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posted: 8/26/2011 12:30 AM

Super Handyman: Fix your leaky tub drain plug and stop wasting water

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Wasting water is something we all should avoid. One place where water gets wasted is in a bathtub with a faulty drain plug. If your tub drain is just a rubber plug, then you can replace it. But if you have a plunger-type stopper, it's a little harder to fix. Here's how to tackle it and win!

Place a towel over the drain to prevent lost hardware or a scratched surface.

Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the cover plate on the side of the tub to access the linkage. You'll be surprised what it all looks like when you remove it from this single hole.

Pull out the linkage and take a closer look at it. It can be cleaned with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. You can put the whole thing in a bucket of the mix and let it sit for a while if you need to.

To adjust the linkage to fit tighter, you simply need to loosen the lock nut that holds the linkage in place, turn the whole thing to lengthen the rod a little and then tighten the lock nut back into place. Then it all goes back into place, down into the side of the bathtub. You may have to repeat this a couple of times to get it just right, but when you do, your days of wasting water will be over!

Find other places around your home where water leaks, and take care of them, too. We all need to be a lot more vigilant about this.

Attic access

Almost all homes have access panels to the attic, and these hardly ever are sealed properly. It's a good idea to weatherstrip the doorway. Easy-to-install foam weatherstripping will work, as will peel-and-stick vinyl strips. Cover the inside of the door with batt insulation to prevent heat and cold transfer from the attic area. This won't cost much and usually pays for itself in a month or so.

Shop cabinet shopping

You can use many different types of storage cabinets in your shop or garage. The ones made for shop storage usually do have some benefits, like being weatherproof, lockable and super strong, but if you don't have the budget for them right now, old kitchen cabinets will do. You can add locks if you want to, and replacing the standard doors with pegboard is another neat thing you can do. That way, you have lots more storage space for tools and hardware. See for yourself.

Super hints

• It's a good idea to replace old caulk as it starts to deteriorate. Spray it with some Spray 'N Wash, a laundry pre-treater, to soften it up. This makes it easier to remove. Clean the surface and apply new caulk.

• In an effort to help my windshield wipers last a little longer, I cleaned the rubber blades. I lightly sanded them with a fine-grit sandpaper. Then I wiped off the dust and put a thin coat of petroleum jelly on the rubber. They are like new again. I'm sure I will have to replace them soon enough, but I should be able to get another six months out of the old ones first.

• Need a heatproof place to do some soldering? Use a hot pad or even an ironing-board cover. As long as they are heatproof, they will protect your tabletop or workbench from burns and let you get your repairs done safely.

Q. I stained my fence again this summer but spilled some of it on the driveway. How can I remove it?

A. Unfortunately, you probably can't remove it. You might be able to try bleaching it out with laundry bleach. A power washer also might help. It probably will wear off eventually, but because the surface is so porous, it is hard to prevent stains. If you can get it clean, use a concrete sealer to prevent future stains.

Q. When we replaced the water filter on our refrigerator, it started leaking. We shut off the water but don't know what to do next. Can you help?

A. It is possible that the housing around the filter has cracked. Make sure you use the proper replacement filter to avoid this issue. The housing is easily replaced, and with a little hunting, you should be able to get the part for not too much money.

Q. I hate the old countertops in my kitchen. I want to change the color but can't afford granite just yet. Can I put new laminate over the old if it's in decent shape?

A. If they are in good shape and there are no loose edges or bubbled-up areas, you can. You just need to scuff-sand the whole surface, apply contact adhesive and put down the new laminate. If you've never worked with contact adhesive before, read the instructions carefully, and make sure you have everything you need on hand to do the job before you start. You don't want to make a mistake with this stuff. You also will need to trim the edges and probably apply some type of edging around the sides, so plan for that as well. The laminates available today are a pretty sound product, although they still have the same rules as always: no hot dishes or cutting on the countertops.

Reader tips

• My wife and I are trying to clean up a bad mess that occurred after our last family get-together. A large pan of grease was accidentally dropped on our family-room carpet. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but our carpet was a mess. After we cleaned up the biggest part of the mess, we put some cat litter over the leftover grease and left it overnight. Surprisingly, the cat litter absorbed almost all of it. I put more on for another day, and then my wife vacuumed it away. You can barely tell that anything ever happened. It was so amazing that I had to tell you about it.

• I hate mice! We are in a new-housing area, and I guess because of all the new homes in our area, the mice are coming into our house to hide. I have tried a lot of different ways to get rid of them, but the snap traps still work the best. I bait them with bacon instead of cheese. They have to pull and tug on the bacon, and it snaps the trap quicker. It works better than everything else I've tried.

• I try to reuse expensive solvents when I can. Most of the time, you need to strain it to clean it before storing it in the container again. But this isn't very hard to do, and it's worth it for the money savings. I just put a coffee filter into the funnel before pouring the liquid back into the original container. The coffee filter strains out the trash for me. It doesn't take much extra time or effort.

• I store a lot of our family things in the basement. It's a great place to store things, and it's easy to get to them when we need them. My wife wanted to turn the basement into a spare bedroom for guests, so we had to get more creative with the storage. I built a large storage closet into one end of the basement. Then I added a super storage area under the stairs. I put in sturdy shelves all the way up to the top of the stairs. We can put tons of stuff in this area, and it doesn't get in the way of the new "guest room." The stair storage looks so great that my wife wants to do this to our closet upstairs that encloses the area under the stairs.

• My kitchen sink has been getting worse throughout the years. It has happened so gradually that I just didn't bother with it. But drainage had gotten so slow that it was making washing dishes hard to do. I took the aerator off to see if there was something blocking the water flow. The screen was almost totally full of sand. I have no idea where this came from. I washed it out and my sink is like new again.


• How do you know if the caulk you put down has set up and is ready for paint? Touch it, right? Then you have to smooth it over again if it hasn't set up yet. Red Devil's ColorCure Pink2White Sealant ends that problem forever. The caulk goes on pink and changes to white when it is ready to be painted. It's great for indoor and outdoor uses, and even incorporates the patented HomeShield antimicrobial protection for a tight, weatherproof seal. Use it on wood, glass, aluminum, masonry, tile, brick and metal. Check it out at your favorite hardware store or home center. For additional information, go to or call 800-4-A-DEVIL.

• Great Stuff Work Wipes are great for tough shop messes. The wiping cloths come in a convenient dispenser package so you can keep it on your workbench or in your toolbox. They clean up messes like silicone sealant, caulk, polyurethane, paint and even uncured Great Stuff. They also work great on grease, oil, tar, epoxy and tons of other stuff. They are tear-proof, use no harsh solvents and even smell nice. Grab some while picking up other supplies for your next project at your hardware store or home center. To find out more, visit

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

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