Plumbing Tips

Noisy Pipes:

Pipe noises range from loud hammering sounds to high-pitched squeaks. The causes may be loose pipes, water logged air chambers, or water pressure that's too high. Anchoring exposed pipes is a simple solution; other remedies such as anchoring pipes concealed inside walls, floors or ceilings, may call for a professional.

Preventing Frozen Pipes:

A faucet that won't yield water is the first sign of frozen pipes. If a severe cold snap hits, prevent freezing and subsequent bursting of pipes by following the suggestions below. Even if the pipes do freeze, you can thaw them before they burst if you act quickly. When temperatures fall very low, here's how to keep your pipes from freezing:

  • Keep a trickle of water running from the faucets.
  • Beam a heat lamp or small heater at exposed pipes.
  • Wrap uninsulated pipes with newspapers, heating wires, foam, or self-adhesive insulating tape.
  • Keep doors ajar between heated and unheated rooms.

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More Plumbing Tips:

1- To unclog a drain, first try the liquid drain products that are compatible with your home plumbing system. Some drain cleaners can not be used with PVC pipe, so read the label carefully. Never unscrew a trap with chemicals present and never mix different types of chemicals. Many are not compatible with each other.

2- Always run cold water when grinding in order to move the waste all the way through the drain lines. Fats and grease congeal and harden in cold water which can then be flushed through the system. Don't use hot water when grinding because it can dissolve fats and grease, which may then accumulate in the drainline.

3- Grinding small bones and egg shells actually helps clean the disposal by scraping away stubborn deposits or citric acid and pulp. Grinding a little ice is another way to clean out deposits and get rid of tent.

4- Feed items, like vegetable peels, into the disposal gradually. Allowing debris to accumulate in the sink and then shoving it down is invitation to a clog and/or disposal shutdown. Run a sinkful of water and baking soda through the disposal weekly. Don't throw anything with grease, oil or fat into the disposal. No fish, please. Don't ever put fibrous foods, like cornhusks, into the disposal. Don't run disposal with hot water, only cold.

5- The best way to remove mildew is to eliminate dampness and improve ventilation. Kill it by applying chlorine bleach to the mildew and caulk. Use a small sponge to apply the bleach and be careful not to get it on anything you don't want bleached. If the mildew has not penetrated the caulk a good dousing with bleach will make it disappear without re-caulking. Otherwise, you may have to recaulk.

6- Always pull rather than push a pipe wrench handle. Maintain a gap between the back of the hook jaw and the pipe. This helps maximize gripping force and centers the pressure on the jaw teeth. Always wear eye protection. Do not use a pipe wrench to bend, lift or raise pipe.

7- Plastic valves should not be used in steam, gas or compressed air lines. However, valves can be used with hot and cold fluid systems. Never over-tighten any valve, as you can strip the threads and ruin the valve. Whenever turning on a main water supply valve that has been turned off, always be sure to turn the water on slowly to avoid water banging in the pipes. When soldering copper pipe to a brass valve, always open the valve completely to avoid excessive heat damage.

8- If your sink drains are chronically slow and you live in an older house, the problem may be an accumulation of sludge in the lines. No amount of plunging and chemicals is going to fix this. What's needed is to climb up onto the roof of your house with a metal snake (preferably one with a business end looking a bit like a ballpeen hammer) and ram that snake down each of the drain lines, entering through the vent stacks, with a fair amount of force. It may require 50 or 100 motions for each stack. You should also snake out any drain clean-outs you can find at ground level. A licensed plumber may be your choice for this job.

9- If you are installing tanks and fitting pipes to them be sure to cover the ends of the pipes with tape to stop pieces of plastic and swarf from dropping down them. The bits and pieces may block taps later on and cause all kinds of problems.

10- If the water pressure is very poor in your shower it may be due to lime-scale build up. Always clean your shower heads every three months. If the scale is too bad you may have to get a new hose or a new shower head.

11- Water pipes sometimes make a loud "hammering noise" after the toilet has been flushed or sink faucet is turned off. This is caused by a pressure build up of water in the pipes. The simplest solution is to turn down your water pressure.

12- Split Pipes: If your water pipe has split, a temporary fix you can do while waiting for a qualified plumber is to wrap torn strips of fabric very tightly around the break. Keep a large saucepan or bucket underneath the join to catch any drips.

13- If you are removing nice tap fittings (such as gold ones) for maintenance reasons, use a thick cloth to protect it from the jaws of the wrench, otherwise you'll get a load of scratches on them.

14- Toilets usually clog in the fixtures built in trap, so a closet auger only has about 3 feet of cable. Sometimes a plunger will work, if not, place the auger in the toilet with the upturned tip going into the drain and push down as you crank to the right. After you feel the cable snake through the trap and you have pushed all the cable through, crank to the left and pull it back out. Try flushing the toilet. If it is still slow you may need to repeat. You can turn the tool to work the cable more to the right or more to the left to try to work out all of a big clog.

15- Toilet Overflow - At least once in life we all get to experience the toilet overflowing. We flush it and then stand there and watch it happen, believing all the time that the water really isn't going to go over the edge. Some quick action can prevent an overflow. When you sense it coming, quickly remove the tank lid and reach down and push the flush valve closed. It covers the tennis ball-sized opening in the bottom of the tank. Emergency over! Now all you have to do is unclog the toilet.

16- Stopped Drains - Most homeowners face stopped-up drains from time to time. If you immediately reach for the drain cleaner, consider the consequences. Drain cleaners are effective products, but they must be used appropriately. If the drain doesn't clear then you have to deal with a stopped drain full of caustic drain cleaner. Let the drain cleaner be the last choice. Try the plunger. If all efforts fail, call a plumber. Be sure to tell them you poured drain cleaner down the drain.

17- Stop Valves - Plumbing stop valves or cut-offs can be found in various locations about the house. the most important one is the main water cut-off. Know where it's located. Major damage from a plumbing mishap can be avoided if you can get the water shut off quickly. To insure that valves will work when needed, prime them once or twice a year by closing and opening them all the way.

18- Once a year, it is advisable to open the drain tap on your Hot Water Heater (domestic hot water) and drain the tank until the water is clear in order to flush the sediment that sits on the bottom of the tank. You should get brownish water for the 1st few seconds. Caution: the drain tap might drip after you shut it off. Get a 3/4 inches hose bib cap and screw it over the tap.

19- Twice yearly, open and close all shut valves – main (at meter), at toilets, above hot water tank, under all faucets (if any). This will keep them free of sediment and will allow them to be closed if needed.

20- On dial of water meter, there are usually two needles, the smaller is very sensitive and if movement is detected, this indicates water is being wasted, assuming no water is being used at the time of checking.

21- Put a bit of food coloring in each toilet tank. Without flushing, watch for a few minutes to see if the color shows up in the bowl. It's not uncommon to lose up to 100 gallons a day from one of these otherwise invisible toilet leaks. And that's more than 30,000 gallons a year!

22- To prevent leaks, don't forget to wrap the threads (clockwise, no more than 2 layers and don't cover the first 2 threads.) of all threaded pipes with Teflon tape before you connect them.

23- Noise when you use a faucet? Install water hammering arresters. Find the source of the noise and install a tee with the branch going up near by. Add a piece of pipe capped off. When you fill the pipe with water air will get trapped. This will serve as a shock absorber, when the pressure goes up it compresses the air and eliminates the hammering sound of the water in the pipes.

24- You can damage your septic system by doing a large number of laundry loads in a short period of time. In standard septic systems, solid materials settle in the tank, while effluent flows out into the ground. If you put more water into the septic system than it is built to handle, the high volume of water will flood your system, and can also flush solids out of the tank into the drain field. A typical washing machine can use up to 62 gallons of water per wash load. On a heavy wash day you can easily put 400, 500, 600 gallons of water down the drain in a few hours (many washing machines use 60 or more gallons of water per load). The solution is to spread out your water use. Do 1 or 2 loads of laundry per day, rather than 10-15 loads on Saturday morning.

25- Excessive use of laundry detergents, bleaches and fabric softeners can kill the useful bacteria in your septic system, causing it to fail. However, normal use of these products should not effect the operation of your septic system. These products do kill a small amount of bacteria, but septic tanks harbor a large bacterial colonies and the effect is negligible. If you do over 5 loads a week using bleach, problems could arise. Avoid powdered detergents, as they contain non-biodegradable fillers that can plug your system.

26- If you are willing to spend the money on a new toilet it will actually save you money each month on water and wastewater bills. An ultra low-flow toilet requires only 1.6 gallons of water per flush compared to toilets made before 1994 that use 3.5 to 7 gallons for each flush. By replacing your toilet, you could save 7,900 to 21,700 gallons of water a year.

27- One of the most common causes of water damage to a home is a broken washing machine hose. Most rubber supply hoses are not meant to withstand constant water pressure and can burst, so the emergency shut off valves to your washing machine should be shut off when the washing machine is not in use—and especially when you will not be home for an extended period. Or just replace those rubber supply hoses with braided stainless steel "no-burst" washing machine fill hoses.

28- To save energy and prevent scalding, lower the temperature on your water heater. To preserve your water heater, flush it annually.

29- If your pipes themselves have become frozen, you may be able to save them before a rupture occurs. If the pipes are hiding in the walls, you may simply be able to use a space heater and some patience. For exposed external pipes, a simple hair dryer will usually do the trick provided the area is clear of dangerous pooling water. If a burst has spawned you have a stubborn leak that is attacking the struts and beams or your home’s foundation, however, it is time to call the professionals without delay.

30- Check under sinks for moisture or small leaks. Leaks under sinks should be repaired quickly to avoid damage to cabinets and floors. Use a strainer in bathroom drains. This will prevent hair and soap pieces from clogging drains. Make sure overflow holes on tubs and vanity are clear and open to prevent water damage to floors and ceilings. Consider a grab bar in the tub or shower for ease of entry and exit.

31- Some people think that if you oversize piping you will have fewer clogs. Actually, the opposite is true. Large diameter pipes spread out the energy of the moving water. Keep in mind that the weight of the water moving through drainage pipes under the influence of gravity is the locomotive force propelling solid waste into the sewer or septic system. A large pipe allows water to spread out along the bottom portion of the pipe. A smaller pipe handling the same volume of drain water will pick up and carry solid waste faster and farther. Smaller diameter pipes concentrate this energy and help to quickly move solid waste through the system. Three inch pipes are used to handle most residential toilets. 1.5 inch lines are used to handle waste from kitchen, bathroom and powder room sinks. 2 inch drain lines are common pipes for laundry drains.

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We are here to help!



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