Life Saving Tip / Efflorescence on Basement Walls / What Causes ‘Blue Water’ / Cleaning a Showerhead

In GFI, Plumbing, Q&A on March 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm

To all my followers: Please pass along my blog address to all your friends and family. I’d appreciate it!

I’ve got a shocking life-saving tip for you. How many of you have heard of, or know about Ground Fault Interrupters or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters? (They’re also referred to as GFI or GFCI). If your home was built within the last thirty year, you more than likely have at least one in your home. Now, GFI’s are similar to a circuit breaker, but more sensitive. They’ll sense if someone is getting electrocuted and disconnect the power within 1/40th of a second.

There are three types of GFI’s:

• Circuit breaker combination: Installed in the electrical service box, it protects everything on the circuit.

• Receptacle type: Replaces a regular wall receptacle and when installed, still serves as an outlet but offers the additional protection of the GFI.

• Portable: Generally used by trades people, such as carpenters who use power tools at different job sites.

Once installed, GFI’s require maintenance. On each interrupter there is a test button. Each month, this button should be pushed to trip the safety device and device reset. Tripping the device cleans oxidation and corrosion on the inside, which can affect its sensitivity and ability to protect. Basically, what I’m saying is that if you don’t trip or press and reset the test buttons monthly the GFI’s could become useless and not trip when they’re suppose to.

In new home construction, they are required for kitchens, bathrooms, exterior and even garage receptacles. If your home doesn’t have a GFI, install at least one. If you have a swimming pool, all equipment and surrounding plugs should be protected. If you are not handy, I promise you, any licensed electrician can easily install them for you.

Q: I have a block basement wall and the paint is crumbling off in areas near the floor leaving a white, powdery residue behind. What causes this and how can it be corrected?

A: This is caused by leaking and is called efflorescence. You may not actually see water on the floor because the seepage may be minor and evaporates. Make sure the terrain is sloped away 4 to 6-feet with at least a 1-inch slope. The patio, driveway or walks should also be slightly pitched to direct rainwater away from the house. If you have a sump pump, make sure ground water is draining into it and it is pumping the water out and away from the house.

Q: Our house burnt down and was rebuilt on the same lot. Since we moved back we have blue water. We never had this problem before the house burnt down, so we feel it is not the water supplied by our water company. When taking a shower or bath the walls of our showers/tubs get a blue/green film on them and although it can be scrubbed off, I find myself scrubbing the showers and tubs a few times a week. We spoke with our builder and plumber since day one and they said this happens but have never figured out the cause or the cure. Have you ever heard of this?

A: I spoke to David from 4-A Plumbing and he said it sounds as if lead-free flux or lead-free solder was used and recommends to get a water test done to see if the test results show a lot of lead. I think it may be something else. Check with an electrician and have him inspect to make sure the electrical system is properly grounded 8-feet into the earth as well as all ground connections are secure and proper.

Q: My showerhead used to have good pressure but not anymore. Can it be cleaned?

A: Minerals in your water blocked openings in the shower’s head. Put a rag around the head so you won’t damage the chrome. Remove the showerhead using a wrench. Hold the neckpiece coming out of the wall, with your hand or a channel lock. Once removed place the showerhead in a jar filled with vinegar and let it soak for about two hours. Lightly poke out the spray holes with a safety pin and reinstall. Or, pour the vinegar in a small plastic bag and tape it around the showerhead without removing it. Let it soak for a couple of hours.


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