Category: Bathroom


How To: Unclog a Bathtub

Don’t let dirty water submerge your ankles for one more shower! Take these simple steps to a smooth drain

How to Unclog a Bathtub

Photo: istockphoto.com

Nothing interferes with a refreshing shower like a slow-draining bathtub. And that inch or two of water that sneaks up on you is also likely to leave a ring of soap scum and dirt that’s tough to clean. The cause of this scuzzy situation is commonly a clump of hair gathered in the drain pipe a few inches below the stopper. Fortunately, it’s quick and easy enough remove the stopper and banish that nasty bundle. So act on the guidance that follows to unclog the bathtub and enjoy a delightful shower experience again.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 12-gauge wire or metal coat hanger
- Wire cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Rubber gloves
- Trash bag
- Utility knife
- Liquid dish soap

STEP 1
Snip a straight, 6-inch section of 12-gauge wire or coat hanger with your wire cutters. Grab one end of the wire with your needle-nose pliers, about ½” in, and bend it up to make a small hook. You want about a ½”-wide U-shaped hook so hair won’t fall off as you extract it. Set the hook aside.

How to Unclog a Bathtub

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2
If you stop your bathtub with a plug, move directly to Step 3. If your tub has a stopper, there are different methods to remove it, depending on type.

  • Removing a drop stopper that you twist half a turn to pop down and close, a screwdriver is required. Usually but not always, a Phillips head will do the job. To take out the stopper, raise it as high as you can. Inside, just under the stopper, you’ll find a small screw on the shaft. Loosen this screw a bit and the top slides off. Set it aside.
  • A push/lock stopper that you push down to lock shut, then push up to release, is easily removed by unscrewing the stopper. The shaft is removable by loosening the screw on the shaft so that the shaft slides up and out. Note: You may need to futz a bit with this screw to get a proper seal when you reinstall the shaft, so be prepared to test the seal and make adjustments.

STEP 3
Look inside the drain to see the hair clump. Don your rubber gloves and get a trash bag ready. Insert the hook you made to remove and discard the hair. Carefully cut any remaining hair wrapped around the crosshairs or bars with your utility knife and remove these last bits with your gloved fingers.

STEP 4
Remove all your tools and stopper parts from the bathtub and then run the water to see how free-flowing the drain is. Is it draining quickly? Move ahead to Step 6.

STEP 5
Still draining slow? Pour some liquid dish soap, up to ¼ cup, into the drain and follow that with a bucket of hot water, poured slowly to lubricate pipes and push through any residue. If you’ve got plastic pipes, use hot water from the tap only; anything hotter could loosen the pipes. For metal pipes, boiling water can be used. If your drain is still running slow, you might have to use a snake or call a plumber.

STEP 6
Replace the stopper and clean the bathtub. Clean and dry your hook, too, saving it for future clog-busting duties. To keep clogs at bay, use a drain cover and avoid emptying mop buckets and other liquids likely to contain dust, dirt, lint, and pet hair into your tub.


How To: Make Your Own Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Avoid the harmful chemicals in store-bought toilet cleaners by making your own DIY version.

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Everyone loves a clean home, but our obsession with sanitation may come at a cost to our health. Some people, especially those with allergies, develop sensitivities to the harsh chemicals in store-bought cleaning products. To escape from the toxic ingredients and irritating scents, a number of homeowners have started turning to homemade cleaning products—right down to their toilet bowl cleaners! Although DIY-ing your toilet bowl cleaner won’t put a surprising amount of money back in your pocket with every batch, it will provide a safe and natural solution for stains. Don’t be intimidated by the extra work it takes to make your own cleaning products: We’ve researched a recipe that’s simple and affordable, so you can whip up your own natural toilet cleaner quickly and without a lot of fuss.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Glass bowl
- Baking soda
- Disinfecting essential oils
- Wooden spoon
- Glass jar (for storage)
- 20% white vinegar
- Toilet brush

 

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner - from Baking Soda and Essential Oils

Photo: istockphoto.com

Making the Cleaner 

STEP 1
In a glass bowl, add two cups baking soda and 100 drops (roughly one teaspoon) of a disinfecting essential oil, such as tea tree oil, lavender, orange, pine, or a blend of oils, any of which are available for purchase in health food stores or online. Make sure your mixing bowl is glass, not any old stainless steel or Tupperware container; essential oil reacts with metal and can even deteriorate plastic.

STEP 2
Use a wooden spoon to mix the oil and baking soda together, breaking up clumps as you go. Hold off on the vinegar—as it reacts chemically with baking soda, the two should be mixed only in the toilet bowl during cleaning.

STEP 3
You should have enough powder for about 30 uses. To keep the homemade toilet bowl cleaner fresh as you work your way through the supply, transfer it to an airtight glass jar for long-term storage outside of the bathroom—otherwise, excess moisture from steamy showers and long baths may cause clumping and uneven distribution of ingredients.

 

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner - All Natural Cleanser

Photo: istockphoto.com

Using the Cleaner 

STEP 1
When you’re ready to clean your toilet, drop one tablespoon of the baking soda/essential oil mix into the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle additional mixture onto the walls of the bowl as well, and use your toilet brush to spread the powder around.

STEP 2
Next, pour ½ cup of 20% vinegar into the bowl. (Note: This product isn’t your standard white vinegar found at the supermarket; it’s generally used only to kill weeds or clean, and it can be bought online. If you can’t find it, normal 5% distilled vinegar from the grocery store will work, but you’ll need to increase the quantity to 2 cups for each cleaning.)

The contents of the bowl should start to fizz when the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. If no fizzing occurs, the toilet water may be diluting the mix, or your baking soda may be too old. Try adding another tablespoon of powder and spreading it around.

STEP 3
Once the homemade toilet bowl cleaner fizzes, use the brush to scrub away any stains or spots in the bowl.

STEP 4
Let the remaining mixture sit for about 15 minutes, then flush the toilet. Easy! Now you can ready to enjoy a spotless bathroom, free of gunk and harsh chemicals!

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


Genius! Scrub the Tub with… Your Drill?

Cleaning the bathroom will always be a chore, but it doesn't have to slow you down. Here's how to power up your routine—and blast through stains and build-up faster—with your cordless drill!

how-to-clean-a-bathtub-2

Photo: themanlyhousekeeper.com

When his wife started her new job as an attorney, Mark Evitt took on a different role, too: househusband. Since he was still studying journalism in graduate school, Mark had flexible hours—and more time to tackle the household to-do list. As a homemaker, he learned that he loved organizing and baking bread from scratch. He didn’t even mind most of the housework, but cleaning the bathroom was especially tiring. Whether he used a sponge or a brush, wiping out old stains and grime on the tub was a tough job. To make it feel less like work, he got some how-to help from a friend and devised a homemade bathtub cleaner that hooks up to any cordless drill or driver.

For under $6, Mark collected everything he needed to convert the power tool into a power cleaner: a threaded lag bolt, small drill bit, and a cheap round scrub brush. After prying the bristled bottom apart from the handle, he drilled two centered pilot holes: one through the top piece, and another that stopped halfway through the scrubber’s base. With the halves snapped back together, he finished by screwing the bolt into the pilot hole and fastening the other end to the nut driver—now, when the driver rotates, the scrubber spins on its own! (If you have a newer cordless model, you might even try attaching the bolt directly to your chuck to save time so that you’re not switching between drill and driver for each use.)

Since magnets bond the driver with your bolt, you’ll want to keep your brush perpendicular to the tub in order to blast away built-up soap scum and stains. The spinning scrubber will do the rest in record time, saving you the fatigue and soreness caused by scouring. And because you can swap out the versatile brush like a drill bit, you’ll always be ready for your next repair.

FOR MORE: The Manly Housekeeper

how-to-clean-a-bathtub-3

Photo: themanlyhousekeeper.com


Solved! What to Do When the Toilet Won’t Flush

If one of the most frequently-used fixtures in your home isn’t doing its job, don’t call the plumber just yet. Here's how to do your own toilet tune-up without flushing extra money down the drain.

toilet-won't-flush

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: Help! My toilet won’t flush. The handle moves freely, but nothing happens when I press down. Can I fix it without calling a plumber?

A: For what it’s worth, you’re experiencing an issue that happens at least once in almost every home. Luckily, it’s easy to narrow down the cause and find a fix that works for you! So, if your toilet won’t flush, just follow these steps to send your problem out to sea.

toilet-won't-flush-2

Photo: istockphoto.com

First, check to make sure the water shut-off valve is turned all the way on. Occasionally, friction from a nearby object or a deep-cleaning session can nudge it to the off position, preventing water flow to the tank. This leaves just one or two flushes before the water level gets too low for the toilet to work properly. To see for yourself, look just behind the base of the toilet, a few inches from the floor. The valve should jut out slightly from the wall and be turned all the way to the left; if it’s not, twist the head counterclockwise, and then give it a minute to reset before trying to flush. Once you’ve restored the flow, your issue should be water under the bridge.

If your valve has been wide open the whole time, it’s possible you’re dealing with a clogged pipe. Heavy paper products are usually the culprit here, and they can be dealt with easily. To clear things up, first make sure the water in the bowl isn’t high enough to overflow when you insert a plunger. (If it is, use a disposable plastic cup to ladle the contents into the bathtub. Follow up with 2 to 3 capfuls of bleach and a stream of hot water to wash everything down the tub drain.) Next, take a plunger and place its flange directly into the drain opening. Hold it in place to seal the drain while pumping up and down for 20 seconds. If the clog has cleared, you should be able to remove the plunger and flush right away. Prevent another problem by switching to a lower-ply toilet paper, and remember that flushing paper towels or other heavy products is pretty much asking for trouble.

Still nothing? No big deal. Carefully remove the top of the tank and set it aside for a moment so you can check if your flapper—which is shaped like an inflated balloon and often red—is causing the backup. One that looks warped or damaged likely needs replacing. Luckily, this part usually costs less than $10 at your local hardware store and isn’t hard to swap out yourself.

While the top of the tank is lifted, take a look at the lift chain that connects the flapper to the toilet handle. If your flapper shows no signs of a problem but there’s too much slack in the line, it won’t react when you try to flush. You can adjust the length easily for a better connection by slipping a different link over the hook at the lever end—leave just enough length so that the flapper can close completely, and nothing extra. Now, pushing the handle should cause the flapper to whisk water through the tank, into the toilet, and down the drain like it should.

If your toilet still won’t flush, it’s probably time to call in a pro. Even so, you’re not necessarily in hot water. There are plenty of small issues a plumber can solve without much fuss or financial strain. Good luck!


DIY Lite: Double Bathroom Storage with Easy-Build Box Shelves

An empty wall is one more opportunity to stash your spare toiletries. Build and mount this simple set of wooden shelves to easily double—if not triple—the existing storage in your bathroom.

DIY Wall Shelves - Hanging Storage for an Organized Bathroom

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The bathroom can be a nightmare to organize, with all of its towels, soap bottles, grooming supplies, and other toiletries—and when you’re sharing the space, that’s double the stuff to store! To keep everything at arm’s reach while still clutter-free, try assembling an open storage system. Boxy wall shelves can be a good option, providing double the ledges for with each unit in case supplies start to overflow. The best part? Assembly is easy. Just follow those simple steps to set yours up ASAP.

 

DIY Wall Shelves - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 1×6 lumber, 8-foot-long (4)
- Wood glue
- Clamps
- Drill
- 1-½-inch screws (36)
- Sandpaper
- Wood stain
- Varnish
- Brush
- Level
- Pencil
- 2-½-inch metal brackets (6)
- ½-inch screws (24)
- 4-inch-wide tins (optional)

STEP 1

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The dimensions for these 6-inch-deep shelves are easily adaptable, so you can shorten the length if necessary. To make three, we cut our lumber into the following dimensions: six pieces at 4 feet each, and six more at 9 inches each. (You can get these right at your home improvement store where you pick up your wood, if you don’t want to handle a saw.)

Position a 9-inch piece perpendicular at each end of a 4-foot length plank, then join them with wood glue.

 

STEP 2

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply glue to the exposed ends of each 9-inch plank, then lay a 4-foot board across. Maintain pressure at the glued joints of this box until the glue dries. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to construct two more boxes.

 

STEP 3

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Glue alone will not be strong enough to support the weight of all items to be stored on your shelves: guest towels, toilet paper rolls, spare shampoo bottles, and more. Once the adhesive has cured, reinforce the shelves with three 1-½-inch screws at both ends of each 4-foot cut. Tip: Pre-drill small holes and then insert screws in order to prevent the wood from cracking.

 

STEP 4

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand all of the new boxy shelves, particularly along the edges, to remove splinters. Start with a coarse 100-grit sandpaper, and finish smoothing the surface with a finer 150-grit paper.

 

STEP 5

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Color your assembled shelves with a wood stain of your choice, following the package’s instructions to a tee. After one or two coats have dried, seal with a coat of acrylic varnish. If you’d rather, you can paint the shelves a color that blends your shallow shelves in with your bathroom walls—just be careful to choose a satin or semi-gloss finish that resists water, as the bathroom will likely to be very damp after steamy showers.

 

STEP 6

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Time to hang your new wall shelves! Determine where you’d like to position the set, exactly how high above the floor and how far apart from one another. (Our lowest shelf is 30 inches above the ground, and we left 4 inches of space between each level.) Hold the first shelf in place, checking that it is completely horizontal using a level. Mark the inside of the two top corners on the wall. After you set the shelf down, affix a 2-½-inch bracket to the wall at each mark using ½-inch screws. You will need one bracket at each corner of the box.

 

STEP 7

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Lift the box shelf so that its top rests on the brackets. Pre-drill through the brackets’ holes into the wooden shelf, and secure with screws.

 

STEP 8

DIY Wall Shelves - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When you go to hang the second shelf, try this trick: Place three emptied tins that are the same size as your desired distance between shelves (ours are 4 inches wide each) across the lowest shelf, then rest the next shelf atop of them. These helpers will keep your hands free!

Rest a level on the whole stack to ensure the second shelf is horizontal and also aligned with the one beneath. Mark the inside top corners, remove the second shelf, and screw the brackets into the wall at these marks. Hang the shelf over the two brackets, and screw it into place.

Repeat this step to hang the third shelf at the top, and you’re all set to fill the 6-inch-deep ledges with all of the toiletries that you can’t cram underneath your sink any longer.

DIY Wall Shelves - Bathroom Storage

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Solved! What To Do About Black Mold in the Bathroom

Discolorations in your bathroom's tile and grout aren't just unsightly—sometimes they're downright dangerous. Once you determine which type of mold you're dealing with, you can wipe it out with the appropriate plan of attack.

Black Mold in Bathroom - Mold Around Tub

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I just went to clean our rental property after the tenant moved out, and I found black mold in the bathroom. Yuck! How do I get rid of it?

A: Yuck, is right! Black mold is gross. And depending on which variety it is, it could be very dangerous. If the space has been flooded or a long-term leak only recently revealed itself, what you see might be the black mold: Stachybotrys chartarum. This highly toxic mold should only be removed by a professional. But, more than likely, an accumulation of grossness along your bathtub or shower tile indicates the presence of a more generic bathroom mold. The only way to tell for sure is to test it—either by asking professionals to collect samples or sending some away via a do-it-yourself kit—and wait for results. Once you can confirm that it’s the latter, garden variety grody bathroom type, you can get to work ridding it yourself.

In general, mold is a fungus that’s plentiful in the natural environment and, when conditions are right, indoors as well. Take the bathroom: Its damp, dark, and often warm interior makes growth a perennial problem there. Without adequate ventilation or routine towel-drying after each use, black mold can easily take up residence and thrive. Here’s how you can give it an eviction notice.

Black Mold in Bathroom - Cleaning Black Mold Between Tiles

Photo: istockphoto.com

Remove the mold. Use an antifungal surface cleaner and a sponge or cloth to wipe mold off of non-porous surfaces like tile and porcelain. Follow up with a scrub brush on any stubborn areas, and thoroughly rinse with water. This process should remove the mold, even if some dark coloring remains.

Clean up the stains. To remove the black stains that mold leaves on non-porous surfaces like grout, mix equal parts of bleach and water in a spray bottle and spray it over the stained area, allowing it to sit for several minutes. Return and spray the area again, and use a scrub brush to scrub out any remaining discoloration. (Tip: An old toothbrush aptly reaches rout’s narrow lines.)

Wipe out whatever mold remains. While bleach is superb at removing dark stains caused by mold, it’s not the most effective way to eliminate mold spores. Instead, spray straight vinegar onto the area and allow it to dry so that the cleanser can finish off any remaining mold spores.

Finally, prevent mold from growing in the bathroom by employing a few preventative measures.

• Keep vinegar on hand. Store a spray bottle of vinegar in the bathroom, and apply and air-dry after every shower or soak. (You might consider add several drops of your favorite essential oil—tea tree, peppermint, or lavender—to the bottle to make the vinegar’s smell less offensive.)

Reduce the humidity. If you don’t have one, install an exhaust fan. Running one every time you shower or bathe and several minutes following should remove any residual steam and dry the air out.

Wipe dry after every use. Squeegee and then towel down glass doors and tile to remove extra moisture from those surfaces. While you’re at it, wipe out sinks after each use, too, so that mold and mildew have nowhere to go (and grow).

Clean regularly. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning of the bathroom weekly; if all else fails, this consistent regimen should keep mold spores from taking hold and running amok. Rotate an anti-fungal cleaner into the routine at least once a month.


Buyer’s Guide: Showerheads

Make sense of pressure, efficiency, and more in order to purchase the best device to transform your bathroom into a home spa.

Best Showerhead - Master Bathroom with Shower

Photo: homedepot.com

There’s nothing quite like the sense of clean and calm that comes with a great shower after a long day’s work. One of the simpler pleasures in life, it washes away the stress of the day both literally and figuratively. Yet whether you’re fine-tuning choices for a bathroom remodel or just fed up with a drippy drizzle, you may need some assistance choosing the perfect showerhead. This guide, which includes recommendations of some highly rated models, will streamline the process and help you determine what you really want in terms of functions and features.

Pick your pressure. There was a time when showerheads merely sprayed—and over their lifespan, the plastic or metal nozzles were prone to blockages. Today, most are manufactured with silicone or a similar polymer far more resistant to scaling. Not only will you enjoy an uninterrupted stream, there are a host of mist options available to help you customize your cleanliness.
Aerating showerheads mix air and water to produce a misty, substantial spray, yet they may cool the water by as much as 15 degrees.
Laminar-flow showerheads offer a mighty yet less misty experience, through individual streams of water. They tend to be a bit pricier.
Rain showerheads have a large head and a wide, low-pressure spray pattern to give you the sensation of gentle precipitation.
Multi-setting models let you customize flow, with up to 12 shower experiences—from a trickle to a pulsing massage.

Choose your placement. Aside from spray options, the biggest difference between showerheads is wall- or ceiling-mounted and handheld. The mounted variety is more popular for its clean-lined look and ease of use. Handheld versions attached to a hose can be a real boon if you’ve got mobility issues, or if you’ll be bathing small children or pets. If you don’t wish to choose, you can have both, either a wall-mounted main head and an optional, often smaller handheld, or even a shower tower, with a number of wall- and ceiling-mounted heads plus a handheld.

What about water waste? No one wants to pour money down the drain, so for both economic as well as environmental reasons water efficiency is worth considering. Since 1994, federal law has required showerhead manufacturers to limit flow to 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Fortunately, even those that meet the EPA’s WaterSense guidelines by keeping flow under 2 gallons per minute can offer satisfying showers. (Note: In California, due to stricter water use regulation, WaterSense is a state law.)

Showered with Praise

We combed customer and critical reviews to help you narrow your choices. Here are three shower experiences that go to the head of the class:

Best Showerhead - Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Showerhead with H20Kinetic Technology

Photo: amazon.com

Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Shower Head with H2Okinetic Technology ($21)
With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this Delta showerhead creates a wave pattern from the water flow, producing the effect of more water being used than actually is. For households with varying water pressure preferences, its dual settings offer both a conservative high-power spray and an even more efficient setting with a slight adjustment. It meets the EPA’s WaterSense requirements, so it may reduce your water bill, too.

Best Showerhead - Toto TS200AL65 Showerhead

Photo: amazon.com

Toto TS200AL65-CP Showerhead ($49)
The Sweethome team put this rain shower model through nearly 20 tests in a 240-shower exercise comparing nearly a dozen showerheads before declaring it the best of the best. It includes a high-pressure mist setting that’s both comforting and efficient, while a temporary-shutoff option further conserves water beyond its 2-gallon-per-minute flow. And its easy installation—under a minute, using only an adjustable wrench—is another plus.

Best Showerhead - Moen 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower

Photo: amazon.com

Moen Banbury 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower ($32)
For those seeking the flexibility of a handheld, this model—which overwhelmingly impressed Home Depot reviewers—offers five spray settings, from an energizing narrow-stream massage to a relaxing wide-stream option. Bonus: It’s available in a chrome, bronze, nickel, or white finish to blend with nearly any existing bathroom fixtures. But with its 2.5 gallon-per-minute flow, it’s not as water-conservative as some units.

Now that you know your options, don’t spend another day settling for an inferior spray. Purchase and put in the showerhead that suits your needs, then jump in and enjoy!


How To: Cut Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile affords a durable, attractive surface for floors and walls alike. If there's a ceramic tile job in your future, ensure quality results by first learning what tools you'll need and how best to use them to make a variety of cuts in tile.

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Prep for Cuts

Photo: fotosearch.com

A small- to medium-size ceramic tiling job is a project that’s well within the grasp of most DIYers. With careful measuring, the right tools, and conscientious attention to detail, a determined homeowner can achieve satisfying results. But doing things right can be time-consuming. Case in point: Even the most straightforward tiling job will require cutting a few tiles, whether to complete the edges of the surface or to work around obstacles. Cutting tiles is a task that demands accurate measurements and precise use of tools. To make sure your project goes smoothly, it’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll handle all those cuts.

Different jobs require different types of cuts. For some, you’ll be able to get by with just straight cuts; for others, you may need to cut on the diagonal or carve a corner or curve out of a tile. And each type of cut entails different methods and tools. As you lay out your tile design, determine what kinds of cuts you’ll need, then check below for the situation that best describes your job to find out how to proceed.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Eye protection
- Gloves
- Pencil
- Glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers
- Square
- Rubbing stone
- Tile nippers
- Tile cutter
- Wet saw

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Whatever cuts you’re making, the general process is the same: Measure and mark the tile on the top (glazed) side, snap or cut it, then smooth the edges. If you’re doing a one-time job that will require a tile cutter or wet saw, you may want to rent instead of buy; these tools are available for rental from home improvement stores. If you have never used any of these tools before, it’s a good idea to practice a little on some spare or scrap tiles before you get started in earnest.

Note that the divisions below are just general guidelines: For some tiles, you may need to use a combination of tools and techniques. Most important, before starting any project that involves cutting tile, put on your eye protection and gloves!

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Glass Cutter

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. FOR SMALL JOBS WITH STRAIGHT CUTS

If you need to cut just a few tiles and you don’t need to make any curved or corner cuts, you can probably make do with just a square and a glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers.

• Measure and Mark. Measure, then use a pencil to mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile on a flat surface, such as a workbench or a piece of plywood. Set your square slightly off your marked line so the glass cutter (or the scoring wheel on the pliers) will hit the right place. Then, starting at the edge of the tile, place the scoring tool on the line and press down firmly as you drag it across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. If you’re using pliers, open them and slide the tile all the way into them, with the scoring wheel sitting directly under the line you’ve scored on top of the tile. Squeeze the pliers while gently supporting the tile as it snaps. If you’re used a glass cutter, place a length of wire hanger or other appropriately sized material beneath the scored line, then push down on either side of the tile to snap it; alternatively, grab the tile nippers and snap off the scored piece.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Tile Cutter

Photo: fotosearch.com

2. FOR BIGGER JOBS WITH STRAIGHT CUTS

If you have lots of tiles to cut, or if you need to make cuts from corner to corner, use a tile cutter. Whether you plan to invest in the purchase or rent one to save a few bucks, just make sure you pick up a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tile you’re cutting! Then, as mentioned above, practice on a few spare tiles until you’re comfortable with this tiling tool.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile into the tile cutter. Make sure the tile is pushed snugly up to the fence and that your marked line is directly under the scoring wheel. While applying slight pressure on the handle, slide the wheel forward across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. Once you’ve scored the tile, move the handle back slightly from the tile’s edge and let the breaking feet lie flat on top of the tile. Apply downward pressure on the handle, and the tile will snap.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Wet Saw

Photo: amazon.com

3. FOR CORNER CUTS AND REALLY BIG JOBS

If you’ll be cutting lots of tiles for a big job, or if you need to make corner cuts around door jambs or wall outlets, you should either invest in or rent a wet saw. As with any power tool, read the instructions before you begin and use all recommended safety precautions—and take a few practice cuts before jumping into the project.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Cut. Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the wet saw, and make sure you’ve put enough water in the tub. Turn the wet saw on, confirm that water is flowing over the blade, then proceed to make your cut the same way you would cut wood on a table saw.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using Tile Nippers

Photo: fotosearch.com

4. FOR CURVED CUTS

To make curved cuts, or to remove small pieces of tile, use tile nippers. Have patience, as you can successfully cut tile this way only a little bit at a time.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Nip. Starting at the edge of the tile, place the tile into the tile nippers and squeeze, removing just a small amount of tile. In this fashion, continue to work your way toward your marked line, taking off only a little bit of tile at a time. If you try to remove too much at once, you will end up cracking the tile. As you get closer to your marked line, take smaller and smaller nips.

• Smooth. The cut edge of a nipped tile will be rough, so be sure to smooth it with a rubbing stone.


Solved! What to Do About a Leaking Toilet Tank

Faced with a leaky toilet? To dry things up, you'll first need to track that leak down to its source. Pinpoint the culprit with these quick troubleshooting tips.

Toilet Tank Leaking - What to Do

Photo: fotosearch.com

Q: Help! My toilet is leaking all over the bathroom floor, and I haven’t yet located the source. How can I find and fix the cause of the leak before any real damage occurs?

A. Some of the biggest problems homeowners encounter start small and then suddenly spiral out of control—and this is precisely the path that leaks tend to follow. A hairline crack or chip that allows even a few drops to seep out can become a much bigger (and costlier) problem if not dealt with right away. The following troubleshooting tips run through the most common causes of leaky toilets. These should help you both pinpoint and fix the problem, so you can stop the water from seeping from your toilet—and prevent cash from seeping from your wallet.

Toilet Tank Leaking

Photo: fotosearch.com

The most common type of leak occurs at the bottom of the toilet tank and is usually associated with the emptying and refilling of the tank after flushing. The culprit? Oftentimes a worn-away spud washer (the big rubber washer, sometimes called a tank-to-bowl gasket, that seals the opening at the bottom of the toilet tank) or crumbling rubber washers at the bolts on the underside of the tank. Any of these washers can deteriorate over time as a result of exposure to hard water or minerals, but all are relatively easy to replace. Begin by turning off the water supply at the wall and then emptying the toilet tank with a flush. Disconnect the water supply from the tank, and then use an adjustable wrench to remove the bolts, nuts, and their washers from the underside of the tank. Lift up the tank (get a friend to help!), turn it on its side, and remove the spud washer from the bottom.

Another potentially troublesome mechanism is the ball cock, which is responsible for filling the toilet tank. It, as well as its fill valve, can fail over time. As it’s secured to the tank with just a nut and washers, replacing the ball cock mechanism is easy and usually costs about $10. But before you start emptying the tank to make a switch, first check for any loose connections between the water supply line and the existing ball cock. You may be able to fix the problem with a simple tightening—which is much simpler than making a trip to the store.

If a toilet leak seems to be coming from the bottom of the toilet itself, you might look for a failed wax ring affecting the seal. This is a much bigger issue than replacing washers and checking water lines, if only because it involves total removal of the toilet itself to inspect foundation items. First, confirm that the wax ring is to blame: Make sure the water is turned off and the tank is drained properly. Then, remove the cover caps and unscrew the toilet from the floor, carefully moving it (again, you might want to grab a friend) to expose the flange area for inspection. If the wax ring has failed, you can purchase a new one to replace it; the same goes for any obviously corroded bolts. Once the new parts are in place, caulk the base of the toilet to serve as one last DIY safeguard against leaks for (we hope) years to come.


How To: Remove a Tub Drain

If your tub drain just isn't doing its job, you may need to take it out to clean or replace it. Rest assured that in just a few simple steps you'll have the drain out and be on your way to resolving your tub trouble.

How to Remove a Tub Drain

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Los Angeles, CA

It’s unfortunate but true: Over time tub drains clog and sometimes even corrode. After all, your bathtub is put to the test every day as you and the other members of your household bathe, forcing all sorts of body care products—and copious amounts of human hair—through the drain and into the pipes beyond. The day may come when your drain ceases to function. When that happens, you’ll probably need to remove the drain for inspection, followed by either a careful cleaning or a complete replacement. The removal process isn’t particularly difficult or time-consuming, taking anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours from start to finish, depending on the type of drain you’re dealing with. Yet, as with all things DIY, a few simple instructions will help the task go more smoothly.

While bathtub drains vary by type, they can be sorted into two broad categories: simple drains (including foot lock, roller ball, and lift-and-turn types) and drains with a trip lever (such as pop-up and plunger drains). Instructions for removing both types appear below. Just find your drain style, and follow the step-by-step to remove it yourself.

 

Type #1: Simple Drains (Foot Lock, Roller Ball, and Lift-and-Turn)

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rubber gloves
- Screwdriver
- Wrench
- Vinegar
- Baking soda
- Mild cleanser (optional)
- Blow dryer (optional)
- Drain key or smart dumbbell (if you’re e moving the entire drain, including the flange)

STEP 1
Before you disassemble your tub drain, it’s important to note its condition. Excessive amounts of rust, mildew, or decay may indicate a larger problem, in which case professional assistance may be needed. Otherwise, if the drain is in good shape, pull on a pair of rubber gloves and continue on your mission.

• For a foot lock or roller ball plug, simply rotate it counterclockwise until it separates completely from the drain shaft.

• In the case of a lift-and-turn drain, lift the plug and free it by loosening the setscrew underneath. If you find that the setscrew on your lift-and-turn drain is stuck, a series of light-to-medium taps may help to loosen it. Use your wrench or screwdriver to nudge it into motion if necessary, but be careful not to use too much force, which could damage the drain.

STEP 2
Once the drain basket is fully exposed, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with an inch or so of water and watch it drain. If the water still drains too slowly, move on to a stronger drain cleaner (one that specifies that it’s suitable for tubs) or turn to a tried-and-true DIY drain cleaner that uses materials you already have on hand. Fill the tub again with about an inch of water, and watch it drain. Repeat as necessary until the tub empties at a reasonable rate, then proceed to reinstall or replace the part(s) you’ve removed.

STEP 3
If you’re removing the entire drain apparatus, including the basket (also known as the flange), insert your drain key or smart dumbbell into the opening. Turn it counterclockwise and continue turning until the drain flange is released, then remove the flange while it’s still attached to the drain key.

Tip: If the flange is stuck, use a hair dryer to heat it up and loosen the putty, then try again.

STEP 4
Once the drain flange has been removed, be sure to clear out any old putty residue from the base of the opening before replacing the flange or installing a new one.

 

Type #2: Drains with Trip Levers (Pop-Up and Plunger)

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rubber gloves
- Screwdriver
- Wrench
- Drain key or smart dumbbell (if removing the entire drain, including the flange)
- Blow dryer (optional)
- Vinegar and baking soda, or mild cleanser (optional)

STEP 1
Before you begin, check the drain for excessive rust, mildew, or decay, which may indicate a larger problem that may require the services of a professional. If the drain looks to be in good shape, it’s probably fine to proceed.

• If your drain has a visible stopper, then set the lever to the open position and use a screwdriver to remove the trip lever faceplate as well as the lever and linkage.

• If your drain has a trip lever without a visible stopper, use a screwdriver to remove the screws on the trip lever faceplate and move it away from the tub wall; the attached plunger should come out along with it.

STEP 2
Once the drain has been disassembled, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with approximately one inch of water and watch it drain. If the tub still drains slowly, try your luck with a stronger, tub-specific commercial drain cleaner or a homemade cleaner and repeat the drain test.

STEP 3
When the tub again drains properly, reinstall the cleaned drain parts or replace them with new ones. If you choose to remove the entire drain apparatus, including the flange, use a drain key or smart dumbbell as described in Steps 3 and 4 above.

 

Although a number of DIY plumbing projects fall outside of most homeowners’ comfort zones, removing a tub drain is a relatively accessible task. The best rule of thumb when you’re tackling any new plumbing job is to proceed with an abundance of caution and remember that if complications arise, a professional plumber is just a quick phone call away.