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Common Plumbing Repairs

The Martha Stewart Show, September 2009

When the toilet runs or the shower clogs, hiring a plumber may not be necessary -- simply follow these instructions from Kent Thuesen, Martha's plumber and owner of Thuesen Mechanical Corporation in Mount Kisco, New York.

Top 10 Tools for Home Plumbing Projects
Everyone should have the following tools for home plumbing repairs:

1. Tongue and groove pump pliers (manufacturer: Channel Lock): used to repair sink trap

2. Pipe wrench (manufacturer: Ridgid): used to remove mechanical joints

3. Adjustable wrench (manufacturer: Ridgid): used to replace aerators and showerheads and remove polished chrome fittings

4. Tube (pipe) cutter (manufacturer: Cresent): used to cut pipes to size

5. Toilet auger (3-foot) (manufacturer: Ridgid): used to remove a toilet stoppage

6. Hex head wrench set (manufacturer: Huskey): used to remove and install faucets and chrome trimmings

7. Telescoping basin wrench (manufacturer: Ridgid): used to remove and install faucets

8. Faucet handle puller (manufacturer: BrassCraft): used to remove faucet handles

9. Strap wrench (manufacturer: BrassCraft): used to remove polished products without scarring finish

10. Flaring tool (manufacturer: Klein Tools): used to make water, oil, or gas connections

Stop the Toilet from Running
One of the most common -- and easy to fix -- plumbing problems encountered is a running toilet.

1. If the toilet is running, first turn off the water to find the problem. If the water tank empties, the flapper is broken; otherwise it's the ballcock.

2. Disconnect the ears of the flapper from the Douglas Flush Valve. Remove the chain from the toilet handle. Then remove the damaged flapper.

3. Attach the ears of the new flapper to the Douglas Flush Valve and the handle's chain to the clip on the flapper. (Note: Use the model name and number of the toilet bowl to purchase the proper flapper.)

4. Make sure the new flapper is seated flush in the water tank's drainage hole.

5. Turn on water.

6. Make sure the tank holds water.

7. Flush and make sure it seats properly. If not, adjust length of chain.

Unclog the Shower
Hard-water clogs showerheads, causing water to flow slowly and haphazardly. Instead of buying a new showerhead, the old one can be cleaned and reaffixed.

1. Use an adjustable wrench or pump pliers to remove showerhead.

2. Submerge the showerhead into a bowl of distilled white vinegar for five minutes (Note: Do not soak if the showerhead is a Tuscan brass or an unlacquered finish, as it will damage the piece).

3. Wrap Teflon tape clockwise around the pipe thread to ensure a tight seal.

4. Remove showerhead from vinegar.

5. Screw on the clean showerhead by hand, and then use an adjustable wrench or pump pliers to make snug. (Tip: Masking tape can be wrapped around the teeth of the wrench or pliers to prevent scratching the showerhead.)