Kitchens, Bathrooms, and Appliances

Problems and Solutions

Slow Draining Sink

Check the p-trap (u-shaped pipe in your drain) under your sink in the drain line. It should have a threaded union that you can disconnect. If there is grease, hair, or food, clean it and re-install. If you have a garbage disposal and the p-trap cleaning doesn't work, remove the garbage disposal and check for debris or problems (see our video on removing and installing a garbage disposal). If those don't work, you may have a more extensive problem in your drain line and should call a plumber.

Gas Odor

If you detect an odor of gas in your home or near an appliance, immediately turn off the shutoff valve at all gas appliances. Do not light any flames or cause a spark. Open windows to allow gas fumes to vent. Call a licensed gas fitting contractor to come to your home to fix the problem.

Running Toilet

Jiggle the handle to see if it will stop the water flow. If it does, you need to replace the "flapper" that is inside tank. Take the lid off the tank and disconnect the flapper and chain. A new flapper can be purchased at any home center and easily installed. If jiggling the handle doesn't work, you may need to replace all of the parts inside the tank. Those replacement kits are also available at any home center and can be easily installed according to the directions on the package.

Grout Falling Out Around Tub or Shower Pan

If you have tiled walls around your tub or shower and there is loose grout falling out between the bottom row of tile and the tub or shower pan, this can be easily fixed. Any joint between tile and a non-tile surface should be caulked rather than grouted. There are sanded and non-sanded caulks available at home centers or tile stores that match most grout colors. Remove the grout between the tile and the tub with a chisel or grout removal blade on an oscillating saw. Purchase the caulk that matches your grout color and caulk the joint after removing the grout, cleaning, and drying.

Garbage Disposal Locked Up

If your garbage disposal is making a humming sound, but isn't spinning, your flywheel is most likely stuck due to debris. First, either unplug the unit or turn off the appropriate circuit breaker if it is hard wired. Next, use an allen wrench to insert into the hex nut on the bottom of the unit to try to spin the flywheel and dislodge the obstruction. Then use a small rod and pliers to locate and remove the obstruction from the sink side. Plug the unit back in or turn the breaker back on. Turn on the water and flip the disposal switch to see if it works properly. If the disposal isn't making any noise when you flip the switch, many units have a reset button on the underside. Look for this button and press it to reset the unit. Try operating the disposal again.

Food Scraps Pouring Back Into Dishwasher

If you notice that food scraps are returning to your dishwasher after it has drained, you may just need to adjust your dishwasher's drain line. We're talking about significant amounts here, not just a couple small bits that may not have drained. The problem could be the positioning of your dishwasher drain line. The drain line should have a "high loop" behind it before entering the cabinet under your sink where it ties to your main drain. To check this, you'll need to pull the dishwasher out and check the drain line. It should be fastened to the back of the dishwasher up high and then descend down into the cabinet. If that's not the case, secure it in that fashion, slide the dishwasher back into place and test by running another cycle.

Dishwasher won't fill up

This is likely the same cause as the problem above. Your dishwasher's drain line should be attached to the rear of the dishwasher up high before it descends into the adjacent sink cabinet. If it doesn't, this can create a siphon effect and, as the dishwasher tries to fill, it will just pour water continuously down the drain. This is why you sometimes see the air gap units on top of the counter/sink. They are designed to create an air pocket in the drain line so a siphon can't occur, allowing the dishwasher to fill. Most modern dishwasher setups don't require these, but the drain line must have a "high loop" to prevent the siphon from occurring. If you need to check it, slide the dishwasher out from under the counter and check the drain line positioning. If it's not attached in a high loop fashion, attach the drain line to the back of the unit as high as possible and slide it back under your counter. Run another cycle to check its operation.

Leaky Shower Head

It's a fairly common problem to see water dripping from behind your shower head where it connects to the arm going into the wall. Usually, this is a simple fix with some teflon thread tape or an o-ring gasket. Remove the shower head by unscrewing it. You may need to use pliers (if you do, put a towel over the shower head connection before applying pliers so you don't scratch it). There should be an o-ring gasket in the shower head connection. Check that; if it looks rotted or worn, you may need to replace it. Clean the threads on the arm that protrudes from the wall. Apply some teflon tape to the threads and re-attach the shower head. Check for leaks.

Dryer Takes Long Time to Dry

If you notice that your dryer is taking a longer time than usual to dry your clothes, there are a couple possible explanations. The first to check is the dryer vent and lint screen. Make sure you're emptying your lint screen each time before you start your dryer. If you do that, you may have lint built up in your dryer vent, which not only slows down the dryer performance, but is a serious fire hazard. They make inexpensive tools to clean out your dryer vent line that you can buy at most home centers. There are also service companies that will examine it for you and clean if necessary. If that's not the issue, you may have a problem with the appliance itself and should call an appliance repair company.

Mold Growth Showing on Walls or Ceilings

If you see growth of what looks like mold on any of your walls or ceilings, you should get it tested before doing anything else. Mold can cause serious allergic reactions and health issues. You can have a professional come in to examine and test the area or you can buy a test kit at any home center and test it yourself. One of the most important things initially is to determine the nature of the problem and to not disturb any moldy areas. Once mold spores are stirred up and become airborne, that's when they pose the greatest health risk. Mold is indicative of a water issue somewhere behind your walls, so you will need to be ready to find the cause of the problem as well. Don't attempt to remove or treat any mold until it has been tested. If it is indeed a harmful substance, be sure to have it properly removed by remediation professionals. After removal, make sure you find and fix the source of the water that caused the mold issue. In kitchens and bathrooms, mold can be caused by plumbing leaks, improper ventilation (humidity build-up over time), or just surface moisture. Often, what you typically see in a kitchen or, especially a bathroom, is actually just mildew from the surface moisture and humidity (such as around the tub or shower base). Mildew still needs to be properly cleaned and monitored, but this can be done by any homeowner with the right cleaning products and personal protective gear (gloves, mask, goggles).

Steam Buildup in Bathroom

All bathrooms with a shower are required to have either a window or an exhaust fan in the ceiling to remove moisture when showering or bathing. If you have an exhaust fan and notice an unusual steaminess when showering, you should test out the fan. First, turn the fan on and place a tissue just below the fan grill cover. The tissue should stick to the surface due to the fan's suction. If it doesn't, your fan isn't working properly and will need repair or replacement. If the tissue sticks, you may have some blockage in the exhaust duct or the duct may have come disconnected from the fan housing above the ceiling. If either of those happens, the steam will just recirculate into the bathroom. This can cause significant damage over time and create conditions favorable to mold growth. You will need to remove the fan cover and housing to inspect. Be sure the power is turned off to the fan switch prior to removal.

No Hot Water

If your water is flowing, but it won't get hot, there is an issue with your hot water heater. If you have a gas hot water heater, your pilot light may be out. You will usually need to remove the small panel at the bottom of the water heater to expose the pilot light and check it. If it is out, relight it according to the manufacturer's instructions (typically on a sticker on the inside of the panel you removed). If your water heater is electric, open that same panel and you should find a reset button. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for resetting the unit.

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