Ahh, the throne of your home for the king or queen of the castle is located here. A place to relax and wash the troubles of the day away. For a room that arguably gets heavy daily use in your home, you can expect that there are many small repairs that can creep up on you in a bathroom. The good news is that most of the fix-its are very quick and easy and don’t require an expensive plumber bill.
Here’s a quick run down of common problems that can be remedied quickly and inexpensively:
1) Clogged Shower head: Hard water causes calcium buildup over time and clogged holes will cause uneven and reduced water flow. Before resorting to removal or replacement of the head, you can try using a toothpick to remove the mineral deposits from the holes. You can also try to soak the head in vinegar by filling a ziploc baggie full of vinegar and attaching it the head with a rubber band or tape and letting it soak for a few hours. If this doesn’t work, you might consider replacement.
To remove the head, put a piece of masking tape around the arm (flange) for protection of the surface and using a wrench, loosen the shower head by turning to the left. The (flange) arm will stay in place. Simply discard the old head and screw on the new one. There are some pretty nice water saving heads available for less than $20. Make sure you ensure a new watertight seal with white plumber’s tape. The tape spool is usually blue with white vinyl tape and costs around $1 but well worth peace of mind to be leak free.
2) Clogged sink or tub drains-Wash your hair? Hair goes down the drain. Over time, it builds up with soap scum etc. and gets stuck. Gross I know, but very simple to remedy. There’s easy little drain snakes that cost less than $5 at most home improvement stores that take a lot of the dirty work out of the job for you. It is basically a wire with a small hook on the end. Simply insert the wire down the drain and wiggle around several times. Gently pull the wire out and you will likely pull out a glob of hair. I don’t recommend the drain products because of their potential harm to the environment and possibly certain pipes.
3) Caulk- Moist environments usually are mold friendly so a little bleach over caulk during routine cleanings will help with this problem quite a bit. Non-silicone caulk is usually more susceptible to mold and becomes brittle over time, leaving room for an unsightly invitation to small leaks with bigger problems if not addressed. Tub surround caulk and sink surround caulk should be something you check at least once a year. Water leaks in walls or under sink cabinets is not a good thing!
To remove old caulk, use a razor scraper to ensure a nice clean surface. Apply a new caulk bead, preferably with silicone and let dry before using. I recommend silicone because it is usually mildew resistant and usually lasts a lot longer than other types of caulk; one tube of caulk should be plenty for tub surrounds and your sinks and costs around $5-7 for a good quality caulk. The only downside is that silicone is harder to remove and clean up so go slowly to ensure a quality application.
4) Leaky toilet-Even a small leak in a toilet can create big water bills! Open the lid of your toilet tank and take a peak inside to see what the problem is; don’t feel overwhelmed by what appears at first glance to be a complex arrangement of moving pieces. Its actually very simple. Most toilets that won’t stop running are usually caused by a worn out flapper or a loose chain. The flapper is the rubber component at the very bottom of your tank and is usually shaped to resemble a cork. There is also a flushing valve with an arm that is attached to the toilet handle from the inside. The chain leads from the arm to raise the flapper during a flush to allow new water to fill your bowl.
If the chain is loose or too short or long, you can easily shorten or lengthen it by adjusting the links from the chain onto the hook that is already attached to the flushing mechanism. If this doesn’t seem to be the problem, you might have a worn out flapper, which may not be obvious at first.
To double check the flapper’s seal for a leak, take some food coloring and place a few drops inside your tank. If there is a leak from your flapper, you should start seeing some of the food coloring seeping slowly into the bowl. The flapper costs around $5 to replace. To replace, turn the water supply valve to the toilet off; this is usually located behind your toilet where the pipe leads to the wall. Flush the toilet to drain most of the water from the tank. The flapper is usually just slipped over a tube in the middle of the tank and is hooked to the chain; unhook the chain and slip it away from the tube. Insert the new flapper with the reverse directions and refasten the chain. Turn the water valve back on a test your work.