Easy DIY Bathroom Fixes For Your Home
It’s no secret that a bathroom remodel is one of the top projects that will yield the best bang for your home improvement buck. Although the return on investment may be great, tight finances may postpone a full-blown remodel. Even if the old austerity ‘super-saver’ partial bathroom remodel is out of the question, there are still a multitude of easy and cost-effective improvements that you can do yourself that will make the space more attractive and livable.
Cleaning is king!
One of the best and most economical means of sprucing up an old bathroom is cleaning. It’s something that most people can do, it doesn’t cost much and we have yet to see a bathroom that couldn’t benefit from it.
Mildew is usually a problem in most bathrooms due to the high amount of moisture that is present. For many years we have been using a homespun formula developed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Forrest Product’s Lab that is designed to remove mildew on painted and washable surfaces – inside and out. Mix 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent, one quart of liquid chlorine bleach into three quarts of warm water. Add the bleach to the water first and then the detergent. Even though the solution is mild, be sure to wear eye protection, rubber gloves and have plenty of ventilation. Put the solution into a clean, empty plastic spray bottle and spray it onto the affected areas. Allow it to sit until the black mildew stains turn white (about 5 to 10 minutes), but don’t let it dry. Rinse with warm water and dry. This works particularly well on tile, grout and painted walls and woodwork.
If after using the solution, caulking still has mildew, your only course of action is to remove the existing caulking, use the mildew cleaner, dry the area and wipe it down with denatured alcohol and apply a new bead of caulk.
If tile grout still shows signs of mildew, discoloration, hairline cracks or pitting; you’re best bet is to re-grout the tile with a fresh coat of grout. This simply involves removing the uppermost surface of grout (about 1/8 inch) using a manual or electric grout saw. Clean the area and apply a new layer of grout using a rubber grout float. Use a damp sponge to remove the excess and polish the remaining haze with cheesecloth. Once the grout has cured, use a high quality grout and tile sealer to prevent future staining and mildew growth.
Where there’s Mildew…!
Mold on walls is usually accompanied by peeling or bubbled paint at walls and ceiling. As is the case with mold, this almost always results from too much moisture. You can convert your bathroom from a swamp and cut down on your cleaning by improving ventilation in the room. If your bathroom doesn’t have an exhaust fan, install one – even if the room contains a window. If it does have a bath fan, use it! Keep in mind that a bath fan should operate not only during bathing, but for up to one half hour thereafter. Install a timer switch that will automatically turn the fan off at a preset time.
Most bathrooms should contain a fan with a minimum cubic foot per minute (cfm) rating of 80. If your bathroom has a bath fan and you still have mildew, chances are good that the fan is either too small or isn’t being run enough to do the job – or both! Installing a retrofit fan upgrade kit is a great d-i-y bathroom improvement that will pay big dividends down the road.
Drip, Drip, Drip!
Aside from being the cause of a many a sleepless night, a leaky toilet or faucet (lavatory, tub or shower) can be both annoying and a huge waste of water. Additionally, a leaking faucet often results in a pitted and/or rusty basin or tub.
A leaking toilet usually results from a defective or poorly sealing flapper. The flapper is the rubber stopper that seals the drain at the base of the tank. When you press the flush lever it raises the flapper allowing water to enter the bowl to create the siphon effect that results in a flush. A replacement flapper costs just a few bucks and can be installed in a matter of minutes. Be sure to clean any mineral build-up that may be present on the throat that the flapper seals against using a nylon scouring pad.
A leaking faucet usually indicates that the rubber gasket (washer or O-ring) is worn and needs replacement. This can be as simple as a small rubber washer or, in the case of a modern valve, can be a replacement cartridge. In either case, your best bet is to turn of the water, remove the valve stem or cartridge and bring it with you to the home center, hardware store or plumbing wholesale house to identify the proper replacement. Simply remove the valve handle (usually held in place by either a machine or Allen screw). Use a crescent wrench or adjustable pliers to remove the packing nut that holds the valve stem or cartridge in place. Make the repair and put everything back together in the reverse order that they were removed.
Curled Vinyl Can Curl Your Toes
Beyond looking like the dickens, vinyl flooring that is curling at the location where it abuts a tub or shower can be a cleaning nightmare and worse yet can allow water to get to the subfloor, which can result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repair bills.
The appearance can be improved and repair bills avoided by making an easy repair. Start by applying some heat to the curled area using a clothes iron. Lay a towel down first to prevent damage to the vinyl. Apply steady, even heat while pulling back the vinyl a couple of inches. This will permit you to clean the area up with a vacuum and apply some fresh vinyl adhesive. Use a modest amount though — too much can cause the vinyl to ripple. Re-lay the vinyl and apply constant pressure to the area with heavy objects like books. After several hours, remove the weight and apply a fresh bead of caulk at the joint. Your floor should be almost as good as new.
A little cleaning, a little caulking, and a few do-it-yourself repairs can sustain your bathroom until your pocket book allows for the bathroom of your dreams – or at least a new toilet and faucet. Have fun!