Frequently asked questions and plumbing tips - Leading Construction and Building Group

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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 discolored water, but ultimately water testing will be critical in diagnosing the cause of the problem. 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. Our plumbing contractors 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 have a clogged drain and need to schedule a professional cleaning. These lines get clogged with grease, food particles and soap scum. Eventually the buildup is so thick that the internal diameter of the drain is reduced and water cannot pass quickly through the pipe. Regular treatment with 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, if 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 under-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 dishwasher plumbing problems like the one you’ve described. 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 your dishwasher’s drain problems are likely caused by a malfunctioning inlet water solenoid valve. An appliance technician or licensed plumber should evaluate your dishwasher’s plumbing to ensure a proper diagnosis, then repair or replace the valve if necessary.

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 or licensed plumber to fully evaluate your dishwasher’s problems, and determine the best course of action. 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?
With drain problems like this, you’ll need 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 (counter-clockwise). 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 sewer lines better than snakes. 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 sewer and drain cleaning and maintenance products 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?
When investigating sewer problems, 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 of our plubing contractors 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 sewer and drain cleaning 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. An inspection by a Dial a Contractor plumbing contractor 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 licensed plumber with powerful sewer and drain cleaning technology our 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 very 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 drain 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 branded 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.

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 gelatin. 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 professional plumber. Once the line is cleaned you can use an enzyme-type drain cleaner to eat away biological material and prevent it from sticking to the inside of the piping, which keeps the line open and flowing.

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 to solve your sewer problems.

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 to this drain problem 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 of 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. 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. Use a product with 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.


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. To fix your leaking faucet, 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. To make this shower faucet repair, simply 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 they were.
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 them 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. In order to fix a leaky faucet cartridge, I will often 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 a leaky or dripping faucet. 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 complete your faucet repair and create a complete seal.


I want to install new plumbing, including a new drain system for a shower, a toilet and two sinks. It is an uphill grade to the front house that is built on a slab. There is a clean-out on the outside 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 your plumbing installation questions with you – and review the solutions available.

I’d like to learn how to install a sink in my bathroom and I’m thinking of using a self-rimming sink. Besides the sink, what will I need for a DIY installation like this?
Every sink installation begins with the right sized opening. This may mean that your current vanity’s opening will need to be expanded. Once you get the opening in your vanity to the proper size, insert the sink. Afterward, crawl under the sink with a flashlight and begin installing the locknuts – starting with the center locks first, then front and back, and side to side, installing the corner nuts last. Once you get it tightened down, you can run a bead of latex caulking around the edge of the sink. To clean up excess caulk, use a water and sponge.


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, remove the toilet’s wax ring and replace it with a new 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 check for toilet leaks and to get the job done right the first time.

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 more than a temporary toilet clog – it’s likely a branch line blockage between the bathroom and the main sewer. You'll probably need to hire a professional plumber 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 a product 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, which makes me think that my toilet is clogged and/or our pipes need to be rooted out. What should we do?
Unclogging a toilet that is blocked that often may mean that you need to have your main sewer line cleared. To test it, flush the problem toilet five or six times in a row without leaving. If it backs up then you likely have a main line problem and you need a professional to come and clear it out.

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.
If you are removing the toilet permanently then you will have to shut off the water off to the building. If you are replacing a toilet and just removing the current toilet for an upgrade, you can simply shut 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 to remove a compression ring, however none of them are easy. We recommend using 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 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 a technician.

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?
Toilet flange repair isn’t easy. There are a couple of possibilities, and everything depends on the size and type of pipe. If the pipe has a 4-inch 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 has a 3-inch inside diameter, you’ll 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 with this type of toilet repair; 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 a 4-inch pipe, 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 a 3-inch cast iron pipe, 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-inch 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 find toilet repair kits that include an epoxy resin to seal up cracks in porcelain, 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.


I am hearing a whistling 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 noisy toilet, 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 loses 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 cause of the plumbing noises you’ve described. 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 quiet your noisy water pipes, you’ll 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, causing the pipe will flex. If the pipe is near wood, it will bang against the wood. You can stop this plumbing noise problem by installing water hammer arrestors on the offending water lines.

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 noisy water pipes.

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

Banging Noise
Pipes are usually anchored with pipe straps every 1 to 1.5 meters for horizontal runs, 1 to 1.5 meters for vertical. If your pipes bang when you turn on the water, you may need to add straps, cushion the pipes with a rubber blanket, or both. When you anchor a pipe, especially a plastic one, leave room for expansion. Do not use galvanized straps on copper pipes.

Squeaking Noise
Only hot water pipes squeak. As the pipe expands, it moves in its strap, and friction causes the squeak. Cushion it as you would a banging pipe.

Water Hammer
This noise occurs when you turn off the water at a tap or an appliance quickly, or slowly. The water flowing through the pipes slams to a stop, causing a hammering noise or the jump oscillates up and down when opening the tap slowly.


Every time we flush our toilet, there's a foul odor. It smells like stinking fish and permeates 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. To eliminate the bathroom odor, you should reseal the toilet to the floor and the clear the main vent of debris.

I have a foul odor coming from my garbage disposal. Is there an odor remover I can use to prevent this?
Foul odors occur from a buildup of food debris within the garbage disposal. To eliminate this drain odor, place ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposal and run for 30 seconds. Next, pour a little liquid dish detergent into the disposal while it is running. To clean out the debris created by the odor removal process, run cold water into the drain for about 30 seconds.

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 type of drain odor typically indicates that you have 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 avoid acid-based drain cleaners. Acid eats through the zinc coating on galvanized piping, clearing the way for corrosion. Similarly, cast iron pipe has a tar coating on the inside – and acid will eat 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 homes are cast iron.

What causes a sewer smell from kitchen sink when using the dishwasher? 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 2,500 pounds of water pressure to flush the pipe, removing sludge and debris from the inside pipe walls. A blow bag is a device that 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 water faucet runs normally when I turn it on, but when I connect a garden hose to it, the water starts to back up 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 sill cock. This is not a job for the average do-it-yourselfer. To prevent your outside faucet’s hose bib from freezing, always disconnect water hoses before freezing temperatures arrive and cover the 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 garden 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 with your garden faucet, 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 water 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 your exterior faucet’s hose bib since most seats are molded into the faucet and are not replaceable.


Can you 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 through the pipe. We would have to evaluate the pipe to determine the best course of action.

How can I control roots in my pipes?
If roots have entered your pipes, a technician can remove the roots by using powerful cutting blades. Your technician will recommend the application of products to retard future root growth which will kill only the roots 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.

How do roots grow?
Tree and shrub roots require oxygen and water to grow. Their 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. The reason you find tree roots in sewer lines and drains is because when trees and shrubs get thirsty, they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes, or poorly sealed joints in pipes, where they fine nutrients and moisture.

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 in your drain or sewer line, 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 pump 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. Dial a Contractor 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 because those joints are tightly fitted, they 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 problems 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 backups in basement shower. What could the problem be?
If you are still getting backups in your bathroom piping 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 have a septic tank cleaning service clear the lines and pump the tank and it’s still not working properly, 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 drain field 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 septic tank get high enough to leave the septic tank and go out into the drain field, it will plug up your drain field. The sludge in septic tanks 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 that septic tanks 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 with your local government offices to learn more about the septic requirements in your area. While doing this, you should also ask them to recommend a septic tank maintenance company in your area. This way, you can get a thorough, professional evaluation and more fully understand the options available.

We've not had any sort of septic tank maintenance 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 drain field pipes and prevent them from leaching water into the soil. Once this happens, the drain field has to be replaced – often at a huge expense. If you are starting to get backups, you may want to schedule a maintenance appointment – and have a professional evaluate your system. This may include a basic visual inspection or it could mean that they’ll run a camera through to make sure there are no roots in the line between the house and the septic tank. This will help your technician identify any septic tank problems and determine if there are blockages in the main vent.


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 water pipes.

There is an underground water pipe leaking into my walk-in basement apartment. Is there any way to pinpoint and locate a leak before digging?
Yes! Our technicians has specialized underground leak detection equipment that allows a service technician to pinpoint the exact location of the leak. Modern underground water leak detectors are sensitive and accurate – and allow our team to create repair your pipe as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Water keeps flowing out of the two holes in the front yard where they read the meter. My water bill has gone up considerably. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
It sounds like you will need to get either the city out or call 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 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. 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 lose hot water temperature.

Our hot water runs out in five minutes or less. I have replaced the heating element and turned up thermostat on the tank, but I'm still having a problem. What else can I check?
When you experience a rapid loss of hot water, the problem is probably the dip tube. This tube is really a pipe that is is attached to the cold water inlet pipe (inside the water heater) 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 faucet after only a few minutes. In order to stop your loss of hot water, you will need to pull the cold water inlet pipe and verify the condition of the dip tube.

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 your water heater temperature 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 its water 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 will probably need a professional to pull it out and replace it. Unless you are very handy and know electrical safety, it is not recommended that 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, it is time to consider 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 one. You may be able to conserve more heat by installing a more energy-efficient 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 therefore even more 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 for rapidly reducing water temperatures. First, the dip tube in your water heater may have 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 malfunctioning thermostat. This type of problem should be evaluated by a qualified technician. Additionally, 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.


Shower Heads
If your shower head leaks where it meets the arm, you probably need to replace the washer. To reach it, loosen the collar, using tape-wrapped rib-joint pliers. Unscrew the head from the adjusting ring.
Erratic or weak pressure usually indicates mineral build-up. To restore proper flow, clean outlet holes with a pin or unscrew a perforated face plate and soak it overnight in vinegar, then scrub it clean.
If the shower head pivots stiffly, check he washer for wear and coat the swivel ball with petroleum jelly before reassembling

Clogged Drains
Before trying any drain-clearing methods on a blocked drain, check that the bath's plug is opening fully and is free of hair and debris. If the stopper isn't the problem, then the drainpipe is probably clogged. First, try a plunger or chemical drain cleaner. Be careful not to allow chemicals to come into contact with the bath, basin, toilet etc. If this does not work, call a professional.

A Leaking or Broken Pipe
Turn off the main shutoff valve to prevent water damage.
Make temporary repairs to stop the leak.
The pipe will have to be replaced as soon as it's convenient to do so.

A Blocked Sink
Shut off any faucet or tap (such as dishwasher) that's draining into the sink.
Unblock the sink using a plunger or snake.

A Tap That Won't Shut Off
Immediately turn off the water at the fixture shutoff valve underneath the sink.
If there's no valve there, turn off the main shutoff valve.
Repair the tap or, if necessary, replace it.

A Steaming Hot Water Tap
Open all the hot water taps to relieve the overheated geyser.
Turn off the gas or electric supply to the heater.
Let the taps run until cold water flows from them (this indicates the water in the geyser is no longer overheated).
Close them.
Call in a professional to make any necessary repairs to the geyser's thermostat and pressure safety valve.

Main Shut Off Valve:
Always familiarise yourself as to where the main shutoff valve is, and if it is accessible in an emergency.

Can you tell me exactly how much the plumbing job will cost me?
Once we have assessed the problem we are able to give you an exact amount. Alternatively our telephone consultants will be able to provide you with an estimate according to the information you have supplied.

How much does a plumbing inspection cost?
We will inspect your business, school or hospital free of charge if you have recurring drain clogs or problem problems. This includes a walk-through inspection of your kitchen, bar and restroom. A preventative maintenance plan will ensure that plumbing and drainage systems continue working properly.

What is the difference between hard and soft water?
Hard water contains more calcium and magnesium than soft water. The problem can be addressed by adding sodium which acts as a water softener. The water softener process has to be regenerated and recharged from time to time.


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