Building a new house in Palo Alto

Building a new house in Palo Alto

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dog-Friendly Home Building (Part 1): Making an On-Demand Dog Water Fountain

Ever since he was a puppy, Cisco's always been a fan of water fountains.
A "dream home" means something different to everyone. When we started planning ours, a dog water fountain was on the top of my list. I didn't know what it would look like, I just knew that it would deliver fresh water on demand to my furry little kids with little effort on my part. After all, nothing says dog-friendly better than a bottomless bowl of water...

Yountville, one of our favorite weekend getaway spots has a special fountain for dogs.
Here's Cisco showing Astro puppy how it's done.

Fresh water is an important part of keeping pets healthy. However, dish washing has never been my forte and keeping a bowl clean and filled when you have two thirsty critters can get tedious. I've tried the plug-in reservoir fountains like the Dogit and the Drinkwell 360 which are good for making you *feel* like your pets are getting nice recirculated filtered water. In reality, they get slobbery and slimy really quickly. If you're a diligent pet parent then these are great but I found that the illusion of fresh water made me even lazier about cleaning the fountains.

When we embarked on building a custom home for our family, I explained to our contractor Jeff (and fellow dog lover) my vision and we conspired to make it a reality. Here's a must-see demo video of what we came up with...starring Astro who clearly has a budding future in doggy infomercials:



We had to do a fair amount of experimentation to get it right but the finished product is not very hard to construct if you plan ahead. This fountain is easy to include as part of a new home but could also be worked into a kitchen or bath remodel if you have the space and aren't on a slab foundation. We designed it like a shower so that the drain runs under the floor.

List of Materials:


Doesn't this sink look like it was made to be a dog bowl?
1. Semi-recessed or vessel sink
I splurged on this black mosaic sink from Linkasink because I love how it looks like a fancy dog bowl. I was lucky enough to find a floor model on sale at the amazing Bath & Beyond showroom in San Francisco, but really, a no-frills sink will do and you can get deals on eBay and Amazon. To keep the water from splashing outside the sink, I recommend getting a semi-recessed or vessel sink.

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2. Wall-mount touchless faucet with sensor
I opted for the Kohler Purist Wall-Mount Faucet because the sensor is a separate unit and can be adjusted independently from the faucet.  This is important because you'll want to adjust the sensor to the right height for your dog/s. To run the faucet you also have to buy this Hybrid Control Kit.


_3. Tile & waterproofing materials
We waterproofed and tiled the area around the fountain in case of any splashing. It turns out the 17" Linkasink captures pretty much all the water but some dogs are more "vigorous" drinkers than others, so this is a wise step. We used extra tile from our bathrooms since you don't need much. One mistake we made was tiling the back wall before determining the correct height for the sensor. As a result, we had to use an elbow pipe when we wanted to adjust the height of the sensor since we had already drilled a hole in the tile.



_4. Extension pipe
We learned we needed this during the testing phase. We originally installed the sensor on the wall along with the faucet but then realized the dogs had to reach under the faucet in order to turn on the water, getting showered on in the process.

Oops, the sensor is pre-set to be triggered when a hand reaches under the faucet.
We wanted to drench the dogs' thirst, not their heads.


_.A Few Lessons:
1. Getting the sensor juuusst right...
The real trick to setting up the fountain is getting the sensor placement just right. Not only does the sensor need to be adjusted forward so that your dog will trigger it without getting rained on, you also want to make sure it's at the right height. If the sensor is too high, your dog won't be able to activate it. If the sensor is too low (as was ours the first time we set it), your dog will trigger it but when he moves his mouth upward to drink, he will no longer be in front of the sensor and it'll turn off before he can get a few licks of water.

Cisco testing the faucet height during the framing stage.

We found the best place to put the sensor is about an inch below the fountain spout and half an inch behind it. Note: This will vary depending on the sensor range of the faucet you select. Ours didn't specify the range in the manual so it required hands (and paws) on testing.

Astro's a little shorter than Cisco but it's better to place the faucet a little high than too low.

_2. Place the fountain in a strategic location
Ideally you want to place the fountain next to existing plumbing to limit the amount of additional pipes that you'll need. We placed ours at the end of our kitchen counter next to our main sink. We cased it in the end cabinet so that future owners could convert it to a storage cabinet should they choose. Of course, dog lovers are going to get special treatment when we eventually decide to sell the house. We also made sure to place the dog door near the fountain. Oddly, Cisco always steps outside after taking a long drink of water. Must be a golden years thing.

Hopefully all future owners will have a dog, if not they can convert the space back to cabinetry.


_3. Work with a great plumber
At our last house we learned the cost of do-it-yourself plumbing projects (and the importance of Teflon tape) after our self-installed dishwasher flooded our kitchen floor. Water lines are not something you want to mess with if you're a novice. Antonio, our awesome plumber helped us construct the fountain and ensure that it's water tight and up to code.

Special thanks to Antonio of ACH Plumbing for putting up with Astro's backseat plumbing.

P.S. If you are an avid do-it-yourselfer, AVBrand has instructions for how to build a nifty automatic dog water dish with an ice-maker water hookup line instead of dedicated plumbing in the floor. The bowl re-fills itself but you'll still have to clean it regularly since there's sitting water and no drain.

Skol!

2 comments:

  1. Absolutely one of the coolest features of the house, and we don't even have dogs!

    Just think, you won't even need a step stool for Little O to use to wash his hands in a couple years; this will be perfect doubling as his own little washing station (and likely play area).

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    Replies
    1. Ha, good thing we did the waterproofing!

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