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Do-it-yourself: The tool to try when plumber’s snake won’t unclog drain

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Our bathroom sink clogs up every few months, and I have a hard time getting it to drain again. I have tried a plumber’s snake, but the pipe runs into the wall and makes a very sharp turn, and the snake hangs up in the turn. The clog is beyond that point. Can you help? —Maggie

I have had the same problem with plumber’s snakes. Sometimes you can free the snake and get it to move farther into the pipe by twisting it, but not always. I have found a better way to open balky sink drains like this, where the clog is fairly deep in the pipe. I use a tool called a Drain King, which is basically a rubber hose nozzle. The nozzle is screwed on the end of a short length of garden hose. The other end of the hose, using a threaded adapter, is screwed to a household faucet. I get best results by removing the sink trap and inserting the nozzle into the pipe close to the wall. The faucet is then turned on full-force; the hose expands inside the pipe, and a jet of water is shot into the pipe. You will sometimes hear a “glug” sound as the clog is pushed out of the way by the jet of water. I usually turn the water on and off in short bursts, which seems to have extra effect in pushing clogs out of the way. You can buy a Drain King at many home centers and hardware stores, and there are many sources on the Internet. The tool generally sells for $15 or less. Be sure and get a nozzle that fits 1 1 / 4 -inch pipes for a bathroom sink. Other sinks and fixtures might require larger nozzles. Also buy several new rubber slip-joint washers to use when you replace the trap (If you use the old washers, the trap will probably leak.) I have tried a couple of other water-pressure devices to open drains, but none worked as well as Drain King.

My house has steel siding, some of which is peeling badly. Can I repaint it and if so, how? —Joe

Your first step should be to remove all the peeling paint. The best way to do this is to use a pressure-washer with a strong house-wash solution. (Caution: Paint applied before about 1978 might contain lead, a health hazard. Visit epa.gov/lead for more information.) It is best to have this part of the job done by a professional painter.

When all loose paint is removed, rinse the siding thoroughly with the pressure washer. Secondly, you should look for rusty spots, a unique problem with steel siding. If you find rust, prime the spot with a rusty-metal primer or use a rust converter. Rust converters, sold at home centers, change rust into an inert substance that can be primed and painted. Use an oil-based primer on any bare areas where all paint has peeled off. Next, apply two coats of 100 percent acrylic house paint. Most do-it-yourself painters use a roller or pad to apply the paint. If you have some spray-painting skills, you can do a faster job with an airless sprayer.

I want to redo the floors in my two-family house so that I can’t hear people upstairs walking around or making noise. I’d prefer wood flooring, not carpeting. —M. Bettineschi

Wood flooring or other hard-surface flooring will almost guarantee that you will be able to hear movement and other noises on the upper floors. A thick carpet and pad or soft flooring such as cork is by far the best bet.

If you insist on wood floors overhead, you could try dropped ceilings on the first floor with noise-deadening insulation in the cavity, but it is not very practical, might not work well and will be rather costly.

—McClatchy-Tribune

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.

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