The holiday season is here! That means parties and time with family, and, for kids, it means vacation from school and extra time with mom and dad. One of the best gifts a parent can impart to his child is practical knowledge about how to take care of a home - the stuff they don’t teach in school. Take an hour over the winter break to teach your child one valuable home maintenance lesson this year; it’s a gift they will recognize later in life when they have to learn how to “adult!”
Troubleshoot a Running Toilet
You and I know that toilet flappers wear out rather frequently, but kids are usually oblivious to things like this. Take a moment to explain how a toilet works and how to troubleshoot a running toilet so your emerging adult will know how to do this easy fix.
Here’s an easy way to test if the toilet is running: open the toilet tank, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank, and wait 15 to 20 minutes. Check the toilet bowl together. If there is a leak, the water in the toilet bowl will be colored.
If you discovered you have a running toilet in the house, use that opportunity to help your child learn how to fix the problem or replace a broken toilet flapper. In some cases, you simply need to jiggle the handle or adjust the length of the chain connecting the flapper to the wand inside the toilet tank.
1. Check the inside of the tank.
When you look inside the toilet tank, you’ll see a flapper, a chain (which will attach the flapper to the flushing lever), a flushing lever and a ball float. Check each of these parts over.
2. If the flapper is not sealing properly…
Look to see if the flapper is defective (it may be cracked or warped), you may need to replace the flapper. You can get a new flapper at your local hardware store for very little cost. Remove the flapper from the chain and remove the refill tube (which will be inside the overflow tube), and change out the flapper. Reposition the refill tube and attach the chain to the flapper.
3. If the ball float is not working…
Get a new ball float at the hardware store. Remove old, defective ball float and attach new.
4. If the chain is broken…
Oftentimes the chain will break or come loose from the flushing lever or the flapper. Reconnect the chain to either the flushing lever or the flapper using a pair of pliers to cinch the chain tight. If the chain is broken, replace the chain with a new one (found inexpensively at a hardware store) using a pair of pliers. Sometimes when you replace one of the other broken parts, you’ll find the existing chain is no longer the right length, meaning you’ll need to adjust the length of the chain. Experiment to discover how much chain you need for the flapper to work properly.
5. If the handle is broken…
Remove the nut from the handle so you can remove the broken handle. Remove the metal hook and determine if it also needs to be replaced. Thread the new lever through the square hole (where the handle used to be) so that the handle looks normal again, and use a wrench to tighten the nut on the inside of the tank. Attach the metal hook to the chain (attached to the flapper). If the arm and hook gets in the way of the ball float, bend the arm and hook gently so it won’t interfere with the ball float function.
Unclog a Drain or Two
One of the best things about kids is the fact that many of them relish a project like cleaning out drains; they don't mind seeing something kind of gross. Your kids have probably never thought about what happens to things like hair that goes down the drain, and yet you as an experienced homeowner have probably cleaned your fair share of gunk out of the drain. Teach your kids why you want them to keep stuff out of the drains by bringing them along for this project.
- Invest in a couple plastic Zip-Its from the hardware store. They cost less than a couple bucks apiece and are reusable or disposable (your choice).
- Teach your child how to remove the overflow plate in the bathtub—the plate under the faucet and above the drain or the drain stopper, which may be locked in place. You can unscrew the overflow plate or the drain stopper; try unscrewing screws or unscrewing the drain stopper, twisting it in a counter clockwise direction.
- Feed the Zip-It into the bathtub drain and fish around. Pull out the disgusting mass of hair and gunk that inevitably collects over time. Dispose of the gunk and move on to the bathroom sinks and shower drains in the house.
- Teach your child to treat drains with an enzyme-based drain cleaner to keep things clean and running smoothly.
You can bet your kid will be more careful not to put unnecessary stuff down the drain anymore, and will be prepared for real life when he or she moves out.
Fix a Leaky Faucet
If your toilets are in tip top shape and your drains are clear, check the house for leaky faucets. In most cases, these projects require nothing more than a new washer or O-rings. Washers and O-rings can warp or crack, and they are inexpensive and simple to replace.
- Turn off the water source to the faucet.
- Using an Allen wrench, remove the screw and the handle.
- Remove the cap.
- Remove the cam, washer and the ball lever.
- Remove the O-rings.
- Examine the various pieces and explain what each piece does to make your faucet work. Then check the vulnerable pieces. Is the washer worn or warped? How do the O-rings look? Package up the damaged, warped or worn parts in a plastic container and head to the hardware store.
- Buy replacement washers or O-rings. Teach your child how to ask for help if it is not obvious what replacement parts you need.
- Install the new washers or O-rings exactly where the old ones were.
- Replace the cam, washer and ball lever.
- Put the cap and handle back on. Tighten the screw that keeps the handle in place.
Need Help With Plumbing Projects? Live in the Charlotte Area?
We’re happy to help with plumbing projects big or small. Give us a call and we’ll determine what kind of help you need and how to best serve you. We look forward to working with you!
Quick question & answer: What are the best plumbing tips I can teach my teenagers?
You can show your teenagers plumbing projects to help them learn home maintenance. You can teach them how to troubleshoot a running toilet, unclog a drain, and fix a leaking faucet. To unclog a drain, take out the overflow plate in the bathtub, pull hair and extra gunk from the drain with a Zip-it, and use an enzyme-based drain cleaner.