Archive for the ‘plumbing’ category

Quick Tip #32 – Water Heater Drip Needs Attention

September 28th, 2014

One fine day, you walk past the water heater, and your foot gets wet. Hmm, that’s strange. You take a look and notice a very slow drip – drip – drip from the tube on the side of the water heater. That can’t be too bad, right? Just put a bucket under the tube to catch the water? Sorry, not a good idea.

That tube on the side of the water heater is the temperature and pressure relief (T and P) valve (also called TP and R valve). This valve monitors temperature and pressure inside the tank. If the temperature or pressure becomes too high, the valve will open to dump steam and water. This prevent excessive pressure from building and possibly rupturing the tank.

If you find a leak, this often means the valve is not seating properly, and perhaps debris has built up in the valve. It may also mean the temperature or pressure is too high.

When the T and P valve is leaking, have a plumber check for problems and replace the valve as needed. Don’t ignore this problem, as it could create a safety hazard.

W024C - Water Heater T & P - Drip_300dpi

Quick Tip #28 – Stains Around a Toilet = Serious Problem

August 30th, 2014

Always be on the lookout for water leaks in your home, including little clues that could indicate bigger problems. For instance, if interior paint is bubbling or loose, you’re likely to find a water leak behind the paint.

Around your toilet, check the vinyl flooring. Any gray stain in the vinyl that can’t be washed away may indicate a leak where the toilet connects to the drainage pipe – or a leak at the wax ring sealing the toilet to the drain pipe flange.

 

P027C - Toilet Leak at Floor_300dpi

 

The gray stain in the vinyl is caused by a small amount of water seeping under the vinyl. Water discolors the subfloor and vinyl; the stain can’t be removed.

Gently rock the toilet from side to side. It should not wobble or slide on the floor. Any movement means there may be a problem that should be checked by a plumber.

If your home has a basement or crawl space, you can also look for signs of drips or wood stains below the toilet. This type of leak is particularly bad because it can cause unseen rot that may require replacement of the subfloor – an expensive repair.

Quick Tip #27 – Plumbing Vent? What Plumbing Vent?

August 18th, 2014

All modern plumbing systems in residential construction have a plumbing vent. It doesn’t just vent unwanted odors from the drainage system to the outside; it actually serves an important purpose by supplying air to the system.

The plumbing drainage system in your home is actually called a drainage, waste and vent (DWV) system. When water flows down the piping, an air supply (vent) is needed to allow the water to flow. Think of the vertical pipe as a drinking straw. If you plug the top end of a straw, liquid won’t drain from it.

The DWV system in your home consists of a series of pipes connected to each fixture; they extend above each fixture, and the system terminates at an open pipe that extends through the roof. This piping allows air into the system and prevents unbalanced pressures in the piping.

 

P016C - Drainage, Waste and Vent (DWV) System_300dpi

The vent also prevents the system from drawing water out of a trap at the fixture with the characteristic “glug-glug-glug” as the drain gasps for air. Plumbing traps should drain smoothly and never “glug” or gasp for air.

If your home has a drain that empties slowly or gurgles as it drains, this may indicate a venting problem. If you flush a toilet and the sink gurgles, there’s definitely a vent problem. Have a plumber check this.

Quick Tip #26 – Pop-Up Stopper Sticks

August 11th, 2014

P097 - Sink Stopper AdjustmentsMost bathroom sinks have a “pop-up” sink stopper that opens and closes when you operate a small knob or lever built into the faucet. Push it down and the stopper pops up to drain the sink; lift it up and the stopper closes.

Most of these mechanisms need adjustments from time to time, and many are never set just right in the first place. Take a look at the illustration. The rod at the rear of the sink will allow adjustment where the metal strap with holes attaches to the stopper rod. The rod can be placed in holes at different heights to raise or lower the mechanism. The perforated rod also allows a sliding adjustment where it is attached to the solid rod that goes up through the sink.

If the sink is plugged, place a bucket below the sink, then loosen the nut and pull back the rod for the pop-up stopper at the tail piece of the sink drain. (A little water may leak out.) This will disconnect the pop-up stopper, and you can remove it to clear out debris that always collects here.

Quick Tip #22 – The Rain May Drain, But It’s Really Not a Pain

July 14th, 2014

P017 - Storm, Sanitary Sewer in StreetWhen a rain gutter and downspout send their discharge below grade to a pipe, it may appear that rainwater is draining into a sanitary sewer, but it really isn’t. In municipal areas with sewer systems, gutter (rainwater) discharge is normally routed into a storm sewer. This storm piping routes water to rivers and streams and is separate from the sanitary sewer system.

Municipal systems include a sanitary sewer system that routes toilet, shower and sink water to a sewage treatment plant. The flow of storm and sanitary sewer systems would never be combined unless a really old system is in place or there are problems with the system. In the old days before good sewage treatment, homes had combined sewers – but that is not common today.

When you live out in the country, your gutters may discharge below grade and be directed underground to the side of a hill or a lower spot. Rural areas don’t have storm sewers.

Here is a tip. Look at the curb and gutter in front of your house. If you see grates there, rainwater flows into a storm sewer system below the street.

Quick Tip #18 – A Drip at the Darned Valve – Again

June 19th, 2014

P009 - Globe ValveLet’s say that every time you turn the small globe valve for the outdoor hose bib, you get that drip-drip-drip from the body of the valve. Or maybe your drip occurs at the small needle valve for the icemaker or the humidifier – turn the valve, and the darned thing leaks.

Maybe you wire a coffee can below the valve to catch drips, and the problem is solved – until the can overflows onto the floor.

It’s time to adjust the packing nut. What’s that? Most needle, globe and gate valves have a packing nut that surrounds the valve stem. On these valves you normally turn the handle around and around to control the flow. The valve handle is sealed at the stem with a packing nut and flexible packing below the nut.

The fix? Tighten the hex nut slightly to compress the packing around the valve stem, and the leak will stop. This may make the valve harder to turn, so don’t tighten it too much – just enough to stop the drip. If the drip continues, you may need to dismantle the valve and replace the packing, a job often best left to a plumber.

If you allow a valve to continue dripping, deposits will build up around the valve stem and eventually ruin the valve.

Quick Tip #14 – Thump, Thump…It’s the Water Heater

May 19th, 2014

Gas Water Heater with Thumps, Gurgles, and PopsIt’s annoying when your water heater thumps, pops and whomps whenever you use hot water. What can you do?

The water heater’s thumping is caused by sediment that has built up in the bottom of the metal tank or around the electrical heating elements. The illustration shows a gas water heater with this problem. The sediment interferes with even heat transfer and allows steam bubbles to form. The bubbles float upward and then implode with a muffled thump.

You could try to drain sediment from the bottom of the tank. Attach a hose to the drain valve and route it to a safe plumbing fixture, such as a floor drain. Be careful; the water will be hot. Drain a few gallons; repeat this several times. Often, though, sediment is difficult to remove from the tank.

The thumping does not cause any damage to the water heater, but it certainly is annoying. Consider installing a water softener to eliminate the hard water sediment.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #11 – Inside Info on an Outdoor Fixture

April 28th, 2014

Hose Bibs - Types, DetailsHere’s a bit of fix-it trivia for you: the exterior faucet to which you connect lawn hoses is called a hose bib. You can toss out this technical term to impress friends and neighbors, right? Whatever you call it, keep these tips in mind to help things run smoothly.

For cold climates, locate the interior valve before winter sets in so you can turn the water off. Remove any hose attached to the bib, then open the exterior valve. This allows water to drain from the piping so it can’t freeze and break a pipe.

For both warm and cold climates, some type of vacuum breaker should be connected to the hose bib. It might be a round brass fitting attached to the threaded connection. In newer hose bibs, the vacuum breaker is built in; look for a large cap on the top of the valve.

Why does your hose bib need a vacuum breaker? It prevents dirty water from flowing backward into your drinking water system. If there’s low pressure in your home’s system, water can be drawn indoors from a hose lying in a dog dish or connected to a garden chemical sprayer — yuck! Such low water pressure could occur, for example, when a fire department’s pumper draws water from elsewhere in the municipal system, creating low (negative) pressure all down the line.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #10 – Reviving a “Dead” Disposal

April 22nd, 2014

Garbage Disposal Wrench, ResetDead garbage disposal? Usually, it’s easy to bring this gadget back to life. Take a look at the illustration and follow these simple steps.

Does the disposal “hum” when the switch is on? If not, most likely the problem is a tripped overload in the disposal. Turn the wall switch off. Look under the disposal and locate the reset switch — a little button recessed within a hole toward the side of the housing. Push the button, and the disposal should at least hum when you hit the wall switch. It may also come up to speed.

If the disposal hums but the blades don’t spin, you can use a service wrench to loosen up the motor. You’ll probably find the disposal’s service wrench stored in a small plastic sleeve below the sink. It will look like a hex wrench with two angled ends. If you can’t find your wrench, purchase one (they’re inexpensive) at the hardware store.

With the power off (no hum), place the small hex wrench in the center hole at the bottom of the disposal. Twist the wrench back and forth to free the impellers. Remove the wrench and hit the switch — yeah!

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #3 – Plugged Drain? Here’s a Quick Fix

January 13th, 2014

Yuck…your tub or bathroom sink is draining slowly … again. Every time you remove the trap or use a plumbing snake, you know you’ll be dealing with a major mess. And, the hair in the trap is disgusting! But, you’re tired of standing in water when taking a shower.

Well, next time you’re at the grocery or hardware store, pick up a drain cleaner: a flexible plastic strip with small hooks along its length. It looks like a very thin Christmas tree.

P101

Without dismantling anything, you push this thin plastic tool down the drain and pull out all that hair and junk. For some drains, it helps if you remove the stopper for better access.

Just be ready for a mess when you pull it out. Have a rag or paper towel ready to catch the junk. You should also wear rubber gloves.

After the junk is removed, run very hot water down the drain for several minutes.

If you don’t have time to go to the grocery store, you could also try this with a length of thin wire bent to form a hook on one end. This tool is not as effective, and it will take more effort to catch the hair and the junk — but it can work.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It