Archive for the ‘Plumbing’ Category

Flue Pipe Problems / Roof Ventilation / Shower Pan Leak

In Plumbing, Ridge Vents, Roofing, Ventilation on April 22, 2015 at 11:48 am


I think my flue pipe might be loose, is this be something I should be concerned about?


When was the last time you visually inspected the metal flue pipes or vents from your furnace and hot water tank? Frequently, when I am inspecting homes for prospective purchasers, I find loose, rusted through or improperly installed vent pipes. They should be installed with a slight upward pitch from your boiler, furnace or hot water tank and be sealed securely into the chimney. If not, or if they’re rusted and corroded, carbon monoxide could escape or back draft into your house, and some people frown on that. It’s a minor problem, which can be repaired for pennies and could save your life.

If the flue pipe is rusted or corroded, replace it. If they are loose and hanging, screw and secure them. If they are sagging, re-install them and remember to slope upward and least 1/4-inch per foot from the furnace to chimney. If not secured into the chimney or there are gaps the vent should be mortared into the chimney using refractory cement (also know as “furnace cement”). Refractory cement is a high-heat resistant material that will not crumble and deteriorate under high temperatures. It’s available at home and hardware centers. Years ago, furnace cement contained asbestos and for obvious reasons, it no longer does.

When the job is done, everything that should go up in smoke, will!


I need to get a new roof put on my bungalow-style house. One roofer gave me an estimate but told me that since I have no overhang on my house to add soffit ventilation to, I would need to have a ridge vent put at the very top of my roof (for an additional cost) so it does not void the shingle warranty. This doesn’t sound right to me, since I already have six can vents on the rear of my house, four on the front along with gable vents on the sides. That seems like enough ventilation to me, but would like your opinion.


In my opinion, you should not need a ridge vent along with what you already have. The can vents you have on you house have worked fine for you all these years. You should ask to see the manufacturers warranty or even call the shingle manufacturer directly and ask them if by not adding a ridge vent, will in fact, void their warranty. Sometimes when you purchase an extended warranty, additional things may be required such as this, but you are not planning on purchasing one.

Also be aware that by adding a ridge vent to the roof, the gable vents must be closed off or it will throw the thermal dynamics off of the ridge vent.

You stated that this is the only estimate you’ve gotten. My recommendation to you is to get at least three estimates from reputable roofing companies as well as check the company out. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints on them by other homeowners. It’s best to always do your homework before signing any contracts.


I think I have a shower pan leak. What is involved with getting it fixed?


A leak beneath a stall shower could be from a deteriorating “pan”. Beneath the tile of many stall showers are lead pans and their longevity depends on the workmanship and quality of the lead used.

Less expensive three-pound lead probably will only last seven to ten years, four-pound lead, twelve to fourteen years, while six-pound lead could last thirty years or longer. Lead pans are still in use along with rubber sheeting and fiberglass. Repairs are expensive since the tile work, and replacement in itself is expensive.

To determine if your shower pan is bad and the possible leak is not from any plumbing pipes, block the drain with a rag or stopper. Then using a bucket or hose, collect water from another faucet and fill the shower up to the step or ledge in the shower. Let the water sit for twelve hours… If you find you still have a leak, you probably need a new pan.


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Winterizing Your House While Away / Why Does My Washerless Faucet Leak?

In Plumbing, Winter Tips For Your Home on February 26, 2015 at 9:50 am


I follow your blog every week and you wrote an article about closing up a house for the season. We are going away for a month and I will be leaving the thermostat set at 55 degrees. I will shut off the water from the main shut off in the basement, which will leave the sump pump and the back up sump pump running. Do I have to do anything with the water heater? There is a dial on mine that says “vacation”, can I just turn it to the “vacation” setting and leave it at that, or is there something else I need to do? Upon my return is there anything I need to do with regard to the water heater? Any other advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.


Just turn the water heater down to the “vacation” setting and that should be fine. That is, if the water heater is in the basement. By turning the temperature down to the “vacation” setting you are still leaving the pilot on and the water slightly heated. When you return, just turn the temperature up to 120-degrees, which is the sanitary setting for the water if you have a dishwasher. For those of you who do not have a basement and will be gone for a month or more in the winter, I suggest turning the water heater off and draining the water from it. It would be unlikely, but not impossible for the water to freeze in a water heater in a basement unless it was a winter like we had last year.

By the way, once you turn off the water at the meter, open all the faucets in the house to drain any water in the pipes that could freeze. After you do that, then pour a cup of camping antifreeze in all the drains because remember, there is water that can still freeze in the traps and this will keep the water from freezing and busting the pipes.

As for the toilets, if you are worried about the heat failing (and I would) I suggest flushing the toilets once the water has been turned off and pour a cup or two of camping antifreeze into the toilet as well as the toilet box. Unlike automotive antifreeze, camping antifreeze is not harmful to the environment. Camping antifreeze is available wherever camping equipment and outdoor camping supplies are sold.


Why does my single lever faucet leak when it states they never do?


I f you have one of those single lever faucets, like a Delta faucet, people are under the impression that it’s not suppose to leak. Boy, what a drip!

No one ever said they aren’t supposed to leak. The advertising claim is that Delta faucets as well as other brands of single lever faucets, are washerless and you will never have to replace a washer. Well, the ads were right. However, you will have to replace “O” rings, springs and seats. This job is easy to do and kits can be purchased containing everything you need for the job, including the Allen wrench. The kits are inexpensive and can be purchased at most hardware and home centers.

Start by determining the model of your brand of leaking faucet and then purchase the repair kit. Turn off the water and stop up the drain. Now comes the hard part. Follow the directions on the kit for your particular faucet. (You knew there had to be a catch somewhere). Actually, the directions are very simple to follow. Even I can do it.

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Winterizing Plumbing

In Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing, Uncategorized on January 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm


I have many questions and concerns regarding winterizing my home while I am away for the winter months. I hope you can help shed some light on this for me.

I was reading your blog and you said that even if I keep the heat on (which I definitely planned on keeping it at 60 degrees) you recommend shutting the water off at the meter and add antifreeze to all the toilet bowls, tanks and all the drains and sink traps. What if I turn the water off at the meter and after flushing all the toilets (but without draining the other lines) and just add anti-freeze to the toilet bowls, tanks and all the drains/traps, will this be okay? In other words, is draining the complete system necessary? Is leaving all the faucets open crucial? Pipes could freeze and burst, right? You state in your blog that damage would be minimal.

I was also going to turn my hot water tank to the “vacation” setting. My concern is, will I be accidentally turning off the pilot light too? Another thing, when I turn the water off at the meter, will my water-powered back up sump pump still be working?

When I get back in town all I would have to do is just turn the water back on at the meter, right?

What if I don’t shut the water off at the meter, but instead just shut off the supply lines under the sinks, toilets and the spigots for the washing machine? What bad things could this lead to if something were to happen?

I bought Uni-Guard Propylene Glycol, alcohol based winterizer. It’s a non-toxic anti-freeze protection. It was $2.50 gallon at Home Depot. It says it is ideal for winterizing boats, pools, water systems and plumbing systems. But then I noticed the alcohol is ethyl alcohol. Did I buy the right stuff? Will the alcohol mean evaporation or will it affect the seals? I will also use cellophane to cover the toilet bowls as you suggested. Is it all right to use this in the kitchen sink as well as the garbage disposal?

If all of this isn’t freaking me out enough, I spoke to a friend of mine, and told him I was shutting off the water at the meter and doing the antifreeze thing and he was telling me that there is a possibility of evaporation occurring so that rats and other creepy things can crawl up into the toilets and sinks. He said it happened to him, although he lives in Florida. So I’m now wondering and worrying.



The Uni-Guard Propylene Glycol is the correct antifreeze and I highly recommend doing this.

When you turn the water off at the meter, I would open all the faucets, including any in the basement. That will prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting since there shouldn’t be any water in them. If the faucets are closed it’s like blocking one end of a straw with your finger and the drink stays in the straw until you lift your finger. Opening all the faucets allows the pipes to drain.

I recommend shutting the water off at the meter, and not just shutting off the supply lines and spigot. You be a lot more prone for burst pipes doing it that way.

What I meant by “Damage would be minimal” is if you don’t drain the pipes completely they could still freeze and burst, but it wouldn’t flood the house until you turned the water back on at the meter and then you might find leaks.

As for your sump pump, if the water stays on to the sump pump when your water is shut off at the meter, that’s great. If not, I don’t suspect it would be a problem since the ground is usually frozen at that time of year and your sump pump shouldn’t be coming on (unless you are in a very high water table area). You should know that answer to that one. Does your pump come on during the winter months? If so, and you plan on leaving town for an extended period of time every winter, install a battery operated back up pump. Another alternative have a plumber install by-pass plumbing directly to the back up pump so you can turn all the water off in the house but leave water on to the back up sump pump.

The hot water tank dial should be turned counterclockwise. The opposite of where the dial says “Very Hot” or “High”. Doing so will NOT turn off the pilot light. That is a different valve, which is usually on the top of the control. The dial you will be turning is on the front of the control.

Stop worrying and enjoy your vacation.

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Buying a New Furnace / Cleaning Faucets / Smelly Crawl Space / Gable Ridge Vents

In Crawl Space, HVAC, Plumbing, Ridge Vents on December 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm


I currently have a 1978 standard efficiency furnace that was put in my house. Everyone I talk to about replacing my furnace with a new high-efficiency, 2-stage multi speed model tells me I am going to save 30 to 40-percent on my heating bills. Those telling me this typically have a vested interest, as they want my business. Is it reasonable to expect some serious savings that will make it worthwhile over time?


Over time and especially with rising gas prices, I think, I’d go for it.

I don’t like giving percentages of savings and don’t always believe them, but 25 to 30-percent is not an unlikely savings. The only minor caveat is there is an adjustment period in learning to live with the air, which is not as hot coming out of the registers. Five to ten-percent of people (especially elderly) find the adjustment difficult.


We have a crawl space and there is a musty, damp odor coming from it. There are vents, which we open in the spring and close during the winter months. Is there a product or chemical we can spray or put down in the crawl to help eliminate this odor?


If you do not have a 6-mil plastic vapor barrier on the dirt floor of the crawlspace, it should be installed. Overlap each piece and tape it in place. The plastic should go up the perimeter walls about six inches and be secured in place with batten strips or mastic.

That odor may be coming from leaking. Correct the cause of the leaking. If anything is rotting, it needs to be replaced. The leak may not be coming from the ground. When you are in the crawlspace, look up and under any areas where there is plumbing.


When you inspected my house you told the purchaser to seal the gable vents, why?


Your house has a ridge vent. That’s the vent that runs along the very peak of a roof. When you have a ridge vent you must have an equal number or greater amount of soffit ventilation. Soffit vents are the vents that are installed beneath the overhangs and provide some of the actual air intake of air movement through the attic. They should have baffles protecting them in the attic so insulation does not obstruct the air movement.

All other attic vents, such as can, turbines and gable vents, need to be removed when you have ridge vents. If you don’t, the thermal dynamics of the attic ventilation is voided, which could lead to higher heating and cooling costs, ice dams and possibly mold.

By the way, gable vents are the vents at the sides of your house way up near the roof. You can seal the gable vents by nailing a piece of plywood over them from inside the attic.


We have well water that builds up a residue in our faucets. Is there something that can be done about this other than taking the faucet off and soaking it in vinegar and water?


Obviously installing an in-line filter or softener and filtering system will work, but if your problem is removing the faucet to soak them in vinegar periodically you can accomplish that a lot easier. Have you tried unscrewing and soaking just the aerators at the end of most kitchen and some bathroom faucets. Another trick (which I do occasionally) is to put the vinegar in a zip lock bag and place the showerhead into the bag. Tape the bag in place and leave it for a couple of hours. Remove the tape, turn on the water, and it flows perfectly.

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Washerless Faucet Leak / Removing Asbestos Tiles Safely / Ridding Wallpaper Blisters

In Asbestos Tile, Plumbing, Q&A on October 30, 2012 at 10:39 am


We have old crumbling tiles on our basement floor that we think may be asbestos. Do we have to call in those companies that wear protective clothing and respirators?


Old, crumbling floor tiles can be safely pried up with a scraper, but first wet them down lightly so there is no dust disturbance. Put the removed tiles in double bags of 6-mil thick each. They should be disposed of at a dumpsite licensed to accept materials containing asbestos. Or you can just put indoor/outdoor carpeting on top of it.

If you’re not sure if the tiles care asbestos wet a piece of tile down to remove it and then put it in a small zip lock plastic bag and take it to a testing laboratory. If the tiles do contain asbestos and they’re in good condition, leave them in place. Just don’t use a buffing machine or stripper machine on them because that will disturb the asbestos and release the fibers into the air.


We have a single-lever Delta faucet that we were under the impression was never suppose to leak, but it sure does. What can we do?


No one ever said they aren’t supposed to leak. The advertising claim is that Delta faucets, and many single-lever faucets, are washer-less and you will never have to replace a washer. The ads are right. You will, however, have to replace 0-rings, springs and seats. This job is easy to do and kits can be purchased containing everything you need for the job, including an Allen wrench. The kits cost under five dollars and are available at most hardware centers.

Start by determining the brand’s model of your leaking faucet. Purchase the repair kit. Turn off the water and stop up the drain. Next, you’ll have to follow the directions on the kit for your particular faucet (you knew there had to be a catch). But believe me, they’ll be simple to follow.


My sister hung wallpaper at my house but since then I’ve noticed some bubbles in the paper. What is causing it and how can I fix the problem?


Wallpaper blisters are usually caused by air trapped behind the paper, or it might be a speck of grit or a paint chip. Lightly press against the bubble with your finger to feel for any foreign object under the wallpaper. If you feel something, purchase some wallpaper seam adhesive and follow these tips to fix it.

Get an Xacto knife, which has a very sharp, thin blade. Cut a small diagonal slit across the blister and carefully lift one edge to remove the grit or paint chip with a tweezers. Using a small paintbrush with a thin tip, apply the seam adhesive behind the slit in the wallpaper, into the blistered area. Press the area firmly against the wall and wipe off any oozing adhesive.

If the problem is an air bubble, cut a tiny slit with the knife or razor blade over the bubble, and inject a few drops of seam adhesive using the glue tube’s applicator tip or a glue syringe. Then press out the air through the slit and wipe away any excess adhesive with a damp cloth.

Another cause of blistering is a paint bubble. In this case, make a small X-shaped cut through the blister and peel back the four corners of the wallpaper. Scrape away the paint bubble with a narrow putty knife and then apply seam adhesive to the underside of each corner. Press the paper firmly back into place, smoothing the joints and wiping away any excess adhesive.

Seams can be the most troublesome areas of wallpaper, but they are easy to fix. Simply apply seam adhesive to the loose edge, press the seam against the wall and wipe away the excess glue. Now that you’re not “glue-less” any more, there’s no excuse for falling apart at the seams.


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Anode Rods / Snaking a Drain for the D.I.Y. / Removing Graffiti

In Plumbing, Q&A on August 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

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Everyone knows what a sacrificial lamb is but did you ever hear of a sacrificial rod in your hot water tank?

In your hot water tank is an “anode rod”. Water heater anodes are often called sacrificial anodes for a good reason. The glass lining that protects the steel tanks of most water heaters is not perfect (unlike us). Electrolytic reactions with minerals in the water can cause the steel tank to corrode. The anode rod, which is usually made from magnesium, is the least noble metal in the tank. As a result, it’s the first to corrode, sparing the steel tank from a similar fate.

Your water heater’s anode should be replaced when it is substantially depleted. Manufacturers suggest it should be checked every six months when other routine water heater maintenance tasks are performed. Just how many of you out there do six month maintenance check-ups on your water tank: such as testing the T&P valve, draining the sediment, cleaning the burner compartment, adjusting the flame if needed and checking for gas leaks. In some heaters the anode rod can be accessed through a port on the top of the tank. Other manufacturers suspend the anode rod from the water outlet. Check the manufacturers instructions for complete details.

Anode rods are not always made from magnesium. In some areas, the water contains minerals that release foul smelling gases when they react with magnesium (I had that problem at my lake house). Usually, it’s sulfur that’s the most troublesome and in these areas anode rods made from aluminum are substituted. If you experience that problem, check with the heater’s manufacturer to obtain the correct anode rod.


When my sink or toilet gets stopped up will snaking it out be an easy do-it-yourself, money-saving project or do I have to call the plumber again?


If plunging fails, it’s time to use and auger or snake. There are various fancy snakes that attach to electrical drills or have tidy cases, but you’ll get no better results than with an ordinary bent-handled snake. It’ll cost around ten dollars at hardware and home centers. The operating principle of a snake is this: You push it into the pipe until it hits the clog, then screw the spiral tip into the obstruction and pull back toward you. Take the trap off first. The trap is the U-shaped section of the pipe directly below the sink or the tub. Unfortunately, some older tubs have those traps shaped like a drum. Sometimes the obstruction will be in that trap; try pushing it out or snagging it with a coat hanger. As soon as you take the trap off under your sink, buy a new slip nut gasket (that’s the plastic or rubber seal). Take the old one with you for reference. I’ve been told I have a loose gasket but in this case the old gasket will probably not seal tightly a second time. If the nut is worn, replace it as well.

You use a special snake called a closet auger for toilets. The rubber sleeve at the end protects the porcelain from scratches, and the long handle certainly makes the job more pleasant. Closet augers cost about twenty-five dollars.


Some kids sprayed graffiti on my garage. What can I use to remove it?


Aren’t kids just the cutest little things and they write just about the cutest little expressions on the side of your garage. Well if you’re not as amused as I am, and I am sure you’re not, there are removers for that graffiti. There are removers for those kids too, but it’s illegal.

You can remove the graffiti using a product called Zip-Strip Paint Remover from the Star-Bronze Company. It costs about $12.99 for 32-ounces. You brush it on, let it sit for about 15 minutes and scrub it off using a stiff brush. But wait! If you still can read the handwriting on the wall, you can also try Motsenbocker’s “Lift Off” Graffiti Remover. It costs about eight dollars for a 22-ounce spray bottle and is safe to use on any surface, is biodegradable and can be used indoor or outdoor.

Check your local hardware or paint stores for these products.

Noisy Water Heater / Phantom Flushing / Check For Asbestos Tiles First

In Asbestos Tile, Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing on August 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

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My gas fired water heater “cracks and pops” like a steam radiator during the reheat cycle. Is there a cure?


Providing no one spilled a box of cereal into your tank, you may just have purchased and inexpensive tank. Even so, there are a few things you can do.

First, turn down the temperature setting, on the dial, on your tank. It should be set to 120-degrees. Next, periodically turn off the gas and using the hose of a vacuum cleaner, vacuum out the sediment that accumulates on the top of the burner compartment.

Another thing, twice a year, drain a pail of water from the hose bib at the bottom of your tank. That will flush some of the sediment out and help the tank last longer and be quieter.

One more thing, many people think turning the temperature up all the way will give them more hot water or hot water faster. Wrong on both counts. All you’ll do is take years of life off the tank, spend a lot of extra money trying to maintain the temperature of the water, which you’’ just have to add cold water to so you don’t scald yourself.


I have a toilet that all of a sudden flushes by itself. I know something is wrong and I know it’s flushing money down the drain. But what causes this?


Depending on the frequency that could be a few hundred dollars annually down the drain.

To correct the problem, pour a few drops of food coloring into the tank. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes and lift the seat of the commode. If the water turned the color of the food coloring, you’ll need to replace the tank ball or flapper ball not the float. It is generally black or rust colored at the bottom, center of the tank.

Turn off the water and drain the box. Simple to install replacement kits, which are easy to attach to the overflow pipe are available at neighborhood hardware stores for under ten dollars.

But before you install the new flapper ball, lightly clean the rim that the flapper sits in with a fine steel wool, you’ll now have what is known as a “Royal Flush”.


I have an older 1940’s house with a tiled basement floor. Some of the tiles are cracked, broken or have become loose. Can the old tiles just be yanked out and replaced?


If the tiles measure 9-inches by 9-inches in all likelihood those tiles contain asbestos. Normally floor tiles with asbestos present no health problems unless the fibers are disturbed. The only way I know of doing that would be to use a buffer/stripper machine on the tiles or damage and break the tiles. Feeling bored and looking for something to do? First take one of the broken or loose tiles to a testing lab (check the yellow pages). If it’s not asbestos, pretend you’re married to me and ignore what I’m saying.

If they do contain asbestos, to remove the old tiles you’ll need a large, long handled, metal scraper. Of course, prying and scraping the tiles will indeed disturb the asbestos. The only way to do it safely is to keep them wet while you’re working. Once loose, place the wet tiles in a large double-bagged garbage bags and dispose of them properly. The remaining adhesive may also contain asbestos fibers so instead of sanding them down, use a chemical remover.

If the basement is dry and you’re planning on carpeting it, leave the asbestos tiles down and just replace the damaged, missing or loose tiles with any tiles just so the floor is even. Remember, the asbestos tiles will be a good insulator between the cement floor and your carpeting.


Stains Versus Paints / Hot Water Problem With a New Hot Water Tank

In Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing, Stains and Paints, Uncategorized on June 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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Stains Versus Paints

Stain is a thin paint with a low volume of pigments that provide deep colors, hiding power, and film-forming qualities.

There are two types of stains:

Semi-transparent- are considered true stains and solid color opaque, which more closely resemble paint because of their pigment content.

Stain penetrates surface wood fiber and dyes it, whereas pain seals the surface with a hard film. Stain costs less than paint, but a gallon of it may cover less area because it soaks in. Stain weathers and loses color faster than paint, but won’t chip, peel or blister so subsequent coats require little or no preparation.

The semi-transparent stain colors and protect bare wood without hiding its natural grain or texture, but accentuate defects such as knots, rust stains, uneven weathering and watermarks, so they work best on clear, fine-grained wood.

Semi-transparent stains penetrate better than solid blends, and oil-base semi-transparent stain penetrates better than latex-base. Rough or weathered wood absorbs the most stain. Two coats of semi-transparent stain on it will last six to ten years, compared with only two to four years on the new, smooth wood. Solid color stains, however, will last up to ten years on smooth wood.

As a rule, stain should be used only over bare wood, or to cover another stain or preservative of equal or better penetrating value. That means preservatives and semi-transparent stains go under paint or solid stains where they can act as a primer but not cover them, because they soak in.


If you are planning on painting your house, keep in mind that if you’re looking for color, stick with paints since the choice is obviously greater.

Paint also provides a better finish and more protection from the elements than stains. If you have new wood siding or trim, and you can’t decide whether to paint or stain, try some of those semi-transparent stains, you may like the results. Remember, you can and should try out the color on a piece of scrap siding or extra boards prior to doing the entire house. That way if you don’t like the color or look you won’t be living with a “white elephant”, so to speak.

Keep this in mind as well that both stain and paint, if properly applied, are durable but if you have a lot of blemishes in the siding, it’s better to use paint.

Choosing between latex or oil base paints is one of those preference things nowadays since many latex paints are as durable as oil base. Oil base paints dry slower and are definitely a lot more difficult to clean up.

Latex paints dry quicker, are water soluble, easy to clean up after and believe it or not, hold color better.

One misconception is that you cannot paint latex over oil base paint. With proper preparation, you can do almost anything. As a matter of fact, a quality latex topcoat over an oil base primer is probably the best finish to use.


I recently had a water heater installed and since then I’ve never had a consistently hot shower. A few times I have had the hot water shut off completely. The plumber who installed it claims that nothing is wrong. Do you have any suggestions?


It’s possible the hot and cold lines were reversed when it was installed, which you can check out yourself. On top of the tank where the water goes into the tank it will be stamped “cold”. Feel the pipe to see if it is warm or hot (it should be cold), they need to be switched or the dip tube moved to the hot side. Speaking of the dip tube, is it intact or damaged?

New tanks generally only heat the water 120 to 125 degrees. The lower settings save energy and reduce accidental scalding and burns.

You may need to replace your old showerhead. Older showerheads have a flow rate of 3.5 to 4.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, you’ll easily run out of hot water with a lower setting in approximately 10 minutes. Replacing the showerhead with a flow restrictor puts out 1.5 to 2.9 GPM and allows for a longer, hotter shower.

Buying Paint / Replacing Plumbing Pipes / Do Odor Killers Really Work? / Try “Flush-n-Sparkle”

In Odors, Plumbing, Products Worth Checking Out on June 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

When buying paint, do you really need to buy the best?

There are two rules of thumb to help you choose the type of paint you want to purchase.

First, choose an exterior paint for outdoor surfaces and vice versa. Second, select a top of the line paint for a reputable manufacturer (one that has been around for awhile).

Yes. Some paints contain additives, such as mildewcides or pesticides that improve the paint’s performance. Some also contain better quality binders and pigments than others.

With latex paints, 100% acrylic is the best binder, followed by acrylic, and then vinyl.

With oil-based, alkyd is almost universally used as the binder. As for pigments, titanium oxide is best. It covers better in both latex and oil-based paint. Be wary of paint that has a lot of calcium carbonate. It’s used as a filler to reduce the cost.

You can bet the more you spend within a manufacturers’ line, the better the quality of paint but choosing between brands is not easy. One manufacturer’s best quality may not be as good as another’s middle grade. To find out more about the paint you’re buying, ask your paint dealer for technical information sheets, or have them explain the differences in the grades.

I want to replace my old water pipes and am considering copper pipes. What are the advantages of copper? Which is better copper or PVC and which would you recommend?

Houses built prior to the 1950’s used galvanized pipes for plumbing. The pipes rust and corrode. They should be replaced as soon as possible. If you are low on funds, as we all seem to be (except plumbers) you can replace just the hot water horizontal pipes at this time because those are the ones that are the first to fail.

The choice today is copper, plastic or a combination of each. Semi-handy homeowners can do it themselves by using C.P.V.C. plastic. It’s easy to cut, fit and weld joints using a solvent. The system is excellent, but the one common failure of do-it-yourselfers is using enough hangers to properly support the pipes.  More serious do-it-yourselfers and plumbers generally use copper or PEX plumbing. The only caveat with installing copper is make sure you don’t burn the house down when you’re soldering the joints.

PEX plumbing is a system generally used by professionals. It is, as are the other two, also excellent, but requires two special tools i.e. a PEX cutter and a crimping tool along with unique crimps. The crimps connect all ends and fittings and absolutely must be installed properly or they could fail. The bottom line, if you are doing it yourself and you’re handy, read directions (an interesting thought).


Do any of those odor killers really work? They just seem to mask the odor, but the smell still comes back.


You must correct the cause of the odor first, because if you have an odor and don’t eliminate the source, it could continue to smell.

Once that is accomplished, you should use enzyme odor killers that truly eliminate the odor. There are several on the market such as “Smells-B-Gone” or “Odor Mute”.

I have tested and was impressed with a couple of products from Neutron Industries. One is called D-Molish, which comes in an orange or spring fresh scent. D-Molish is sprayed on and removes stains and odors. The other product is called “NI-712” and eliminates airborne odors. NI-712 also comes in a variety of scents. They both work great! Check out their products at www.neutronindustries.com or give them a call at 1-888-712-7127.

We bought a toilet 2 years ago and had to replace the flapper. I heard many flappers deteriorate when exposed to bleach or chlorine. That means no sanitizers, discs or anything like that in the tank.

You’re right, the chemicals that you drop into the tank help but do degrade the plastic and rubber components.

All is not lost. Fluidmaster (949-728-2000 / www.fluidmaster.com) has an easy-to-install product called Flush-N-Sparkle™.  It is a toilet bowl cleaning system that has a replaceable cartridge. The cartridge releases a measured amount of cleaners into the water flowing directly into the bowl. It is available at home and hardware centers.

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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