Turn Your Shut-Off Valves On and Off – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

Shut off valvesWe regularly remind people to occasionally turn their shut-off valves off and on.  A shut-off valve is one like you have below your toilet.  Not all, but most faucets, whether kitchen or bathroom, have shut-off valves.  You’ll also have some in the basement on your water  lines, as well as a valve to shut the water off for the entire house.

One reason we suggest you occasionally turn these valves is so that they don’t stick.  After a period of non-use, these valves can get so hard to turn that a wrench is required to turn them, and that can also lead to the handle breaking.  If you are having a faucet replaced, or replacing parts to your toilet, the water has to be shut off.  Or, if you have a sudden leak, you will want to quickly shut the water off to the toilet or faucet.  If you have a problem turning the valve at this point, your only option is to turn the water off to the whole house.  You’re then faced with having no water until the leak is fixed.

By occasionally turning these valves (including the whole-house shut-off valve), you can be sure that they are working properly and will shut the water off when you need to.  If you don’t have shut-off valves for your faucets, they can be added fairly easily, if you know to sweat copper pipes.

Occasionally, these shut-off valves can develop a small drip, especially after they have been turned off.  If this happens, tightening the nut behind the handle will usually do the trick.  Also occasionally, when you turn a valve off, it doesn’t completely stop the water.  In this case, the washer on the shut-off needs to be replaced.  If this happens, and you don’t know how to replace the valve, you can try taking just the stem of the valve from a new one and replacing it in the existing valve, as long as they are the same size.

By adding the turning of these valves to a regular household checklist, you will be certain that when needed, the valves will work as they are supposed to.  It would be a great way to start the new year in keeping up with your home.

Washing Machine Hoses – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

HosesAre the newer washing machine hoses really worthwhile?

Great question!  Most washing machine hoses are a standard garden variety, made with rubber.  As any garden hose can wear out and split, so can washing machine hoses.  Imagine having your garden hose filled with water with the sprayer on the end turned off.  The hose will be under constant pressure, which is the same for your washing machine hoses.  A bubble or crack in the hose can lead to water filling your laundry room until the water is turned off, a terribly expensive thing to happen.

Instead of having the rubber washing machine hoses, you can replace them with stainless steel hoses, which aren’t susceptible to bursting.  Not only are the hoses inexpensive, but this is something that most anyone can do.  The hoses are available at hardware stores (about $20), and all that is needed for installation would be an adjustable wrench. 

Begin by turning off the washing machine water spigots, both hot and cold.  Then move your washer out slightly if you can’t reach where they are attached at the washer.  Unscrew the two hoses, both from the spigot and the washing machine.  Be careful, as the hoses will be filled with water.  Replace the old hoses with the new, stainless steel hoses.  Before scooting the washing machine back in, be sure to turn the spigots back on, run the washing machine for a minute and check for leaks.

Before you scoot the washing machine back into place, now would be a good time to clean your dryer vent.  The easiest way to do this is if you have an electric leaf blower.  If so, move the dryer out so that you have access to the back, or wherever the vent goes into the dryer.  Remove the vent by unscrewing the clamp over the duct.  Pull the duct out, but before going any further, go and check the exhaust vent on the outside of the house.  Sometimes people put screening over these, to keep rodents from entering.  If you have screening here, remove it for the cleaning.  Your leaf blower may be either too small or too large for the 3” or 4” dryer duct, so you may have to improvise, using duct tape or old rags around the leaf blower fitting, to prevent too much air escaping.  Turn on the blower for 20 seconds or so, then go outside and make sure the old lint is coming out of the exhaust housing.  If so, turn the blower back on and let it run for a minute or so. 

That’s it!  Your done.  Just reattach the duct to the dryer, move everything back into position, and mark this off your to-do list.

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Vanity Drain Clogged – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

PtrapMy vanity sink drain get clogged on a fairly regular basis.  Is there anything I can do to prevent calling a plumber every time this happens?

A vanity drain is the most frequent drain clog to happen,  and fortunately, is usually the easiest to fix.

The simplest and quickest way to attempt to unclog a vanity drain is to start under the sink by locating the “pop-up” arm.  This is the device which raises and lowers the stopper.  Connected to this vertical arm is a horizontal rod that goes into the drain.  Just where it enters the drain is a retaining nut. 

Loosen this nut (it can usually be done with your fingers) and let the arm come out of the drain.  Now, above the sink, you should be able to lift the pop-up out.  When you do so, it may have a lot of hair and gunk attached to it. 

Do not use the sink to wash it out, as you have not yet connected the arm back to the drain!  Instead, use a paper towel to clean off as much as possible.  If need be, take it to another sink and wash it.

Next, use any type of hair removal/drain auger tool to see if there is still anything in the pipe that you can get to.  If you can’t get to it, or don’t have any type of auger/hair removal tool, you still may be able to get to it by going to the next step. 

Loosen the nuts on both sides of the p-trap.  This is the pipe that has a 180 degree bend under the drain.  Have a bucket under this pipe as you loosen the nuts and remove this pipe.  There will be water in it, so be careful to do it over the bucket. 

If there is debris in this pipe, take it to a different sink, one that does not use the same drain.  Wash the inside of the pipe out, but be careful not to let all this debris go down the drain.  Throw the debris away instead of letting it go back down another drain.

You’ve done it!  Put the drain back on, tighten the nuts, and put the pop-up rod back in and tighten that nut as well.  Keeping the bucket nearby, run water in the sink and make sure there are no leaks.

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Great Projects for Under $100 – Get It Done – Ask The Handyman St Louis

FaucetThere are so very many things we can do to class up our home.  Some projects can be expensive.  But there are many which don’t cost quite so much that can leave a lasting impression.  Here are a few ideas that can make a difference.

Replace the door knobs and hinges on the interior doors with bright brass fixtures.  The cost of a bright brass interior lock is about $15 – 20, and the hinges are about $5 each (a door will need either 2 or 3).  The time to replace them would take about one hour per door, including the hinges.

Paint your front door.  A fresh coat of paint on your door will make it look as if it were new.  If you add a color besides white, you can really make a statement.  One gallon of paint will cost about $25 – $45, and it would take about one hour.

Add a door knocker and kick plate to your front door.  This also will create a classy look, especially if you use bright brass.  These can be seen from a long way away, making the front entrance welcoming.  The cost for a door knocker is about $15 – $20 and the kick plate would be about the same.

Replace ordinary toggle switches in the public rooms with dimmers.  You will be amazed how a lower level of light can create a wonderful effect.  If you have different lights on different switches in the same room, you can decide which part of the room you want to accent just by increasing that level of lighting.Dimmer switches run between $10 to $30, depending upon the style.  One note to make however is that if you use the compact florescent bulbs, you will need a special dimmer, and maybe special bulbs.

Replace a kitchen or powder room faucet.  A new faucet makes things sparkle and can really make a difference in the looks of things.  Be sure to use a brand name faucet and not a cheap brand.  These are readily available for under $100.

Create a new effect by mounting picture rails in public areas.  These rails are easily mounted to the walls and can hold several framed pictures.  Another trick would be to occasionally swap out the pictures, keeping visitors on the lookout to see what you have added.

Slow Drain – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

My bathroom vanity drain seems to be draining slower than usual. Is there something I can do to check this out?


Vanity drains have a tendency to clog up after time. If you think about it, it’s only normal. Soap scum, hair (especially if someone shaves in this sink), etc. will leave residue that can collect on the inside of the pipes, especially the p-trap. The p-trap is the curved piece just under the drain. Normally, this is an easy job to disconnect and clean.

Begin by having a small bucket or pan so that water still in the p-trap won’t spill onto the floor. You won’t have to shut the water off, since we’re only dealing with the drain. If the p-trap is PVC (white plastic), you may not even need a wrench. If the trap is chrome (metal), you probably will need a pair of channel lock pliers.

Loosen the nuts for the p-trap. When this is done, you should be able to remove it, but be careful, there will be water in this curved pipe. Let the water empty into the bucket. You’ll then be able to see if the pipe is dirty and filled with debris.

You’ll need to wash this out, but be sure not to do it in the sink you’re working on, since you’ve just disconnected the drain. Once you’ve done that, just put it back into place, tighten the nuts, then check for leaks after running the water.

Knowing how to do this can be very helpful, not only in keeping the drain flowing, but also if you would ever happen to drop something down the drain. We’ve all heard the story of a wedding ring being dropped down the sink!

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Toilet Handle – Get It Done – Ask the Handyman St. Louis

Why is it that I have to hold down the lever on one of my toilets and not on the others to make a complete flush? Is there an adjustment I can make? Thanks.

This can be a source of frustration, especially when nothing appears to be wrong. There are a couple of possibilities, however, and the fix might be an easy one.

Inside the toilet there is a chain that connects the flushing handle to the “flapper” (the covering which is usually at the bottom of the tank where the water drains out). Sometimes, the chain has too much play in it. It should only have a small amount of slack. If it has too much slack, the flapper may not raise up all the way when the handle is pushed. If it doesn’t have any slack, it may not let the flapper rest all the way completely down.

In your case, it could be too much slack, so try adjusting it. First, turn the water off to the toilet by closing the “shut-off valve” which is located under the toilet tank where the water comes out of the wall. Turn the valve clockwise to stop the water flow. Then unhook the pin at the end of the handle bar. Put the pin down a few links in the chain (towards the flapper), making it slightly shorter in length. Reinstall the “hook” or “pin” onto the end of the handle. You’ll then need to turn your toilet shut-off valve back on, let the tank fill up, and see if this did the trick. If not, you may need to adjust it a little more.

If the chain adjustment doesn’t completely fix the problem, there is one more thing to check. Look at how the flapper is attached to the tank. It should have either “ears” or a “ring” attachment. The ears will be on either side of a tube which stands in the toilet – it’s the tube where the water goes down when the toilet is filling up. These ears are small pieces that stick out slightly and the collar of the flapper fits into the ears. A different way of attaching the flapper to this tube is by a ring on the flapper which goes over the tube and rests on the bottom. Both the “ears” and the “ring” are designed to keep the flapper in place. You should have one or the other. If you have both, the flapper gets into a bind and won’t operate freely. If that is the case, remove the ring and use only the ears.

Good Luck!

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Installing a New Vanity Faucet – Get It Done – Ask the Handyman St. Louis

Do I need a plumber to replace a bathroom sink faucet?

Generally, for a kitchen or vanity faucet, this can be done without a plumber.  However, changing a faucet is never a comfortable thing to do.  I’ve often said that plumbing is my exercise in prayer.

To begin changing a vanity faucet, first turn off the water supply.  If the faucet has shut-off valves inside the vanity, turn them off then verify that by turning the faucet on (if you have a two handle faucet, turn them both on).  If you still have water coming out, this means the shut-off valves need a new washer, so you’ll have to turn your whole house water shut-off valve off.  When verifying this step, you may still have a small stream coming out of the faucet as the water lines empty.  Once the water is off, use an adjustable wrench to unscrew the supply lines (both hot and cold) from the wall and faucet.

From underneath the vanity, remove the two nuts which hold the faucet onto the vanity.  You’ll also need to remove the nut from the pop-up assembly where a small arm comes out of the drain.  Remove this arm and connection and you should then be able to remove the faucet from the top, pulling the supply lines up through the holes in the vanity top.

Clean the surface of the vanity where the base of the old faucet was.  Then you’re ready to install the new faucet.  General instructions follow, but it is always a good idea to read the instructions that come with the faucet.

It is easier to install the new supply lines to the faucet first.   Be sure to wrap the threads of the faucet body where you are installing the supply lines with a Teflon tape.  This seals the connection.  Always wrap the tape in the same direction as you would be to tighten a nut – clockwise.  Be certain that the nuts on the supply lines are tight.  Drop the supply lines through the holes and rest the faucet body in place.  You’ll then need to take the nuts that come with the new faucet and slip them over the supply lines up to the underside of the faucet and secure them tightly to the faucet body.  This connection won’t need Teflon tape.

Next remove the pop-up assembly flange.  This is the item you see in the bottom of the sink which is held in place by a large nut underneath.  Using the channel lock pliers, remove the nut.  When you install the new flange, you’ll need to use plumbers putty under this flange.  Just roll out a ¼” ring that fits under the lip of the flange.  When you install the flange and tighten the new nut, this will create a seal so water doesn’t leak.  Continue following the manufacturer’s instructions for the rest of the pop-up assembly.  When you’re all done, connect the supply lines to the wall shut-off valves and then turn them on.

Before you turn the water on, it is a good idea to remove the aerator (on the spout).  Turn the water on (hot and cold) and make sure there are no obvious leaks.  Next turn the faucet on, both hot and cold, and again look for any leaks.  If there are none, allow the water to run and empty any debris from the new faucet, then reinstall the aerator.  Be sure to look for any leaks under the vanity.

After a quick clean up you’re done!  And, you can use your new faucet to wash your hands!

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Installing a New Toilet – Get It Done THE St. Louis Handyman

Installing a new toilet is fairly simple.  The hardest part is the lifting of the bowl (and the tank if it is a one-piece toilet) onto the flange.  If this lifting is difficult, a second person may be needed.

Start the replacement by turning the shut-off valve to the off position.  Flush the toilet, and then remove as much of the water in the tank as you can, so as not to cause a mess.   Be certain to remove the supply line, which comes from the wall and hooks up to the bottom of the tank.  A two-piece toilet can be removed as one piece, as long as you don’t mind the extra weight.  If you don’t feel very strong, then take the tank off of the bowl first, by unscrewing the two (and sometimes three) bolts at the bottom of the tank.  When the bolts removed, you’ll be able to lift up on the tank and dispose of it.

To remove the bowl, near the floor on both sides will be a cover for the floor bolts.  Pry the covers off to expose the bolts, loosen them, and then lift the bowl from the floor.  Because the bowl sits on a wax ring, it may feel as if the toilet is stuck to the floor.  Rocking or twisting the toilet slightly may help.  However, be careful, as there is still a good amount of water inside the bowl.  If you set the bowl down, be sure to use a drop cloth or plastic, as the bottom will have wax residue.

You will then be looking at the floor drain, and the leftover part of the wax ring.  With a scraper, remove all of the wax (gloves are recommended).  Next, place the “flange bolts”, which usually come with the wax ring, and place them into the slots of the flange in the floor.  Place the new wax ring over the bolts and set the ring down to the floor.  Now comes the new toilet.

If you purchased a two-piece, place the bowl directly over the flange and lower it slowly, looking down through the flange bolt holes to be sure you are positioning it correctly.  When the bolts come through the holes, push the bowl down onto the floor.  Because of the new wax ring, you’ll have to use some pressure to get it down onto the floor.  Sitting on the toilet will help.  Use the nuts and washers that came with the bolts and fasten the bowl to the floor.  Before tightening them, be sure the bowl is perfectly square to the back wall, so your toilet won’t be crooked.  You can then begin installing the tank.

It is best to follow the directions which will come with the tank.  Be certain to also install a new supply line, as the old one may not reach, or may have gotten a kink in it.  After the tank is on and everything installed, slowly turn the water shut-off valve on.  Look for any leakage of water from all areas.  Once you’re sure there are no leaks, open the valve all the way and let the tank fill up.  Once it has done this, flush the toilet, and again, look for leaks.  Next, install the new toilet seat.

You’re done!  Grab some good reading (I recommend the Post Dispatch) and try it out!

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Steve

Get It Done THE St Louis Handyman Service – Fixing a Toilet Handle

Why is it that I have to hold down the lever on one of my toilets and not on the others to make a complete flush?  Is there an adjustment I can make?  Thanks Get It Done!

J. E.   Webster Groves

This can be a source of frustration, especially when nothing appears to be wrong.  There are a couple of possibilities, however, and the fix might be an easy one.  You can do this yourself without calling a St Louis handyman.

Inside the toilet there is a chain that connects the flushing handle to the “flapper” (the covering which is usually at the bottom of the tank where the water drains out).  Sometimes, the chain has too much play in it.  It should only have a small amount of slack.  If it has too much slack, the flapper may not raise up all the way when the handle is pushed.  If it doesn’t have any slack, it may not let the flapper rest all the way completely down.

In your case, it could be too much slack, so try adjusting it.  First, turn the water off to the toilet by closing the “shut-off valve” which is located under the toilet tank where the water comes out of the wall.  Turn the valve clockwise to stop the water flow.  Then unhook the pin at the end of the handle bar.  Put the pin down a few links in the chain (towards the flapper), making it slightly shorter in length.  Reinstall the “hook” or “pin” onto the end of the handle.  You’ll then need to turn your toilet shut-off valve back on, let the tank fill up, and see if this did the trick.  If not, you may need to adjust it a little more.

If the chain adjustment doesn’t completely fix the problem, there is one more thing to check.  Look at how the flapper is attached to the tank.  It should have either “ears” or a “ring” attachment.  The ears will be on either side of a tube which stands in the toilet – it’s the tube where the water goes down when the toilet is filling up.  These ears are small pieces that stick out slightly and the collar of the flapper fits into the ears.  A different way of attaching the flapper to this tube is by a ring on the flapper which goes over the tube and rests on the bottom.  Both the “ears” and the “ring” are designed to keep the flapper in place.    You should have one or the other.  If you have both, the flapper gets into a bind and won’t operate freely.   If that is the case, remove the ring and use only the ears.

Good Luck!

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