The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been truer than with this old cistern.

My husband’s friend took it out of an old retirement home that were updating their sanitaryware and he immediately knew it would be something that would interest us. He sent a photo straight across to my husband to see if we wanted to restore it and use it in the house renovation.

Now I will admit I was a bit shy of this one. We had never restored anything cast iron before and had no idea how we would get it to work, or indeed if it would work, but Alan was sure it would work, so I had a little faith and went with it!

When we first brought it home we were still working on ripping out the old bathroom suite, but Alan was definitely excited by this project. We spent the night trying to pry rusting bolts out of their holes and gently scraping away the layers of old paint. It looked better, but cast iron has to be painted otherwise it will rust.

The inside of the cistern was pretty rusty as were a few of the fittings so we sent them off to be sand-blasted.

Meanwhile we finished ripping out the old bathroom and taking down the chipboard panels, then removing the old tongue and groove wood panelling that was underneath that… literally there were layers upon layers of modifications throughout this whole house, one on top of the other. An easy fix at the time I’m sure, but a real pain in the ass to remove later. I’ll not go into too much detail about all that here though as I covered most of that in my last post (which you can read here).

So finally the cistern came back from being sand-blasted and it looked markedly better than when we had last seen it, however we had no idea what colour to paint it or if it would work. So first thing first, we had to test it to see if it would work and if it wouldn’t we had to figure out if we could make it work.

We set up two planks of wood outside on some metal supports and placed the cistern, with the flush hole in between the two planks, on top. This was so the water could flow freely out of it if we got a successful flush. We then put the bell inside the cistern with the handle and lid loosely connected and filled it with water – a lot of water. Then we tried the flush handle. It didn’t work. We tried again. It still didn’t work. My stomach dropped. Ever since we had got this cistern it had been woven into the bathroom design and without it things just wouldn’t look like I how I was now picturing it.

My husband and father-in-law said they could see that the bell was lifting and technically it should be flushing, but it took a few minutes until they figured out the problem. My father-in-law said he remembered having to double flush these old cisterns to allow the bell to gather up enough water to initiate the flush, so Alan gave it two pulls on the handle, letting the bell drop fully both times and voila! We had a working cistern! Definitely not as easy as a modern push button cistern, however this fits in with our personal taste and style, so we’re happy to do the double flush.

We were steaming ahead with the bathroom at this stage and the plasterer had just finished giving everything a fresh skim. I’d been working on tile choices for the house for quite a while (I’m sure the guys at Topps Tiles were completely sick of seeing me), although I was pretty stuck on the bathroom choices right from the get go. We chose the Berkeley Tile in Charcoal for the floor and shower splash back and a White Chic Craquele Metro Tile for the walls – both from Topps Tiles.

Taking into account the tile choices we went through lots of colour ideas for the cistern, red, black, green, blue, you name it we considered it. I eventually decided on spray painting it gold… however when I went to the shop for the spray paint they had no gold, so I made a split second decision to go with Hammered Brown by Rustoleum. And I’m really glad I did. We will eventually highlight the writing on the front of the cistern with the gold paint, but I think the dark brown colour and the ‘hammered’ effect it gives looks great. What do you think?

Although I had my misgivings about taking on the cistern I am so glad we did… and my husband will never let me forget that he was the one who knew it would look brilliant from the start, ha!



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