A Few FAQs in alphabetical order…

Question: We’d like to install a bathroom in the basement. Our problem is that the sewer drain is too high. It exits through the basement wall instead of under the floor. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Installing a bathroom in a basement with a high drain will require some type of a sewage pump. There are a couple of options to consider, depending on your situation. The less expensive option involves using an above floor tank and pump. The pump runs very quiet, and the tank is leak-proof and odorless. Tank and all piping can be hidden. The unit is installed free-standing on any solid level surface, or the tank and all piping can be hidden behind a wall and under a 2″ x 6″ subfloor. No one even need know it’s there.

The other option involves removing some concrete and installing a tank & pump under slab. The pump can be located near the bathroom or at a distance.

It’s all feasible. Give a call for a free quote.

Question: My disposal quit on me. Is there anything that I can do to fix my garbage disposal?

Answer: If the disposal doesn’t work at all – no *hum* or any sound, then push the red (reset) button on the bottom of the disposal. If that doesn’t work, check the breaker in the electrical panel. If the unit *hums* but doesn’t turn then you can try unsticking it.. Some units come with a wrench that you can use to turn the cutter flywheel from the bottom. ( An allen wrench will work). If you are unable to start the unit it’s time to call Meridian Plumbing to service or replace the it.

Question: I’ve always been under the impression that it’s not a good thing to put a garbage disposal on a septic tank system but recently a friend told me it’s OK. What is the truth of the matter?

Answer: There is no reason not to install a disposal in a house on septic. Having a disposal is like having another person adding to the load on the septic system. The convenience of the new powerful – but – quiet disposals that we offer will make you wish you’d asked this question a long time ago. Call Meridian Plumbing and talk to us about the new line of Insinkerator

Question: My garbage disposal always has foul odors. Is there anything that I can do to at least neutralize the smells?

Answer: If your garbage disposal is powerful enough, its a very good idea to put orange or lemon peels down it to make it smell good. Putting orange and lemon peels down the garbage disposal makes the drain, sink, and entire kitchen smell fresh and clean. Older citrus fruits that may be going partially bad, can still be cut up and put into the garbage disposal.

Answer: Alternatively, pour a half cup of baking soda into the drain, and then pour some white vinegar on top of it. This will foam, cleaning the area and making it smell fresh.

Question: How do roots get into my sewer pipes?

Answer: Many of the older pipes are installed with joints that have gaskets or are filled with lead. These joints shift over time and hairline openings are formed around the gaskets or lead. If you’ve seen a crack in the sidewalk you know that it doesn’t take much of an opening for something to grow. So it is with roots.

Question: Why does water back up into my kitchen sink when I use my washing machine?

Answer: Your kitchen sink and laundry drains often share the same line and connect in multiple places. So if a blockage occurs in one place this can cause blockage symptoms in another section of the same drain line.

Question: I see water bubbling up into my tub or shower when I flush the toilet – what would cause this?

Answer: Your toilet and bathtub or shower usually share the same drain line. If you have a sewer line blockage instead of a fixture blockage, waste water from your home isn’t able to flow properly to the main sewer line in the street. If this happens, the waste water can then start to back up into your home.

Question: How do I keep from being “getting a hot blast or a cold shock” in the shower? Drastic changes in water temperature in the shower can be dangerous. Let’s say someone flushes a toilet while you’re in the shower and you get a blast of hot water. Temperature extremes in the other direction can also happen depending on which fixture is being used. Temperature extremes are dangerous with people slipping and falling trying to avoid a suddenly very cold shower. These problems are exacerbated when very young or very old people are involved.

Answer: The problem is usually that the shower valve is a non pressure balanced shower valve. The solution to the problem is to install a pressure balance shower valve. Call us

Question: How can you stop water leaking through the shower head even when both water valves are off?

Answer: Be aware that for the first few minutes after turning off you will get the shower head leak a little. This is because the shower head has a large cavity inside that fills up with water in use. When you turn off, that water has to go somewhere, so it dribbles through the outlets of the shower head. If the shower continues to drip after a couple of minutes, the shower valve could be leaking past and should be serviced.

Question: Do you need to replace the existing shower valve if you want to change to color and style of the valve?

Answer: Not always. If you stay with the brand of the shower valve you can often find a more attractive trim that will fit it. This is not an absolute. Some valves become obsolete and so there is no trim being made for them. Most brands have several offerings of in-wall valves with different options. In other words, don’t go out and buy a trim for your valve just because you’ve found one you like and it’s the same brand. Call us.

Question: Why doesn’t my toilet bowl fill up after a flush?

Answer: If the plastic hose from the fill valve is not in the overflow tube, or the hose is clogged, the bowl will not fill correctly. Check that first. Next, check the water level in the tank. It should be 3/4″ below the top of the overflow. Adjust it as needed.

Question: What causes household plumbing to ‘groan when the toilet is flushed?

Answer: Most often this is a vibration caused by a fill valve that is very slow in turning off. The vibration in the valve is not unlike the vibration when blowing a wind instrument. We have run into ballcocks so loud that a next door neighbor could hear it with both houses closed up. It can make noise throughout the house, so that you cannot localize its origin. The best and quickest way to fix the problem is to replace the fill valve with a better designed fill valve.

Answer: Another possibility is a loose washer on a shutoff valve that is vibrating in the flow of the water.

Question: What causes rattling of pipes in a house?

Answer: This problem is most often caused by the copper water lines that are not properly supported. It usually means that either in one or many places your water lines come into contact with the wood members of your house or with each other.

Question: What cause knocking pipes of pipes in a house?

Answer: The water pipes that are most often found to be “knocking” are copper. The condition is called water hammer and it is caused by quick closing valves, be they automatic or manual. The best solution is to install a hammer arrestor in a location to where it will absorb the shock. A water hammer arrester will help solve “water hammer” due to quick closing water valves in your home.

Question: How can I locate the sewer gas smell in my basement?

Answer: If there’s a basement floor drain close by, sometimes the all the water can evaporate out of the trap. This can allow sewer smells into the house. Just run some water through the floor drain to fill the trap back up. A teaspoon of cooking oil poured into the trap will float on top of the water and keep it from evaporating. Ditto for any drain that doesn’t get used very often.

Answer: Another possibility is the vent in the wall isn’t connected properly. Even a small crack in the fitting can cause quite a smell if the sewer gas in the house is strong.

Question: My garbage disposal always has foul odors. Is there anything that I can do to at least neutralize the smells?

Answer: If your garbage disposal is powerful enough, its a very good idea to put orange or lemon peels down it to make it smell good. Putting orange and lemon peels down the garbage disposal makes the drain, sink, and entire kitchen smell fresh and clean. Older citrus fruits that may be going partially bad, can still be cut up and put into the garbage disposal.

Answer: Alternatively, pour a half cup of baking soda into the drain, and then pour some white vinegar on top of it. This will foam, cleaning the area and making it smell fresh.

Question: Why would you replace a water heater?

Answer: The #1 problem that kills water heaters is rust. When the tank rusts through and begins to leak, it doesn’t matter how good the components are on the water heater – that water heater is dead.

Question: What can I do to extend the life of my water heater?

Answer: Just as you perform maintenance on your furnace or your lawn sprinklers, there is regular maintenance that you can perform on your water heater. Maintaining your water heater can add 10 years and more to the life of the water heater. The maintenance we’re talking of flushing the water heater and maintaining the anode rod.

Question: What is the water heater anode rod and why is it important?

Answer: The anode rod is a self sacrificing metal rod installed in water heaters so that aggressive water will attack the anode rod instead of the glass lined iron water heater tank. If the anode rod is used up or well on it’s way, chances are good that rust may have begun inside.

Question: How long do anode rods last?

Answer: Anode rods normally should be inspected every 3 – 4 years. If you have very hard, acidic or softened water, check your anode rod every 1 – 2 years. So, depending on your water, anode rods should be inspected every 1-4 years.

Question: Why does my water heater run out so quickly now?

Answer: Several things could happen. First check the shower head volume if shower’s are too quick. A new shower head puts out about 2.5 gallons a minute. Some older heads put out 5 gallons a minute. Working with the shower head would double shower length in this case.

Answer: In some cases, the dip tube on the cold water inlet may have dislodged and fallen into the tank. When this happens, it creates a short loop for the water, water at the bottom half of the tank will not be used.

Answer: On electric water heaters, they commonly have two heating elements that work in turns. First the top element heats up the top of the tank, then power goes to the lower element. If the lower element is out, only the top of the tank gets heated. If the top element isn’t working, there will be no hot water.

Answer: On electric water heaters, sometimes you can push the reset button under the cover of the top element. Though this may get the water heater to start heating again, a tripped reset button indicates that there is a problem in the system that needs to be remedied. (watch out for the live wires connected to the thermostat)

Question: My water heater is making a lot of rumbling and poping noises. What is wrong with it and is there something that can be done to fix it?

Answer: The rumbling and popping noises from your gas water heater are the result of a buildup of sediment on the bottom of the water heater tank. It’s not really going to hurt anything but it does reduce the efficiency of the water heater.

Question: Could you give me a run down on the different types of water pipe that are commonly found Treasure Valley homes and the pros and cons of each?

Answer: Silver or grey galvanized iron pipe Earlier homes will be found to have galvanized iron pipe. Galvanized pipe was used from the late 1800s up to the early 1980s. Domestic galvanized pipe was very durable but import galvanized pipe which was used more and more toward the end had a lighter coat of galvanized coating. This pipe used underground and inside the building and was quite reliable for a long period of time. Problems that owners deal with who have galvanized pipe are lines that plug with minerals and rust. Water running noise is not a problem with galvanized pipe. Galvanized pipe underground rusts and pits from the outside while galvanized pipe inside the house typically rusts from the inside. You typically can’t see the condition of the house pipe without taking it apart, but underground galvanized pipe deterioration is typically quite visible when it is dug up.

Answer: Copper water pipe began to be used commonly in the 1960s and has been used both underground and above ground. The life of a copper system depends largely on what is in the water in the case of copper piping inside the house and what is in the soil and in the water in the case of copper piping underground. If the chemistry is right, copper pipe can be reliable for many years. If it’s wrong, pinholes will develop in the pipe, causing it to fail. Many equate copper with quality, but because of the pinhole problems and the noise factors (water running noises and water hammer) as well as the high cost of material and labor, copper has almost entirely fallen out of favor in residential plumbing systems.

Answer: Grey Polybutylene plastic water pipe began to be used commonly in Treasure Valley in the late 1970s. This new plastic pipe and plastic crimp fittings rapidly began to take over the market because of much lower costs of labor and materials. The pipe worked well but there began to be failures with the plastic fittings that were first used with it. To avert any more problems the manufacturers changed from plastic fittings to copper and brass fittings. However it was too little too late. By the late 1980s enough fitting failures had occurred that a class action lawsuit was filed against Shell Oil Company, the manufacturer of the resin. Shell lost the lawsuit and paid out millions in damages. Shell had already made the needed corrections but decided to pull the products out of the United States, entirely and suddenly. This sudden departure of Polybutylene from the market found the plumbing industry a little unprepared. CPVC and Pex water pipe systems stepped in to fill the polybutylene void in the late 1980s.

Answer: Light Yellow CPVC plastic water pipe was attractive to some plumbers because of the wide range of sizes available from ½” to 2-1/2” The pipe was also rated for circulation systems and so it was especially useful on large custom homes. CPVC quickly began to lose popularity to Pex because of extra labor required to install and failures due to installer error. In addition, we at Meridian Plumbing have found that, within 10 years of installation, the CPVC hot water line material will turn brittle and change to an orange color especially with a recirculation system. The brittle pipe can easily be broken just by bumping it. If a homeowner should note a yellow cold system and an orangeish brittle condition is noted on the hot side, we strongly suggest repiping the system.

Answer: Red,White or Blue Pex plastic water pipe has proven to be the champion of all residential plumbing pipe. Pex fittings are copper, brass, and now a very tough plastic fitting has been developed. Most Pex fittings are inserted into the pipe and crimped with a copper ring. The Cadillac of pex is Uponor (Wirsbo). This pex pipe and it’s pex ring must be expanded to fit over a full flow fitting. The memory of the pipe and ring expansion pipe and rings expand over a full size fitting. There is far less drag and turbulence in the Uponor system but insert systems seem to be quite adequate. quiet

If you have problem piping in your home, call us. We can quote repair or replacement as needed.

Question: How can you increase water pressure in a faucet?

Answer: If you’re lucky you may have a plugged aerator or an emergency supply valve (under the sink) that is not turned on all the way. It is possible that a supply line could be kinked and needs to be replaced. If you get a water supply tube to connect to your emergency shut off valve under the sink, you could attach it and blow the water into a bucket to see if you have pressure there. If there is good pressure there , then you know the problem is above the shut off valve.

Answer: If you have galvanized pipe, it may be that your line is clogged with minerals. This is a situation that requires repiping. In other types of water piping we have found obstructions such as small stones or construction debris in the water lines that were either introduced when the house was being built or during remodel.

Question: Why do you loose pressure at a sink or shower when a tap is turned on elsewhere in the house?

Answer: If you have a water softener you might also check the prefilter to see that it’s not clogged. Many softeners also have screens in the inlet to keep debris out. Check them.

Answer: Poor water pressure can be due to mineral buildup in lines or improper sizing in your water lines. The lines don’t have enough volume to handle everything that’s running. Water tries to take the easiest path that it can so if you turn on something that is closer to the water heater or has less bends in the line the hot water will go there. You can increase the line to the tee to a minimum of ¾”.

Answer: Check washing machine screens, water softener screens, aerators, shower heads – All have a tendency to plug.

Question: What causes my water to come out rusty and brown?

Answer: Has anyone shut the water off recently? A change in water pressure will cause rust in the system to turn loose and come through into the bathtub or other fixtures.

Answer: When the city flushes it’s water main lines you may experience brown water for a day or two.

Answer: The glass lining in the water heater may be compromised, allowing the metal jacket to rust. If this is the case, you are not long till it starts to leak.

Answer: If you are on a well, iron bacteria may be growing, and may not be showing up in the cold water because it remains invisible in solution until it is heated, or has more time to react with oxygen in the water heater. In this case, shock chlorination of the well may be in order. A simple test by a water treatment company will tell this, and in many areas, it is free.