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The Story Of A Touch-Free Flush

April 01, 2015   //  Posted in: Bathroom, DIY, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  one response
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I’ll be completely honest here, toilets are one of the last things I expected to zoom in on on this blog, but here I am, giving an up-close peek into our bathroom, and geeking out over high-tech fixtures.

Last December, I toured the HGTV Dream Home as a correspondent for Delta. The company paid for the trip and offered one of the products it was featuring in the Dream Home. The house was fit with Touch2O fixtures (we already have one of those faucets), a pot filler, and various bathroom accessories, but the Brevard™ with FlushIQ™ toilets featuring touch-free flush technology had me especially curious. I can’t believe how far home technology has come.

Delta's FlushIQ Toilet

I suspect you have some initial skepticisms (you may not even realize it yet) but I think I can dispel some curiosities as I go, so keep on scanning.

There’s only one thing I can’t attest to yet, and that’s how exactly I explain this technology to the Grandmas (based on Touch2O lessons, this may be entertaining and potentially awkward, but not promising).

Before I get into the installation, let’s touch upon some of the cool-factor:

  • The sensors serve multiple purposes; and use varying color codes and flash sequences to warn of leaks, low batteries, and plumbing issues.
  • Overflow protection stops the ability to re-flush if the water reaches a critical level in the bowl (kids who use all of toilet paper, I’m side-eying you).
  • The seat and lid are slow-close, and they’re also quick release, so you can completely remove the seat and lid while cleaning.
  • 1.28 gallons per flush means saving money on water

No touch flush sensor on Delta Toilet.

Our main bathroom toilet has a sprayer attached to it which we use when cleaning our daughter’s cloth diapers. The hookup from the main valve didn’t have to change, but for posterity, I snapped a photo of how it was attached to the old toilet.

Removing an old toilet that has a diaper sprayer attached to it.

Removing a toilet is one of those life skills we all need, and short of suggesting that maybe you should have an extra set of hands for lifting the fixtures, this is an upgrade you can easily do by yourself (start to finish in less than an hour).

Start by turning off the water, and flushing the toilet one last time to remove some of the water from the bowl and tank without it refilling. Use both small cups and sponges to remove the rest of the toilet water from the bowl and tank – sure, it’s clean water, but your toilet is still dirty, so discard all of it, and scrub your hands well when you’re done.

Unscrew the water source. You’ll probably find that a few more drops of water leak out from the connection, so be prepared with a towel.

Disconnect toilet water source.

The old toilet is installed using two bolts, one on either side of the base. Remove both, and then lift the toilet straight up.

How to remove a toilet.

Your toilet looks like this underneath it too, believe me. Hope that there is no standing water beneath it, and only dust and dirt that was inadvertently swept and collected beneath the base. This is your chance to clean where you’ve never cleaned before, and it will be equally disgusting and incredibly satisfying.

Cleaning beneath your toilet.

The wax ring that sealed this old toilet around the plumbing will pry free, much of its residue left around the floor flange. You’ll want to clean away as much of the old wax as possible, so that the new wax ring can have a chance at a tight seal with the flange (and not just be smushing against old layers of wax). Use whatever tools you have on hand that you can easily clean, and be careful not to drop anything down the pipe (rings, earrings, glasses, whatever).

This is a rare opportunity to also check the condition of your flange and pipe. Scope it out for cracks, especially if it’s old, and if you’re like us, move that bathroom renovation back up to the top of your to-do list because…. well, sometimes you’ll find minor issues that could potentially become major ($$$).

Removing wax and inspecting a floor flange during the toilet replacement.

Once the wax is cleaned away, identify the grooves in the flange and, following instructions, navigate the bolts into the grooves to lock them in place. Make sure that the bolts are directly across from each other, and evenly distanced from the wall behind the toilet. Just like with the toilet you removed, the bolts will fall evenly on each side of the toilet base.

Installing new toilet bolts.

The toilet comes with a new wax ring. If you stumbled upon this tutorial and you just need to reseal a leaking toilet, you can buy a new wax ring at the store for ~$5 and repair the leak yourself following these same instructions.

New wax ring for a toilet install.

This is where it helps to have an extra set of hands. Lift the uninstalled new toilet, and slowly lower it over the bolts ensuring that they remain straight up and down. Also, have your partner bend down to make sure the wax ring is aligning with the plumbing on the underside of the toilet.

And then when you’re confident that the orientation of the toilet is right on, the heavier of you two, or maybe even both of you, climb up on that toilet and let your weight help to compress the wax ring and create a tight seal around all of that important plumbing. Monitor that the toilet isn’t twisting on the flange, and watch to see when the base of the toilet comes in contact with the floor. I’m not a fan of using caulk during a toilet install, but in some towns and cities it’s to code, so do your homework. For what it’s worth, I think some towns also require plumbers to replace toilets and related plumbing fixtures.

Put all pressure on the toilet to compress the wax seal.

Once the wax ring is compressed to the best of your ability, use the bolts at the base to tighten the fixture the rest of the way. Alternately tighten one side, and then the other, and back and forth, so that it evenly compresses. Don’t over-tighten, but do test the seat periodically to feel if it bounces or shifts.

Tighten the FlushIQ toilet.

The tank itself isn’t connected to the toilet base when it arrived, but Delta’s product has a SmartFit™ Tank-to-Bowl Connection which means that the tank is complete pre-assembled in the box. This means that it installs quickly, and you won’t have to be fidgeting with the connections and seals, which can result in leak points. Just follow directions to bolt it into place. This toilet has three bolts. Don’t over tighten, because like with any toilet, if a bolt cracks the porcelain tank, you’re done. Also, make sure that the back of the tank is square with the wall behind it.

Once the tank was installed on the base, I expected a complicated process to connect the electronics that make this toilet have its touch-free flush. In reality, this was the easiest part of the install, as it was literally just a matter of plugging a wire emerging from the base to a wire on the tank.

No touch flush Delta toilet electronics.

The no-touch mechanism operates off four AA batteries, sealed in a case at the top of the tank (well out of reach of the water, but covered to resist getting tapped with splashes or condensation).

No touch flush Delta toilet electronics.

You might wonder at some point prior to purchasing this product whether the toilet is going to try and flush on you while you’re sitting on it – if you’ve used a public bathroom with a self-flushing toilet ever, you’ll know the fear I’m talking about. With the FlushIQ, I’m very relieved to say that it doesn’t flush while you’re sitting there because the raised lid blocks the sensor, and when the lid is closed and you’re simply walking around your bathroom, you can’t trigger the flush unless you “wave” very close to the sensor. The mechanism also has a locking feature that you can set so that the toilet doesn’t try and flush while you’re cleaning it.

The seat that comes with the toilet is a slow-close, quick release seat which is nice for several reasons: The quick release means that the seat and lid can unlock in and out of place for easy cleaning of both the seat and lid, and of the toilet base (no tools necessary for removal), and the slow-close feature eliminates the slamming of dropped lids and seats (a feature as nice as self-closing drawers in a kitchen).

Slow-close, quick release toilet seat.

 

When you’re done, the last step is to turn the water back on. Go ahead, give it a try. Watch closely at all connections to monitor for water drips – it should all remain dry. Flush it a few times to make sure the tank and bowl empty and fill as you would expect and, again, check for signs of moisture beneath the tank.

Good to go – uh, gross.

Thanks Delta ;)

Meet These Really Cool People

March 30, 2015   //  Posted in: DIY Network Projects   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment
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DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade has an ongoing series dedicated to featuring the Creative Geniuses among us. I’ve had a couple of great interviews already this year and more scheduled over the next few weeks, and I wanted to be sure you checked them out, because if I found them interesting and inspiring, you probably would too.

First up is Michelle Meza. You probably don’t know her by name, but there’s a really good chance you’ve seen her work in person. She’s the co-owner of a company in a small niche industry that creates concrete environments for zoo exhibits and aquariums, as well as permanent backyard installations for private clients – think jaw-dropping pools and water features for the rich and famous. She’s a woman kicking butt in a male-dominated field, and for that alone, I definitely don’t make her sound badass enough. Meet her yourself by checking out the full post.

Concrete Environments featuring Michelle Meza

After that, get to know Nashville-based country music artist and vintage super-enthusiast Ruthie Collins. You’ll want to get a peek at her amazing, renovated Airstream trailer that she takes across the country for live concerts and tours, and see how she embraces shabby chic for a cohesive personal brand. (Come to find, she too is a Western New York girl and we grew up really close to each other!)

Ruthie Collins and her amazing Airstream "Amelia Earstream"

If you know of anyone who might make for a terrific feature on Made + Remade, please don’t hesitate to point me in their direction.

If you want to check out other Creative Geniuses featured written by the whole Made + Remade gang, there’s a whole section dedicated to it on the blog. Makers, innovators, all-around inspiring people!

For Sale

March 27, 2015   //  Posted in: Buying and Renting and Selling   //  By: Emily   //  12 responses
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Hope you believed me when I wrote in January that I thought I’d retain ownership of that awesome little rental house for the long haul; that was the plan, Stan.

My old home, the original Merrypad, is a fantastic little place and property that I had no trouble renting out. Realistically I suppose, it could run itself for years and years. That said, I pulled the trigger and we are officially parting ways. Sayonara. Great experience. Exhausted. Ready to be financially savvy, focused on family, and explore the potential in our current home.

Living room, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.

The succinct rationalization is this: I would rather focus on family for the next two decades, and eliminate the daily stress related to maintaining a rental property. I have ~12-15 years left on the mortgage. I am paying a little more against principal, because combatting interest is a great thing, even though it’s at the expense of not having pocketed anything for the 22 months that it was rented. Considering the additional upkeep and expenses that I would expect to incur on that property over that same time period, I would guess that it would take me an extra 2-4 years to pay my savings back with rental income from the fully-paid for property. When you think about it, that means I’ll be spending the next 14-19 years trying to pay off a mortgage, and paying myself back for the upkeep on my home. My daughters will be graduating high school and college by the time this house is “pure income,” and at that point, guess what, it won’t actually be “pure income” because there are still taxes, insurance (which is higher on dwelling properties than on your primary residence), and maintenance. Even on days when everything is running smoothly, I’m still going to be burdened by the possibility of something breaking, maintenance contractors who don’t follow through on jobs, hoping rent is on time, and inevitable repairs and tenant circumstances. I will have been stressed and nervous throughout my children’s entire childhood.

The financial reality that I’m considering is this (and it’s way deeper than I usually travel on this DIY blog, but I hope some of my logic resonates with other people considering rentals): If 20 years from now is when I finally have an opportunity to be socking some of this income away, will it have enough time to grow to pay off in retirement? What if I took the profits from the house right now and allowed that to grow further for 20 years? I think there’s some misnomer out there that rental properties are an easy retirement investment, but if that’s the case, I’m not convinced I’m “doing it right.” Thank goodness for financial advisors who can project figures and provide rational scenarios to help with planning. Retirement planning is more important than a lot of things, and I’m not trying to be like a Merrill Lynch advertorial, but I’d rather have a stable retirement plan of action now than spend 20 years thinking that my rental strategy might not pay off.

Scott McGillivray, I gotta have a talk with this dude. He makes the rentals seem like a fantastic idea, and I know I would have regretted not giving it a go, so for that, thanks man. I caught a lot of his HGTV show Income Property over the years–it’s one of my favorite reality shows ever–and I simultaneous credit and also teasingly blame him for being in this situation. I have newfound respect for all landlords, especially ones who operate multiple properties and are able to make good bank doing it. The reality of it all is that it’s scary, and it’s not easy, and those who say they’re doing great at the rental game… are they really?

As far as the sale is concerned, I have a plan to have it on the market this spring. I’m working with the same realtor who originally sold me the house (shout out to Michelle at Nothnagle), entertaining buyers who have already expressed interest, and hoping… for lack of a better term… that this can be an “easy out” so that I’m not fronting the full mortgage payment for too long without the support of my tenants. The tenants will be gone before it’s on the market, which is kind of unfortunate because they have it nicely decorated, and when they’re gone I’ll be left with a case of the empties (or staging costs), but the vacancy will give me some time to do pre-sale maintenance and cleaning.

Bedroom, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.

One nice thing that came from the reality of the situation, is that photographers Anne Gridley and Gary Graves are willing to share their professional photos to accompany my listing. This duo came to photograph the house in November 2012 in its peak state. Their images accompanied an interview that ran in the Spring 2014 issue of Small Room Decorating, and they couldn’t have captured the home in a more perfect light.

They gave me their blessing to share the photos with you here too. If you know of anyone who might be interested in my old home, feel free to shoot me an email.

  • Living room, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Living room, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Living room, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Living room, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Sunroom, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Dining Room, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Kitchen, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Kitchen, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Kitchen, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Stairwell, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Bedroom, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.
  • Bathroom, image by Gridley + Graves Photographers.