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Do It Yourself: Check aerator before replacing dripping faucet

Sun., April 28, 2013

Q. We had a new faucet and sink installed a few months ago and the water in the faucet runs fine, but a couple of other faucets are giving us only a trickle. Do we need more new faucets or what’s the answer?

A. There’s a good chance that clogged aerators are the cause of the slow-running faucets, especially since the new faucet works well. If this is the cause, the repair is relatively easy and inexpensive.

Aerators are the small, screen caps in the nozzles of the of faucets; they are designed to filter out debris that could otherwise end up in your drinking, cooking or washing water, and possibly help clog sink drains.

In homes with hard water, accumulated minerals are a common cause of clogged aerator screens. Other causes are debris from plumbing pipes or water heaters (dip tubes in some old water heaters disintegrated). When a building’s water supply is shut off for some reason, then turned on, the flushing action of water suddenly re-entering the pipes can sweep debris into aerators; some experts recommend removing aerators when plumbing work that requires shutting off the water supply is being done.

Aerators can be removed for cleaning or replacement. Try to twist it out with your fingers, but if it resists removal use pliers with the jaws padded with duct tape to prevent marring the aerator finish. The faucet should be turned off and the sink or tub drain should be plugged to keep parts from going down the drain. There should be a rubber-like washer between the aerator and faucet end; examine the washer to make sure it is in good condition.

New aerators, with washers, can be bought at most home centers and hardware stores at prices starting at $4. If you decide to buy a new one, take the old one shopping and make sure you get an aerator with comparable diameter and threads. Knowing the brand of faucet will also help in getting the correct aerator.

Water-saving aerators are popular these days, so a new aerator might give a different type of spray. If you want to clean the old aerator, disassemble the parts – noting carefully how they fit together, and clean the parts with a cotton swab dipped in white vinegar. If there are hard-water deposits in the aerator, soak metal and plastic parts overnight in vinegar.

When installing a new or cleaned aerator, make sure the washer is in place, then screw in the aerator finger-tight. Try running the faucet and if there are any leaks around the aerator, snug it up a little with pliers, but avoid over-tightening.

Q. We have unglazed quarry tile floors in our house and we want to seal them. We can’t find anyone in our area to do the job. What do we do now?

A. Sealing the tiles yourself should not be difficult if you carefully follow directions on the sealer container.

You can buy masonry sealer suitable for unglazed tiles at most home centers.

Behr Premium Wet Look Masonry Sealer is one choice. This is an acrylic product that does not have much odor, but you should still ventilate the rooms well when using it.

I have used this sealer outdoors on a brick patio and had good results, although I have seen some complaints about it on the Internet. Some users said it had a milky appearance or little or no gloss, but I didn’t have these problems. You can apply the sealer with a roller or sprayer, but I used a painting pad equipped with a long handle. You must clean the tiles thoroughly first and let them dry.

Also, since you are inexperienced at this type of work, don’t make the old mistake of painting yourself into a corner. Start at a point in a room where, when you finish, you will be able to get out the door. Let the sealer dry thoroughly before walking on the floors.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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