Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Replacing the 55-year-old Toilet

Our house was built in 1956. We still have a lot of the original elements - tile, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, hardwoods, etc. In spite of the dated look, I like to keep the mid-century modern look going. Which means that the pink tile stays. And some other details that scream, "1950s!" This is all coming back in style so I'm glad we kept them.

One thing we've been meaning to replace since we bought the house 6 years ago was the toilet in the kids bathroom. On one hand, I didn't want to replace it because it was the original toilet (see date stamp on right: October 29, 1956). On the other hand, it was a water hog. Since the kids don't ever remember to flush the toilet, it hasn't been much of a problem. But over the last few years, we've had more problems with it running continuously. Constant fiddling with the handle and replacement of a few parts haven't fixed the problem.

Last week the thing started running constantly, forcing us to just turn off the water supply to it. And, as a result, we went on a hunt for a dual flush water saving toilet. My friend (who owns several rentals) counseled us that Home Depot had a dual flush toilet for less than $100.

Between that and the $30 rebate from the City of Seattle, we were sold. I seriously doubt that it will last 55 years like the last one, but in the meantime we'll be saving money on water.

And the novelty of the pee versus poop button hasn't quite yet worn off. For any of us.

Do you have dual flush toilets? Or do you have water tanks with fillers or just low flow toilets? Anyone want an "antique" toilet?

23 comments:

Lynn from OrganicMania.com said...

Ha, I hear your running! My bathrooms are vintage 1939...And while I hear things don't last forever, I've got the original freezer downstairs, just got rid of the Montgomery Ward stove, as it was down to two working burners! It's incredible how well things were built back then. But yeah, now that you mention it, I do hear that running sometimes...:(

Paula said...

Our only toilet has had issues for a few years now. It will end up running if I'm not careful about checking the lever after each flush to make sure it's back in place correctly. Also have to hold the lever down while it's flushing or else it won't flush.

I've been putting off looking into getting a new toilet worried it might end up being a big expense. I'll have to check out the dual-flush models at Home Depot. Did you do the install yourself or have it installed?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Paula - My husband did the installation. But I think Home Despot was charging $130 for installation.

SurprisingWoman said...

Toilets are easy to install. I have done it twice now. I would advise you don't drop the pliers down the hole when you have the toilet off though, trust me on that. Luckily it was an upstairs toilet and they only went to the main clean out in the basement. Whew.

I had to replace my 1979 toilet a few years ago. The tank broke while it was in use. That was a good time!

I bought a Toto, the dual flushes were uber expensive and the Toto was supposed to be low water use and the seat was higher than others making it old age friendly.

My heart longs for a bidet though. Someday....

SurprisingWoman said...

Oh, and I would offer the toilet on Freecycle. People seem to take them all the time.

Odd

Anonymous said...

My husband made our old pink toilet a low flow one by replacing some parts on it. The only thing I don't like about it is that sometimes you have to flush twice because it being low flow now it doesn't have enough power sometimes.
It used to run on sometimes too but the best fix is to replace the float or some of the parts on the inside of the toilet.
Look into either getting new stuff for the tank so you don't have to buy a whole new toilet.

Erin said...

Your toilet and I have something in common. We are both dated 1956. Too funny. Still getting a kick out of the new toilet? I would definitely get one of those pee/poo dual choice toilets next time. Technology can be good.

rosiemomma said...

My only beef with those dual choice toilets is that sometimes the buttons are the same size and have these non-descript shapes on them and I can't tell which is pee and which is poo!! It's highly stressful! Great story though, my kids have the same flushing, er, issues so we save a lot of water that way! I grew up in a pink tile, sink, and toilet bathroom. Totally fun!

Len said...

You could have checked the valve seat under the flapper valve. It's often brass and gets nicked up then leaks, even with a new valve. Polish it.

You can also put a couple jars of sand into those larger tanks to save some water per flush but the bowls are not designed for 1.6 gallons per flush.

I have 1.6 gal/flush toilets (and an older one dated about 1948). I'm working on a whole new strategy: Why not take waste water from the washer, run it to a large tank and then use that to fill the toilet tanks? I don't want to use the soapy water in the garden (even with biodegradable detergent) so here's how I can use it. Now it won't matter if I don't have a water efficient washer because I'll flush more than I discharge from the washer. The garden will get harvested rainwater which it's a lot happier with anyway!

The retrofit for using grey water to fill the toilet is not really that hard in concept. Water from the washer drains to an outdoor tank of about 200 to 300 gallons. Overflow goes to the lawn. One solar panel and a 12 volt pump push the water up (slowly is fine) to a 55 gallon tank near roof level. Overflow goes to first tank. Second tank uses a float/feed system from a swamp cooler to assure that the level never goes below 5 gallons. Water is gravity fed to toilets. Toilets need only one modification to the inlet valve and stand to do the same job but under low pressure.

And maybe the toilet will stay cleaner longer.

LadyCiani said...

I have purchased that exact toilet 3 times now. A friend recommended it for the flushing power (which my husband loves). I love it for 1) the water savings and 2) it is a taller toilet than the original toilets (the seat is actually several inches higher from the floor).

We bought an older home in CA that had its original toilets from the 60s. Normally I would have retro-fitted them with low-flow "features" like a water bottle in the tank, but that wasn't really an option because the water in the house had been turned off for 5+ months by the time we took possession. The toilets were disgusting and I refused to clean them.

So the first thing we did after getting our keys was install 2 of these toilets. Best decision ever.

When we re-located to our new home in TX, I discovered the toilets in this house are the original low-flow models from when the house was built 15 years ago. I was originally stoked - yay low-flow already and I don't have to do anything, and no extra waste going to the dump!

But was quickly disappointed to realize that there was a reason that people hated the original low-flow toilets - the design was pretty poor quality which meant it would sometimes clog. Plunging a toilet? not the highlight of any day.

So far we have only replaced the one toilet that gets the most use, but the other toilets are on their way out too, and we're going to buy more of this model.

betsyohs said...

@ SurprisingWoman: I installed one of these "bio bidets" a couple of years ago. I absolutely love it, and at $40, it's way cheaper than putting in a whole separate bidet like they have in Europe. It's also easier to install than a toilet!

lazy susie said...

When we looked at toilets (3) for our fixer-upper, we planned to use the dual flushes. My euro husband was used to them, because they are so common there. But the ones that we could find needed a #2 flush to take down the TP for a lady tinkle. We ended up going with a low water flush Kohler. Can you use the #1 flush for the TP?

Robj98168 said...

I have a low flow, ready to get a dual flush, and put the low flow in the other bathroom.

Why not make a planter out of your 1955 classic throne? It would look wonderful in your front yard, I would think!

matildalucet said...

@ Len: Where do you live that you can have a grey water system for your toilet? Massachusetts makes it hard to get permitted. I'd love to have a grey water system some day.

Vanessa Williams said...

We too live in a vintage 1950s home and have embraced the retro look in our bathrooms. But our 1950s toilets were one of the first things to go after we too had issues with them using lots of water, running all the time and getting clogged. Switching to low flow toilets was something we never regretted doing, and I don't think it compromised the look of our bathrooms.

Anisa said...

I see a commode planter in your future! ;)

Zoe said...

Hi from Australia- after 5 years in the States I moved back to Australia last year and all of a sudden developed an appreciation for the dual-flush toilets I had taken for granted growing up here!! We have a 1960's house with what certainly looks like an original toilet...and it has dual flush. Most public bathrooms have dual flush also, in fact I can't remember the last time I saw a single button flush toilet.
And even a half flush is plenty powerful- not really sure how exactly they differ but modern Australian toilets have plenty of push behind them when they flush, even with very little water. My American husband is a little bit fascinated!!
Mind you with so many years of drought we have had the need to develop these features. Maybe now we just need to market the products to the rest of the water conserving world :)

Len said...

@ matildalucet: I live in Arizona. In the desert we recognize that grey water is more than just a good idea. The developers/power elites figured out that the more water we saved, the more they could rape the desert, build more houses, get richer, etc.

To re-use grey water as I have outlined is a little tougher because as soon as it involves indoor plumbing, I have to be able to demonstrate its viability and safety with a modicum of engineering. Because it is a low pressure system (no more than 4 PSI) this will not be hard AND it is designed to leave the original system intact in case someone wants to revert.

LadyCiani said...

@lazy susie, these toilets have great flushing power.

Traditional water-guzzling toilets are simply gravity-fed, which is why they need a lot of water.

The first models of low-flow were the same, which is why they frequently needed 2 flushes - there just wasn't enough water to move the material.

The newer models of low-flow and dual-flush toilets are assisted by a "push" of water. Don't worry - no motor or electrical involved, but it is a much more powerful flush than the original style of low-flow toilets. You will not regret it!

Sharona said...

In 1987 I took a 'toilet tour' as part of my new job as a water conservation 'educator' and there wasn't much to choose from; nor were there federal low water mandates for toilets. 24 years later, we have such great choices. Every time I've moved into a new (always old) house, the first thing I do is put in low flow toilets. I'm not sentimental about old ceramic. However, some folk do make them into backyard planters.

lisa said...

We replaced one of our $300+ dual flush toilets for a power assisted flusher. Not because the power assist is better, but because our neighbor was replacing it (with a dual flush) and gave it to us for free. The dual flush lasted about a year and a half before not working. The cost to replace parts was more than to get a cheap toilet. Plus the fact that we've used the Let in Mellow rule for so long we always had to use the Big Flush anyway....

PLUS the fact that our 1963 plumbing is so lousy that it takes more Whoosh to push stuff through.

Wish I'd known all that before we dropped a mint on the toilets. :(

Denise said...

Getting dual flush toilets is a neat way to save water. We placed small bricks in our tanks so it takes less water every time we flush. Some Long Island plumbers taught us this trick a while back.

Marie said...

Congrats on the updated toilet! I'm just happy our bathroom is working. We had to get pipe bursting equipment to fix everything that needed fixing. Now everything is up and running!

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