Frequently Asked Questions
The always-important FAQs. These might coming in handy before calling us. Have a read. You may find the solution right here.
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 disposal is supposed to handle a variety of table scraps, but very often I have to use a liquid drain unclogger. What's the problem?
A. Although your garbage disposal 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, potato and banana peels are too stringy and fibrous for the disposer to handle. Put those items into the garbage or compost instead. To reduce the chance of clogging, run cold water - not hot! - down the drain for about 15 seconds after using the disposer. Also run hot water down the drain for a few minutes once a week to help remove any material that may cause a clog.
Q. My shower has a weak water stream. What's the cause?
A. The pressure may be 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. Clean the shower head by pouring a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag, place the bag over the showerhead and secure it with a twist tie. Leave it there over night. 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 draining 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 schedule a service call with us.
Q. My water bill has increased but I'm using the same amount of water as always. I can't hear the toilet running, and I have checked the faucet for leaks, but nothing appears wrong. What now?
A. Even though you may not be able to easily detect it, the primary cause of excess water use is a leaky toilet. First, remove the tank top to see if water is flowing into the overflow pipe. If it is, adjust the fill valve to stop the flow approximately one inch below the top of the overflow pipe or to the water level marked on the inside of the tank. If water is not running into the pipe, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the water in the bowl changes color within 15 minutes, the ball or flapper is the problem and must be replaced. If the toilet tank is not leaking, the leak may be in an irrigation valve, the water heater supply line or any number of other hidden or buried lines. If you don't have the time or inclination to check them all out, call Tucson Plumbing at 881-6000.
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(s).
Q. What can I do about the foul odor coming from my garbage disposal?
A. Foul odors are usually caused by food debris in the disposal. To eliminate this odor, place ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposal and run for 30 seconds. While it is running, squirt a small amount of liquid dish washing detergent into the disposal, then run cold water for about 30 seconds 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 home. 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.
Q. I have a slow draining kitchen sink. Should I have it cleaned?
A. Before you have the drain cleaned professionally, try using a liquid or granular drain cleaner. These products are formulated to remove the usual buildup of soap scum, grease and hair. If that fails to give you good results, call us.
Q. When the water heater is operating, I hear a banging, bubbling, rumbling sound. Should I get 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 or 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 buildup 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 prevents or greatly reduces sediment buildup.
Q. Sometimes I hear a whistling sound in the plumbing. What causes that?
A. Usually it is a slow leak in a toilet fill valve. Remove the tank cover and adjust the fill valve mechanism until the water flow stops. If you are unable to stop the flow, the valve must be replaced.
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 use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Some homeowners weren't happy about the performance of the early low-flow models, causing manufacturers to redesign toilets that put water into the bowl more quickly to improve flushing. If you choose a major brand today, you should not be disappointed. Another 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.
Q. I am going on a long vacation. Should I do something special to protect my plumbing?
A. Before going on vacation it is always good to turn your water heater down and shut off the water supply to home. Nobody likes to come home to a flooded house.