Q. My bathroom sink drains very slowly. I tried using a plunger, but it wasn’t much help, and I don’t want to use chemicals. I can’t figure out how to remove the stopper, which has a mechanism to open and close it. Can you help?
A. Typical sink stoppers are held in place by a horizontal rod at their bottoms, part of the open-close mechanism. Try giving the stopper a counter-clockwise twist while the stopper is in open position. It might lift out. A stopper removed this way is replaced by giving it a clockwise twist.
If this doesn’t work, look under the rear of the sink for the horizontal rod I described. This usually attaches to a vertical rod, which is pushed to open the sink stopper and pulled to close it. Loosen the nut where the horizontal rod enters the sink drain and pull the rod slightly away from the sink. This should release the stopper so you can remove it. Reverse these steps when replacing the stopper.
The plunger will work a lot better with the stopper out. When plunging, use duct tape or a wet rag to block the sink’s overflow hole. You can also reach down the drain opening with an inexpensive plastic tool, called a Zip-It, available at some home centers and online (use a search engine and the words “Zip-It drain opener”). With this tool, you can remove hair or other debris that might be blocking the trap.
If the drain is still sluggish, I recommend using a Drain King water-pressure device to open it. This is an expanding rubber nozzle that is attached to a hose and to the bathroom faucet. Insert the nozzle into the drain (with the plug out, of course) and turn on the water full force in short spurts. The tool will work better if the drain trap is removed and the nozzle inserted directly into the pipes beyond the trap.
I have used this tool to open many plugged drains. You can buy Drain Kings at some hardware stores and home centers or online at www.homeandbeyond.com /prod-0118803.html. A kit including a nozzle that fits 1-inch to 2-inch drain openings costs about $13.
If the trap is removed, use new washers when replacing it. Washers are sold at hardware stores and home centers.
Q. My concrete walk is crumbling some, but still sound. Can I put a layer of sand over it and then install pavers held in place with pressure-treated wood rails?
A. This should work if you don’t mind having an elevated walk. Start by choosing the paving blocks you will use, such as bricks or interlocking concrete pavers, and loose-lay a course of them across the width of the walk to establish a final width that won’t require a lot of cutting of the pavers.
When you have determined the width, install 4-by-4 side rails and end rails of pressure-treated wood, which are actually 3 1/2 inches thick. Fasten the rails in place with 18-inch-long pieces of electrical conduit, sold at most home centers (drill 3/4 -inch holes every few feet in the rails for the fasteners, which are pounded through the rails and into the ground).
Pour in enough sand to bring the pavers to the top of the rails. Tamp the sand down as thoroughly as possible. Level the sand with a screed – a straight board cut to the width of the finished walk. Notch the ends of the screed board so it can be drawn along the rails and give a uniform depth to the sand that will leave space for the thickness of the pavers. Draw the screed along the sand to knock off high spots and fill in low spots.
Lay in your pavers, sweep in a little more sand to fill any gaps, and you have a finished walk.
Q. How can we seal our plastic-laminate counter to help prevent staining?
A. Wax the counter with a thin coat of high-quality furniture or automotive wax. Use cutting boards when preparing food on the counter.
You can also get an excellent sealer-polish, Gel-Gloss, at some home centers or buy it online. This product leaves a thin coat of tough carnauba wax that will resist stains.