Are You Ready For It?
This can be a messy business, not that difficult, but messy. You have to ask yourself whether you are willing to get wet and, yes, dirty. That’s the nature of the plumbing beast. Many plumbing items are heavy and cumbersome, like toilets and sinks. Are you interested in the manual labor part of the job? Plumbing takes time. Once you take something out you have to replace it. You can’t leave it. Have you got the time? Since you aren’t a plumber, there are things to do that aren’t obvious and code regulations you have to adhere to. Are you willing to take the time and trouble to research what you don’t know? Above all, are you the kind of person that likes to work on your house? Do you enjoy it? If after evaluating yourself with these questions, you think you still want to do it, go get them.
The most common problem around a house and the one that requires the least effort and knowledge is unclogging drains. I don’t mean the main pipes, no not those now. The sink or bathtub drains are the most common bugaboos in a house (or an apartment for that matter). Plumbers love them. They’re easy to fix and they get their fee for the visit. So how do you manage them? The most common culprit in the bathroom is hair. Careful as you may be, hair manages to get into the drain and once it catches hold, it mushrooms into a solid plug.
Unclogging a Bathroom Sink
In most bathroom sinks, the stopper that moves up and down to close or close the drain in removable. If it is, your job is relatively easy. Before I go further, let me suggest very strongly not to use a chemical to solve the problem of Drano or its ilk. If it fails and you have to eventually get into the drain or even call a plumber to do it, it’s hazardous because you are dealing with a high concentration of lye which can give a bad burn. Unscrew the stopper and remove the plastic piece under it. This piece is where the hair catches and builds up. Run some water into the sink. If it goes down easily, you have found your problem. Clean the hair off thoroughly, wash the piece off so that it’s smooth and replace it. Screw the stopper on and check that the stopper works with the control rod and you are done. The water should run down freely.
If the stopper isn’t removable, the problem is the same but the solution is different. In this case, you need some kind of tool to get the drown and pull the hair out. There is a cheap tool called a Zip-it which is a plastic strip about 2 feet long with barbs all along each side. Insert it down the drain and pull back up. The barbs will catch the hair and pull it out. You will be amazed at how much hair is plugging up the sink. If you don’t have access to a Zip-it, you can make an effective tool with a wire hanger. Detach the hanger so that it’s a long piece of wire. With a plier, preferable a needle-nose, bend the end about a half inch long into a hook. Use this to insert into the drain and when you pull it back, it should pull some hair with it. Repeat until you think all the hair is gone. Try running water until it flows smoothly. Repeat with the hook until it does.
Bathtubs and Toilets are a bit more intricate. Stay tuned for the next post for help on those.