Ask Me Anything • Licensed Master Plumber

I’m a Master Plumber with a specialty in boilers and heating and over 30 years of experience. 

Ask me anything here or on this Facebook page:

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I hope I can help you. 



Ida flooding on Wednesday night knocked out the pilot light to our water heater, which was getting up there in years anyway. I called Toro the next morning, and a replacement was installed by that afternoon, after the technician explained our options and answered our questions. Having hot water again that soon was a blessing during our cleanup. We appreciate the service.


We had back up in the basement from a charged sanitary sewer line.   I hope to put in a check valve in the near future.   Question: Should the check valve be placed nearer the street curb or can it be placed in the basement where the sanitary line is accessible?   Note that too many people run the sump pump lines to the sanitary sewer.   This is not according to Plumbing Code and is a major cause of sanitary sewer line charging.  


I am not getting any hot water.  The hot water heater is completely enclosed.  How do I know if the pilot light has gone out and if that is the case how do I relight it?  I checked the boiler and that pilot light is on.  Could the water heater be working off of the boiler?  Unit is intact and does not appear to be leaking.  


joan_crystal said:

I am not getting any hot water.  The hot water heater is completely enclosed.  How do I know if the pilot light has gone out and if that is the case how do I relight it?  I checked the boiler and that pilot light is on.  Could the water heater be working off of the boiler?  Unit is intact and does not appear to be leaking.  

If you have a separate boiler and hot water heater, then I don't think they can work off each other.  If it was me, I would call my plumber to check it out.  Good luck!


I'd just like to welcome back master plumber. I missed the plumbing threads.


sac said:

If you have a separate boiler and hot water heater, then I don't think they can work off each other.  If it was me, I would call my plumber to check it out.  Good luck!

 I have a call into Anthony. I imagine he is busy.  Joe promised to take a look after work.


Plumber came and reset the hot water heater.


Dear Master Plumber:

How can I get rid of the banging noises in my heating pipes?  


We had our sump pump checked out last year, and it's working fine, but it never pumps out any water. Even last week when the floor next to it was pretty wet. Could the French drain be the problem, and if so how would we know and what would we do about it? It's sealed up because of our radon system so opening it is a chore.


Need advice on waterproofing basement. For 20+years never had water. Ida brought water UP from the floor. We removed all water soaked basement materials - sheet rock, insulation, flooring. How do we protect the basement floor and walls to rebuild?


The check valve should go upstream of the clean out fitting in the basement of the home. It should be kept accessible for maintenance and replacement.  

RobertRoe said:

We had back up in the basement from a charged sanitary sewer line.   I hope to put in a check valve in the near future.   Question: Should the check valve be placed nearer the street curb or can it be placed in the basement where the sanitary line is accessible?   Note that too many people run the sump pump lines to the sanitary sewer.   This is not according to Plumbing Code and is a major cause of sanitary sewer line charging.  

 


There are too many variables to answer this here but if you post a picture here I may be able to give you the answers you need.  

joan_crystal said:

I am not getting any hot water.  The hot water heater is completely enclosed.  How do I know if the pilot light has gone out and if that is the case how do I relight it?  I checked the boiler and that pilot light is on.  Could the water heater be working off of the boiler?  Unit is intact and does not appear to be leaking.  

 


Thank you!

drummerboy said:

I'd just like to welcome back master plumber. I missed the plumbing threads.

 


Are you able to put water into the sump pit or into the French drain? You said the pump “worked fine” when checked last year. How was that established? Did/do you ever have any accumulation of water on the floor that covers the French drains? 

tom said:

We had our sump pump checked out last year, and it's working fine, but it never pumps out any water. Even last week when the floor next to it was pretty wet. Could the French drain be the problem, and if so how would we know and what would we do about it? It's sealed up because of our radon system so opening it is a chore.

 


master_plvmber said:

 

 Thank you.  The problem has been resolved.  The unit needed to be reset.


yahooyahoo said:

Dear Master Plumber:

How can I get rid of the banging noises in my heating pipes?  

 Banging comes from one thing: steam in motion meeting standing water in the system. Eliminate the condition that allows for water to pool in the pipes and you'll eliminate the banging. Pitch of pipes is critical. So are pressure settings at the boiler. Clogged return pipes are often the problem. Each presents itself in a different way. Maybe we can do a Zoom class sometime. (Could MOL support that?) 


shestheone said:

Need advice on waterproofing basement. For 20+years never had water. Ida brought water UP from the floor. We removed all water soaked basement materials - sheet rock, insulation, flooring. How do we protect the basement floor and walls to rebuild?

 You're not alone, if that helps. Speaking to some of my better builder/contractor friends, the consensus is that a builder gets one chance only at waterproofing a foundation. Once the house is up, you no longer have the access to the foundation that you did before no matter how much you dig around it and patching it from the inside has an abysmal long-term success rate. That leaves one option: deal with water after it's entered the home. French drains is on the tip of everyone's tongue lately but that's a subsurface approach that has the potential to make matters worse. My experience is the houses that survive best are the ones able to direct the water into a sump pit where it collects and a system of good pumps, primary and backup, send the water out of the home at at least the same rate or faster than it is coming in. 

I was at a home yesterday that had 28" of water all around it outside and 4" of water inside. 30 minutes after the storm it was bone dry in the basement. The floor was intentionally sloped to a small sump pit where a light duty pump that had worked well for 30 years, this time was overwhelmed. We're making the pit larger and installing two better pumps. If one should fail, the other will take over, and a control device will allow them to alternate so they wear evenly. There are lots of ways to do this and many products on the market to consider. I'm sorry you're dealing with this. 


master_plvmber said:

 

We had a plumber out last year who unsealed the drain and tested the float. When he lifted up the float we could hear the pump turn on. We don't have water accumulating directly on the cover, but close by. On the crude photo attached, the pump is in the back left corner. The shaded red area indicates the furthest spread of water we've had, which was last week's tropical storm. The pump leads to an outflow pipe that exits the foundation to the left. There's a french drain pipe leading into the well from the right. 


tom said:

We had a plumber out last year who unsealed the drain and tested the float. When he lifted up the float we could hear the pump turn on. We don't have water accumulating directly on the cover, but close by. On the crude photo attached, the pump is in the back left corner. The shaded red area indicates the furthest spread of water we've had, which was last week's tropical storm. The pump leads to an outflow pipe that exits the foundation to the left. There's a french drain pipe leading into the well from the right. 

 And no, we don't leave the power strip laying there when the weather is bad!


master_plvmber said:

 My experience is the houses that survive best are the ones able to direct the water into a sump pit where it collects and a system of good pumps, primary and backup, send the water out of the home at at least the same rate or faster than it is coming in. 

 

Having a backup sump pump saved our basement during storm.  Typically, it never runs as the primary is usually good enough to empty the sump pit.  During the storm the backup ran about every 15 minutes in conjunction with the primary.  Remember to place a long gutter spout on where the water empties to direct the water well away from the house. 

Landscape sloping and side walk/patio around sides/back of the house can help a bit as well.

Regards,

RCH


master_plvmber said:

The check valve should go upstream of the clean out fitting in the basement of the home. It should be kept accessible for maintenance and replacement.  

RobertRoe said:

We had back up in the basement from a charged sanitary sewer line.   I hope to put in a check valve in the near future.   Question: Should the check valve be placed nearer the street curb or can it be placed in the basement where the sanitary line is accessible?   Note that too many people run the sump pump lines to the sanitary sewer.   This is not according to Plumbing Code and is a major cause of sanitary sewer line charging.  

 

 Hijacking this for my own question.  Is it possible to install a backflow preventer on a cast iron sewer line without removing the entire line?  I've seen them retrofitted to PVC lines, but never a cast iron one.


Yes of course. All of New York is cast iron pipe and we do it plenty.

Komarovsky said:

 Hijacking this for my own question.  Is it possible to install a backflow preventer on a cast iron sewer line without removing the entire line?  I've seen them retrofitted to PVC lines, but never a cast iron one.

 


Question: I rinse our clothes washing machine with a small amount of water before washing clothes. There is a pretty strong septic smell when I do this. I have tried rinsing it with some bleach and detergent but it still comes back for the next time. It does not smell after the first rinse and then doing loads of laundry. Should I replace the drain hose or is there a better way to clean it?


Sailorthom said:

Question: I rinse our clothes washing machine with a small amount of water before washing clothes. There is a pretty strong septic smell when I do this. I have tried rinsing it with some bleach and detergent but it still comes back for the next time. It does not smell after the first rinse and then doing loads of laundry. Should I replace the drain hose or is there a better way to clean it?

 I started using this laundry detergent and softener the beginning of this year. I have noticed my washing machine is much cleaner smelling. 

https://nine-elements.com/our-products/laundry/


Toilet query - fairly new toilet is flushing fine, but for part of the flush makes a new noise that would make you think it’s going to run, but it doesn’t. Almost a hissing noise. No obvious cause when looking in the tank during a flush, water looks like it’s going where it’s supposed to. 


Heynj said:

Toilet query - fairly new toilet is flushing fine, but for part of the flush makes a new noise that would make you think it’s going to run, but it doesn’t. Almost a hissing noise. No obvious cause when looking in the tank during a flush, water looks like it’s going where it’s supposed to. 

Not too many things can go wrong with a toilet.

If it is “flushing fine”, then you don’t have a problem.

If it’s not, it’s the flush valve.



These questions are specifically for Master Plumber.  First, do you prefer plastic or brass fittings with Pex, and why.  Second, who do you think makes the highest quality valves for sink and shower fixtures, and are there any that are pure garbage?  Thanks.


Sailorthom said:

Question: I rinse our clothes washing machine with a small amount of water before washing clothes. There is a pretty strong septic smell when I do this. I have tried rinsing it with some bleach and detergent but it still comes back for the next time. It does not smell after the first rinse and then doing loads of laundry. Should I replace the drain hose or is there a better way to clean it?

 Check to see if the drain hose is connected directly to the drain piping. Then check to see if there is a trap on that pipe. It sounds like there may not be. 


DanDietrich said:

These questions are specifically for Master Plumber.  First, do you prefer plastic or brass fittings with Pex, and why.  Second, who do you think makes the highest quality valves for sink and shower fixtures, and are there any that are pure garbage?  Thanks.

 I don't have a preference but I tend to not mix materials where there is no reason too. Plastic with plastic, metal with metal. They expand/contract and degrade at the same rate...in theory. 

Highest quality valves for sinks and showers? I like Waterworks. Very well made and serviceable without the finicky temperamental failures we see with Lefroy Brooks and Dornbracht. I also like Hansgrohe. Avoid Home Depot and Lowes versions of any high end faucet. The manufacturers make lesser quality versions of fixtures to be sold exclusively in stores of this type.



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