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posted: 7/26/2013 12:23 AM

Fixing your 'throne' can be a do-it-yourself task

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Whether you have a low-flow toilet or an old-timey "throne," if the wax seal fails at the floor flange, you're going to have to take care of it ASAP. It's not a fun project, but definitely easy enough for an average do-it-yourselfer to accomplish. Since it means lifting the toilet up off the floor, have a friend there to lend a hand. The rest is fairly easy.

You'll need to shut the water supply off under the toilet. If you don't have a shut-off valve there, now might be a good time to add one. If you still have water in the tank, flush it to get it out of the way. If the leak is really bad, you may want to siphon it out or start bailing. One way or another, all of the water needs to be removed from the toilet.

The toilet needs to be removed next. If the tank is connected to the bowl with bolts, remove these and set them aside. Then carefully lift the tank off and set it aside too.

The bowl usually is bolted to the floor flange by two bolts, one on either side at the base. Loosen the nuts on the bolts and try turning them to see if you can lift the bowl off the floor. Carefully set it and the bolts aside as well. You may want to stuff a rag into the sewer pipe to keep the smell from backing up but be very careful that it doesn't slip down into the pipe, or you'll have to add another step to this project.

You need to clean all traces of the old wax ring off the bottom of the toilet bowl and the floor flange. Then make sure the area around both is clean and dry.

Install the bolts, facing upward and straight. Pull the rag out of the drain line, if you used one.

The new wax ring should be placed onto the bottom of the base of the toilet. Then carefully set it down over the bolts and floor flange, keeping it level and straight as you do so. Then give it a little twist to make a good connection. Use your level to check and adjust the toilet so it will be as level as possible. Tighten the nuts on the bolts, being careful not to over tighten them, which could crack the porcelain. If the tank was separate, install it next, making sure to use the proper gaskets so it won't leak.

Once you've checked it for leaks and corrected any issues, run a bead of caulk around the base where it fits to the floor and cover the nuts with covers that match your toilet.

Here's a neat trick for winding cords in half the time

Want to know how to wind a long extension cord up in half the time? All you have to do is fold it in half and then wind it up from the fold out. You need to make sure not to kink the cord too tightly when you fold it. You will end up with a folded cord that has both ends sticking out. It also unwinds a lot faster. Even if you are using a cord reel, you can do it this way. It also helps keep the cord from tangling.

Obsolete drawers find another use in the shop

When remodeling or adding upgrades to your kitchen or bath, you often have to remove a drawer and cabinet in order to install something else, like our neighbor did when installing his wine refrigerator. He was going to toss the drawer, but we came up with a good use for it. We simply added some castor oil to the bottom of it, and now it's a great place to store tools in his very crowded workshop. We think he really needs another one, maybe two. We'll keep looking around for more.

Super hints

• Cars sure have changed, but we still put bumper stickers on them. Of course, you still have to remove them from time to time, too. I've always suggested mayonnaise as a good solvent, but it works even better on the new plastic bumpers.

• If you are climbing a ladder to replace a bulb in a fixture that has more than one to replace, it can be a little treacherous. To avoid ongoing danger, just go ahead and replace all of the bulbs at once. It will save you a lot of time and probably several trips up and down the ladder, and will reduce your risk of a fall.

• The best way to get paint off a glass window is with a razor scraper. If you need a little more help, wipe it with some vinegar first to soften it up a little bit.

Q. I need your help. My wife says that our oven doesn't heat at a consistent level; sometimes it's too hot and sometimes it's too cold. What could be the causing this problem?

A: It's most likely the thermostat. Use an oven thermometer to test it. Set the thermometer in the oven and put the oven on 350 F to check the temperature, and see what the thermometer reads. In most cases, the thermostat is fairly easy to replace. You can check your owner's manual or an appliance repair and parts dealer for the correct model. The other culprit might be the door gasket, which also can be replaced.

Q. The window air conditioner that we use occasionally has a bad smell coming from it. I have cleaned the filter, but the smell is still there. What else can I clean or replace?

A. As the condensation drips from the coils, it fills a tray and drains away. There is a fungus that likes these conditions, and it can smell bad and clog the drain hole. Use a little liquid laundry bleach, mixed with water, to clean the tray and drain hole. Use warm dishwashing liquid and water to clean the coils while you are at it. That should do the trick.

Reader tips

• Our kids are past the wooden-fort stage, but we still have the fort in our yard. The cover was falling apart, so we removed it. Then we added potting soil inside the base area to create a raised bed. We have a nice garden there now, and the shade of the structure really helps protect the plants from the excessive heat we have in our summers. This winter I plan to add plastic to the sides to try to grow a small garden during the wintertime.

• Our new patio door is just great, but it's a lot larger than the old one. My wife started looking for a new curtain rod that would cover the doorway, but they were few and far between, not to mention expensive. I took her over to the home center to see what it had. We found an extra-long piece of metal conduit that would actually need to be trimmed to fit. Then she picked out some neat-looking wooden finials, and we glued them in place. Then I bought the hardware to mount it, and she did the drapes. It looks great and cost us a fraction of what the drapery stores are selling them for.

• I was helping my dad with a project and was drilling a series of 1-inch-diameter holes into a sheet of plywood. The hole on the front side looked good, but it was really ragged on the back side. I started drilling a hole on the front side, then stopped about halfway through. Then I flipped the plywood over and drilled the rest of the way through from the back side. This did add a little more time, but it took care of the ragged-hole problem.

• Every time I go to my sister's house, I spend a lot of time straightening her pictures. They are always crooked and it makes me crazy. I finally suggested that she try what works so well for me. I told her to put a little blob of modeling clay around the wire hanger on the back of the frame right where it hangs on the hook. The clay will help hold it in place. She said it sounded like too much trouble, so I did it for her (and me!).

• The kids can replace their own inner tubes on their bikes now, but I still like to check them out before they go off riding on them. I find great uses for the old inner tubes. They are great for slipping around a large trash can to hold the bag in place. I also have figured out how to cut them and make extra-large rubber bands to use around the house. We always keep them with our camping gear, too. They come in handy for all sorts of things.


• Summer is a great time of the year, but in many parts of the country, it also is humid, and this can bring on mildew problems. Mildew is not only smelly and ugly -- it also can ruin walls, carpeting and just about any surface it gets on. It also can be a health risk for many people, especially children and the elderly. Learn how to rid your home of this problem once and for all. We've put together a neat little pamphlet called "Mildew Around Your House," and it is full of tips on how to get rid of mildew and how to keep it from coming back.

• The Planter's Pal Multi-Purpose Garden Tool looks like a hand trowel, but it's really seven tools in one. One edge of the trowel is serrated for cutting open bags of soil or mulch, and it has a sharpened straight edge for cutting sod, a twine cutter, a weeder tip, a poly tamper for tamping down stakes, markers and fertilizer spikes, and an 11-inch measurement scale for proper plant placement. Even the ergonomic grip is great. Look for it at your garden center or online at

• Rain sensors are required in many cities if you have an automatic irrigation system, and if you are considering putting one in, you need to check out the Wireless Rain & Rain/Freeze Sensor. It's easy to install and easy to use. It allows you to customize it for super responsiveness, which can save you up to 35 percent on water usage. Your landscape is going to look great, and you'll be sure that your system is working at peak performance levels. To get more details, on this product, go to

• 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

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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