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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Drain Clogs Caught in a Trap You Can Get Out

July 31, 1993|JOHN MORELL

Question: Our bathroom sink drain clogs up about once a month. The steel crossbars at the bottom are too small to get a snake through, so we've been using liquid drain openers, which work for a while, then the sink clogs again. Are we doing any damage to the pipes by using these harsh cleaners so often?

R.F.

Seal Beach

Answer: "You may need to take apart the trap under the sink to inspect it," says Ted Blanke of Central Plumbing and Heating in La Habra. "What often happens, especially in older homes, is that the sludge deposits collect in the trap arm to the point where there's just a small opening for the water to go. It can also become very hard, which makes it difficult to remove.

"Usually, the skinny end of the snake will fit into a small drain opening and you can try pushing it through. Otherwise, you'll just have to remove the trap and replace it or clean it out. The solutions you use may work temporarily and may not harm the plumbing, but if the drain is stopping regularly, it's best to permanently fix it."

Q: The interior doors in our 15-year-old house all seem to stick at the top of the jamb. I suppose this is the time of year to sand and plane them because of the low humidity, but is there a reason why they all seem to be having a problem?

E.E.

Anaheim

A: "Houses are constantly settling so having some problem with sticking doors is normal," says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster. "It's also common to have sticking doors after you've painted. You can do some light planing or sanding until the doors swing free. Fortunately, on interior doors you don't have to worry about insulation as you do with doors that lead outside. To check the clearance on an interior door, close it and run a dime along the gap between the door and jamb. It should slide freely across and down.

"Your problem sounds a little unusual since the doors are sticking in one area, across the top. This could indicate a more serious structural problem with the house rather than just settling, and you may want a contractor to investigate before you try to fix it."

Q: I'm planning on painting the exterior of my house soon. It's stucco with wood shiplapc siding in various sections, and I've noticed that some of the siding is damaged with dry rot. I'm going to be replacing those pieces, but I'm worried about those planks that seem OK. Could they be infected? Should I replace them all?

A.S.

San Clemente

A: "Before replacing them, you'll need to inspect each plank very carefully," says Craig Lefebre of Orange Coast Hardware & Lumber in Santa Ana. "Tap them with your knuckle and press down on them to feel for any soft spots. This is especially important if you're working on siding because if, in a few years, you see dry rot developing in the middle of a section, it's a lot of work to remove all the other planks. It's best to check them all now. If you find a plank with just a small area of rot, you can also dig and cut that away and use a wood patch.

"Also, on many older homes some types of grooved siding is no longer made. If the one you need isn't available, a lumber shop can specially mill what you need based on a sample piece. But when making a special order, make sure you get more than enough. You don't want to have a mill charge you for setting up twice for the same job."

Q: We want to wallpaper our two bathrooms, but the walls were painted long ago with a high gloss oil-based enamel. How do we prepare them for paper?

S.D.

Yorba Linda

A: "First, you should wash the walls down with TSP and water, then rinse them to get all the detergent off," says Charlie K. of Tustin Paint Mart. "After it's dry, use a wallpaper sizing that's designed for glossy surfaces. This is like a primer that's rolled or brushed on, and it's acrylic, which makes clean-up easy. After this has dried, you can then apply the paper."

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