Bathroom - 4/14 - Bob Vila

Category: Bathroom

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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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING A SHOWER DIVERTER or read the text below:

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


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

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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Listen to BOB VILA ON BASEMENT TOILETS or read the text below:

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.

Bob Vila Radio: For a Quick Bathroom Refresh, Recaulk the Tub

Sometimes, you've just got to work with what you have. If you don't have the money for a full bathroom remodel, take this budget-friendly approach instead.

If your bathroom is looking a bit dated but there’s no room in your budget for a full renovation, think in terms of small upgrades that’ll spruce things up.

How to Recaulk a Bathtub


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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECAULKING THE TUB or read the text below:

One such project is recaulking the bathtub, replacing the years-old discolored bead with new, fresh-looking silicone. Of course, the first step here is to remove the old caulk. You can do so by applying caulk softener and then letting it sit for a couple of hours (or for however long the instructions call for). Once the old caulk has softened, use a stiff putty knife to remove it.

Next, after getting rid of any remaining soap scum or debris, apply rubbing alcohol to kill any mildew that may be lurking. Once the area is dry, fill the bathtub with water to ensure that it’s fully settled. Finally, apply a new bead of quality silicone caulk, having made sure the product was specially made for bathrooms and contains mildewcide. That’ll help keep your tub looking clean and inviting for you and your guests.

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.

Quick Tip: Scrub Your Tub with… Grapefruit?

If you love grapefruit, here's one more reason to keep the sweet citrus amply stocked in your kitchen.

Clean Your Bathtub with Grapefruit


There are plenty of housekeeping jobs that people put off. And as opposed to a task like clearing the gutters, there are few risks tied to not cleaning the bathtub. But it’s only a matter of time before you finally tackle the tub, with all its nasty soap scum and mineral buildup. When that day comes, you have no shortage of options, from potent store-bought cleaning agents to milder, all-natural alternatives. Surprising though it may seem, one method gives you the best of both worlds: It’s not only an effective cleaner, but it’s also pleasant to work with. Yes, it’s grapefruit. We’re used to hearing about all the many wonderful things you can do with lemons, but this time it’s a different citrus fruit that not only fights stains and germs, but also imparts a genuinely fresh, invigorating scent in the process.

Clean Your Bathtub with Grapefruit - Tub Closeup


Depending on the size of your tub and the condition it’s in, you may need more than one grapefruit. But in any case, start by cutting one decently sized grapefruit in half. Next, coat the flesh of each half with a generous helping of salt. The salt works as abrasive that allows the fruit’s acidity to penetrate more deeply.

Now run the shower or bath for about thirty seconds, or for as long as necessary to dampen the full length of the tub. Once it’s wet, sprinkle additional salt over the area. You’re now ready to begin scrubbing. Apply the grapefruit directly to the tub, and as you go, be sure to squeeze the fruit gently to release its juice.

The most satisfying results come when the grapefruit juice and salt work in tandem, so add salt or switch to a new grapefruit half whenever you need to. For any particularly stubborn areas of residue, try scrubbing, not with the flesh of the fruit, but with its rind. Oh, and don’t forget to give some attention to the fixtures!

Once finished, simply run the water to rinse away the leftover juice, pulp, and salt. To wipe down the shower head, valve, tub spout and drain, use a clean cotton or microfiber cloth. That’s it—all clean, right?

Of course, it would be silly to keep grapefruit in your house all year round simply in order to clean the bathroom. Rather than base your bathroom cleaning schedule around trips to the grocery store, you can prepare a grapefruit cleaning paste that’s easy to keep on hand in all seasons. Here’s how to make a small batch (double or quadruple the recipe, if it’s grapefruit season and you can purchase the fruit at low cost).

1. Halve the grapefruit and squeeze the from each half until you have a half-cup of liquid. Remove seeds.

2. Add one and a half cup of salt to the liquid, then stir until the ingredients are combined.

3. Transfer the paste to an airtight container.

The next time you wish to clean the tub, apply the paste to a clean cloth and then scrub the entire tub, including the fixtures, washing or wiping away the grapefruit-and-salt remnants once you’re finished.

Is a Walk-In Tub Right for You?

The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the home, especially for seniors. But with a walk-in hydrotherapy bathtub, almost any bathroom can be transformed into a safe haven of relaxation and comfort.

Walk-In Jacuzzi Tub - Water

Imagine if instead of having to make an appointment and haul yourself to the spa—and then have to pay for the privilege—you could treat yourself to a spa-like experience every day at home. This idea is not so far-fetched: For decades now, homeowners have been outfitting their decks with hot tubs and their master bathrooms with oversize jetted Jacuzzi tubs. And while for the younger set, time spent in a Jacuzzi is merely a luxury, those who are older know that it can be something else entirely.

Related: Visit the Aging in the Home Remodelers, Inc. Showroom on

For women and men of a certain age, walk-in tubs with built-in hydrotherapy turn bathing into a restorative, even health-giving, experience. As one recent remodeler put it, “The whirlpool has helped take lots of aches and pains away. It is like being on vacation all the time without all the travel.” Having a walk-in Jacuzzi tub allows bathing to become a pleasure instead of a task.

While Jacuzzi is best known for hot tubs, their walk-in bathtubs put the emphasis on safety. Ordinary tubs can be dangerous for anyone; slips are responsible for many thousands of serious injuries, sometimes even deaths, each year. For seniors in particular, that danger is present not only during moments of inattention, but increasingly as their mobility naturally declines with age. About 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day in the USA and one in three of these seniors suffers a fall each year, so this is not a marginal issue. The latest walk-in tub designs combine legendary Jacuzzi comfort with extraordinary safety features, including a leak-proof, low threshold bathtub door, built-in grab bars, raised seat, anti-scald water temperature protection, and textured, skid-resistant floor.

Though made specifically for one type of homeowner, Jacuzzi walk-in tubs are not just for one type of home. On the contrary, they know that no matter your age, it’s a priority to combine safety with preserving the look and feel of your bathroom and ensuring that your house not seem institutional. Innovators like Jacuzzi, Inc. have treated this seriously, using the concept of universal design—that is, features for the home that look great and work equally well for everyone, young and old. Their walk-in tubs, in other words, accommodate both grandparents and grandchildren.

Walk-in Jacuzzi Tub - open


As you age, your house hasn’t changed, but your needs do change. Rather than leave your home prematurely for a senior living setting, the obvious solution is to fix your house to meet your needs. Aging In The Home Remodelers makes that process hassle-free by guiding you from product selection all the way through to installation. Their walk-in bathtubs and showers are available in multiple sizes, so if your existing tub is a standard size, the walk-in Jacuzzi can fit right into the space that it vacates.

In-home installation is handled by professional, certified installers, and is often completed in one day. This really is not a DIY project. There are a number of factors that can come up during installation, including the type and condition of the existing plumbing, electrical wiring and service, flooring conditions, local building code requirements, and the location of the bathroom within the house. However, certified installers can deal with all of the issues during the installation process. That’s why most quality walk-in tubs are sold as an all-inclusive package including your new tub, installation and clean-up.

To learn more about hydrotherapy and the Jacuzzi Walk-In Bathtub, visit

This post was created in conjunction with Aging In The Home Remodelers, Inc. Its facts and opinions are those of

The Right Way to Clean a Toilet

Remember the gleaming porcelain bowl installed in your bathroom all those years ago? You can get it back! Here's how.

How to Clean a Toilet


A dreaded household chore, cleaning the toilet is the definition of dirty work. Mostly it’s a matter of hygiene, but cleaning the toilet properly can also make the fixture last longer, particularly if you live in an area with hard water. While the self-cleaning toilets of tomorrow hold out the promise that one day, we’ll be free of this least-favorite duty, it is—at least for the time being—unavoidable. The silver lining? It’s actually not at all hard to clean a toilet. Here’s how to do a thorough job.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Rubber gloves
Scrubbing brush
Pumice stone
Antibacterial spray
Paper towels (or clean rags)

Before getting started, suit up in protective gear. Rubber gloves are must, but an apron and protective eyewear might be a good idea, too, since the process involves some harsh chemicals. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. The next preparatory step is to drain the toilet. To do so, you can turn off the water supply and then flush, or you can wedge the float valve (also known as the ballcock) so that after flushing, the toilet does not automatically refill.

Toilet Cleaners


Lift up the toilet seat and squirt disinfectant around the rim and sides of the bowl, allowing it to run slowly down to the bottom. (If you live in an area with hard water, opt for a disinfectant that contains a chemical like borax, one that removes lime scale. Alternatively, you can purchase and use lime scale remover separately.) With a stiff, plastic-bristled brush, scrub the cleaner over the entire bowl, then allow it to set.

To remove tough stains, use a wet pumice stone to scrub the affected area of the ceramic bowl. Pumice stone can also dislodge lime scale deposits. It’s a handy tool, no matter the specific cause of discoloration.

With the disinfectant working its magic, close the seat and lid and focus on the exterior. Here, use an antibacterial spray, following with a clean rag or paper towels to wipe it all down. Pay extra attention to the seat hinge, notorious for its grime buildup. Finally, spray and wipe both sides of the lid and seat.

Now grab your scrubbing brush once more and have another go at the toilet bowl. This time, spend most of your energy on the area underneath the rim and down into the toilet U-bend. Once finished, restore the water supply or unplug the float valve. Flush the toilet, allowing fresh water to clean off any remaining disinfectant. Last but not least, rinse off the bristle brush so that it be used again—next week!