Dear Maintenance Men

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men:
I am installing safety grab bars in all of my showers & bathtubs and I need some guidance on the installation procedure.    What do I need to know to install these bars correctly? David

Dear David:
The use of handrails and safety bars help provide stability and extra support required by the elderly and people with limited mobility.  Approved ADA grab bars are available in a wide variety of configurations, colors and finishes.  The most common is the stainless steel or chrome finish.   The grab-bars must be able to support a dead weight pull of 250 pounds.  The preferred method is to bolt directly into the wall studs.  This is not always practical, as the stud might not line up where they are needed.  Grab-bars can be mounted vertically or at an angle to match wall stud spacing.  If finding studs becomes a problem, alternate installation methods are available.  If your walls are in good condition, you may use large toggle bolts or if you have access to the backside of the shower or bath walls, insert a backer plate or add a new stud for an anchor point.  Safety grab bars can be located at any local hardware store.  It is advisable that you check ADA requirements with local, state and federal agencies for regulations governing height, distance & angle of the bars.  

Dear Maintenance Men:
I am trying to do my part to conserve water and have found my toilets are the biggest offenders.  The toilet constantly fills every five or ten minutes. I have replaced the fill & flapper valves but the problems persist.  I’m at my wits end about this!  What can I do besides replacing the toilets?

Dear Benjamin:
Leaks at the Flush Valve are possibly caused by a damaged flush valve seat which may have a hole or the rim is pitted or cracked. The seat is the large drain hole at the bottom of the tank.  A temporary repair may be to sand the seat with a steel wool pad or wet/dry sandpaper.  This will remove the calcium build-up.  If the seat is damaged, replacing the seat will be the next option.  “Fluidmaster, Inc” makes a Flusher Fixer Kit that can be cemented directly on top of your old worn flush valve seat. This is a quick fix that may not work on all toilets.  If the seat kit does not work, you will need to replace the valve seat.  This can be accomplished by removing the tank from the base of the toilet:  Turn off the water to the fill valve, disconnect the water line and remove any water from the tank. Unscrew the two or three brass bolts under the tank and carefully lift the tank off.   Once the tank is removed, turn it upside down. Remove the rubber “Spud” washer from the tank.  Spin the large nut from the threads and then push the valve seat through the tank.  Reverse the procedure when installing the new valve seat. Always install a new “Spud” washer and new brass bolts and washers.  Be sure your toilet tank is installed level, as this will aid in its operation.  The new flush valve will give the rubber flapper a smooth seat for a positive seal. 

Dear Maintenance Men:
My current vacancy was long occupied by a heavy smoker.  Every surface is sticky with brown nicotine and the smell of smoke is overwhelming.   How do I get rid of the smell and keep it from coming back?


Dear George:
Cigarette smell is very hard to remove even after painting and cleaning the carpets.  Chances are if the resident was long term, the carpets, drapes or blinds will need to be replaced.  Remove the carpets, pad and tack strips.  The tack strips are wood and can absorb and release the smell of smoke, urine etc.  Thoroughly clean the floors with soapy water mixed with bleach.  After cleaning the floors, it is not a bad idea to paint or use a primer to coat the flooring.  One of the best ways to remove the nicotine residue from the walls is using old-fashioned elbow grease!  Again, wash the walls with soapy water using a brush or rag.  Adding TSP (a powdered cleaning solution available at most hardware stores) or using a degreasing agent will help in the cleaning.  If you have flat ceilings, wash them too.  If you have “acoustical” or “pop-corn” type ceiling, that’s a problem.  By its nature, acoustical ceiling material cannot be cleaned.  Encapsulating the acoustical ceiling with spray paint may solve the problem.  You will need a primer coat and a minimum of two coats of paint.  If the smell is still present, give it another coat of paint and let the unit air as much as possible.  Don’t forget to wash the windows and window frames.  You will be amazed at how clean the aluminum or vinyl windows will look after a good cleaning.  

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!!    If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: 

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at 714 956-8371  
Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to: 
Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.