Q&A on home repair

By Jim and Morris Carey
Saturday November 24, 2001

Q. Olivia asks: What can I do to repair a small hole next to my hot water handle in my fiberglass shower? 

A. There are companies that will come to your home and make such a repair for as little as $50. It sounds like a lot, but consider the cost of replacement as a comparison. You can make a patch on your own with a fiberglass patching compound, but chances are the homemade repair will be pretty obvious and might become an eyesore. Isn’t $50 worth an invisible repair? Look in the Yellow Pages under plumbing fixtures, repairs. 


Q. Samantha asks: We recently rented a home with a fiberglass bathtub in it. The problem is that the shower portion or the wall above the bath is thicker than the rim of the tub and creates an inverted shelf that the water runs into. I’m not sure if the installer used the wrong type of caulking or if it’s just because of the design of the bath, but the caulking everywhere is rotting and is especially bad under that shelf. We only have one bath so we have to use it. 

I clean and scrub a layer away and a couple of days later it’s all the same. I feel like my shower is rotting around me. Help! What can I do to remedy the situation short of ripping the whole thing out? Oh, also the aluminum on the sliding doors is rusting and the drain is beginning to clog and I’ve tried chemicals, and even to remove the plug to try to stick an auger down, but it’s one of those that you turn to plug and turn the other way to open and I can’t figure out how to remove it. I believe it’s getting clogged up from all the decayed caulking from cleaning. Any advice would be so appreciated. 

A. It really doesn’t make any difference how the connection occurs between the tub and the shower walls as long as the joint is properly caulked. Having said that, the big deal is getting rid of the old mildewed caulk and properly applying a new layer. Use caulk solvent to get the old stuff out. Then clean the connection with a scrub brush and lots of chlorine bleach. Rinse with water and use a hairdryer to completely dry everything out. Wait 24 hours and apply a new coat of silicone caulk to the joint. Wait the full 24 hours even if it means renting a hotel room to take a shower. Caulk will not bond to a wet surface or where water vapors are present. 

The next time you clean your shower walls, make sure that they are perfectly spotless, then apply a coat of car wax. The wax reduces surface tension and makes cleaning easier. Some folks use pure lemon oil instead of the wax, but we like the wax. 

Since you just moved in, you should call a plumber to deal with your clogged drains. Let him or her show you how to access all drains, show you where clean-outs are and help you establish a maintenance procedure. You’ll only have to pay the plumber once. Learning to do things right the first time will make you feel good about establishing (and following) a sound maintenance routine.