Shower Repairs, Baked on Crud

Q. My problem is our shower leaking through the floor into the basement. The shower is lined with ceramic tile all the way to the ceiling. I have caulked and re-caulked the whole perimeter to no avail. Short of ripping out the entire thing and replacing it with a fiberglass module, any suggestions?

- E.K.,

Jefferson, Wis.

A. Your problem is most likely with the shower's plumbing and not with its tile or base, says Howard Clark, project manager at Warfield Services Inc.,a builder in Natick., Mass. But the last easy place to look is right around the drain after you've removed its strainer. Perhaps silicone caulking would help on a seam there. Still, with a flashlight, check to see that there is still water visible at the bottom of the drain in what's called the trap, a curved piece of pipe that's designed to hold water to prevent sewer gas from backing into your bathroom. If this pipe is dry, or nearly so, your trap leaks and needs to be replaced.

I strongly recommend that you remove the basement ceiling under the shower to examine the entire shower pan, the drain line, and the area under the shower valve. (Take solace in the fact that the cost of a 4-ft. ceiling patch is about the same as that of a 1-ft. patch.)

Then have a helper pour a bucket of water directly, and only, into the drain while you keep an eye on the drain piping. The odds are that a plumber will have to repair this line requiring an open ceiling anyway.

Next, turn on the shower and watch the area directly under the valve. There is a chance that your shower control leaks, indicating the need for new washers, O-rings, or a cartridge depending on the type of control. And then finally, as you watch the entire area, ask your accomplice to move the spray about the shower tile for about 10 minutes, simulating a real shower.

It's important that you do these tests one at a time, and that you do all of them even if you find a leak along the way. I even suggest you live with the ceiling open a while longer after any repair; spread newspaper on the floor beneath and check it after showers. That way, you won't repeat my mistake of repairing the ceiling before fixing the whole problem!

Q. A would-be treat of baked apples stayed overlong in heat too hot, emerging as a blackened crust adhering to a glass casserole from which it parteth not. Through all these months it soaks but will not yield. Hammer and chisel I dare not wield. Please advise!

- Negligent Baker,

Washington State.

A. The "All-New Hints from Heloise - A household guide for the 90's," suggests soaking the cookware in hot, sudsy water, with one added ingredient: baking soda. If the crust is still stubborn, try scrubbing the dish with more baking soda and a nylon scrubber.

Using an abrasive cleanser or steel wool can weaken glass to the point where it will crack if used at too high a temperature.

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