Q: I moved into a brand-new home last June. When I turn on the faucet in the master bedroom there is a strong odor that smells awful. The builder’s plumber came out and cleaned out the pipe underneath the sink, but the smell is still there. What do you think could be causing this and what should I should do about it? –Ayoub D.
A: I am assuming that the smell is not actually coming from the water, which would be very unusual to have happen at only one faucet, so it must be coming from somewhere in the drain portion of the system. The most likely culprit is something that is trapped in the sink stopper, so you want to remove and clean that. If the stopper is not removable by simply pulling up on it, then it is held in place inside the pipe by a small lifting arm. To remove it, unscrew the small knurled nut on the side of the tailpiece, right below the bottom of the sink, and pull out the arm, freeing up the stopper. While you’re at it, clean all the lifting mechanism as well.
If the sink is not used very often, it could be that the trap is drying out and allowing a sewer odor to come back up into the house, and you smell it for a moment when water first re-enters the trap. The only solution here is to make sure that the trap is always full by periodically running water into it. It’s also possible that something is caught in the trap itself, or that the trap or drain lines are leaking.
Another possibility is the overflow. There is an overflow drain that is actually cast into the side of the sink, and it’s possible that something is trapped in that overflow channel that is causing the odor. Try pouring a solution of about 1 part household bleach to 10 parts hot water slowly down the overflow. Be careful, use gloves and goggles, and use a funnel if needed to direct the water into the hole.
Q: Having accidentally spilled nail polish remover on the bathroom tile floor, some of the grout became discolored. Only about three tiles were affected. Is there any way to re-color the grout that was affected? –Peg H.
A: You can try a grout cleaner, available at most home centers and other retailers that sell tile supplies. In all likelihood though, the grout is permanently discolored and will need to be regrouted, at least in the affected area.
First, you will need to scrape or grind out the old grout. Since this is such a small area, I would suggest a manual grout saw, which is simply a little hand tool with a wooden or plastic handle and a carbide tip at one end that is set at an angle to the handle — again, available wherever you find tile supplies, probably for less than $10. Rub the saw along the grout lines to remove the old grout, then vacuum up the dust. Mix up a small amount of new matching grout following the manufacturer’s instructions, and regrout the affected lines.
Tile retailers will have small color chips of grout they can loan you for matching purposes. Depending on the age of the grout, you may have to experiment with mixing a couple of colors together to get the right shade.
Q: My driveway is 16 months old with a rough texture on top. I did not put a sealer on it because someone told me the sealer would make it slick in the winter. What should I do, and what would the sealer do? –Carol A.
A: You didn’t mention what the driveway was made of, so I’m going to assume it’s concrete and not asphalt. In a cold climate, water will work its way into small cracks in the concrete where it can freeze, expand and cause the concrete to chip. The more the concrete chips and cracks, the more water will get into and the worse the problem can become — a process called spalling.
A concrete sealer impregnates the concrete to repel water, which helps prevent this freezing and cracking cycle. Depending on the weather conditions and the condition of the driveway, sealers are typically applied every one to three years, and are a simple do-it-yourself process. Sealers are available at home centers, hardware stores, paint stores, or any retailer that handles concrete or masonry supplies. Talk to the dealer about where the sealer will be used, and they can recommend one that is not glossy and not slippery in wet weather.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.