Frequently Asked Questions
From odors to water temperature, if you have a question about plumbing, you may find the answer here.
- I have black stuff that comes out of my faucets when I run the water. It happens in different rooms and does not happen all the time. What would cause this?
There are several possible reasons for black water, but ultimately you should have your water tested. Minerals, including iron and magnesium, algae, pipe degradation and resin beads can all cause black water.
Magnesium is often found in water and when mixed with oxygen, turns black. If you look in your toilet tank and the inside is black, then you have magnesium and probably iron in the water. In either case, they are harmless to you. But if you want them gone, you will have to filter your water. Call a water softener company to analyze your water and determine what you need to remove the color. If the piping in your house is steel or galvanized, you could be getting mineral flakes from exposed iron (rust). Under the right conditions, with the right natural minerals and elements in the water (like magnesium), then you could get black water out of the faucets. Natural resin beads from your water softener are often black in color, like charcoal. Sometimes the water softener can break down and the resin beads can get our and into the water system. Roto-Rooter can properly diagnose the problem and offer some solutions.
- My home has a well. I have noticed pink stain/residue that builds up in my tub. What is it?
- Generally when you see pink or orange stains on the fixtures it means you have iron in the water. Well water needs to have a water softener or other filtering device to remove naturally occurring minerals from the water table from entering the piping system. Have your water tested to determine the exact mineral content. You can buy water test kits online or locally.
- There is rusty water in both sides of my kitchen sink. The water does not drain and stays in the sink.
- You probably need to have to have the drain line professionally cleaned. These lines get clogged with grease, food particles and soap scum. Eventually the build up is so thick that the internal diameter of the drain is reduced and water cannot pass quickly through the pipe. Regular treatment of Pipe Shield®, Roto-Rooter's enzyme-type drain maintenance product, will eat away the grease and biological scum inside the pipes and extend the time between cleanings.
- The dishwasher is retaining water in its basin. I run it and not use it for days but water seeps into the bottom of the dishwasher. How do I fix this annoying problem?
- Generally when you have water that is seeping back into the dishwasher it is because the hose that discharges to the kitchen sink was not installed properly. Dishwasher hoses need to travel uphill from the dishwasher to the underneath side of the counter top, then run downhill to the kitchen sink where it's tied in above the sink trap, creating an upward loop which prevents water from the kitchen sink draining into the dishwasher. If the loop is up as high as possible under the kitchen sink, the water goes down the drain. If the dishwasher hose is installed correctly, then the inlet water solenoid valve is not functioning properly. An appliance technician should repair or replace the valve.
- Water isn't going into our dishwasher. What is the problem?
- If you don't have water going to your dishwasher, there may be a blockage in the line to the dishwasher. Shut off the water under the kitchen sink, remove the dishwasher line and then turn on the water to the valve, directing the flow into a small bowl. If water comes out, then you may have either a plugged filter under the dishwasher or a bad solenoid valve on the dishwasher. In either case, contact an appliance repairman to fix the problem. If the line is blocked to the valve, you will need to start removing piping back to the meter to find the block.
- A pipe snake got stuck in our bathtub drain. We got it out, now the clog is much worse. We tried an air pump plunger, but we can't get a seal on the overflow drain so it keeps going there at the T junction. What should we do?
- The only way you are going to be able to get this to work is to open the access panel and remove the trap then clean the drain through the branch line. Often times the overflow pipe is too small to clear the branch line properly. Even if you do get through, because the turn through the trap is so tight, the snake often gets stuck.
- Can you use trenchless technology on a bellied line? Is it just putting a new line into the same problem? Does it need to be dug up and repaired?
- Trenchless technology cannot be used on a bellied line because the sleeve will simply follow the existing pipe and end up with a belly. The line has to be dug up at the belly and repaired with a new section of pipe to correct the belly. There are other techniques for running a new line alongside the existing sewer line with directional boring or with a pneumatic gopher. Both of these technologies, however, might encounter problems with rocks or underground cables if they are in the path of the bore.
- I can't remove the clean-out plug. It's probably 50 years old and I don't know if it's ever been opened. Are there any tricks to get it opened?
- Plumbers use two methods to remove the clean-out plug. The first is an old-fashioned steel chisel and a ball peen hammer on the face of the clean-out at a 45-degree pointing in the desired turning direction (counterclockwise). Once there's a little divot in the clean-out, turn the chisel on a sharper angle to provide more turning force. If that doesn't work, chisel right through the surface of the brass plug or cast plug and cut the rest out with a sawzall. Once the center of the clean-out out is removed, a heavy screw driver will pry out the threads.
- I have a problem with fruit flies. I heard they may be related to my drains. How do I get rid of them?
- Every plumbing fixture has a self-sealing water trap, which stores about two cups of water in a U-shaped bend that sits below the piping and the fixture. When there is no water in the pipe due to cracks or non-use, odors and flies can escape. A venting problem also can prevent the trap from resealing after the water flows down the drain. Pour two gallons of hot water into seldom-used drains and treat all drains with bleach. If the flies come back, there may be something wrong with your trap or a drain line.
- I own a small shopping center with two restaurants. I have the lines snaked every three months or so. Should I have the lines jetted and will they be clean longer?
- Jetting equipment cleans a sewer line better than a snake. Jetters use varying degrees of water pressure to cut through grease and other debris that build up in drain pipes, especially in restaurants, and draw it back where it can be vacuumed out, providing a more thorough cleaning. Enzyme-type drain maintenance products, such as Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield® or Drain and Grease Trap Treatment, can be automatically injected into the line to help keep grease and food waste from building up in the line. The enzyme eats the grease and turns it into a liquid, which washes away with water, preventing most backups.
- Is it possible to plug a pipe which is approximately 30' below ground surface and under water so that the pipe can be inspected?
- There are all kinds of ways to plug a pipe below ground. We have test balls that can be inserted through a clean-out and then blown up to stop the flow of water. This allows the water to be pumped from the pipe and so it can be inspected with a special camera to determine any required corrective action. Most Roto-Rooter locations have equipment necessary to detect and solve underground pipe problems.
- My sewer is backed up. I tried clog remover products and we also used a drain cable to clean the main sewer. It took all 100 feet of the cable and the sewer is still backed up. Might the problem be in the city's sewer main? What else can I do?
When you have run a main line cable down your drain and it is still backing up, it is time for a camera inspection. Many times when people rent equipment, they break through the clog, but don't remove all of the roots. It takes an experienced technician to do a thorough job. The roots simply grow back again or fall back into place because they were just moved aside by the cleaning equipment and not cut out. Pipes need to have all of the roots scraped off of the full interior diameter of the pipe and pushed out to the sewer main. It is possible that the city sewer is backing up but not as likely as what I've described above. In addition, if you have roots in your piping, I would have a professional run a video inspection camera down your line and the two of you can examine the condition of the piping by looking at the video monitor. Many people resist paying the extra money for the camera inspection, but you will learn the exact condition of the piping, any damage caused by roots and how much longer your pipes will last. Just remember the sewer line in your yard is your responsibility, it doesn't belong to the city.
A Roto-Rooter camera inspection will show you if the problem is inside the house or out in the yard. The camera will also measure the distance between clean-outs and even locate missing clean-outs you didn't know were there. With a camera, you can see the vertical riser for a clean-out coming off the pipe and locate it exactly with the radio transmitter on the end of the camera head.
- Our bath tub drain is clogged with grout. We have been running hot water and attempting to use snake. It's now draining very slowly. Will this eventually work?
- Hot water will not work to remove grout. Unfortunately, concrete and grout are what we use to make larger sewer lines. Since grout sets up under water, you may have to get a professional snake out to try and clear the line. If the line is plastic, you may be able to break up the grout and push it down to a larger line. But if your pipes are steel, then it may be impossible to get the grout out of the line, unless it is a real thin layer. If it is a lot of grout, it may break loose and go down and clog another line. Sometimes it's necessary to break up floor drains and other lines. Unfortunately there is no easy solution for this problem. Try snaking the line after removing the trap for the bath tub. If that doesn't work, a few feet of the line might need to be replaced.
- Our kitchen drain has taken longer than usual to drain during the past year. Should we have it cleaned?
- Before you have the drain cleaned, try using the Roto-Rooter brand drain maintenance products. These products are designed to remove the usual build-up of soap scum, grease and hair. We also have a product to inhibit root growth in your main sewer line. All of these products are guaranteed and are available through your local Roto-Rooter office.
- Our two bathroom sinks drain very slowly and water comes up in the other sink. What could be the problem?
When the drainage from one fixture backs up into another, it means that the two lines are connected on one branch line before it enters the main drain. Water always seeks its own level so it will come up in a lower fixture or another sink at the same level if the branch line connecting the fixtures has a blockage after the connection.
Sink lines get filled up with lint, grease and soap scum from the fixtures. As the water goes down the drain, a film is left on the inside of the piping, eventually building up so thick that they reduce the internal diameter of the drain and slow the water flow. A hand snake is designed to open minor clogs in small traps or branch lines. A hand snake can punch a hole in a clog, but it is often like punching a hole in jello. The sludge builds up so thick, when you pull the snake back the sludge just fills back in. Hand snakes are not designed to open piping under the floor, so if the clog is there, you'll need a plumber.
Once the line is cleaned you can use an enzyme-type drain cleaner like Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield® to eat away biological material and prevent it from sticking to the inside of the piping, which keeps the line open and flowing. Pipe Shield® is available only through Roto-Rooter.
- The sewage is backing up a drain pipe in the house when we do laundry or take a shower and the water barely moves when we flush the toilet. How do we remedy this problem?
- Once you get to a point where the water is backing up in multiple fixtures it means either the main sewer line from the house to the city sewer or septic tank has a blockage. Once these lines get filled, a small hand snake is ineffective. The same with chemical clog removers. You're way past that point. Right now you are at the stage where you need a professional.
- The water line from the street to my house is 111 feet of 3/4" pipe that is about 45 years old. I think it is corroded and partially restricting the water. Can this be cleaned or does it need to be replaced?
- Over time, galvanized pipes fill up with calcium and minerals, and there is no code-approved way to clear the line. Calcium and minerals are leeched out of the water and bond to the inside of galvanized pipe, it forms a rock-like substance. These minerals begin to choke off the inside of the pipe and slow the water down. As water slows down, more calcium is removed from the water. Eventually the inside diameter is reduced so much that water does not flow freely. The best solution is to replace the line with High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, which will provide better pressure and will not accumulate calcium and minerals.
- We have water backup problems from the sewage line in our basement when there is heavy rain. What is the best way to prevent it from happening again in the future? Does it work all the time?
If the water is coming in from the outside and it is coming in from the city sewer line or the septic system, you can install a backwater valve on the line inside the house or just outside the house. A backwater valve has a flapper that only allows the water to travel out of the house, but shuts down when it tries to reverse.
If the problem is occurring because you have water coming in from the outside alongside the foundation from the rain itself, then you need to waterproof your foundation. This often requires installing a sump basin and drain tile around the foundation to collect the water and pump it outside to a low area where it can run away from the home. In addition, you should raise the landscaping around the foundation so the water runs away from the house and not towards the house. You may also want to install rain gutters to collect the water and run it to a lower spot in the yard.
If the water is coming in from any other source you will have to determine the cause and then repair it to prevent infiltration.
- What drain cleaning product could I use to get my drains flowing better?
- We recommend an enzyme-type drain cleaner, such as Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield®. The natural enzymes eat the grease and hair and keep the pipe from filling with sludge. Used as directed, these products turn the sludge into a liquid that will flow out of the pipes into the main sewer. Pipe Shield's exclusive formula uses natural bacteria to breakdown deposits, so it's safe for the environment. When used as directed each month, build-up can be prevented for up to 30 days. Pipe Shield® is available only from Roto-Rooter locations.
- Can I use Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield® in a kitchen sink that has a garbage disposal?
- Pipe Shield® is safe for garbage disposals and other plumbing fixtures because it is enzyme-based. Pipe Shield is a mixture of good bacteria and natural enzymes which break down bio-degradable material, but are harmless to inorganic pipe materials like steel, copper and zinc.
- I have a jug of Roto-Rooter® Pipe Shield®. The directions say I should mix two ounces of pipe shield with 32 ounces of water. When I do this, should the total of 34 ounces be applied to each drain or to all seven drains in my house?
- You pour a portion of the 34 ounces into each drain once a month. A little bit of Pipe Shield® goes a long way. Depending on how many drains you have in your home, the jug you have should last a year or more.
- Is RootX® something I can flush down my toilet or is that something Roto-Rooter or a professional should handle?
- We recommend hiring a professional to apply RootX. However, you can do it yourself, but please read the instructions carefully before using. Putting products down the toilet can cause additional problems if not done carefully. This product works best when applied through a sewer clean-out port with the water running. A two pound container is only effective in the first 50 feet of a 4-inch sewer main.
- After putting in a new shower valve (diverter), why does the faucet still run water when the shower is running?
If you get water out of a tub spout when the shower is running, then there is something wrong with the diverter. Most faucets use either a diverter or a third handle in the center of the faucet to change the direction of the water up to the shower head. Diverter tub spouts use a disk that closes off the opening of the tub spout and forces the water up to the shower head. Some faucets use a push button in the handle assembly to divert the water up to the shower head. Finally other faucets use a separate handle inside the faucet body which changes the flow direction.
Disassemble the diverter and flush it out to make sure there isn't debris blocking the closing of the disk, handle or button. Shut off the water to the faucet if you are going to work on the faucet body for the handle diverters or the push button diverter, or simply remove a tub spout diverter and replace it or clean it. If it is calcium and mineral deposits, soak the parts in vinegar overnight then clean with a soft brush to remove the buildup.
- Do you need a special tool to remove the waste water drain to install a new tub and drain?
- There are all kinds of tools for extracting the lower chrome drain in the bottom of the tub, but many plumbers use a simple sharp steel chisel. Remove the plug in the bottom of the tub, leaving the chrome ring that seals the shoe to the bottom of the tub. Turn the basket counterclockwise to remove it from the shoe. A sharp chisel will notch the face of the chrome and turn the basket 1/4 turn (but don't hit too hard or you will cut right through the brass). Repeat every quarter turn. Eventually the basket will come out of the tub and you can remove the parts below the tub and replace them with a new waste and overflow. Follow the directions in the new waste and overflow box for installation.
- I have a couple of drops of water coming out of the spout in the bath tub. What is your opinion on it being new washers behind faucets and diverter?
- Drops of water coming out of a tub spout can be normal if it has a diverter or it can be a leaky washer in the shower faucet. If it continues to leak all day, then it's a leaky washer. If it leaks for an hour or so, but then quits, it's water draining down from the shower head and emptying into the tub.
- I have a shower head with a hose attachment that sprays water where the hose attaches to the faucet. Tightening the connection does not help. How do I stop the spray?
- Generally there is a rubber gasket inside the nut that tightens onto the shower head arm. Often this gasket gets damaged or pushed into the shower head arm and does not seal properly. Remove and reinsert the gasket, or replace for a better seal.
- My shower head and faucet aerators have a build-up of a white substance around the area where the water comes out. Is there anything I can do other than replace them?
- The unsightly build-up is mineral deposits. To remove these deposits from the showerhead, take a plastic bag and pour a cup of vinegar in it. Place the bag over the showerhead and use a twist tie to hold it in place overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub off the deposits. You might be able to remove the aerators from the faucets and allow them to soak in the vinegar overnight.
- Our cold water faucet filters are all clogged with small yellow/orange balls. We have purged the lines and it appears to be corrected but we'd like to know what were they?
In addition to something unknown, a couple of things come to mind. When a water softener screen fails, the resin beads can get out of the softener and into the water system. Every water softener is filled with small zeolite resin beads. These beads are designed to remove calcium and minerals from the water and replace then with sodium or potassium ions. When the filter that holds in the beads develops a hole the resin beads can flow through the water supply system.
Inside every water heater there is a plastic tube that takes the inlet cold water and runs it down through the hot water to the bottom of the water heater, so the cold water doesn't mix with the hot water and prevent you from getting hot water. Unfortunately, some types of water actually dissolve the plastic and cause it to flow out into the water system. If you are now getting lukewarm water instead of hot water, that is your problem.
- What advice can you offer for a leaking cartridge faucet after the cartridge has already been replaced? The faucet is located in a tub/shower combination.
There can be a number of reasons a faucet cartridge leaks after you have installed a new one. It all depends on the age of the faucet, the type of cartridge and water quality.
Many times the reason a faucet leaks has nothing to do with the cartridge. When water (one of the most corrosive liquids we have) runs through a brass body, the water is full of calcium and minerals in solution. This will eat away at small imperfections in the brass in the original casting process. Soft spots in the brass and small bumps can cause the water to remove the brass and form small rivulets in the surface. These are almost impossible to see with the naked eye because it blends in with the coatings left on the surface of the brass from the water. Often times, I will have to take a small buffer and buff the inside of the cartridge cylinder to see the line. Since the line is below the surface of the cylinder, the dark matter is left in the line and it shows up as a dark line. You have to use a flashlight to find them.
Other times there is a rubber, brass or ceramic seat in the bottom of the cartridge opening, which is actually forming the seal. These parts can become damaged by the movement of the cartridge as it opens and closes. The brass and rubber can no longer fit properly into the hole in the cartridge cylinder and it can leak. The o-ring that the cartridge rests against can have small cracks and deviations which can cause leaks. When you replace parts in a faucet, generally you will have to replace all of the inside parts. In the cartridge packet should be a list of additional parts that may be necessary to make a complete seal.
- Do you drain pipes to winterize homes? What else should be done?
- When we winterize a home, we remove the meter and use air pressure in all of the water pipes to empty the lines. We then drain the water heater and shut off the burner. We empty the toilets and tanks and fill all the traps in the home with RV antifreeze. If there is a dishwasher, we flush out the supply with air. Even with everything shut off, you have to supply heat to the meter area to keep the inlet water supply from freezing. This can be done with a 100 watt light bulb.
- We live in northern Ohio. Winters are cold and we were told to turn off the outside faucets in the fall before the freezing weather arrives. We did this, however the pipes leading to our outside faucet still froze and broke. What did we do wrong?
- Turning off the water is not enough. You must also disconnect the garden hose connected to the faucet to allow the water in the pipe to drain out. This will allow the piping to withstand the cold weather.
- We will be gone for about six months and no one will be living in the house. We have a caretaker to check on the house and we will shut off the water. How can I keep roots from growing in the sewer pipes. Do toilets need to be flushed? What other recommendations do you have?
- RV antifreeze in toilet bowls and sink traps will not evaporate and keeps the sewer gas in the pipes. Be sure to shut off the water heater or put on vacation setting. Shut off the water to the washer because washer hoses can break while you are gone and cause flooding. Open cabinet doors to allow air to circulate around pipes and set the thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees to prevent frozen pipes.
- I want to install a new drain system for a shower, toilet and two sinks. It is a uphill grade to the front house that is built on a slab. There is a clean-out on the out side of the house 50 feet away. Is there a way to make it happen?
If you want to install a bathroom in a house and the pitch of the house runs the wrong direction, you can always install a sewage ejector by the bathroom and pump the sewage uphill. A sewage ejector is a small 18 gallon basin that sits below the ground. It has a pump grinder with a float, when the water rises up to the maximum level, the pump turns on and removes the contents by vacuum and forces the products up to the level of the sewer line. The distance the water will travel determines the horsepower of the pump.
But you may be able to drain by gravity, if the sewer line uphill is low enough below the surface of the ground. Everything will need to be determined by an estimator. You will need someone with experience to come out and discuss the options with you.
- A black ring has appeared under the linoleum floor around one of my toilets. There is no foul odor and no water on the floor. What is causing this?
- When a black ring starts to appear around the base of a toilet under the linoleum it generally means the wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor underneath is leaking. The color is coming from a black bacteria, mold or sewage. The only way to fix this is to pull the toilet off the floor and replace the wax ring gasket. I would also suggest making sure the drain line is cleared under the toilet as long as you have it off the floor. If the toilet cannot flush properly, then the water will build up and put pressure on the wax ring causing it to leak. If you're not accustomed to this kind of work, you might save yourself a lot of headache by calling an experienced plumber to get it right the first time.
- I am hearing a whistle sound that seems to be connected to the plumbing system. It comes and goes at times, but I can't find the cause of it. What could cause this?
- The sound you are describing is usually caused by a toilet fill valve that is slowly leaking. To locate the leaking toilet, remove the lid of each toilet tank and adjust the fill valve mechanism until it stops. Once you have found the toilet causing the problem, repair or replace the fill valve.
- I hear vibrating sounds in the wall whenever the toilet is flushed. What is causing this?
- This is typically the toilet's fill valve. When the diaphragm gasket inside the top cap of the fill valve goes bad, it looses elasticity and becomes hard. When it tries to shut off, it bounces in micro vibrations sending a shock wave back into the piping. You can test the fill valve theory by removing the tank lid and lifting gently on the fill valve float arm. If the noise stops, you've found your problem and should proceed with replacing the fill valve.
- My pipes make a banging noise whenever I turn on or turn off my water. It happens with all faucets, both hot and cold. Is this causing damage? What can I do to stop the banging?
Improperly secured pipes behind walls may be the problem. Since water supply pipes are made of metal, they transmit sound waves. As water flows through the system, it flows over obstructions and around turns, creating eddies in the water. These can be rhythmic depending on the speed of the water. When they reach a certain pitch, they cause the piping to begin vibrating in harmonic reaction to the wave created inside the pipe. In order to stop the noise, you have to remove the offending part or debris that's causing the water to fluctuate. If the pipes are accessible, you can strap them with plastic clamps so they can't bang against the structure. If your piping is metal and runs through the joists or studs, then the problem may be expansion and contraction. As soon as either hot or cold water runs through pipes, they expand or contract, causing vibration and noise.
Another problem is water hammer. This happens when you have high water pressure. Water moving in one direction does not want to stop flowing. When you shut off a faucet, the water still has some force, which has to be absorbed. When you shut off the faucet, the pipe will flex to absorb the force. If it's near wood, it will bang against the wood. You can stop this by installing water hammer arrestors on the offending water lines.
- When I am in the laundry room and the water heater is operating, I hear a rumbling sound coming from the water heater. What could cause this?
Rumbling sounds coming from a water heater are an indication that sediment has built up on the bottom of the water heater. What you are hearing is water that is trapped in the sediment and is boiling. This is an indication that the water heater is not operating efficiently. Sediment will not allow the heat to transfer to the water in the tank, which sends the heat up the flue.
You may try draining a few gallons of water off the bottom of the water heater tank. This is done by attaching a drain hose to the valve at the bottom of the tank. Allow it to drain for about five minutes.
WARNING: HOT WATER IS DANGEROUS. DISCHARGE THE WATER INTO A FLOOR DRAIN, LAUNDRY TUB OR BATHTUB. HOT WATER WILL KILL YOUR GRASS IF DISCHARGED ONTO THE LAWN. HOT WATER WILL CRACK A TOILET BOWL IF DISCHARGED INTO THE TOILET.
Many newer models of water heaters have a new feature that prohibits the build-up of sediment in the tank. If your heater is an older model, it may be cost effective to replace the water heater if the build-up is severe.
- Why do we have a pulsing/whooshing sound in the main supply line when water is flowing (faucet open, toilet filling), but the sound goes away when valve closes?
- These noises often occur when the pipes are beginning to develop build-up on the inside. Often galvanized pipe and copper pipe will have these types of noises, because of the harder turns and the reverberation that occurs because the pipe is metal. Galvanized pipe often develops calcium and mineral deposits on the inside, which causes the water to swirl and create unusual noises.
- Every time we flush our toilet, there's a foul odor coming out and it smells like stinking fish and pervades inside the house.Could there be a leak in the pipes? What can we do about it?
- Generally when you have a foul odor when flushing the toilet it means the toilet wax ring is not sealed to the toilet or the floor. Whenever you put water into a drain, it first has to push the air away. If the wax ring is not sealed, it will simply push it between the floor and the bottom of the toilet into the room, instead of down the pipe. Because both air and water take up space in the pipe, you can't put the water in unless you move the air out. Typically we send it up the main vent of the house and out the roof, but if the roof vent is blocked, then there is no place for the air to go. The toilet should be resealed to the floor and main vent cleared of debris.
- I am getting a foul odor from a bathroom in the basement. We hardly ever use this bathroom except when we have company. This is embarrassing. What can we do?
- Plumbing systems are designed to prevent foul odors from entering the house by means of the trap attached to fixtures. Traps contain water to seal out foul odors; if the water seal evaporates, the odors enter the house. To solve this problem, pour a bucket of water in each trap, sink, shower and floor drain. This will prevent the odors from entering the house.
- I have a foul odor coming from my garbage disposer. What can I do to eliminate this odor?
- Foul odors occur from a buildup of food debris within the disposer. To eliminate this odor, place ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposer and run for 30 seconds. Next, squirt a little liquid dish detergent into the disposer while it is still running. Finally, run cold water for about 30 seconds to rinse all the debris away.
- In the basement where the washer and dryer are located, there is a floor drain. When I do laundry, about a quart of water comes up through the drain and there is a foul odor. What should I do?
- This is an indication of a blocked branch line or vent. You'll need to remove the clog, either by hiring a professional to do it or trying a hand auger. Liquid drain cleaners don't work on long horizontal pipe sections because the cleaners settle on the bottom of the pipe and clean only the lower part of the pipe. If your pipes are made of steel, you should not use acid-based drain cleaners. Acid eats right through the zinc coating on galvanized piping, clearing the way for corrosion. Similarly, cast iron pipe has a tar coating on the inside. Acid eats through the coating leaving the iron exposed to the water and corrosion. Even if your pipes are plastic, many of the city mains and services into the home are cast iron.
- What causes a sewer smell from kitchen sink when using washing machine? The sink does have a disposer.
- If you get a sewer smell when you are using the dishwasher on a kitchen sink, it often means there is a blockage in the vent or the drain of the pipes inside the wall. If you have a clogged vent on the roof, then the back-pressure that is created when you try to put water into the pipe, will slow the water down and it will begin to clog the pipe. In order for water to enter a pipe, it has to have an open vent on the roof of the house. This is a pipe that is attached to the drains, but instead of running down to the city, runs up to the roof. Since both water and air take up volume in the pipe, in order to put the water into the pipe, you have to push the air aside. The vent redirects the pressure up to the roof at the same speed the water is flowing. So if either the drain or the vent are clogged, then there is no place for the water to go without first forcing the air back into the room, which is combined with sewer gas.
- I have an outdoor water drain that has piping that leads under the house. The drain is clogged so deep that it looks like the piping under the house is also clogged. How can I unclog this pipe/drain?
- This type of drain can be cleaned with a typical main snake, a water jetter, or if the clog is not too big, you may be able to force it out with a blow bag. A normal main machine would be my choice, because it pushes the debris out of the pipe, chops up any roots and scrapes the inside of the pipe clean. A jetter will clean any sand and debris out of the pipe by using 2500 pounds of water pressure to flush the pipe, removing sludge and debris from the inside pipe walls. A blow bag is a device the expands in the pipe until it locks in place, then fills the pipe with water pressure. This device breaks through the clog, but doesn't remove all of the debris or scrape the pipe clean.
- My outside faucet runs normally when I turn it on, but when I connect a garden hose to it, the water starts to backup in the pipe and leak into the basement. Why?
- It sounds like your hose bib froze during the winter and you have a crack in the pipe from the faucet. You probably have a frost-proof sill cock, which actually has a shut off valve inside the house, through a long stem from the handle. The crack is probably tight enough to prevent water from leaking when there is no back-pressure, but the moment you put a hose on and increase the back-pressure it leaks into the house. You will probably need to install a new sillcock. This is not a job for the average do-it-yourselfer. To prevent hose bibs from freezing, always disconnect water hoses before freezing temperatures arrive and cover hose bibs with an insulation kit.
- Our down spout goes into a drain pipe. The last few storms, the basement has had water come in through the dryer vent, because the drain doesn't appear to be draining. I assume it is blocked. What should I do?
- For something like a downspout being clogged, you will probably have to get a drain cleaner out with a jetting machine to remove the leaves and debris that have flushed down the line. This is high pressure water that will force the sand, leaves and debris out of the pipe, so it will flow again.
- Our outdoor faucet was working fine one day and we could get no water from it the next. The water pressure inside is great. What could be the problem?
When the water pressure at a faucet is fine one day but lower the next day, there may be a piece of debris blocking the opening. Remove the handle and bonnet nut, then unthread the stem and check the washer. If the washer looks fine, turn on the water and flush out the spigot. If you have good water pressure you've solved your problem. If not, reassemble everything, then repeat the procedure at the inside valve. If neither of these solves the problem, then you probably need to call in a plumber to run some more detailed diagnostics.
If there is no water at the faucet, then the problem might be the aerator or inside the faucet spout. Debris can get into the strainer at the end of the faucet spout. This is a device that screws into the end of the faucet spout to restrict the flow of water and add air to the water so the water will not splash when it hits the sink. The flow restrictor is in the back end of the aerator which is in the faucet spout opening. Unthread the aerator from the spout and clean it out. If this isn't the problem, then remove the spout and check for debris.
- The outside faucet is turned off but water keeps running. What do I need to do to fix this problem?
- When an outside hose bib runs even when the handle is shut off, it means either the gasket needs to be replaced or the valve seat has gone bad. The seat is the brass opening that the gasket closes against. Leaking water can cut a microscopic channel in the surface of the brass. If the seat is damaged, you need to replace the hose bib since most seats are molded into the faucet and are not replaceable.
- My refrigerator does not receive water to make ice because the water faucet on the supply line is broken. How can I repair that faucet?
- It is difficult to give specific instructions on how to fix the water supply valve without seeing it first hand. A plumber should look at the valve to identify the problem and repair it. The valve may need to be disassembled in order to verify that water is reaching it. If you do not have water coming through the water supply tube, then there is probably a blockage or a part of the refrigerator is broken. This is not a problem for amateurs. Flooding could occur if precautions aren't taken.
- Can Roto-Rooter trim the roots out of my storm water lateral?
- We can trim the roots out of any pipe that is constructed of cast iron, plastic (schedule 32 or heaver) and clay tile pipe. If the storm pipe is made of corrugated iron or some other thin wall pipe, the blades on our machines could go right through the pipe. We would really have to look at the pipe to make a determination. Most likely, we can offer a solution to the problem.
- How can I control roots in my pipes?
If roots have entered your pipes, a Roto-Rooter technician can remove the roots using powerful cutting blades. Your technician will recommend the application of Roto-Rooter® Root Destroyer to retard future root growth. Roto-Rooter® Root Destroyer will kill only the roots growing in the pipes and will not affect the rest of your tree's root system.
Simply pour the recommended dosage into your toilet bowl and flush the product into the line twice each year.
Roto-Rooter® Root Destroyer is available only from your service technician or your local Roto-Rooter branch.
- How do roots grow?
Tree and shrub roots require oxygen and water to grow. Growth rate is variable and is affected by the soil depth, water supply, aeration, mineral supply and temperature.
Root systems are made up of large, permanent roots for support and stabilization, and many small, temporary feeder root and root hairs. These small roots are the primary water and nutrient absorbers. Most roots can be found in the top 6 to 18 inches of soil, where water, nutrients and oxygen are found.
Roots generally extend up to two or three times the height of the tree, but can extend as far as seven times the height of the tree. Large, mature trees may have thousands of feet of root system searching for nutrients. Roots will be less extensive in clay soils than in sandy or well-drained soils.
- How does weather impact root growth?
- During drought conditions and in the winter, roots will travel long distances in search of moisture. When trees and shrubs get thirsty, they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes, or poorly sealed joints in the water and sewer lines. The roots penetrate the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipes.
- Is there a point when de-rooting the drain line will no longer work?
- Yes. The reason you have to de-root drain lines is because the roots have entered the pipes through holes in the joints. Each time you cut off the roots on the inside of the pipe, the root in the joint remains. Every year that root gets bigger and bigger and as it does, it puts pressure on the inside of the joint. Just the way roots growing inside a rock on the mountain side eventually break the rock, the roots in the joints eventually break the pipe and the dirt from the outside begins the flow into the pipe. It's an important step to have your drain line camera inspected. Once you see the condition of the inside of the pipe and the amount of roots that have penetrated the pipe, you can begin to plan for that day when you will have to replace it.
- We suspect we have tree roots clogging our drain tile around the exterior perimeter of house. What do you recommend for this problem?
- It all depends on the material type. It may be clay, PVC or thin wall plastic corrugated tubing. Roots get into pipes and then widen the opening as they grow. We can't use a drain snake inside thin wall corrugated pipe but we can on the other types of pipe. Drain tile pipe is perforated pipe with openings every couple of inches and on all sides. That means hundreds of openings capture rain and ground water and divert it to your sump where it can be pumped out to the storm sewer. If the roots inside the pipes are very fine, we may be able to jet them out with a high-pressure water jet system. The best thing to do is to run a camera down the line to examine the damage and determine the type of pipe you have. Roto-Rooter can provide all of these services.
- What happens when roots get inside lines?
If not disturbed, the roots will completely fill the pipe with multiple hair-like root masses at each point of entry. The root masses quickly become clogged with toilet tissue, grease and other debris flowing from homes and businesses to the main sewer, resulting in reduced flow and slowed drains. A complete blockage may occur if the roots are not removed and root growth impeded.
Once roots have entered the pipe, they continue to grow and expand, exerting considerable pressure at the crack or joint. The increased pressure often breaks the pipe and may result in total collapse, which requires repair or replacement.
Some pipe materials are more susceptible to root intrusion than others. Clay tile pipe is easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. Concrete pipe and PVC pipe may also allow root intrusion, but to a lesser extent than clay pipe. PVC pipe usually has fewer joints and the tightly fitted joints are less likely to leak as a result of settlement around the pipe.
- How often should I have my septic system inspected?
- Septic systems should be inspected and pumped a minimum of once every three to four years. You may not be experiencing any problem now, but a full septic tank may allow unwanted solids to flow into the drain field, which is the part of the system that consists of a distribution box, with a series of connected pipes. Each pipe allows water to flow into a bed of stone that drains into the ground. If paper and other solids flow into the drain field it becomes blocked and ineffective. A blocked drain field is costly to repair or replace.
- We had our septic tank pumped but we're still having back-ups in basement shower. What could the problem be?
If you are still getting backups in your piping inside your home after having pumped the septic tank, there can be only two problems. The first is a blockage of the inside pipes leading from the fixtures to the septic tank. Drains can become blocked with sludge, roots and dirt from broken pipes. The first thing to do is to have your pipes professionally cleaned so you can be assured the pipes are fully open. If the technician encounters a problem, he can run a camera down the line and find out if the roots have created a problem with the line or if the septic tank is functioning properly. If you clear the lines and the septic tank is not working properly, even though you pumped it, then the drain field is having a problem. In addition, if the ground is saturated because of high water table or heavy rainfall, then the septic tank will not drain and it will back up into the house. A drainfield can act as a spreader of the effluent or it can act as a collector of rainwater and groundwater.
When the sludge layer at the top and the bottom inside a septic tank get high enough to leave the septic tank and go out into the drain field, it will plug up your drain field. Once a drain field plugs, you've just bought yourself a new one. The sludge in the septic tank forms a layer below the pipes and prevents the water from leeching into the ground. The same type of biodegradable matter that decomposes and falls to the bottom of a lake is what keeps the water from leeching into the aquifer. National septic standards recommend a septic tank be pumped every three years to prevent this problem.
Once a drain field fails, you only have a few options. One is a completely new drain field and the other is to add more branches to the existing drain field and increase your capacity. You will have to check the local requirements for instructions. I would also ask them for a recommendation for an experienced septic system company to give you an evaluation of your options.
- We've not had any sort of septic tank service work done. We have noticed that some drains and toilets don't always flush or drain quickly. What should we do?
Septic systems should be pumped every three to four years. Pumping prevents damage to the drain field from sewage and fats. Fats are insoluble, which means they do not stay in the water. When they get into the ground, they form a barrier around the drainfield pipes and prevent them from leaching water into the soil. Once this happens, the drain field has to be replaced at a huge expense.
If you are starting to get backup, you may want to get someone in to check out the system. It may mean they run a camera through to make sure there are no roots in the line between the house and the septic tank. They can also determine if there are blockages in the main vent.
- What is needed to install a self rimming sink besides the sink?
- Once you get the opening to the proper size, then insert the sink into the opening. Crawl under the sink with a flashlight and begin to install the locknuts. Try to install the center locks first, front and back then side to side. Then move to the corners and install your corner nuts. Once you get it tightened down, you can run a bead of latex caulk around the edge and use water and a sponge to clean it up.
- I had what appears to be a sewer backup into my bathroom. Sewage exploded out of the toilet. What is the cause?
- What you have is a branch line blockage between the bathroom and the main sewer. You'll probably need to hire a professional drain cleaner to clear and clean the drain line. If you don't have a clean-out port big enough to accept a cable with 3-inch blades, the service technician will have to pull up the toilet in order to thoroughly snake the line.
- Our toilets keep backing up. Could this be caused by tree roots in the sewer line?
- It's possible, maybe even probable. We recommend Roto-Rooter Root Destroyer or Root X to kill roots in your sewer pipe. Both products restrict root growth for up to a year after application. We also suggest you have the main sewer line cleaned out from the house to the city sewer main. If the service technician pulls back tree roots on his cable, ask him how you can use one of these products to control root growth.
- We have two bathrooms, one on the second floor above the other. The top one flushes fairly easily but the bottom one doesn't seem to flush everything down consistently. It does not empty without plunging. Do our pipes need to be rooted out?
- If your toilet is blocking up that often, it may be that your main sewer line is beginning to back up. Test it by flushing the toilet five or six times in a row without leaving. If it backs up then you have a main line problem and you need a professional to come out and clear the line.
- How do you remove a commercial toilet? It has no water tank, just a water pipe coming out of the wall going to the bowl.
- First, turn off the water to the toilet. If you are removing the toilet permanently then you will have to shut off the water off to the building. If you are removing it only temporarily, you can remove it by shutting the water off to the stop, which is the pipe turn that comes out of the wall. There is a small screwdriver shutoff under the chrome cap at the pipe that comes out of the wall.
- I do not have water flowing into the tank of the toilet. I have checked the valve behind the toilet and it is in the open position.
When water isn't flowing into a toilet, we generally start by shutting off the water supply, then we carefully remove the cap from the top of the fill valve in the tank (ball cock/float valve). Once the cap is removed, turn on the water using a small plastic bowl over the opening to redirect the water down into the tank. If no water comes out the opening with all of the fill valve parts removed, then there is a clog in the line to the fill valve.
The next step is to shut off the water and remove the supply line from the bottom of the toilet, then redirect the supply line into your small bowl and turn the valve back on. If you don't get water out of the supply tube, then you have to shut off the water to the house and remove the valve from the wall, because your blockage is in the inlet to the valve. If there is no blockage at the valve, then you have to start removing sections of pipe back to the meter until you find the blockage.
- I'm replacing an old toilet water valve. The old brass compression ring seems to be stuck on the copper pipe and does not come off. I tried re-using it with my new valve, but there's a slow drip. How do you get that old compression ring off the pipe?
- There are a couple of ways you can get the compression ring off, but none of them easy. There is a tool designed specifically to remove compression rings, which is like a bearing puller. It fits behind the compression nut and grips it, then your turn the toggle nut till the nut and ring come off the copper.
- We need to replace a toilet in our home. We have heard coworkers and friends complain that the new toilets do not flush properly, and that they require multiple flushes. What is the recommendation for toilet replacement?
When the federal government mandated that new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, manufacturers had to develop a toilet that would achieve this but that would also flush properly (clear the bowl) and carry the waste to the city sewer or septic system. Some of the early models did not do this properly. Since then, the complaints have forced the manufacturers to develop new ways of flushing toilets. One new way is the use of a pressurized toilet tank. This model looks like a regular toilet, but it has a pressure tank inside. When flushed, it works like a commercial toilet. A large surge of water enters the bowl and clears the bowl of any waste. These toilets work well, but are not as quiet as a conventional model.
When considering a new fixture for your home such as a toilet, we recommend that you choose a fixture made by one of the major manufacturers, such as American Standard, Kohler or Eljer.
- We recently had a new toilet installed. I noticed a small leak appear from the pipe that sends the water to the toilet. There is a shut off valve and I have turned the water off and tried to fix it myself but I cannot get the pipe loose to see if it needs a new washer or the threads are messed up. Should I leave it alone and have someone come out and fix it?
- The first thing to check on the stop valve is the packing nut. Just under the handle is a small nut that tightens the packing against the stem. When turning on the handle often times, the packing will simply begin leaking. A small turn with a wrench will usually stop the leaking if it is coming from the stem attached to the handle which passes through the body of the faucet. The only thing that keeps the water inside the faucet is the packing, which is usually a graphite or compressive material. If this doesn't work, then call for a technician.
- When you sell your house, do the toilets have to be low flow?
- Normally, unless a city specifically passes a local code that requires the change, you don't have to change the toilets. Some jurisdictions that are having a problem with pure water sources are requiring that all toilets and faucets be switched to low flow. So if your city has water restrictions for lawn watering, drought conditions or a low water table, then they may require the switching of toilets.
- My toilet flange is broken. Do I just pry out the rubber seal that goes into the drain pipe? Does the new one come with a sealant, and how tight should the new one be?
Repairing toilet flanges is not easy. There are a couple of possibilities, and everything depends on the size and type of pipe. If the pipe is 4" inside diameter, it's an easier task. You simply buy an inside closet flange. This flange is designed to glue on the inside of the pipe or expand inside the pipe. You could then leave the old flange right in place and glue on the new one at the right elevation for the floor, if it's plastic. The flange should be sitting with the bottom edge flush with the top of the floor. If it isn't, then you will have to cut away the old flange. If the plastic pipe is 3" inside diameter, you have to remove the old flange from the outside of the pipe. This is a difficult task, because you have to make the opening around the flange large enough to peal the old flange off the pipe. In addition, there is no guarantee of success; it takes a plumber many years to master the art of splitting the glue joint, without damaging the pipe.
If a closet flange is cast iron, then you would have to use a hammer and chisel to break the flange and remove it. If it is 4", then you can use an insert closet flange that has a rubber gasket that expands on the inside to seal against the inside pipe surface. You will have to remove all the old build-up in order for it to seal. This can be done by scraping or sanding with a wire brush on a drill. Use a little silicone on the gasket when you begin tightening it up. If it is 3" cast iron you will have to break off the old flange from the outside and install another one on the outside. This can be done with a hammer and chisel. If the flange is cast iron with a rubber gasket, you should be able to remove the cast iron with a hammer and chisel, remove the rubber gasket with a sharp knife, then replace the gasket and the flange.
If the closet flange is lead and installed on the outside of the pipe, you will have to remove the old flange and re-caulk it and then pour a new lead joint. You can also install an expanding one on the outside, but that would require breaking up the floor to get the flange down into the floor.
After setting every flange, make sure you screw it to the floor so it will not rise up when you tighten down the toilet. Bolt the flange down through the holes supplied in the flange with concrete or wood anchors that are galvanized or brass so they won't rust and break. And when you tighten it, never use more than a 6" crescent and two fingers on the handle to get the nuts tight. In addition, if you use a plastic flange, make sure you use one with a stainless steel outer ring, so it won't rust and is stronger than the plastic itself. Again, no toilet should be tightened so tight it breaks the flange. A toilet should always be set level and the edge that touches the floor should be sealed with calk to prevent it from smelling.
- There is a crack in my toilet tank. Is there anything to repair this?
- You may be able to use an epoxy resin to seal up the crack, but because new water is constantly coming in the toilet tank it will just crack further. Every time cold water enters the tank it contracts, then when the water warms up to room temperature, it expands. This constant expansion and contraction will just further the crack. You may not be able to keep up with the leak prevention. I would suggest just buying a new tank from the manufacturer. You can order the right tank directly online if you know the make and model number.
- Our water bill was extremely high this quarter. We were told by city that we must have a leak somewhere. We don't have any obvious signs of a leak. Is there a way it can be checked?
- Here's how to test for a leak on your water system. Shut off all the fixtures in your home and put red food coloring in all of your toilet tanks. Check the reading on the water meter. Wait at least one hour and recheck the toilets and the reading. If the water in any toilet bowl is red, then the toilet is leaking. If the water has not left the toilet tanks and entered the bowls, but the reading on the water meter has moved even slightly you have an underground leak. A plumber or leak detection company can use a sounding device to locate leaks in underground pipes.
- There is an underground pipe leaking into my walk-in basement apartment. Is there anyway to pinpoint and locate an underground leak before digging?
- Yes! Roto-Rooter has professional leak detecting equipment that allows a service technician to pinpoint the exact location of the leak. Modern leak detecting equipment is very sophisticated and accurate.
- Water keeps flowing out of the two holes in the front yard where they read the meter. My water bill has gone from $40.00 to $95.00. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
- It sounds like you will need to get either the city out or a professional plumber, because you may have a leak at your meter. Since your water bill has gone up, I can only assume it's leaking on the house side of the meter.
- I am installing a new water heater. The old water heater has a pipe extending from the drainage pipe. Does this pipe need to be connected to the new water heater?
- Normally, a pipe attached to the water heater drain pipe is a recirculation line. While not absolutely necessary, a recirculation line keeps water in the pipe hot and reduces the amount of water wasted before you get hot water. The pipe could also be for a pressure relief line. If it goes to a floor drain, then it is a pressure relief line.
- I have a 40-gallon electric water heater. It has triggered my upper thermostat reset button twice. What causes this?
When the reset switch goes off on an electric water heater, it generally means the element or the thermostat has gone bad. Elements can be tested by removing the wires from the element and putting an ohm test on the leads. Testing should be done only by a qualified service technician. You should not attempt to work with high voltage unless you are familiar with all of the proper lock-out tag-out procedures and are qualified to work with electricity. High voltage electricity can cause death or serious injury.
Both the element and the thermostat should be replaced at the same time, but first consider the age of the water heater. The life expectancy of most water heaters is 15 years. If the water heater is more than 10 years old, the labor cost of replacing the elements is about the same as the installation costs of a new electric water heater. You will pay for the water heater, but you will recoup some of the loss in energy savings over the next 10 years.
- I recently had my water heater replaced and soon had water leaking from the pressure relief copper tube. How come it started when I got a new water heater? I do have a pressure reducing valve on the main line.
- Pressure and temperature relief valves are designed to go off whenever there is an increase in pressure in the water system. This would include every time the water heater begins to heat the water, since the water is expanding and increasing tank pressure. If there is no check valve on the house, the water expands into the city water supply pipe and the pressure is relieved. But if there is a check valve serving the entire home, then you will need to install an expansion tank to absorb the pressure. Roto-Rooter has licensed plumbers who can handle this for you if you are not equipped to do it yourself.
- The pilot light will not light on. My water heater it is only three years old and there is no residue in the tank.
- When the pilot light on a water heater will no longer stays lit, it typically means the thermocouple is bad. Thermocouples are little electric generators that create a magnetic current that holds open a magnetic gas valve inside the control unit on the front of the water heater. If the generator or the wiring from the unit can no longer sense heat at the pilot, it will constantly shut off the pilot. Replacing the thermocouple will generally solve the problem. Each water heater thermocouple comes with instructions. Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly and follow all safety guides.
- There is a puddle of water under the water heater and it's not going down the drain there. The water is leaking into a nearby closet and into a vent in our one story slab. What is causing this?
When you have a puddle of water under the water heater and there is a floor drain below the water heater, you have to start looking at the water heater first to see if there isn't a hole in the water heater. If the water is running constantly, then it's probably the water heater. If the water comes up when you use other fixtures in your home, it's probably a blockage where the floor drain and the branch line come together. You should call for a drain technician to clean the line.
If the water heater is leaking, it's time for a new water heater. A qualified plumber can install a new unit.
- Every year something goes wrong with my water meter and it has to be replaced. I also have outrageous water bills. Could my booster pump cause my water meter to act up?
- A booster pump higher than 80 psi could cause problems if there is a check valve on the city side of the meter. The check valve should be on the house side of the water meter to prevent any back pressure on the meter. Since the meter needs to be replaced annually and you have huge water bills, you might have an underground leak, a leaky faucet or a leaky toilet. To check for an underground leak, read your meter when water is not being used. Read again after a few hours. A change in the reading indicates a leak. If your sink is dripping one drop per second, you are wasting almost 300 gallons of water per month. To check for a leaky toilet, simply add a few drops of red or blue food coloring to the toilet tank. If the water in the bowl changes color without flushing, the flapper inside the tank is leaking. Freezing can break the meter parts and the meter itself. Keeping the meter warm and insulated is important. Sand and debris in the meter can grind away at the meter and jam it up. The installation of a filter or stainer in the line in front of meter can protect it from damage. Acidic water can eat away at the copper in the meter and cause it to fail. Work with the city to determine the real problem with the meter.
- All at once, water stopped flowing through any of the indoor faucets, the toilets won't fill and no water is flowing to the laundry room. However, we are getting water through the kitchen faucet. I'm puzzled.
- I always look to the simplest solution first when I have a problem with loss of water supply. Often when this happens, the strainers in the faucets have to be removed and cleared and the top of the fill valve in the toilet should be removed, flushed and replaced. Cities will sometimes flush their systems, which breaks loose debris and sends it to homes along the piping route. When this happens the pipes distribute the debris to every faucet and valve, plugging them up.
- We have a low flow issue. The water pressure is low. I hear it is caused by calcium build-up in our copper pipes. We do not have a water softener system installed. How do I remove the calcium build-up and prevent future build-up?
I have never heard of calcium build-up in copper pipes, though it is possible with extremely high levels of calcium. If so, you'll need to install a water softener to treat the water. This will not only save your pipes, but also your washing machine, dishwasher and toilets. As far as removing the calcium from the inside of the copper pipes, there is nothing you can put into the pipes that you would want to drink later. No governmental agency will allow plumbers to treat the inside of copper pipes because of the hazards involved.
You could use vinegar in the pipes, but it would take a lot of vinegar and you would have to leave it in the pipes at least 24 hours. You would have to remove all of the water in the pipes and replace it with vinegar. Vinegar dissolves calcium and minerals. Then you would have to flush your pipes. The vinegar taste may be in the pipes for some time afterwards, but it is completely harmless.
A better solution is to simply replace the pipes with PEX plastic pipes. Plastic is completely resistant to any mineral build-up and provides higher pressures and flow rates than copper pipe. A Roto-Rooter plumber can evaluate your pipes and give you some options.
- We have poor inside water pressure in our faucets and toilets. The water company tested the outside pressure to be 58 lbs. What now?
If you have low water pressure here are a couple of things to check. Check all of the strainers on the faucets to make sure they are not blocked. Aerators/strainers need to be removed annually to check for buildup of minerals inside openings and anytime anyone works on the water piping system. Check your main valve coming into the home to make sure its not half way open. Check the meter valve to see if it is really open. Sometimes the valve gets stuck in the closed position, even though the handle continues to turn. If it is, then check the piping to see if it is galvanized (use a magnet) copper is not magnetic.
If the piping in the house is made of galvanized, then it could be calcium and mineral deposits. When galvanized water pipes are in a home for 30 to 50 years calcium is leeched out of the water and attaches to the inside of the water pipes. It builds up through a process called ion exchange (magnetic attraction). It takes many years for this to happen and when it does, it coats the full length of the pipe. Unfortunately calcium builds up on the inside of the piping and reduces the internal diameter with pebble like growths until the water can no longer flow. It slows down the water like the rocks in a stream. The deposits are hard, just like the bones in your body, so they cannot be removed. In addition, there is no tool or liquid you are allowed to put into the pipes to clean them out, which you would want to drink later.
If it is galvanized, the only solution is replacement of the piping. I would suggest replacing all the piping, not just the horizontal sections. Many people make the mistake of having the plumber only replace the horizontals. The problem is, half of the cost is the tear out and it doesn't take any more time to tear out the complete system. The set up time and demolition time is the same for both jobs, but if you do them at the same time, you only pay once.
Once in a while an old galvanized main valve gets stuck 1/2 way open. Gate valves often have problems with the rising stem pulling out of the disk that shuts off the water. Even though it seems like the valve is open, because the inside threads allow the stem to continue turning up to the top of the threads, the valve is closed. Inside each gate valve there is a tapered round disk that fits into a tapered slot. When it's all the way down the valve is shut off. When it lifts up the valve is open. If the valve hasn't been closed in many years, calcium builds up on the ground faces of the slot as the water passes over it. When you close the brass gate, it gets stuck on the rough sandpaper like surface. When you try to turn it up, the stem simply pulls through the brass-casting slot and leaves the gate in place. Once this happens, you have to replace the valve.
- I seem to lose hot water as I shower. My burner man says I have plenty of hot water and should test the shower mixer. Can the mixer be my problem? I've talked to some plumbers and they say I probably need a water heater.
- Do not replace the water heater without first checking out the pressure balance faucet in the shower. Pressure balance and temperature control shower faucets are notorious for reducing the hot water pressure as you are using the faucet. The temperature control shower faucets use a spring that adjusts the hot water temperature down when it senses a change in the water temperature. Unfortunately when the spring gets old, it doesn't function as it was intended and you loose hot water temperature.
- Our hot water runs out in five minutes or less. I have replaced the heat element and turned up thermostat on the tank, but I'm still having a problem. What else can I check?
- If the hot water runs out quickly, the problem is probably the dip tube. The dip tube is a pipe inside the water heater that is attached to the cold water inlet pipe and transports the cold water through the hot water to the bottom of the water heater where the burner can heat it up. It is designed to prevent the cold water from coming into the top of the water heater and running right over to the hot water outlet and out to the faucets. All water that is brought in through the cold pipes ends up on the bottom of the water heater and the hot water stays on the top. Once in a while the dip tube falls off inside the hot water heater and the cold water doesn't go to the bottom but stays on the top, so you get cold water out of the hot water after only a few minutes. You will have to pull the cold water inlet pipe and verify the condition of the dip tube, by pulling it out.
- The temperature of my hot water seems to be higher than what I think I need. How can I conserve energy, yet also be sure that there is an adequate amount of hot water?
- Most people are comfortable with their hot water set at 120°F, which is also the new standard that manufacturers use when pre-setting it at the factory. If you have an older model, set the thermostat at medium. On a gas model, there is a dial on the front of the gas valve. On electric models, the thermostats (there may be two) are concealed behind the two panels on the side of the tank. NOTE: Turn off the electricity before removing the panels. There are exposed wires behind the panels containing HIGH VOLTAGE.
- The water in our electric water heater got extremely hot on its own. Any ideas why?
There are only a couple of things that will cause an electric hot water heater to raise it's temperature by itself. The first is a bad thermostat. A thermostat is designed to shut the temperature of the water off when it reaches the chosen temperature, but if the heat sensing device goes bad, then the water temperature will continue to climb until the backup thermostat shuts off the power. Both thermostats need to be tested to see which one has failed. You probably need a professional to pull it out and replace it. Unless you are very handy and know electrical safety, I wouldn't suggest you touch it. Electric water heaters typically have 240 volts going to the thermostat.
The other problem that could happen with an electric water heater is the tube surrounding the element, which separates the element from the water may be damaged and the element may be heating the water directly. Generally you get hot water for a short period of time, then the element burns out. Sometimes you don't notice that it's gone because the other element continues to heat water. Every electric water heater has two elements, an upper element and a lower element. Both cycle to heat the water. An element is tested with an ohm meter; a small current is passed through the element to see if it is unbroken. If you get a reading from both poles of the element and it is within tolerance, then the element is still good. You have to test it with the power leads disconnected. Again, do not attempt this unless you know all of the safety procedures for 220 volts of power.
If the water heater is more than 10 years old, I would recommend installing a new water heater. The time factor and parts for rebuilding the old water heater is the same as replacing it with a new water heater. You may be able to conserve more heat by installing a more energy efficient current model. Enough power may be conserved to eventually pay for the water heater. In addition, you may be able to easily convert to a tankless water heater that stores no hot water and is very energy efficient.
- There are four people in our house, two adults and two teens. We are constantly running out of hot water. After a five-minute shower, the water starts to turn cold. This change occurred quite recently. Help!
There are two possibilities. First, the dip tube has broken off. This is a tube that forces incoming water to the bottom of the tank so that hot water will be drawn off of the top. When the dip tube breaks, cold water entering the tank mixes with the hot water and cools it down. This can occur in both gas and electric models.
Second, if your water heater is electric, the lower element that heats the water may not be operating properly, thus only the upper half of the tank will heat up. The cause of this problem could be a bad element or a thermostat malfunction. This type of problem should be evaluated by a qualified technician.
You may want to check to see if a toilet is leaking. First, check the water level to ensure that water is not overflowing the tank by way of the overflow pipe. This is the pipe in the middle of the tank. It has small tubing connected to it. If water is running into the overflow, adjust the fill valve to stop the flow approximately one inch below the top of the overflow tube or to the water level mark stamped on the side of the tank.
Second, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank to test the flush valve mechanism. If the water in the bowl changes color within 15 minutes, this is an indication that water is leaking into the toilet bowl and that the ball or flapper needs to be replaced.