Bathroom Plumbing: Common How-To’s

Bathroom Plumbing: Common How-To's

Beyond the kitchen, the bathroom is the next most complex room of the home, which means that there are a few things that can go wrong with various fixtures. There isn’t always time to wait for a plumber. The good news is, some fixes are easy enough to do yourself — without the expense or long wait time that comes with hiring a plumber. Here are a few common issues and what you can do to solve them yourself.

Fixing a Clogged Toilet

When fixing a clogged toilet, first make sure that the toilet doesn’t overflow as you’re working on the problem. To do this, shut off the valve on the supply line that feeds the toilet and make sure that the flapper inside the toilet tank stays closed as you work.

To fix the clog, start with a plunger. Often, the pressure that repeated plunging applies to stuck debris in the soil pipe is enough to fix the clog. If the plunger doesn’t work, you’ll need to use an auger. These inexpensive tools are cables that are designed to be run down the toilet’s drain. Push the auger into the bowl’s drain and apply pressure, feeding as much of the cable into the drain as you can. Eventually, you’ll feel the auger come to a stop where the clog is located. Apply a bit more pressure to break through the clog. If you’re having trouble getting the auger through the toilet itself, then you may need to remove the toilet for better access to the drain pipe. Refer to the next section for instructions on installing a toilet.

How to Install a Toilet

If you are installing a new toilet, then the first step is to put the toilet together. For this, refer to the instructions that came with the toilet: Some toilets come pre-assembled. Others are one-piece with little assembly required. Some toilet models are two-piece — the tank and bowl are separate — which means you’ll need to do the assembly before you can install it. If you’re simply putting your old toilet back after fixing a clogged drain, then move to the next step.

Once any assembly is completed, start with the flange that sits underneath the toilet itself. Scrape any remaining bits of the original wax ring and then place a new wax ring over the flange. You’ll also need two closet bolts, which are brass bolts that secure the base of the toilet to the floor — insert these into the keyhole slots in the flange.
Next, pick up the toilet (carrying it by the bowl and not the tank so that you don’t accidentally crack the tank) and gently place it on the flange, making sure that the closet bolts are threaded through the holes in the base of the toilet itself. Once in place, you can now tighten the nuts on the closet bolts to secure the toilet to the floor.
Re-attach the supply line and turn on the angle stop (the shut-off valve behind the toilet) or start the next how-to for instructions on replacing the supply line and angle stop.

Replacing a Supply Line and Angle Stop

Replacing the supply line and angle stop is a simple task. Start by locating a shut-off valve that will shut off water to the plumbing that feeds your bathroom (or shut off the water to the entire home at the main valve). Once this is done, use a crescent wrench to remove the original angle stop. Gently clean the threads on the exposed pipe to remove debris or bits of old Teflon tape.

Apply a new layer of Teflon tape to the pipe’s threads. Then, screw the new angle stop in place. Once the valve is finger-tight, use a crescent wrench to gently tighten the angle stop the rest of the way. However, be careful not to over tighten, as this can crack the angle stop’s housing. When that is finished, the new supply line simply screws down to the exposed threads on top of the new angle stop. When you’ve installed the supply line to the angle stop, you can then attach it to the bottom of the toilet and you’ll be finished with the toilet installation!

What About Bathroom Sink Drains?

What if you have a clogged bathroom sink drain? The process to this repair is a little bit different. Start with the drain plug assembly, as the problem is often hair or other debris that has collected on the plug itself. Underneath the sink, you’ll find a rod that connects to an arm, which fits into the sink drain. This is the assembly that allows you to open and close the drain plug. Unfasten the spring clip that attaches the vertical rod to the horizontal arm, then unscrew the nut that holds the arm and ball valve inside the drain. Remove the arm and ball valve, and you’ll be able to lift the drain plug out of the drain. Remove any debris, then replace the parts in the reverse order in which you removed them.

Clogged P-Traps

Clogged P-traps are even easier to fix. For this job, place a bucket underneath the trap to catch water as you take the trap apart. Then, locate the two nuts on either side of the trap and loosen them to remove the trap itself. Once it comes free, you can use a toothbrush or a bottle brush to clean the clog before replacing the trap.

As you can see, not all bathroom issues require a plumber. Follow these steps to correct some of the most common issues that you’ll face quickly and easily.