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.

The Basics of DIY Gardening

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Gardens    by: ITC

If you’re trying to create a garden on a budget, you can either hire an inexpensive landscaper or, even better, you can do it yourself. This is the way to go if you want to be creative and get just what you want. All you need, besides enough time and a willingness to try, are some basic guidelines and you’re on your way. A green thumb doesn’t hurt, but you may just surprise yourself and develop one along the way!

Some preliminary work does have to be done. You need to plan out what you’re going to spend on what items. Don’t forget that you’ll have expenses beyond those of the plants you choose. Your garden will have to have such things as a watering system, paving in places, artistic focal points, and fences. Of course, you also need the tools with which to garden, so if you don’t already have them, they must be factored into the total cost.

Planning your design is also important. Since you’re on a budget, you might want to have just one or two consultations with a professional landscaper who can give you ideas for the layout of the garden. Or you can just meander through home and garden centers or peruse home and gardening magazines and get your ideas from there. Checking out house tours to see what others have done is also a good thought. Be sure to do your comparison shopping while you’re buying your materials.

Check around at local garden stores to see who’s offering the best buys. It might pay to go to several, or it could be best to just shop at the one that seems most appealing and ask for their bulk rates. There’s also the internet, of course. There are lots of gardening supply places online, and that offers you the possibility of easy comparison shopping. Right there, too, will be easily accessible reviews and comments on how to create your best garden, and there may be some dialogue going on about problems you’re going to face in yours.

Don’t forget that you’re investing time as well as money in your garden, and time is money. Decide on a target date for your garden’s completion. Then decide on how many hours per day or week you can give to this project. You want a well-balanced life, but you do have to live up to your agreement with yourself on this if you want a nice garden in time for the season. Maybe you can get family and friends involved, too, which makes work and play one and the same thing. Then you’ll all feel a sense of accomplishment because you’ve stuck to your timetable and now have a beautiful place to relax and socialize together.

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.

The Top 10 Most Popular DIY Projects

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

We’ve looked around a little to find some of the coolest and most popular DIY projects out there, and these are our favorites. Click the links to get to the original how-to guides, if you see something you like.

10. Mailing Tube Wine Rack

Re-purpose sturdy mailing tubes to create a stylish wine rack. This project is flat out simple: just stack the mailing tubes under a shelf. If you like, you can add a quick coat of colorful enamel. The end result is quite handsome, too. Use the money you save to expand your collection of vino.

9. CD Stack Lamp

This clever lamp takes some effort, but is well within the DIY reach of most of us. It’s the perfect way to transform all those AOL CDs into an awesome accessory. This quirky lamp is an eye-catcher best suited for the basement rec room, game room or family room.

8. Wall-mounted Magnetic Knife Block

Kitchen knives shouldn’t be left to bang around in a drawer, but who has the counter space for a chunky knife block? This wall-mounted magnetic knife holder is a happy solution. Carve slots into the backside of a wood block, then glue heavy duty magnets into the slots. Mount the wood block, and slap your knives on it. Check out the video when you click the link! This baby is way stickier than it looks.

7. Auto-on Watch Holder Pantry Light

Take a plastic wristwatch holder and mix in a dash of ingenuity, and put an end to fumbling in a dark cupboard, pantry or closet. This light works like the one in the fridge. Hook up a reverse switch to rope lights inside the closet or cupboard door. Mount the switch in a watch holder. Open the door and the light comes on; close the door, which opens the switch and turns off the light.

6. Hands-free Flusher

While this gizmo would probably fare best in a frat house, it works if you want hands-free flushing. A foot pedal is fashioned from a wire clothes hanger, shoe polish and some paper towel rolls.

5. Wall Outlet Safe


Your Own Secret Hidden Safe! For Under $2More amazing videos are a click away

Watch the video to see how this one works and for details to make one of your own. A thief probably won’t think to look behind an outlet plate for your valuables, making it the perfect spot to hide jewelry and small treasures.

4. Secret Bookshelf Door

If you’ve ever dreamed of a secret door that is activated by taking a book off the shelf, this project grants your wish. Avid DIYer Simon Shea offers this outstanding project, –or, he used to, but you’ll find an alternative method on Instructables if you follow the link. It takes time and dedication, but it’s really cool.

3. Automated Garden Watering Drip System

DIYer and Green Thumb Matt Haughey explains how to construct an automated water drip system to keep plants properly hydrated, even if you’re away for several days. A parched lawn and garden become things of the past.

2. Homebrew $30 Air Conditioner

When you can’t bear another sultry summer day without air conditioning, this project offers some relief. You can build an effective air cooling unit for about $30. Necessity was the mother of invention for this one, brought to you by college summer schoolers stuck in a dorm with no AC. It’s a bit clunky, but it works. And there’s a closed circuit version that eliminates the water run off.

1. Remote Control Deadbolt

This project isn’t easy, but it gets loads of points for being clever as well as utilitarian. Watch the video for the demonstration, and click the link for instructions on how to build a remote control device to unlock the deadbolt in the garage or tool shed.

The Benefits of Doing Home Improvements

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Money tips, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

A lot of homeowners today who feel that they need a bigger space or a home which feels more like “home” no longer choose to move to a another house. This is because many contractors say that instead of moving, it would be better to try improving – your existing home, that is. This is the reason why home improvements have become more and more popular in recent years. Here are some of the benefits of doing home improvements.

First off, home improvements could significantly increase the value of your home. If you are planning to sell your home anytime soon, remodeling some rooms or your entire home could ensure that you would be able to get top dollar for your property. However, you need to make sure that the home improvement project that you would be doing would yield a good profit. This is because there are some projects which could give you just a minimal increase or even decrease the value of your home such as installing a swimming pool. It would be best to consult a real estate broker or a contractor to get a better idea of which home improvements could give you the highest payback.

A home improvement project can also make your home a lot more attractive and stylish. One particular project that could accomplish this would be redecorating or enhancing the design of your home’s interior. This could be painting a new color on your walls or removing and adding new fixtures and décor to create an entirely new design theme. For instance, if you have always been interested in living in an oriental-themed home, you can try to install dramatic lighting fixtures such as Japanese lamps and place some Japanese-inspired furniture and bamboo plants around the house. You can simply choose which style or theme to go for and you would be able to enhance the appearance and design of your home.

Home improvements can also make your home more functional. From adding a new room to constructing a new cabinet system in your kitchen, you can maximize the space that you have. Aside from this, there are also some home improvement projects which can increase the security of your home such as installing alarm systems, motion detectors and other safety features.

They can also transform your home into a warm and welcoming space for your relatives and friends who visit. Many home improvement projects are aimed at turning your home or a room of your home into a space where you can entertain guests and bond with friends and family.

These are just some of the benefits of having home improvements. If you are planning to renovate or remodel your home, you can start by determining your main purpose for the home improvement project. From there, you can list down your own ideas or you can search online to get inspirations on designs and materials that you can use. Through working on a home improvement project or two, you would surely be able to make your home more livable and valuable for you and your family.

Making the most of space — Japanese-style living

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

The Japanese have made an art of living in small spaces, using sliding screens and doors to make their living spaces highly versatile. Sliding partitions can also play a part in saving space in Western households. We have already recognized the value of the futon, and have adopted it as a good-looking means of providing seating during the day and bedding at night. Japanese rooms are low as well as small, so much so that you can often reach up and touch the ceiling. They are mostly absolutely square, with perhaps one recess in the best room.

Rooms are divided by sliding partitions or screens consisting of lightweight frames covered with rice paper to let the light through. In a traditional Japanese house the futons are stored in a cupboard during the day, since the Japanese kneel rather than sit and would have no use for a sofa.

Screens in Western homes do not have to be sliding or fitted. Folding screens have been used for centuries to keep out drafts, to provide an element of privacy while people were dressing and as a psychological division between one part of a room and another. Recently they have begun to be popular again. In a room in which several activities take place at the same time, a screen can be used to separate the kitchen-dining area, say, from the main living area. Folding screens can be covered in woven tapestry fabric or in decoupage. You could also use lace or anything else you think would look good.

Japanese-type shoji screens can be bought in shops specializing in futons and other Japanese furniture, but they are very simple to make yourself. Use them to cover untidy shelving, to screen a window with an ugly view or as room-dividers. Venetian blinds can also be used to divide a room, but are pulled up rather than folded vertically.

How to do up small spaces when living with children

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Walls and ceilings

It is fun to do your own mural and paint a child’s favorite story on the wall. Use a base color for the background and paint the details on top with emulsion and/or gouache, similar to the technique except that the picture takes the place of the wash coat.

An ocean-with-fish theme is easy even for the inexperienced, with the help of illustrations from a book. Children won’t expect you to be Michelangelo and will be delighted whatever the result. You can get a landscape onto one small wall or a whole ocean of sea creatures and all the stars in the firmament on the ceiling, given an extra twinkle by the addition of self-stick glowing stars and moons. Friendly pictures of this kind will help children go to sleep at bedtime and will give them something to look at when they are ill.

A section of wall covered in cork tiles provides an exhibition space in which to pin up children’s own paintings. Cork tiles covering a whole wall will act as insulation in rooms which suffer from condensation, particularly attics or rooms which open onto a central staircase where drafts make them feel chilly.

Another idea is to have one completely white, washable wall on which children are allowed to draw and scribble. When it is full of artwork, you simply paint over it again. Fixing a blackboard to the wall takes up less space than having a free-standing easel and blackboard. Painting and scribbling activities are very absorbing, keeping children occupied for a long time, and they are good for manual, visual and artistic skills so it is worth providing a permanent place for them.

Work and play

There should be plenty of room for books and writing things, as well as a well-lit place to write comfortably. There should also be adequate background lighting in the room, and reading lights by the bed and over the desk area.

If toys are played with in the living room, try, if you can, to put up with them for the whole day and then sort and store them in the evening, otherwise you will be putting things away all day and will be resentful when the children want to turn a new lot out onto the floor.
Crawling babies and toddlers love to get under tables and discover electric sockets. Socket guards are available for when a socket is not in use and it really is sensible to invest in one or two of these cheap and effective safety devices.

Lighting

There are a number of ways to provide gentle lighting. Wax nightlights were the old-fashioned way of giving children assurance, but they didn’t last the whole night through and were superseded by tiny glass lamps in the shape of animals or birds which glowed in the dark. Nowadays there is a whole menagerie of lifelike geese, rabbits, ducks, pigs and sheep to keep a child company at night.

Children really seem to love these lit-up creatures and often make friends of them. Other lamps include ceramic pixie and mouse homes, old women in shoes and suchlike which light up inside, giving a cosy feeling. If you place a nightlight on the floor, be sure you choose a safe model where the bulb socket is inserted in such a way that a child cannot pull it out.

Even the ceiling light can be used as a nightlight if it is on a dimmer switch and can be left as just a faintly luminous glow when the child is asleep.

A shared bedroom

If you have to share a bedroom with your new baby, the most pressing need is to provide a degree of privacy for the parents. Again, planning the space is important. There are advantages to sharing: you know at once if the child is restless at night and can comfort it and get it back to sleep almost before it (or you) has woken up. Nursing mothers may also find sharing the room convenient for night feeds.

A very young baby does not take up much room. A small crib and a storage unit are the only essentials, although a comfortable low chair for feeding is a good idea. A folding screen will help to provide a certain amount of privacy and can be fitted with rails or hooks for hanging tiny clothes, so that it becomes dual-purpose.

Alternatively the cot area can be screened by a row of chests or shelving units, either tall or low which will also act as storage. Nappy-changing can take place on the parental bed, with its essential equipment stored in a bedside table. Play equipment can be stored in the living room if necessary, or spread around there and the bathroom and perhaps the hall.

Build Your Own Sawhorse

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Hardware    by: ITC

Whether you dabble occasionally in home repairs, enjoy constructive hobbies or employ yourself full-time as a carpenter, one of the most basic and necessary tools is a good, sturdy set of sawhorses. Learning how to build them is simple and will give you a good head start on your hobbies, home repairs or new career.

Most sawhorses are constructed out of two by four pieces of lumber. The planks do not have to be high-grade construction quality lumber but they should be flat and not warped or bowed. It is also possible to build a set of sawhorses out of larger cuts of wood as well. For really large projects, using two by six pieces of lumber can create a sturdier and bigger set of sawhorses for a larger workspace.

To begin construction on your new sawhorses you will need a hammer, a screwdriver if you desire screws instead of nails to fasten your wood, a circular or miter saw and several pieces of lumber at your desired width.

For the completely hand-made sawhorses, start by cutting four lengths of wood. These four ‘legs’ of the horse will determine the height you wish your sawhorses to be. This generally varies from between 24″ and 36″ depending on your individual height and the needs of your projects.

Mark the tops of your new sawhorse legs at a fifteen-degree angle and use an adjustable circular saw to cut the beveled edge of the legs so they will meet at an angle. Next, cut to size the length of lumber you wish the top of the sawhorse to be. The nice thing about building your own sawhorses is that you can build it exactly to the dimensions that fit your workspace and needs.

Place the bevel cut top of each sawhorse leg against the four-inch side of the two by four top and use nails or screws to secure it. Once all four legs are fastened to the top of the sawhorse, measure the length between the spaces of the legs about halfway down and cut a piece of wood for a brace.

If you feel challenged by the need to cut angles in your sawhorse legs, most hardware stores sell brackets that will allow you to insert straight cut two by fours in and attached them to the top of your sawhorse. Nail the braces in place on either side and you are finished with a simple sawhorse ready to go to work for you in your construction projects.