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posted: 8/16/2013 12:28 AM

Simple steps to unclog that shower drain

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A hot shower is something we all look forward to after a long day's work. But if the drain is running slow or not at all, it becomes a lot less rewarding. But it can be cleared, hopefully without a lot of drama.

Here are some things you can try to free up that clogged shower drain.

• The first, and easiest, thing to try is a small snake or one of the new plastic strips with barbs along the side. Both of these are pushed down into the drain to loosen hair, which usually is the problem with clogged shower drains.

• A plunger also is something you can try without removing the drain cover. Place it over the drain and push and release it several times to try to move the clog.

• If that doesn't do the trick or you need better access, you should remove the drain cover. If there's a screw or two holding it in place, remove these. Be extra careful that you don't accidentally drop the screws down into the drain. If the drain cover is held in place by caulk, or plumber's putty, then you can gently pry it up, being careful not to scratch the shower surface.

• Once the cover is up, it will be easier to snake out the drain.

• There's a neat device called the Drain King. This gadget fits onto the end of a garden hose and gets forced into the drain. When the hose is turned on, it swells and then pulses out a strong jet of water to help force the clog out.

• Another way to work with the snake is from another location. If you have a clean-out plug near the shower, remove the cap and run the snake in through the plug. These probably are located on the outside of the house, in the vicinity of the bathroom.

• If you haven't snaked out your attic vent lately, that also could contribute to the drainage problem. Just be careful when working up on the roof. Do them all while you are up there and see if it doesn't help some of the other drains in the house.

• As a last resort, you can try using chemical clog busters. Just be very careful.

That's about all you need to do in most cases. Good luck!

Truck tip

If you have a truck, then you can haul around all sorts of building materials. Of course, to keep it all in the bed, use tie downs, bungee cords and other things to hold the material in place. But we found a super way to do it much quicker using a tension rod made for a shower curtain. You can install one that fits between the sides of the wheel wells or the span of the truck bed, and it can be pushed up or down, depending on your needs. Placed on top of the materials, it holds them down, so they won't flop around and fall out. It should get your stuff home from the store in one piece!

Make sure your projects measure up

You know the old saying: "Measure twice, cut once." It goes right along with another saying: "Haste makes waste." The point is you need to slow down and make doubly sure you know what you are doing before you make a mistake. To ensure your measurements are precise, write them down -- right on the tape-measuring case, if you can. Just put a piece of masking tape on the case and you'll have a super place to take notes as you do your measuring. It will save you time and, possibly, building materials!

Super hints

• Outdoor solar pathway lights are very inexpensive and easy to use. But if you don't have a yard to stick them into, just stick them into a pot of soil or rocks. You can light up a patio, deck, house entrance and other areas you might not have considered before.

• If you need a base for a table umbrella, just get a large flower pot, stick a PVC pipe that is one size larger than the umbrella shaft right into the center of the pot and fill in around it with concrete or plaster of Paris. Don't fill the pot all the way up. Once it's set up, you can pot soil and plants on top of it to hide the concrete.

• Teflon tape, wrapped around the threads of your plumbing connections, gives you a better seal. If you don't have any, try using a wax lip-protection product, like Chapstick, on the threads. It will do just about the same thing.

Q. In the process of painting, I removed the soffit vents on the outside of the house. I noticed a lot of insulation that was over the tops of them within the attic. Is there some way to prevent this from happening?

A. If you check your hardware store, you'll find that it actually carries a baffle that is designed to be attached to your rafters and shield the vent to prevent insulation from settling over the vents. The baffles are easy to install and very inexpensive. Proper ventilation through these vents is very important for your attic, so installing them will be worth it for sure.

Q. I know there's a way to magnetize screwdrivers and bits, because I remember my dad doing it. I can't remember how to do it. Can you tell us?

A. Just take a good magnet and run it down the side of the object you want to magnetize. Run it in one direction only, several times. The more you do it, the stronger the magnet will be. You may have to repeat it periodically to keep it magnetized.

Q. Our garage door has glass windows in it. We would like to find a nice way to cover up these windows so people can't see in. If there's a way to still let some light in, that would be great. What do you suggest?

A. Check your home center for some peel-and-stick window film made just for this purpose. You can usually find it in a wide variety of styles and colors. It's perfect for this situation or for bathroom windows where drapes aren't practical. You should be able to find one that will look good from the outside and still let some light in, too.

Reader tips

• We don't use our fireplaces, even in the winter. They just aren't very efficient. We do like the ambience of a nice fire, though, so we found some large candle holders that we have placed in the fireplaces. We do use these a lot and are always having to replace the candles. The hard part is getting the old wax out of the glass holders to replace them. We figured out that we can set all of the glasses into the freezer for a couple of hours. This makes the wax really hard and it easily chips out.

• Our front door has a large, leaded glass panel in its center. The house faces west, so the sunlight comes right through the door and makes our entryway very hot. I found some fabric at the craft store that has a layer of insulation in it. I cut it to fit the window and then used double-sided tape to hold it in place around the edges. It looks normal from the outside, but seals up the window to the inside. I won't keep it up all year, but it sure helps during the hot summer days.

• We use window fans at our summer home. It's enough to keep things comfortable and it's been an economical way to do it. Since our parents are spending more time with us, we have added filters to the fans. We found filters that were the same size as the fan and we use double-sided tape to secure the filters to the fans. The filters seem to take care of the pollen problems, and we feel better about that.

• My wife and I have been shopping for a new cooktop for our kitchen. In the process we found some new cabinet doors that close by themselves. They are amazing -- and pricey. We will wait until we can afford this luxury, but my wife did make our existing doors quieter. She bought small, round felt pads that stick on the doors in the corners so that, when you close them, the felt makes the first contact so they are much quieter.

• Our yard is surrounded by a block wall. We painted the wall and decided to do a mural on one section. We bought small cans of some paint, but needed smaller quantities for some outlines. I found a really good paint pen at the craft store. I had to use two of them, but the package I bought had two. The paint is permanent, even outdoors, and I was able to get a very detailed outline. I highly recommend these, and they come in tons of colors, too.


• Vinegar is one of those everyday household products that we all have in our homes. It has tons of uses there, as well as in the shop and even outdoors. It's really inexpensive and can save you money in many cases. We have put together a list of some of our favorite, tried-and-true uses for the stuff. You also can get this information, as well as a lot of other interesting tips, on our website at

• The Garden Multi-Snip from Fiskars is super handy. This one is perfect for deadheading, trimming, harvesting, cutting and even a little light sawing. It has a special soft-grip handle for better control and less fatigue and is made to last a long time. The safety lock prevents accidents, and it's made for either right- or left-hand users. Check it out at or at your favorite garden center.

• We, and many other parts of the country, have to deal with problems created by mosquitoes. One of the most effective and safe things you can use to control them is a Mosquito Dunk, which is a small, round tablet that is made of BT (bacillus thuringiensis). Once placed in water, it dissolves to kill mosquito offspring before they can grow up to become biting adults. It won't harm other animals or insects, and is very inexpensive -- some communities even give it away. Look for it at your garden center or at

• 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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