Plumbing 101

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Ed. note: This story is the first in a two-part series looking at ways that homeowners can save big money on their plumbing appliances around the home with a little bit of upkeep. Part I takes a look at the maintenance for any potential wear and tear water can cause throughout the home, while next week, Part II will take a look at maintaining the appliances that keeps the water in your home flowing.

If you’re a homeowner you’ve probably had a plumbing disaster, or two, or three.

If you’ve never had the pleasure, all I can say is, “Wait for it…”

It will happen when you least expect it and, more importantly, when you can least afford it.

Clogged drains, leaking pipes, overflowing toilets, ruptured water heaters — I’ve had them all in 40 years of home ownership.

For years, my ceilings bore the stains of numerous pinhole leaks from the cheap galvanized pipes commonly used in home construction in the 1970s.

My bathroom has survived numerous episodes of overflowing toilets and leaking toilet seals.

Many plumbing catastrophes can be avoided by simple, regular maintenance, according to Kirk Stinson, owner of Plumbing by Kirk in Saugus.

“Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance,” he said. “Take care of your stuff, and it will take care of you.”

Hard water

The water in the Santa Clarita Valley can cause homeowners concern with “foggy” shower doors, scale build-up and foul taste. The “hard” SCV water is a result of dissolved minerals, like calcium and magnesium in the water.

“I recommend installing a good quality water filtration system and tying it in with your refrigerator,” said Stinson. “You will get good tasting water and ice cubes as a result.”

For shower doors, Stinson uses Rain-X to keep the glass clear.

“The hard water is really bad for everything in your home. It makes faucets fail and it makes the pipes and drain lines brittle,” he said.

He also recommends having your water tested before installing any soft water system.

Water pressure

The No. 1 cause of many plumbing woes is high water pressure, said Stinson. Water pressure that is too high can damage system components, like faucets, water heaters and dishwashers.

“Buy yourself a water pressure gauge,” said Stinson.

He recommends testing your water pressure quarterly.

“Put it on the calendar, like changing the oil in your car, it is that important,” said Stinson. “We get a lot of calls where someone says, ‘I’ve got four faucets leaking and my toilet is making a sound.’ When you hear about multiple sounds, or multiple leaks, we automatically take a pressure check first.”

Stinson said if the water pressure reading exceeds 80 pounds, homeowners should make sure their water-pressure regulator is functioning properly.

Most likely, it’ll need to be replaced.

Stinson recommends that every homeowner check their water pressure every quarter.

“If your regulator fails it can blow the supply lines to the washing machine and major floods can happen,” he said. “High water pressure can blow the supply lines to the water heater and cause the water heater to leak sooner than it needs to.”

Stinson said nearly every house in the SCV needs a water pressure regulator.

“It is rare to find a house without a regular where the pressure doesn’t exceed 80 pounds, but there are few neighborhoods,” he said.

Stinson said regulators used to last 6 to 8 years, but with declining quality control standards many regulators now fail far short of that benchmark.

“Now, with our hard water, and we all know how bad it is, I won’t even predict how long a regulator will last, sometimes it won’t even last the year it is under warranty,” he said.

 

Toilets

The constant running toilet is not only annoying, it can cost a pretty penny. In drought-racked California, it also can be wasteful of a precious resource.

A running toilet is usually a pretty easy fix, and often has to do with the float that raises and lowers with the water level in the upper tank. Knowing which part to adjust might take a little research or general know-how. However, sometimes a running toilet requires part replacement in the upper tank to truly solve the problem. Tank-repair kits are easy to find at local home improvement stores. Anyone with basic “handy” experience with proper tools can usually replace toilet tank parts.

The wax seal that keeps the water from leaking at the base of the toilet is best replaced by a professional. Luckily, it’s not a problem that shows up too often.

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