet which is easier to install since it literally comes in two pieces. I lifted up the bottom part with the help of my friend Nikki and aimed it at my bolts and wax ring while her dog chased Malary around my house. With a little finagling we landed it just so for a perfect fit! Then I slipped the plastic covers that came with the toilet over the bolts to protect the porcelain and screwed on a nut to hold the toilet in place. I tightened the nut enough to keep everything snug and then simply sawed off the excess bolt with my hacksaw. Easy, peasy.

I snapped the bolt cap covers on and then it was time for the tank. This guy I was able to place on myself after Nikki left. It came with bolts already placed in the bottom of the tank and again I just aimed those bolts at the holes in the bottom part of the toilet. Then they got nuts which I tightened with a wrench being careful not to tighten too tightly which could break the porcelain. As I did that I stuck my level on top to make sure I was keeping things plumb.

One more check that it was level and I was ready for the fun stuff! The toilet lever that came with my toilet was already installed when I unboxed it. That’s convenient right? Wrong.

Lovely polished chrome in finish, there was nothing wrong with it, except I was using Delta’s Champagne Bronze (a brass /gold look) finish on all the other plumbing fixtures. So I popped one of Delta’s Cassidy Collection Toilet Levers into my cart and got ready to switch it out.

I also went ahead and screwed in the toilet water supply line into the tank and into my favorite water shut off valve that looks so cute coming out of the baseboard. I kept the water off still, but I wanted it to be ready to go once the lever was switched out.

Switching out the lever was also super easy. I took a short handled screw driver and just unscrewed the single machine screw that was holding it in place and popped off the lever.

The Memoirs toilet looked kinda cute all handleless and naked too! But.. that wasn’t going to stick around for long! I’d carefully noted the placement of the original nuts, washers, and other bits that came off the original toilet lever and meshed those in together with the new Delta parts.

I kept the delta parts that held the lever to the toilet themselves and screwed the original Kohler handle arm and chain into the new lever. That way the interior of the tank was mostly the same.

The Delta lever had some with a plastic handle that was supposed to replace the handle and chain, but that seemed like opening a larger can of worms than I was ready for so I just ignored that bit.

I checked several times to make sure the combination of parts together were still raising the flapper and thus “flushing” the toilet before I even considered turning on the water to this new throne!

But after it passed that test several times, I decided it was ready, got my bucket and dry towels ready and turned the water shut off valve to on. The tank and bowl began filling with water until it magically stopped at it’s capacity point. The moment of truth: would it now flush?!

Yes! It worked! And with no issues or re-dos or mishaps along the way! Turns out installing a toilet is really not as hard as what you’d think. And when everything in the bathroom is brand new and never before used, it’s not even the little bit gross!

So now I had a toilet! A whole toilet to myself! Well, for myself and my sister who moved in the very next day! Sure… we had to wash our hands in the kitchen sink until I got around to installing the bathroom sink and faucet a few days later, but eh, no big deal! Plus a functioning toilet and shower felt a thousand times better than the gross original bathroom!

In all the plumbing fixtures were one of the most expensive parts of this bathroom renovation. BY FAR. Which is to be expected since they are the fancy finished bits! Here’s the breakdown of the toilet bits and pieces:

  • Reinforced Wax Ring $8
  • Toilet Water Supply Line $6
  • Sink water Supply Lines about $20 for two lines
  • Toilet $380
  • Toilet Lever $25
  • Toilet Install Total: $439
  • Now, you could totally spend a whole lot less if you went to Home Depot and bought some cheaper fixtures, but since I was trying to restore some of the original character of Berrybrier back into this house and I wanted a specific look, I splurged a bit for pieces I liked and would like for years to come.

    If I was a better blogger I would have snapped a picture of the final toilet all installed with it’s lid on but I am not a very good blogger so I will go ahead and just give you this sneak peek. The toilet installed, complete with a few plants on top of the tank and a preview of the installed sink!

    Ohhhh progress! It feels sooo good right? Boy is it nice to have a place to shower and relieve yourself after months of a messy construction zone! I mean, the rest of Berrybrier still looked absolutely insane considering the kitchen floor disaster, but even that was looking up! My sister Bronwyn had moved in with me which meant a whole bunch of free labor. Yay! Double time progress!

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    Cutting Copper Pipes to Install Water Shut Off Valves

    So after the bathroom was painted I was pretty excited to be at the stage where things were really looking good. I was dying to get the toilet and sink installed and finally have a full working bathroom! To do that, I first needed to install some shut-off valves. When I first contracted my plumber to do the rough in plumbing, I definitely thought that would include water shut off valves and then I’d just hook in the fixtures. I don’t know why I thought that…. because what I actually got was copper stubs sticking out of the walls. It was a bit daunting, but I watched this youtube video where a very reassuring lady told me I’d be able to do this just fine. I took one last look at this room with it’s copper stubby left wall and headed to Home Depot for supplies.

    I bought the following things for this project and gathered a few items I already had in my home too.

    This actually wasn’t as hard as I anticipated, what a delightful and unusual DIY surprise! First, I turned off the water. A very important step. Please don’t forget to do that. Then I put some towels down on the floor and put my bucket under the first stub. The pipe cutter was super easy to use too. Just put it on the pipe, spin, tighten, spin, tighten and so on! Totally easy and then boom! The end of the pipe popped off into my bucket within just a minute or two. I was overly cautious about cutting the pipe since I didn’t want to cut off too much, but I probably left more pipe than I needed on the wall. I decided to proceed anyways.

    I bought cheap chrome pipe flanges and spray painted them with matte black Rustoleum enamel paint because I thought they’d blend in more with the dark green walls. I was too afraid to paint the actual shut off valves though because I thought it might affect their performance.

    I slipped the newly black flange over the pipe, threw the compression ring and nut over the pipe and then stuck the valve over the end of the pipe and gripped it with my pipe wrench. In my other hand I used a wrench to twist the compression ring and nut over the shut off valve and tighten. Tighten. Tighten. But not too tight, don’t want to break anything. The video told me to be cautious about over-tightening. Eventually it seemed tight enough though…

    You’ll see above too that I threw a bunch of caulk into the oversized pipe holes. The flanges would cover the holes, but I wanted to block any airflow. Once it looked good, I stuck the bucket right up under it and ran down into the basement to turn the water back on and then ran back up the stairs to see how it looked.

    AHHHH!!!! Water was shooting everywhere! I sprinted back down to the basement and shut the water back off. Got out the wrench and and the pipe wrench again and tightened more. I was a lot less tentative about tightening it this time. Try two with the water turned on went muuuch better! Just a slight drip this time.

    Back into the basement, water off, back up stairs, grab wrench, tighten, tighten, tighten, into the basement again, water back on, run back upstairs and…. WAHLA! No drips or leaks or showers, just a water shut off with the water shut off! One valve down, two more to go! No need to be cautious about over-tightening apparently…

    I did the second sink valve next. It went much smoother. I was aggressive in my tightening and got it done on round one this time. It helped that I remembered I have the arm strength of a new born infant so the likely hood of me over-tightening anything is slim to none.

    This slightly scary project ended up being way easier than I’d originally thought. Just goes to show you, even intimidating things can be easily conquered with a little internet research and a willingness to try! The sink valves were now ready for the sink which basically meant the bathroom was done right? Right?!

    Just kidding. DIY projects are never done. I needed to do the toilet water shut off valve. This one is my favorite, because it sticks out of the baseboard which I find strangely pretty. I’m weird okay? I did leave WAY more pipe on this one than necessary though. Shoulda cut that baby about an inch shorter. But eh, I’m lazy and don’t want to alter it now that it’s done. I got this one done on the first try too, so I must be an expert in this right?

    Ha! Nope. The next time I had a project involving installation of water shut off valves I shot water onto the ceiling…

    But at least I got these done with minor issues! Just in time to leave for the holidays too. Thank goodness!

    And now, on to plumbing fixtures!! Who wants to install a sink? Or better yet a toilet? Now that’s where the real fun is at… right?!

    Drought Tips: Easy Ways to Save Water

    Happy Earth Day! How are you celebrating? A walk? A hike? Instagraming your favorite sunset picture? I wish I could get out there and go for a hike. But, alas, I am sick! I caught an annoying cold this weekend which has me locked inside with lots of tea and tissues. I wanted to do something to commemorate today though. So in celebration of Earth Day, I thought I’d share some of my favorite nature pictures and some some basic water saving tips and tricks!

     

    Saving Water | Land of Laurel

     

     

    1. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. So simple right? You don’t need the water running, you’re not using it. I know some people may be thinking, “Well, duh.” But, you’d be surprised! Many people just leave the water running, a habit that can easily be broken.
    2. Use a tub, or plug the drain, when washing dishes. One of my roommates turns on the water when he starts doing dishes and leaves it on until every pot and pan is washed and all the dishes are put into the dishwasher. It drives me crazy! A typical kitchen faucet is regulated to use no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute of use and most average between 1.5 gpm and 2 gpm. That seems like not that much, but when you multiply it by 20 minutes of dish doing that adds up to 30-40 gallons of water! Try filling a bin with warm soapy water for washing and then rinsing in another bin of hot water. At the very least, turn off the faucet between dishes.
    3. Put the dishwasher to work! Dishwashers use significantly less water and energy than handwashing! So put down the scrub brush and fill up the dishwasher. That said, fill your dishwasher efficiently! Stack plates, bowls, and cups as the manufacturer intended so you can fit the maximum number of dishes. Avoid running the machine until it’s truly full. Using up precious dishwasher space with bulky pots and pans reverses the water and energy savings though, so go ahead and hand wash those.
    4. Get a shower bucket. We use plenty of water in washing. I am totally guilty of taking longer showers. But I stick a large bucket in the shower before I turn the water on and let it fill up while the water gets hot. I use grey-water safe products in the shower, so I keep the bucket in the shower while I wash. Then, I have a bucket of water to use in the garden or for my (many!) house plants. Guilt-free water for California summer plantings? Count me in!
    5. Thinking about getting a new hot water heater? Avoid Tankless options! Tankless water heaters, touted as great energy savers, end up causing huge overuse of water. My parents installed one at their home about four years ago and were shocked at how much more water they ended up using. Let’s face the truth, in today’s world, there is an expectation that you’ll turn on your tap and get hot water. With a tankless option, not only will you wait for the water to turn hot, but you’ll get frustrated by the amount of time it takes. Tankless hot water heaters do save energy, but unless you have a tiny one at each water source in your home, you’ll end up running that tap for 5 minutes straight until the water gets hot enough for you to wash your face. Instead, go for an energy efficient option with a tank and save the water.

     

     

    And now, on a different note, here are some of my favorite pictures of Mother Earth:

     

    This guy I took just last month in Oregon at Multnomah Falls. The lush greenery– everything covered in moss and ferns– mesmerized me. It was so gorgeous.

    Multnomah Falls | Land of Laurel

     

    This magical view is from the top of Thunder Mountain near Kirkwood, CA.  It’s a destination of many a hike taken from Two Sentinels, the camp I volunteer with each year. The white of the granite is such a contrast from the evergreen trees and blue mountain lake.

    View From the Sentinels | Land of Laurel

     

    This I took during an evening bike ride during my trip to Istanbul, Turkey. Some friends an I took the ferry to the Prince Islands for an afternoon. Everything on the islands was beautiful, nature unmarred (for the most part) by humans.

    Istanbul Sunset | Land of Laurel

     

    Finally, this image is from Majorca, Spain. I spent 4 or so days there in the Spring of 2012. The water and the rocky island captivated me. The water was so blue in some areas. I loved that the greenery clung to every last bit of rock possible before the cliffs plunged into the sea.

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    How do you conserve water? Do you have any tips and tricks? Are you out there celebrating Earth Day? Enjoy it!