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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Pedestal Sink – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

We’re considering changing our bathroom vanity to a pedestal sink. Is this possible without redoing the whole bathroom?

Good question, but the answer depends on several things.

Basically, most any bathroom vanity can be changed to a pedestal sink. However, there are definitely things to be aware of. First item to note is the flooring. Does the flooring (tile, carpet, etc) extend under the vanity? In most cases, it won’t, which means when you remove the vanity and install the pedestal, you’re going to have to deal with the floor repair. If it is an older home, trying to match the older floor tile can be an impossible task. If the bathroom is carpeted, you have a better chance of making a seamless repair, but this will have to be done by a professional. If the bathroom is small, it might be just as easy to replace all of the carpeting. If by chance your tile or carpeting does extend under the vanity, then you won’t have to deal with these issues.

However, if your walls are tiled around the vanity, in most cases the walls will not be tiled behind the vanity, which means you’re going to also have to deal with the wall repair, just like the flooring.

Be certain to measure the height of the pedestal you’re thinking about. If by chance you have a mirror just above the vanity, this could become another issue you have to deal with.

If the above issues aren’t a problem, you may be good to go, but there are still some things to think about. Your water supply valves which are under the vanity can sometimes be too far apart from each other, so that when the pedestal is installed, you can see these shut-off valves. Ideally, you want these valves to be about 6” away from each other, so that they are hidden by the pedestal. The same thing holds for the drain pipe. Sometimes the drain line isn’t centered in the vanity, which means that the drain won’t be directly behind the pedestal and will stick out like a sore thumb. Both of these issues can be corrected, but unless you know what you’re doing, it would be best for these to be done by a professional.

I hope I haven’t talked you out of your project, but you want to be aware of all of the issues that might come up. Many times, a small improvement such as this can turn in to a much larger job.

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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Disposal Smell – Get It Done – Ask The Handyman

We have lived here for 6 years and our condo was brand new at that time.  A few months ago I decided to buy a double-bowl stainless sink instead of my original white one, which I had difficulty keeping sparkling white.

My original white double sink had 2 equal-sized bowls but I chose a larger main sink with the small vegetable sink to the right.  Our garbage disposal (which of course is only 6 years old) has in the past couple of months developed a musty, foul odor.  I have purchased some commercial product called Disposer Clean or something.  It doesn’t help.  As I look under the sink it seems the plumbing under the disposer goes straight down then makes an abrupt turn upward, then into the drainpipe.

I also looked in the disposer with a flashlight and it seems to me that it looks rusty or something.  Any thoughts??

As to the rust, it is not uncommon to see these disposal blades rusting slightly.  However, if they have a lot of rust it could be that the blades are not functioning as they should and are leaving waste in the disposal.  In this case, a new disposal would be needed.

Disposals get the foul end of our food waste.  It is possible, if you put a lot of leafy remnants, such as lettuce, potato peels, and similar items, for some of the leftovers to stay inside of the disposal.  I understand you tried the disposal cleaner without any luck, but you might try these suggestions also.

With the disposal and water running, try placing several ice cubes into the disposal.  This may sound horrible, but the ice chips may force any food debris out.  This not only helps with the cleaning of the disposal, but will actually sharpen the blades as well.

If you still have the odor, use the sink stopper which came with the disposal to allow you to fill up the sink.  Once the sink is full, remove the stopper and allow all of the water to go down the disposal and pipes.  The pressure from so much water can act like the ice and possibly remove any food remnants.

A common home remedy to try would be a half-cup of baking soda poured into the disposal, with the disposal off, followed by a half-cup of vinegar.  Let this sit in the disposal for 5 – 10 minutes, then flush it, with the disposal off, for a minute with hot water.

Whenever you use the disposal, you should follow a few tips.  Always use cold water.  Never jam the food all at once into the disposal.  Feed the food in small increments.  Always leave the water running for 5 – 10 seconds after you’ve turned the disposal off, allowing the waste to get flushed down the pipes.

There are certain foods which I won’t put into the disposal, because, like you, I notice a smell for a while.  Broccoli is one of these.  I would rather empty it into the trash, but the smell will stay if you don’t take the trash out fairly soon.  Potato peels, corn husks, lettuce, celery, parsley, rice, and other similar foods are best left for the trash can.  Grease from cooking is another item that is best for the trash can (only after it has hardened).  Although liquid grease will go down the disposal, it can also coat your pipes, giving the potential for future odors.

A couple of good items for the disposal are ice, egg shells (another way of sharpening the blades), and occasionally, half of a lemon or lime, which will leave the disposal smelling wonderfully (if such a thing is possible).

Good luck!

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THE St Louis Handyman


Instant Hot Water Dispenser – Get It Done THE St Louis Handyman

Is it possible to add an instant hot water dispenser if my sink doesn’t already have one?

Adding an instant hot water dispenser is not only doable, but for tea drinkers, makes things much easier.  The cost of an InSinkErator unit will range from about $200 for the basic unit to $275 for a deluxe model (with the looks being the only difference).  Some makes and models will come with a purification filter, but you will pay more for this type.

Adding the dispenser requires tapping into an existing cold water line.  This is the supply line feeding the cold water side of the faucet.  The unit also requires electricity, which usually will have to be added, as most sinks to not have an electrical outlet in the cabinet below.  Although a garbage disposal has electricity, it is usually switch controlled, so you can’t tap into that line.  If the basement is unfinished, it is usually fairly simple to bring power up to the sink cabinet and add an outlet, if you are electrically competent.

Installing the unit will require drilling a hole through the deck of the sink where you want it to be mounted.  The unit will come with a saddle valve which will allow you to tap into the cold water line.  Just follow the directions from the manufacturer.  Once the unit is assembled and in place, it is simply a matter of plugging it in.  Remember however, you will be working under the sink, on your back sometimes, so have the Ibuprofen handy.

The unit will make occasional slight noises when the water is being heated, so don’t be alarmed.  It is also a good idea, if you have children, to caution them about the hot temperature of the water.  They could get injured if they aren’t careful.  Although the water temperature will be near boiling, most models will let you adjust the temperature slightly.

Once you’re done you can sit back and enjoy a hot cup of tea – although hot chocolate sounds better to me!

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THE St Louis Handyman