The Best Laid Plans…

The mood, I imagine, around the PTF homestead mimics that of the recently defeated USC football team at the Rose Bowl….

Over the past few days we been on a roller coaster of emotions. On Wednesday (and game day for USC and Texas at the Rose Bowl) we had our own skirmish. We literally ran into a brick wall with the installation of the compost toilet and have spent the last several days trying to salvage this project.

We hate to admit defeat; but after exhausting hour upon hour battling to figure out different ways we could fit or even “crow bar” it into place, we have finally come to swallow the bitter pill.   Believe me, we tried every scenario with this toilet installation in the back service porch area. It’s rather difficult to explain what obstacles we have run into since there are many, and the quirkiness of an old house doesn’t make things any easier.

Instead of fighting a losing battle you have to know when to retreat and after an all day “compost toilet” marathon, we are battle weary and may have to give in to the fact that things just don’t always go as planned or hoped.   Reading about the toilet installation and actually having the real model in person is quite different; and, with our house being as old as it is, it’s not so easy to tinker with.   It was a bit more complicated then we had figured. I feel a bit responsible (and disappointed) since the compost toilet was my pet project.

Anyhow, before we get really “black and blue” from continuing to bang ourselves into this brick wall, we’ll have to quickly change horses in midstream, retreat and regroup.

Caulking on inside of composter

And just when one thought that was the only problem , on a brief inspection of the compost toilet we noticed that around the seam there are at least two places where the caulk has detached itself from the seam completely (see photo). Not only that, there are four places where the caulking is above the seam, leaving the seams exposed. We are concerned that waste material may find its way underneath or into the exposed seams. So I emailed the photos to the company and they called back saying that the technicians only said it was “cosmetic” and that it should not be a problem. That may be so.   But why the need for caulk if it’s “cosmetic”? We are dealing with a waste unit that would contain gases.

Not being satisfied with the answer, I have emailed another representative from the company who was very helpful in answering questions I had about the toilet. Cosmetic work is usually on the outside, but this caulking is on the inside of the unit. We are concerned if the gases expand, the unit the fumes could escape into the cellar (which we use), Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the unit was in a cellar that wasn’t in use or attached outside the house.    For the price of the unit, the caulking was not done well and this concerns us since we are dealing with a waste unit product. The company has received so many outstandingtestimonials (one reasonwhy we decided on this product) I am hoping we can get this issue resolved because I think we could still use it in our other bathroom (not giving up!).

If it’s not one thing it’s another.


We have gone over what our choices may be:

Since we aren’t satisfied (yet) with the toilet ( it could be nothing, like they said, but we are very disappointed in seeing such workmanship)

1. ask for another refund or another toilet (which we hope won’t have the same problem)

If we go ahead with the exchange and we are satisfied with another model then we could:

2. use the toilet possibly in our other main bathroom and that will be awhile getting around to because we would have to switch the tub to where the existing toilet is now for it to fit

3. keep trying to somehow crow bar the installation into the service porch bathroom

4. build an outhouse, but, since it is a two section toilet ,we’d have to build the outhouse at least 4 feet off the ground

5. keep it in the box and perhaps one, day down the line, the right solution will come along

6. install it like we had originally planned but either lose easy access into the cellar (this option doesn’t look too good at this point)

7. step away from the project and hope that a brilliant solution will hit us; but, in the meantime, the bathroom renovation remains at a standstill and with a PTF event in a few weeks, that certainly puts too much pressure having to wait and finish a job in such a hurry

or we could admit defeat and:

8. return the toilet

9. exchange it for a self-contained “all in one model” and build an outhouse for it (perhaps where the solar shower is now)

10. go forward with the back bathroom renovations and scrap the compost toilet and instead install a dual flush toilet

So much for an anniversary present that has turned into a nightmare. I guess we celebrated too early, thinking it would be easy. We were so excited about taking this giant step forward and now have had to gag on our excitement.  

In the meantime, we wait for the company’s response and continue work on the other projects here on the homestead, one being repairing the cob oven. While the others work on the construction projects (solar shower, shed) I thought I would try and re-plaster the cob oven. Seems that I have made matters worse.   Hard lesson to learn to let things be and accept the fact that the nice plastering surface was ruined in places. Well, of course, being disheartened, I thought to myself “I can fix it.” Not so fast,  it’s hard to apply wet plaster on such a harden surface. Even though I have continuously sprayed the surface down and when that didn’t work I even soaked towels in water and placed the on the surface of the oven overnight hoping it would soften the brick hard surface. I tried apply coat after coat of plaster to no avail. Now it looks like all crackly like the surface of a dried out lake bed.

So the past few days haven’t been good for morale.

No Comments

  1. Mimi says:

    Disappointment is part of the learning process. The toilet is an accomplishment because the process is an important step. Good luck with the decision making. My vote is to let it stew and step back from it. The answer will come.

  2. JBB says:

    Sorry to read that things have been so discouraging. As you wrote just last Wednesday, “It’s not going to be easy….” But writing a statement like that isn’t the same as actually experiencing it.

    I hope a solution will be forthcoming, somehow. And, certainly, that the company will stand behind their product.

  3. Kathie says:

    Well, buggers, sending good thoughts your way – old houses usually ooze with charm and lots of complications, ha. Good luck!

  4. gerry medland says:

    Hi Folks!@When the going gets tough,the tough get going’!Every experience is part of the learning curve,You guys have achieved so much and this is only a hump in the trail path,do not be discouraged,remember to ACT outside the box!When I was in the military ACT stood for Action conquers terror,the key word was and is CONQUERS!You will succeed,never give up and answers will prevail.
    Many blessings!

  5. Nancy Kelly says:

    Hi folks and Happy New Year! I want you to know you guys have inspired me! I am now using one of those big old buckets as my toilet and watering my fruit trees with what I know now is that valuable high-nitrogen commodity. It will be interesting to notice if they really start thriving. I feel virtuous!

  6. Anais says:

    Thanks all for the encouragement. When one door closes, another one opens. So we keep our hopes that an open door will appear.

    Nancy – thanks for your new year wishes. Same to you. Keep us posted on your liquid gold experiment!