Plumbing Tips (29)
1. Washing Machine HosesOne of the most damaging water leaks that can occur in the home is a burst washing machine hose. If the washing machine is on the main floor or upstairs the damage can be even more extensive. Check the hose connections to make sure they are tight. If the hoses are over 5 years old, or show signs of cracking or buckling, they should be replaced. Consider installing braided stainless steel hoses, which can withstand more pressure than rubber hoses.
2. Leaking ToiletsLeaking toilets are often the most overlooked leaks in the home because they are the least likely to be noticed. To test for leaks add a few drops of food coloring to a gallon of water and pour it into the toilet tank. Without flushing the toilet if the coloring appears in the bowl there is a leak.
3. Water Heater LeaksWater heaters that a beyond their life expectancy (typically 8-10 years) are most susceptible to leaks. Rust and corrosion inside the tank will eventually cause water to start leaking. To keep your water heater working reliably and reduce the likelihood of corrosion, flush sediment from the hot water tank annually.
1. Pressure-Balancing ValvesA pressure-balanced valve, also called an ant-scald valve, is required in Colorado building code and most municipalities. A Pressure balancing valve ensures water flows at a constant temperature to showers and bathtubs, regardless of pressure variations in the hot and cold water supply lines.
2. Thermostatic ValvesThermostatic valves provide the same functionality as pressure-balancing valves, but operate by using a thermostat-controlled valve to adjust the right amount of hot and cold water to maintain proper water temperature without changing the flow rate. This is an advantage over pressure-balancing valves which can drastically reduce water flow when the hot or cold water supply pressure drops. Thermostatic valves are used to control individual fixtures and can also be used on the outlet of a hot water heater as an anti-scald device for the entire house.
3. Vent Stacks and Main StackThe main stack is a 4-inch pipe running from the basement to about a foot above the roof. A home’s drain lines all drain into the main stack, which empties into the main drain in the basement and then into the municipal sewer line.
The section of the main stack that’s used for draining waste is called the soil stack. The section above the drain connections is referred to as the vent stack.
4. Shutoff ValvesAny fixture that uses water has some kind of shutoff valve to adjust the flow of water to the fixture. A toilet shutoff valve is located right below the tank, near where the water pipe comes through the wall. If your toilet is about to overflow you can use the shutoff valve to stop the water. The shutoff valves for most faucets are under the sink.
5. P-TrapThe P-trap is the S-shaped section of drain pipe located under a bathroom sink. If something falls down the drain, the P-trap will save it from continuing down to the sewer line and beyond. You can easily remove the P-trap by loosening the large slip nuts on each end of the curved pipe. Don't forget to have a bucket handy because the trap will be full of yucky water. If your sink is slow to drain or clogged, removing the P-trap and cleaning it out can often fix the problem.
New FaucetsNew faucets are an inexpensive way to bring bathrooms and kitchens up to date. Adding low-flow faucet aerators will also save you money on your water bill.
Low-Flow ShowerheadsShower heads come a wide range of styles and finishes. A new trend is to install a combination of shower heads rather than a single wall-mount shower head for a spa like experience. The shower heads can be adjusted to produce a spray that ranges from fine to coarse and a water action that ranges from gentle mist to strong massage.
Top-mount or ceiling-mounted shower heads spray from directly overhead, life rainfall. Some top-mount heads can be installed flush with the ceiling in situations where the ceiling is too low to install a wall-mount head.
Sliding bar shower heads are mounted on a rail system to accommodate a wide range of heights.
Consider installing low-flow shower heads when possible. They use only around 2.5 gpm while maintaining an effective spray of water.
Water Conserving ToiletsInstalling a high efficiency toilets is one of the best plumbing upgrades you can make. If your home is older and has its original plumbing fixtures, you could save up to 3.5 gallons of water per flush!
Comfort height toilets are another popular option for older homeowners or homeowners with disabilities.
A home's plumbing system will make a wide range of noises under normal operation. By understanding which noises are normal and which could be the sign of a bigger problem you can often prevent expensive plumbing repairs.
Whistling sounds are often caused by a toilet fill valve that is leaking. You can often stop the sound temporarily by remove the lid of the toilet tank and adjusting the fill valve mechanism until it stops. The fill valve should be replaced to eliminate the leak.
This is another sound often caused by a toilet's fill valve. When the gasket inside the top cap of the fill valve is old and worn, it becomes less flexible. When closed, the poor seal can cause vibrations in wall near the toilet. Check the fill valve by removing the tank lid and activating the fill valve from the arm. If the vibration stops, the fill valve is worn and should be replaced.
If you hear banging noises when using faucets in the home it may be caused by improperly secured pipes behind the walls. If the piping is metal the problem may be caused by expansion and contraction when the pipes run through the joists or studs.
Another common cause of banging noises is "water hammer". This occurs when there is high water pressure in your plumbing system. Water flowing in one direction does not want to stop moving. When you turn off a faucet, the water still has considerable force to be absorbed by the pipe. If the pipe is against a stud or joist, it will bang against the wood. Having a water hammer arrestor installed can eliminate the banging noises.
Rumbling sounds are often heard when a water heater has excessive sediment build up. When water is trapped in this sediment and starts boiling the heat is not transferred out of the flue as efficiently, causing turbulence and noise.
Carefully draining a few gallons of water from the water heater tank using hose attached to the drain valve can remove much of the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the tank.
When you consider the damage that a flooded basement can cause, a sump pump is cheap insurance against the stress and hassle of extensive water damage. Unfortunately, as with any mechanical device, sump pumps eventually fail to work or simply wear out.
Here are 5 common reasons your sump pump may fail:
1. Power Failure
Because severe storms are often accompanied by power outages, unless you have a standby battery back-up sump pump, it's not going to work when the power goes out.
2. Stuck Switches
A mechanical float switch is used to activate the pump when the water in the pit as the water rises. Testing your sump pump annually will ensure the switch is moving freely. Enclosing the sump pump pit with an cover will also prevent any potential interference with the operation of the pump.
3. Low Quality Sump Pumps
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
4. Old Pumps
Because they work in a damp environment sump pumps will eventually wear out an become less effective and prone to failure.Because you never know when a pump will fail, have an experienced plumber inspect the unit if you are concerned about the unit's condition or age.
1. Fix leaking faucets and pipes
That small drip from a leaking faucet washer can waste as much as 20 gallons of water per day. Leaking outdoor faucets and pipes can waste hundreds of gallons.
2. Don't use the toilet as garbage disposal
Flushing paper waste like facial tissue and other items that could go into a wastebasket can save up to 7 gallons per flush.
3. Repair leaking toilets
To see if your toilets are leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes without flushing, have the toilet fixed.
4. Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators
These inexpensive devices are simple to install and will result in significant water savings with hardly any noticable difference in water pressure.
5. Check for hidden leaks
After you have repaired all detectible water leaks in faucets, toilets, show heads, etc., it's a good idea to check for hidden water leaks. Simply read your water meter then wait for a two-hour period during which no water is being used. If the water meter has changed, you have a leak.
1. Fix Leaks - Inspect shower heads and faucets for leaks. A single dripping faucet can waste hundreds of gallons of water in a year. Check toilets for leaks by adding several drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the tank is leaking, colored water will appear in the toilet bowl.
2. Test Your Sump Pump - Test the sump pump by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pump pit. The pump should turn on right away, remove the water, then turn off.
3. Sewer & Drain Maintenance - Check that all drains have strainers to prevent debris clogging the drain lines. Schedule a sewer line inspection. A video sewer line inspection will help to find the small issues before they become a major problem.
4. Ensure Plumbing Systems Are Regularly Used - Exercising faucets and water valves under sinks and toilets will prevent them from sticking from under use.
5. Maintain Your Water Heater - Drain a few gallons from the water heater tank to remove sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and can shorten the life of the water heater. Check with your water heater manufacturer's instructions for your specific make/model.
1. Only put the proper kinds of waste into the disposal
- Soft foods
- Ice cubes
- Some softer bones
- Softer fruit pits
- Citrus peels
- Coffee grounds
2. Avoid putting these types of waste down your disposal
Fibrous material like:
- corn husks
- celery stalks
- onion peels
- Seafood with shells, like shrimp
3. Always run a full stream of cold water
Let the water run for another 30 seconds after you turn off the disposer. Don't use hot water while you're grinding waste, although it's fine to use hot water when the disposer is off.
4. Let the disposal run only as long as it takes to grind the waste
This is usually less than 30 seconds.
5. Avoid using chemical drain cleaners in a disposer
The chemicals in most store bought drain cleaning products can damage your home's plumbing, and can be dangerous to use. If your disposal is jammed or backed up, call a professional plumber to clear the drain line.
If you see water accumulating near your water heater, it may not actually be coming from the water heater. Nearby appliances and condensation on pipes near the water heater can cause moisture to accumulate nearby. Closely inspect the base of the water heater and valves for signs of leaks.
If you determine the water heater is the cause of the leak, the first step is to turn off power to the water heater. If you have an electric water heater, turn the power off from the circuit breaker. A gas water heater can be shut of from the power supply attached to the unit, usually be turning a knob to the off position. Next, turn off the water from the cold water shut-off valve located near the top of the water heater.
Water heater leaks can occur in several locations, including: the cold water inlet and hot water outlet, the pressure relief valve, the drain valve, and the bottom of the tank. Fixing a water heater is not a do-it-yourself project. A qualified plumber should make the repair. Depending on the location and severity of the leak, your plumber will either have to repair the water heater, or recommend replacing it.
Preventing damage from water heater leaksFor an extra measure of protection from unexpected water heater leaks, specially designed pans can be installed under the water heater to divert water leaks to a nearby floor drain. There are also special water leak alarms that can turn off the water when a leak is detected from the water heater or another source.
A water heater expansion tank is another small tank that is attached to the water supply pipe of the water heater. The expansion tank is designed to handle the thermal expansion of water as it heats up in the water heater, preventing excessive water pressure. If water pressure gets to high it can damage valves in plumbing fixtures, joints in supply pipes and the water heater itself. Expanding water from the water heater flows into the expansion tank, relieving water pressure in the system.
What if my water heater doesn't have an expansion tank?Most homes that have a check valve on the water main do not have an expansion tank, since it wasn't required until recently. This may or may not cause excessive pressure buildup, depending on the specific design of the plumbing in the house.
If you are noticing that washers in plumbing fixtures are deteriorating rapidly, or water is dripping from the relief valve on the water heater, it may be wise to add an expansion tank. It can be low cost insurance against more costly damage to your home's plumbing system.