Bathroom - Bob Vila

Category: Bathroom

5 Most Common Toilet Troubles and How to Fix Them

Tackle the most pressing bathroom plumbing problems a homeowner is likely to face with these fast, simple remedies.

The Most Common Toilet Repairs


If there’s one household fixture we really rely on—and hate to have to fix—it’s the toilet. But while these fixtures are prone to acting up now and then, the good news is many common toilet repairs are do-it-yourself-friendly, requiring few (if any) basic hand tools. So if your toilet is giving you trouble, you’ve come to the right place. Check out the likely issues here and learn how to quickly correct them without calling a plumber.

TOILET TROUBLE: Overflowing Bowl
BEST FIX: Plunge the Clog

The Most Common Toilet Repairs


A clogged commode will cause the bowl to overflow onto the bathroom floor, but the fix—which happens to be the most common of all toilet repairs—doesn’t have to ruin your day. Clearing the clog is super simple, and you probably have a toilet plunger already on hand. Simply insert the plunger into the bowl while it’s still full of water, pressing the mouth of the plunger firmly against the opening at the bottom of the bowl to form a seal. Then use a rhythmic push-and-pull pumping motion to create pressure in the drain and free the clog. Don’t be overly enthusiastic; forceful plunging is likely to splash dirty water all over the bathroom. After eight to 10 pumps, lift the plunger away from the bottom of the bowl. If you’ve freed the clog, the water will drain—it usually takes just one or two attempts to free a clog.

RELATED: No Plunger Needed – 7 Easier Ways to Clear a Clog


TOILET TROUBLE: Wiggly Handle Prevents Proper Flushing
BEST FIX: Correct Connections/Chain Inside the Tank

If you depress the handle but feel no resistance and the toilet fails to flush, either a connection or the chain inside the tank has most likely come loose. Not all tank interiors look exactly alike, but all feature a lift arm (a thin metal or plastic rod) and a rubber stopper at the bottom (called a “flapper”), which connects via a chain to the lift arm. If the chain comes unhooked from the lift arm, the flapper won’t lift to allow water to drain from the tank, preventing the flush. The same problem can occur if the nut that secures the handle to the lift arm (just inside the tank) has worked loose. A simple four-step toilet repair will get your bathroom back in working order.

1. Turn off the shut-off valve that supplies water to the tank located on the small hose behind the commode.

2. Remove the tank cover. Locate the chain connected to the flapper and pull it upward. This will lift the flapper and allow the water in the tank to drain out.

3. If the chain has come loose from the lift arm, reconnect it (you should see a notch or a hook). If the chain has broken, buy a new one from the hardware store (for less than $5) and replace it.

4. If a loose or broken chain isn’t the problem, the nut that secures the handle (just inside the tank) may have loosened and worked its way down the lift bar. Retighten the nut to the back of the handle, using your fingers, until it’s snug, and then turn on the water supply to refill the tank.


TOILET TROUBLE: Water Running in the Toilet
BEST FIX: Replace the Flapper

If you continue to hear water running in the commode when the tank has refilled after a flush, give the handle a little jiggle. If the running water stops, the problem is a faulty flapper. When new, the flapper is flexible and seals tightly in the drain at the bottom of the tank, settling easily back into place after every flush. Over time, however, the rubber can harden and the flapper won’t fit as snugly into the drain. Replacing the flapper should be just the right toilet repair.

1. Turn off the water supply and drain the tank as described in the repair above.

2. Remove the old flapper. Flappers connect in various ways, either with plastic hooks that snap onto a small bar on the overflow tube (a vertical cylinder positioned next to the flapper) or via a ring that slips over the overflow tube. Either way, you won’t need any tools to take it off.

3. Bring the defunct flapper to your local hardware or plumbing supply store to get an exact match. A new flapper will set you back $10 to $25, depending on the style, and it will come with a new chain.

4. Install the new flapper using the same method you used to remove the old one, then connect the new chain to the lift bar. Running water problem solved!


5 Toilet Repairs Every Homeowner Should Know


TOILET TROUBLE: Water Pooling Around the Toilet Base
BEST FIX: Replace Wax Ring

Pooling water around the base of the toilet is always a cause for concern, and it’s often the result of a leaking wax ring seal. To test if the wax ring has gone bad, squirt some food coloring into the toilet bowl and then flush the toilet. If colored water runs out from around the base, you’ll have to replace the wax ring. No need to size-shop, as wax rings are one-size-fits-all standard toilet flanges and are readily available at hardware or plumbing supply stores for about $5. While replacing the ring is a fairly simple DIY project, it involves physically lifting the entire toilet, which can weigh anywhere from 70 to 125 pounds depending on size and style. Such types of toilet repairs will require a strong back or, better yet, a helper.

1. Turn off the water supply and then flush the toilet to drain the tank and bowl. Some residual water will remain after flushing—be sure to bail it out with a cup or use a wet-type vacuum.

2. Disconnect the water supply valve from the bottom of the tank by twisting the nut loose where the hose meets the tank. If unable to do this by hand, use a crescent wrench.

3. Use a flathead screwdriver to pry off the plastic caps that cover the toilet bolts on either side of the bottom of the base.

4. Remove the nuts that are now visible from the toilet bolts, using a crescent wrench. Once the nuts are off, the toilet is no longer connected to the floor.

5. Lift the toilet, base, and tank together, straight upward and off the bolts, and then set it aside on some cardboard or old towels protecting your bathroom floor.

6. Use a putty knife to scrape off the old wax from the flange—the top of the drainpipe that is now visible. The old wax will probably come off in chunks. It’s important to remove all of it from the flange.

7. Center a new wax ring the flange, taking care not to nick it or dent it. It will be soft and pliable. Gently press it in place with your fingers.

8. Reset the toilet by lowering it straight down with the base holes aligned over the protruding toilet bolts. It’s important to keep the toilet base level as you set it or you could damage the wax ring and have to do the whole thing over again. Recruit help, if necessary, to set the toilet.

9. Replace the nuts on the bolts, tightening them snugly with the crescent wrench.

10. Cover the nuts and bolts with the plastic caps.

11. Reattach the water supply hose to the connection at the base of the tank and turn the water supply valve back on.


TOILET TROUBLE: Incomplete Flush
BEST FIX: Adjust the Chain or Fill Valve

If the toilet starts to flush but then stops, the chain may be too loose (causing the flapper to close prematurely) or the fill valve may be allowing insufficient water into the tank. Here, toilet repairs can be as simple as adjustments made to these components. If you find yourself having to hold the handle down for the entire flush, the following steps will get your commode flushing correctly again.

5 Toilet Repairs Every Homeowner Should Know


1. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet. If the flapper drops back into place before the end of the flush, remove some of the slack from the chain by hooking it one or two links higher on the lift bar. If the problem persists, continue with the following steps.

2. Watch the tank as it fills back up with water. When full, note how high the water level is compared to the top of the overflow tube (the vertical cylinder the flapper connects to). If the water level is lower than one-half inch from the top of the overflow valve, there probably isn’t enough water in the tank to completely flush the toilet, so you should adjust the fill valve to raise the water level, which will provide more water for each flush.

3. Locate the fill valve—whose purpose is to let water fill the tank until it reaches the desired level—directly above the spot where the water supply tube connects beneath the tank. The fill valve in your tank may have a large float on the end of a bar that rises as the water level rises, or it may have an air-filled case that fits directly on the fill valve post that rises as the water rises.

4. Find the fill valve adjustment screw on the side near the top. By turning the adjustment screw slightly one way or the other, with a screwdriver, you can adjust the level of water in the tank. It may take a little experimenting and repeated flushing to get it just right.

All You Need to Know About Walk-in Showers

Get the answers to all your questions and concerns about this trendy bathroom remodel.

Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own


Converting an old bathtub to a walk-in shower—be it a prefab unit or custom job—is high on many a homeowner’s remodeling wish list. A walk-in shower can create the illusion of more space and give the bathroom a clean-lined look. And for folks that prefer a quick shower to long soak, this conversion is sure to suit your active lifestyle. But before you tear out that old tub, read up on the design, installation, and costs of such a project. These logistical considerations and design ideas for walk-in showers will set you up for success.


Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own


What Are the Advantages of a Walk-in Shower?

Unlike standard stalls, walk-in showers don’t require a curtain or door to block the spray of water, resulting in a spacious, open look. While prefab units have shallow curbs to keep excess water from running onto the bathroom floor, many custom walk-ins are designed with no curbs, just a gently sloping floor—which means greater accessibility, a big benefit for those with joint injuries or mobility issues.

Another asset is multi-nozzle spray, a standard feature in many walk-in showers. Depending on your individual preference, you can have as many as 10 spray nozzles directing water to all sides of your body.

What Are the Walk-in Shower Drawbacks?

Keep in mind home resale value before converting all of your tubs to walk-in showers. Optimally, your home should have at least one bathroom with a full-size tub. Appraisers and real estate agents classify bathrooms by fixtures, and, in order to qualify as a “full bath,” there must be a tub. A bathroom with a shower but no tub is deemed a “three-quarter bath.”

Other concepts to keep in mind prior to conversion:

• Bathing small children is usually easier in a tub than in a shower.

• An open shower offers less privacy than a standard shower stall with a door.

• The lack of a shower door can create a drafty feel during showering.

How Much Freedom Do I Have with Design?

Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own


While the size of your walk-in shower will be determined by the amount of the bathroom’s available floor space, homeowners have lots of decorative leeway in custom design. You can:

• Select the color and type of tile for the floor and walls.

• Opt to install glass panels or even glass blocks on one or more sides.

• Select the shape. Geometrics, such as squares, rectangles, and hexagonal lines, are popular, but you can opt for virtually any wall shape—even a curved wall—if you have adequate floor space. Standard building code recommends a minimum of 30 inches of walking space between bathroom fixtures, so leave adequate room to walk between the new shower and the vanity or commode.

• Create a shower that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommendations to accommodate a person with mobility issues. In addition, check with your local building authority to see if any supplementary codes apply. The ADA suggests a minimum size of 36 inches by 36 inches for a walk-in shower, which features a bench attached to one wall for sitting. Even if you eschew the bench, 36 inches by 36 inches is a good minimum size for ease of showering. If the shower will accommodate a roll-in shower chair, the ADA recommends a minimum size of 30 inches by 60 inches to permit easy in-and-out access.

How Much Will It Cost?

The least expensive option—a prefab walk-in shower kit—costs between $800 and $2,500, based on size and quality. Installing the shower pan and any doors included yourself is a money-saving option if you’re knowledgeable in plumbing and framing, while professional installation will add another $750 to $2,500, depending on the layout of your bathroom and plumbing requirements.

A custom walk-in shower is strictly a job for the pros, and substantially more expensive than a prefab kit. The shower pan is formed by hand from concrete, which is then covered by a waterproof membrane, followed by tile. Additional plumbing is necessary for directional nozzles. Wall construction includes the installation of concrete-backer boards to hold the tile. Adding glass sidewalls, which are thicker than standard sheet glass, further increases the cost. Depending on the final size and the materials chosen, a professionally installed custom shower can run $6,500 to $15,000 or more.


Walk-in Showers 101: Buying and Installing a Shower Kit


What Can I Expect During Installation?

Here’s a general idea of what a walk-in shower project entails:

1. Demolition and disposal of the old tub and wallboard.

2. New wall framing, if necessary, to accommodate the shower configuration.

3. Mechanical rough-in, which involves installing new water supply lines for a showerhead and faucets, and/or multiple nozzles, as well as the positioning of the drain. If you’re including an overhead shower light, an electrician will wire it during this phase.

4. Installation of moisture-resistant wallboard (often concrete fiberboard) over the wall studs. (This step isn’t mandatory with a prefab unit.)

5. Shower pan installation. A prefab shower pan needs only to be set in place and attached to the framing, but a custom shower pan must be hand-formed from concrete to achieve the correct drain slope. Then a waterproof membrane will be installed to prevent leakage.

6. Installation of tile on custom shower walls. If you’ve chosen a prefab unit, this is the time to position the wall surround.

7. Installation of fixtures includes attaching nozzle spray heads, a showerhead, faucet handles, and the drain cover.

8. If adding glass wall panels, they’ll go on last to reduce the risk of chips or breaks that are more likely to occur if they’re installed earlier.


Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own


How Should I Care for a Walk-in Shower?

Congrats! You’ve got a new updated bathroom. The following care and maintenance steps will keep your new shower looking and smelling great.

1. Turn on a top-notch bathroom exhaust fan to remove excess humidity from the room prior to taking a shower.

2. Use an open-bottom shower caddy to hold containers of bath gel, shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap. Leaving these items on tile shelves or the floor can lead to sticky, slimy residue and mildew growth.

3. After every shower, use a daily shower spray (which you can make yourself or find in your supermarket cleaning supply aisle), which breaks down soap residue. Spray lightly on tile walls and floors to help shed water and keep soap scum and hard water deposits from forming.

4. After using a daily shower spray, remove excess water from tile walls rubber squeegee if desired. This helps walls dry faster, a good idea if you’ve experienced mildew problems in the bathroom.

5. Spray tile walls once a week with an all-purpose bathroom cleaner, using a brush with stiff nylon bristles to scrub tile and grout lines. Rinse with plain water.

6. Clean glass panels with commercial glass cleaner and soft clean cloths (or absorbent paper towels) after each shower to keep glass sparkling clean.

7. Seal the grout lines every six months, or as recommended by your tile setter, to prevent hard water stains and mildew from forming.

Bob Vila Radio: Top Tips for a Leaking Toilet

Once you figure out where the leaking water is coming from, put a stop to it with one of these do-it-yourself fixes!

Got a leaky toilet? Believe it or not, it’s a common problem. Continue reading to find out the likeliest causes and the easiest ways to remedy the situation.

Toilet Leaking



Listen to BOB VILA ON LEAKING TOILETS or read below:

First, some of the washers between the bowl and tank may have failed. Shut off the supply valve, empty the tank with a flush, then remove the nuts, bolts, and washers from the underside of the tank. Lift the tank, position it on its side, and see if the washers need replacing.

Another culprit may be faulty fasteners securing the fill valve and ballcock to the bottom of the tank. Before you replace those parts, however, first try simply tightening the nuts and bolts holding them in place—that often solves the problem.

On the other hand, if the leak seems to be coming from the base of the tank, chances are the wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor has failed. Replacing the wax ring is a much bigger job, since it involves removing the entire toilet from its base. If you decide to replace the wax ring yourself—preferably with a friend to help with the lifting—take the extra step of also replacing any bolts that show signs of corrosion. And, once you have the toilet back in place, don’t forget to add a bead of caulk around the base.

How To: Clean a Toilet Tank

Tackle the germs and mineral build-up you almost always miss on chore day with these easy steps.

How to Clean a Toilet Tank—and Keep It That Way


If the last time you got the bathroom sparkling did not fully mask a foul odor or required a concentrated effort to remove brown rust stains from the rim of your toilet bowl, your job may not be done. Don’t kick yourself yet for missing a spot, because this one often goes overlooked: the toilet tank. Its lid keeps any dirt, bacterial contamination, and mineral build-up out-of-sight until you need to lift it off to reach in and stop the toilet from running manually or assess the parts for some other repair. These poor conditions can also cause the metal parts in your toilet tank to corrode and lead to bowl staining—most homeowner’s first clue of a problem.

By cleaning your toilet tank regularly—twice a year, at least—you may extend the life of your toilet and all of its parts, freshen your bathroom’s smell, and save yourself some elbow grease the next time you sanitize your toilet bowl. Everyone wins! So what are you waiting for? Knock out one job quickly and keep it fresh following this guide on how to clean a toilet tank.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
White vinegar (optional)
Rubber gloves
Disinfectant housecleaner
Scrub brush with long handle
Natural toilet tank cleaner (optional)

How to Clean a Toilet Tank—and Keep It That Way


First, empty the tank. To do this, locate the water valve (the “tap” valve on the wall behind or near the base of the toilet) and shut it off. Then, lift the lid from the tank so that you can eyeball the water level inside and flush the toilet until it drains completely. Depending on your flow rate, this may require two or three flushes.

Assess the condition of your tank. If you’re only looking at surface grime and dirt, that’s a straightforward cleaning job that a bit of scrubbing should mitigate. Move on to Step 3.

If, however, you see a discoloration from mineral deposits and residue built up at the bottom of the tank and ascending the walls, opt for a more forceful method: vinegar. This all-natural all-star is a great line of defense against mold and mildew, hard water deposits, and more. You’ll need enough vinegar to fill the tank up to the overflow valve, which could mean as many as three gallons depending on the size of your tank. (Fortunately, at roughly $3 a gallon, it’s not as expensive as it sounds!) Pour in the vinegar and let it sit for 12 hours without flushing. When ready to get cleaning, flush the vinegar out. Again, this may take two or three flushes.

Wearing rubber gloves, spray the tank interior generously—along the walls and the bottom—with your preferred disinfectant cleaner. Do your best to direct the spray away from metal parts, in case there are corrosive additives that could react with metal. (Bleach, for instance, is very corrosive.)

Check the label for the dwell time recommended by the manufacturer. Generally, you’ll let the disinfectant sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Grab a scrub brush! Some how-tos recommend using your go-to toilet brush for cleaning the inside of the toilet tank, but, considering the cleaning job they do on a regular basis, we recommend using a new scrub brush. (Then, you won’t accidentally introduce other contaminants from previous dirty jobs to the tank.) It should be a long, narrow scrub brush with medium-to-firm bristles and a shape that allows you to scour corners and the bottom of the tank.

After the wait time is up, scrub thoroughly—into corners, around fixtures, all over the bottom—to remove all grime and/or build-up. Apply additional cleaner as necessary.

STEP 5 (optional)
While you have the lid off, consider whether your toilet needs any maintenance. If your toilet has been operating less than optimally, now is a good time to replace any parts that might need replacing, like the flapper.

If your toilet has been functioning fine, though, carry on to Step 6.

Clean all the working parts in the tank. Instead of spraying them directly and dousing the metal parts with a cleaner that may or may not be corrosive, dilute it first. Simply soak a sponge with clean, warm water and spray some cleaner onto the sponge itself. Then, wipe down the ball float, flapper, and other toilet tank workings with the diluted disinfectant. Rinse and re-soak the sponge as needed.

Turn the water back on and let the tank fill. Flush it a couple times. Does the tank seem clean enough to you? If not, drain the tank once more as you did in Step 1 again, then repeat Steps 3 through 6 again.

When happy with how sparkling clean your toilet tank is, turn the valve back on, fill it, and then it’s business as usual!


How to Clean a Toilet Tank—and Keep It That Way


Keeping the Toilet Tank Clean

To keep life simpler in the future, here are some steps to keep the tank in a better state of cleanliness day in and day out.

• Consider putting tank tablets in the toilet. These can keep mildew, minerals, and contaminants at a minimum. Be careful not to buy tank tablets that contain bleach, as it is known to corrode metal. Do your homework and read online reviews thoroughly before purchasing any. To reduce the use of chemicals in the home and the risk of damage, keep in mind that tablets marketed as “natural” or “chemical-free” may be best suited for the job.

• If you’re not using tablets, drain your toilet tank and fill with vinegar (as in Step 2) on a more regular basis. The vinegar kills mildew and dissolves mineral deposit build-up before it becomes a problem. Simply leave it in there overnight and flush it out the next morning.

• You might hear suggestion a monthly cleaning regiment for toilet tanks, but we think twice yearly will suffice for small households with more than one toilet shared by the family. Situation dictates maintenance needs, though. If you have hard water, mineral deposits may build up more quickly. If the toilet is located in a high-traffic area, whether in a home with a big family or your place of business, the heavier use will require more frequent cleaning too. Lift the tank lid to inspect it every two weeks, and then you’ll know what kind of cleaning cycle your toilet might need. Track your inspections and cleanings on a calendar so you remain on top of things.

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Bathroom Renovation

Is it time for a bathroom update? Read on for five questions you should ask yourself first to make the smartest remodeling decisions.

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Bathroom Renovation


While updating a bathroom ranks at the top of many a homeowner’s wish list, complete renovations can be pricey—to the tune of $18,000 or more, depending on the bathroom size and choice of fixtures.

“The bathroom may be the smallest room in the house, but remodeling can be as expensive as remodeling a kitchen,” says Joe Maykut, Product Manager for Sears Home Services. “Consumers can go over budget if they’re not careful.”

To get the most for your remodeling dollar, analyze your needs and wants first to make informed decisions. These five key questions can help homeowners ward off renovation regret—or, worse, do-overs. Want to get it right the first time around? Keep reading to find out what you should consider before leaping into your bathroom project.

What’s the best flooring for my bathroom?
Above all else, take safety into account when selecting a new floor for your bathroom. Sometimes, safety means ignoring the inspirational images shared in high-end home magazines, which often showcase impractical marble floors. “Stepping out of a tub with wet feet onto a polished marble floor is a recipe for disaster,” Maykut says.

His suggestion? Slip-resistant ceramic tile. Look for ones that showcase a coefficient of friction (COF) rating right on the box, which indicates that the tile is safer to walk on when it’s wet than other types of tile. Homeowners often don’t factor traction differences between tiles into their renovation plans, but support from Sears Home Services means that this important detail will never be overlooked. In a bathroom design process with Sears, their knowledgeable professionals help narrow down design choices to the most appropriate possibilities.

And, if you’re thinking about carpeting your bathroom, don’t. “Carpet is completely unsuitable for the bathroom,” Maykut says. “It soaks up water, develops bad odors, and increases the risk of mold and mildew growth.”

Likewise, real wood and laminate flooring are unsuitable for the bathroom because they can eventually warp or delaminate from exposure to water.

“If consumers don’t want ceramic tile, they still have plenty of designs to choose from in vinyl flooring,” Maykut offers. Today’s vinyl flooring has come a long way, and it can closely mimic the look of real wood, brick, slate, or stone, but it’s much more affordable.

How to Sneak More Storage into a Bathroom Renovation


How can I create enough storage?
Most bathrooms have less square footage than other rooms in the house, yet they have to store plenty of essentials, from shampoo to toilet cleaner, and from mouthwash to guest towels. While there may not be enough space in a bathroom to accommodate a full linen closet, you can increase storage by thinking creatively. Opt for an enclosed vanity instead of a pedestal sink to provide under-sink storage for less-than-pretty cleaners and scrub brushes. Plan to install plenty of towel bars or hooks, and use stackable bins in cabinets. An upper cabinet above the toilet is also a great way to put unused space to work.

Before you build in a bunch of storage solutions, think about what to put where—and prioritize making everyday-use items like bathing products accessible where you need them most.

Maykut suggests choosing showers that are outfitted with little niches “to keep from having to put shampoo and conditioner bottles in a caddy on the shower floor, where they’re hard to reach and pose a tripping hazard.” The same goes for bathtubs: A wide, flat rim around the tub that can securely hold body wash, soap, or washcloths will go a long way toward creating a better bathing experience.

Do I need a shower or just a tub?
“If a homeowner has the luxury of having more than one bathroom in the house, it’s a good idea to install a walk-in shower in at least one of them,” Maykut advises. Already have a shower elsewhere in the house? Then just a tub is probably fine in the current renovation. Otherwise, you should include a walk-in shower, if only as an investment in the future.

“Accidents can happen that make it challenging getting in and out of a tub.” With either age or reduced mobility, stepping in and out over the wall of a slick, wet tub becomes a safety issue; shower stalls provide less opportunity to slip and fall and can offer space for a bench, if necessary.

How important is ventilation?
Bathrooms are notoriously humid. Just as long, hot showers leave mirrors steamed up, that same moisture also coats the walls and woodwork—even if you don’t see it. The damp environment can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew, unless you take measures to dry out the space.

Most local building codes require a ventilation fan in any bathroom without a window that opens to the outside, but Maykut recommends installing a ventilation fan, period: “No one wants to get out of the shower and open the window when it’s freezing outside.”

A good fan effectively removes steam from the bathroom and vents it outside of the house. Better yet, today’s bathroom vent fans work much more quietly than their predecessors, scarcely making more than a faint hum. Whether you opt for a plain vent fan, fan/light combo, or a model with a built-in heater (perfect for warming the bathroom during chilly winter months), consider this installation a must-do.


5 Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Bathroom


What should I look for in new bathroom fixtures?
Homeowners have a wealth of options to choose from when redesigning the bathroom, including fixtures that offer a combination of great design, comfort, and high efficiency. However, fixture costs add up quickly, with fancy amenities like heated toilet seats and high-end showers equipped with multiple shower heads.

Putting the biggest emphasis on efficient features can help you recoup costs in your monthly utility bills while also benefiting the planet.

“Everyone in the country should be concerned about conserving water—not wasting it,” Maykut says. He suggests installing WaterSense-labeled toilets that use less than two gallons of water per flush. Additionally, high-efficiency shower heads can also provide “the feel of having 100 gallons of water spraying on you while it’s really much less, and you’ll never notice the difference.”

Next, consider comfort. Comfort-height toilets are the new kids on the block, and for many consumers they’re a welcome change from standard toilets with low 15-inch-high rims. The higher, 17-inch to 19-inch-high rims make getting on and off the toilet more comfortable for most adults, especially the elderly and the disabled.

Even after narrowing your search to fixtures with features that meet your biggest needs, you won’t feel limited on style. Sears Home Services makes it easy for homeowners to plan an entire renovation from the comfort of their own home.

“It’s like bringing a bathroom showroom right to your door,” Maykut says. Once the design and fixtures are selected, Sears Home Services handles everything from ordering fixtures to scheduling reputable contractors. “It’s the best way to guarantee that customers get a bathroom they’ll be happy with for a long time,” he says.


This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Install a Bathroom Fan

Replace your noisy bath fan with a super quiet model.

How to Install a Bathroom Fan


Bathroom fans don’t have to sound like a jet engine to remove enough air to keep your bathroom mold- and odor-free. In fact, a loud bath fan may signal just the opposite: inefficiency. The latest bathroom fans are so quiet you can barely hear them run, yet they remove just as much air (if not more) than your old rattle trap—and they’re more energy efficient, too. Whereas most homes at least 20 years old have bathroom fans that consume about 125 watts of energy and rate 5 to 6 sones (roughly five times the noise of an average refrigerator, which rates only one sone), today’s options range from a $100 fan that uses around 55 watts and rates 1.5 sones to a super quiet 0.3-sone model that uses just 5.8 watts for around $200.

Updating your bathroom fan to a new model means you can run it longer to remove more humidity and still save money on your energy bill, all without the nuisance of an obnoxiously loud roar. Don’t delay on for fear of complication; this guide for how to install a bathroom fan will set you on the right course.

Getting Started: Selecting Appropriate Size and Style
Bathroom fans come in several sizes, from small units that exhaust just 50 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) to larger units that remove almost 200 CFM. Choosing the proper fan size from this wide range is critical to your family’s safety. A fan that’s too small won’t remove enough odor or moisture, and one that’s too big can create a dangerous negative air pressure situation that pulls deadly carbon monoxide back through your furnace or water heater flue.

To calculate the size that will meet your needs, multiply the bathroom’s length times its width and height to arrive at total cubic feet. Then multiply the total cubic feet by .13 and round up to the nearest 10. For example, a 9 ft. x 7 ft. bath with an 8 ft. ceiling equals 504 cubic feet. When you multiply 504 by .13, you get 65 CFM, so round up and buy a 70 CFM bathroom fan. However, if you have a large bathroom (600 cubic feet or more) or one with a jetted tub, it’s best to bump fan size by 50 CFM.

Quieter fans cost more, so invest in one that fits your budget. If you have a mold problem in your bath, you may also consider a model with a built-in moisture sensor that runs the fan until humidity drops to a normal level. Choose a “retrofit” model with slightly larger dimensions than your current fan for easiest installation. Retrofit models can be installed from inside the bath, saving you a trip into your attic, and a larger footprint eliminates any need to patch the wall.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Retrofit bathroom fan
Work light
Extension cord
Screwdriver with flat and Philips bits
Voltage tester
Stud finder
Drywall saw
Reciprocating saw with metal cutting blade
Cardboard (optional)
Selfdrilling 1.5inch construction screws
Driver drill and bits
Aluminum foil HVAC ULlisted tape
Twiston wire connectors
Fire caulk
Firerated expanding foam

Before you begin any removal or installation, turn off the power to the bathroom fan at the circuit breaker. Don’t rely on just the switch to cut power to the fan. Use a work light and extension cord to light up your work area.

How to Install a Bathroom Fan


If the grille on your bathroom fan doesn’t have screws or a knob, pull it straight down to access the “U” shaped spring retainers. Squeeze the top two legs of the spring together and lean the legs towards the center of the fan to unhook them from the housing. Repeat the procedure on the other spring and remove the grille.

Then disconnect the fan by unplugging it from the receptacle in the fan housing (if equipped). Probe the receptacle with your voltage tester to make sure the power is off. If the fan is hard wired, double check the power by placing the tester leads in the hot and neutral wire connectors before removing them. If you detect power, stop and call an electrician. As long as the power is off, you can remove the fan retaining screw. Then, tilt the fan down and out.

Use a stud finder to locate the rafter or truss in the bathroom ceiling or a stud in the wall that’s nearest the existing fan. Mark the rafter or stud with tape and note the location of the vent damper. You’ll enlarge the opening by making an “L” shaped cut opposite the stud and in the direction of the vent damper. Measure and mark the new cut lines or tape the cutting template (supplied with your new bathroom fan) in place. Then, leave the old housing in place while you make the cuts with your drywall saw. Use care when cutting near the flexible vent to avoid damaging it.

Locate the electrical junction box inside the fan housing. Remove the junction box cover screws or squeeze the cover together until the locking tabs disengage. Then disconnect the house wiring and unscrew the electrical clamp locking ring.

Next, locate the screws or nails that secure the fan housing to the stud or rafter. Remove them by hand or with a reciprocating saw and metal cutting blade. If you have blown-in insulation, slide a piece of thick cardboard into the newly cut opening as you remove the old housing. That’ll prevent the insulation from falling into the bathroom. Later, in Step 9, slide the cardboard sideways as you push the new housing into the mounting frame.

Slide the mounting frame into the enlarged opening. Extend the frame arms out to the rafters or studs on each side of the frame and fasten to them with 1.5-inch construction screws.

Thread the house power wires and electrical clamp into the round hole in the new fan housing and screw the locking ring onto the clamp. Then slide the housing into the mounting frame until it clicks in place.

Connect the flexible duct to the damper assembly and seal the connection securely with aluminum foil HVAC UL-listed tape (not ordinary duct tape). Orient the damper according to the diagram shown on the instruction sheet and attach to the housing using the supplied fasteners.

Connect the hot (black) and neutral (white) wires to the corresponding wires inside the fan housing. Wrap the house bare copper wire clockwise around the green grounding screw in the housing and tighten. Connect the remaining bare copper wire to any green wires using a twist on wire connector. Consult the wiring diagram shown on the fan’s instruction sheet to double check your connections before restoring power. Secure the junction box cover with the screws provided.

Push the fan assembly into the housing and secure with the screws provided. Install the silencer baffle (if provided) using the screws included with the kit. The baffle is an important noise reduction component—don’t leave it off. Plug the fan into the receptacle in the housing. Then, turn on the power and test the fan.

Fill the gap between the fan housing and the drywall with a generous bead of fire caulk to prevent warm air from bleeding into your attic. If the gap is ½-inch or larger, use a fire-rated expanding foam.

Locate the grille spring connector in the housing slots and push the grille into place. Square the grille by sliding it slightly with your fingers.

Test the fan again: The fan should run quietly with no rattling (which would otherwise indicate that you’ve left out a fastener). Now, check its suction power by holding a small piece of toilet paper near the grille. The fan should suck the paper towards the grille. Finally, test for proper damper operation by holding your hand in front of the grille with the fan off—you shouldn’t feel any air movement. If everything checks out, clean up the work area and tell all of your friends how handy you are!


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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

Video: 3 Fixes for a Clogged Shower Drain

Most homeowners will encounter a clogged drain sooner or later. Be prepared for when it happens to you.


So you’re taking a shower when you feel the water start to pool around your ankles. When that happens, you know the shower drain is clogged, probably with a sludge of hair and soap scum. While a clogged drain is not a great way to start your day, rest assured you can fix the problem yourself—without calling a pro.

Don’t believe us? Take note of these cheap and easy DIY methods to clear a drain. Before you choose from the methods illustrated in the video, learn about your pipes. Are they PVC or metal? How old are they? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you choose the right method for your home, and clear the gunk without damaging your pipes. As always, an informed DIYer is a successful DIYer!

For more DIY advice, consider:

9 Things Home Makeover Shows Never Tell You

The 15 Smartest and Smallest DIYs You Can Do for Your Home

10 Sneaky Hidden Costs of Home Remodeling

How To: Replace A Toilet Flange

Water at the base of the commode is a real red flag. Fix the plumbing problem with the guidance and techniques here.

How to Replace a Toilet Flange


The bathroom may well be the wet spot in any home, but water pooling around the base of the commode doesn’t fall in the norm. This dampness means it might be time to replace the flange, the circular pipe fitting that connects the toilet to the sewage pipe. Without a secure, solid footing on your commode, persistent leaking can damage flooring, cause mold to develop, or even emit wastewater, potentially causing hygiene and health issues for anyone in the household. Luckily, swapping in a new toilet flange is a fairly common plumbing repair that many handy homeowners can manage, saving anywhere from $100 to $200 on hiring a pro.

The keys to success are precise measurements (so that you purchase the right-sized replacement flange) and extra attention to ensure that the toilet sits flush on the floor at the end of the project. And remember to plan your DIY day accordingly: You’ll need to remove the toilet, measure the flange, and then make a run to the plumbing supply or hardware store in a short span so that you aren’t living with a nonworking toilet for long. Follow the instructions laid out in this guide on how to replace a toilet flange, and you’ll soon return to dry floors.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Adjustable wrench
Putty knife
Multihead screwdriver
Disinfecting wipes (optional)
Disposable old rag
Plastic bags
Measuring tape
New flange, including correct size bolts and screws

Turn off the water main for the toilet by locating the knob on the wall behind it and turning clockwise. This will prevent water from refilling the tank after each flush, but won’t stop water from leaving the system. Once the water is turned off, flush the toilet, then wait for the bowl to refill, and flush again, repeating until all the water from both the bowl and reservoir has drained from the toilet.

While the toilet’s draining, spread newspaper over the bathroom floor. Make sure there are several sheets of paper in layers, because this is where you’ll place the toilet once you’ve removed it from the mount.

Disconnect the water supply from the toilet. This is a braided pipe or metal hose that runs out from the wall to the toilet, next to the valve. You should be able to twist it off by hand, but if it’s too tight, use an adjustable wrench. There’s no need to remove it from the wall unless you’re planning to replace it, too, or it’s so long that it might get in the way when your hands are full, trying to replace the toilet at the end of this project.

Unfasten the two nuts on bolts that hold the toilet to the flange and floor. Use the adjustable wrench if the nuts don’t loosen easily by hand. Set the nuts aside to reattach the toilet when the flange replacement is complete.

How to Replace a Toilet Flange


Prepare to remove the toilet, keeping in mind that the average commode weighs between 70 and 120 pounds. If you’re not confident in your ability to lift it on your own, enlist a helper. To avoid injury doing it yourself, straddle the unit, crouch down, and grab from under the bowl. Then engage your core and lift the unit straight up—using your leg muscles, not your back—so it that it lifts cleanly off the bolts. Set it carefully atop of the newspapers.

Now you’ll see the outflow or sewage pipe with the flange. Remove the old wax that sealed the toilet to the flange and pipe with a putty knife. Simply scrape it off and smear it on the newspaper until you can access the top of the flange.

Find the screws (up to four) on the outside of the flange, which will need to come out. Use your multi-head screwdriver fitted with the corresponding screw bit to remove the screws.

Lift the flange off and clean it under a faucet or with disinfecting wipes. Set it aside on the newspaper. Tuck the disposable rag into the mouth of the sewage outflow pipe to block unpleasant odors and gasses from emitting.

Measure the width the outflow pipe’s mouth. Double-check your measurements and make note of them. Put the old flange into a plastic bag and head to your local hardware store, plumbing supply, or home center and buy a flange of corresponding size, type, and shape. Having the old flange with you allows for a head-to-head comparison. Purchase a correct-size wax seal for the new flange too. The new flange should come with new bolts and screws; if not, buy those as well, checking for fit.

Once back in the bathroom, remove the rag from the outflow pipe and place it in a plastic bag for disposal. Fit the new flange into place over the outflow pipe. Double-check that the new flange is flush against the floor and fitting correctly with no gaps below. Now screw the flange into place on the mount, using the new bolts and screws. When done, you’ll have two bolts protruding up from the flange and floor, where the toilet will be remounted.

Turn the toilet sideways on the floor and locate the round mouth where the toilet sits atop the flange. Affix the new wax seal around the mouth by pressing firmly into place without over-handling or misshaping it.

Carefully lift the toilet (use your legs, not your back!). Watch for the bolts to meet up with the bolt holes on the toilet base. Lower the toilet slowly, as levelly as possible, so it slides over the bolts and returns to its rightful spot. Eyeball the base to see if it looks level on all sides. If not, wiggle it until it’s situated equally all around. Now put your weight into it and press the toilet down as firmly to engage the wax seal with the flange.

Replace the nuts back onto the bolts. Use your hand at first, and then tighten with the adjustable wrench to ensure the toilet won’t rock or wiggle in months to come.

Reattach the water supply hose to the inflow valve on the toilet. Make sure you’ve got it affixed tightly so there’ll be no dribbles or leaks later.

Turn the water valve back on and wait for the toilet reservoir tank to fill. Once full, flush it. Wait for the bowl to fill, then flush again. Do this two to three times to ensure proper function. If the toilet is flushing correctly, run your hand along the floor around the toilet base. Is the floor dry? Great! Clean up and congratulate yourself on doing the job like a pro!


How to Replace a Toilet Flange



DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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

Solved! What to Do When Your Toilet Starts Overflowing

Quickly gain control when there’s water gushing from your commode.

Toilet Overflowing? The 3-Step Fix


Q: Help! Just as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard the unmistakable, undesirable sound of water hitting the floor. Looking back, I saw the toilet overflowing! I turned off the water—but what do I do now?
A: An overflowing toilet is a problem everyone will likely deal with at some point. When water issues from the bowl, chances are the culprit is a clogged toilet drain—usually an easy fix with some basic tools.

You’ve already done the right thing by turning off the toilet’s water supply, on the wall behind the toilet. If you can’t find the water supply to stop the toilet overflowing, take the top off the tank and lift the float ball or cup high enough to stop the water from running. Then shut off the water supply to the house with the valve or knob generally located near the water heater.

Should overflow continue once the main water supply is off, you’re dealing with sewage backup, a serious situation requiring an immediate call to a plumber. If you are on a municipal septic system, the plumber can diagnose whether the issue is on your property or something you need to call the city about. If you have a septic tank, you’ll need a plumbing company that can flush out your system.

Hopefully, though, the gushing will have stopped and you may proceed. When you’ve fixed the toilet, make sure to clean the bathroom and tools thoroughly with bleach and hot water.

How to Stop a Toilet Overflowing


Plunge a Clog. The first line of defense for a toilet clog is the standard plunger. If you don’t already own one, invest in one with a flange on the bottom that will extend into the toilet’s drain hole, creating the tight seal that will clear the clog most efficiently. But before you grab the plunger, put on some rubber gloves and remove a few inches of water from the toilet bowl into a bucket with a small container to minimize the risk of sloshing more onto the floor as you plunge. It’s also a good idea to throw a few old towels around the base of the commode to soak up any water that may come out.

Put the plunger into the toilet, inserting the flange directly into the drain hole. Tip: To ensure a tight seal, coat the rim of the flange with petroleum jelly. Keeping the handle upright, vigorously push the plunger up and down for 15 to 20 seconds, an action that forces air and water into the drain to clear the clog. Flush to ensure that the problem is, ahem, behind you!

Snake a Drain. If a plunger fails to do the trick, the next step is to use a toilet snake, also known as a toilet auger—a flexible cable designed to maneuver the twisty turns of the toilet drain. The cable, housed in a rubber hose, has a crank on one end and a coiled hook tip on the other that can snag stubborn materials deep within the drain. A toilet snake costs around $50, but you can rent one from a home improvement or hardware store for about $12 to $15 a day—even less for half a day.

Don your rubber gloves and remove excess water from the toilet into a bucket with a small container. Then place the hook end of the toilet snake into the bowl and begin turning the crank clockwise so the cable extends into the drain. Keep cranking until it won’t go any further—you’ve come to the clog. Gently pull back on the snake and, if you feel resistance, you’ve hooked the clog. Begin cranking counter-clockwise to pull the clog out of the drain back up into the toilet bowl. Dump the clogged material into the bucket and repeat the process several times to ensure that the clog is completely removed. Flush, then dump the waste back into the toilet in small amounts, flushing each time to make sure you don’t create another clog or start the toilet overflowing once more.

Solved! How to Choose The Best Paint for Bathrooms

Feeling wishy-washy about painting around the shower? Take this advice about the best paint for bathrooms and send your worries down the drain.

Best Paint for Bathroom

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Denver, CO

Q: My master bath is in need of a quick refresh, but I’m worried about paint peeling. What’s the best paint for bathrooms? I’m looking for some guidance on both color and finish.

A: While there are no hard rules about the best paint for bathrooms, a few key choices can steer homeowners in the right direction and give a satisfactory result. Read on for some guidelines on color choices, finishes, and the painting process.

Wall color can affect mirror reflections. Whites, creams, grays, and pastels are popular bathroom color choices for good reason: they’re calming, easy on the eyes, and flattering to your reflection. These neutral shades don’t recast light in a way that alters complexion in the mirror. A vibrant blue or green, on the other hand, may cast an unnatural sheen onto your skin after interacting with the bathroom’s natural or artificial light, exaggerating dark circles and blemishes.  If anyone in the household uses the bathroom for primping and priming, a subtle neutral wall color might be the wisest (and most flattering) choice.

Best Paint for Bathroom

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

Bathroom paint should offer mold and mildew resistance. Since bathrooms are splash-prone areas that retain moisture for long periods of time, they are prone to mold and mildew–especially if the bathroom doesn’t have proper ventilation. To prevent these health hazards, homeowners should opt for paint with anti-microbial additives that resist mold. Many options for this type of paint exist on the market today, such as Benjamin Moore’s Aura® Bath And Spa Matte Finish and Zinsser’s Perma-White. Once on the wall, these paints will kill existing mold and prevent new mold from growing.

Use a moisture-resistant primer to prevent peeling. Peeling paint occurs as a result of moisture seeping between the paint and its surface–a common occurrence in unventilated areas like showers, where steam rises and gets trapped. To prevent peeling, apply a coat of moisture-resistant primer to the ceiling or walls before you add your mildew-resistant paint color. An ounce (or rather, a pint or gallon) of prevention can save you quite a bit of hassle in the long run since you won’t have to touch up the paint job nearly as often.

Or, select a semigloss or high-gloss paint. As an alternative to mold-resistant paint, homeowners can coat their bathroom walls in a paint with a semigloss or high-gloss finish. Glossy paints don’t prevent mold, but they’re easier to clean and maintain than paint with flat and eggshell finishes. If mold ever pops up in the bathroom, removal won’t be overly difficult. Homeowners who don’t like the sheen of glossy paints can opt for satin instead; it’s slightly less reflective, yet still not difficult to clean.

Be sure to prep before painting. Before applying mold-resistant paint, clean the bathroom walls and remove any existing mildew with a DIY solution of three parts water to one part bleach. Use painter’s tape to block off your corners, doorways, floorboards, and any other spots you don’t want to paint, and make liberal use of drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect the floor, countertops, and toilet. Start painting in the corners and work your way across the walls. If possible, let the paint dry for a couple of days before taking a hot shower. Ventilation is your friend when it comes to long-lasting paint, so keep the air flowing through open vents, doors, and windows. Then watch that fresh coat of paint thrive for many years to come!


All of the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.