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How to Fix a Running Toilet

The sound of a babbling brook is soothing and very pleasant. That same sound, from a running toilet, however, can drive you bonkers. The toilet that won’t shut of wastes a lot more water than a dripping faucet. Before we talk about solving the problem, it would be good for you to know how a toilet works.

1. Push the handle down.

2. That action raises the trip lever.

3. This pulls up the lift wires or chain.

4. Which in turn raises the tank ball, or flapper opening the drain hole in the bottom of the tank.

5. The water rushes into the bowl to flush.

running toilet How to Fix a Running Toilet

6. With the water in the tank gone, the float ball no longer floats and as it drops, it opens the water valve (its plumbing name, and we’re not making this up, is ballcock assembly), back over on the left side of the tank.

7. Fresh water refills the tank and buoys the float ball upward until it shuts the valve off at the proper level.

Just knowing how the thing works will make it easier to solve all toilet troubles. So let’s stop the constantly running toilet. Here’s how:

1. Remove the tank lid and carefully place it flat on the floor and out of the way.

2. If the water is going out the overflow tube, lift up on the float arm. If the running water stops, it means the water level is too high. This means the ball is positioned wrong.

3. Using both hands, gently bend down the float arm until the water level is shut off before it gets higher than the overflow tube.

If this cure doesn’t work, the problem could be in the water inlet valve. Not quite so easy, but not too bad. Probably in the Sophomore skill level. Here we go:

1. Turn off the water supply to the tank, using the shut off valve under the tank.

2. A typical metal water inlet valve. Remove the two thumbscrews.

3. This allows you to remove the flat rod going through the slot. Lift up on the slot that is at the top of the valve plunger unit. Check the washer and/or O-rings and replace any that are bad.

You can still have a running toilet if water is seeping out around the tank ball or flapper. Here are the reasons this can happen:

1. The tank ball, or flapper, which acts as a stopper to close the drain hole in the bottom of the tank, may not be dropping straight into the hole.

2. If you have a tank ball:
A. The lift wires travel through a guide. The guide could have moved out of alignment. Move the guide back into alignment.
B. A burr or mineral deposits could prevent the tank ball from dropping all the way down. Steel wool can remove a burr. Put the wires in hot vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits.

3. If you have a flapper:
A. The chain may not have enough slack to allow the flapper to drop all the way down. Adjust the chain to make it longer or move the chain
B. The flapper may need to be, realigned. Some are held in place by a ring around the overflow ‘tube and can be turned by hand.

4. With either type:
A. Old age may have set in and these stoppers are disintegrating. Replacement of either the flapper or the tank ball is easy and inexpensive.
B. The drain hole may have a build up of lime and scale, so the stopper is not to blame. To remove these deposits, turn off the water supply and use wet/dry sandpaper to smooth the lip of the opening. If you can’t get it smooth enough, buy a Flusher Fixer Kit which includes a metal ring that is glued in place over the drain hole with waterproof adhesive. A flapper is attached to the ring. This is an easy and inexpensive solution.

How to Fix a Leaking Pipe

In this article, we will talk about how to patch, repair, or replace various types of water supply lines. In all cases, it is best to shut off the water supply.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to the pipes in a crawl space or basement, you can easily turn the disaster into another triumph.

Different Pipe Materials Use Different Leak Repair Methods

1. Galvanized iron pipe – A device called a pipe sleeve clamp works well to stop a leak. The gadget involves a rubber patch and two sleeve parts held together by nuts and bolts. When properly tightened, the pressure against the pad stops the leak. This method can also be used on copper pipe.

2. Make your own patch – Use a worm gear hose clamp to apply pressure to a section of old auto inner tube.

3. Epoxy glue may be a temporary patch that can last forever! There is a plumber’s epoxy putty that you mix by kneading between your hands. It works best if all the pipe surfaces are dry and when the adhesive is given adequate time to set up.

leaking pipe How to Fix a Leaking Pipe

4. Copper pipe – If a copper pipe joint has come loose, copper can be resoldered.

5. Threaded pipe is usually made of galvanized steel. The best patch may be to remove the damaged area, using a hacksaw and wrench. Then replace the section with two shorter threaded pipes plus a device called a “union”. The total combined length of the replacement, including the union, should be the same as the old pipe. So, do the math!

Installing the union requires using two wrenches. One tightens the ring nut while the other holds the exposed union nut. (If this sounds strange, you’ll easily understand it once you have the union in hand.)

PVC plastic pipe isn’t acceptable for potable water in a few local plumbing codes. Where it is OK, it’s great. PVC can handle cold water and CPVC can be used for hot and cold. It is lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to use. It is easily cut with a hacksaw but there are PVC pipe cutters that are better. Burrs are easily removed with a pocketknife. Joining the pipe with fittings is done with a solvent and adhesive that are brushed on (the brush is usually included with the lid of these two products).

Plastic pipe can be joined to any other type of pipe because there are transition fittings.

Most homeowner’s policies cover the leaking problem, including repairs. However, don’t let them come in and tear into your foundation. A better repair is to install new pipe in tunnels under the slab. If this is acceptable under the code, pressure your insurance company to do it this way. They will resist because it’s more costly than the old jackhammer way-but the jackhammer method can damage the slab, and that could mean bigger problems!

How to Fix a Lamp

Remember that with the lamp unplugged, you can’t get shocked.

To find out why the lamp doesn’t work, check these things:

1. Is the bulb burned out? Try a new one.

2. Is it getting current? Plug the lamp into another outlet on a different circuit. If it lights up, then you must determine if the outlet is bad or if the entire circuit is out.

3. While the lamp is plugged into a live circuit and the switch is turned on, wiggle the plug. If the light flickers, check the plug. If wires are loose, tighten them. If not, replace the plug. There are easy to replace plugs called quick-connects. There is no splitting or stripping. Just snip off the old plug, push the wire through the outer body of the new plug, and sharp points stab the insulation to make contact. The white wire should be on the side with the wider prong.

4. Test the cord by flexing it. If you get intermittent light, either change the cord or cut out the bad section. You can also use a continuity tester to find out if the cord is the culprit.

fix a lamp How to Fix a Lamp

5. After all that, if you haven’t found the problem you can probably assume that the socket is bad.

If you have to replace the socket, it may be an opportunity for you to replace the old one with a three-way socket. Of course, you need to have a 3-way bulb. Or, maybe you’d like a dimmer switch. They are all wired in just like the old one. Here are the steps:

1. Unplug the lamp and remove the bulb.

2. Remove the old socket from its base by pressing the outer brass shell with your thumb and forefinger. If it’s stubborn, pry with a screwdriver.

3. Remove the cardboard insulation sleeve.

4. Unscrew the two screws holding the wires.

5. Split and trim off the wires. Strip off about 3/4-inch of insulation. Tightly twist the strands on each wire to make it into one wire.

6. Before attaching the wires to the socket, tie an Underwriter’s Knot. This prevents stress from pulling the connections loose.

7. Curl each wire in a clockwise fashion so that when the screws are tightened, the wire is pulled into the screw.

8. Be sure to include the insulating sleeve as you put the pieces back together and snap it in place securely.

How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

One tiny drip every few seconds may seem insignificant, but in a year’s time it can waste thousands of gallons of water, a precious commodity. To many of us, money is also a precious commodity and these thousands of gallons of water wasted means you’re pouring a couple of hundred bucks down the drain every year.

The most common reason for the drip is a failed part, inside. This problem part is usually a washer or an O-ring. The skill level for this repair is “Freshman.” The cost for repair parts runs from less than a dollar to a few bucks, depending on the type of faucet. When using a wrench or pliers on chrome, pad the metal with a rag or tape to avoid bite marks from the tools.

dripping faucet How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

First, let’s talk about the faucet that drips from the spout. Here’s what you do:

1. Turn off the water supply, usually with stop valves under the sink. If there are two separate faucets and only one is leaking, just shut off the valve on the leaking side. If you don’t have shut off valves under the sink, go to the main shut off.

2. Remove the handle. Often the handle will be held in place by a hidden screw. This may be under a decorative plate that can be pried off with a tiny screwdriver. Sometimes the handle will be attached by a small setscrew on the back. Under the handle, there will be a nut from which the stem sticks out. Turn this nut counterclockwise.

3. With the nut removed, you may need to replace the handle temporarily to back the stem out.

4. At the bottom of the stem will be the washer, usually held on by a brass screw. Some washers resemble a tiny diaphragm and others have prongs that snap into place in the screw hole. Take the old part in to the retailer for an exact replacement.

5. Now put everything back in place, restore the water supply, and you should have solved the drip problem.

Sometimes after performing this chore you start to pat yourself on the back, then you see that the faucet still drips. This is usually because of a botched up seat. Shut off the water supply and remove the stem again. Look down into the body of the faucet. You should see a brass collar with a hole in it. This is called a “seat.” The hole is usually hexagonal, but can be square. If the brass is badly scarred, the washer can’t compress and seal itself against the collar; thus, the drip is still with us.

There are two ways to solve this problem. One is to replace the seat. You’ll need a very inexpensive tool called a seat wrench. This makes removal and replacement a piece of cake. You just poke the tool into the hole until it engages and then turn counterclockwise. The second way is to grind the seat off so it’s smooth again. This is done with a seat-dressing tool, also inexpensive.

What about the newer single handled faucets? This repair is also very simple:

1. Shut off both hot and cold water supply valves.

2. Remove the handle, usually held on by a setscrew on the back.

3. Unscrew the cap under the handle.

4. Now you should be able to lift out the cartridge or whatever type mechanism operates the faucet. Since there are so many different types, I hope you saved the owner’s manual.

5. If you know the make and model of the faucet, you can get a repair kit with all the replaceable parts, along with really good instructions on replacement. To be sure you get the right kit, take the mechanism into the parts place.

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