FINANCIAL ADVICE | home improvement

5 Common Bathroom Problems You Can Fix Yourself

Published February 11, 2019

Key Takeaways

  • Have you ever wondered what the right plunger technique really is?
  • Did you know that there is a wax seal where your toilet meets the floor? 
  • Does your bathroom maintain that sauna-like feel long after you’re out of the shower?

It’s not glamorous, and it’s not what you’d like to talk about at that dinner party this weekend. However, as a homeowner, bathroom issues are some of the most common things that crop up, making you wish you still had a landlord to call. Never fear! You can be your own plumbing superhero! (Everyone else in the house will thank you too, but we can’t promise they’ll get you a cape.)

Common Toilet Problems

From an overflowing bowl to an unstable handle; running water or a flush that halts halfway through, toilet troubles can become a real problem, really fast. Allow us (by us, we mean Bob Vila) to help you diagnose the issue and get it fixed with a quick trip to the hardware store.

Get Friendly with Your Plunger

Have you ever wondered what the right plunger technique really is? Here’s the skinny: While the bowl is still full of water, seal the mouth of the plunger against the opening at the bottom of the toilet. Give it a few strong but gentle pushes and pulls, then remove the tool from the water. If you’ve freed the clog, the water will drain on its own. If not? Give it another go.

No Resistance in the Handle

If you go to flush and feel no resistance in the handle, take a peek in the back. Lift the lid and identify the basic parts of every toilet: the flapper (the rubber seal at the base of the tank), the lift arm (what the handle is connected to on the inside of the tank), and the chain that connects those two parts, creating the flush mechanism. Generally, a loose-feeling handle is due to one of these parts coming loose or disconnected from another. If something’s broken, your local hardware store will have a replacement. (These same parts are to blame if you’ve got a commode that requires you hold the handle down for a complete flush.)

Water on The Floor

Did you know that there is a wax seal where your toilet meets the floor? It’s true, and if it starts to leak, you’ll see water pooling around the base of the toilet. To test the theory, according to Vila, add a few drops of food coloring to the toilet bowl, and flush. If colored water appears around the base, it’s time to go shopping for a new wax ring. While it’s a cheap part to replace, this DIY repair will require a strong helper since you’ll need to lift the entire toilet to get it done.

How to Deal With Clogged Drains

If you’ve been noticing an inch of standing water at the end of your shower, or you’ve been catching a whiff of something funky that seems to be coming from your sink, you’ll need to assess what’s happening in those drains. Generally, the issue is a quick fix. You can get a drain snake pretty much anywhere to pull out hair (the most common culprit) or other bits that are slowing your drains. If you aren’t averse to chemicals and don’t want to know what’s been hanging out down there, you can pick up liquid or gel pipe cleaners that simply require you pour, wait, and rinse. If these simple fixes aren’t doing the trick, call a plumber to bring in some more powerful tools and expertise.


Whenever you see water where it doesn’t belong, stop what you’re doing and look for the source. In many cases, you can dry the under-the-sink cabinet, turn the faucet on, and watch; if you see drips, bingo. If you don’t, call a plumber! Leaks can cause a lot of damage really fast, so you’ll want a true diagnosis and solution just as soon as possible.

Slow Shower?

Most often, your relaxing shower will slow to a trickle when there is a buildup of limescale in the head. You can usually solve this issue with a basic cleanser targeting the hard stuff. To remove the problem, experts recommend a whole home water softener. Because what damage you see in your showerhead is simultaneously happening to all the pipes in your home that you can’t see.

Humidity Issues

Does your bathroom maintain that sauna-like feel long after you’re out of the shower? While you may enjoy pretending you live in a spa on Saturday mornings, excess humidity isn’t a good thing. If you don’t have a fan in your bathroom, you need one! Letting moisture linger in small spaces is a great recipe for damaging your paint and other surfaces, but more importantly: mold. If you ignore the issue for too long, you’ll bypass the $300 vent repair or installation and go right onto spending several thousand dollars on professional mold remediation.

So, while many of these bathroom issues are livable—now you know they don’t have to be! You can repair the toilet, instead of putting a sign on it telling guests the trick to get it to flush. Also, you know when to call a plumber, versus taking a trip to the hardware store.

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