Helpful Plumbing Tips

Save money and help the environment by checking your toilet & faucets
How do I test for a leaky toilet?
What can I do to maintain the sinks & drains in my home?
I have soapy residue on my faucets what can I do to remove this?
I had a flood of water in my home what can I do to clean this up?
Common toilet troubles and how to fix them.
 
  • Tank Fills, Water Still Runs
  • Tank Doesn't Fill, Water Still Runs
  • Toilet Won't Flush Properly
  • Tank Fills Slowly or Noisily
  • Condensation on Toilet Tank
  • Leaks Under the Toilet Tank

Want to save money and help the environment?
  Check all interior faucets and toilets and all outside hose bibs (where you attach your garden hose). Minor drips and leaks continuing 24/7 can add significantly to your water bill. Review your water bills for the last several billing periods to see if there are any unexplained changes in consumption. Leaks get gradually worse with time and the change in the bill may not be noticeable from one billing period to the next.

How do I  test for a leaky toilet?
  Remove tank lid from toilet. Place several drops of dark food coloring into the tank, then wait for approximately 30 minutes. If the color in the bowl is darker in color, then your toilet is leaking.

It is more cost effective to repair your toilet and other leaks than to allow your money to go down the drain.

What can I do to maintain the sinks & drains in my home?
 
  • In sinks or tubs where hair is washed, use a plastic or metal "hair catcher" or screen to catch hair before it gets into the drain.
     
  • Don't pour grease down kitchen drains; pour liquid grease from cooking into empty tin cans & set in refrigerator until solidified; put can into tightly closed plastic bag, wrap in newspapers & put into trash bag.
     
  • For grease buildup, dissolve 1 pound washing soda in 3 gallons of boiling water & pour down the drain. To avoid burns from boiling water, hold water container close to drain & pour slowly & directly into drain. For heavy grease buildup, use an enzyme drain cleaner.
     
  • Periodic use of a drain cleaner will prevent accumulations in the pipe. Be sure to read & follow directions on the container.  Drain cleaners are very hazardous so be very careful in using them.

I have soapy residue on my faucets what can I do to remove this?
  Soapy gunk loves to settle on faucet spouts & handles. A quick trick for chrome faucets & fixtures is to use white wine vinegar. Soak a paper towel in the white wine vinegar & squeeze out the excess. Wrap it around the chrome fixture & wait 10 minutes. Take off the wet towel & buff the chrome w/ a dry one. Be sure NOT to use this method on brass or colored fixtures. While you have the vinegar out, it also works to unclog sink drains mucked up w/ soap residue and it is safer and more environmentally friendly than chemical drain openers.
 

I had a flood of water in my home what can I do to clean this up?
  Mary Yearns, Iowa State University Extension housing specialist has this to say about cleaning up a flooded area:

After checking the structural safety of the area and removing water & mud, use a coarse brush or long handled broom to scrub down the floors, walls & ceiling.

"First, spray surfaces w/ lukewarm water to remove flood residue," Yearns says. "Start w/ the floor, then move to the bottom of the walls & work your way up. This will lessen the chances of leaving muddy streaks on any surfaces."

Next, use hot water w/ a heavy duty cleaner to scrub all surfaces, again, starting at the bottom & working up to the top.

A chlorine bleach solution may be used to remove odors from areas  that have been flooded.  Follow up w/ a rinse using a brush moistened w/ a solution of two tablespoons chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Repeat the scrubbing & rinsing until the odor is gone.

"You'll want to dry out the area, but if the outdoor air is humid, don't open the windows to do it," Yearns says. It's better to run central air conditioning or a dehumidifier. These methods will remove moisture from the basement air. Running a fan also will help dry things out.


Common toilet troubles and how to fix them.
 
Tank Fills, Water Still Runs
  Remove the tank cover & check the float arm. The float arm & ball may be connected by an L-shaped collar which lets you raise or lower the float ball more easily.

Only about half the float ball should be below water. When there's water in the float ball it won't rise high enough to close the valve. Unscrew the float ball & replace w/ a new one.

If lifting up on the float arm doesn't stop the water, the washers on the intake valve may be worn.  Give
Gatell Plumbing a call and we will be happy to replace this for you.
   
Tank Doesn't Fill, Water Still Runs
  A running toilet may be caused by a defect in the lift wire, the flush ball or the flush valve.

Sometimes the lift wire & lift rod that raise & lower the flush ball become corroded or bent. Smooth the rough or corroded wire & rod w/ steel wool or replace w/ new parts.

If the guide arm for the lift rod is not correctly aligned, it will keep the flush ball from seating directly over the ball seat. Loosen the setscrew in the guide arm & move the guide back & forth until the ball drops directly over the ball seat. Tighten the set screw.

If the lift wire, rod & guide are operating properly, a worn flush ball may be the problem. If the rubber flush ball has hardened or is out of shape, purchase a replacement ball & screw it onto the end of the lift rod. You may wish to purchase a flapper-type replacement for the tank ball. The flapper unit has a long life-span & quieter flush than the conventional flush ball. Follow manufacturer's installation instructions.

If you need assistance with this installation be sure to call Gatell Plumbing and we will provide you with prompt courteous service.

   
Toilet Won't Flush Properly
  If the toilet handle must be held down to complete the flushing action, first check the trip lever. The lever is set at a slight angle inside the tank so that it can operate w/out scraping the tank side, the overflow tube or the intake valve. If the trip lever isn't moving freely when you flip the handle, slightly bend it toward the center of the tank. As you bend it, use one hand to hold-the lever in place where it joins the handle.

A second place to check is the lift wire. It may not be raising the flush ball high enough & the outrushing water may be pulling it back down too quickly. Simply bend the lift wire enough to shorten it. The shorter lift wire will hold the flush ball out of the way of the rushing water.

An inadequate flush can also be caused if the float ball is adjusted too low to allow a full tank of water. Bend the float arm upward to correct this. The water level in most tanks should be 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the top of the overflow pipe.

Occasionally, clogged outlet ports around the underside of the bowl rim may cause an inadequate flush. Scrub the ports w/ a wire brush to free them of sediment or mineral buildup.

If none of these helpful hints seem to do the trick, call Gatell Plumbing and we will put our 24 years of plumbing experience to work for you.

   
Tank Fills Slowly or Noisily
  First, check the water supply valve under the tank. It may be open only part way. Open the valve completely to let a full stream of water flow into the tank.

A tank refill tube that is too short may be causing the toilet noises. One simple solution is to use a piece of rubber or plastic tubing slightly larger in diameter than the refill tube & about 6 to 8 inches in length. Slide the tubing about two inches over the end of the refill tube. The free end of the hose that you've added will deposit water silently on the bottom of the tank.
   
Condensation on Toilet Tank
  Condensation usually occurs on the tank surface as a result of cold tank water & warmer room air. A simple solution is to add a tank cover to the outside of the tank.

Another method is to install an insulating liner inside the tank. Kits are available from the plumbing supply stores. Follow manufacturer's installation instructions.

Another way of stopping condensation is to install a mixing valve which adds a little warm water to the cold water entering the tank. This raises the temperature of the tank water. This device can be installed by the pro's at Gatell Plumbing.  Call us for your plumbing appointment.
   
Leaks Under the Toilet Tank
  A leak at the outlet or where the outlet pipe joins the bowl may require removing the tank. This is not a job for the inexperienced home repair person. Call Gatell Plumbing to make sure this job gets done right.
   
 

 

 

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