Q: Dear Ed: Recently my elderly mom needed a new toilet, and a comfort height toilet was installed. But it's a little too high for her. Can you please add some advice about preparing first to see if a taller toilet may be a good choice for the main user?
— Al, Florida
A: We recently did a column on universal design for bathrooms and received a lot of interesting questions. Many questions were on comfort height toilets, so designers and contractors, please take note as this is a hot topic.
Now for some advice to see if a comfort height toilet may or may not be your first choice, here is a simple test you can try at home.
Most comfort height toilets are about the same height as a standard dining room chair, commonly called "chair height." So before replacing your standard height toilet with a taller toilet, have members of your household sit around the dining room table to discuss changing to comfort height.
If it looks like a popular choice, then I recommend at least one family member go to a local plumbing showroom to see one in person, then make your final decision.
Bottom line: If you try one out first and it's too high, passing on a comfort height toilet can be an easy decision to make.
(Master contractor/plumber Ed Del Grande is known internationally as the author of the book "Ed Del Grande's House Call," the host of TV and Internet shows and a LEED green associate. Visit eddelgrande.com or write email@example.com. Always consult local contractors and codes.)
Here’s how to know which projects you can tackle yourself and which you should probably leave to the experts.
Pro or no
Installing a ceiling fan
Installing a ceiling fan is not extremely difficult but may take a few hours (depending on your home maintenance experience and the size of the fan).
If you don’t enjoy standing on ladders and craning your neck for hours, bring in the experts.
Replacing a door
A new door can help brighten up a space and cut down on heating and cooling costs.
But these savings are best spent on making sure the installation job is done right.
Painting your home’s exterior
Painting the exterior of a house is a big job that requires extensive use of tall ladders (and sometimes climbing up on the roof).
Homeowners should consider safety requirements before tackling an exterior job.
The challenge of hanging wallpaper is keeping it straight and matching up the patterns correctly.
Sometimes bubbling can occur, and that strip of paper will need to be removed and replaced. This can result in running out of wallpaper and needing to order more.
Don’t want to risk it? Hire a professional.
Installing a light fixture
Electrical repairs and installations are at best expensive. Taking a little time to research and understand your electrical system can give you the necessary skills to do some electrical projects yourself.
When installing a light fixture, low-voltage projects can be safely performed by a homeowner, as these are less likely to cause structural or bodily harm.
Stick with a professional for anything over 50 volts.
Fixing a running toilet
A running toilet can be comfortably fixed by a DIY-er with a toilet rebuild kit from any hardware store. These kits typically contain straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions.
On the other hand, one-piece or specialty toilets can be tricky and might need the professional touch.
Fixing a leaky pipe
One DIY fix for a drain pipe may be to simply tighten a slip-nut near the P-trap. If the leak is coming directly from a hole in the drain pipe, you could try a flexible coupling with hose clamps.
Consider calling in a professional if the leak is from a drain pipe inside the wall.
Fixing a clogged garbage disposal
A clogged disposal may be cleared by using a small specialty wrench that fits into a hexagonal opening on the underside of the disposal while the disposal is turned off.
Patching a hole in drywall
Nearly any homeowner can patch nail holes.
Using a spackle knife, fill in each hole with lightweight putty and scrape the excess off the walls. Wait for the putty to dry, and sand down the spot until it’s smooth. Then, paint the repaired spots with primer.
Larger holes in drywall require more steps to repair and may be best left to the professionals.
Replacing a faucet
Installing a centerset-type faucet is something you may be able to do yourself — just follow the faucet manufacturer’s instructions.
If it’s a more complicated faucet with several hose connections, you might want to hire a professional.