Category: Bathroom

How To: Snake a Drain

Learn how to clear a clog yourself—no plumber required—using a drain auger (a.k.a. the "plumber's snake").

How to Snake a Drain


If it looks like a snake and moves like a snake, it probably is a snake, right? Or, perhaps, its toolbox doppelgänger, the drain auger. Called a plumber’s snake, this handy tool’s 1/4-inch metal coil breaks up blockages in toilet, sink, and bathtub drains. The next time your plunger won’t clear that clog, wait to call a pro and try to snake it out yourself using the following steps, instead.

- Drain auger (manual or electric)
- Rubber gloves
- Protective goggles
- Bucket
- Paper towels

How to Snake a Drain - Tub Upright


You’ll first need to get hold of a plumber’s snake, either manual or electric. Some manual models do allow you to attach an electric drill to give the tool more power to push through and break up the clog.

At your home improvement store, drain augers cost anywhere from a few dollars for a flimsy plastic model meant to pull out a hair clog to $25 for a longer, sturdier metal coil, or more for an electric model. Think of it this way: While you might spend upwards of $100 on a service call, you could put that money—even just a portion of it—toward buying your own snake for this and all future DIY plumbing work. If you don’t want to buy, you may be able to borrow one from a neighbor or rent a snake from your local home improvement center for a nominal fee.

Before you begin, put on a pair of rubber gloves and goggles (especially if you had tried a chemical drain cleaner earlier on), and have a bucket on hand. Then, insert the snake into the drain and slowly feed the line down the pipe. It may take a few tries to get it going. Once it’s in a few inches, gently crank the handle, causing the auger to descend down the drain.

As it descends, a tight bend in the pipe may require you to crank the handle a little harder or wiggle the wire, but don’t give up—keep turning. At some point the snake will reach the blockage. When it does, the rotating tip will either break it up as it moves down the pipe or grab hold of the gunk so that you can pull it out. If the stoppage is a solid mass, the auger head will pierce through the obstruction and resist turning. Crank a few more times so that your snake has a good hold on the clog, give the wire a wiggle to help loosen it, and get ready to remove.

When you can’t feed the coil any more, simply turn the handle to wind the snake back out of the drain. Chances are the clog will come out with it, either in pieces or as a solid chunk. Detach the debris from your snake and test to see if your pipes are clog-free by running the water or flushing the toilet. If necessary, start from the top and repeat the process.


Going forward, save yourself some hassle by using the following tips to keep your pipes clear:

• In the kitchen, when you’re using your garbage disposal, always run cold (not hot) water to flush debris from the sink drains. After you’ve turned the disposal off, keep the water running for at least 30 seconds to rinse the pipes.

In bathtub drains, once a week remove the overflow plate and raise the pop-up assembly so you can reach the spring or rocker arm to clear away any obstructions.

In the shower, once a week or as needed remove the drain cover and use a bent wire to clear out any built-up soap and hair clogs.

Last but not least, don’t treat your drain like a garbage can! Your garbage disposal, sinks, and toilet drains aren’t meant to be a dumping ground for debris. To keep backups at bay, never put any of the following common clog culprits down your pipes: grease, fats, coffee grounds, gum, pasta, rice, eggshells, baby wipes, napkins, feminine hygiene products, hair, cat litter, dental floss, bandages, or building materials like plaster and similar compounds.

How To: Seal Grout

Make it easier to keep your bathroom sparkling by following these simple steps to seal your grout.

How to Seal Grout - Backsplash Tile


Even if you keep your bathroom tiles clean, dirty grout lines can really detract from the look of your tiled floors and walls. Because cement-based grout, whether sanded or not, is porous by nature, substances like oil, grease, and water tend to seep inside and cause ugly discoloration. The best way to prevent this is to seal your new grout and repeat as needed—every year or so for wall and floor tiles that don’t get much moisture, and more often for grout in the shower or on the bathroom backsplash. Adhere to the following instructions, though, and you’ll create a reliable barrier against unsightly stains and a dingy appearance. You may never have to scrub those grout lines again!


- Toothbrush
- Dish soap
- Vinegar
- Sealer
- Sponge or small brush (optional)
- Cloth

How to Seal Grout - Clean Grout with a Toothbrush


Before applying a sealer, be sure to clean your grout thoroughly and repair any cracks or crumbles in the grout lines. Otherwise, you’ll seal in dirt and damaged seams. Scrub away as much of the grime as possible using a toothbrush dipped in soapy water. (Switch to a 50-50 vinegar and warm water solution if you’re trying to eradicate stains.) Tackle one grout line at a time. When you’re finished cleaning the grout, allow the area to dry for 45 minutes before sealing.

Next, choose your sealer based on the type of tile you have and its location. No one sealer is best suited for all situations. As you’ll see when you get to your home improvement store, the variety of products available allows for a certain level of customization. Labels specify which sealers work best with marble, stone, and ceramic tiles, as well as how much moisture the sealer can tolerate, be it high moisture in the shower or low moisture along a kitchen backsplash. Depending on your tile and its location, you can narrow down the choices to two main categories: penetrating sealers and membrane-forming sealers.

• Penetrating sealers use a water or mineral spirit base that lets the formula’s tiny particles of latex or silicone penetrate the granular structure of the grout. As the porous grout absorbs the sealer, the particles of latex and silicone fill in all the gaps, keeping moisture out. These sealers are the best choice for use in especially damp areas, such as bathrooms and, in particular, showers.

• Membrane-forming sealers create a coating on the surface of the grout that resists water permeation. (These sealers work well in the kitchen but should not be used in the bathroom; membrane-forming sealers won’t allow water that’s trapped underneath the tile to evaporate, which, in a swampy shower, could lead to mildew.) These sealers also often feature pigments, so you can change the grout color. While membrane-forming sealers are good for unglazed tile like stone, they won’t adhere to glazed tiles, such as most ceramics.

How to Seal Grout - Shower Tile


Choose the applicator tool that’s right for you. Although aerosol spray-on sealers are commonly used for reasons of convenience, there are a few cases in which they may not be the best choice for your project:

• If you have very thin grout lines and unsealed tiles, a sponge allows you to seal larger sections of your bathroom (walls or floors) easily by wiping over both surfaces at once.

• For glazed tiles where sealer won’t adhere, you’ll need to seal only the grout lines using an applicator brush or specialty applicator bottle with a rolling wheel on top.

Whichever tool you choose, read the manufacturer’s directions before you begin.

Apply sealer in small areas at a time, working left to right. By working methodically, your grout lines will look more consistent and your sealer will provide better protection—no spots will be overlooked! Keep a dry cloth close by to wipe off the excess sealer. Whether you’re sponging over a large area or using an applicator to avoid drips on glazed tile, you’ll want to remove sealer from the tile before it starts to dry (within five to seven minutes of application) so that you’re not left with a foggy film that’s nearly impossible to remove.

Once you’re done with the first coat, let it dry for an hour before applying a second. (Generally speaking, it takes one to three coats of sealer to achieve adequate protection.)

After the second coat dries, test the surface with a few drops of water. The liquid should bead up into droplets; if not, apply a third coat to ensure quality results.

Let your tiled space dry completely before using. Some sealers need only 24 hours to cure, while others can take up to 48 hours; check the manufacturer’s directions to be certain. While it may be inconvenient to keep a room off-limits for a day or two, remind yourself how convenient it will be the next time you clean your grout. A good sealer means less time scrubbing, so this is one chore that will make your routine bathroom cleaning a breeze.

Quick Tip: An Easy Refresh for Stinky Bath Towels

Smelly, mildew-infested towels can put a damper on a relaxing bath. Turn dank towels fresh and clean again with this life-changing tip!

Smelly Towels - Dirty Laundry


It’s been a long day, but it’s not you who needs a hot bath—it’s your towels. When wet towels dry in open air, they accumulate mildew only to greet you later on with a foul scent and dingy appearance. But even taking dirty towels for a traditional spin in the laundry doesn’t pack the punch needed to banish deep-set odors. To return to fluffy, fresh bath linen, kick your laundry game into high gear with a couple pantry essentials, vinegar and baking soda.

Smelly Towels - After a Wash


Gather your sullied shower companions and toss them into the washing machine. Reserve this load exclusively for your bath towels so as not to expose other fabrics to the mildew you’re seeking to eliminate. Next, add a cup of white vinegar to the load, skipping the usual suspects like detergent and fabric softener. Now turn your washing machine to the highest heat setting and give those smelly towels—and your bright idea—a whirl! The vinegar will vanquish odor-causing mildew on contact, but for best results, run the towels through a second, additional cycle, this time with the detergent you would normally use.

Still miss the days of brighter bath linen? Try a two-step (and two-cycle) solution that addresses not only the smell but also the appearance of your worn-out towels. For extra scrubbing power to wash away unsightly stains, add a quarter-cup of baking soda into the first load. During the second cycle, throw in a single cup of white vinegar to make mildew a memory (and your towels like new)!

The Right Way to Use a Plunger

Clear clogs quickly, easily, and correctly by following these tips for choosing and using a plunger.

How to Use a Plunger - On a Sink


If your toilet’s overflowing or your sink’s stopped up, it’s time to take the plunge! About 90 percent of the time, a clog can be cleared with just a couple of thrusts of a plunger. To make the messy job easy, though, it’s important to have the right kind of plunger and the proper technique. As it turns out, not all plungers are created equal; some are best suited for sinks and showers, while others are appropriate for use on toilets. Once you’ve determined the best tool for the job, success is all about form. Contrary to popular practice, repeatedly flushing while frantically pumping won’t release the blockage any faster—instead, it will break the plunger’s seal and ruin the suction. To keep the water flowing freely down your pipes, avoid those amateur mistakes and learn to plunge like a pro with these valuable tips.

Pick the Perfect Plunger
Start at the very beginning: While there’s probably a shelf full of plungers available for purchase at your grocery or home improvement store, the two most common styles are the cup plunger and the flange. It’s smart to stock one of each and be familiar with their strengths so you can determine which one’s right for your mini emergency.

How to Use a Plunger - On a Toilet


The Cup: When you think of a plunger, the image that comes to mind most often is that of a simple wooden handle attached to a rubber cup. It’s this cup that gives the tool the name “cup plunger.” This design is most effective on flat-surface drains, which are found in the sink and bathtub. While it works well for a sink, shower, or bathtub clog, the cup plunger can’t create a sufficiently airtight seal in the curve of a toilet drain to produce adequate suction.

The Flange: A toilet clog calls for a different type of plunger entirely: the flange plunger, which has an extra ring of rubber (the flange) around the cup. The flange is inserted into the toilet drain, sealing in the air and increasing the suction power. In a pinch, you can fold the rubber ring back into the bell of the plunger and use it to unclog a tub or sink drain, but a true cup plunger will be more effective.

Properly Plunge the Sink, Shower, or Tub
When using a standard cup plunger, start by covering the overflow drain, if there is one, with a wet towel. Doing so prevents air from escaping and decreasing the suction power. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to seal off any nearby drains in sinks or tubs to ensure better results. To further improve the plunger’s suction power, create a tighter seal by lining the rim of the cup with a small amount of petroleum jelly.

Next, place the rubber bell securely over the sink or shower drain and completely submerge the bell in the standing water. Plunging can get messy, so if there is too much water, scoop out the excess into a nearby bucket in order to minimize cleanup. Push down on the handle—gently at first—forcing the air out. Then continue plunging with quick and deliberate thrusts, directing the pressure down the drain without lifting the plunger enough to break the seal. Continue this action for approximately 20 seconds. When you pull the plunger away, the clog should be cleared.

Note: If you choose to use drain-clearing chemicals, don’t use a plunger at the same time. If you do, you risk splashing around harsh, toxic substances that can cause burns or, if they come in contact with your eyes, even blindness.


Correctly Clear a Toilet Clog
If your toilet looks like it’s about to overflow due to a clog, don’t continue flushing the handle in the hope that the bowl will drain. Instead, allow 10 minutes for the water level to drop. Then, locate the water supply hose on the wall behind the toilet and turn the handle clockwise to close the valve. Next, examine the water level in the toilet bowl. If the bowl is too full, move the excess water to a bucket. If the bowl is almost empty, however, add enough water to fill the bowl halfway. Having an adequate amount of water in the bowl will improve the suction and ultimately lead to a more successful plunge.

Remember to use the flange-style plunger for optimal suction, and make sure that the flange is extended. Submerge the plunger (the top of the bell should be covered with water) and make sure the rubber ring is inserted directly into the drain opening. Push and pull on the handle with quick, concentrated thrusts for 20 seconds without lifting the plunger out of the drain and breaking the seal. Usually, this is all it takes to clear the clog. If the toilet remains stopped up, it may be time to put away the plunger and pull out the drain snake—or call in a plumber to diagnose a bigger problem.

Bob Vila Radio: Replacing a Shower Diverter

Experiencing issues with your shower? The problem may lie not with the plumbing or shower head, but with a small yet vital part of the bathtub spout. Here's how to investigate and address this common, easily remedied frustration.


You know that little knob on top of the bathtub spout? It’s tiny but not insignificant, as it performs the vital role of directing water either to the tub or to the shower head.

How to Fix a Shower Diverter


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If you pull the diverter and see only a few drops of water—or none at all—come out of the shower head, then you likely need a new tub spout and diverter. Luckily, such components are fairly inexpensive and easy to install.

Start by inspecting the underside of your existing tub spout. Look for a small hole and a set screw. If you find one, remove the screw with a screwdriver, after having covered the drain to prevent the piece from disappearing down the pipe. Once you’ve removed the screw, twist and pull the spout straight out until it clears the copper supply pipe.

Couldn’t find a set screw on the tub spout? That means the spout threads directly onto the supply line. To remove it, use a pipe wrench, turning the tool slowly and firmly in a counter-clockwise direction.

Once you’ve successfully removed the spout, take it to your local home center so that you can be sure to purchase the right sort of replacement, one that attaches to the supply pipe way in the same way as the old unit. Note that in the case of a threaded spout, the threads on the new fixture must run in the same direction as on the one you’re replacing. Otherwise, you’ll be making a return trip!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

3 Fixes for a Clogged Shower Drain

Don’t call your plumber just yet! These clever solutions for clearing a stubborn clog will have your shower draining smoothly again in no time.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain


Hopping into a hot and steamy shower only to notice that the water is pooling around your feet makes for a rough way to start the day. The problem? A clogged drain, typically caused by a backup of hair and soap scum that has been accumulating for some time. But before you call the plumber, check to see if you have the proper tools to handle the job yourself. You’d be surprised: These three easy solutions for fixing a stubborn (and nasty) clog are proof that you don’t always need a professional for this at-home fix-it job. All that’s required are the right tools (and good control of your gag reflex), and you’ll soon be able to enjoy your relaxing morning ritual once more.


How to Unclog a Shower Drain - Using Boiling Water


This trick is perhaps the easiest one in the book: Fill your teakettle (or a large saucepan) with water, and bring it to a boil. Next, pour the water directly down the drain a little bit at a time, giving the hot liquid the chance to work its way through the clog in between each pour. The temperature of the water will help break up and dissolve the gunk that is blocking your drain. Attempt this only if your plumbing consists of metal pipes; don’t use boiling water if you have PVC pipes, as it could cause joints to loosen.


How to Unclog a Shower Drain - Using Baking Soda and Vinegar


This next solution is a nod to that elementary school science fair classic—the volcano project. That same foamy chemical reaction that fueled your papier-mâché mountain doubles as a powerful home cleaner. Mix 1/3 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of vinegar in a heat-resistant measuring cup. As soon as it starts to fizz (which will be immediately), pour the solution down your clogged drain. The chemical reaction will help break up the hair and grime that has caused the backup in your pipe. If you can, let it sit for at least one hour. Then, turn on the bathtub faucet and run hot water down the drain to help flush the mixture through the pipes.


How to Unclog a Shower Drain - Using a Wire Hanger


For a really nasty clog, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and snake the drain. It’s easier than you think (though every bit as disgusting as it sounds): Put on rubber gloves if you have them, then use a screwdriver to unscrew or pry off the shower drain cover. Once that’s removed, straighten out a wire coat hanger, retaining a tiny hook on the end. Feed the wire down the drain to fish out any hair, accumulated soap scum, or other debris that’s causing the clog. After you’ve pulled out all that you can, pour boiling water down the drain and replace the drain cover.

Are You Still Cleaning Toilets the Old-Fashioned Way?

Do away with the scouring and unpleasantness of regular toilet upkeep by installing an automatic cleaner that will leave your bowl sparkling clean after every flush.

Automatic Toilet Cleaners from Fluidmaster - Flush


Of all the housekeeping chores that people tend to dread, there may be none more widely reviled than cleaning the toilet. It’s tedious and time-consuming, and—when you get right down to it—rather unpleasant. That’s why it makes so much sense to adopt a hands-free approach: Let an automatic toilet cleaner do the job for you! Install a Fluidmaster Flush ‘n Sparkle, and say goodbye to the sorry business of getting down on your knees to scrub the toilet bowl.

Here’s how it works. The automatic toilet cleaner hangs inside the toilet tank, concealed. With each flush, the unit feeds a powerful cleaning solution into the toilet bowl to fight stains and leave the water crystal clear. For years, the leading manufacturer in the product category has been Fluidmaster, whose line of Flush ‘n Sparkle automatic toilet cleaners always delivers instant, continuous, and lasting results that eliminate the need for arduous, repetitive scrubbing.

Automatic Toilet Cleaners from Fluidmaster - Flush


Of course, there are alternatives to the Fluidmaster system. Drop-in tablets and pour-in liquid cleansers have both been used for years. The trouble is that, though reasonably effective, such in-tank treatments typically hurt more than help. ”If you let them sit in the tank water for extended periods of time without flushing, the harsh chemicals that clean the bowl can actually degrade the internal components of your tank, possibly even eroding the tank itself,” says Daniel O’Brian of

Inexpensive and easily installed, the Fluidmaster automatic toilet cleaner differs from other in-tank solutions in that, first and foremost, it operates automatically. Second, and more important, it does no harm to the toilet, because the patented Fluidmaster never puts its cleaning solution into contact with the most vulnerable parts of the toilet, those located in the tank. Rather, the system channels its solution directly into the bowl, preventing damage.

Fluidmaster houses its surfactant-based cleaning solution in disposable cartridges, which, according to O’Brian of, typically last about three months. When the time comes to replace one, it’s a simple matter of swapping out the old for the new. Available in multipack refills, cleanser cartridges come in three varieties—the standard cleansing agent, a bleach-based option, and a special clog-reducing formulation for septic systems.

Installing the Fluidmaster couldn’t be easier. After hanging the holder on the back wall of the toilet tank, attach the inlet hose to the fill valve and the outlet hose to the overflow tube of the flush valve. Finally, insert the cartridge in the holder. That’s it. “Any capable homeowner should have no problem installing the kit,” says O’Brian. He estimates the process takes no longer than five minutes. Replacing a cartridge can be done even more quickly, perhaps in under 60 seconds.

Say goodbye to the hassle, labor, and discomfort of having to clean your toilet manually on a regular basis. Instead, install Fluidmaster Flush ‘n Sparkle just once, and your toilet can sparkle all on its own!

Automatic Toilet Cleaners from Fluidmaster - Product Picture


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Stop Moisture Damage with the Flip of a Switch

Your bathroom fan is an effective weapon against the growth of mold and mildew—but only if you run it long enough after every shower. Make the change to this smart switch to be sure that you're giving your fan the time to do its job properly.

Bathroom Fan Timer from AirCycler


At best, the bathroom serves as a sanctuary, a respite from the pressing concerns of the day. At worst, it can be a breeding ground for a host of house problems. The culprit? Moisture. Tubs and showers, toilets and sinks—those fixtures that make the bathroom a bathroom—share one thing in common. They all generate humidity. So long as it’s controlled, humidity isn’t a problem. But if there’s insufficient ventilation in the bathroom, humidity can build to the point of causing significant damage in the form of mold and mildew. Indeed, excessive humidity poses the number one threat to bathroom walls, ceilings, floors, and fixtures. Poor ventilation puts your health at risk too. For instance, mold and mildew can be an irritant, particularly for those with allergies. Meanwhile, some cleaning, beauty, and hair products discharge chemicals that, without a way to escape the space, compromise its air quality, endangering anyone who enters.

To prevent such problems, building codes typically call for the bathroom to be equipped with a ventilation fan. As it pulls air out of the bathroom, the fan eliminates steam and humidity (as well as foul odors). Easy, right? Theoretically, yes—but user error severely limits the effectiveness of even the most powerful fan. In other words, when a homeowner turns off the ventilation too soon, before the fan can finish its job, then preventable moisture-related problems become possible, if not inevitable. If you’re concerned about the damaging effects of humidity in your bathroom, there are at least two things you can do. You might try remembering how critically important it is for the fan to operate during each and every shower, and for at least 15 minutes afterward. Or, if you already have enough to worry about, you can install a SmartExhaust™ and get on with your life, knowing the control system continues ventilating for precisely as long as necessary. That way, instead of wasting untold energy dollars by letting the fan run on and on, you pay only for the electricity needed to protect your home and yourself.


SmartExhaust™ is a set-it-and-forget-it solution designed to counteract the simple reality that, according to Carly Maltais of AirCycler®, ”most homeowners do not run the fan as much as needed.” Of course, it’s unintentional. Many homeowners simply do not understand or care to think about the hazards of humidity and the problem-preventing role that ventilation plays. Practical issues may also factor into the equation. Maltais says, “the bathroom exhaust fan should run until there is no longer fog on the mirror or noticeable moisture on the walls and fixtures.” By that time, average homeowners may already have sped out the door on their way to work. Either way, SmartExhaust™ takes over for you, setting the fan on a timer so that it runs for the appropriate amount of time, every time, without your having to remember to manually set the device. In fact, with SmartExhaust™, the homeowner never has to think about bathroom moisture again. Problems solved.

Installing the SmartExhaust™ control system takes zero remodeling; it’s a straightforward process, easily handled by a licensed electrician or an experienced do-it-yourselfer. As most bathrooms already have ventilation, SmartExhaust™ simply replaces the existing fan switch. If a switch in your bathroom controls not only the fan, but also the lighting, SmartExhaust™ can easily take its place and assume control of both functions. It’s a clear-cut upgrade, not a complex electrical job. The most difficult aspect of installation may be deciding whether you want a toggle- or rocker-style switch. While the former costs a bit less, the latter offers more features and provides a sleek, seamless look. The last step is to select, from the variety offered, the switch color that best complements or integrates with your bathroom style. After that, let SmartExhaust™ do all the work of taking care of your bathroom, so you don’t have to.

Bathroom Fan Timer from AirCycler - Wiring Diagram


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Before & After: The Bathroom a Whole-House Renovation Built

Work with what you've got—that's the motto of these intrepid homeowners, who rejiggered the floor plan in order to create a spacious master bathroom with timeless design.

Small Bathroom Makeover


Husband and wife Michael and Laura Blough bought their home sweet Cape-style home in 2013. Formerly a rental property, it had spent the previous ten years being treated rather roughly, so the house was, according to Laura, “screaming” for update. Rather than revamp one room at a time, the Blough couple stripped the entire interior down to the studs, opting instead to start over from scratch. For the new and improved home design, the Bloughs had several things on their wish list. At the top? Creating a master bedroom suite. Had they stuck with the original layout, the bathroom would have needed to be accessed through the hall. So as part of the renovation, the Bloughs removed or reconfigured walls, closets, and doorways in order to integrate the new bathroom with the new master suite. To say that they were successful would be an understatement. So complete, so jaw-dropping, was the transformation that we just had to learn all the details.

Small Bathroom Makeover - Before


How would you describe the original bathroom?
When we bought our home, the bathroom looked like most every other room in the house, like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, or updated ever. It had a squishy floor, loose tiles, a narrow layout and inefficient closets.

Why did you choose to rearrange the layout?
Early on, we decided that we wanted a true master bedroom, with an attached bathroom. The only way to make that happen was to rearrange the floor plan. So the spare bedroom became the master, and the hall bathroom became the master bathroom. To enlarge the bathroom and connect it to our new master bedroom, we had to absorb a lot of closets… but it was worth it.

Small Bathroom Makeover - Layout


Did you learn anything along the way?
We were 25 years old when we bought this house and started renovating. What did we know about renovating and designing? Not much. But we had great help along the way from highly-skilled family members and a number of professionals. I definitely recommend using your resources, whether they’re family or friends, Pinterest or blogs. And paint your beadboard before it goes up on the wall. Just a little something else I learned.

What was the inspiration for the new look?
I love things that feel timeless. If I am going to put time, energy, and finances into a project, I want to know that I am going to get the most longevity out of it that I can. So I decided white cabinetry and classic tile would be the way to go. When we were house-hunting, we had seen a 1940s house that still has its original black-and-white basketweave mosaic tile. I just absolutely loved it! (If something is over 70 years old and I still love it, that’s what I call a classic.) So I found something similar for our bathroom floor. We also went with clean white subway tiles in the shower. And of course, what’s more timeless than a claw foot tub?

Small Bathroom Makeover - Shower


Any advice for homeowners attempting a bathroom renovation of their own?
Use your resources—plan, plan, plan—and shop around. We saved over a thousand dollars by shopping around for our fixtures, not buying them all in one place.

Do you now use the space any differently than you did before?
We love having a large shower and a double vanity. When we first got married we were living in married student housing. The entire apartment was only 500 square feet, so the bathroom was tiny. The shower head only came up to Michael’s shoulders—he’s tall, but not that tall! Having enough space in the bathroom for both of use to use it at the same time has been really, really nice.

Small Bathroom Makeover - Storage


See even more photos of this before-and-after over at A Nurse and a Nerd!

Bob Vila Radio: The Lowdown on Upflushing Toilets

Whereas gravity is normally a given in home plumbing, waste removal may need to be achieved by other means in one particular area—the basement.


Adding a toilet to your basement not only adds convenience, but it can also boost the value of your home. But before you proceed, it’s wise to do your research.

Basement Toilet


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The big thing you need to know is whether the sewer or septic lines are buried deep enough in the ground for gravity to do most of the work getting rid of the waste. For the answer, check with your municipality or the contractor who built your home. Note that even if you can count of the force of gravity, you are still going to need a one-way valve to keep wastewater from backing up into the basement.

If the lines are above the level of the toilet, you’ll need to install an upflushing toilet. These generally have a pumping mechanism hidden inside the toilet or behind it. Upflushing toilets are not cheap, but since installation would likely not require cutting through the basement slab, you’ll save some money there. Some models even allow you to tie in the waste water lines from sinks and shower stalls—a definite plus.

In any case, don’t start the job before you check local building codes. Most installations will require a permit.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.