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This FAQ posted on www.findmyleak.com is for informational purposes only and does not provide warranty or guarantee for any information provided on this FAQ page. Please contact Master Plumbing and Leak Detection to deal with code or permit questions and answers.

CONSTRUCTION TIPS

Sweating bronze valves and sweating in general

Soldering valves to copper pipe requires a little more heat to sweat because of the thicker walls. But sweating copper is really all the same … Scour both the outside of the pipe and the inside of the *cup* of the fitting to be soldered. Flux them both (make sure not to touch the cleaned copper with your hands because the natural oils of your hands can cause the soldered joints to not be “perfect”) and apply heat all around the cup. I then put my flame on one spot (usually the bottom) and apply the solder to the opposite side until the solder flows to the heat (make sure to not overheat). The solder always runs to the heat. You can over heat it – so once the solder flows around to the heat – stop – and clean it up with a dry rag (I prefer a rag made from cotton). If you use a wet rag it can make the job look rather sloppy but that will also work.

Cutting cast iron and plastic/cast connections

You cut the cast iron with a reciprocal saw like a Milwaukee Sawzall all. Use heavy metal blades like Lenox 614R type. I start with the six inchers. It will take several to get through the side of the pipe. Once you have made a cut into the pipe – it will go faster. You’ll need the long metal blades to finish the job. At first-it will seem like it will never cut it-but it will. Use Mission or Fernco No Flex couplings- one on each side-to connect the plastic and cast iron. Do not forget the vents!

DISHWASHERS

Rust in dishwasher?

There is no way to clean rust out of old galvanized pipes. Most DWM s have a screen where the water connects to the machine. You access it through the lower front panel. Another solution would be to put a filter on just the hot water pipe to the DWM. If you replace the pipe – use copper – and connect to the old galvanized with a dialectic union.

The dishwasher doesn't drain?

Dishwashers are supposed to leave some water in the unit at the end of each cycle. This is to keep the element type heater, used for drying the dishes, from burning up. It’s a lot like a water heater element. If a lot of water stays in the sump – the drain could be clogged. A partially clogged air gap will do the same thing. The air gap is that little chrome dome on the kitchen counter.

DRAINS

When I run the CWM, my toilet bubbles/overflows or my shower overflows...

When the lowest plumbing fixture in the house overflows when another fixture (like a CWM) is draining; the septic tank needs to be pumped, there is a break in the sewer pipe outside the house or the main drain is plugged somewhere.

Slow shower drain?

As a plumber, I see plugged drains when *Liquid Plumber* type products don’t work – though these products shouldn’t hurt the pipes. Care should be taken when using them around kitchen sink/dishwasher drains. I have seen them backup into the DWM. If the chemicals don’t work – then try renting a small power snake. This WILL do the job. Those little hand drum snakes at the hardware store just are not up to a 2″; shower drain. BTW, I’ve never seen any damaged pipes caused by drain cleaners. Older hands than myself say they don’t like drain cleaners because the chemicals make their snakes brittle – that sounds like crystallization – I’ve just never seen it myself and I’m skeptical. There are a bazillon gallons of that stuff sold and I think that it would be obvious if it was a problem. I just don’t think it (drain cleaners) work in most cases.

How do I get a snake down a bathtub drain?

To get a snake in the drain you take off the *overflow plate*. That’s the chrome thing on the tub wall with two screws. When you pull it out – two sections of the stopper mechanism will come with it. It’s hinged so it will bend through the hole. Chances are that hair caught on the end of this mechanism is clogging the drain- you might not even need to snake it. BTW – A snake will not go through the drain hole at the bottom of the tub.

Leaking tub drain at the drain-hole?

It is replaced from the top that is sitting in the tub. Hopefully you have *crosshairs* or a couple of little *nibs* inside the drain flange (the chrome part). That’s the part that unscrews. The tool is called a *pickle* – it has a fork at one end and crossed slots at the other. Or a *dumbell* which is tapered and has crossed slots at both ends. Or just use pliers and stick the handle end down into the drain, catch the cross hairs or nibs and unscrew. Clean off the old plumber’s putty. Slide a new washer between the underside of the tub and the *shoe* (part with female threads) and put putty around the chrome flange and screw it back in.

Can clogged vents stop up drains?

Yes and no. A toilet with no vent may not flush the contents out of the bowl, but any other drain will work without a vent. (NOTE: the code is that all fixtures shall be vented). Only twice in 15 years has the vents been the cause of a drain backup. In one case it was roofers who stuffed the old roofing material down the vents and the other was just a stray piece of wood. In both cases the material made its way down into the drain pipe and had to be removed. No amount of *vent cleaning* would have done any good.

A leak in the shower or bathroom?

I see this all the time and nine times out of ten it’s the grout or a bad pan under the shower. Before anything else I try to determine if the leak is constant or if it is periodic. If it is constant there is a good chance the leak is in the pressurized water lines. Usually the leak is periodic so I have a series of tests that I perform to track it down. Sometimes a quick visual inspection of the tile will show that the grout is shot and is the most likely cause of the leak but I will often complete the rest of my tests to be sure. What I do is first fill the tub half way and drain it. This will tell me if it’s in the drain pipe. For a shower with a lead or vinyl pan I block the drain and fill the base with water. This will tell me if the pan leaks. Then I remove the shower head and put a 1/2″ cap on the shower arm and turn on the pressure. This will tell me if there is a leak in the pipe between the shower valve and the shower arm. If no leak has shown up by then I tend to think the leak is water bleeding through the tile due to bad grouting or that water is escaping the shower and going down through flaws in the bathroom floor. I can check this by taping up a plastic dropcloth inside the shower covering all the tile work and having the customer use the shower normally for a day or two. If the leak has suddenly disappeared then we know it coming through the tile. A few cups of water on the floor will show a leak through bad tile or a cracked floor base. If none of this works, it’s time to open the walls.

Can sump pump outflow to septic?

It is illegal to connect any rain or ground water to the sewer. IF, however, you do hookup – at the very least put a trap in the in the line to keep sewer gas out of the house.

The drain pipes under the kitchen sink and the garbage disposal keep coming loose...

Don’t mix PVC washers and nuts with metal washers and nuts. Keep them consistent. The plastic washers (ferrules) go with the plastic pipe and washers. The thicker side faces the nut and the thinner side the *cup*. The metal pipe uses metal nuts and square cut rubber washers. Also, make sure that all the pipes fit down into the next pipe as deeply as they can go.

Grey Water?

Gray water use is needed! I want it for my yard here on Vashon Island, WA where during the summer we have to let the grass die for lack of water…BUT there are no approved systems yet. States like CA are leading the way and I’m not sure if they have an approved system yet and if so, if it is affordable. As far as *sanitary* I just don’t know. I think that the water will have to be treated in some fashion. I have been in some really disgusting lakes under houses that was all tub/shower water and dried laundry water looks like cakes of hard dry soap.

FAUCETS

Moen faucet repair?

Moen faucets have cartridges that can be replaced. There is a clip (on top) that has to be pulled up and out before the cartridge can be replaced. Often it seems stuck as if it will not come out. Some replacement cartridges provide a plastic square to turn the cartridge in the valve body 1/4 turn. This breaks it free from the valve grease that it is stuck in. If, after replacing the unit ,the hot and cold are reversed, re-install with the cartridge turned 180 degrees.

Delta faucet repair?

You can buy a Delta single handle faucet repair kit with a tool for maybe five to seven bucks. It has all the instructions and is very easy to do.

The faucet "clunks" when I turn it on...

99% of the time when you hear a clunk in any pipe when you turn a faucet on/off – it’s a loose washer in the faucet. When you take it apart be sure you get the old washer and a screw. If you don’t – turn the water back on and flush out the missing part.

Bathroom faucet drips when the toilet is flushed or shower is on...

Could be a loose washer. The pressure holds it down when no other faucet is running water and the lower pressure let’s it rise up a bit when other water is used.

Claw foot tub faucets?

These faucets are special to CFTs they have 2 3/8″; centers. Some units have 1/2″; and some have 3/4″; water connections at the back. The 3/4″; needs special CFT supply pipes. Most older faucets are not code and it is still easy to buy non-code faucets. The code is that the faucet spout must have a gap of at least 1″; between the top of the tub rim and the bottom of the spout – that’s so bath water in the tub cannot siphon back into the drinking water supply.

GAS

Will natural gas corrode galvanized pipes?

In the old days, sometimes after a long time. This was generally due to the poor quality of galvanizing. Today using galvanized pipe generally presents no threat. Plumbers tend to use black pipe with gas for two main reasons. One is that it costs less than galvanized (except I’ve seen some home centers charging more for black which must be because of consumer’s lack of knowledge of “cost”). The other is that if galvanized pipes are used for water then using black for gas distinguishes the two uses. Imagine using galvanized for both gas and water in the same house? That could present a problem in people distinguishing which pipes are carrying what. I like to suggest painting galvanized pipes used for gas yellow. Today there exists flexible stainless steel gas pipe and it always yellow (that I’ve ver seen) so painting piping that is for gas yellow seems like a good idea. If pipe is in the ground it will tend to corrode faster (depends on the soil conditions). Many areas do not allow galvanized pipe underground for gas piping and factory coated steel pipe must be used. In some areas plastic pipe is allowed underground (with electric wire above it to allow for locating of that plastic gas pipe as well as warning tape above that pipe as well).

Leaking steel union?

There are left and right hand couplings and nipples that take the place of unions. No sealant is required on unions faces – the seal is made by the beveled male/female surfaces. Also do not use regular Teflon tape. There is a separate type of tape for gas.

Gas HWT height?

Gas HWT have to be at least 18″; off the floor because combustible fumes *sink* and for air intake.

MOLDS

Where can the mold be coming from?

  • water intrusions/leaks
  • inadequate building ventilation
  • high indoor humidity
  • improper installation or repair of pipes
  • “water hammer” ettect caused by improper support of pipes
  • improper soldering of pipes
  • leaking fittings and connections
  • (and the list continues…)

Do you have any tips or information on mold?

  • Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
  • There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
  • If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
  • Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
  • Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and De-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dish washing, and cleaning.
  • Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  • Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  • Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  • In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

NOISES

Rattling pipes?

I find several reasons why pipes rattle. The most common is that the washer in the faucet or valve is loose. Another is that the pipe is touching another pipe or hard surface in the wall (OUCH!). And for hot water rattles, the energy saving nipples that screw in the top of the water heater, sometimes make a serious rattling noise when you turn on any hot water tap. They have a ball in them that acts like a check valve. Under a DWM it could be that the soft copper water supply is hitting a hard surface or the machine itself is not tight in the opening and is jumping around.

The faucet "clunks" when I turn it on...

99% of the time when you hear a clunk in any pipe when you turn a faucet on/off – it’s a loose washer in the faucet. When you take it apart be sure you get the old washer and a screw. If you don’t – turn the water back on and flush out the missing part.

The anti-hammer device...

Up until 10/15 years ago we put in anti hammer tubes. The *powers that be* found that the tubes got water logged over time. So – it’s no longer code. In commercial installs, spring loaded devices are used especially at the end of long runs or at the end of a series of fixtures like urinals. To replace the air in the anti hammers, drain down the water in the whole house with the faucets turned on. The idea is that when you turn the water back on it will compress the air at the highest point at the end of each pipe. That’s what the *powers that be* realized that plumbers were not plumbing for – and home owners would not do.

POOLS & SPAS

What are the warning signs of a leak?

  • Loss of 1/8 inch of water or more in 24 hours. It might be evaporation, but a professional should investigate consistent losses of this magnitude.
  • Algae formation too soon after a chemical treatment.
  • Loose or falling tiles or pool deck cracks.
  • An automatic filler that is constantly releasing water.
  • Cracks and gaps in the pool shell, or concrete deck, or a settling of the whole pool or spa structure into the ground.

How can I check for a leak?

  1. Fill the pool to its normal level
  2. Fill a bucket with pool water to about one inch from the top (mark this spot)
  3. Place the bucket, partially submerged, on the first steps of the pool
  4. Shut off the pool pump, then mark how high the pool comes up on the outside of the bucket
  5. Restart the pool pump

Wait 24 hours – compare the drop in bucket water to the drop in pool water; if the pool has lost more, you may have a leak

SMELLS

Garbage disposal smells - what could this mean?

Put ice cubes in the disposal (about 1/2 way), run the disposal, flush out with cold water. Next put 1/2 a lemon and grind it up.

Shower stall smells - what could this mean?

If you can see water in the trap , then the trap is holding water and you know it’s working. Even if the trap is undersized (1 1/2″; instead of 2″;) it would work. So the problem is probably a leaking drain pipe, the shower drain itself (the part that is connected to the shower stall) or it’s leaking where the two connect. Can’t fix the pipe or the drain itself without pulling the shower out. But, if you can see a rubber or lead ring around the pipe as it sticks up into the shower drain – that can be removed and a new one put in. This is a pretty common practice in concrete shower installs.

TOILETS

Low flush problems?

Till the year 2001 there was a lot of consumer dissatisfaction with 1.6 GAL toilets. The manufactures had to design and build them to meet a government water conservation deadline and in many cases simply didn’t produce a good flushing 1.6 gpf toilet initially. They blamed the Congress. The consumer blamed the manufacturer or plumber. Whatever – we were stuck (no pun intended) with ’em. Some in our trade (who think about this kind of thing), even proposed about using 2 1/2″; drain pipes instead of 3″; main drains. That would make for a higher level of water (think cross section) carrying the waste in the pipe. This points up the first problem. The W/Cs were designed and tested on modern plumbing. That is, 3″ plastic drains – not older 4″ to 6″ cast iron. There is very little water (again think cross section) at the bottom of a 6″ cast iron pipe to move waste along . Low flush W/Cs do work better in new homes. Other situations that I’ve seen that effect low flush W/Cs are; where the toilet is in the house and what other plumbing fixtures are available to wash down the drain pipes. Toilets on the end of long runs to the building drain outfall are most likely to plug up. It’s important to keep a CONSTANT 1/4″; per foot grade. With plastic drain pipes they must be *hung* every 4 feet and it wouldn’t hurt to actually look at them any time you’re under the house to see that they have not begun to sag. *Guest* toilets tend to plug up more often than *master* baths – there is no shower washing the drain down. I really think the code needs to address this issue in pipe design. I know that I am aware of where, and in what order I decide to plug in the drains in the new houses I plumb. It makes a difference where the CWM drain goes now, and the code does not say much.

Toilet leaks at base?

Is the top of the flange even (or close to even) with the finished floor? If it to low – then use two wax rings. One regular wax ring on the bottom and one (or more) with the plastic horn insert on top. ) I have seen leaks like you describe if the glued flange is not really glued in all the way. Take a look at that – if your floor and flange is flush. Sometimes you need to shim the toilet if the floor is uneven or the flange is too high.

High pressure makes my toilet run (with new ballcock)...

If your water pressure is so high that it leaks past a Fluid master 400A or another new ballcock – then you NEED a pressure reducing valve. Other water pipes, connectors, clothes washing machine hoses and your water heater could leak or break. Best to get a pressure regulator if your pressure to the house is more than 60 pounds (80 is code throughout most of the U.S.).

Sealing the tank to the bowl?

Get the best results by using the large donut gasket of the type that is square cut inside to match the shape of the nut on the bottom of the tank. Sealant will not help. Tighten the bolts down evenly to the point where the tank is snug on the bowl. Over tightening will break the bowl and/or tank.

WATER DISTRIBUTION

Copper pipes verses plastic?

IMHO copper rules in most situations (unless you have low pH or aggressive water)! Over time, the plastic can sometimes *sag* and possibly get brittle. If it needs to be repaired or altered in any way, the pipe will have to be glued and you will have no water ’til it dries. Copper-you can solder, turn it on, test it and know that all is well. Any plastic to metal connection is weak, such as where the HWT connection is made. Mice and rats love many plastics. They chew on it to keep their teeth from growing through their lower jaw.

Sizing water pipes?

If you lived alone, only using one plumbing fixture at a time – correct pipe size wouldn’t be a big issue. However when you are in the shower and someone flushes the toilet – it is a big deal. The basic rule is *two fixtures on a 1/2″; pipe*. You need min. 3/4″; incoming cold pipe for a one bath house. Just running 3/4″; to each fixture in the house won’t hurt, but there will be no real gain. To size a water distribution system, get a copy of your state code book. It will spell it out in terms of beginning pressure, the furthest fixture from the meter and the number of fixtures in the house. Each fixture is worth *so many units* and you are allowed *so many units* for each size pipe as you get further from the meter.

What type of pipe from the meter to my house?

If the run from the house to the street is short (under 60 feet) I’d use *Type L * soft copper. It is less likely to break and it has no fittings in the ground except at each end of the pipe. I’d also put pipe (foam) insulation) around the copper run. For longer runs my next choice would be schedule 40 PVC pipe. Not a bad choice at all. I would not use flexible plastic – that is black *poly* pipe. It comes in a roll. Way to soft and the metal clamps and hard plastic (or metal) connectors will break over time. I repair them weekly.

WATER HEATERS

Water heater maintenance?

Once a year:

  1. Turn off electric power or gas before doing anything. Damage will result if element comes on when tank is dry. Turn of water supplying HWT. Note that a time switch is NOT a safe place to turn off the electricity! Do it from the circuit breaker, or pull the fuse.
  2. Drain the water heater (HWT). After HWT is drained, and hose is still attached, open and close the inlet valve a few times to help flush the sediment out. Do this ’til the water comes out clear. You may have to dismantle the valve, if there are large chunks of scale coming loose.
  3. Remove the sacrificial anode, which looks like a plug in the top of the HWT. Inspect; it should be almost as long as the water heater. Replace if any portion of it is thinner than about 1/4″;
  4. With anode out, shine flashlight inside of tank to inspect for rust. If you see a lot of rust, it’s probably time to replace it…before it fails. Water heaters are normally glass- or ceramic-lined to prevent corrosion; this is also what the anodes for. The heat of the water hastens corrosion, once it starts.
  5. Open up the element access panels. Disconnect one wire from each of the elements. With a volt-ohm-meter, check to see that both elements are still functional (the resistance across the terminals should be??? ohms, but if your meter peaks out with exceptionally high ohms, it’s time to replace the element).
  6. Wrap everything up. Turn on the water. Open a hot water faucet to let the air out. When HWT is full, turn on electricity. Wait a while for the water to all heat up. If you are replacing a water heater, install a special pan underneath designed to catch water should the HWT develop a leak (or pop off the pop-off valve). Have it drain to a safe place (outside; floor drain).

On-demand hot water?

The relative energy efficiency of these systems depends a lot on other factors such as the amount of heat loss from a more traditional storage tank system or the length of time hot water is stored before it is used. In practice they require a good deal more energy per volume of heated water than conventional systems and they cannot usually provide enough hot water for more than one fixture at a time. The traditional storage tank type of water heater can be quite efficient if the tank and the hot water pipes are properly insulated.