Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions Answered

When plumbing questions arise, your initial reaction may be to pick up the phone and call Jack Howk℠/Rescue Rooter®. While we are flattered, we recognize that some of the most common plumbing problems can be fixed or prevented with a little how-to. That’s why we made a list of the top three plumbing questions and answered them. These solutions are meant to prevent plumbing-induced headaches and save you time and money.

1. How do I fix a running toilet?

A running toilet isn’t just annoying — it’s a huge waste of water. When “jiggling the handle” doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time to lift the cover off the tank and investigate what has gone awry.

  • It could be the Chain

The toilet handle is attached to a chain which is attached to the flapper. Think of the flapper as a suction cup. When the toilet is flushed, the flapper lifts to empty water from the tank. When working properly, the flapper will suction back onto the drain once the water has exited. Sometimes the chain is too long and can get stuck under the flapper. Use a pair of wire cutters to shorten the length of the chain so that it will not prevent the flapper from sealing the water in the tank. The chain should have just a little slack and it should not be too taught or too loose.

  • It could be the Flapper

If the chain is not getting stuck under the flapper, the source of the running water could fall in the hands of the flapper itself. Over time, minerals found in water can erode the flapper which causes the seal to break allowing water to leak through.

  • It could be the Float

If there is nothing wrong with the chain or flapper, the third culprit could be the float. In all shapes and sizes, floats prevent water from going into the overflow tube. The toilet could be running because the water level is too high and is draining into the overflow tube. To stop this from happening, the float must be lowered. Most floats can be adjusted with a screw driver. The water in the tank should be 1-1.5 inches below the top of the overflow pipe.

  • It could be the Fill Valve

If water is still running, then you may need to replace the fill valve. The fill valve is the part of the toilet that refills the tank after every flush. If it is leaking then water will continue to run.

2. Can changing a showerhead save money?

The answer is: yes! Switching to a low-flow showerhead can save you hundreds of dollars and thousands of gallons of water per year. Showerheads manufactured prior to 1992 use 5.5 gallons of water per minute while those sold after 1992 use 2.5 gallons per minute. Replacing an old showerhead can cut water consumption by more than 50%, translating into real savings.

Luckily, low-flow showerheads are easy and inexpensive to install. Here’s how:

  • Turn off the water supply to prevent water from escaping
  • Remove the old showerhead by turning it counterclockwise. If this cannot be done by hand, then use an adjustable wrench.
  • Clean the threads of the pipe and wrap in plumber’s tape
  • Screw the new showerhead onto the shower arm clockwise and tighten

Don’t stop there! Replace sink faucets, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers with water saving installations and appliances to save even more money and water.

3. At what temperature do I need to worry about my pipes freezing?

When temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 °C), freezing pipes become a concern. Here are a few cautionary tips that can prevent pipe bursts and save you thousands of dollars worth of damage and repairs:

  • Use caulk or insulation to prevent cold air from leaking into the house
  • Wrap pipes in insulation in unheated areas of the house such as the attic or garage
  • Put away outdoor hoses and shut off indoor valves before cold weather arrives

When temperatures fall below 20 degrees:

  • Set the thermostat to 55 degrees or higher
  • Keep a faucet dripping warm water at all times
  • Keep kitchen cabinets open to allow warm air to reach the pipes
  • When leaving town for a long period of time, shut off your water and let the faucets run until the pipes are clear OR keep the thermostat above 55 degrees and have someone check on your home daily
  • If you detect a frozen pipe, use a hair dryer or space heater to try to thaw it. Never use an open flame.

If you are overwhelmed by DIY plumbing, please give us a call. Our licensed, professional plumbers are the experts and they can diagnose any problems, big or small! Do you have more plumbing questions? We are happy to answer. You can find out more about our comprehensive plumbing solutions and 24-hour emergency plumbing services in Portland when you click through our website. We also invite you to read through our blog for more tips on avoiding some of the most common home plumbing problems and emergencies.