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'Rocking' Toilet an Embarrassment


QUESTION: We have a toilet that is loose on its base. I have tried tightening its hold-down nuts, but that doesn't seem to help. It's embarrassing when we have company and our guests have to use this rocking toilet. Please help.

ANSWER: Since you have already tightened the nuts, and this hasn't worked, you'll have to check the area under the bowl. To do this, shut off and disconnect the water supply, flush the tank and sponge out residual water. Remove the closet nuts and lift the bowl off the closet bolts.

Three things can cause the problem. First, the floor flange may be loose or the flange may be rusted out. Second, the subfloor around the flange may be rotted out, in which case that section will need to be replaced. Finally, the wax ring may be flattened to the extent that it no longer bears properly against the bowl's base. In this case, the wax ring requires replacement.

Filter No Longer Needs Replacing--Why?

Q: For the past few years, I have noticed that the filter on my forced-air gas furnace does not need to be cleaned or changed from one season to the next. I seem to get ample heat and cool air through the registers. Prior to this, I changed filters every month or so. Can you tell me what would cause this condition?

A: Sometimes, a change in living habits can make the air inside a house cleaner. For example, perhaps you stopped using a fireplace that would occasionally let in a puff of smoke.

It's also possible that the filter doesn't fit properly and there are large open joints between the filter and the frame. Consequently, the dusty return air is bypassing the filter. If this is the case, you should check the evaporator coil (you imply in your letter that you have central air-conditioning). The coil may be coated with a heavy layer of dust, which will decrease the air conditioner's efficiency.

Carbon Monoxide Level Key to Venting Decision

Q: A plumber friend of mine commented on the necessity of venting natural gas water heaters. Why do some gas-fired appliances need to be vented and others not? I have seen wall heaters that are not vented outside, for example.

A: Generally speaking, a gas appliance is vented to the outside if it produces enough carbon monoxide to pose a threat to occupants of the dwelling. Kitchen ranges, for example, are not usually vented outside because they tend to be located in well-ventilated areas. Also they tend not to be left burning for long periods. However, there are times when even these appliances can pose a hazard, such as when people keep them burning day and night when there is a power outage.

Although some gas heaters are vent free (they do not vent outside) most do require venting. Bear in mind, that it's not always easy to tell whether the appliance is vented. Some water heaters and even furnaces are referred to as direct vent. These vent directly to the outside through a short section of metal or plastic pipe.


To submit a question, write Popular Mechanics, Reader Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

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