Archive for the ‘bathroom’ category

Quick Tip #26 – Pop-Up Stopper Sticks

August 11th, 2014

P097 - Sink Stopper AdjustmentsMost bathroom sinks have a “pop-up” sink stopper that opens and closes when you operate a small knob or lever built into the faucet. Push it down and the stopper pops up to drain the sink; lift it up and the stopper closes.

Most of these mechanisms need adjustments from time to time, and many are never set just right in the first place. Take a look at the illustration. The rod at the rear of the sink will allow adjustment where the metal strap with holes attaches to the stopper rod. The rod can be placed in holes at different heights to raise or lower the mechanism. The perforated rod also allows a sliding adjustment where it is attached to the solid rod that goes up through the sink.

If the sink is plugged, place a bucket below the sink, then loosen the nut and pull back the rod for the pop-up stopper at the tail piece of the sink drain. (A little water may leak out.) This will disconnect the pop-up stopper, and you can remove it to clear out debris that always collects here.

Quick Tip #23 – Fixing a Drip at the Bathroom Fan

July 22nd, 2014

V007 - Bathroom Exhaust Fan ProblemsSo you run the bath exhaust fan to remove moisture – but then you get that drip, drip, drip from the fan on your nice clean rug. Bath exhaust fans should not drip. If yours does, there’s something wrong with it.

First, check the exhaust ducting or tubing; it should be insulated, straight and vented to the outside. There should be a minimum of bends for proper air flow. If there is no insulation around the duct, the problem could be condensation in the cold duct. Adding insulation around the duct may solve the problem.

The fan’s damper can also get stuck in the open position, allowing hot air into the cool duct and creating condensation. Check the small damper at the fan. It should open when the fan is on and close when the fan turns off. This damper responds to fan pressure and gravity. Most vent connectors through the roof or sidewall should also have a damper to keep cold air out, and it should open and close with fan operation.

For many years, contractors installed bath fan vent ducting incorrectly, creating a bend or low loop to catch condensation. This just allows water to accumulate and may cause a large leak when the water lets go.

Quick Tip #7 – Get with the GFCI

March 24th, 2014

E119Ever noticed that some electrical outlets have a red and a black button in the middle? You’re looking at a GFCI — a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. This sophisticated device senses any current leaking through and immediately shuts off the power so you don’t get a shock.

In newer construction, GFCI outlets are located wherever water and electricity are used in close proximity: near sinks, in the garage, and at exterior outlets. In an older home, there may be a GFCI breaker (with push buttons) in the main electrical panel.

You should test this device every month to make sure it’s working to protect you from shocks. A simple test is to plug a lamp into the outlet with the light on. Press the “test” button and you should hear a click and the light should turn off. Push the “reset” button and the light should turn on with a click of the GFCI outlet.

Statistics show that about 10 percent of household GFCI devices are not working properly. If you find a problem, hire a professional to fix it ASAP.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #3 – Plugged Drain? Here’s a Quick Fix

January 13th, 2014

Yuck…your tub or bathroom sink is draining slowly … again. Every time you remove the trap or use a plumbing snake, you know you’ll be dealing with a major mess. And, the hair in the trap is disgusting! But, you’re tired of standing in water when taking a shower.

Well, next time you’re at the grocery or hardware store, pick up a drain cleaner: a flexible plastic strip with small hooks along its length. It looks like a very thin Christmas tree.


Without dismantling anything, you push this thin plastic tool down the drain and pull out all that hair and junk. For some drains, it helps if you remove the stopper for better access.

Just be ready for a mess when you pull it out. Have a rag or paper towel ready to catch the junk. You should also wear rubber gloves.

After the junk is removed, run very hot water down the drain for several minutes.

If you don’t have time to go to the grocery store, you could also try this with a length of thin wire bent to form a hook on one end. This tool is not as effective, and it will take more effort to catch the hair and the junk — but it can work.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Discoloration on Wood Windows

March 6th, 2013


We have a black discoloration occurring on the wood windows in our house; I was wondering if you knew what it was, and how to get rid of it. The windows are double-hung, and the house was built in 1995. I assumed it was mold and moisture-related, because I noticed it in the bathroom. But, I have since found it in small patches on other windows, both upstairs and downstairs. I have tried many cleaning solutions, including TSP and a bleach/water mix, but none seem to work. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



If the stains are a dark discoloration that cannot be removed from the surface, you have water damage in the wood of the window. If the TSP removes the stain, it may be dirt or mold. Once the surface finish is damaged by water, the water will discolor the wood. So, if the finish is gone and you have a dark stain, you have water damaged wood.The fix is to refinish the wood by sanding, bleaching, and more sanding. Then, stain and varnish to back to the original finish. Not an easy job.


Leaky Shower

August 5th, 2010


I have a shower stall with sectioned walls that leaks water while in use. The water comes out from the left front corner on the floor and leaves a large puddle. The shower was installed around 12 years ago. If I apply a heavy seal of silicone sealant around the shower drain seam, it seems to stop the leak for a while. Does this sound like the water might be coming from between the drain and under part of the floor? I haven’t found any hairline cracks in the fiberglass floor.


I assume the shower base is one piece and the walls are in sections. If you are applying silicone around the drain and stopping the leak, the leak must be in the connection of the drain line to the base of the shower. If you open the area below the shower base you can check for the source of the leak.

You can repair this by working from above and under the shower. Remove the shower drain and reinstall it with new plumbers putty or bathroom sealant/caulk around the tail piece connection to the shower base.

This is not always easy and it helps if you know what you are doing, so I suggest contacting a plumber. You may find corroded parts that need replacement. Your water leak problem could also be around the shower door or through the sides of the curtain.

Light Blue Stains in the Toilet

June 16th, 2010


We have a 7-year-old toilet that has begun showing a light blue color. When I try to scrub the blue stain with a toilet brush it doesn’t come off. We’ve never used those blue tank canisters; we just use liquid bowl cleaner. Do you know why the toilet bowl is stained light blue? I checked the water (in the bowl and the tank) and it is not blue.

I also noticed a lot of black mold inside the toilet tank when I took the lid off. Is it a good idea to use bleach to clean the mold off the inside of the tank and underneath the lid? There is a rubber-type 5-inch ball in the tank. Can I use bleach to clean that rubber since it too has mold on it?


The light blue stain is a strange one. Do you have a private well? If the water is slightly corrosive, I suppose you could get a blue stain from copper or brass in touch with the water. Perhaps it is from a cleaning chemical? I would try to clean the bowl with an acid-based cleaner. Look for the acid cleaner in a plumbing supply or hardware store.

You certainly can clean the toilet tank with any chemicals you wish. Most toilet tanks will have deposits. If you do use bleach, don’t let it sit on the rubber parts because it can damage the rubber. You can remove mold with just detergent and water.

Sewer Smell in the Shower

April 15th, 2010

In my master shower, I get a sewer smell. If I pour some bleach down the drain it disappears for a while, but comes back within one to two weeks. Is there a plumbing issue I should be concerned about? Is there some way to get rid of this?


One way to have a sewer smell in the shower is to lose the water seal in the trap. The “trap” is actually a bend in the pipe that holds or traps water. When there is water in the trap, no sewer smell can move out of the piping into your home. If the shower is not used for a few weeks, water could evaporate from the trap and result in a smell as air and sewer gas moves up through the trap. In this case, you just need to add water to the trap every week or so.

If the shower is used routinely, you may have a drainage, waste and venting problem that is allowing water to be drawn from the trap and down the drain system. This can happen when there is heavy drain water flow creating a vacuum in the piping. For this to happen, you may have a blocked vent or a vent installation problem.

Finally, you may just have bunch of “yuck” in the trap; hair, debris and growth. Snake the trap and flush it with very hot water to give it a good cleaning.

Cleaning an Old Cast-Iron Tub? Use a Tub-Liner.

March 2nd, 2010

We have a cast-iron bathtub from about 1948. I cannot keep it looking clean anymore. We heard about tub lining. Is that good? We installed ceramic tile around the tub.


A modern tub liner is a great way to repair a worn cast-iron tub. The liners are a thick acrylic or vinyl that is very durable. They are made in many shapes and sizes to fit all the popular tub sizes. You do need a contractor to measure the tub for the proper fit.

Part of the installation is disconnecting and reconnecting the drain line – this takes some experience. Most folks also update the water control valves and shower assembly. Part of the installation often includes replacing the walls with match panels.

Since you have already done ceramic tile around the tub, you will want to review the options for matching the tub to the tile. You don’t want any water behind the walls or under the liner. Once they are installed, they are very durable and look great. Liners can often be installed in one day, so you only lose use of your tub for 24 hours.

Screech at the Shower

February 19th, 2010

I recently bought a new shower head, so I applied plumber tape and installed it. I have a loud screeching sound as the water is running, despite making adjustments in water flow. Help!


In most cases any screech or squeal with plumbing is caused by forcing water through a small obstructed hole. I suspect you have some sealer or tape stuck in the shower head. Dismantle the head and rinse the screen and internal components.

Normally you don’t need plumber putty or tape. The head may seal to the pipe with a small, built-in gasket.