Category Archives: house and home

Fridays at Home: Fixing a Leaky Toilet

12th April 2013

Yes, I put “toilet” in the title of a post. Yes, I am ashamed. But let’s face it, the porcelain throne is (hopefully) part of your everyday life. And if you don’t have a John in your life to fix your john, well, your options are limited.

I could, of course, hire a plumber, but after looking at this great home repair calculator, I decided I’d prefer to keep that chunk of change in my bank account and attempt to fix the leak myself. The loo was leaking from the base and from one of the tank bolts. The below cartoon should give you an idea of how this went…


                                                                                                                                        By jennigens | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

Yeah. So fixing a toilet isn’t difficult. It’s all the associated problems that can be tricky. I began by following these handy dandy instructions from Home Depot:

Easy peasy, right?
My house is on pretty high pier and beams, so ceramic tile is a no go. I had put down nice vinyl tile (I know it sounds bad, but it wasn’t!), and the leaky toilet had saturated the tiles around it, and I had to pull them up. No problem, except Lowe’s no longer carries that tile. And I couldn’t reseat the toilet without having flooring because a. I’d have to reseat it again to get the tile beneath the base and b. the height would have been off. So after buying all new vinyl tile, I was able to lay four strips before I had to make cuts. With a box cutter. I cut approximately two (2!) six-inch pieces of tile over about an hour before the angry tears came. It was not pretty.

I reseated the toilet, and the base didn’t leak, but now both tank bolts leaked, AND the water source coming up from the floor began to leak. Excellent. I called it a night and fell into bed.

Sunday I asked for help. And no, not divine assistance. I went to the pros of the privy and lay myself on their mercy. Another set of tank bolts, some silicone, a new valve and hose later, I was ready! Replaced everything, reseated the toilet again, and….drip, drip, drip drip

Confession time: I gave in, bought a bottle of wine, and called the plumber. But the plumber had to reschedule, so I got online and started Googling the heck out of toilet repair. Here’s what I learned, and here’s how I fixed it, start to finish:

  • Buy HydroCap Sure Seat Wax Ring cover, reinforced wax ring, tank bolts, silicone, valve and hose if necessary, adjustable wrench
  • Turn off the water valve at the wall or floor (all the way to the right)
  • Flush the toilet, holding the handle to allow as much water as possible to leave the tank
  • Use some old towels or sponges to get the rest of the water out of the tank
  • Remove the tank bolts
  • Remove the water hose from the tank
  • Put the tank somewhere safe
  • Mop up water in bowl
  • Remove base bolts
  • Remove the base and wipe the bottom of it clean
  • Remove old wax ring and wipe up old wax
  • Put plastic cap provided with HydroCap in hole to avoid fumes gathering
  • Put new wax seal down
  • Put HydroCap on tops, pressing firmly to get minimal gaps; make level
  • Remove plastic cap from pipe
  • Reseat base
  • Put nuts and caps back on base bolts
  • Place tank back on base
  • Add a ring of silicone to rubber gasket; put gasket closest to porcelain and insert bolt
  • Tighten metal washer and nut on base of toilet (be careful but don’t overly worry that you will crack the tank – I was paranoid!)
  • Allow silicone to cure for three hours
  • Reattach hose to tank
  • Turn water back on and check for leaks

If you must replace anything on the fittings coming from the water source:

  • Turn off water at street
  • Remove fittings and hose
  • Replace and hand tighten, then use wrench for good seal
  • Make sure valve is in the “off” position
  • Turn water on at street
  • Turn water on and test for leaks

Honestly, even with all the hassle, it was worth doing myself. I spent money, but it was nowhere near what I would have spent on a plumber. Plus, if you have a ceramic tile bathroom, you shouldn’t run into the issues I had. And that’s how it’s done, folks. My floor isn’t finished yet…but another day, another project.

Happy Friday!

Fridays at Home: Instagram Prinstagram

15th March 2013

Ah, Instagram. You won’t make a bad photo a good photo (though people sure try, poor things), but you sure do make life prettier. The filters are redolent of sweeter, more innocent days (yeah, right), and we can’t resist.

Honestly, I adore Instagram. I took photo classes back in school and have dabbled in photography off and on for years. Instagram is just an extension of my camera obsession. In fact, you’ll only see me use one filter (I’m pickygirl on Instagram) because it is consistent. I read an article a year or so ago that said the photographer only used the same filter, and if a snap didn’t look good with that filter, he didn’t post it. (I can’t find the original article). I stick with that, and it’s a challenge. Of course, from time to time, I still post a not-so-hot photo.

When Effortless Style posted last May about Prinstagram, I hung onto the link. I knew I wanted to do an installation of my prints somewhere, but how? I didn’t want the poster but the actual prints. I finally ordered last week – 48 prints for $12! – and waited, not so patiently. The photos came quickly, and the quality is amazing. They look like mini Polaroid prints, but they’re actually printed on thick photo paper with the white border.

I also bought some washi tape from Etsy because I didn’t want to affix the photos with anything too formal. I’m not quite finished with the wall, as I want to add a plain white/turquoise/hot pink (not sure which, yet) frame around the photos, but I love having some of my favorites on the wall. They’re so cheery!





See? I think it needs an oversized frame to ground it a bit, but I love coming in and seeing these. Since this room doubles as my office, I’m in here quite a bit.

I’m just so glad I have actual print copies of these now. Even though I have an instant camera, the film is pretty pricey, so I actually think I’m going to sell my camera now that I know I can print these so reasonably.

What do you think? I can actually see a whole wall full of these and think it would be awesome. You could also do picture frame trim to have a more uniform installation of them. Regardless, I’m a bit in love. 🙂

Happy Friday! Do you have any home and/or garden projects up your sleeve this weekend?

P.S. Prinstagram did not pay me or otherwise reimburse me for this post. I just enjoy sharing when I come across something so cool.

Fridays at Home: Nate Berkus

8th March 2013

The rule in my home when it comes to decorating is this: If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it. That may mean that I live without the right piece of furniture for a while. It might even mean a wall remains black for four years (ahem). But I’m not a Kirkland’s fan. I’m not going to buy something just to buy. The result is a very “me” home. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, I’m sure, but I love it. The downside of all those meaningful objects? Well, all that meaning. Makes even cleaning out the closet very difficult.

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

When I first heard about Nate Berkus’s new book, The Things That Matter, I instantly loved the title. Then, when he was a surprise guest at the Random House Reader event during BEA last year, I was (ask Lori or Tara) ridiculously excited. Like, trembling. When they finally convinced me to go up and talk to him and take a picture, I felt like I was floating – partly because he’s Nate Berkus, and partly because when he talked about treasuring the things around him, I felt he was talking directly to me.


I was the little girl who lay awake at night thinking about which route I would take if my house was suddenly on fire. Yes, I would get my family out, but I had my belongings strategically placed so that I could stuff them in my pillowcase and run. The only thing that worried me was my dollhouse. How to lug that sucker out the window?

(In answer to your unasked question, I actually did have a stomach ulcer in high school. Stress related.)

At times I’ve felt badly about this relevance I give to my belongings. Does that make me materialistic? I knew that was not likely. I’ve never had much money and certainly haven’t been wasteful. And here was Nate Berkus, a true force in the design world, telling me that a home should reflect its owner, not the decorator. As silly as it may sound, that was powerful for me.

My sister bought me Things That Matter for Christmas, and I waited until a quiet evening to pore over it. It was unexpectedly delightful. Not that I didn’t think it would be good, but as most coffee table books go, I thought it would be heavy on pictures, light on text. What I found, instead, was a lovely tribute to the things with which we surround ourselves. The book is broken up into its introduction, which Nate delivers and that had me tearing up within 12 pages as he discussed coming out to his family and later, the death of his partner. After the introduction, Nate focuses on the interesting, well-cultivated spaces of his friends. It ends with his own current space and his reflections on how he got to the place he calls home now.

Aside from Nate’s own story, the most poignant was Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s. The famous radio sex talk show host left her family home in Germany as a young girl, never to see her family again. She learned later, both of her parents died in the Holocaust. When she asked Nate to take a look at her place, she told him she wouldn’t get rid of anything. Challenged, he went to learn more about her and her things, and he shared some of the most meaningful pieces and how he crafted her space to highlight them. His reverence for her objects and her memories was touching and lovely.

At the same time, Nate also touches on the beauty of editing, and this is the heart of good design, in my opinion. Editing a room is also the reason I never feel fully pleased with a space. It’s never quite right, but as insane as that sounds, the tweaking is part of the enjoyment for someone like me, and as he talked about his own tweaking, I felt the joy he gets from crafting his house, as it’s much the same as my own joy. To physically be able to touch and move my grandmother’s sofa, to glance over at my other grandmother’s typewriter or my aunt’s paintings, books from a particular trip – these are all important to me.

The things that matter. For you, it might be something seemingly insignificant. But there is a beauty there, regardless.

If you love design or things, I’d highly recommend The Things That Matter.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Fridays at Home: Using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

8th February 2013

If someone told you that you could paint a piece of furniture with no sanding, no prep, and with little chance of ruining it, what would you say? If you’re me, you’d stare at this person with just a hint of suspicion in your eyes.

But that’s exactly what one of the sweet ladies at a great vintage store in my area told me. I had heard of Annie Sloan chalk paint from one of my best friends and was amazed at the results he got. My dilemma was that I loved the natural wood in the room, but it seemed to fade into the wood floors and the dark walls.


Even though this was shot in late-afternoon light, you can tell it just blended in much too much.

I didn’t really want to paint it either. I was stuck, in other words. So my friend Bryan called and pointed me to a great table at one of our favorite vintage stores. The top was left natural wood, but the base and lip of the table were painted and distressed. I fell in love immediately.

This paint is very viscous and thickens if left open to the air for too long. The woman who sold it to me recommended pouring a small bit into a cup so you can add water if it thickens too much. You can’t do that in the actual can as it will mildew the paint. You also have to use a wax to seal the paint. There are different methods here – applying wax before or after sanding. Before sanding will reduce any dust you get from sanding, while sanding before waxing gives you a slightly different texture. I went with the latter. Also, a little bit of this paint goes a loo-oooong way. I used, maybe, a sixth of the pint. But it’s also expensive, so my mom and I split it for a couple of projects we wanted to try. I’ve read you can make your own, too, for a lot less expensive. I’d also caution that unless you plan on distressing, a typical paint (like Valspar, my favorite!) would work just fine.


So I prepped my table (wiped it down for dust) and began painting with my favorite angled brush. And I was unimpressed. The paintbrush marks were very visible. Which made me nervous. The pant also dries super fast, which is good and bad. Good in that if you need a second coat, you can apply it quickly. Bad in that you have less time to even out brush strokes if you’re absolutely nuts about them.


Yikes. I’ll admit, I was a bit worried. (Also, sorry for horrible-quality photos. This was a late-night project, as are many of my projects.)

I must say I was unconvinced until I started sanding. I used 150 grit sandpaper and only sanded the parts of the table base with detail. The change was immediate, and my table started looking like a French country piece in an expensive furniture store. The awesome thing? If you sand too much, just add a bit more paint, wait for it to dry, and sand again. Easy peasy. My friend had told me there was no real way to mess up, and he was right. I attempted painting the edge of the tabletop, hated it, and wiped it right off without any issues.


This was the moment when I realized I was going to love this look. It just made the detail in the wood stand out in a way it didn’t before.

The wax was a bit trickier. I borrowed a special round brush to apply it, but it just stuck to the table in gritty patches. I searched the Internet and found going back with t-shirt material heats it up just enough to where the paint and wax adhere. Once I started that technique, it was awesome and didn’t take long – just a little elbow grease (literally, if you slip up while rubbing the wax in).


Here I wasn’t pleased with the sanding above the beading on the lip. So I added a bit more paint and went back to it later.


Same view but after I repainted and sanded a little less aggressively.

 All in all, this was very quick – and much faster than sanding and refinishing, which I had contemplated. Also, the tabletop wasn’t in great condition, but it wasn’t horrible unless you looked closely. Moisture had clouded the finish, and there were a couple of scratches in it as well. I decided I had nothing to lose, so I applied a coat of the same Annie Sloan soft wax to the top and then buffed it out. Oh. My. Gosh. It looked amazing, and weeks later, it hasn’t lost its sheen.


Gotta love that shine. And the contrast works really well in here.

The last step was finding chairs. It’s not easy to purposefully mismatch chairs, so I tried out a few options, but here’s where I ended. These chairs need a little love, but you guys know they’ll get that. AND that I’ll share with you. Duh. 🙂


They’re shabby, but I love that they draw in the color in the room, especially from the Texas Book Festival poster right above the table.

So, it’s Friday! Any home improvement going on in your neck of the woods? Or is your neck of the woods planning for a super storm? Either way, be careful, and enjoy your weekend at home.

P.S. Annie Sloan didn’t provide paint or pay me for my thoughts. I just thought I’d share with you.


Fridays at Home: The Dining/Reading Room Saga

25th January 2013

Be wary in ever thinking a room is mostly finished. One of a couple of things may happen: a. you walk into the room and realize it’s hideous or b. you inherit a piece of furniture that is lovely but throws everything off.

Both of these have happened to me within the last year and a half. And while both are good things – changing a hideous paint color to a much better one and inheriting your grandmother’s sofa – they still throw a kink in plans. Let’s follow along:

Want a sneak peak?
I’ll be back next Friday with details and a how-to.
Happy Friday!