Friday, July 29, 2005

Legos + Clawfoot Tub + Skill = Art.

I love Legos. They are, without a doubt, one of the greatest toys ever designed. When I was a kid, the only toy I wanted to play with were Legos. Now, as an adult, I have to leave my childhood toys behind (in a 50 gallon drum in my basement - yes, I have a lot of Legos). This is not the case for Jonathan Eric Hunter. Mr. Hunter is an official Lego Master Model Builder (my secret dream job) who built this clawfoot tub:






What I love is that he got the details down extremely well. The faucet, feet and drain are all very well done. His other models are even more interesting (the mountain top castle is particularly nice).

So, if you now find yourself in need of a Lego fix, I suggest you click on over to the Official Lego Store and get to work. Go on - "personal life coaches" and pop-psychologists are always telling everyone to "tap into your inner child." I agree. Take the $100 professional fee you would have wasted on an hour with a coach and buy the Lego Enzo Ferarri racer. Think of it as a little "retail therapy" for guys. Sweeeeeeeet.





Thursday, July 28, 2005

House Made! Another All-Killer, No-Filler Blog

I have been on a bender for the past few days attempting to find really interesting home-improvement blogs. I am trying to make the authors of these blogs an offer they can't refuse: I will swap them free stuff in exchange for their honest comments on our products and service. I figure I might as well ask those that are good at expressing themselves to talk about our stuff.

I am also in the middle of renovating my bathroom and my misery needs company.

Anyway, in my searching I found House Made and just stopped cold. Merideth and Beth are renovating their 1922 Spanish bungalow in Oakland, CA and they are sharing their adventures with the world. The site looks great and the writing is top-rate (the ode to their new gate is indicative of their tongue-in-cheek style). I also love their clever use of Flickr (a program that lets you highlight and add notes to images). Their latest post shows why folks with no taste should be prohibited from changing the exteriors of their homes. Vinyl siding on a stucco bungalow is an architectural crime of the first-order. Oh, my eyes!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Home Improvement Warriors!

There are lots – repeat, lots – of home improvement sites and blogs on the web. Most are pretty bland. There are, however, a few sites that stand above the rest. These blogs offer real insight and solid advice. Best of all, the posts are well written (usually with a heavy dose of wit). Three blogs I recently found that I like are (in no particular order):

1) House In Progress

Tag Line: “We call it home IMPROVEMENT because it can’t get any worse.”

Notes: 1,300 people a day check out the latest progress on Aaron and Jeannie’s 1914 Chicago Bungalow. I really like the attention to detail in their posts. For example, their January 2004 post about pressure balance systems does a nice job of clearly explaining how these systems work and what they did to overcome an actual installation problem. They are almost finished with their master bathroom and I am hoping they post the finished images soon (gotta check out their clawfoot tub!).

2) Our Fixer-Upper

Tag Line: “Because we asked for it.”

Notes: Teague and Mindy are renovating their New York 1890’s Italianate home. Teague is an interior designer (nice to have around if you’re redesigning your home) and Mindy is a web designer (nice to have around if you’re blogging about redesigning your home). Like most good blogs, the posts are informative and interesting. The thing that got me was the photo gallery showing different neat buildings of their town. It is obvious that they really love their home. It seems like, to them, this isn’t a task that has to get done (although I am fairly certain it must feel like that on certain days). Rather, it must be a labor of love that they are willing to share with everyone.

3) That Old House

Tag Line: “Sure, the kitchen is small, and the floors are kind of slanted, but that can be fixed, right? Right?”

Notes: Nola, a freelance writer and editor, is just starting the restoration of her New Orleans home (demolition pictures are always great to see – nothing like a dust mask and crowbar to let off some stress). Having discovered that “actually doing construction projects on Saturday morning was a whole lot harder than watching them on TV”, Nola hung up her tool belt and has taken on the role of General Contractor. Her blog, therefore, focuses on both the actual construction as well as managing contractors.

I will end this post with a John F. Kennedy quote that Nola used in her very first post. This says it all for me:

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days.
Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, not in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.


- JFK, Inaugural Address, 1960

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Plumbing Codes: Will My Clawfoot Tub Pass Inspection?

Alternate Title: "Plumbing Codes: The Reason Why I am Not Drinking My Neighbor's Bathwater."

One of the more interesting questions we get asked is “After I install one of your clawfoot tubs and faucet sets, will my bathroom pass a plumbing code inspection?” The simple, but unsatisfactory, answer is: “Definitely maybe.” Let me explain what I mean by starting with a little plumbing code history and theory.

As you may have guessed, building and plumbing codes exist to provide minimum standards of health and safety for the public. The problem is that there is no single uniform plumbing code for the United States. Every state, county, city and town has the right to define and enforce their codes as they see fit. Needless to say, this lack of a uniform plumbing code causes a great deal of confusion and frustration.

In 1994, several major model code organizations joined together to form the International Code Council (ICC). The goal of the ICC was to draft a set of universal building and plumbing codes. After years of research and discussion, the ICC published the first full edition of the I-Codes in 2000. The ICC’s efforts were, in large part, successful and have been adopted in 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Pennsylvania, for example, adopted the ICC’s I-Code as the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code in July of 2004.

That does not mean, however, that the United States has a strictly enforced, uniform plumbing code. Remember, individual states and other political units (towns, counties, etc.) can modify the I-Codes before making those standards and practices law.

Now let’s take a quick look at the concepts behind the codes. When it comes to bathtubs, the ICC concerns itself with proper tub and fixture installation as well as minimizing the risk of “Backflow”. Backflow (or more accurately “Backsiphonage”) is created by a difference in water pressures which causes water to flow back into the distribution pipes of a potable water supply. To prevent the potable water supply system from being contaminated, the supply lines or fittings are required to be installed in a manner that will prevent backflow. How could this backflow (backsiphonage) actually occur? Imagine you were bathing with the spout of your faucet under the flood level (rim) of the tub and there was a break in the water main (or some other circumstance that caused your water pressure to drop quickly). It is possible that the suction caused by this loss of pressure could draw your bathwater back into the faucet, through your supply lines and into the public water supply. The folks who wrote the plumbing codes did not think you wanted to drink your neighbor’s bathwater. Smart, indeed.

So, how does all this apply to installing your clawfoot tub and faucets? As a GENERAL RULE, you will almost always pass an inspection if either the spout of your faucet is above the roll rim of the clawfoot tub OR you have installed a backflow prevention device in accordance with the manufacturers’ installation instructions. Installing these devices is a fairly easy and inexpensive task if you do it during the initial bathtub installation. On the other hand, you will almost certainly NOT pass an inspection if your spout is below the flood level rim of the tub. The grey area occurs when you have a spout below the flood level rim but above the overflow AND you DO NOT have any backflow prevention device. The International Plumbing Code would prohibit that application. Many inspectors and enforcement agencies, however, would pass that faucet and tub combination based on the fact the spout is above the overflow hole.

Examples:

The Strom Plumbing Gooseneck Faucet (shown below) is an example of a faucet that would not require a backflow prevention device. The spout is above the flood level rim of the tub.



If you add a handshower to the Gooseneck faucet (below), however, you need to make certain that the handshower unit has a vacuum breaker (because the handshower could get into the bathwater). The faucet shown below comes standard with the required backflow prevention device.



An example of a “grey area” would be the installation of an English Telephone Faucet (below). According to the ICC, you only need to install backflow prevention devices to the hot and cold supply lines (the handshower would not need a separate backflow prevention device). Some enforcement agencies, on the other hand, would not insist on backflow prevention devices in your supply lines. Instead, they might only require that you add a vacuum breaker to the handshower because the faucet spout is above the overflow.



With that said, our advice is to always install backflow prevention devices when the spout is located below the flood level (rim) of the tub. Some devices are small and decorative so they can be installed right at the faucet. Others are designed for installation directly on your supply lines. Remember: Although backflow prevention devices do not necessarily need to be exposed, they MUST be accessible so they can be maintained and inspected.

If you have a specific question about your installation, consult with a QUALIFIED plumber and/or call your local code enforcement office for guidance.

I would like to thank Lynne Simnick (Senior Technical Staff, ICC) for taking the time to explain the ICC codes as well as proofreading this post for technical accuracy. I also want to thank Master Plumber George Yenchko (Hazleton Plumbing and Heating Co.) and the Hazleton Code Enforcement Office for their comments on the Pennsylvania plumbing codes and regulations.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Allan Strikes Back at Home-Improvement Store Dust!

Having spent this weekend renovating my bathroom, I have been reacquainted with the joys of allergies. The 10-minute sneezing fit I had at our local major home-improvement center (after pulling out a very dusty box from a floor-level shelf) reminded me that dust is not my friend. This morning, as I lay awake in the pre-dawn hours sniffling, I remembered that my friend Cade at Achoo! Allergy & Air Products offered my faithful readers a 10% discount on most of the items in his rather extensive store (Miele and Tempur-Pedic products do not apply). Achoo offers everything from portable units, vacuum cleaner accessories, masks, etc. I also like his FAQ page - lots of good allergy information.

So, let's unite and strike a blow against pollen, cat dander, and home-improvement store dust! Use coupon code "vtb09aa30" to get 10%-off at Achoo and get relief now. Offer good until September 30, 2005.

I'm off to take some more Tylenol Sinus caplets.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Recycled, Affordable Home Improvement Items!

I want to give a big Vintage Tub and Bath shout-out to the ReStore Home Improvement Center. ReStore is a non-profit store that sells quality home improvement materials to the public at low prices in a convenient retail setting. ReStore gets its inventory of used, salvaged and surplus materials from the building industry, homeowners, contractors, manufacturers, retailers and municipal collection centers. Their goal is to recycle unwanted building materials, provide job training, and offer great deals to the general public. I think it is a great idea and I wanted to let my faithful readers know about them. ReStore is located in Springfield, Massachusetts. There are other, similar stores all over the country – a partial list appears here. Go get ‘em ReStore!

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Bathroom as Shrine

Good morning faithful readers! We are going to start the week of on a lighter note. Here, for your consideration, is the "bathroom as shrine" as interpreted by Dave Nalle. The staff at the Daily Tubber will not hold it against Dave that the room is not, technically speaking, a bathroom (as it lacks the all-important bathtub ). We understand Dave had limited space to work with and, as Dave himself puts it: "since I built it primarily for my use, I'm not about to call it (a Powder Room). I knew it was going to end up being my personal bathroom as soon as the project started, because I could tell how eager my wife was to have the enormous master bathroom mostly to herself as her endless array of bottles and tubes of strange chemicals immediately began to creep over and surround what had been my sink."

Forced out of his own master bath, Dave had to take drastic action and build another bathroom. We feel your pain, brother - tell us more.

"Since it was going to be my bathroom I wanted it to look like a place I would enjoy, more like a library than a mere bathroom. With a house full of young girls I also wanted it to be a somewhat masculine, adult-friendly spot." Dave accomplished his goal by finishing "the entire interior in wood, with green painted dolly madison wainscoting, natural birch panels on the walls and white painted birch on the ceiling, with the floor in rust colored saltillo tile."




To cap it all off, Dave added a magnificent wood door with stained glass.




Hats off to Dave Nalle for boldly building a masculine bathroom retreat!

To read more about this project, click on the "Bathroom as Shrine" title above.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Blog Search Engine

Another blog search engine I came across is named - ready for this - the Blog Search Engine! They have a both a Google-style search box and a Yahoo-style directory to search for and browse the universe of blogging. Happy hunting.

Kmax - A Killer Blog Directory

In my quest to learn more about blogging, I came across the Kmax Blog Directory. Man, do they have the information - blog listings, how-to articles, rankings, etc. Neat site if you want to dive into blogging.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Clawfoot Whirlpool Tub – A Buying Guide (Pt. 2).

Last post, we talked about the differences between Champagne and whirlpool clawfoot tubs. Today, I want to discuss clawfoot tub construction as well as basic cleaning and maintenance.

Clawfoot tubs are generally categorized as either porcelain-over-cast-iron (the traditional construction materials) or acrylic (that new-fangled stuff). For the purposes of this post, I am going to limit my comments to the acrylic tubs because they are the only ones being built as whirlpool or champagne clawfoot tubs.

As you may suspect, not all acrylic tubs are equal. There are three general categories of "acrylic" tubs:

Fiberglass clawfoot tubs: These clawfoot tubs can still be found even though they are not as popular as they once were. Better quality acrylic tubs have forced fiberglass clawfoot tubs into near extinction. In my opinion, fiberglass is a fine material for built-in tubs and showers, but not for clawfoot tubs because it flexes too much and they generally have very rough exteriors.

Hollow double wall acrylic: These tubs are built with two smooth acrylic sheets with a few spacers or braces to separate the sheets. Although they are very light, I dislike them because they have way to much flex and do not seem to retain heat very well.

Solid double wall acrylic: In my opinion, this is the best combination for the money currently available. The interior and exterior acrylic sheets are molded onto a solid composite material (generally a stone or concrete-like mixture). Unfortunately, not many manufacturers use this construction technique. One that does, American Bath Factory, describes their patented Acrastone process as the result of “vacuum forming two ¼” sheets of high-quality cast acrylic and laminating them together with a patented crushed stone/resin compound.” The cast acrylic sheet has a second layer of ABS behind it in order to give their tubs improved thickness, strength, and weight.

Vintage Tub and Bath offers the full line of American Bath Factory tubs because we believe that they offer the best combination of value, appearance, and functionality available.

Maintaining an acrylic tub is fairly easy. American Bath Factory recommends using mild soap (like liquid dish soap), a sponge and warm water. Since the acrylic surface is non-porous, soap stains and dirt cannot adhere to it making cleaning a snap. Use a polishing compound to buff and clean out any tough stains. Never use abrasive cleaning products or cleansers with an acetone base (such as Scrubbing Bubbles). These products can scratch the surface and / or produce hairline cracks.

Whirlpool and massage tubs: American Bath Factory Champagne massage tubs are self-cleaning. Remember, that the air pipes in a Champagne Massage tub are not connected to the drain. Therefore, water trapped in the air pipes has to be blown out by the blower. The tub motor is set to turn itself back on 15 minutes after each use for 20 minutes. This self-purge feature will ensure the air pipes are always dry & clean, and ready for your next bath. Whirlpool tubs, on the other hand, require a bit more effort. Fill your Caspian Whirlpool tub several inches above the jet level and add a small scoop of Cascade dish detergent. Run the tub for 20 minutes. Drain. Refill with warm water and run for 5 more minutes. Drain. It is just that easy!



Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Coult's Build Their Dream House!

Remember the 1948 Cary Grant movie Mr. Blanding's Builds His Dream House? The story revolved around, rather obviously, the comic trials and tribulations of building a new home. Fast forward to 2005, add the internet and presto - you have the Irving Blog! This blog gives you the blow by blow account of how the Coult's are remodeling their 1909 home. It is well written and is worth a look if you are into home remodeling projects.