Plumbing Questions

What does it mean when a faucet is said to have 8-inch centers?

The faucet mounts with the fixture holes set 8 inches apart. It’s important that you buy the right size faucet to fit.

The faucet mounts with the fixture holes set 8 inches apart. It’s important that you buy the right size faucet to fit.

The white substance is actually mineral deposits. To remove the mineral deposits from the showerhead, pour a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag and then place the bag over the showerhead fixture and leave it in place overnight. The next day, remove the bag and use an old toothbrush to scrub off the deposits.

What is plumber’s putty?

It is a sealing putty used for a variety of tasks including to seal basket strainers, garbage disposal rims and tub drains.

Which is better for sealing—Teflon™ tape or thread joint compound?

They do the same job, reducing friction in assembly and provide a watertight seal, but Teflon™ tape is easier to work with and makes a cleaner joint.

What kind of solder do I use on a water line?

Health codes require lead-free solder.

Do you recommend plastic pipe cleaners and primers?

These are applied to a pipe and fitting before applying the solvent weld glue to ensure a strong bond. Their use is always a good idea, especially if it’s for a water supply line or the connection is going to be somewhere that will be difficult to get to in the future.

What does flux do?

It cleans the surface prior to soldering. It prevents the oxidation of the metal. And it allows the solder to flow freely.

What is the difference between PVC and CPVC plastic pipe?

CPVC can be used on hot and cold lines, while PVC is for cold water only. PVC is usually used as a drainpipe.

How should I cut plastic pipe?

Any fine-tooth saw will work, but make sure you remove any burrs.

What is the proper way to join galvanized pipe to copper pipe?

You should use a dielectric union. This will prevent electrolysis from occurring, which deteriorates the copper tubing.

What can I use to repair a cracked copper pipe?

There are three ways to repair cracked copper pipe. One is to use plumbers epoxy putty on the area. Two would be to solder the crack and third, if you have enough, cut the bad section and put in compression fitting.

Are all electric hot water heater elements the same?

There are three ways to repair cracked copper pipe. One is to use plumbers epoxy putty on the area. Two would be to solder the crack and third, if you have enough, cut the bad section and put in compression fitting.

There is water leaking from my water heater. What’s the cause?

The pressure relief valve could be leaking. Try operating the valve to see if it will stop. It also might need tightening. A gasket around the heating element may need to be replaced, or the tank could be rusted out, which requires a new hot water heater.

What is the purpose of a pressure relief valve on a water heater?

This is a safety device that will open in case of high pressure or temperature.

What are the working parts of a toilet?

The refill valve, the flush valve and the trip lever.

How do I replace a damaged refill valve?

Turn off the toilet’s water supply valve, flush the toilet and sponge out any remaining water in the tank. The refill valve is usually removed by turning a nut that holds it in place. When the nut is off, the refill assembly can be lifted out. Install the new assembly by following the manufacturer’s directions.

You stock two sizes of supply lines. Which one will I need for my toilet?

The toilet supply line head is the larger of the two. The smaller ones are sink supply lines.

My toilet fills up every 10 minutes. What is the problem?

If the toilet flushes on its own, the flush valve is probably not seating properly and water is leaking from the tank into the bowl. This could be the result of the lift chain being tangled. If it is the valve, you can change the flapper. Scale deposits on the seat can be removed with steel wool or with No. 500 abrasive paper. Make sure you clean the valve seat. If it still leaks, the seat is damaged and you will need to replace it as well.

When I flush my toilet, it doesn't fill back up or it doesnft flush at all.

That typically indicates problems with the ballcock. There are parts that have the ballcock and float all in one replacement kit. If the toilet doesnft flush at all, the problem may just be a broken flush handle.

What does O.D. and I.D. mean?

This refers to the diameter of a pipe. Some pipes are measured based on their outside diameter, or O.D. Others are measured by their interior diameter, or I.D.

How do I remove the seat?

Use a seat wrench, which has several sizes of square and hex ends.

What are the advantages of plastic supply lines?

They are less expensive, do not corrode, will not kink, are more flexible and are non-toxic.

My sump pump runs constantly. Do I need to buy a new one?

It could just be a bad switch that is easy to replace.

I just refinished my basement and I want to ensure that it doesn’t flood. Do you have any advice?

You can buy a sump pump that has a battery back up. There are also high-water alarms.

Is there an easy way to add a bathroom to my basement?

Install an upflush toilet, which is a quick and easy way to install a toilet without breaking into the concrete. Some upflush toilet models also allow you to connect a sink or laundry drain.

Do I use the same type of glue for both PVC and CPVC?

No, CPVC requires special solvent cement that is different from cement used for other types of plastic pipe.

How do I go about gluing PVC?

First, clean your PVC with a pipe cleaner. Wipe off pipe cleaner with a clean rag. Apply a liberal coat of primer. Apply a thin coat of cement (while primer is still wet) to pipe, insert pipe into socket while still wet. Give a quarter turn if possible, as this will allow the glue to cover any dry spots.

Can the fittings be removed after they have been glued?

No, they are permanently joined and cannot be taken apart.

What do the letters “K,” “L” and “M” on copper tubing mean?

Type K is the heaviest. Type L is medium weight and used most often for water lines in homes. Type M is thinner and is used underground or for light domestic water lines if local codes allow.

I am getting no hot water from my electric water heater.

The high-temperature cutoff may have been tripped, which requires someone to press the reset. Otherwise it’s probably a faulty heating element or thermostat, which can be replaced.

I’m not getting enough hot water from my electric water heater.

The temperature control may be set too low. Otherwise it’s probably a faulty heating element or thermostat, which can be replaced.

The water from my electric hot water tank is too hot.

The thermostat may be set too high, or it may be faulty. It could also be a grounded heating element.

I am getting no hot water from my gas water heater.

The pilot light might be out, or you may have a faulty thermostat.

Is there any maintenance for a water heater?

Yes, you should test the pressure relief valve regularly and replace it if it fails to operate. At least once a year you should flush out the sediments. As long as a tank has a functioning anode, it should not rust. Therefore you should check the anode about once every two years. The fitting is usually on the top of the tank and it’s often tight, so a torque multiplier is a useful tool. If you find 6" or more of the steel core wire exposed, or if the rod formed a hard, adherent calcium carbonate coating that prevents further corrosion of the sacrificial metal, replace the rod. There are segmented rods if overhead clearance is limited.

I don’t have enough room under my sink to get the faucet nut off.

A basin wrench is a tool designed especially for that.

I think my kitchen drains are partially clogged because the sink drains slowly. What do you recommend?

First, try using a plunger. Second, try using a liquid drain opener, but use caution and read directions. Third, you can remove the trap. Be careful if you have used a liquid drain opener because there may be some in the trap. Fourth, if the clog is beyond the trap, there are drain augers that extend from about 15 feet to about 50 feet. There are also special enzyme-based drain openers that will help dissolve buildup in pipes in older homes.

What is the purpose of an aerator on a faucet?

An aerator diffuses the water to prevent splashing.

Is a trap necessary under the sink?

You need a trap to shut off odor (sewer gas) from coming into the kitchen and bath area.

In the l long run, which is better—chrome drain parts or plastic?

Plastic will usually last much longer than chrome, but you have to be careful because it can be affected by some harsh chemicals in drain cleaners.

What is a check valve?

A check valve keeps water from returning to the sump pit or crawl space after the pump shuts off.

How do I know the correct size of sump pump to install?

If this is a replacement and the previous one served well for a number of years, you can simply install the same size. If the old one seemed to run too often, you may want to get a slightly larger pump so it doesnft have to work so hard. If this is a new installation, 1/3 hp will normally handle occasional water flow, while a 1/2 hp will be needed if there is daily water flow. You might also consider buying a battery back-up sump pump for emergency use during a power outage, when the main pump fails or when water flow exceeds the capacity of the main pump. Apart from basic systems, you should probably have a plumber install this.

What is the difference between soft copper tubing and hard copper tubing?

Hard copper is rigid line used throughout the house. Soft copper is used where flexibility is needed, such as faucet supply lines.

What is a compression fitting?

This type of fitting squeezes a brass or plastic ring around copper or plastic tubing.

Can I use compression fitting on hard copper?

It is not recommended to use compression fitting on hard copper. Instead, use a solder type of fitting. If working with soft copper, then compression fitting will be fine.

What role does an anti-siphon valve play?

It helps prevent contaminated water from flowing back from an irrigation system into the household water supply, since sprinkler lines typically have been exposed to lawn and garden chemicals. Anti-siphon valves can be installed outside in an inconspicuous place anywhere between the sprinkler valve and the inlet pipe to the house. Most sprinkler valves come with an integrated anti-siphon valve.

What is a flare fitting?

A connector is slipped over the end of a copper tube, which is then flared out using a special tool. The fitting can then be screwed into another fitting.

How do I solder copper tubing?

Clean the inside of the fitting, clean the outside of the tubing, apply acid flux, heat the fitting and apply the solder.

Can I attach metal fittings and plastic fittings?

Yes, there are transition fittings that make this possible.

There is water seeping from around the base of my toilet. What do I need to do to solve this problem?

Your wax gasket is probably not working anymore. This is a simple problem to fix. You need to remove the toilet and install a new wax ring. While you have the toilet off, you should go ahead and replace the bolts. Otherwise, it could be a crack in your toilet bowl.

Why is my toilet leaking at the bottom even though I just replaced the wax ring?

There may be too much space between the flange and the bottom of the toilet. If you recently remodeled the bathroom, for example, you may have raised the height of the floor. To fix, either raise the flange and drain or use a double wax ring or a ring with a plastic sleeve.

What do I do if there is a crack in the bowl?

If it is a small crack, you can try to repair it. Drain the toilet, dry it off, apply some Plumber’s Goop and let it dry completely before refilling the tank. However, you may have to replace the bowl.

The toilet bowl is not filling up. What is the problem?

See if your toilet has an overflow pipe. If so, a rubber tube should go into it. It has a metal clip on it and sometimes it can come loose.

When replacing a faucet, I was told that I should put some putty underneath the faucet. Why?

This is a good idea to keep moisture from getting under the faucet and into the cabinet below.

I have a problem with the plumbing in my house making groaning and honking sounds.

It could be that you have lost your “air cushion.” To get it back, turn the water supply off at the main valve. Turn on all the faucets around your home. Then turn on the main valve again and shut off each faucet. This should take care of the problem.

What is a supply valve?

This valve is under the sink or beside the toilet and shuts off the water to the faucet or toilet.

Is there an easy way to replace the seat?

There are glue-in repair kits, but not all kits fit all toilets. And you must follow the manufacturer’s directions closely.

How do I replace the seat?

The flush valves are held to the tank by one large jam nut on the bottom of the tank. Installing a new valve usually requires removing the tank from the bowl.

How do I test to see if water is leaking from the tank into the bowl?

After flushing the toilet, let it refill. Now put a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the color appears in the bowl after a few minutes, there is a leak.

Can I test to see if the leak is coming from the refill or the flush valve?

Yes. Shut off the water supply to the toilet. Mark the water level on the inside of the tank with a pencil. Check the water level in 10 or 20 minutes. If the water has fallen, you know the flush valve is leaking.

The water in my toilet seems to run constantly in my toilet.

If the refill valve is leaking, the tank overfills and the excess water runs into the overflow pipe and into the bowl.

How high should the water level in the toilet tank be?

It needs to be high enough for complete flushes, but it should be below the top of the overflow pipe. The tank should have a colored or molded water level mark. The rule of thumb is to set the water level about _" below the top of the overflow pipe.

How do I adjust this water level?

To adjust the water level on a conventional toilet tank, you simply bend the float arm down to lower the water level or up to raise it. Another widely popular valve has a pinch clamp that allows you to raise or lower the float.

What is a toilet vent?

It is a pipe that runs from the toilet drain to the outside, usually to the roof. This prevents air lock in the drain line.

Why does the water level in my toilet rise and fall so that it doesnft flush well some days?

It's probably related to the stink (vent) pipe on your roof, which allows gases that build up in the sewer pipes to be carried away. A marked difference between the low pressure outside and the higher pressure inside will cause the water levels to fluctuate. It will be less pronounced if you leave the bathroom door open, which may not be desirable. You can also climb on the roof and check out the stink pipe, which may need to be cleaned out with a snake.

How often should I change my furnace filter?

Normal time periods are one month to three months.

What is the advantage of the higher-priced air filters for furnaces?

They take out smaller particulates that are circulating in the air.

Will these higher-quality air filters last longer?

Actually, since they catch more particulates, they typically last a shorter amount of time. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

What can I use to keep outdoor faucets from freezing?

Install a frost-free lawn faucet that is angled down to drain. For existing faucets, you can use an insulating cover.

Do you measure the diameter of hard copper the same as soft copper?

No, you measure hard copper with I.D. (inside diameter). You measure soft copper by its O.D. (outside diameter).

How do you measure galvanized pipe?

You measure it by the I.D. (inside diameter).

How do you measure black pipe?

Using I.D. (inside diameter).

I have heat tape on my water line. What type of pipe wrap should I use over the heat tape?

Use fiberglass. Don’t use foam wrap because the heat could melt it.