Each new year we make a list of things we 'hope' to achieve that year, and every year a number of house related projects get written down, some appearing year after year such is the loose nature of our resolutions! One of the long-standing list items is a refurb of what we loosely call the utility room. It is a very small space, but amazingly this room, not much more than 2 metres square, served as the kitchen originally back in Edwardian times. Even though there are three much larger rooms on the ground floor that could have been designated as the kitchen, they seemed to have been used as a parlour, a dining room and a sitting room. Gives an indication of the relative importance was given over to cooking in those times I guess?
More recently, the kitchen has been moved to one of the bigger rooms and this small room used as storage space and somewhere to put the washing machine and dishwasher. It's not an efficiently used space however, and the intention has been, ever since we moved in 7 years ago, to make it work harder by putting in an extra toilet and second shower.
So this is the year we are definitely going to do it, but I have complicated matters somewhat by making this a 'vintage year' and pledging not to buy new whenever I can help it. Makes it tricky when you need to source a toilet, and shower cubicle, both of compact size.
I have had some vintage successes. I managed to track down a second-hand belfast sink, and by jove, it's a heavy old thing. It's in very good nick, although is obviously old and well used and cost me £65 instead of hundreds for a new one. The other success, and somehow makes up for my failure with my bathroom tap fiasco, is that I have sourced a pair of beautiful, original 1930s Art Deco taps. I found them in a flea market and did take a risk as I couldn't be sure they still worked, but I handed them over to John, my wonderful plumber, who stripped them down – easy to do with the old taps! – and checked they were in working order, they were and only needed their washers changed.
It is amazing really, there I am with taps that are 80ish years old, that cost me £45, and work perfectly after a 20p washer change. Contrast that with my modern bathroom taps that cost a fortune originally, and started malfunctioning only 7 years after purchase with no way of easily and cheaply fixing them – madness!
I've also asked Robert, my local carpenter, to find some reclaimed pine to make a workbench and shelving for me. So he is on the case with that.
So far so good.
Then it gets trickier. I need a compact toilet to fit in a small space. To be quite honest the thought of a second hand toilet does not really appeal that much. And there the problem that older toilets tend not to be very small. So my quest is even trickier. There is also the issue of water use. Older toilets tend to use between 9 and 14 litres per flush, whereas new version use 6 litres. So you could be wasting between 50% and 130% more water on every flush. As an average household loo is used around 5000 times per year, that’s a hell of a lot of water. They also tend not to have dual flush mechanisms, where if you just do a wee one, excuse the pun, then you can use the half flush at just 3 litres, but if you have something more substantial to deposit you use the full flush (6 litres). We are also on a water meter so will be paying for every unnecessary extra litre that gets flushed away.
I also have an issue about using fresh, clean, treated, transported water to flush the toilet, its crazy that such a precious resource is flushed away so carelessly. There should be a better way, after all isn’t part of the country in a drought situation already this year and it is only March! There are grey water systems, but they don’t come without their issues either as it takes a lot of energy to clean and pump this water around the house apparently.
Grey water systems provde an alternative, but they have their issues too in the amount of energy it takes to pumpthe water around the house.
So, that's where I am at the moment. I think I will have to buy a new toilet, for the sake of space saving and water/money saving in the long term. I'm figuring that is a reasonable compromise and, as I said, the thought of a second hand loo isn't the most appealing!