Touring the Kohler Showroom and Factory in Kohler, WI

Project: Bob's Shingle Style Home, Episode 18, Part 2



The plumber installs a new toilet and vanity in the powder room, and we take a tour of the Kohler factory in Wisconsin where these fixtures are made.  Elaborate, custom California Closets are being installed in the master bedroom suite while a versatile, white Melamine system is assembled in Bob’s daughter’s bedroom closet.

Part 1: Reviewing the Front Porch, and Installing Interior Columns and a Vanity
Part 2: Touring the Kohler Showroom and Factory in Kohler, WI
Bob tours the showroom in Kohler, WI, with the founder's great-granddaughter, Laura Kohler. Bob asks to see some of the new products and talks about using some of their reproduction pieces in his home. He then visits the factory to see how the vitreous china is manufactured.
Part 3: Looking at New Bedroom Closets
This project centers around the remodel of Bob Vila's own gracious Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA. It's a house with a lot of history and beautiful architectural details, many of which were obliterated in remodels of the 50s and the 70s. On the centennial of the house's construction, Bob gets together the best talents in the business to recreate and renew it to its former glory, making some important modifications along the way that will transform this into a dream house for today.

Also from Bob's Shingle Style Home

Hi, I'm Bob Vila. Welcome home again.

As you can see, we've finished all the exterior painting on the house. And boy, I love the color.

Today we're working indoors. We're going to be showing you how to install a brand new lavatory in the powder room under the staircase, and how to put in the brass spinnings.

And then we're going traveling to Kohler, Wisconsin to visit the folks at Kohler who make all those plumbing fixtures. And I've also got another delivery from California Closets. I'm going to show you these beautiful mahogany built-ins in my closet.

Stick around. It's good to have you home again.

Bob Vila's Home Again.

You know, for a shingle-style house, or any style house, it's unusual to have this kind of front porch which is almost a square notched out of the house itself. And I think what happened here is that originally this was a veranda all the way across. And they enlarged the living room and enclosed part of that veranda and just left this as a new front porch.

I love the details here, though. We've picked this color scheme on purpose. It'sClearly a Victorian color scheme with the mulberry on the shingles and the very dark essex green on all the trim.

And then we've done other things like blacken the actual sash so that all the mutton bars become really very thin, slender and you hardly notice them. And then things like the ceiling here in the porch which is a beadboard ceiling. The Victorian's very often would have painted them blue. Actually, even earlier houses would have had ceilings like this painted sky blue. We've done that.

The railing that will go back here is still being milled, but these are the original columns and they're kind of a tusk in a order. They're very simple column that just tapers a little bit towards the top and has a very, very simple capital of just some concentric rings. We've taken this as inspiration for a new detail in the front hall.

Come on in.

Now this house was renovated probably around 1970. And one thing that happened was that most of the detailing, picture moldings, chair railings, door trim were thrown in the dumpster and when we got here, we had flush doors as you see here and we had very little detailing of any sort and what the architect has done is to give me more detail that would be more appropriate to a house of this age.

In fact, this, as I said a minute ago, is echoing the columns that we see on the front of the house.

And I want you to look at how it has been designed, because the proportions are important.

The base is just made out of poplar.

All of this is going to be painted, but we continue to repeat this motif of the recess panels with the molding that matches the original doors in the house.

And then of course we've got two of these columns which are of the Tuscon order which is basically a renaissance version of an ionic column, and then the most beautiful detailing is what's known as an architrave, which is basically a header.

But if you look at this.

This is all made from one piece of wood up here hich was originally a 5 quarter thick piece of poplar about 12 inches across and there is a Machine that will actually bring the wood through the cutter and move it at an angle in order to create that curve all out of one piece.

Now the wood is an expensive but the machine time adds up to a few hundred bucks just to make these cuts as I was saying.

And I am going to interrupt David Ive here. David you have been doing a beautiful job on this.

Thank you.

Congratulations. Where did the columns come from?

These are from Pennsylvania, they are staved units that got 11 pieces in them.

And when you are saying staved that means that each well, like a barrel is staved.

Exactly like a barrel.

Indeed and you can see it there. And so that's the way they would have been made a hundred years ago, right?

Yes they would, and they turned them on a lave to get this column, design like this, and they did the same thing out of the front porch.

The same type of a column unit.

Now you've created the same kind of pedestal here . And you backed it up with what i guess would be called the pilaster of the up against the wall.

And this all these elements coming together really helped define and separate what is our vestibule from the main hall, now how do you put that column in there?

Well, we have these measured just exactly to fit and what they they do is fall right in place, all marked and laid out, so that they go in very soon, because this is the final detailing here and this has to go in its clean as possible.

And that's just exactly how it goes in, just a few adjustments here and that's it.

And then will you actually put nails through there?




Yes, it will be tacked with fine tacks, and it is set to go.


Great. Thank you.



Okay.



Lets take a look at the end of the hall where we have a beautiful new floor in the power room. The case work in this hall really is gonna be a spectacular when it is painted out and we put the wallpaper in.

And, look at this floor, this is a true mosaic it's made out of several colors of marble that have been tumbled to give them kind of a warn and ancient kind of a effect, very very beautiful product, and in here we always had a half about room under the staircase, at least probably for the last 50 or 60 years.

We have just totally redone it, new plaster etc.

We got a new collar toilet in tender grey which is a very very nice color, but what I like is the design of this, kind of reminiscent of early toilet fixtures from the turn of the century where they had a tank like that lifted up a little bit.

And then in the corner this is small space and you got to fit things. In the corner we have got, a vanity this has this half circle designed in to it, and circular doors, these were made by our friends out in New Holland Pennsylvania, Heritage.

And then what we are dealing right now is spitting a Carola marble top that has to be precisely fit in, and also we are installing the sink and fittings.

If you think about it, you don't ant to do it here, you want to do it-- well, let's go in the living room, we will get together with Ron Idorola, who is the middle of doing this.

Hi Ron.

Hi Bob.

Pretty obvious, how you are doing, you turn it up. Upside down, and you install the sink and the fittings in this position, so you don't have to go like a garage mechanic on your back.

That's right.

Inside the bathroom. So, let's talk about the sink here. How have you attached this sink to the marble top.

Ok. We've used the vinyl adhesive caulking and.

So there's a bead of vinyl adhesive caulking all the way around the sink.

Yes there is. And

And then just these clamps here.

And then there are these clamps that are supplied by the factory, the coal factory.

Yeah.

With lead shields that have been drilled into the marble by the marble company.

Yes so it's a pretty complicated thing, you got to specify exactly the size of the marble of course the architect made a template for the marble company to work with. Tip this up so we can all take a look.

Isn't that beautiful?

Yeah, again its the same gray and this is a very close approximation to the type of early plumbing installations you'd see in the 1890's.

Careful with that.

OK. Whats next? We're ready to put this other faucet in.

We're ready to put this faucet in it but we have to put some seal, sealant here, you really shouldn't be using any plumber's putty because They claim that it will damage the marble.

Oh yes, anything with an oil base to it.
If you use it as a caulking product around marble, it can ruin the marble, because it is a very porous stone.


And, you don't want that to happen.




Ok, we position this, this way. Bronze and copper . Beautiful.
We have to be very careful not to crack the marble and the marble is very easily cracked.
So you can't apply too much pressure on that.

Yeah, that's correct.


OK and now the mix review i see in the middle but you are connecting with, well this is new to me. It's kind of a vinyl tubing?

It's a vinyl tubing that has a woven fiber glass mesh inside and it's.

Lot easier to work with I'd say.

Yes, it is.

Okay.

It's easy to work with.

Okay. Let's put that on.

And it's very difficult to kink it, which is good for the installer.

All right. Well, let's tighten that up, and we'll go test it on the vanity.

But first, we gotta break for some messages and when we come back, we'll be visiting the colder factories, and cooler Wisconsin. We are in Kohler Wisconsin, visiting the Kohler company.
One of the major manufacuters of plumbing products, and who better to tell us all about it than the great grand daughter of the founder Laura Kohler.
Hi.

Welcome back.

Thank you, how are you?

Good, thank you.

It is great that we can start the tour not in the factory, but here in your showroom, because, this is a pretty unique facility, right.

We think that, it's a ten year old design center. We created it so customer's could get actually get an idea of how to use to our product.

And it's become a tourist attraction as well.

Oh, yeah. Over a 100,000 people a year visit the design center.

Its a little bit like going to a museum of modern art to look at not just plumbing fixtures, but the architecture here is pretty neat.

Yeah, well it's down in the water, is moving.

Exactly.

And vital workable product and , had fun.

Exactly that.

Lots of us who are in the building business and remodeling, are familiar with many of these products like these wonderful teal fixtures.

Whirl pools. Right.

The whirl pools and the pedestal sinks and the like. But you guys are constantly bringing out new things. What are some of the new products?

Well, we've got the 10 jet body spa, which is actually, in simple. In terms of standing whirlpool which has the 37 gallons of water and we circulate that water at 80 gallons of water for a minute. So it's quite a huge force coming at you.

Yeah, that sounds like it.

But you can regulate it, so you can get the massage that you really want.

And there is also a new whirlpools, that just a traditional ones, right?

We've got a luxurious whirlpool that actually has back chest and a neck pillow with jets coming through so massage is going to act.

What's that called?

The Vigora.

The Vigora.

And then we have got vessels which are actually above corner lapse, they sit, they actually sit on the corner of your back .

So this is really leading edge contemporary design as well, but what I've always enjoyed about some other colonizes the kind of reproduction pieces that replicates some of the early plumbing features back we using some of them in our house.

We got a number of traditional suite the portraits, the vintage and the revival.

Well this is a lot like visiting a design display, but what we really want to do is learn a little bit about how the Vitreous China is manufactured.

Let's go over to our pottery, we've got Ken Werthover there. And he's the manager of new product design and he can show you.

Great.

Ken tell us where the raw material comes from.

Raw materials come in box cars from North Carolina and Illinois and slurry comes in tank cars from Tennessee and Georgia.

And it's all stored out in powder form out there in silos, right?

Right. The powdered form is in the 3 silos, you see up front.

And then here you've got the actual mixing operation.

Right. Mike how is it going?

How does the batch look?

It's really smooth right now, it was a little lumpy five minutes ago , working real well now.

How long does it take a batch like this ready to go?

Well, fifty five minutes. We get it all on target normally in fifty five minutes.

And do you have have to worry about lumps or impurities in there.

What we do upon completion in fifty five minutes Cycle, we will run all the finished slip over a screening device which is the eighty five mesh screen, and that will remove all the impurities. Part of those impurities are lignite as well as iron, and here we've got magnetic filters that we use to.

These things here, these pipes and valves and things are actually magnets?

Right, those are magnets which will pull out the metal content that remains in there.

Is there much to deal with?

Well there's enough that it'll cause a defect in the final process and the defects in the final process just down grade the quality of your product.

Yeah, and Kollar does not make seconds, anything that has a defect gets broken up, right?

That's right.

The slurry he then goes is pipe from here to where they put it in the actual molds?

From here we pump our slurry into the storage tank, and the storage tank is a holding area for approximately 24 to 48 hours from there we pump it into our vinyl casting distribution. So tell us whats happening in the cast shop.

Cast shop we will get the slip down through the respective distribution line. The caster will fill the mold, either through a top funnel or he will use the pin to fill from the bottom.

And these gentlemen are working at a very fast pace here.

Right and because of the pace that these people work at, this is directly tied into the compensation that they can earn on a daily basis. This is a very good work force that we have in this community.

That's great. And then, once the slurry is put in the mold is up stay in the mode, how long do they stay in the mold?

Normal time is about 60 minutes for the process, and then we'll drain out the excess slip and about 15, 20, minutes or a half hour after that in draining process they will remove the top core.

This is a pretty vast space, now what do you call this area?

This is the cast shop area.

The cast shop, and what are these men doing?

They're rolling off the green piece. At this point they're removing the top core. And they will be getting ready to punch the faucet holes and over flow hole.

So there you got a lavatory.

Here we got a lavatory that started as a liquid this AM and now is a finished product here.

And from--from here well obviously they are cutting in the holes while it's still soft, but what happens next to it?

It goes through the drying process and then to the glaze depart or spray department, where glaze is applied, then we place it and kill for final vitrification.

Vitrification meaning actually turning into a glass like material.

Right.

Okay at this point, all of this is basically finished toilets or lavatorys or what ever right?

Yes.

And what happens here?

This is the quality control inspection area where he will use the ball to sound the piece. That sound just tells us that there's a defect in product because it was not a crisp sound.

Can we compare the two? That one is good?

Yes.

That one is duller. Okay.

So, what happens to that one?

That? We pack that product with, we will call scrap.

Okay. Well what happens next to the ones that are good?

All the good pieces now will be past on to the water station where they check for leaks.

And at that particular point they will move to the grinding area for one hundred percent grinding it with foot as i explained. Ready to go out to the packing station and then to the customer.

So the last step is to make sure its flat so that when we seat it on a ceramic tile floor it doesn't wobble.

That's right.

Thanks for the tour.

Thanks a lot.

Stick around, we'll be right back after these messages. OK. Watch the corners there.

Yup. It's a tight fit.

Go perfect. Now this is what you call an undermount which means the lavatory gets mounted underneath whatever the material of the countertop is.

Now, how do you fasten this to the cabinet? Do you need to?

Yes , we use a vinyl adhesive.

Same product. OK.

Nice job. Thanks, Ron.

You're welcome.

Let's go upstairs and look at some closets. Now this is really special. I never had a closet quite like this.

Well , we framed all the partitions, and then covered them in plywood so that we can really panel this whole room because the whole system, this whole California Closet system can also provide you with paneling like this.

These are mahogany that's farmed in Brazil. They are, manufactured in Brazil. They've got the finish on them down there. They wrap them up and send them to you anywhere in the world. And we're gonnaApply this to all the plywood that you see, so that the whole area's going to be mahogany.

But behind all these doors, you got incredible systems for storage.

And here in the corner the armoire unit is hinged in the middle, so that the doors will not bump into this side piece here, isn't that nifty?

We've got shelves, sock drawers, whatever, etc, and then in this section here and in this section there hanging space.

And they take advantage of all the room you've got , by giving you a shelf in the middle with another rod. But, my favorite feature in the whole closet, is over here.

I've got a built in dresser, and the top drawer is about 2 inches deep.

Really shallow draw but it is perfect for when you empty your pockets. You change your wallet and stuff that way you don't make a clutter up here.


Lets go into the other bedroom and meet Sheila Smalls from California Closet and who is putting in a different type of system.

Hey Sheila. How are you?

Hey Bob. Nice to see you again.

I love that closet over there. Now, this is your, your more traditional closet The system here, is not it?


Yes, It is. This is our White Maline California Closet Sytem. Done up with some bull nose shelving and basically we've taken a very small closet as you can see and we've packed in a lot of stuff.


Yeah.

Packed in chest of drawers.


Yeah. What, what are the drawers like? Do you know? Oh, Yeah.



Isn't that a great one?
You can use that for socks or lingerie.



And of course you can remove this, if you don't want this kind of do I.

Exactly.

What's this meant to hold? Well, this is a new line for us, these are our new line for us its our shoe cubbies. And its great to put in pair of shoes or just small items that you might have hanging around that you want place to store.



Now, hanging is a secret here. There is a, that white
rod back there is where the whole load of this unit is hung off, and. and if you are in a apartment youtake this off and put it into the moving truck. right?



That's right. its a easy system to install and to remove, because it is basically bolted into the studs on the wall.

On this side, you've decided to put in two hanging rods, and I noticed on the other side it's different, how come?


Well we have done a long hanging Section here, but the beauty of our systems are that they're fully adjustable, and you can take the pole out, and I can show you very easily.

So that this can be moved up and down at any point?

That's right.You can set it for a small child.

Yeah , Yeah, If you've got growing children that's the trick, right?

That's exactly right.

Well thank you Sheila.

Thank you Bob.

We've got to break for some messages don't go away.

Well it is time to wrap things up. Come home again the next time and we will take you on a shopping spree at county floors in New York, in the middle of Manhattan.

We're going to be getting lots of beautiful tile, and back here will show you how to waterproof a shower stall before actually installing the ceramic tile.

And hopefully get started with the whole rework evolve landscaping. Til' then I'm Bob Vila. It's great to have you home again.

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