July 29, 2012 in Features

Do It Yourself: Replacing sinks, tubs poles apart

Gene Austin McClatchy
Quick tip

 Some clothes washers empty into basement sinks after washing a load of clothes.

 The water runs through a hose and goes down the sink drain, carrying dirt, lint, hair and other debris from the washed clothes. If these contaminants are not strained out, they will eventually clog or slow down the sink drain.

 Several types of commercial strainers are available for sink drains, but a homemade strainer can catch much of the debris before it ever hits the sink. To make one, cut the foot from a pair of pantyhose or a nylon stocking. Cut the strainer just above the ankle, slip it over the end of the drain hose and hold it in place with duct tape.

 Don’t make the strainer longer than ankle length – it will stretch from the water pressure and if too long could clog the drain.

Q. What is your opinion of reglazing bathtubs and sinks versus removing them?

A. Removing and replacing a bathroom sink is usually not difficult or expensive, but removing and replacing a bathtub is a very different story.

This is especially true of the many cast-iron, porcelain-finished tubs that fit into tight spaces in bathrooms and are often surrounded on three sides by ceramic tiles. These tubs must often be broken into pieces with a sledgehammer in order to remove them. Removal also often means that tiles and plumbing must be torn out. The empty space must then be prepared, filled with a new tub, and the tiles and plumbing installed.

It can be an expensive and daunting job, best done by an experienced contractor. It is impossible to guess the potential cost, but you can probably count on at least $3,000 to $5,000, and the work could take several days.

Reglazing the same bathtub generally costs $500 to $600 and can often be done in one day without disturbing the surrounding surfaces, but reglazing should be considered a temporary fix. Some tub refinishers guarantee their work for five years, and you should look for one of these (check under Bathtub Repair & Refinishing in the yellow pages), and be sure to get a written warranty.

There is another option, which I have mentioned several times in my column – an acrylic tub liner or tub insert. This is a molded liner of tough plastic, custom-made to fit into your tub. The cost is generally about $1,200 and the liner will usually look good for 10 years or more.

Some critics of liners say they have several problems, including cracks and leaks into any space between the liner and tub, so you should also get a written warranty covering defects if you choose a liner. For more information on this option, search the Internet with the words “bathtub liners.” Inserts are sometimes installed in one day, once the tub is examined and measured.

Q. My bathroom sink is completely blocked and I have tried everything to open it without success. Drain openers and a plunger haven’t worked. What next?

A. If you are still not ready to call a plumber, you can try a method I use to open my bathroom sink, which has clogged periodically over the years. I also had little success with a plunger and chemical drain openers. What finally worked, and has never failed, is a device called Drain King.

Drain King is a slender tube about four inches long with a hose connection at one end and a jet nozzle on the other end. When the Drain King hose is attached to a faucet, and the Drain King tube is inserted into a drain or under-sink pipe, a forceful stream of water can be sent though the pipes. The water pressure can break up the clog and force it through the pipes, letting regular water flow freely.

Some Drain King kits come with an adapter that lets you use the tool without dismantling any drain pipes. However, I have found that mine works best if I remove the sink trap and insert the nozzle into a pipe beyond the trap, closer to the drain pipes where the clog is almost always located.

Drain Kings cost less than $15 and can be bought at some home centers or on the Internet. If you buy one for a bathroom sink, make sure it is the correct size for that drain. A tool that fits into one-inch to two-inch drain openings is correct. When I replace the trap after busting up the clog, I always use new slip-joint washers in the trap fittings; they are inexpensive and will help insure against leaking joints.

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.

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