Plumbing Tips That Will Save You Time & Money

Q. My kitchen faucet sprays out the sides and the flow is less than normal. Do I need a new faucet?
A. This is a very common complaint, and one that many people unnecessarily call a plumber to repair. While there may be more than one reason the faucet is operating poorly, the most probable cause is sand, calcium or other build-up in the aerator. Simply unscrew it from the faucet head, noting the exact way all the components fit together, rinse or use a soft brush to clean out the material that is blocking normal flow and screw the aerator back on.

Q. My garbage disposer is supposed to handle a variety of table scraps, but very often it gets clogged. What’s the problem?
A. Although your garbage disposer can grind up many kinds of discarded food items, there are some that will cause clogging because they can’t be liquefied enough to pass through the drain trap and into the main sewer line. Items like chicken skins, carrots, celery, and banana peels are too stringy and fibrous for the disposer to handle. Put those items into the garbage instead. Don’t fill the disposer with a lot of vegetable peels all at once. Instead, turn the water and disposer on first and feed the peels gradually. To reduce the chance of clogging, run cold water (not hot) down the drain for about 15 seconds after grinding is completed to flush the drain line.
Q. My shower has a weak stream. What’s the cause?
A. It could be the pressure is being siphoned off by a filling toilet tank, the dishwasher, washing machine or even an irrigation system. If there is plenty of pressure at other faucets in the house, the culprit could be a showerhead that’s been clogged by hard water deposits. If the blockage is severe, you must remove and clean the shower head. If the blockage is not too severe, you may be able to clean it in place. Pour a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag, place the bag over the shower head and secure it with a twist tie. Leave it there overnight. In the morning remove the bag and use a toothbrush to gently scrub the softened deposits from the holes.
Q. Why does my toilet get clogged often?
A. If you have clogs on a regular basis, and the bathroom sink is also running slow, you may have an obstruction in the main sewer line. If the sink runs free but the toilet is slow, there could be an obstruction in the toilet trap. We often find things like toothbrushes, hair clips, and small toys that have stuck in the trap. If you have small children that have been taught to flush, they tend to enjoy putting almost anything into the toilet just to see what happens. If your plunger can’t push the obstruction past the trap, do not try to free it with a coat hanger or other sharp implement because you may damage the bowl. It’s best to call Benedict & Benedict at (626) 795-5881.
Q. How high do I have to set the temperature control on my water heater to make sure I have an adequate supply of hot water?
A. Most people are comfortable with their hot water set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pre-set by manufacturers. If you have an older model water heater, set the thermostat at medium. On gas models there is a dial on the front of the gas valve. On electric models, the thermostat (there may be two) is concealed behind one or both panels on the side of the tank. NOTE: Turn off the electricity before removing the panels to set the thermostat.
Q. What can I do about a foul odor coming from my garbage disposer?
A. Foul odors are usually caused by food debris in the disposer. To eliminate this odor, place ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposer and run for 30 seconds. While it is running, squirt a small amount of liquid dish washing detergent into the disposer, then run cold water for about 30 seconds after to rinse the debris away. Repeat the process until there is no odor.
Q. What about a foul odor coming from a floor drain?
A. Traps under sinks, drains and other plumbing systems normally hold water to keep sewer odors out of the house. When the drain or fixture isn’t used for a period of time, the water can evaporate, allowing odors to come up through the trap. Simply using the fixture or pouring a bucket of water down the drain will usually get rid of the odor. If it doesn’t, you may have an improperly installed or damaged trap and should call Benedict & Benedict Plumbing at (626) 795-5881.
Q. When our water heater is operating, I hear a banging, bubbling, rumbling sound. Should I have it checked out?
A. What you are hearing is boiling water that is trapped in sediment or a layer of mineral deposits inside the bottom of the water heater tank. Although not a cause for alarm, it means the water heater is not operating efficiently. Per the water heater manufacturer’s instructions, you should drain the tank for five minutes or so every year, or more often if your water is especially high in iron, calcium, or minerals. You drain it by running a hose from the faucet on the bottom front of the tank to a drain outside the house. Do NOT drain it into a toilet, as the hot water may crack the porcelain. If your water heater is an older model that has not been drained regularly, the build up of sediment may be too much to drain out, and it will gradually heat less efficiently until it must be replaced. Newer models have a feature that greatly reduces sediment buildup.
Q. We need to replace a toilet in our home and I have been told that new toilets don’t flush properly. What do you recommend?
A. To encourage water conservation, the federal government mandated new toilets in 1992 use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, and there are high-efficiency toilets that use less than 1.3 gallons of water. Some homeowners were not happy about the performance of the early low-flow models, causing manufacturers to redesign toilets that put water into the bowl much more quickly to improve flushing. If you choose a major brand today, you should not be disappointed. An option is a pressurized toilet tank that works like a commercial toilet and surge flushes. It is much less quiet than a conventional toilet, but it works.
Q. With two kids in the house, my wife and I always run out of hot water by the fourth shower. What can I do?
A. There are two possible causes. First, the dip tube is broken that forces incoming water to the bottom of the water heater tank so that hot water can be drawn off the top. Second, with an electric water heater, the lower heating element may not be operating properly, and only the upper half of the tank is heating up. In either case you should call Benedict & Benedict Plumbing at (626) 795-5881 and a plumbing technician can fix the problem.
Q. Have more questions that weren’t answered here?
A. Contact us or call us at (626) 795-5881.