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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ask the Builder: Even a DIY rookie can fix a broken sink stopper

Put your head under your bathroom sink and this is what you’ll see. That horizontal chrome rod lifts the sink stopper up. (Tim Carter)
Put your head under your bathroom sink and this is what you’ll see. That horizontal chrome rod lifts the sink stopper up. (Tim Carter)
By Tim Carter Tribune Content Agency

Q. Tim, is it true you said in a past column you’re a master plumber? If it is, I need your help. My bathroom sink stopper is not working right. When I pull up the knob in the center of the faucet, not much happens. It used to work great. The sink also drains slowly. Can you tell me how to fix all of these issues? Do you feel it’s a DIY project? Be honest, as my skills are limited. – Roxanne P., Tempe, Arizona

A. Roxanne has a good memory. I’ve been a master plumber since age 28 or 29, as well as being a builder, remodeler and carpenter. My interest in plumbing, I believe, was rooted in the three-dimensional nature of creating a drainage and vent system in a home. If you ask me, it’s like solving a real puzzle.

If you have a cranky bathroom sink like Roxanne’s, I’ve got good news for you. You can get the sink stopper working correctly and have the drain cleaned out with just a small amount of work. It’s absolutely a DIY project even if you’re a rookie. Often, it takes more time to get things out of the way and put them back than it does to make the adjustment.

My favorite go-to tool for this simple job is an adjustable set of pliers. I have one that has jaws shaped to grab hex nuts as well as larger rounded nuts. If you don’t have this exact set of pliers, you’ll just need an adjustable wrench as well as the standard pliers.

When you lie on your back and slide into the vanity cabinet, you’ll see a strange set of rods and a perforated metal bar that makes up the sink stopper mechanism. A chrome rod connects to the actual drainpipe that exits the base of the sink. The end of the rod connects to the sink stopper.

When you pull the control knob on the faucet up, the end of the chrome rod below drops down, taking the stopper with it. Push the control knob down and the stopper lifts up. If you have a helper do this action while you look at the moving parts, you may see the control knob rod is slipping just a bit. Tighten the nut on the flat metal bar to solve this problem. The flat metal bar may have disconnected from the chrome rod that connects to the sink drain. Reconnect it.

The horizontal chrome rod that lifts the stopper connects to the drainpipe with a round nut. Turn that counterclockwise to pull this rod out of the drainpipe. Once you do this, you can lift the stopper out of the sink. A large glob of hair and goo may come with it. Clean all of this out and your sink should drain like new. Do everything I said backwards to put everything back together so you have no leaks

I’ve got great photos and how-to videos for you at my website showing how you and I would fix your sink stopper if I came by to help. Just go to:

Q. Can you share any thoughts about wet bars? I want to include one in my home and don’t want to mess it up. Have you installed any, and what are some of the best practices? What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen someone make? – Marty H., Pensacola, Florida

A. You bet I’ve got some thoughts about wet bars. I’ve built quite a few for customers, and I put one in the last home I built for my family.

You can get into trouble quite fast with wet bars. The biggest mistake I’ve seen is homeowners thinking they can use standard kitchen base cabinets for wet bars. They soon discover they can’t reach the bar surface without some discomfort.

The first thing I’d do if I were you is to go visit no less than four real bars. Do this when they’re not busy and chat up the bartender. Ask if you can take photos and some measurements. Determine what’s the best width for the bar top. Do you want your guests to be able to have a plate of food on the bar or just drinks? The width of the top determines this.

Pay attention to the width of the lower counter that the bartender works on. Note its height and the height of the actual bar. Ask the bartender what she/he loves and hates about the bar. What would they change if given the chance?

You need to also decide what direction the bartender will face at your home. Most people want to face the guests they’re serving. Preplanning and getting the bar dimensions right are well worth the investment of time.

I’ve got great videos of wet bar ideas and concepts that you should see. Go to:

Tim Carter can call you on the phone for free to solve your problem. Go to his website and fill out the form on this page: ask-tim/.

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