Jehovah’s Witnesses bought me a toilet

I have been undertaking, or paying others to undertake, a bunch of projects as I get my house ready to put on the market. I’m working to increase curb appeal and remove obvious objections to buying this place. I’m behind schedule, as I had hoped to be ready to list the house June 1. August 1 feels more likely now.

So the chain-link fence is fixed where it had been broken and mangled by the people who removed my 21 dead ash trees two years ago. And the network of cracks growing in my asphalt driveway are now well sealed. I paid people to do those jobs. Meanwhile, I’ve been painting walls every spare weekend. And I took up the worn-out carpet in the hallway to reveal the hardwood floors, and then discovered they’re in iffy shape and that carpet runners are way cheaper than having the floors refinished.

But the big job, which I finished last weekend, was fixing my bathroom floor.

Longtime readers might remember that when I bought my house, the main bathroom was a fright. Here, take a look.


That’s fake brickface painted yellow, with laminate sheeting glued to the wallboard above. The medicine chest provided the only light in the room, except three of the four bulb sockets didn’t work. And whoever laid the floor had to have been drunk or high while they did it, as the tiles were all at an angle and didn’t meet properly at the corners. And they didn’t bother to remove the toilet to place the vinyl tile underneath it. They just cut the tile around it and squirted some caulk to fill the gaps.

I got my house at a good price after it had been on the market for a year. I assume prospective buyers took one look at that bathroom and bolted. But the price and location both worked for me, so I bit.

Side note: nine years after the housing bubble burst, after considerable investment in my home, it looks like I’ll be able to sell it for about what I paid for it. My part of town has been slower than average to rebound from the housing crisis. It’s disappointing, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

It took me a couple years, but I finally commenced Operation Lipstick on the Pig to make the bathroom look not awful. Here’s how that turned out. New sink, new light fixture, new towel bar, mirror and side cabinet replacing the medicine chest, fresh paint, and some painted railing to finish the raw edges. I even put folding doors on a closet that had none, and added shelving. A valance and a better privacy covering over the lower six windowpanes came a little later.


But the one thing I didn’t tackle was the floor. There was a little water damage around the toilet and tub that needed attention, and I wanted to lay better-looking flooring. It all sounded expensive and possibly beyond my skills, and besides, my bathroom had been torn up for weeks already. I was tired of the mess. So I put it off for another day.

And then that day kept not coming. The water damage by the tub got worse; the subfloor by the tub became positively squishy. I slathered on some caulk to keep it from getting worse, and then I lived with it like that for six years.

Preparing a house for sale will motivate you to tackle those jobs you’ve been putting off.

I started two weekends ago. I figured I’d remove the toilet, remove the old vinyl, remove and replace the water-damaged areas of the subfloor, lay new vinyl, put the toilet back, bada bing. Oh good heavens is that not how it went.

I knew things were not going to go well when I discovered that my toilet has always been attached to the floor only with caulk. Caulk! CAULK. It’s a wonder the toilet stayed put these ten years! I said an unkind epithet out loud to the previous owner of my house as I stuffed a rolled-up rag into the hole to keep sewer gases at bay.

I removed the old vinyl with my hair dryer and a putty knife — time consuming, but not hard. But in doing that I discovered that a layer of 1/4-inch plywood had been screwed to the floor. It, too, had been cut around the toilet! Another unkind epithet passed aloud through my lips. The previous owner’s ears had to be burning. And then my weekend ran out of time. I’d have to live with my bathroom like this for a little while longer.

Fortunately, I had long planned a few days off the next week. I just never expected I’d use them to work on my bathroom. And it took four of the next five days to do it all: remove the plywood, fix the water-damaged subfloor, put on a layer of cheap, thin vinyl where the original vinyl tile was missing (so that there were no low areas), and then lay new, bright, cheerful vinyl over it all.

And then Margaret asked, “Do you want the toilet that’s sitting in my garage? It’s essentially new.” I never liked the old toilet much, as it was a weak flusher, so I said yes. Margaret got her spare toilet when her employer, a large church, bought a church building Downtown to be their second campus. The building had most recently been the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Witnesses had built a few apartments into the building. Margaret’s church removed the apartments and made the furniture and fixtures available to staff. Margaret snagged several things including this toilet, which she thought could go into a rental house she owns. The toilet ended up not being needed there.

So I took it home and installed it. I had never installed a toilet before. It took me five hours to get it done. The flange in the floor that holds the bolts wasn’t in the best condition, but I didn’t want to try to replace it so I made it work. I had to re-seat the toilet three times because the bolts kept popping out of the flange as I tightened them. I was quite cross by the time I was done. But it did get done, and it doesn’t leak. Success! Bask in the glow of this photo of the completed job.


The new toilet flushes so well! And the new floor looks so good! Too bad I won’t be around here long enough to enjoy it.

Next house I own, I won’t put off jobs like this so I can enjoy them after they’re done.

Yeah, right.


16 responses to “Jehovah’s Witnesses bought me a toilet”

  1. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    Looks nice.

    I don’t know if the previous owner can use this excuse, but I tiled a bathroom once. There were 8 corners in the room and not one of them was square!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I had zero trouble getting the new tiles to lie square!

  2. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    Now you know why the old toilet was fastened down with caulk?

    Yes, tell yourself that you won’t put those jobs off at the new house. That’s what I said when I moved into our current house. In 1993.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah. Wow, I have an amazing capacity to live with house problems.

  3. AskDaralynn Avatar

    Awesome job ! I love the new look.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Why thank you!

  4. Jon Avatar

    Yikes! That was quite a mess. I’m glad you or your Son’s never landed in the basement. It looks very stylish now. A very worthwhile effort.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The caulk I slathered on a few years ago kept the problem from growing, and we all knew where to avoid stepping!

  5. Ron Avatar

    Been through this on both sides of a duplex I used to own (and live in). Same sort of 1960’s construction. What a mess! Except that my current mortgage payment is less than most one-bedroom rent around town, renting sometimes looks pretty good!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh man yes. The rents in my neighborhood are way higher than my house payment. I’ve dumped a ton of money into this property, most of it unplanned, and I think I still came out slightly ahead over renting.

  6. DougD Avatar

    Nice job, that’s one thing your ears won’t be burning over in the future when subsequent work is done in that bathroom.

    One thing that always bugs me about toilet installation is there’s no way to check for leaks once it’s installed. I think it’s OK, but I’m always checking the ceiling below for water damage weeks afterwards.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I’m pleased with how it turned out. This is a one-story home. I’ll have to go into the crawl space to check for a leak!

  7. conspicari Avatar

    Bathroom looks lovely Jim, would you like to come round and fix mine ?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Fly me out and I’ll think about it! :-)

  8. Heide Avatar

    Nicely done, Jim! I’ve only installed a toilet once — coincidentally, at another Jim’s house — and I never want to do it again (unlike you, we got immediate confirmation that we hadn’t done it right). Although it’s a pity you won’t be around long enough to enjoy your handiwork, I expect it will pay off in a higher selling price. Fingers crossed!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Boy wouldn’t it be nice if I got a higher selling price for all the work I’m doing. This is a pretty modest neighborhood, and the expectations are pretty basic. What I’m trying to do is remove objections. A water damaged bathroom floor is absolutely an objection!

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