May 18, 2013
Dear Jerry: The toilets in our 1952 ranch style home are driving me to the peak of frustration. When we bought the home 12 years ago, every toilet had unsightly brown rings at the water line. I tried everything to get rid of the stains. We finally ended up replacing all of the toilets because of my embarrassment with their appearance.
For the past several years in the new toilets, I am beginning to see brown/orange rings appear at times. If we are away and the toilets are not used, we often return to find these rings beginning to form.
Now I think I know why the original toilets became so stained! Usually I pour Clorox into the toilets when we go away. The chlorine smell we return to is better than the rings! Can you explain why this is happening and what can be done? Thanks.
D. M. H. via email
I think it has to be the water that’s causing the stains. Brown stains mean iron in the water. If you are on a well or if you live in a town with hard water, that would be a major clue.
According to plumber Steve Howe of Howe and Bassett Plumbing Co., if there are streaks down the bowl from the top to the water line after you’ve been away, the tank is leaking slightly and water is escaping into the bowl. If there is simply a ring around the water line, then it is the standing water in the bowl that is causing the problem.
Clorox in the bowl will help as you’ve noted. There are also products that you can put into the tank that will automatically bleach the water every time you flush the tank. These are available in both clear and blue-tinted. The blue color will help mask any stains that cannot by scrubbed clean. I recently bought 2000 Flushes and Clorox tablets to put in the tanks of toilets that are not used often. I suggest you try these as well. They are available at supermarkets and hardware stores.
Dear Jerry: I have four skylights in my great room and one apparently has a small leak. I say apparently because there is a small stain in the drywall of the ceiling just below the skylight. The house was built in 1994 which means, according to those who sell skylights, that they are at the end of their life. Being the skeptic that I am, I have a hard time believing that there is no fix to this problem. I did have a new roof installed three years ago but there was no question about the skylights at that time.
I’d appreciate your take on this issue. Any information you might share about locating reputable people who might offer an honest assessment would also be appreciated. Thanks for all you do for us homeowners every week.
J. M., via email
Several things come to mind. One, the small stain (and stains on the lower portions of the skylight window frame, are often due to condensation on the glass during winter months. If you have a furnace humidifier or if your home is humid due to cooking, plants, etc, then this may be the cause of the staining.
The flashing around the skylight frames is also suspect. Sometimes it is installed improperly or it becomes damaged with the installation of a new roof. (Red flag here in your case given that the new roof was installed 3 years ago.)
Finally, there are skylights of varying qualities. High quality units will have a curb that sits above the roof, integral flashing (which can be replaced if necessary) and a sound warranty and dealer network. Velux units come to mind as one of the best available. According to Pat Clancy of Morse Sash and Door, a local Velux dealer, the units are warranteed not to leak for 10 years. The glass warranty is 20 years. Forty or fifty years or more is not an unusual life span for these units.
Regardless of whether or not the warranty has expired, Clancy told me Velux will stand behind their products and you should be able to have a dealer-recommended installer or Velux representative come out and inspect your units. I suspect the problem may be with the flashing, which should be able to be repaired at moderate cost.
If your skylights were not made by Velux, I would hope the manufacturer is still around and that a local dealer can provide the service needed (or recommend someone) to repair the window that leaks. If the company is out of business, then repairs may be more complicated, but are still worth a try.