Ever needed a cheat sheet for fixing common bathroom problems? We turned to Yolanda Ricketts, President and CEO of Vancouver’s Fixin’ Vixens. Ricketts, who grew up fixing things around her home as a young adult and started her business after seeing a need for tackling people’s small handy jobs. Her team, which she’s planning to grow nation-wide, has the time, tools, skills, and confidence homeowners are looking for. Ricketts shares her handy-woman tips for your top five troubles in the loo.
1. The Faucet is Leaking
- With time, age, and use, the washer or o-ring eventually needs to be replaced.
- Remove the caps on the faucet to reveal the screws. Tighten the screws slightly.
- If the faucet is still leaking, take it apart. (See the tips below.)
- Look for any parts that are damaged. (The washers or o-rings may need to be replaced.)
- Take any damaged parts to the hardware store to pick up an exact replacement.
- Reassemble the faucet with the new part(s).
Keep in Mind:
- If the leak still exists, call in for backup to have the faucet replaced.
2. The Toilet Won’t Stop Running
- The flapper is corroded or damaged, the fill valve is broken, or the chain is too long or too short.
- If the toilet flush arm chain only has one inch of extra chain, unhook and adjust it.
- Check that the rubber flapper (connected to the same chain) is covering the hole where the water comes in. If it isn’t, attach it firmly in place. If it is in place, unclip it and check for erosion or damage. Replace the flapper if it’s damaged.
- If the water level is higher or much lower that the water level line on the inside of the toilet, you'll need to adjust the fill valve (on more modern toilets) or the float arm. When adjusting a modern ball-less fill valve, look for a vertical arm just off of the main body of the fill valve. Either squeeze the clip to move the arm up or down, or use a screwdriver to loosen and adjust the bar. When working with a float arm that has a ball, gently bend the arm to adjust it into place.
Keep in Mind:
- If nothing above works, you'll need to replace the fill valve, which is a bigger job, but one you can tackle on your own.
3. The Toilet is Slow to Fill
- The fill valve needs adjusting or replacing
- To replace the fill valve, turn off the toilet water supply and flush the toilet to get rid of water from the tank. Then use a towel to sop up the rest of the water.
- With a bucket handy, disconnect the supply hose and fill valve from under the tank (on the left side under the tank). Position the bucket underneath where the water will be coming out and keep a towel handy for backup.
- Leaving the side attached to the shut-off valve in place, disconnect and remove the fill valve nut.
- Adjust the new fill valve by twisting it at the bottom until it reaches the correct water height: about an inch above the height of the over-flow tube (the tall, white tube in the middle of the tank).
- Put the new fill valve washer in place.
- From the underside of the tank, install the fill valve washer until it’s very snug, then install the supply hose until it’s also very snug, cutting it if necessary.
- Install the refill tube on the overflow hose.
- When you’re finished, turn the water on slowly to check for leaks and tighten the fill valve nut or supply hose nut as needed.
- Allow the toilet to fill, check the water level, and adjust the fill valve arm as needed before flushing.
- Keep in mind:
- Before replacing the fill valve, try adjusting it as in job #2.
4. A Drain is Clogged
- Too much matter is stuck in the pipes
- Remove any surface clogging such as hair from a sink or tub.
- Make sure there’s a bit of water in the sink, tub, or toilet to act as a lubricant.
- Plunge the drain rapidly about 50 times without stopping.
- If the drain is still clogged, feed a plumbing snake down the drain to break up the blockage.
Keep in Mind:
- If the drain is still clogged after plunging and using the snake, call a plumber because the clog may be too deep or you may have another problem.
5. Silicone is degrading or getting mouldy
- An abundance of water and not enough ventilation
- To remove the old silicone, slice along the top and bottom of it with a knife, then scrape it out using a razor scraper held at a 30-degree angle.
- Wipe any extra moisture that may have been under the silicone. (The area needs to be bone dry for best results.)
- Apply silicone in long, unbroken lines. Immediately after applying the silicone, moisten your pointer finger in a cup of water and run your finger along the line of silicone with a light pressure. (If the silicone spreads or clumps too much, wipe your finger on a wet rag, then dip your finger in water again and continue from 2 inches behind where you stopped.)
- Wipe any excess silicone with a wet cloth right away.
- Allow the silicone to cure for 48 hours by keeping the area dry.
- Keep in mind:
- Keep the area dry for at least 24 hours beforehand
- Use only kitchen- or bath-rated silicone (avoid caulking)
Yolanda’s tips for every Fixin’ Vixen:
- Turn off the water source to the area you’re working on. (Turn right to tighten, left to loosen.)
- When taking something apart, lay its parts down in the order you took them out. When purchasing replacement pieces, take the old part with you to the store.
- When working in the tub or sink, close off the drain with tape so nothing accidentally falls in.
- Stock your bathroom-specific toolkit with the following: a large and a small multi-head screwdriver (or a set of Allen keys instead of the small one), two adjustable wrenches, a plunger, a plumber’s wrench, a bucket, and rags and towels.