Basic DIY Plumbing: Toilet Trouble?

Filed Under: Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

I’ve been a plumber for several years and cannot tell you how many times I have walked into home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot only to find a customer, despondent about a leak that their toilet has sprung. As a plumber I would always suggest hiring a professional rather than doing it yourself, but in tough economic times, sometimes homeowners have to take matters into their own hands. Let me provide you with some insight into why your toilet might be malfunctioning.

Most toilet leaks come from a few common causes. Your toilet may suffer from one or it may have a combination of problems. One of the most common sources of leaks for toilets is the wax seal. The wax seal is a gasket made of wax that is on the bottom of a toilet, where it rests on the floor. Often, water on the floor or on the ceiling below the toilet is a sure sign that you have a problem with the wax seal. To fix this problem you need a new wax ring and T-bolts which you can find at your local hardware store.

First, turn off the water supply to the toilet. Next, flush the toilet and soak up as much of the water as possible from the toilet bowl itself. After you do that, loosen the T-bolts, disconnect the supply tubes, and lift the toilet off the floor. Position the toilet so that it is upside down and proceed to scrape off the wax seal from the bottom of the toilet as well as from the floor. After you have done this, place in the new wax seal and connect everything back up the way it was and install the new T-bolts. Turn the T-bolts 5 and 1/4 turns being careful not to over tighten the bolts. Turn the water on and flush the toilet.

Inspect the toilet, the floor, and the ceiling below for leaks. While labor intensive, performing this repair yourself would save you a couple of hundred dollars easily on plumber costs. The second most common leak source is caused by flowing over the overflow tube. If you have this problem, you will need a new fill valve. There are two types of fill valves. One has a big floating ball and arm, and the other has a float on the valve itself. Bother are interchangeable. You will need to buy a new fill valve at your local plumbing supply store.

Begin by turning off the water and disconnecting the splash tube. Flush the toilet and soak up all the water from the tank. Unscrew the nut under the fill valve on the outside of the toilet tank and remove the old fill valve. Install the new valve, making sure the height is correct. Put the valve into the hole in the bottom of the tank, tightening the nut on the outside as you go. Replace the supply tube and turn the water back on. Flush the toilet and check for leaks. Finally, take the tube that comes with the new valve and connect it from the valve to the overflow tube.

Another problem that frequently makes a toilet leak is a leak from the connection between the tank and the toilet bowl. In this case, you will need to purchase a new spud washer and new tank bolts. Occasionally, this problem arises from a cracked toilet bowl in which case you will need a new toilet. In order to determine this, the first thing that you need to do is to find out where the leak originates. Ask yourself if it leaks all the time or only when someone flushes the toilet. If it leaks all the time rather than only when someone flushes it, this is a sure sign that the tank or the bowl is cracked.

Examine each closely looking for hairline cracks where water may seep from. If you do find a crack, you are out of luck and will have to replace the toilet completely. Otherwise, this is probably a problem with the spud washer. To change this, you will once again need to shut off the water supply and flush the toilet. Next, loosen the bolts that connect the tank to the bowl. There are usually two or three of these depending on the model.

After that, remove the supply tube. Pick up the tank and remove it and the washer that is at the bottom of the tank. It is usually made of rubber and will have a spongy feel to it. Replace this washer with the spud washer you bought and place the tank back onto the bowl. Place the new bolts in and tighten gently, but do not over tighten. Replace the supply tube and turn the water back on. Again, check for leaks. Occasionally leaks originate from the supply tube. To fix this, you simply need to purchase a new supply tube and switch it out with the old one.

Another source of leaks in toilets is leaking inside the toilet from the tank to the bowl. The problem stems from the seal inside the tank called a flapper. To diagnose this problem, place a few drops of food coloring into the tank and wait for a couple of hours. After a couple of hours, check the bowl. If you see any of the food coloring in your toilet bowl, you can be assured that you have a leaky flapper.

To fix this, you will need to purchase a universal flapper. Most flappers are the same, although American Standard has their own design. Step one is to turn off the water to the toilet. Next, remove the old flapper by taking the chain off the lever and removing the flapper from two hooks at the bottom of the overflow tube that are attached to the flapper.

Install the new flapper and turn on the water. Try flushing the toilet. If it does not flush or does not flush with enough volume, adjust the chain length from the lever to the flapper. Test flush again. Hopefully with these tips, I have armed you with the knowledge to tackle the most common cause of toilet leaking and have hopefully saved you hundred of dollars in plumber fees.

Easy Home Improvement Projects You Can Do In A Day

Filed Under: DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Gardens, Home repair, Plumbing, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Homeowners are always planning to work on home improvement projects to enhance their homes. However, most people are usually hesitant to start working on one because they think that they would need to work on it for a couple of days or even a week. If you are one of these people who lead a busy lifestyle, there is no need to completely give up on the idea of working on a home improvement project. This is because there are actually plenty of projects which can be completed in just one day. Here are some easy home improvement projects and ideas that you can try.

The first easy home improvement project would be updating lighting fixtures. Before installing a new fixture, you may want to assess the theme or the existing design of the room or space where you would be installing it in. This is needed so that you would be able to choose a fixture which would complement the existing décor or accentuate a certain area. You might also want to replace your existing lights with energy-efficient bulbs to save on your future energy costs. Installing or updating lighting fixtures can easily enhance the theme or design and dramatically change the mood of a room or space and can be done within just an hour or two.

Working on your yard and garden is another easy home improvement project which can be done within a day. You might want to turn a corner of your yard into a place where you can relax through setting up new outdoor benches and planting some bamboo plants. You could even get one of those miniature outdoor ponds or waterfalls which are powered by a small motor and provides soothing sounds of water in motion. These are readily available from most stores selling home building and gardening supplies. You can also add new plants and seedlings as install some outdoor lights to enhance the look of your garden.

Lastly, another easy home improvement project that you can do would be fixing any corroded or leaky water fixtures. These are not very difficult to replace and can be done within just a couple of hours, depending on the number of faucets you have in your home. You can search for the procedure online and you should be able to do it on your own. Changing your faucets or repairing them can greatly improve the look of your kitchen or bathroom while ensuring that you would not be wasting water because of any leaks.

Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Projects

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Hardware, Home repair, Plumbing, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Due to the raised awareness of the society on environmental issues, more and more homeowners are opting to “go green” in their home improvement projects. If you have been thinking of having some repairs and renovations done in your home, here are some eco-friendly options for you to consider.

Installing a Tankless Water Heater


Tankless water heaters can either be powered by electricity or gas and they can be installed either inside or outside your home. Although electric tankless water heaters are cheaper, the gas-powered variety are more cost efficient. These water heaters save energy because they heat water on demand. This means you would not be wasting energy with a heater which continuously heats 40 to 50 gallons of water even when you do not need it.

Installing Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is a renewable resource, making it one of the most eco-friendly flooring types available today. Although many people think that it is a tree, it is actually a type of grass which grows relatively quickly. It can also easily be maintained. Floors which are made with bamboo are much more resilient than floors which are made with vinyl or pine. When properly cured, bamboo flooring can withstand the elements and high traffic. If you are planning some home improvement projects which include the installation of new flooring, consider using bamboo.

Using Low VOC Paint

Painting has always been considered as one of the simplest and most cost-effective home improvement projects. If you are planning to repaint your walls to cover up old and damaged paint or to enhance the look and ambiance of your home’s interior, you may want to consider using paint which has low amounts of VOC or volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds contribute to air pollution and smog and have been studied to cause various respiratory problems. Through using low VOC paint, you would be able to do your share in keeping the air clean and make sure that you and your family would be able to enjoy your safe and beautifully-painted walls.

Installing Cool Roofs

Installing cool roofs is also considered as one of the most eco-friendly home improvement projects today. Cool roofs help in saving energy because they reflect the light and heat of the sun, reducing the amount of heat that goes inside the house. This means that during warm days, the interior of your house would remain cool. You can get cool roofs which are made from tile, asphalt or metal.

These are just some of the environment-friendly home improvement projects which you may want to consider. Regardless of the home improvement project you are working on or are planning to work on, make sure to choose materials and products which are eco-friendly to make sure that they are not only safe for you and your family to use but also safe for the environment.

The Different Types of Home Improvement Hardware

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Hardware, Home repair, Plumbing, Tools    by: ITC

Home remodeling and home improvement projects are great ways to in enhance the comfort, functionality and beauty as well as increase the value of your home. These projects can be as simple as replacing some of your decor and furniture or can be as complicated as renovating an entire room. Regardless of the project that you are looking into doing, it is important to make sure that you are able to choose quality home improvement hardware to make sure that every dollar and minute you would be spending would be worth it. Here are the different types of hardware which you can use for your home improvement projects.

1. Bathroom Hardware

Bathroom hardware would include the products which are used in the construction and maintenance of the appearance and functionality of a bathroom. This would typically be fixtures such as faucets and showers as well as tubs, shelves, mirrors and holders. Remodeling or renovating your bathroom is actually one of the best home improvement projects that you can do especially if you have been living in your home for five years or more. Through replacing some bathroom hardware, you can easily transform the look and improve the functionality of your bathroom.

2. Door Hardware

This type of home improvement hardware is used for enhancing the appearance or condition of your doors. This would include fasteners, door handles, hooks, hinges, number plates and knockers.

3. Furniture Hardware

These would be the items which are used for improving the design and durability of home furniture. This includes furniture frames, furniture arms and furniture legs.

4. Safety and Security Hardware

This type of hardware is becoming more and more in demand among homeowners because of the increasing concern on security inside the home. Some of the safety and security features which can be used in home improvement projects would be motion detectors, security alarm systems, smoke detectors, locksets and window guards.

5. Plumbing Hardware

Plumbing hardware include the products which are used to supply water throughout the house including tubes and pipes. When choosing plumbing hardware, it is very important to get those which are of excellent quality and are extremely durable because waters usually runs through and stays in them. Through getting durable and quality plumbing hardware, you would be sure that they would not easily corrode and that they would be able to withstand temperature extremes.

6. Cabinet Hardware

These are small components which make sure that the cabinets would remain functional; however they can also be used for decorative purposes. Some cabinet hardware includes cabinet fasteners, latches, brackets, hinges, pulls and locks.

7. Window Hardware

This type of hardware would be the components which are used in installing, fixing and protecting windows like window extrusions, handles, hinges, locks and fasteners.

8. Curtain Hardware

Curtain hardware would be the hooks, curtain finials and curtain rings which used to hang curtains over windows and doors. They can be made of plastic or metal.

As you choose which home improvement hardware to use, make sure that you would be getting those that would give you your desired results. Try to compare products and prices so that you would be ending up with hardware pieces that would fit your needs and your budget.

Remodeling Your Basement

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

The basement always seems to be the number one home improvement that everyone seems to want to do but they just do not seem to know where to start. What might be a shock to many of these people is that it can be actually one of the easiest as well as one of the most affordable ways to add value to their home.

If you are a beginner to the home improvement world you may be better off to hire a professional for certain aspects of your basement home improvement. But one thing that you will soon discover is that with a little planning and preparation remodeling your basement can actually become a very simple project overall.

The first thing that you will need to consider in your basement home improvement project would be the plumbing and patching. If you are looking at a place to entertain your family and friends you will need to definitely need to make sure that you have adequate plumbing. You need to make sure that you have all the pipes that you are going to need installed before you even begin your remodeling project. After you have finished your entire plumbing project you will then want to make sure that you patch up all of the cracks in your floor and walls patched.

The next thing that you will want to do in your basement home improvement project would be to work on the electrical portion of the project. It is important that you make sure that you install enough outlets to fit all of your needs.

After you have made sure that you have all of your plumbing, walls patched and electrical finished you are then ready to begin on the drywall. This is one of the easiest methods that you can use to form a tight seal between the cement and your new wall. You need to be sure that you use an industry grade cement sealer to be sure that the drywall adheres to the wall correctly. While you are working on the drywall you will also want to take the time to drop your ceilings as well. When you are looking at the variety of different ceiling tiles that are available the acoustical tiles have been the most popular choice. They are both appealing to the eye and also gives the household easy access to certain utilities.

The final thing you need to consider on your basement home improvement project would be the flooring. Due to the fact that the floors of basements are most generally cold it is a very good idea to add a subfloor. This will provide you with more warmth as well as a dryer environment for your basement space.

As you can see undergoing a basement remodel as your home improvement is not a difficult task. It can be a very rewarding project when you reach the finish project and you know you did it all by yourself.

Fix Those Leaky Faucets By Following These Simple Steps

Filed Under: Bathroom, Do it yourself, Home repair, Kitchen, Plumbing    by: ITC

Have you ever had that annoying leaky faucet that seems to drip even louder while you are trying to sleep? This can not only disrupt your sleep but also cause you to worry excessively because you are wondering if you are going to wake up to a flooded room the next morning. Well there is hope to solving your leaky faucet woes. All you need to do is follow a series of simple steps and you will have a great faucet in no time and as a result you will be able to sleep in peace.

You can even do this without the added problem of hiring those overpriced plumbers. All you will have to basically do is inspect the O-Ring of your faucet as well as the rubber washing as well. When these two pieces are worn out they are the number one cause of your leaky faucet.

After you have inspected and determined that your washer and ring are worn out you will need to then determine the type of faucet that you have. The two types that are available are the compression type faucet which has both hot and cold handles or the non compression faucet which will only have a lever or knob. The non compression faucets are the more common types and are the easiest to repair just by following these simple steps.

1.First of all you are going to want to shut off the water through the shut off valve. This valve is normally located under your sink. You will also need to make sure that you determine if either the hot or cold is leaking so that you will be able to determine which pipe is actually damaged.

2.Now you are going to want to remove the drain. Once you have done this you will want to remove the screw that holds the handle to the faucet. There are some faucets available that you will be able to remove by either a screwdriver or just by basically applying some force.

3.Now that you have the handle removed you are going to want to remove both the nut and the stem. You will be able to do this easier by using a either an adjustable wrench or a pair of pliers to unlock the nut. After you have finished this you will want to carefully remove the stem from the faucet itself. The packing nut as well as the valve stem itself is easily removed by turning them counter clockwise.

4.You will now want to remove the washer by slowly removing the washer in place. Once you have done this your local hardware store will be able to assist you in finding the right parts that you are going to need to fix the problem.

5.Once you have done all the above steps and your replacement parts are purchased the final step is actually easy. All you need to do now is put everything back together. Once you have done this your done and you didn’t even have to pay for those expensive plumbers.

Overflows from gullies

Filed Under: Cleaning, Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Where waste pipes and downpipes discharge into gullies, the first signs of trouble may be when the gully overflows and the surrounding area is flooded as a result. The gully trap has probably become blocked, either by blown leaves or other debris, or by a build-up of grease and scum on the sides of the trap. Raise the gully grid if one is fitted (and get a new one if it’s broken or missing). Then scoop out any debris with a rubber-gloved hand or an improvised scoop, scrub the gully out with caustic soda and flush it through with plenty of clean water before replacing the grid.

A blockage in the underground drains may be shown up by a WC which, when flushed, fills with water almost to the rim and then very slowly subsides, or by dirty water seeping from under a manhole cover. You’ll need a set of drain rods to clear any underground blockage. It is best to hire these from a local tool hire firm if and when the emergency arises. A drain that blocks sufficiently frequently to justify the purchase of a set of rods undoubtedly has a major defect that needs professional advice and attention.

Raising the manhole covers will give you an indication of the position of the blockage. If, for instance, the manhole near your front boundary is empty, but the one beside the house into which the soil pipe and yard gully discharges is flooded, then the blockage must be between these two manholes.

Screw two or three lengths of drain-rod together, add the appropriate accessory to one end and then lower it into the flooded manhole. Feel for the drain half-channel at its base and push the rod end along it and into the drain towards the obstruction. Screw on extra rods as necessary until you reach and clear the blockage. You may find it easier to push the rods into the drain — and to extract them again — if you twist them as you do so. Always twist in a clockwise direction. If you twist anti-clockwise the rods will unscrew and one or more lengths will be left irretrievably in the drain.

Many older houses have intercepting traps. These traps. which were intended to keep sewer gases out of the house drains, are the commonest site of drain blockage. You can see if your drains have an intercepting trap by raising the cover of the manhole nearest to your property boundary before trouble occurs and looking inside. If there is an intercepting trap the half-channel of the gully will fall into what appears to be a hole at the end of the manhole; actually it is the inlet to the trap. Immediately above this hole will be a stoneware stopper. This closes the rodding arm giving access to the length of drain between the intercepting trap and the sewer.

A blockage in the intercepting trap indicated when all the drain inspection chambers are flooded. It can usually be cleared quite easily by plunging. To do this, screw a drain plunger (a 4in or 100mm diameter rubber disc) onto the end of a drain rod. Screw on one or two other rods as necessary and lower the plunger into the flooded manhole. Feel for the half-channel at its base and move the plunger along until you reach the inlet of the intercepting trap. Plunge down sharply three or four times and, unless you are very unlucky. there will be a gurgle and the water level in the manhole will quickly fall.

Very occasionally, there may be a blockage between the intercepting trap and the sewer, and the point must be made that this length of drain is the householder’s responsibility, even though much of it may lie under the public highway. To clear such a blockage the stoneware cap must be the inlet to the rodding arm (this can be done with the drain rods but it isn’t the easiest of jobs) and the rods passed down the rodding arm towards the sewer.

Intercepting traps are also subject to a kind of partial blockage that may go unnoticed for weeks or even months. An increase in pressure on the sewer side of the trap — due to a surge of storm water, for instance — may push the stopper out of the rodding arm. It will fall into the trap below and cause an almost immediate stoppage.

However this will not be noticed because sewage will now be able to escape down the open rodding arm to the sewer. The householder usually becomes aware of a partial blockage of this kind as a result of an unpleasant smell, caused by the decomposition of the sewage in the base of the manhole.

The remedy is, of course. to remove the stopper and to replace it. Where the trouble recurs it is best to discard the stopper and to lightly cement a glass or slate disc in its place. In the very unusual event of a stoppage between the intercepting trap and the sewer, this disc can be broken with a crowbar and replaced after the drain has been cleared.

After any drain clearance the manhole walls should be washed down with a hot soda solution and a garden hose should be used to flush the drain through thoroughly.

Roof rainwater gutters may become obstructed by leaves or other objects_ An overflowing gutter isn’t an instant catastrophe but, if neglected, it will cause dampness to the house walls. An inspection, removal of debris and a hose down of gutters should be a routine part of every householder’s preparations for winter.

Blocked baths and basins

Filed Under: Bathroom, Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Basin and bath wastes are less likely to be totally blocked than sink wastes but, when blockages do occur, they can usually be cleared in the same way. They are, however, very subject to partial blockage. The waste water is often found to run from the bath or basin ever more slowly.

This may be due to a build-up of scum, scale and hair on the inside of the waste pipe, and the use of a proprietary drain-clearing chemical will usually clear it. These frequently have a caustic soda base, so they should be kept away from children and handled with care, strictly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Before spooning them into the bath or basin waste outlet it is wise to smear petroleum jelly over the rim of the outlet to protect the chromium finish, especially with plastic baths or fittings.

Partial blockage of a wash basin waste may often be caused by hair suspended from the grid of the outlet. This may be all but invisible from above, but probing with a piece of wire (the old standby of a straightened-out wire coathanger is useful) can often produce festoons.

If you can’t clear the hair by this means, unscrew the nut that connects the threaded waste outlet to the trap and pull the trap to one side. Now use a pair of pliers to pull the hair away from beneath the grid.

Clearing Blockages

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Professional plumbers rarely relish being called out to deal with a blockage. There are specialist drain clearance firms, but they can’t always be contacted quickly in an emergency — and their charges reflect what can sometimes be the unpleasantness of the job. Drain or waste-pipe clearance is usually well within the capacity of the householder, and there are certainly few more cost-effective do-it-yourself jobs about the house.

The outlet of the sink, usually the trap immediately beneath the sink itself, is the commonest site of waste-pipe blockage. Usually the obstruction can be cleared quickly and easily by means of a sink-waste plunger or force cup. This is a very simple plumbing tool obtainable from any do-it-yourself shop, ironmongers or household store. It consists of a rubber or plastic hemisphere, usually mounted on a wooden or plastic handle. Every household should have one.

To use it to clear a sink waste blockage, first press a damp cloth firmly into the overflow outlet, holding it securely with one hand. Then pull out the plug and lower the plunger into the flooded sink so that the cup is positioned over the waste outlet. Plunge it up and down sharply half a dozen or more times. Since water cannot be compressed, the water in the waste between the cup and the obstruction is converted into a ram to clear the blockage. The overflow outlet is sealed to prevent the force being dissipated up the overflow.

If your first efforts at plunging are unsuccessful. persevere. Each thrust may be moving the obstruction a little further along the waste pipe until it is discharged into the drain gully or the main soil and waste stack.

Should plunging prove unsuccessful you’ll have to gain access to the trap. Brass and lead U-shaped traps have a screwed-in plug at the base. With plastic U-shaped and bottle traps the lower part can be unscrewed and removed – see Ready Reference.

Before attempting this, put the plug in the sink and place a bucket under the trap: it will probably be full of water unless the blockage is immediately below the sink outlet, and the chances are that opening the trap will release it. Having done so, probe into the trap, and into the waste pipe itself. You can buy purpose-made sink waste augers for this purpose, but you’ll find that a piece of expanding curtain wire, with a hook on the end. can be equally effective.

Gaining access to the pipes

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

You might find you need access to a particular part of a pipe. In that case you should cut out a section of the cladding and fit it with screws to create what is in effect a little trap door.

If you’re boxing in a length of pipe that has a stop-valve on it you should again make a little trap door, but this time fix it on with hinges so that access can be immediate. You can fix a small handle or touch latch on to it to facilitate opening.

If you find pipes exposed in a number of rooms in your home, one method of concealing them, which will provide you with extra storage space as well, is to install built-in furniture. An ideal location for this is that living room alcove. The pipes would be largely unnoticed if you fitted a waist-high cupboard with book shelves on top, for example. The construction of such a cupboard is straightforward (for further details see Ready Reference).

If the pipes are on the back wall. the shelves can be supported on an adjustable shelving system in which brackets lock into uprights. The uprights should be fitted to vertical battens; that way the shelves will be thrown well clear of the pipes. Alternatively, if you have the pipes running up the side of the chimney breast, you can carefully cut notches out of a corner of each shelf so you won’t disturb any of the pipes.

The bathroom is an obvious place where unsightly plumbing can be concealed behind built-in furniture. A built-in cupboard, beneath the washbasin, for instance, will provide extra storage space as well as acting as a neat disguise. If you live in a flat that has the upstairs neighbour’s soil pipe passing through your bathroom, you can disguise it neatly with shelves at the end of a built-in washbasin unit or with a built-in vanity unit.

Another way of concealing pipes is to construct a false wall. This is especially useful if your plaster is in very poor condition. You simply fix timber cladding, probably match-boarding or veneered plywood, to battens running down edges of the walls. Water pipes will go conveniently behind such cladding providing you never forget their location and try to drive nails into the timber!

A more sophisticated version of this that is especially suited to the kitchen or living room, is done with timber panelling. However, if the pipes are running up and outside the wall, it would be wise to allow for some air holes or a small gap at both the top and the bottom. This will ensure that warm air can circulate.

If you find that for some reason you cannot conceal your pipes then it’s worth thinking about going to the opposite extreme and making a feature out of them. Pipes that have been painted with bright colors, for example, can look extremely attractive in their own right. And copper pipework, polished and lacquered to stop it tarnishing, can be a really eye-catching feature.

You’ll have to make sure that the pipes are in good condition to warrant either painting or polishing up, and that their new color won’t clash with your existing decor. Ideally they should be lightly rubbed down to clean them before being given a coat of special enamel radiator paint. You should also take care not to apply too thick a coat of paint — especially on any vertical pipes, as you could end up with unsightly drips, which would be difficult to get rid of once the paint has dried.