Bathroom Tips – Modern Bathroom Blog | Modern Bathroom

From design ideas to cleaning best practices, the Modern Bathroom Blog provides tips and tricks for creating or maintaining a beautiful bathroom.

Four Common Toilet Problems (& How to Fix Them)

Overflowing, constantly running, and sweating toilets can be an annoyance for homeowners and renters alike. Sometimes you’ll have to call a professional plumber for a quick fix, but there are quite a few toilet problems you can fix on your own. Whether you’re on a tight budget or are a DIYer at heart, sometimes it just makes sense to roll up your sleeves and take control of the situation on your own. From phantom flushes to leaky seals, here are some common toilet issues and how you can fix them with your own two hands.

#1: Phantom Flushes

If you hear your toilet begin to spontaneously refill in the middle of the night or when not in use, it’s not a ghost- it’s what plumbers refer to as a phantom flush. Caused by a very slow leak from the tank into the bowl, the problem is usually caused by a bad flapper or flapper seat. If you think your toilet has this problem but want to make sure, you can run a quick diagnostic test. To do so, add food dye to the tank after all the water has stopped running. Wait ten minutes and check the bowl water- if it’s colored, you do in fact have a leak. Replacing the flapper and flap seat is easy- replacements are available at most hardware stores. When purchasing a replacement be sure to take the old one with you to find a replacement that matches correctly.

#2: Bowl Empties Slowly

Also referred to as a weak flush, a bowl that empties too slowly is usually the result of clogged holes underneath the rim of the bowl. You can use oversized toothpicks or a wire coat hanger to poke gently into each flush hole to clear out any debris. Be careful not to scratch the bowl while cleaning. If the problem persists even after this cleaning, a muriatic acid wash may do the trick. Mix one part acid to 10 parts water and use a funnel to carefully pour half the solution down the overflow tube in the toilet tank. You should hear fizzing right away. Be careful of the fumes- open a window, and run the fan. Let the acid work its magic for half an hour and pour the rest of the solution down the tube. Wait another half an hour and flush the toilet. Note: if you have a septic tank, do not do this. You’ll have to disassemble the toilet completely and do this process outdoors.

#3: Overflowing Water

If your toilet is about to overflow and your usual trick of shutting the lid and crossing your fingers won’t work, there are a few things you can do. As soon as the water level starts rising, reach into the tank and prop up the fill valve (or the ball that floats on top of the water.) This should stop the flow to the toilet, avoiding an overflow but, in case it doesn’t, keep a plunger nearby. If the overflow is caused by a clog there are several tools available. A force-cup plunger is more effective than a standard plunger for cleaning minor clogs and, for serious clogs, purchase a closet auger. Insert the end into the drain hole and twist the handle as you push the rotor downward. Be sure to use caution, as scratching the bowl could leave unsightly, permanent scratches.

#4: Leaky Seals

A standard toilet has at least five seals and, unsurprisingly, each has the potential for leaking. In each case, the solution is to identify the broken seal and, depending on the level of damage, either tighten it or replace it. A break of the largest seal, located between the tank and bowl, will be the most obvious, as water will shoot out from underneath the tank with every flush. The others won’t be as noticeable, as they’re smaller. Regardless of the location or type of seal, they’re all replaced the same way. Drain the seal, remove the tank, turn the tank upside down for better access, remove the seal, and pop on a new one. In some cases, tightening the bolts or mounting nut is enough to stop the leak. Try this method first and, if the seal is still leaking, replace the seal altogether using the above steps.

Tips for Converting a Tub to a Shower

If you’re thinking about converting your outdated bathtub into the luxurious walk-in shower you’ve always dreamed of, you’re in good company. According to the American Institute of Architects, bathrooms without bathtubs are growing in popularity. In fact, 60 percent of homeowners preferred stall showers to tubs in a 2013 survey. However, there’s a caveat: most real estate agents recommend keeping at least one bathtub in your home to preserve its marketability when you decide to sell your home. So, before you take a sledgehammer to your bathtub, here are some tips for making the process as seamless and affordable as possible.

Measure the Space

Not all showers will fit in the space that’s being occupied by your bathtub, which is why it’s important to measure your bathroom as precisely as possible. Most tubs are 60 inches wide, which is a great width for a shower. Unfortunately, many homeowners typically run into an issue with the depth. You’ll want to aim for at least 32 to 34 inches from the finished tile wall to the future glass shower door. To comply with the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s guidelines for bathrooms, you’ll also need to have a finished ceiling height of a minimum of 80 inches and a shower that’s at least 30 X 30 to comply. It’s also important to record the toilet location- a distance of 15 to 18 inches from the center of the toilet to the shower door tends to be comfortable.

If the measurements of your future shower don’t fall in line, you’ll likely need to put your shower in a different location of the bathroom, which will probably require the services of a professional contractor and/or designer.

What about the Shower Door?

Many DIYers forget about the shower door until it’s too late. To avoid the headache that comes along with that, figure out your shower door situation before you plan the renovation. Ask yourself a few questions: where will you put the door in your new shower? Does it interfere with the bathroom vanity or toilet? Will there be enough room to get in and out of the shower with the new shower door? If the walkway from the vanity or toilet to the shower is too tight for a swinging shower door, there are other alternatives available on the market, including glass block walls, sliding doors, and retainer walls. Tip: if the bathroom floor is going to get wet outside the shower, choose a slip-resistant material for the floor.

Take Your Time with Fixtures

Shopping for bathroom fixtures can actually be a lot of fun, as long as you take your time and do your research. Research your options, and keep an eye out for specials and possible out-of-the-box combos. Many first-time DIYers may feel pressure to purchase all their bathroom fixtures and accessories from the same brand, which isn’t a necessity. In fact, many professional designers mix and match fixtures from a few different companies. Since bathroom fixtures are mostly chosen for their aesthetics, as long as they all look great together they’re fair game. Tip: if you’re building a custom steam shower, it should be constructed by someone with at least five years’ experience with vapor proofing.

Lighting & Tile

The key to a polished-looking shower is to consider your lighting and tile options from the very beginning. Make sure to include lights inside your shower, not just outside or around it. Depending on the size and overall design of your shower, one, two, or four lights might look best. When you remove the tub to make room for the new shower, take the opportunity to make sure the light system you chose can be installed like you had planned. Finally, don’t install the tile until you have the finished light sources already in place. Otherwise, it’s difficult to know how any lippage might look, as the lights of a shower are often quite close to the wall which will showcase any mistakes you made while installing tile.

For more information about your lighting and tile options, check out Bathroom Lighting: A Guide and Decorative Tile: A Guide.

How to Prepare Your Home’s Plumbing for Winter

Whether the deep freeze of winter is right around the corner or still a couple months away, there’s no time like the present to prepare your home’s plumbing system for the cold, winter months. If you don’t prepare your home for a drop in temperature, water can freeze and break pipes, causing significant damage to the walls, ceilings, and floors of your home. At best, the damage can be inconvenient. At worst, destructive and costly. As a good preventative measure, use this checklist to prepare your home’s plumbing for the winter weather that’s right around the corner.

Fix Leaks

If you currently have a leak in your home, it’s best to get the leak fixed before the first snow of the season, as even the smallest leak can turn into a huge problem when the temperatures drop. If you’re already aware of a leak, this step is easy. But if you aren’t, take a walk around the interior and exterior of your home and check for leaks or pools of water, just in case. If you wait for the water to freeze before getting the leak fixed, the damage to the surrounding pipes will be more significant. If your pipes are insulated, you can still check for leaks by feeling for any moisture that may have been soaked up.

Set Your Thermostat

If you leave your home, set your thermostat to 65°F or higher. If you’re out of town for more than a few days, set your thermostat to 55°F or higher. While it may seem wasteful, you’ll incur much more expense repairing the damage from a burst pipe than you will on the extra heating. Since prevention and planning are the two key ways to protect your plumbing throughout the winter season, this preventative measure should not be skipped under any circumstances. While you’re at it, reduce the water temperature of the water heater. Chances are, you can the thermostat down a few degrees and still have enough hot water for normal day-to-day use.

Drain & Disconnect Hoses

The pipes outside your home are exposed to the most extreme temperatures; therefore, they’re at the greatest risk for freezing. Since they’re the most susceptible to damage, extra measures should be taken to protect your exterior plumbing. You should drain the water from your sprinkler supply lines and swimming pool before the weather gets too cold, but remember: don’t pour antifreeze into the lines, as it’s dangerous to humans, animals, and landscaping. Next, disconnect garden hoses and put them into storage. Close the inside valves and open the hose bibs so the water can drain out. Then, leave them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. For more information, learn How to Prevent Bathroom Pipes from Freezing.

Don’t Forget the Interior

While outdoor pipes are more susceptible to damage, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your indoor plumbing. While keeping the thermostat at 55°F is a good preventative measure, you should also add extra insulation to crawl spaces, basements, and attics, check windows and doorframes for drafts, and keep windows and air vents that are located near water pipes closed. While you’re at it, feel for drafts around the chimney case or flue and repair these as soon as possible. If the outdoor temperature is extremely cold, allow cold water to drip from the faucets to keep the line from freezing.

Watch for Warning Signs

Even if you’ve taken every precaution, it’s still possible for one or more pipes to freeze. Keep an eye out for reduced water flow, as it’s often the first sign of a frozen pipe. Check faucets before you go to bed and again in the morning to make sure the flow and water pressure have remained consistent. If a pipe appears to be frozen, you can take steps to thaw it. Thawing can be done with a hairdryer, heating pad, or a portable space heater, but use caution when operating these near standing water. If you suspect a frozen pipe but are unable to locate it or thaw it, call a plumber immediately.


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