The Washing Machine Saga Continues…

So, as much as I wanted to put off dealing with my leaking washing machine, I decided to go ahead with contacting a repairman. I brought the bronchitis back with me from my trip, and have been steadily feeling worse, instead of better. So I had high hopes that I’d call the repairman, he’d immediately fix the washing machine, and I’d be able to do the loads upon loads of laundry that I brought back from my trip…in advance of the next trip I have. On Tuesday. Ugh.

But anyway.

I have a Maytag stackable washer/dryer. So while I pictured the Maytag man of the commercials (who never has to work because the machines are so well made), it occurred to me that I should go through them to get the machine serviced. And that was the easy part – I logged into their website, found the section I needed, plugged in my model and serial number and scheduled an appointment. Continue reading

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The Downstairs Bathroom, A Before and After

As I mentioned recently, I was feeling less than thrilled about the color of my downstairs bathroom. Sure, brown is a great neutral, and you can jazz it up with accessories, but it was depressing me.  And since it’s also the room where my laundry gets done, I wanted it to feel a little snazzier.

I saw a color I LOVED on Pinterest, and couldn’t decide where in the house I would paint…it was a dark teal jewel tone (I love jewel tones), and it finally came to me that it would be perfect for the downstairs bathroom!

I wasn’t sure when I’d get around to it though, since I’ve been rather tired lately, which makes me lazy on the weekends.  But this weekend, I grabbed my brushes, picked up the paint, and went to work!

I forgot what a pain it is to paint in a bathroom though – I made short work of the preparations; I took all of the switchplates off, and took all of the accessories out to keep them paint free. I knew I’d have to move the washer/dryer, but I thought the rest of the bathroom would go quickly.  The best laid plans, as they say… Continue reading

My Downstairs Bathroom

I may have a painting obsession.

Although, it really only happens when I’m unhappy with the color of something. I love that my bedroom is eggplant, and so I haven’t wanted to repaint it in the three+ years I’ve lived here.

But I’m still unhappy with the hallway…though it would help if I *finished* painting it.

And despite having this unfinished project, I’m feeling itchy to paint the downstairs bathroom again. I like that it’s a dark color, despite being a small bathroom. I just don’t like the color that it is. Continue reading

New Bathroom Light

I hope everyone had a very nice holiday!

As I mentioned in early 2010, there were three projects I wanted to get done this year:

1) Accent wall in the living room.

2) Replacing the light fixture in my downstairs bathroom.

3) Adding a sideboard in my dining room.

And I actually managed to get all of those things done!  Most recently was the bathroom light.  My parents replaced the light in their bathroom with a slightly less modern one, so they gave me theirs.  I was assisting my dad with putting up the light in my bathroom, so I didn’t take any photos of it, but I thought you might like to see what it looks like now.

Definitely an improvement!

Putting up a new light meant there was a hole left from the old fixture – this fixture was a little bit wider, so we had to move it slightly off center so it didn’t hit the wall.  Fortunately, I had some paint leftover from painting the bathroom.  So I put up a patch (found easily at Lowes), covered it with drywall compound, sanded it and painted it.

Now the bathroom looks much better!

Fixing a Sink Stopper

This is another post without too many pictures, because I was assisting my dad with the project.  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, when I was unclogging my drain, I somehow loosened the connector that attaches my sink stopper to the mechanism, and it fell into the drain. Drat.

I was all ready to run to Lowes and see if I could replace that part of it when my dad mentioned that it might be sitting in the U-pipe underneath my sink. He said to wait for him to give me a hand with it, in case I wasn’t able to tighten it enough back up and ended up with a leak. 

I mentioned it to him while we were working on our washer/dryer project, and he said he’d take a look.  I’ll point out that I didn’t have the proper tools for this project (which my dad pointed out to me), so I highly recommend making sure you do before undertaking it. 

He was able to loosen the U-pipe and take it off – you’ll want to have a bucket handy for this step, to catch any water sitting in the pipe.  Right there in the pipe was the connector – hooray!  That was the end of the easy part.

My sink is part of a vanity cabinet that the previous owner put in, and it makes it awkward to get to the back of it.  We first screwed the piece back onto the stopper and after various attempts to try to get it back onto the metal rod in the drain that is attached to the stopper handle, I got under the sink to pull back the rod with both hands while my dad maneuvered the piece back onto it in the sink.  Whew.  Then, he had to adjust (this is the part I couldn’t see) the rod attachment for the stopper under the sink to get it to open and close properly.  He said that in order to do it correctly, you would then tighten the nut that’s attached to the stopper inside the drain to keep it from moving.  We omitted this step, so I’ll have to keep an eye on whether the stopper is becoming unscrewed to keep this from happening again.

He then reattached the U-pipe and tightened it, and so far, no leaks.  I’m glad that the stopper is back in ther again so that I don’t have to worry about dropping things like my toothpaste cap into the sink and causing a clog!

Ah, all better!

Maintaining Your Washer/Dryer

Since I am a first time homeowner, there are a lot of things I assume I DON’T know – I’m pretty good with the basics, like keeping my house clean, fixing obvious problems.  But then there are things that I either forget about (like replacing air filters) or don’t know to do – kind of like with my car, but there’s no “house-mechanic” I can take my home to.

So instead, I ask questions. And subscribe to This Old House’s newsletter. This week, I got their tips for spring cleaning newsletter, which included an article on how to maintain your washer/dryer.  Since my washer and dryer work fine, I hadn’t thought that I needed to do anything with them. I always clean out my lint trap, I leave the washer lid up so that it dries out properly, etc.  But apparently, there’s more.

Why is it important, you might ask, especially if it might cost you money you weren’t planning to spend right now.  In my case, since I am not the first owner of my washer and dryer and don’t know what kind of maintenance the previous owners did, I want to make sure that it’s all in good working order.  The other reason it’s important is that even if you do clean out the lint trap in your dryer, lint still builds up in the duct work and can cause a fire – yikes! Also, if your hoses aren’t properly installed, or are old and break, you can end up with flooding.  I have enough flooding outside my house, I certainly don’t need any inside.

I mentioned it to my dad last week, and he said he’d help me take a look at it and update anything that needed it. In my case, we replaced the two water hoses and the dryer duct.  My dad had picked up all the materials for me and did most of the work while I assisted.  It was a really intensive project, so I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I have in the past, but I can give you the step by step of what we did and the photos I did take.

The washer/dryer is in my downstairs full bath, so they’re stackable to allow for the shower to be there.  That also means that space is at a premium in that bathroom, so it took some maneuvering to get the washer out of the way to work on the dryer duct first.  To move the washer, we first turned off the water – VERY important.  Before you disconnect the hoses, get a bucket (because there will be some water in them), and as you remove each hose, drain the water into the bucket. You will likely need adjustable pliers for this part to loosen the connetions, and subsequently to tighten them again.  Once the hoses were removed, we disconnected the washer’s power connection to the dryer as well as the waste hose (also drain this into the bucket if necessary) and moved the washer out of the way. Also – as you remove the hoses, if the shut off valves and washer connections are not clearly marked, make sure you identify which is for hot water and which is for cold – otherwise, you’ll have to hook them up to the shut off valves, put the other ends into a bucket and turn them back on to test it. 

The dryer, out as far as we could get it

The back of my washing machine, as it sits in the hallway

My dryer is gas, so we didn’t want to mess with that or remove it – very very important to be careful with gas. As an aside, my next door neighbor, who is remodeling his kitchen, just replaced a gas line. And even though he knows what he’s doing and tested the line to make sure “no bubbles, no troubles,” he still ended up with a leak and had to call the gas company.  It’s dangerous, so be cautious!

We unplugged the dryer and my dad pointed out that the duct for the dryer was so old, it was starting to unravel.  This turned out to be an issue for us because the duct runs under the house and through my crawl space to the outside vent, so although we didn’t replace that part today, I will have to in the near future.  This was also when the project got more complicated – as with most things, when you start something, another issue always crops up giving you a bunch of extra steps.  In my case, it was that whoever installed the duct work had been very lazy and just cut a quick and dirty hole in the floor that they snaked it through.  My dad had seen this when he was here on Friday, and had picked up a plastic sleeve that fit in the hole and connected to the duct underneath the house, and also sealed up the hole more cleanly.  This was matched to another sleeve on the new duct attached to the dryer, and they just click together neatly.

How it looked when we started - big old hole in the floor, not sealed up at all! Also, check out the lint lining the duct.

And after, a lovely new duct with a sleeve sealing up the hole. No tiny animals are going to crawl into MY house!

But because the duct was so old and falling apart, I had to climb down into my crawl space, adjust the sloppy duct work under there and shimmy along the dirty sand all the way to underneath the bathroom floor so that I could feed up more of the duct to my dad, so that he wasn’t dealing with the part that was unraveling.  We finally managed to get it done, and he noted that he’d gotten a bunch of lint out of the duct, so it was a smart thing to replace.  I’ll keep telling myself that when I have to get back under there again when we replace that duct work!

Next, he attached it to the dryer using a screw-type hose clamp big enough to fit around the duct.  MUCH better! 

Then, he plugged in the dryer again and it was time to reconnect the hoses. He’d gotten hoses that can detect if there’s a leak and automatically shut off – that’s great, because it gives me added peace of mind, since I don’t turn off my water every time I’m done using the washing machine. It’s snuggled in next to the machine tight, so it’s difficult for me to do, though it is recommended to avoid flooding.  We identified which valve connected to which washer connection and my dad screwed them on, using pliers to tighten the valve connections.  We screwed them on by hand to the washing machine before moving it back to test whether there was any water leaking from the valves. When there wasn’t, we plugged the drain hose back in – it’s hand done, with no attachment to the wall, which was a little bit weird, but it felt like it was in there good and tight.

They're both blue, so unless we noted which was which, there's no way to know!

New hoses - connected to the shutoff valves!

And new hoses connected to the washing machine!

Then, we unscrewed the hoses from the washing machine and my dad got out from behind it before screwing them back and tightening them again with the pliers.  We moved the machine back, turned on the water, and I tested it with my first load of laundry – it worked great, and no leaks!  Another unexpected job well-done. I’ll keep reading This Old House’s newsletter for tips and advice, and keep learning about what I should be doing to maintain my house’s safety and good working order!

Bathroom Shelving Units

Okay, what lady out there doesn’t want a lot of storage in the bathroom?

Anyone? Anyone?

Right. Me too.  I do happen to have a lot of storage in my current bathroom, and don’t even use all the drawers and cabinet space.  But I wanted a little shelving unit for my guests, because I’ve had a couple of incidents with people using my (already used) bath towels in the bathroom, instead of bringing in the ones from the guest room. 

Guests who did this – now you know, you used dirty towels. You’re welcome 🙂

But I understand how that can happen, and how it’s easier to have extra towels right in the bathroom.  I’m all about making guests feel comfortable here, after all. And once I realized that the former owner of my house had had a shelf in the corner of the bathroom, I realized there was enough room for me to have one too.

I thought I wanted a teak knockoff one (since who can afford a shelf for a million dollars for the BATHROOM?), but they don’t seem to make those anywhere.  So I’ve been on the lookout for a while, and finally found one at, you guessed it, Target.  It’s a metal one, with bamboo shelves, which would tie in the bamboo sink accessories that  have nicely.

Whoop, there it is

SoI picked it up with some additional accessories – I can’t help it – and set it up.  My only issue with it is that due to the molding on the floor, I can’t bring it flush with the wall, and therefore, can’t install the hook to keep it from being unsturdy. Any recommendations? The molding is plastic, so I can’t easily cut it.  Otherwise, I’m super happy with it!

I officially love these jars. And I can accommodate soaps & shampoos for my guests now too!

I put some bath crystals in a sugar dish for guests (it's really very spa-like at my house) and I love these fancy clorox wipes holders

And yes, towels in the bathroom for guests, finally.

Unclogging a Toilet

We’ve all been there – you flush the toilet, and suddenly, water stops draining and starts rising. Uh oh, you say in your head or out loud, hoping, praying that it stops before it reaches the lid.  But it doesn’t and water starts to pour onto the floor as you scramble to pick up whatever is around, muttering expletives the whole time.

Sound familiar?

Last year, I made the mistake of flushing paper towels. I know, I know, I already knew it was a big no-no, but I had a momentary memory lapse and did it after cleaning up from a puppy working on his housebreaking skills.  As soon as I flushed, I knew it was stupid.  But nothing happened immediately, so I thought I was safe.

Nope.

I panicked, envisioning having to call a plumber and a) explain to him why my toilet was clogged and b) pay him. What to do?

First I tried a plunger. My first plunger was too small and didn’t create a good suction. So I had to buy another one. That one didn’t work either, so I had to buy ANOTHER one. Yes, I now own four or so plungers.

Then, I searched high and low for drain cleaner that was useful for toilets. I finally found some at the local hardware store and tried that. No dice.  You have to make sure to find one that’s suitable for toilets, because most of them are not – don’t just stick Drano down there hoping for the best.

Finally, I scoured the internet, desperate for a non-plumber solution. And I found a crazy one, but I was just desperate enough to try it. 

First, they told me to push dishwashing liquid in the toilet and wait for about 15 minutes. (O-kay, I thought).  Then, pour very very hot or boiling water (I used hot, because I admit, I was nervous about pouring boiling water into a cold porcelain bowl) into the toilet and as you do it, the drain should start to clear.

I admit, I though “yeah, right” when I first read this.  But I tried it, and guess what?

It worked.

Phew.

Now, I’m not advocating not calling in the professionals if you need them, but I was lucky that this worked for me and I didn’t need a plumber. I will also mention that someone said too much dishwashing liquid can kill off the “good” bacteria in your sewer system. I bought this until I realized that hey, I use all kinds of cleansers in my toilet to clean it, so I don’t think that’s the case – just wanted to pass along my thoughts if you were wondering 🙂

Unclogging a drain

Since this is fairly gross, I decided not to take any pictures of how I handled this – not all drains are alike and not all clogs are alike (sometimes you have to snake a drain and sometimes even that doesn’t work and you need to call in the pros, like my parents just did for my Grandma’s kitchen sink).

But for me, this is what happened.

A few months’ ago, I noticed that my sink drains were slow in both my bathrooms. I’ve been finding so many sloppy jobs around here lately and hearing about sloppy work under the pretty drywall from my neighbor, who’s remodeling his kitchen, so after watching one too many episodes of Holmes on Homes, I had myself convinced that it was because my drains weren’t properly vented.

Sometimes, it is the simple answer though. I had a clog.

On Saturday night, while I was caulking the tub, I thought I’d stick some Drano down the drain to see what happened. (PS, if you ever have a toilet clog, do NOT use Drano – it says right on the bottle that it’s not suitable for toilet clogs. I did have some success with another method, which I’ll share in a later post).  Since it was a tough clog, I left the Drano in there for the recommended 30 minutes before running some hot water. I also thought I’d take out the stopper to see what was up. 

CLOG.

It was very visible and (not to gross you out) made up of hair. Not just mine either, but clearly had started with the previous owners. Thoroughly grossed out, I used first tweezers and then needle-nosed pliers to pull it out.  Then I picked it up with one of my clorox bleach wipes, which made me feel a little less gross about the whole thing.  Though my skin is crawling a bit as I think of it now.

Anyway.

In the process of doing this, the end of the stopper that attaches to the mechanism in the drain that either opens or shuts it fell down into the drain.  Awesome, I know.  It didn’t cause any clogging, but now I have to see if I can replace that piece so that I can use the stopper again.  In the meantime, I’m terrified to drop anything small in the sink, because it will disappear down the drain! I’m hoping to get to Lowe’s in the next couple of days to talk to them and hopefully fix it up!

Re-caulking the Bathtub for a Fun Saturday Night

I know, I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I promise that I’ve been diligently working on a number of home projects, but blogging instead on work-related subjects over at Zen and the Art of Legal Network Maintenance. So I’ve got a lot to catch up on!

I’ll start with my project from Saturday night – re-caulking the bathtub. I know you’re jealous that I spent Saturday night scraping caulk out of the tub.  Admit it.

I had bought a tube of caulk a while ago – I went with a bright white caulk (to match the bright white grout in my tub) and made sure it was for use in the bathroom.  The existing caulking in the tub was gross – admittedly, I should have done this a while ago (like, right after I moved in), but it was only something I noticed recently and finally got around to this weekend.  Caulking is important because it helps to keep the moisture out of the seams around the tub, which can lead to mold.  I may or may not have had some mold under the caulk in my tub.

See, it's grody.

The first step is to clean out the existing caulk. I’d bought a handy little tool for this, and although it started out working okay, I later ditched it in favor of a spackel knife, which worked much better.

Handy little caulk remover tool - careful, it's sharp!

Use the pointy end to scrape out the caulk (note: this picture is just for show since I had to use both hands to try to pull the caulk out while not injuring myself)

Then, use the flat side of the tool to scrap out any excess. If your last homeowner was like mine, there will be caulk glopped everywere.

You have to be careful not to scratch the tiles up (which is why I started with the plastic tool), but it took me about 2 hours to scrape out all the caulk and using the spackel knife was much more efficient! Making sure it’s very clean is important so that the new caulk will adhere properly to the tile.

Ah, so much better already!

Once it’s all cleaned off, the instructions on the tube suggested using rubbing alcohol over the surface to make sure it’s really clean. Since it was 10pm on Saturday night by that point and I didn’t have any rubbing alcohol, I first wiped it with a sponge and then one of those clorox bleach wipes and let it thoroughly dry.  (I also wanted a little bleach to get in there in case I DID have mold)

When I was finally ready to put the new caulk in, I found myself wishing for one of those handy dandy caulk guns that push it out easily – because let me tell you, caulk is not easy to get out of the tube. I ended up twisting the tube and squeezing it that way to push the caulk out.  I decided to do the tub in sections, so that it wouldn’t dry before I was ready.  I squeezed out a section of caulk, and then wiped it into the crevice with my finger, stopping as it glopped up (technical term) to wipe my finger on a sponge.  After I rinsed the excess off the sponge, I used that to clean up any mess I’d left behind.  According to the tube, you want to do this before the caulk forms a skin.

Just after squeezing out some caulk...

After wiping it with my finger (and finishing the whole thing)

Once the entire tub is finished, you have to wait 36 hours to expose it to water or moisture. So if you don’t have a second shower or bathtub, you’ll have to visit a friend’s house or suffer through being dirty for a day and a half.  But the process is worth it – whenever I go into the bathroom, I’m so happy to see how clean my tub looks!