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.

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.

Bathroom Appliances & Water Consumption

The bathroom is an area of extreme water consumption, a large amount of which is not used in the most efficient manner possible. The EPA estimates that the average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water per day, most of which results from the use of bathroom appliances. Even for those households that make an effort to limit shower time and sink usage, there is only so much that can be done with common appliances and techniques. An unnecessarily high amount of water usage is not only harmful for the environment, but it can cost a fortune in water and electricity bills. It’s becoming more common for people to seek a different approach to household water usage, especially as new conservation-minded appliances are becoming available.

Low-Flow Toilets

It’s estimated that toilets alone account for 30 percent of a household’s water usage. The average toilet uses 1.6 gallons per flush; however, low-flow toilets use less than 1.3 gallons per flush. There is also the option of the dual-flush toilet, which offers two different flush settings, one for liquid waste, and the other for solid. These are both great alternatives to the common toilet, as well as some other new designs that use smaller tanks, bowls, and make use of gravity to conserve water. Since the average toilet uses the same amount of water for each flush, regardless of its use, this appliance can become a major source of wasted water in your household. These more water-friendly alternatives can make a tremendous difference in your household water usage over time.

Showerheads

Similarly, you can find low-flow showerheads that will use less water with each use. The shower accounts for up to 20 percent of water use in the average household, but you can cut that in half by installing a low-flow showerhead that won’t compromise your water pressure. There are plenty of low-flow showerhead options available today that use air to provide water pressure, rather than simply using more water. You can also buy a showerhead with adjustable settings, so that you get to decide how much water you use with each shower.

Others rely on the “bucket system” to cut down on overall water consumption. If you have a shower that also functions as a bathtub, use a ten-gallon bucket to gather the water underneath the bath spout while you wait for it to heat up. When it’s hot enough, simply remove the bucket, switch it to shower mode, and begin your shower. Then, you can use the water in the bucket for your garden or other irrigation purposes, rather than letting it go down the drain. Since the shower is a major source of wasted water, consider these appliances and methods as a means of saving a significant amount of water in your household.

Faucets

Sink faucets account for around 15-18 percent of household water usage. This appliance can easily be replaced with a more water-efficient option that will save up to 40 percent of water consumed by your faucets. You can simply install a low-flow aerator for around $5 and cut down your faucet’s water usage significantly. This is an easy, inexpensive, and painless improvement to cut back on the amount of water used by the common faucet, which won’t limit water pressure to an ineffective minimum. Low-flow faucet upgrades are quite possibly the most reasonable and affordable water-efficient solutions you can add to your home, and you’ll cut down your household’s water consumption drastically with this alternative.

These days, there’s no need to be wasting water in your home. With the availability of these eco-friendly alternatives, you can cut down your water usage dramatically and save yourself a great deal of money over time. So, if you’re tired of excessively high water bills or are concerned about the environment, consider these water-efficient appliances and start making a difference in your home today.

How to Find the Perfect Plumber

Finding the right plumber might not seem like a top priority, but it’s something you’ll be glad to have in case of an emergency. Although it’s common to neglect this necessity until it’s too late, finding a plumber ahead of time will give you plenty of time to conduct proper research and find the plumber that’s right for you. It’s important to have a trustworthy plumber who can solve any problems with your toilet, shower, or sinks, whenever you need him or her to do so, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re receiving top-of-the-line assistance without being overcharged. These are a few basic guidelines you can follow when searching for a plumber, so that if a problem does arise, you can count on a professional to deliver the best possible service.

Reputation

These days, you can find online reviews for almost anything. This holds true for plumbing services, so if you’re searching online for a plumber, it’s wise to look into the reviews people have written about them. As with anything, you’ll want to look for services that have a decent amount of detailed reviews that are mostly positive. Of course there will be the occasional negative review, but look into the nature of that review and evaluate the severity of the complaint. Also, in the case of a negative review, look into how that plumbing service responded to the complaint. A company that responds to a negative review with an apology is demonstrating that they value their reputation, and a company that feels this way will be less likely to send out a careless plumber.

References

If you’re unconvinced by a plumbing company’s advertising or online presentation, then you can ask around to see if any neighbors or friends have used this same plumbing service. If the area in which you live offers an online forum intended to keep neighbors in the loop, ask if anyone knows of a dependable plumber. This way, you’re not taking a shot in the dark at finding someone you can count on. Similar to the “reputation” section, you can also look into some online postings about certain plumbing services and see if anyone has had a similar job done by them. This will provide you with some background on a plumber before hiring them. Word of mouth can be a very effective means of confirming the reliability of this type of service, so look for people who can attest to the quality of service delivered by a plumber before hiring one.

Trustworthy

Finally, you should check to see that the work the plumber does is guaranteed. This implies that if something should happen, the job you paid for will be finished. For example, if the original plumber is unable to finish the job, a guarantee will ensure that they will send somebody else to complete the task. This can also mean that they’ll guarantee an effective job, so that you don’t pay for a plumbing service without actually getting a solution. In many cases, a plumbing company or an individual plumber will belong to a larger organization that implements a code of service and can ensure quality service. Also, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t overpaying. In order to avoid this, do some research to see how much the job you’re requesting ordinarily costs. Then, when you go to get a quote, see if the price matches or comes close. A trustworthy plumber won’t try to make a profit by charging you thousands for what should have been an inexpensive job. When you find a plumber you can rely on, both for quality service and reasonable pricing, you have found your go-to plumber.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful in guiding you in the direction of the perfect plumber. While you may not have the opportunity to do extensive research before hiring a plumber, ideally you’ll have a little time to look into some of these details in the case of a plumbing emergency. However, it’s best to not wait until you’re in a panic, so if you have some spare time, get to searching and track down a dependable professional today!

How to Drain a Water Heater

Most people never give their water heater a second thought – until it stops working. Experts recommend draining your water heater every year, no matter what type of storage tank water heater is currently installed in your home. Regular maintenance helps remove sediment which, over time, can compromise the energy efficiency of your water heater and can cause fixtures throughout your home to clog. Just because clean-looking water comes out of your tank, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in tip-top shape. To remove sediment, you must completely drain your water heater using these steps.

Check the Pressure-Relief Valve

Before you start draining your water heater, it’s important to check the pressure-relief valve. This valve helps prevent the tank from bursting due to excess pressure. To check this valve, switch off the power to the water heater and trip the lever on the valve in the cold water supply line. Once you have opened the valve, listen for air and look for water. If you hear air and see water, the valve is working as designed and you can move onto the next step. If nothing happens, you’ll have to replace the pressure-relief valve before moving forward.

Run the Drain Line

Once you’ve ensured the pressure-relief valve is in working order, it’s time to run the drain line. To do this, run a garden hose from the water heater drain to the exterior of your home. If the tank sits in a basement, you’ll likely need to hoses: one that runs from the rank to a portable pump, and another that runs from the pump outside. To be on the safe side and protect yourself from burns, give the water in the switched-off water heater a few hours to cool off before beginning this process. Note: taking a long, hot shower is an effective way to speed up this part of the draining process.

Flush Your Tank

Once the water stops flowing out of the hose, open all the hot water faucets in your home and turn the water supply back on. This will flush out any of the remaining sediment left behind in the water heater. Let the water run through the hose until it comes out clear – once the water runs clear, close the drain valve. At this point, it’s safe to turn the hot-water faucets inside your home back off. The heating element could possibly blow if there is no water in the tank. Some tanks may need to be completely full in order to prevent damage, while others don’t. When in doubt, always read the warnings and instructions on the tank label carefully, as water tanks vary.

Finish Up

If the water coming out of the tank appears to be running clear, turn the supply off before closing the water heater drain valve and turning on the cold water supply. At this point, it’s safe to turn the pressure-relief valve back to its original position. Once you’ve done so, restore the power to your water heater and move on with your day, as you’ve successfully removed drained and removed the sediment from your water heater.


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