Friday, April 12, 2013

We're On a (Toilet Paper) Roll

I'll let readers know up front this is going to be a lengthy post about a relatively simple do-it-yourself task.

As a beginner in almost everything except painting and some light carpentry, I depend on the internet and Youtube tutorials to at least give me an idea of what I'm getting into. 

I not only want to read directions, I want directions to my directions. 

But for this, installing a recessed toilet paper holder, I found....pretty close to nothing. And what I did find assumed that viewers or readers knew their way around, well, everything. So they left a lot of steps out. I found this frustrating. Perhaps I lack self-confidence. Perhaps I tend to over-prepare because I'm afraid of making a dumb mistake. But if I'm going to be cutting into a wall, for pete's sake, please show me everything. 

A recessed toilet paper holder necessitates, first, removing the vestiges of the old toilet paper holder. Which I may or may not have ripped off the wall in a fit of temper (ahem). Surface mounted holders are attached to the wall with tiny screws on the underside to the mounting plate underneath. Tiny pocket screwdrivers are handy if you have them and so is a flashlight. Metal nail files work. Or the pointed tip of a knife. I'm all about the ninja skills. Then remove the mounting plate, and those annoying screw anchors.

To install a recessed toilet paper holder, you need to know where the studs are, in this case so you can avoid them. I purchased a stud finder for this task and was all geeked to play with my new toy: 

But then discovered that sometimes your 18-year-old son is just as geeked and you come home to find this has already happened: 

True story. It's like having project gnomes. 

I marked on the wall where I thought the holder should go, slightly below where the old one was mounted. The directions said to mark a 5 1/4 inch square on the wall, and I did, with a level. Then I got to thinking: 

Is there a standard measurement for this sort of thing? There is. Standards call for toilet paper dispensers to the side of the toilet to be mounted at least 8 inches from the front edge of the toilet and 26 inches from the floor. That's marked by the X on the right sticky note. Just to compare, I stuck an X on a sticky note where I had already marked the square. Don't ask me why the sticky notes. Like I hadn't just drawn right on the wall? Who knows. Maybe I thought I'd be moving those X's around a lot. I'm nearly punch drunk by 11 p.m., and that's when I was doing this. 

I decided I didn't want my toilet paper holder that low. I have little boys who stand and pee. Don't make me spell out the risks for you here. Let's just say I wanted my paper roll high and dry. But I also didn't want it to be further out from the toilet, because it seemed "reachy" from the seat on the throne. So, I decided my original instincts were correct. 

The next night I was ready for surgery. I lined up my level (mostly just to double check my work, but you can use any straight edge) with my markings and used a box cutter to cut along the lines: 

In this I want to be careful to "stay on the lines" just like they taught me tracing in kindergarten. This cuts the paper layer of the drywall so I don't tear it when I saw out the square the holder is going to fit into. 

I used the largest drill bit I had for Dorothy (which in my case is 1/4 inch) to drill some holes near, but still inside, the line of the square. This is so I can get the saw inside the drywall. 

I used a keyhole saw to saw out the drywall square. It's important to get a little on the inside of the line that I drew, to allow for the width of the cut. That's called the "kerf." My blade wasn't really very fine-bladed, so my kerf was pretty big, and so I had to cut that much further away from the line. 

This is where I sorta goofed. My saw was a big dude, and though I was trying to cut as shallowly as I could, I sawed through the vapor barrier in the insulation. Oops: 

This did not seem like a good idea to me, especially in a humid room like a bathroom. So I patched it with some plastic sheeting and plastic shipping tape (it was what I had): 

Now for the hardware!

A recessed toilet paper holder has two parts. The first is an interior piece that braces the fixture to the wall. The photo below shows the backside of the interior piece:  

and the front piece that mounts to the wall, the "business end," if you will. In the photo below the two pieces have been loosely put together with the screws that hold it all in place. The view is from the side: 

The interior piece was placed into the hole top end first: 

I pushed it up into the wall far enough that that I could get the bottom end in behind the drywall on the bottom edge:

Once the back plate was completely inside the wall, I needed to position the toilet paper holder's exterior part with the level again: 

Holding it in place, I tightened both screws until the backplate and the exterior piece are firmly clamped to the drywall. I checked for level a couple of times as I went: 

And ta-DAH: 

Sparkles always appear when you finish a project like this. It's true.

Another one crossed off the list:

10 Mini Projects for the Bathroom

1. Upgrade the cabinet hardware.
2. Grout the floor.
3. Paint
4. Replace the light fixture
5. Replace the mirror
6. Replace the toilet paper holder.
7. Replace the shower curtain rod.
8. Add art and decorative items.
9. Replace counter top.
10. Replace sink and faucet

Next up: the cabinet hardware and the shower curtain rod.

Photo credit for any photo in this post that shows both my hands: Noah, my 13-year-old. He already knows how to humor his crazy mother by taking photos in the can. He thought it was a hoot. 

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