Plumbing tips

PLOBLEM: Leaky water heater

Cause(s): Your water heater could be leaking from one of three places: the safety valve (usually at or near the top), the drain valve (at the bottom), or from a seam along the side or bottom. It is important to identify the source of the leak.

Solution(s): If the safety valve is leaking, it is likely defective and must be replaced. A leaky drain valve, however, can be capped, usually with a ¾ inch cap. This cap is removable, so the tank can still be drained if needed. In the case of a busted seam, shut the valve at the top of the tank to stop the flow of water into the tank. The only recourse is to replace the tank, as it cannot be repaired.

 

PROBLEM: Water where there should not be (leaky pipe)

Cause(s): If a pipe is leaking, you may notice paint bubbling on the walls, or water coming through the ceiling or floor. Pipe leaks are often due to corrosion in the case old galvanized steel pipes, or poor soldering of the joints in the case of copper pipes. It could also be that a screw pierced the pipe (copper or PEX) during construction or renovation, in which case the leak will not appear until the screw becomes corroded, often years later.

Solution(s): If you notice a leak, shut the corresponding water valve or the main water valve to the building. This will prevent any further damage to the property. If the pipe is corroded (galvanized steel) it must be replaced. Consider using copper or PEX pipe to avoid a similar problem in the future. In the case of a poor soldering job (copper), the joint fitting must be removed and replaced. If the pipe has been pierced, the damaged portion of pipe must be replaced. It is usually possible to cut out only the damaged portion and connect a new portion using joints.

 

PROBLEM: Noise in the wall

Cause(s): Noise in the wall is usually due to one of two causes: water hammer or a broken pipe. If what you hear sounds like a jack-hammer or banging of the pipes, the culprit is water hammer (a.k.a. hammer pressure). This is most commonly caused by a loose or defective washer in the faucet, which will bang the pipe when the faucet is used. Hammer pressure is also caused by air pockets in the pipe, which can enter during city works on the main water lines. Alternatively, suddenly closing the faucet can result in a build-up of pressure along a length of pipe. If, however, you hear a spraying noise, the culprit is a broken or cracked pipe.

Solution(s): Water hammer can exert pressure many times greater than that which pipes are designed to resist. This can be sufficient to damage the piping system, which could lead to broken joints and severe water damage. So, if you hear water hammer, it is best not to ignore the problem. If the water hammer is caused by a loose or defective washer in the faucet, the washer can be easily replaced. If there is another cause (air pocket or rapid faucet closure), a pre-manufactured water hammer arrester can be installed, which will provide adequate protection to the pipe. Water hammer arresters need only be installed at one point, near the source of the problem. If you hear a spraying noise, immediately shut the corresponding water valve or the main water valve to the building. Although you may not notice water leaking, there is in fact a leak that can result in extensive property damage. The broken pipe must be replaced.

 

PROBLEM: Water back-up or basement toilet not flushing

Cause(s): Water back-up most commonly occurs in the basement furnace room, basement bathroom, or garage pit, and indicates a blocked main building drain. The main drain is most commonly blocked by flushing non-flushable materials, or tree roots having grown into the pipe. Alternatively, the pipe could have been broken during road works or by years of road usage, allowing earth to enter and block the drain. Finally, ground shifting over time can lead to deformation of the pipe and impede proper drainage. Even if the main drain is blocked, water back-up should not occur, as back-water valves should be present to prevent backflow. However, it is possible that the back-water valves have become jammed, worn with age, or not installed as needed.

Solution(s): If the pipe is blocked, the proper drain cleaning machine must be used to clear the drain. In the case of a broken pipe, a camera should be used to verify that the pipe is indeed broken and identify the location of the breakage. The only solution is to replace the broken drain, which requires excavation. If backflow has occurred, there are no back-water valves protecting the building. It is important to have the valves installed or replaced to prevent sewage backflow. In the event of heavy rainfall or city sewer back-up, unprotected drain pipes can allow sewage into the building, which can cause excessive damage to the property.

 

PROBLEM: Smell of sewage

Cause(s): The smell of sewage inside a building may be caused by one of three events. Most commonly, a floor drain or plumbing fixture has become dry due to non-use. Secondly, a cancelled pipe that is no longer connected to a plumbing fixture could have been left open. Thirdly, a broken drain pipe could allow waste-water to exit the plumbing system. Depending on the location of the break, you may notice a smell without seeing a leak.

Solution(s): In the event a dry floor drain or plumbing fixture, occasionally pouring water down the drain or using the fixture will prevent the problem. Try this yourself as it is an easy fix that could help you avoid calling a professional. If the cause of the problem is a cancelled pipe that is not serving any fixtures, the pipe must be covered with the appropriate cap. In the case of a broken drain pipe, the location of the break must be determined using a smoke test, which can detect a break even underground. The broken section must then be replaced.

 

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