I’m trying my best to be as green as possible while remodeling my house. I have used as much salvage goods as possible. I’m on a first name basis with the guys at Construction Junction and try to be the Mayor of the recycling dumpster.
However, what do I do with an old toilet?
Yes, I can donate it for reuse but then I’m encouraging someone to use too much water every time they make sissy. The toilet in question used 3.5 gallons per flush. That’s 2 gallons more then the federaly mandated standard. I’m not the math wiz (pun intended) but that’s a lot of water being wasted.
What to do? I did extensive rearch for options. I came up empty handed.
I can’t break it up to use for flower pot drainage but poo contamination is bad! I don’t need Dateline NBC to be in my backyard with a cotton swab.
While fashion forward, I couldn’t make it work as a head piece.
The only viable option seems to be turning it into a lovely flowerpot but my nebby neighbors might object.
So what did I do? I took it to Construction Junction to be reused. The donation attendant said that they were thinking about no longer accepting high flush toilets. Oh Crap! However, for now, I accepted the tax donation receipt and left my trouble maker behind. Now to deal with the two other water buffalos in my house!
PS. What would you do with an old toilet? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
We’ve both been out of town a lot lately for work (and barely seen each other, let alone got any projects done). But a few weeks back we were here, and did make some progress on the deck. We got all of the part that’s going away taken down, and a new set of stairs built.
First, we removed all the decking from the area.
Then we worked on removing the railing where the new stairs would go. It was “decorated” with a random collection of tiles glued to plywood and was quite a pain to get out of there.
Then we got the old joists and beam cut out (we decided not to save the beam after all). It really opened things up. Here you can see Jimmy proudly standing in the great big hole where deck used to be!
And finally, we built some stairs, which apparently I forgot to snap a shot of. But they come straight out from the back door, about where I’m kneeling in this picture. (You can see more awful artsy tile patchwork on the right. That’ll be going as well.)
The eastern part of what is now the United States used to be full of the American chestnut tree. It largely died out due to a fungus known as chestnut blight but there are a few places you can still find them growing. (I read in the Wikipedia article that there are a few “untainted” groves of chestnut in Alabama and a few other places.)
Although it’s now very rare to find chestnut trees or wood (and the nuts are imported from Europe, where they have a different variety of chestnut tree), it used to be common. In fact, in the house Jimmy grew up in in central Pennsylvania, parts of which were built as early as the 1750s, had foot-wide chestnut floorboards in the attic.
No one lives there any more, and we decided those boards shouldn’t go to waste. Foot-wide lumber of any kind is hard to come by, and being eco-conscious (and frugal!) we knew we couldn’t just let it go, even though we don’t have an immediate use for it.
So we drove a truck up this spring and did a board rescue. We got the majority of those that were in good shape, but there are still a few wedged in, so we may make another trip.
While we were there, we also discovered a treasure trove of old wooden windows and doors in the attic of the barn. We couldn’t pass those up either — call us packrats.
A few of the windows are going to turn into a fancy shed for Jimmy’s back yard (probably a project for next summer, after the deck is finished). The chestnut boards are currently stacked in the garage, and someday they’re going to turn into something — a beautiful kitchen floor, maybe. We’re content to keep them until a use presents itself, because they’ll be unlike any other lumber we could lay our hands on, for any price, and they come with history and memories.
You can talk about designs all you want, but ultimately you need to sketch them out to get an idea of what they look like. That was definitely the case with our designs for the deck.
Pencil and paper are great, especially when you’re trying lots of different ideas. (Actually, I like to use a big fat Sharpie, because that leaves you to focus on the overall shapes and not tiny details.)
But if your drawing skills are limited, like mine, for a complicated drawing you might need a little help. For the deck I used SketchUp, which is a 3D drawing application that’s really pretty easy to get the hang of. You don’t have to be a pro to use this, it’s pretty simple to draw some rectangles, extrude them out into space, and paint some textures like wood or brick or grass onto them. And you end up with something like this:
Which I think is super cool! Check out SketchUp, and there’s a great series of tutorials right within the application to get you started.
You may have already read that we’re tearing apart the deck, for a variety of reasons. As is, it’s a large space, but it’s not very well-defined.
Here’s what the deck looked like to begin with (click to embiggen).
It’s right outside the back door, just off the kitchen. It’s large, spanning most of the width of the yard, and has two sets of steps, one down on the street side (hidden on the far side of this illustration) and another you can see here, which go down to the yard and a little side deck that holds the grill. At the very least, we knew the too-high railing had to go: it blocked the whole view of the back yard from the house.
Better already. Beyond that, Jimmy’s original idea was to keep the same basic footprint for the deck, but step down various sections to break it into several “rooms”. The porch area right outside the back door would stay as is. This would then step down to an intermediate level where the dining table would go. Finally, a couple more steps would send us down to ground level, where there would be a patio in the footprint of the remaining deck.
We liked this idea, but after inspecting the underlying support structure, this would have taken a lot of work. More time and money than we were really prepared to spend when there was a much easier solution:
This option leaves the porch section and the dining area at the same level, then steps down to the patio. This was a great compromise, as we felt it kept a lot of the same structure of three separate “rooms” but was a lot easier to manage.
In fact, we started to get ideas from our compromise. The original support structure for the deck had a large beam running the entire length along the back (the side closest to us in the illustration). We thought, wouldn’t it be cool to use that as a sort of “railing” for the patio, and maybe put some planter boxes on top?
Then the creative juices really got rolling, as we started to think about two things: a new railing, and what to do with the large vertical expanse of the porch wall?
We didn’t want a traditional picket railing — we were looking for something a little more unusual. But at the same time, we didn’t want something that would be out of character for the 1920s American Foursquare. We ended up thinking of something like this (I just drew one section here to get the idea of how it would look):
It’s a series of small, horizontal slats. It’s different from the standard, boring railings that everyone else has, but its clean lines and sharp corners go with the character of the house and its other woodwork. And, we can use the same motif for trellises and other elements — a great solution for that big expanse of wall going up the side of the porch.
So, that’s been our design process so far. I think there are a couple of important lessons here:
Sometimes, you have to compromise on a design idea because it’s just too complicated or expensive. That’s OK — try to keep the character of your design while simplifying how you’ll actually execute it.
Figure out what you have to work with and embrace it, rather than working against it. You can find some surprises that ultimately improve your design.
We’re currently still tearing apart the old deck structure, and hopefully the nice weather will hold for tomorrow so we can get some more accomplished.
Well, it’s “perfectly good” in that it’s structurally sound and not rotten or falling apart. But it’s less than ideal in a few other ways.
It completely blocks the view of the back yard from the back of the house.
Besides blocking the view, the railing is ugly and unsteady.
(Please ignore my jiggling belly.)
It’s kind of boring.
So, we’re tearing it apart.
Fear not, however, we are making use of all the wood in other ways (because the greenest thing is using what you already have). The first project is building raised vegetable beds (see the how-to in an upcoming post).