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Posted by on Feb 4, 2014 | 3 comments

DIY Home Maintenance: 3 Easy Plumbing Jobs

DIY Home Maintenance: 3 Easy Plumbing Jobs

We’ve had a few plumbing issues in our house, one that required immediate attention and a couple more that we’ve ignored for weeks. As you’d probably expect, my first instinct was not to hire a plumber. As every DIYer has probably said one time or another, “I can do that myself. It can’t be that hard.” I’m happy to report that I single-handedly (except for one) tackled three jobs and saved us a chunk of change — the jobs solved common problems that anyone can fix with some online research, basic tools, and in one case, a quick trip to the hardware store.


Jammed garbage disposal

The last time our disposal jammed and stopped working, we were living in a rental and I wasn’t as hip to the DIY approach as I am now. I called a plumber who charged around $80 for loosening the flywheel and removing the offending object — the plastic ring on the lid of the milk carton. So, this time, I vowed to do the job myself. After pushing the red reset button on the bottom of the disposal under the sink and finding it still wouldn’t work, I downloaded the manual for our model and followed the steps for unjamming the disposal. I first tested the fuse and that wasn’t the culprit. But I turned it off anyway for safety. Then, I found a hex key (which they called a “wrenchette” in the manual), and got under the sink with my trusty headlamp on…


I turned off the hot and cold water and then loosened the blades by turning the wrench counter-clockwise, following this diagram.


After getting it to turn a couple of revolutions, I was able to feel inside the sink drain and remove all debris. This time, we let a twist tie get stuck down there. I tightened the blades again, turned on the power and water, and (much to my delight) the disposal worked.  Nothing like an easy success to boost one’s confidence.

Toilet that takes forever to refill

This was a plumbing issue that we’d been ignoring for a couple of weeks. The last time we ignored a toilet plumbing problem (a running toilet), we got a cruel shock when we got the water bill. This time, though, the issue was that the tank was slow to fill. I found some troubleshooting tips online, removed the tank lid, and I went through them one by one:

  • Was the water shut-off valve near the floor turned slightly off? Nope.
  • Was the rod that connects to the float ball bent or rubbing against the side of the tank? Nope.
  • Was the float ball filled with water? I pulled it off to see. Nope.
  • Was the flapper worn out? Nope.


At this point, my next-door neighbor, Peter, happened to stop by. (He, along with his wife Elin, are extremely skilled in DIY projects; they renovated their kitchen almost entirely by themselves after all.) I dragged him up to the bathroom to describe the problem and the issues I had ruled out. He described the workings of the basic toilet (during which time I glazed over) and then suggested we use a screwdriver to tighten the lever connected to the float ball.


A few turns of the screwdriver, and whaddya know, the toilet is working like a charm again. Thanks Peter!

Broken bathroom sink drain

This has been an issue for months. The pop-up drain stopper somehow got detached from the rod, so you could no longer move it up and down with the rod. When I made my first attempt to fix it, the horizontal rod broke down under the sink. Here is the sink without it.


I finally tackled this project in earnest. First, I studied a few how-to sites online and studied diagrams of the parts of a sink like this one:


I especially liked the instructions and illustrations on the Pretty Handy Girl site. I went to the hardware store, stared at the astonishing array of plumbing gadgetry, and finally, with help from the store clerk, who somehow understood me even with my overuse of the word “thing-a-ma-jig,” bought a replacement gasket, ball, and rod.

Then, I used the Pretty Handy Girl instructions to reinstall the horizontal rod. To connect the stopper to the rod, I had to wiggle the stopper until the rod caught. It took a few tries, and one time the clamp clip popped off and I had to start over. But I finally got it working.


For some reason, the plug doesn’t lift up that far and it’s a bit crooked, but hey, it does what it’s supposed to do!


Have you tackled any plumbing or other simple home repair projects lately?


  1. This is very handy. I am so happy I came across to this. I am doing a lot of house repair and plumbing is one of them.

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