Thursday, 31 January 2013

Upgrading the bathroom - Phase 1

When we first saw this house (at the open home) I noticed that there were no mirrors anywhere in the house, not even in the bathrooms. I'd never seen a house that didn't have a bathroom mirror. I've read that in Feng Shui, mirrors are believed to create an unbalance of energy in the house, so perhaps that's why they chose to have no mirrors? Anyway, I had a small mirror that I wasn't using so I hung it up. This is what the downstairs bathroom looked like after we moved in:
This is after we made a start on replacing the toilet:

Bathroom vanity - before
There were several problems with the bathroom, so we made that room a priority. The toilet was leaking, so I changed the ballcock washer, but it still had another leak from underneath the cistern. Chris leaned over to have a look at it and snapped the pipe that feeds the bowl from the cistern, so we decided it was time for a new toilet. Since we were replacing the toilet, we decided it would be a good time to repaint the walls since they were a lilac colour and it made the bathroom look dark. Even the windowsills were painted in the lilac colour, so the windows looked small and dark. I hate seeing the crack on the laminated plastic vanity's draws, but that will have to wait another day.
The last thing we wanted to fix immediately was the extractor fan. It was completely gunked up with dust and looked disgusting, so we decided to replace it with a new fan. That job required an electrician. We replaced the toilet and did the painting ourselves.
We chose Resene's Pearl Lusta (a pretty cream colour) for the bathroom. I know cream paint doesn't go so well with the existing beige bathtub and beige vanity, but it will have to do for now until we upgrade those. We chose a waterbourne enamel paint designed for the kitchen & bathroom, since it would need to withstand high humidity and repel mould spores. For the windows we used Dulux Aquanamel in Vivid Gloss White. I chose a gloss white to reflect the sunlight on the windowsill, to maximise light in the room. The bathroom is not on the sunny side of the house so I wanted to increase the light as much as possible.
The trick to painting with a roller is to always roll upwards on the first stroke. That way any extra paint on the roller will get rolled upwards onto the wall, whereas if you rolled downwards it will drip on the floor. Here is the result after painting the walls and windows, and replacing the extractor fan. After painting, we bought a bathroom mirror from Bunnings for $99. The mirror has a very dark brown (almost black) frame with a silver/bronze colour on the inner edge of the frame.
After painting and replacing the fan
The new toilet:
Replacing the toilet was fairly easy but it took us about 2 hours since we had never replaced one before, so we read the instructions carefully as we went. The hardest part was choosing the right toilet. I knew our toilet was an S-trap because the waste pipe led into the floor, whereas a P-trap would lead into the wall (the upstairs toilet is a P-trap). Next I measured the distance between the wall and the 'hole' (the hole in the floor that directs the waste into the sewer). Lastly, I noted down whether the inlet water tap was on the left or right side (ours was located on the left side of the toilet).
We took our measurements down to the hardware store and the guy pointed out which S-trap toilets would fit our bathroom. We chose an Englefield toilet that has a ceramic cistern. Plastic cisterns are much lighter and easier to install, but I find plastic dulls and scratches with time, losing its shine. Ceramic will hold its shine for years so its worth paying a little extra for.
Many of the toilet models these days are built so that the cistern hose can connect on either the right or left side of the cistern (you just plug up whichever side you're not using). Unfortunately the toilet we chose didn't - it only had a right side hole in its cistern (our cistern tap is on the left) so we had to buy a long cistern hose to correct the problem. The last things we needed were a rubber toilet gasket (its upside down in this photo) and toggle wall anchors.

I watched a few YouTube videos (from the US) and noticed that people there use a wax ring (wax gasket). Every country is different so you'll just have to ask the store which gasket is used where you live. Anyway, the bottom (smaller end) of the rubber gasket sits in the sewer hole and then the toilet is placed on top of this (with the S-trap pipe sitting in the bung), so that waste water cannot leak out.
Since a ceramic toilet cistern is pretty heavy, and much heavier once its filled with water, we bought two heavy-duty toggle wall anchors. There were no studs in the drywall (plasterboard) where we needed to place our cistern screws, so without studs to drill into, we had to buy strong wall anchors. The anchors are easy to install, but I measured and marked the places twice before drilling to avoid any mistakes.
The cistern components were mostly pre-assembled and fitted, so there were only a few things we had to do there. We had to cut the flush button rods to size and fit those in, but that was pretty straight forward. I used an adjustable wrench to attach the cistern hose to the cistern and the inlet.
After installing the toilet and turning the inlet tap back on I found that there was slight leak where I had connected the inlet to the new hose, but a little extra tightening with the wrench fixed that problem. One last problem we encounted was that our masonry drill bits completely failed to penetrate the concrete under the lino when we went to put the two toilet bowl bolts in. Luckily the electrician had arrived to replace the fan, and he had a proper concrete drill in his truck so we borrowed that to finish off the job.

Last of all, I applied a line of white caulking around the toilet and smoothed it with my finger. We finished off by applying the caulking to top edge of the bath and around the top of the vanity. The tube of caulk said "white" but it was actually more of a creamy white so it went well with our bathroom. We didn't go around the whole vanity since we're planning on pulling it out and replacing it anyway.
Overall, the toilet, hose and gasket only cost us $180, and then we spent about $15 on the wall anchors. We saved a lot of money by not hiring a plumber to do this job, but having said that, our house is fairly modern so exchanging a 1990s style toilet for a 2013 model isn't very difficult. If you have an old house you won't be replacing like with like, since toilet technology has changed a lot of over the decades. In an older house, chances are you'll need a plumber to upgrade some of the pipes before a modern style toilet can be fitted.
So this was Phase 1 of our bathroom upgrade. There is still a lot to be done. The bathroom doesn't have a heater, the lino flooring looks worn, the shower head needs replacing, the shower tower (soap stand) needs replacing, and the vanity needs replacing. No matter how much I scrub the vanity sink, it doesn't come clean (another reason I don't like plastic for sinks and toilet cisterns - plastic stains permanently). My plan is to build a timber vanity and stain it a dark brown colour like the new mirror :)

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