Aldrete Maintenance and Handyman service company that specializes in the small projects. I'll give before and after pictures of projects I have worked on and the solutions to any challenges that come up along the way.
The toilet flange and wax ring: This is one of nightmares. You flush the toilet and water, at least you hope it is water starts oozing from underneath the toilet and out over the floor. The smell of sewage is potent in the air. These are both signs of issues with the wax ring and the toilet flange connection. A couple of things could have happened. The toilet was never seated properly or just as with all things, over time things start to sag and pull away. If this happens to you, and you need to replace the wax ring, I suggest if your toilet is over 5 years old and you never replaced any of the parts, this is going to be a good time to that because we are going to be taking the toilet apart anyway. Also, unless you just absolutely hate the toilet, replacing the wax ring doesn’t mean you have to replace the entire toilet. But it could just be me.
So again we will shut of the water either at the shut off in the bathroom or at the main. You will want to drain the tank into a bucket (but have a couple of the small sized ones near by and a lot of towels. Once you have the tank emptied, you can take off the bolts and take the tank completely off the toilet and set it aside or in the bath tub. Next if you have one of those big sponges you can get from the hardware store or the home centers for tiling, use that to soak up the water in the bowl. Strain it out into the sink or the bathtub. Once you have as much water out of the bowl as you can get, you’re ready to loosen the floor bolts. While you’re loosening the floor bolts check to see if your toilet has been caulked at the bottom. I’ll bet that if found a leak from the upstairs bathroom because of some disgusting looking water dripping from the ceiling, it is caulked. More on that later.
Once you have the bolts loosened, if there is caulking around the base of the toilet, take a painter’s tool (one of my favorite and must have tools in every tool bag), and use it to remove the caulking from the toilet and floor. Now by giving the toilet bowl a couple of shoves you should be able to make the toilet wobble. Just give it a couple of gentle tugs upward and the toilet should come loose. Place a towel on the floor near by, and lift the toilet up just a bit, you’ll probably hear a little more water in the bottom, tilt the toilet back and let the water go down the waste line and then put the toilet upside-down on the towel. Stuff the waste line with an old towel or rag, you don’t want to be breathing in the sewage smell for very long. Now with either the painter’s tool or an old putty knife, scrape up the wax ring from off the flange. There is a black piece to the wax ring that goes into the flange, make sure you remove that as well. Check the toilet and make sure there is no residual wax on the toilet part. Take out the new wax ring and place it on the toilet over the hole in the bottom. Press down gently, just enough to get the wax to stick to the porcelain. Now you’re ready to put the toilet back on. Important: Remove the rags from the waste line now… don’t laugh, I hear it happens to some people and the mess is not funny.
The tricky part here is lining up the bolts, if possible, you don’t want the bolts to go through the wax. Once you have the bolts through, use your body weight to evenly press the wax ring down. Use a level to make sure you’re not leaning one way or the other. You can test your seal by adding water directly into the bowl. And then with another gallon or so of water from a bucket you can make it flush. If you see water you need to try again. If not continue to put the rest of the toilet back together.
Some things to consider with this type of leak coming from under the toilet are: Location, upstairs or downstairs, what type of damage and how far did the water travel. The reason to consider these is because even by solving the issue of the wax seal, there may be more serious repairs needed. These include, water damage to drywall, studs, and electrical fixtures to name a few.
So now you have the toilet back together and there are no leaks. Now you have a decision to make. This decision depending on who ask is of the upmost importance when it comes to finishing off your toilet. Caulk. That is right, to caulk or not to caulk, that is the question. You see if you don’t caulk around the base of the toilet you’ll most likely see a gap at the floor where the toilet meets it. If do caulk it, well you won’t have that particular problem. If you have a leak in the wax ring again though, you may not find out about it until the water travels somewhere else, because that caulking does what it supposed to do and keeps the water from getting through. So here is my recommendation, and believe me this is just one of many out there, so please take it with a grain of salt. I recommend not caulking the base of the toilet. I would rather know there is a problem right away versus having a bit of a gap that very few people ever look that closely at anyway.
The Supply line: So your supply line burst… again shut off the water. Dry things up and disconnect the supply line if you can. There are some supply lines that directly connected to the shut off valve. These were very popular in the 1960’s to 1990’s. Then someone came up with braided supply lines. There are pros and cons to both as with everything, but I like the braided supply lines, so whenever I come across them I end up changing them out because it just becomes much easier to work with in the future. So If you’re going to change the supply line I also feel it is a good idea to up date your shut off valve from a multi turn gate valve to a quarter turn ball valve. To do this you will need to shut off the water to the house unless you have the ability to isolate the flow of water to your bathroom or toilet. (if you have PEX piping in your house this is a real possibility, you just need to know where your manifold is, usually in the garage). Once you have the water to the house or isolated off, you can disconnect the shut off valve. There are two types of connections (most commonly used anyway), one that uses a compression fitting and the other is were your copper pipe is threaded. If you have PEX piping, you may still have a copper connection for the shut off valve so check before you continue on.
Assuming that you have a copper connection, you will want to look very closely at the back part of the shut off valve. If it is one solid piece, your pipe is threaded, use caution when trying to turn the shut off valve, this is where pipe can get broken if you’re not patient. If you see what looks like a nut and some visible threads on the valve, you have a compression fitting. Use caution when trying to loosen these connections, and use two wrenches as you can bend or break the pipe if you use too much force. If you see water corrosion on the valve or around the threads it is a good idea to get a metal pick or something similar to scrape away anything that could bind up the nut. Lightly tapping on the valve can also help to the loosen or dislodge the corrosion as well. Have that small bucket ready because there will be some water still in the pipe once you have gotten the valve off.
TIP: After you shut off the water to the house, run the bathtub or sink furthest from the toilet (or any water fixture you are working on), this allows air into the pipes and moves the water away from the area you’re working on. This also can give you a heads up if there are any issues with your main shut off.
If you have a threaded pipe, you’ll need to get a threaded pipe shut off from the hardware store or home center. You’ll want to take the valve you took off to the store to match the size pipe you have. Most common toilet fittings are 1/2” (1/2 inch) pipes. I also recommend getting the “toilet” connection supply that has the plastic compression fitting for the toilet side. The reason is most of the toilet inlets are plastic, and if you use a metal connection, you have the potential for stripping the threads and that can lead to leaks.
If you have a compression fitting, you have a little more work to do, but not much. Once you get the valve off you’ll notice the compression nut and small brass ring are still on the pipe. And while it is tempting to leave them there and just use them with the new valve, I don’t recommend it. So you will need to remove those from the pipe. The fastest way to do this is to cut the pipe behind them if you have enough room between the nut and the wall. If you don’t, then you will need to cut both the nut and the brass ring. Using a small hack saw can the job done, but if you have a Dremmel with a cut off wheel, you’ll get it done faster. Once you have removed them you’re ready to replace the valve.
When replacing a compression fitting, having a clean, smooth copper surface is best. Using some sandpaper 100 or 120 grit will clean the surface of the copper pipe and you can slide on the new compression nut and the brass ring in that order. Slide the nut to the wall, and then once the ring is on the pipe, you can press the valve into place. Push the valve back as far as you can. Then proceed to tighten the compression nut. DO NOT (Sorry, not yelling, just emphasizing) use tape or putty or anything around the threads of the compression fitting. It is not needed and can make it very difficult to remove the fitting later. You also do not want to over tighten the fitting. Hand tighten the nut and then with two wrenches again, tighten the nut a 1/4 turn more. Make sure the valve is in the closed position and turn back on the water. Check for any leaking. If there are leaks, try tightening the compression nut a little more. IF after tightening a total of an additional 1/2 to 3/4 turns and you still have leaking, go turn off the water and try to reseat the brass ring. You may need to clean the pipe a little more. Once you have the valve on and it is not leaking in the off position, you are ready to attache the supply line. Remove the compression nut and brass ring in the supply connection side of the valve. Attach the supply line side that has the corresponding compression fitting. Again, do not use tape or putty. Now that the supply line is connected to the valve, you can clear the line by putting the supply into a 5 gallon bucket and turning on the valve. Check for leaks. If everything is dry except for your bucket, turn off the valve and connect to the toilet. Again turn on the valve and check for leaks. If everything is dry, congratulations!
The Tank to bowl gasket: If you are seeing water on the floor in the general vicinity of the toilet, turn off the water as described earlier. If after you have turned off the water you find that water is still coming from the tank, but not necessarily all going to the bowl, you probably have a leak from the gasket or the bolts that connect the tank to the bowl. Again, if you are reading this in the middle of the night, shut off the water, drain the tank and mop up the mess and go back to bed, you’ll want to take care of this in the morning.
What you will need to complete this repair is a new gasket that matches the size of the hole in the tank and bowl (2 or 3 inch), and you’ll most likely want to get new bolts and washers. I suggest replacing these all at the same time because once you remove the tank from the bowl, getting old washers to be as water tight as they were before is difficult to do. Again, like with the flapper, signs that it is time to replace these rubber washers and gaskets are the wear and tear of them not being smooth around the edges. If they look like they have met up with a belt sander and they are leaking yet, they will soon. Also with the rubber washers, if when you touch them the water becomes black as if a squid had just released all the ink in its ink sac, it is a good time to replace them.
So with the water off, the tank emptied, your screw driver in hand (it will either be a flathead or a phillips head ( a slot - or a +) and either an adjustable wrench or if you have one a pass through socket wrench works best; loosen the bolts and the nut underneath. Once you have all the bolts free of the bowl, you can lift the tank off the toilet. I like to have a towel over the seat of the toilet and you can then place the tank on the flat side to work on it. The rubber gasket will peal away from the lock nut on the bottom. Now it is time to go get the parts if you haven’t already, or if you didn’t know that there would be a couple of different types of gaskets. Take the one you just pulled off with you so you can match the size.
NOTE: There are some gaskets are also attached to the bolts and have rubber that goes through the bolt holes and the bolts go through the rubber. You can find these types of gaskets at the hardware store or home centers, but it is not necessary to use the exact same type, the fix I am detailing here will still work, and in some cases will save you money on parts.
Now that you have the correct size gasket and the new bolts and washers to connect the tank and the toilet bowl together, you are ready to proceed. To clean off that disgusting crud that is all around the connection hole. Most of it is water residue… unless you have guys in the house who stand up… then it can be something else. Just saying.
Okay, now you have a nice clean and hopefully sterile toilet top, and you can put the gasket back on. Depending on the type of gasket you got, either you just slip it on over the lock nut, or you will have to line it up so the cut out inside matches up to the locking nut. Now you can put the bolts back into place. The tank should still be sitting on the seat, place one washer over the bolt and fit it all the way to the head of the bolt. Now place the bolt through the hole so that the head of the bolt is inside the tank, thread the second washer over the bolt. Repeat this for the other one or two bolts depending on how many your tank needs. Now you can place the tank back into position by guiding the bolts through the matching holes on the bowl. Now comes the fun part. Now with your screwdriver putting pressure down, place in this order onto the bolt: the third rubber washer, the metal washer and then the lock nut.
TIP: if you have the pass through socket wrench, put the nut in the wrench and then the washers so that the rubber washer is on top, and then smile to yourself as you think of all the other poor saps you will most likely be fumbling with these washers and nuts trying to get them on.
DON’T OVER TIGHTEN THE BOLTS. Sorry I didn’t mean to yell but it can be costly and cause injury if you over tighten the bolts and break the porcelain thrown. The best way I have found to tighten the bolts is to start with the back bolt, and get the washer to touch the toilet. Then move to one of the sides bolts (if you only have two bolts it is more like a see-saw action to tightening). Once you have all the washers touching the toilet, just kind of go around until you notice that they don’t move easily. Check the level of the tank both in the back of the tank and from the back to the front. You don’t need to be squishing the gaskets, they just need to be filling in the space and be snug. Once the tank is level and it doesn’t rock with a little pressure from you, it is time to turn on the water. I suggest turning it back on slowly, so that if there are any leaks, you don’t get a flood. If you see water coming out from the gasket, then you need to tighten all or a couple of the bolts. If you see water coming down one of the bolts, you’ll need to tighten that bolt. If you don’t see any water, then continue to open up the shut off valve. If you have the valve opened all the way and there is no water escaping it is time for the flush test.
Flush the toilet at least 5 times. This gives you a pretty good indication that the problem is solved. Congratulations!
Nothing wakes me up like the sound of my wife’s voice saying, “The dang toilet is running!” Okay, it’s not like it sounds. But outside of home invasion, my wife telling me that the toilet is running will get me out of bed pretty darn fast, because my wife is a beautiful person, who likes her sleep, and well happy wife, happy life.
So how do fix a leaky toilet? Well that depends, on where the leak is coming from. Most leaky toilets I come across are do to the flapper that gets lifted up when you press the flush lever is no longer seating properly when it goes back down. This can be a very frustrating problem because sometimes it seats right and other times it doesn’t, leading you to think you saved the day only to come back and taunt you.
Then there are the leaks that happen at the gasket between the tank and the bowl or at the bolts that connect the two together. The gasket gets worn and then all of sudden you flush and there is water all over the floor and you don’t know where it came from! Or in the case of the bolts, it is a slow drip that soon becomes a puddle of water.
Then there is the supply line burst, this usually happens when you have gone out of town for a weekend. No doubt just minutes after you backed out of the driveway so that the water would get maximum soakage in the walls and floors, and if it you live in a two story home, you can bet it will first happen upstairs and go through the first floor ceiling.
As if that was the worst of it, you have the worst of the worst leaks that your throne can double cross you with, the leak from below. This where you flush and for some odd reason you notice a pool of the same colored stuff as you just flushed down oozing from below the footing of the toilet?! How could this be?! Is that all supposed to go to the magical land of I don’t need to think about it anymore because I just flushed all that human waste down my toilet?! Again, if you live in a two story house, this will most likely happen to you in one of the upstairs toilets... there some guy’s law about that kind of thing.
Tools Needed Parts
Adjustable wrench Flapper
Small buckets Tank to bowl gasket
Towels Shut off valves
Channel Locks Supply lines
Screw driver Complete toilet repair kit (Sold at home centers)
Okay, so how do you go about fixing these types of leaks AND is there a way to prevent them from becoming huge disasters?! We are going to walk you through these fixes and how to keep an eye out for potential warning signs of impending trouble.
The flapper: there are a couple of things to look at with the flapper. The fist is do you have one. These are the rubber “flaps” that are hooked to the chain and connected to the toilet handle. A continually running toilet that has no water outside the toilet is usually caused by something going on here. Now a flapper in good condition will be a solid color (red, blue, yellow, black). There should be little to no sign of calcium around the edges. Also the edges should not look like they are worn, they should look smooth. The flapper should cover the entire hole from at the bottom of the tank. The chain from the handle should have a little slack when the flapper is down, but not so much slack that the chain can inadvertently get between the flapper and the hole causing a slight gap that let water run continuously into the bowl.
The fix is fairly easy. Turn off the water to the toilet at the shut off valve. This is usually located either straight up from the floor or about six inches from the floor and out of the wall to the left of the toilet. You will have one of two types of shut of valves, a multi-turn gate shut off or a quarter turn ball valve type ( more on these later). If a multi-turn, turn the valve to the right until the valve stops, this should turn off the water flow to the toilet. If a quarter turn valve, turn the handle to the right a quarter of a turn, the point of the valve should be perpendicular to the pipe coming from the floor or wall. Now you can choose to flush the toilet removing the water from the tank (this by the way is the clean water, the same as from your tap so don’t worry about getting your hands wet from this water). Or you can leave the water in and go on to the next step. My recommendation though is to flush the toilet, this way you know right away if you have any other issues besides the flapper. If you still have water flow, you’ll need to change out the shut off valve, and will want to shut the main off while you do any other repairs. So now we are ready to adjust the length of the chain. Simply unhook the chain from the cross bar of the handle and make the chain shorter or longer as needed. I don’t recommend cutting the chain, there maybe a time when you need to make a repair to the handle and it helps to have all the chain there Incase the new handle is shorter or sits differently. Now turn the water back on and see if your chain adjustment worked. If not flush the toilet a couple of times to watch how the flapper falls back into place. Check the flapper and the connection that it covers to make sure there are no foreign objects or debris that won’t allow the flapper to seat properly. If the flapper is worn, or has a lot of calcium build up around it, it would be a good time to just replace it.
NOTE: If this is happening in the middle of the night, turn off the water to the toilet and go back to bed... you can take care of this in the morning. Unless you happen to have spare flappers in you garage or closet...
To replace the flapper, do just as we did before but now you will remove the flapper from the water overflow. Usually this just a couple of plastic hooks coming from the side of the tube. Connect the new flapper in the old ones place, connect the chain and check its length. Turn on the water and again flush it a couple of times to make sure it is seated properly.
Ever gone to look for a filter for your air conditioner and been completely daunted by the seemingly endless selection. Not only does the size of the filter matter, but then you have different ratings. And it seems that brands have different ratings for their filters! Well this is partially true. There is actually some uniformity of the rating systems used. And that is what this blog post is about.
According to Services Champions, (servicechampions.com), there are five (5) ratings you will come across:
1) Microns and particulate matter
5) HVAC air filters dimensions
Most filters homeowners will come across are going to be "pleated," they have a white wavy material that is held together by small metal webbing. What drives the efficiency of the filters is how much of a given particulate matter is removed by the filter. Efficiency of the filter is not related to the efficiency of the HVAC unit. The reason for this is because your HVAC unit requires air circulation to maintain its efficiency. So as you get thicker and thicker filters that remove smaller and smaller particulates, you are intact restricting airflow to the HVAC system. So it is important as we go through the various "levels" of filtration, that you keep in mind, that these levels can have and adverse affect on your HVAC system.
It is also good to know that the dimensions of your filters will be in LxWxH and are printed directly on the box and air filter.
Understanding Particulate Matter and Microns:
So what is a micron? Also known as a micrometer, it is a unit of measure equal to one millionth of a meter. For our purposes, it is the measurement used for particulates. According to the Service Champions website, "the human eye cannot see anything smaller than 40 microns in size." So basically if it smaller than human hair (about 50 microns) your not going to see the particulates being taken out of the air. Fumes are less than one micron.
MERV Ratings for HVAC filters
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This is a standard rating system used by the HVAC industry. This was designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.
MERV Ratings range from 1-20. We will only focus on 1-16 for this post as it is the only range really needed by homeowners. The higher the rating, the more efficient the filters are at removing particulates (but also restricting airflow). MERV ratings tell you the minimum efficiency, so the very least performance you can expect.
MERV ratings 1-4:
Carpet and textile fibers
MERV ratings 5-8:
Hair Sprays and fabric protectors
Cement and pudding mixes
Humidifier dust (mineral dust)
Emissions and fumes
FPR Ratings for HVAC filters
FPR stands for Filter Performance Rating. This rating was developed by The Home Depot and used for the brands of HVAC filters sold in its stores. The ratings are number and color coded. It starts at 4 ("GOOD") and goes to 10 ("PREMIUM").
According to The Home Depot:
FPR4 remove particles like:
FPR7 additionally remove:
FPR9 additionally remove:
FPR10 additionally remove:
These ratings are only used by The Home Depot, so you most likely not see these ratings if you are purchasing your air filters outside of that store.
MPR Ratings for HVAC filters
MPR stands for Micro-particle performance rating. This as created by 3M for their HVAC air filters. It is expressed as a number and it indicates the efficiency of removing particles that are between 0.30 and 1.0 micron in size. This range was used because 99% of all airborne particulate matter falls within this range.
MPR300 (equal to MERV 6)
Captures about 35% of all indoor air pollutants between 3 and 10 microns, including large household allergens like Dust.
MPR600 (equal to MERV 7)
Catches up to 65% of particles between 3 and 10 microns. Includes Dust mites, pollen and debris.
MPR1000 (equal to MERV11)
Catch up to 80% of particles between 3 and 10 microns. They are capable of catching larger allergens as well as smaller particulate matter like smog and bacteria.
MPR1200 (equal to MERV11)
Removes 85% of all airborne particles between 3 and 10 microns. Additionally they remove odors caused by cooking oils, cleaning chemicals, smoking, VOCs and pets or animals.
MPR1500 (equal to MERV 11)
Removes up to 90% of all indoor air particles between 3 and 10 microns. This filters capture larger and smaller allergens, and even particles that carry odors and viruses.
MPR1900 (equal to MERV12)
Remove up to 93% of all airborne particles between 3 and 10 microns. They can remove larger allergen particles like microbiological growth, pet dander and other household particles. In addition they remove smaller allergens like viruses and bacteria.
MPR2200 (equal to MERV 13)
These HVAC filters remove up to 94% of all airborne particles between 3 and 10 microns. They remove particles like viruses, odors, smoke, smog and bacteria.
MPR2800 (equal to MERV 14)
These HVAC filters remove up to 97% of all airborne particles between 3 and 10 microns. They remove all bothersome indoor air pollutants at an increased efficiency rating.
All of these HVAC filters are meant to remove particles from the air that is returned to the HVAC Unit so that dust and particulates are not recirculated through the system or even in some cases to prevent large particles from damaging the mechanical parts of the system. It is tempting to think that by purchasing the highest rated filter would be the best for your home. But as mentioned before, air is an essential part to your HVAC system functioning properly. The more you restrict the flow of air, the harder your system has to work to get the air cooled or heated. The higher the filter rating, the harder it is for air to pass through, so at a certain point, you will be actually hurting your HVAC system and your energy efficiency. It is recommended that you consult your manufacturer's manual to see the recommended ratings for air filters for your system. Unless your home is a hospital setting, you will most likely not have an HVAC system that will be able to utilize filters that are rated more than MERV 9 or 10. The reason is due to the required amount of air needed to circulate through the system. If you have ever had a AC unit freeze up on you it was most likely because there was not enough air circulating and so the compressor had to work extra hard and ended up freezing.
How does a guy who went to college to become a Marine Biologist end up with an Econ degree become a Handyman? I am sure that is a question my mother would like answer to. Actually my mother is one of my biggest supporters and best clients!
Well the real answer to this question is a long one. It all started with a wall back when I was teenager. And that wall somehow found itself with a hole in it. My Dad was non too pleased to find that hole. He promptly put me in the car and drove me down to the local hardware store and purchased the necessary materials needed and took me home. He then proceeded to tell me how to complete the repairs. My Dad always asked me to help him with little repairs around the house, so I learned how to do the odd jobs.
As I went off to college and looked for employment opportunities I landed a job working as a ranch hand mending fences and helping with building structures around the property.
I enjoyed the work and being outdoors. I ended up moving back to the town I grew up in after my dreams of diving in Figi as a Marine Biologist were dashed ( another story for another time). I ended up going to CSUS and getting a degree in Economics. I thought banking and finance would be a good way to make money. And it was. I made good money but wasn’t a fan of micromanagement. I left banking but stayed in the financial sector for a few more years and then ended up landing a job as the General Manager of a small town mall. General Manager was really a fancy title for Maintenance Manager. After a feed years at the mall I became the Operations Manager for a Senior Living community in the town I grew up in. There I was able to really hone my skills in residential and commercial kitchen maintenance.
My wife and I have done our own remodeling work and I have now spent the last three years on my own working hard to help my clients save money on repairs they can no longer do or don’t have the comfort level doing.