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June 17, 2007

Gail washes out the toilet that she got from freecycle.com in anticipation of our first installation

Back when we first bought our mountain property in May 2003, one of the first things that we invested in was a toilet. We thought this was even more important than a tent. We figured that we (especially the males) could simply use a nearby tree for the liquid stuff, but the solid stuff was another matter. We didnít want to go around with a shovel. Even more, we didnít want to be planting a year or more later and dig up something unpleasant.

So we bought a Visa Potty portable camping toilet and hauled it back and forth from home every trip. (Gail and Russell were always especially nice to each other when one of them volunteered to clean out the toilet.) We also bought a portable shower tent to use as a restroom.

Our Visa Potty portable toilet and portable shower tent

(The only exception to this was during our house-raising party in April 2005, when we temporarily rented an outhouse to accommodate our two dozen guests.)

Once we had solid walls up on the house, we put away the shower tent and simply set the portable toilet on a pedestal outside the house. Finally, in October 2006, Russell surprised Gail by using some OSB planks to erect a private room inside the house, just about where the downstairs bathroom would ultimately go. Gail was delighted.

Our first indoor toilet: the Visa Potty behind sheets of OSB

All of these temporary arrangements were rather ironic, given that our septic system was actually installed back in the spring of 2004 before we even began construction on the house (this was required in order to secure our original building permit). However, the septic system could not pass a final inspection until it had been hooked up to electricity.

The septic system when it was first installed in 2004

In anticipation of this impending milestone, we had spent some time getting the necessary parts, researching and downloading instructions for installing our first real toilet. Gail had even secured a brand-new toilet from freecycle.com that we had brought up to the house-building site a year ago.

Finally, on Monday, June 11, 2007, Gail received the exciting news that our septic system was now approved for use.

We decided to go up as soon as possible, even if it would mean a short weekend with a single specific task. But with Gail now working and the boys older, itís been harder to find larger chunks of available time to get away. So we try to take advantage of every opportunity we can get, even if itís a single overnight.

Gail and Russell drove up early Saturday morning on June 16, arriving by late morning. Unfortunately the toilet installation would have to wait. When we entered the house, we discovered that a full container of herbicide had somehow leaked all over the floor under the stairs. While Russell unloaded the car, Gail cleaned everything up.

Gail deals with an unexpected cleanup of spilled herbicide

The toilet installation was very straightforward, although time-consuming. Back when Rick Dietrich first laid our foundation, plumber Daryl Giannini had come in and installed all the plumbing that needed to go into the cement. This included the waste disposal line for the downstairs toilet.

The waste disposal line for the downstairs toilet

We opened up the line and attached a standard flange. We took a piece of OSB and cut a hole in it to create a temporary floor for the flange to sit on. (We will need to re-install everything when we put in the actual floor.) It was surprisingly unlevel, so we had to raise one side with a couple of shims.

The temporary OSB floor and toilet flange (note the shims to prop up one side of the flange)

The biggest challenge of the day came when we tried to screw the flange down. The OSB is only 1/2-inch thick, while the flange itself is only 1/4-inch thick. Thereís concrete underneath, so we needed screws that were no longer than 3/4-inch long. Looking all over the house, we realized that we didnít have any. Reluctant to waste an hour and a half driving into town, we tried to ďmakeĒ 3/4-inch screws. We took longer screws and tried cutting them with a hacksaw. The first one cut easily, but it mustíve been some kind of fluke, because we never did get a second one cut.

Almost an hour later, a rather frustrated Russell came up with another solution. When we were working on the second-story floor during the prior month, several screws had broken off while we were trying to remove the OSB subfloor. Luckily, we had kept these reject screws in a bowl. Gail went hunting, and proudly found plenty of broken screws that fit our 3/4-inch length requirement. They worked perfectly in the flange and OSB.

An ingenious solution: re-using broken screws from our repair of the second floor

For the toilet itself, we used the obligatory ďwax ringĒ and mounting screws. Everything went smoothly, and by late afternoon we had the toilet bowl, tank, and seat all connected. We ceremoniously watched our first toilet flush, and congratulated each other on a job well done.

The toilet bowl in place

(Having only one item on the "to do" list gave us some long-overdue opportunities for just relaxing and enjoying the property. On the animal watch front, we saw our first-ever fox on the property -- it ran right down our driveway -- and Gail saw a large male deer.)

What we donít have yet is any plumbing installed for the water intake line for the toilet. We plan to use water jugs or a garden hose to keep the tank filled. The actual water line will have to wait until we have the walls framed.

Speaking of which, thatís the next job on our listÖ

Our first toilet, cleaned, installed, and ready to go!


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