July 22, 2012 in Features

Washers key to fixing toilet’s wobbly seat

Gene Austin McClatchy
Quick tip

 Mulching around plants helps keep out weeds, hold water in the soil and improve the appearance of planting beds. But the kind of mulch chosen can sometimes be very important. A damaging fungus, called artillery fungus or shotgun fungus, can develop in some wood mulches, especially chopped-up limbs, trunks and stumps of diseased hardwood trees such as maples and oaks. This type of mulch is sometimes obtained free or at low cost from tree-removal companies.

 If used near houses, cars, garages or similar surfaces, the fungus can spray the surface with black, tar-like spots that are very difficult or impossible to remove. While the sprayed spores normally travel only a few feet, breezes can blow them farther and at times they even reach second stories of houses. Artillery fungus appears to be most prevalent in the Northeast, and has been extensively researched by scientists, especially at Pennsylvania State University.

 A great deal of information about the fungus can be found on the Internet by searching with the words artillery fungus. A list of questions and answers by Penn State researchers is especially valuable – look for the psu.edu tag in the search lists. Pine-bark nuggets, made from softwood, are considered safest of wood mulches. Non-organic mulches, like black plastic and marble chips, are best. Wood chips from hardwood trees are best used around plants at some distance from objects that might be damaged.

Q. My toilet seat has plastic bolts that keep coming loose, making the seat wobble and very uncomfortable to sit on. I keep tightening the nuts, but they work loose quickly. Can you help?

A. Toilet seats often wobble because the holes in the toilet-bowl rim are larger than the diameter of the bolts, allowing movement that eventually makes the nuts loose. Tightening the nuts seldom works very well. There are several possible solutions.

One is to buy a kit containing rubber or plastic bushings that fit over the top of the bolt, filling the space around the bolt and preventing the motion. These kits are sold at some home centers and on the Internet for less than $5 (search the Internet for bushings for wobbly toilet seat).

Another approach is to install self-adhesive rubber washers between the lid and top of the toilet bowl. For more information on washers, visit www.yukonseatgrip.com (about $3 for a set of washers).

If you have an old bicycle inner tube or piece of sheet rubber, make your own washers by cutting a hole in a the middle of a small piece and slip it over each bolt before re-installing the lid. Another do-it-yourself approach: Wrap a little plumber’s Teflon tape around the threads of each bolt before tightening the nuts, improving the grip of the nuts. A last resort is to put a little glue on the threads before tightening the nuts; use glue designed to hold plastics. If glue is used, however, it might be necessary to use a hacksaw or power tool to cut through the bolts if you want to replace the lid.

Q. I want to install two frameless mirrors above a bathroom vanity. However, I am concerned about them falling down because the brackets are supposed to be located on the sides. Do you have any thoughts on this?

A. It is usually best to follow manufacturer’s directions when installing any product. Using alternate methods of installation could invalidate any warranty that might be offered. If you follow instructions and have a problem, the manufacturer should help you solve it. However, manufacturers are not always right. The evidence for this includes the frequent recalls of unsafe products and crackdowns by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

If you have doubts about the method of installation, the best bet is to contact the customer service department of the manufacturer and discuss it. I don’t know the weight of these mirrors, but some frameless mirror installations call for putting brackets under the bottom edge, which in my opinion is the best way to support the weight.

Brackets are also often placed over the top edge, to prevent tilting forward. Some frameless mirrors are glued in place, which gives a good bond but makes the mirrors difficult and even dangerous to remove.

If you contact the manufacturer and still have safety concerns, it might be wise to return these mirrors to the dealer and look for more satisfactory replacements.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email