QI own an eight-year-old townhouse. The toilet usually flushes fine, but when it contains solid waste and tissue, it becomes blocked. We had it snaked, but nothing seems to be stuck in the drain. I have been told that the poor flushing might have something to do with a receptacle on the roof. -- Steve
AThere could be several explanations for the poor flushing. For one thing, your toilet may be one of the newer types that uses only 11/2 gallons of water per flush, less than half the water that toilets once used. This is the result of a water-conservation law that took effect in 1994. Some of the earlier toilets sold under this law are poor flushers. If you determine that this is the cause of your problem, consider replacing the toilet with one that has a power-assisted flush. These cost more than regular toilets but can be well worth it.
A second possible cause of poor flushing is accumulation of minerals in the openings that let the flushing water enter the toilet bowl from the tank. If these openings become clogged, which they are likely to do in time if you have hard water, they can greatly reduce the flushing action. Use a short piece of coat-hanger wire or a small screwdriver to clean the openings under the rim of the toilet bowl, and any other openings in the bowl.
The receptacle on the roof is undoubtedly the vent, which is designed to keep sewer gases from seeping into the house. A clogged vent can cause plumbing problems, including slow flushing, so it helps to clean it occasionally with a plumber's snake. Don't attempt to do this yourself unless you can work safely on the roof.
It should also help to flush a couple of times when solid waste is involved, instead of trying to flush everything at once. Let the tank refill completely each time before flushing again.
My basement has painted cinder block walls. The paint is peeling near the bottom of the walls. What can I do to correct this? -- D. Glinkin
The paint is most likely being pushed off by water seeping through the walls from outside. If you can remove all the old paint from the affected section of the walls, you can recoat with a waterproofing paint such as UGL Drylok, which is sold at many home centers. This is a thick, cement-based paint that sets up a barrier to seepage.
The waterproofing paint won't work well unless you remove all the old paint. If the old paint is loose, a scraper and wire brush should remove most of it. A paste-type paint remover can remove remnants of paint that are sticking tightly.
You should also make sure rain gutters are in good condition and are carrying rain water well away from the foundation. Poor rain-water collection and disposal is a leading cause of basement water problems.
We have some smudges of latex paint on our metal window screens. How can we remove the paint? -- P. McGee
You might be able to remove the paint smudges with a solvent such as Oops or Goof Off. These products are sold in small squeeze cans at some home centers and hardware stores. They will remove latex paint and a variety of other stains from many surfaces, including some fabrics. Follow directions and cautions on the container for using the solvent. It helps if you scrape or brush off as much of the paint as possible before applying the solvent.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions cannot be answered personally.