Practical Homeowner Knowledge Is Vital

WRITTEN BY Practical Homeowner Knowledge Is Vital

If you didn’t take a class or read a “how-to” book to learn the best, the most productive way to live as an independent adult in your first home, PJ Wade offers sound bathroom advice and a quiz highlighting home management.

Did you take a class or read a “How-to-live-in-a-house” book to learn the best, the most productive way to live as an independent adult in your first home?

What’s the origin of your mish-mash of fact-&-fantasy regarding your “here’s how it works” approach to living in your home? For most of us, our education was a mix of parental training, copying friends, guesswork, and replicating what we saw in the movies and on television; millennials and younger generations “Google” all that flawed data and perpetuate it.

Our tip? Seek out factual, practical information before you run into problems. Oh yes, you will have problems…everything breaks down eventually.

Take our “Do It Right” Quiz below to learn how on-point your working knowledge of home management is. There’s no “almost right” for each quiz question; you’re right or you’re not. No “true” or “false” or “a” or “b” simplification either. “Working knowledge” means having clear, practical understanding, not guessing or “Googling” for quick, band-aid solutions in the middle of a crisis. This informed approach will prevent you from doing little things the wrong way each day which can build into big problems later.

In reality, “winning” this Quiz can mean lower maintenance bills, fewer inconvenient breakdowns, fewer expensive service calls, and more choices when renovating. In this version of our “Do It Right” Quiz, we offer a mini-quiz that highlights the most-taken-for-granted household item which causes some of the biggest home-repair problems – the toilet.

Since most modern homes have at least two indoor, modern toilets and many have one per bedroom, this home appliance has significant impact:

“Do It Right” Bathroom Quiz

#1. Flush Right: What is a toilet designed to flush away?

Answer: Only human waste, with a small amount of bathroom tissue, should go into a flush toilet.

Not kitchen grease, leftover paint, diapers, handiwipes, or deceased pets. The huge blob of fat and heaven-knows-what, called a fatberg, which has accumulatedunder a British city and a few American cities too, is what happens when too much of the wrong stuff gets flushed or poured into sinks or other household drains. On a local level, your plumbing bill will be your barometer of how well toilets are used in your home. New low-flow toilets may save on water, but their low-water volumes can cause problems. Sometimes, large amounts of excrement won’t flush cleanly. Foreign objects like kitchen grease can cause blockage, so overflows become a problem. Septic systems operate the same way toilets do plus they have additional maintenance requirements to prevent massive fecal backup, which can flood the bathroom or swamp the lawn. You know this will happen at the worst possible time like a backyard birthday BBQ or wedding reception.

#2. Toilet Seat Right: What is the main purpose of a toilet seat cover?

Answer: The toilet seat cover protects people and bathroom surfaces from germs and fecal matter that are sprayed out in a fine mist when the toilet is flushed after use.

The toilet seat cover is not for standing on to change light bulbs or dust vent gratings. Put the toilet seat and cover down after using the toilet and before you flush to keep fecal contamination to a minimum. For the same reason, regularly wash surfaces and the bowl of the toilet with disinfectant, even if it “looks” clean.

#3. Toilet Location Right: What is a relatively inexpensive way to move a toilet a few inches to maximize scarce bathroom space?

Answer: An offset toilet flange can be added to the connection between the toilet and the sewer pipe extending through the bathroom floor to move the toilet a few inches forward, backward, or to one side.

A small job for a professional plumber, adding an offset or extender toilet flange may be possible for experienced homeowners. The do-it-yourself risk lies in not having the right tools or expertise to make sure seals are water-tight, so no leaks damage the bathroom floor or the ceiling below. If done incorrectly, repair costs will be much greater than the price of the part. Homeowners can decide about the cost-benefit return by getting exact quotes for the potential adjustment compared to what is gained.

The contractor for my last bathroom renovation did not take into account the difference in dimensions for the new, smaller water-conserving toilet. A few dollars spent on an offset toilet flange would have compensated for the resulting wider gap at back of the toilet tank. I’m now stuck with a gap which things fall through and the loss of a few crucial inches of space that would be valuable when climbing into the soaker tub.

#4. Environment Right: What are the local environmental requirements for replacement toilets in your area?

Answer: Check with local municipal building offices to learn what is required.

Municipalities may have grant programs for those interested in replacing old toilets with more environmentally-sound, low-flush models. Locations with water shortage issues may have more strict requirements. If you pay for each flush, you may be more committed to going low flow. Investigate flush dynamics to get the best results even when water volumes are lower. All models are not equally effective in performing the desired task cleanly and efficiently each time.

#5. Renovation Right: How can bathroom renovation costs be kept to a minimum, even when a “gut job” is required?

Answer: Do not move the location of drains for the toilet, sink, bathtub, and/or shower to keep costs down.

Replacing the existing toilet, vanity, bathroom sink, tub, and shower, including facets and taps without moving the location of any of these elements will keep you on budget. The expensive aspects are demolition and removing the debris (something homeowners can tackle to save money) and replacing tile, laying down flooring, painting, and adding fixtures and decorative mirrors and hooks. Decide to move the toilet or any other “bathroom furniture” and re-plumbing and rewiring can add significant cost. Arrange full estimates from experienced plumbers and bathroom contractors so you can create an accurate budget and contingency fund. Talk to the professionals about what “surprises” may lie in walls and floors. Locals will know which problems are common for houses similar to yours. Renovating in the “busy season” will mean longer time lines.

Don’t try and learn everything about everything all at once.

Start with the oldest or most-used systems and gradually expand your knowledge and list of professional contacts. Be prepared and you and your wallet will benefit in many ways.

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