Basic DIY Plumbing: Toilet Trouble?

Filed Under: Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

I’ve been a plumber for several years and cannot tell you how many times I have walked into home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot only to find a customer, despondent about a leak that their toilet has sprung. As a plumber I would always suggest hiring a professional rather than doing it yourself, but in tough economic times, sometimes homeowners have to take matters into their own hands. Let me provide you with some insight into why your toilet might be malfunctioning.

Most toilet leaks come from a few common causes. Your toilet may suffer from one or it may have a combination of problems. One of the most common sources of leaks for toilets is the wax seal. The wax seal is a gasket made of wax that is on the bottom of a toilet, where it rests on the floor. Often, water on the floor or on the ceiling below the toilet is a sure sign that you have a problem with the wax seal. To fix this problem you need a new wax ring and T-bolts which you can find at your local hardware store.

First, turn off the water supply to the toilet. Next, flush the toilet and soak up as much of the water as possible from the toilet bowl itself. After you do that, loosen the T-bolts, disconnect the supply tubes, and lift the toilet off the floor. Position the toilet so that it is upside down and proceed to scrape off the wax seal from the bottom of the toilet as well as from the floor. After you have done this, place in the new wax seal and connect everything back up the way it was and install the new T-bolts. Turn the T-bolts 5 and 1/4 turns being careful not to over tighten the bolts. Turn the water on and flush the toilet.

Inspect the toilet, the floor, and the ceiling below for leaks. While labor intensive, performing this repair yourself would save you a couple of hundred dollars easily on plumber costs. The second most common leak source is caused by flowing over the overflow tube. If you have this problem, you will need a new fill valve. There are two types of fill valves. One has a big floating ball and arm, and the other has a float on the valve itself. Bother are interchangeable. You will need to buy a new fill valve at your local plumbing supply store.

Begin by turning off the water and disconnecting the splash tube. Flush the toilet and soak up all the water from the tank. Unscrew the nut under the fill valve on the outside of the toilet tank and remove the old fill valve. Install the new valve, making sure the height is correct. Put the valve into the hole in the bottom of the tank, tightening the nut on the outside as you go. Replace the supply tube and turn the water back on. Flush the toilet and check for leaks. Finally, take the tube that comes with the new valve and connect it from the valve to the overflow tube.

Another problem that frequently makes a toilet leak is a leak from the connection between the tank and the toilet bowl. In this case, you will need to purchase a new spud washer and new tank bolts. Occasionally, this problem arises from a cracked toilet bowl in which case you will need a new toilet. In order to determine this, the first thing that you need to do is to find out where the leak originates. Ask yourself if it leaks all the time or only when someone flushes the toilet. If it leaks all the time rather than only when someone flushes it, this is a sure sign that the tank or the bowl is cracked.

Examine each closely looking for hairline cracks where water may seep from. If you do find a crack, you are out of luck and will have to replace the toilet completely. Otherwise, this is probably a problem with the spud washer. To change this, you will once again need to shut off the water supply and flush the toilet. Next, loosen the bolts that connect the tank to the bowl. There are usually two or three of these depending on the model.

After that, remove the supply tube. Pick up the tank and remove it and the washer that is at the bottom of the tank. It is usually made of rubber and will have a spongy feel to it. Replace this washer with the spud washer you bought and place the tank back onto the bowl. Place the new bolts in and tighten gently, but do not over tighten. Replace the supply tube and turn the water back on. Again, check for leaks. Occasionally leaks originate from the supply tube. To fix this, you simply need to purchase a new supply tube and switch it out with the old one.

Another source of leaks in toilets is leaking inside the toilet from the tank to the bowl. The problem stems from the seal inside the tank called a flapper. To diagnose this problem, place a few drops of food coloring into the tank and wait for a couple of hours. After a couple of hours, check the bowl. If you see any of the food coloring in your toilet bowl, you can be assured that you have a leaky flapper.

To fix this, you will need to purchase a universal flapper. Most flappers are the same, although American Standard has their own design. Step one is to turn off the water to the toilet. Next, remove the old flapper by taking the chain off the lever and removing the flapper from two hooks at the bottom of the overflow tube that are attached to the flapper.

Install the new flapper and turn on the water. Try flushing the toilet. If it does not flush or does not flush with enough volume, adjust the chain length from the lever to the flapper. Test flush again. Hopefully with these tips, I have armed you with the knowledge to tackle the most common cause of toilet leaking and have hopefully saved you hundred of dollars in plumber fees.

Fitting the new taps

Filed Under: Bathroom, Do it yourself, Home repair, Kitchen, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

When fitting the new taps or mixer, unscrew the back-nuts, press some plumber’s putt round the tail directly below the tap body a fit a plastic washer onto the top.

Push the tails through the holes in the base. Slip flat plastic washers over the tails where they protrude from beneath the basin. screw on the back-nuts and tighten them up. Make sure that the taps or mixer are secure, but don’t overtighten them. To make tightening easier, (and undoing, if ever necessary) use top-hat washers.

All that remains to be done is to conned the swivel tap connectors to the tails of the new taps or mixer. You will see that a tap connector consists of a lining — with a flange — that is inserted into the tap tail and is then secured by the coupling nut. This nut provided with a washer to ensure a watertight connection. When renewing taps you may well need to renew this small washer.

It is possible that when you come to connect the water supply pipes to the taps you will get an unpleasant surprise. The tails of modern taps are slightly shorter than those of older ones and the tap connectors may not reach. If the water supply pipes are of lead or of copper it is quite likely that they will have enough ‘give’ to enable you to make the connection but, if not, there are extension pieces specially made to bridge the gap.

If you’re replacing existing bib taps with those of a more modern design. it’s a relatively simple matter of disconnecting and unscrewing the old ones and fitting the new taps in their place. However, it’s quite possible that you’ll want to remove the bib taps altogether and fit a new sink with some pillar taps. This will involve a little more plumbing work. To start with, turn off the water supply and remove the taps and old sink.

If the pipework comes up from the floor, you’ll need to uncover the run in the wall to below where the new sink will go. You should then be able to ease the pipes away from the wall and cut off the exposed sections. This will allow you to join short lengths of new pipe, bent slightly “if necessary, to link the pipe ends and the tap tails.

Alternatively. if the pipes come down the wall you’ll have to extend the run to be,row the level of the new sink and use elbow fittings to link the pipe to the tap tails. In either case it’s a good idea to fit the taps to the new sink first and to make up the pipe- work runs slightly overlong, so that when the new sink is offered up to the wall you can measure up accurately and avoid the risk of. cutting off too much pipe.

Rather than having to make difficult bends you can use lengths of corrugated copper pipe. One end of the pipe is plain so that it can be fitted to the 15mm supply pipes with either a soldered capillary or compression fitting: the other end has a swivel tap connector.

Taking out old basin taps

Filed Under: Bathroom, Do it yourself, Home repair, Kitchen, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

When replacing old taps with new ones the most difficult part of the job is likely to be— with so many plumbing operations removing the old fittings. Let’s first consider wash basin taps.

You must, of course, cut off the hot and cold water supplies to the basin. The best way of doing this will usually be to tie up the float arm of the ball valve supplying the cold water storage cistern so as to prevent water flowing in. Then run the bathroom cold taps until water ceases to flow. Only then open up the hot taps. 1 his will conserve most of the expensively heated water in the hot water storage cylinder.

If you look under the basin you will find that the tails of the taps are connected to the water supply pipes with small. fent/ accessible nuts, and that a larger — often inaccessible pack-nut secures the tap to the basin. The nuts of the swivel tap connectors joining the pipes to the taps are usually easily undone with a wrench or spanner of the appropriate size. The back- nuts can be extremely difficult – even for professional plumbers!

There are special wrenches and basin or ‘crows foot’ spanners that may help, but they won’t perform miracles and ceramic basins can be very easily damaged by heavy handedness. The best course of action is to disconnect the swivel tap connectors and to disconnect the trap from the waste outlet.

These are secured be undone. Then lift the basin off its brackets of hanger and place it upside down on 1:4-* floor. Apply some penetrating oil to the tag tails and, after allowing a few minutes for it tir soak in, tackle the nuts with your wrench a crowsfoot spanner. You’ll find they arc much more accessible. Hold the tap when you do this to stop it swivelling and damaging the basin.

Emergency Pipe Repairs

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

• One type of repair kit is based on two- part epoxy resin plastic putty supplied as two strips of differently-colored putty in an airtight pack. When the strips are thoroughly kneaded together the putty is packed firmly round the pipe, where ’twill hardens to form a seal. However, this hardening process takes up to 24 hours and the water supply will have to remain off for this period. (If you don’t need to use all the pack in one goes, reseal it immediately).

Equal amounts of putty should always be used and mixed together thoroughly until a uniform color results, otherwise it won’t harden properly. It’s also essential that the pipe or joint is scrupulously rubbed down and cleaned with ethylated spirit or nail polish remover. This will ensure a good bond between the putty and the metal.

• One of the most valuable aids is a multi-size pipe repair clamp which has the added advantage of being reusable. It consists of a rubber pad which fits over the hole (for this repair it’s not necessary to turn off the water) and a metal clamp which draws the rubber tightly against the pipe when it is screwed in place.

Position the pad and one side of the clamp over the hole, and link the two parts of the clamp together, making sure that the pad is still in place. Tighten the wing nut fully. If the position of the hole makes this difficult, use blocks of wood to hold the pipe away from the wall. This method of repair cannot, of course, be used to mend leaks occurring at fittings.

• Another proprietary product uses a two- part sticky tape system which builds up waterproof layers over the leak — in the true. sense this does form an instant repair. The area round the leak should be dried and cleaned and then the first of the tapes is wrapped tightly round the pipe, covering the leak and 25mm (1in) either side of it. Then 150mm strips of the second tape, with the backing film removed, are stuck to the pipe and stretched as they are wound round, each turn overlapping the previous one by about half the width of the tape. This covering should extend 25mm beyond either end of the first layer of tape. The job is completed by wrapping the first tape over the entire repair.

Leaks in Plumbing Systems at Your Home

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

Leaks in domestic plumbing systems have a nasty habit of happening at the most inconvenient of times, often when it isn’t possible to carry out a proper permanent repair. What you need is a plumbing emergency first aid kit, and there are now several proprietary products available that will at least enable you to make a temporary repair and get the water flowing again.

With any leak. the vital first step is to stop the flow of water. Even a small leak can create a surprisingly large pool of water in no time. Stopping the flow in any pipe is relatively easy provided that you know the locations of the various stop-taps or valves that isolate parts of your water system, or cut it off completely from the mains supply.

Water comes into the house through a pipe known as the rising main, and because water in this pipe (and others leading from it) is under mains pressure, leaks from it will be particularly serious. It enters the house underground, and from there leads either to all the cold taps and a water heating system, or to just the cold tap in the kitchen and to a cold water storage tank.

Leaks can result from a number of causes. Pipe work may have been forced or strained at some point, resulting in a leak at one of the fittings connecting the lengths of pipe together. or in a fracture at a bend.

Corrosion within pipes may lead to pinholes in pipe lengths, while frost damage can lead to bursts and splits in pipes and to leaks at fittings caused by ice forcing the fitting open. Whatever the cause. cutting off the water supply to the affected pipe is the first vital step.

Home Repair Tips – Heating and Air Conditioning

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Homes are heated by one of three methods:

• Hot water

• Steam

• Warm air

Hot water systems use a pump to circulate hot water from a boiler to all the rooms in a house. Keep the radiators clean and the tops uncovered so that heat can circulate. About once a year, drain the boiler and expansion tank. Turn off the burner and the water coming into the tank.

The process is the same as flushing a hot water tank. Attach a hose to the drain and open the vents on the highest radiators to let in air. After the water runs clear, close the drain and open the water supply. Relight the burner. When you hear water entering the radiators, close the vents again.

Refilling the tank will let air in. As the air rises it becomes trapped in the radiator and keeps the water from circulating. You will have to “bleed” each radiator. This is done by opening the radiator to let out the air. As soon as water comes out, close the radiator. Be careful when catching the water. It will be hot.

A hot water system is controlled by a thermostat. The thermostat controls an electric pump which circulates water throughout the house.

Bleed the radiator of trapped air by opening the knob until water just begins to trickle out. Be careful: the water will be hot.

A steam system is similar to the hot water system. It does not have a pump though, because the steam circulates freely. Noises occur when water becomes trapped in pipes that do not slope back toward the boiler. This may be cured with a block of wood under one leg of the radiator. Knocking may also occur if the steam valve is not fully open or closed.

Loose packing in a valve is often responsible for steam leaking. This can be repaired just as you would a faucet. Turning down the packing nut may stop the leak. If not, repack the stem.

Basically a warm air furnace heats air which is circulated by a blower. Warm air systems may be electric, gas, or fuel oil heated. Heated air travels through ducts and out through grills or registers in various rooms. As with the other systems, a warm-air system must be kept clean. Clean or change the filters monthly when the heater is in use. Change them at least once a year. Also clean the fan blades and vacuum around the registers. If necessary, tighten the belt.

The motors in all systems need oiling. Use a lightweight motor oil and fill the cups or filling tubes in the motor. Fans and water pump bearings need oiling as well. If pipes or ducts run through cold areas, they should be insulated.

Central air conditioning may operate through the heating ducts. However, many homes have individual room air conditioners. The main thing is to keep the filters clean when the air conditioner is in use.

To stop radiator pounding make sure the pipes are level so water is not trapped. Also try adjusting the valve.

Make repairs with the furnace off and the boiler cold. If steam leaks out the radiator valve, tighten the packing nut. If that doesn’t work, remove the packing nut and repack the stem with packing cord. Reassemble the valve.

A warm air heating system heats air and blows it through heating ducts. The air can be heated by oil or gas burners.