• Ask Ed

  • For over 30 years, I’ve been helping customers with every type of plumbing concern. Here are some sample plumbing FAQs:

    How can I increase the water pressure in my bathroom faucet?

    First, check the emergency shutoff under your sink to make sure it’s fully open. If rubber washers or seals have begun to deteriorate, you’ll also lose water pressure, so check those. Calcium and lime buildup will also cause low water pressure.

    What is the best way to unclog a drain? And are caustic drain openers, like Drano, really harmful to pipes?

    For minor clogs, caustic drain openers are fine, but never use them on a drain that is completely clogged. The caustic ingredients will become trapped in your pipes, and it can severely damage them. If you can’t snake the drain yourself, contact a professional to do so. And remember: Never use caustic drain openers in a drain that has a garbage disposal.
    To prevent clogs, fit all your tubs and shower drains with a strainer that catches hair and soap chips, and clean the strainer regularly. Also, avoid rinsing fats or cooking oils down the kitchen sink. Liquid fats solidify in the cold pipes and will create clogs.

    What should I do if my garbage disposal stops working?

    Before calling a professional, be sure to first try the reset switch located on the bottom of most disposals. (See my Do It Yourself Plumbing page for more about garbage disposals.)

    Can I replace my two-handled faucet with a single-handle faucet?

    Faucet dimensions and sink openings are almost always standard throughout the plumbing industry, so the answer is usually yes. There are a few exceptions, so check the size of the sink opening before you buy new fixtures.

    What’s the best way to check for toilet leaks?

    At least once a year, check your toilet for leaks by adding a small amount of red food coloring to the tank, and then check the toilet bowl later. If the toilet bowl water is colored red, water is seeping through from the tank. If it’s leaking, you should replace the tank ball.

    What causes my kitchen sink and washing machine drains to simultaneously clog?

    In most homes, the kitchen and laundry drains are connected. When the lint from the laundry drains meets the grease buildup from soap and food products, a nearly solid substance is formed, causing blockage. Using filters and strainers will help, but you’ll also need to get the drains professionally snaked periodically, as well.

    Why doesn’t my older water heater work as well as it used to?

    This is usually due to a sediment buildup in your tank. As water heaters grow older, they accumulate sediment and lime deposits. If these deposits are not removed periodically, the sediment will create a barrier between the burner and the water, greatly reducing the water heater’s performance level. At least once every three months, drain water from the tank. Draining a gallon or so on a regular basis helps remove the sediment. (See my DIY page for more on maintaining your water heater.)

    Why do I hear a vibrating noise in my pipes?

    Noises can be fairly common in plumbing supply lines. If a washer in a faucet or valve is loose, you’ll hear it rattling or knocking. If the sound occurs when you open and close faucets rapidly, it generally means pipes are loose, and can be corrected by anchoring pipes more securely. If it really bothers you, you can add air chambers at the end of long pipe runs. Their installation will probably require a plumbing professional.

    Should I close and open the main water supply shutoff valve periodically?

    Yes. You want to make sure they’re not stuck in the open position just when you have a water emergency! Do the same periodic check for the shutoff valves on your sinks, tubs and toilets, too.

    What can I do about a sewer line blockage?

    The main culprit is tree roots, and once they’ve blocked the line, there is very little you can do. A plumbing professional can snake the line to get it as clear as possible, and then use copper sulfide products to kill the remaining vegetation. But odds are the sewer line will most likely need to be replaced.

    Don’t see the answer to your question? Feel free to email me
    EdPlumber@msn.com. I’m happy to help