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Lead Contamination in Home Water Supplies

There has been a great deal of information in the news in the last several decades about the dangers of lead exposure, particularly where children are concerned. Most of the stories which have made their way into news programs and publications have focused on lead paint in old homes and on unsafely produced toys and other consumer goods. Little has been said about the risks of lead exposure in drinking water due to old pipes despite the fact that lead contamination in home water supplies is a legitimate concern, especially with older homes.

What Is Lead?

Lead is a metal which was used extensively in the years before it was determined to be toxic. It was used in the production of paints, pipes and other products in the past. Once it was discovered to have toxic qualities, regulations were established to eliminate the substance from newly produced and installed products, including laws which prohibit it from being used in water lines for public water systems and residential and non-residential buildings.

How is Lead Present in Water Then?

Although regulations now prohibit the use of lead pipes and other lead components in public and private plumbing networks that doesn’t mean lead is entirely gone from these systems. In older homes and buildings, lead pipes may still be present. The same is true for municipal water systems which predate the regulations on installing new water lines. Lead free pipes which are used to create new sewage and water supply lines may also contain small amounts of lead. The term “lead free” simply means these components must have a minimal amount of lead contained within them – specifically, no more than 0.3 percent for pipes and no more than 8 percent for pipe fittings and fixtures like faucets.

What are the Health Risks of Lead Exposure?

If your children are exposed to lead they can have developmental issues, including physical and mental problems. They may additionally exhibit learning deficiencies and attention span problems. Long term exposure often results in life-long issues for individuals exposed to lead during their developmental years (ages six and under). Even we adults who experience prolonged lead exposure can see serious health consequences as well. These can include high blood pressure and kidney problems, among others. Lead is serious business.

What Levels of Lead in Water are Dangerous? 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there should be no lead in drinking water in order for the water to be safe for human consumption. While this regulation is among the restrictions which must be followed by city water providers, the exposure to lead contamination from municipal water supplies should be virtually nonexistent. However in recent years investigations have found lead in the municipal water of some of the USA’s largest cities. That being said, most lead contamination now, actually results from old pipes and fixtures in homes. 

Reducing the Potential for Lead Exposure 

The EPA’s regulations reduce the chances but do not eliminate the chances of lead being present in city water supplies received from water processing plants. They do not prevent the potential of exposure to lead from old pipes in your own home. If you live in an older house which was built prior to the implementation of new laws governing the production and installation of pipes and other plumbing components, or you are unwilling to risk the health of your family your best course of action to further reduce the chances of lead exposure is to install water filters capable of capturing and eliminating lead from drinking water.


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Replacing Supply Stops

Supply stops come in a wide variety of sizes. The sizes can be divided into two categories: inlet and outlet size.

Inlets are most commonly either 1/2 inch FPT (female pipe thread) IPS (iron pipe size) or 1/2 inch copper compression (NOM COMP) which is the same as 5/8 O.D. compression.

Outlets come in 3/8 and 1/2 inch O.D. compression or 1/2 inch IPS.

Which type you need depends on what type of pipe is coming out of the wall, either copper, or threaded pipe and what size outlet you need to mate with the fixture supply riser.

When replacing copper compression stops, use two crescent wrenches, one on the nut and one on the valve body. Turn the nut clockwise as you look at it. You probably won’t be able to remove the nut without a special tool because of the ferrule ring which has tightened to the copper. Put thread sealant on the ferrule and the valve threads. Use two wrenches again, tightening the nut onto the new valve.

Replacing a threaded pipe stop is just like replacing a standard fitting. Remove the old stop. Use Teflon tape or thread sealant on the threads. Then tighten the new stop with a crescent wrench.

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Replacing Fixture Supplies

When replacing fixture supplies or risers stainless steel braided supplies are recommended.

When sizing supplies you will have to take into account the inlet size, outlet size, and length.

Inlet sizes come in 3/8″ compression, 1/2″ compression, and 1/2″ IPS. 3/8″ comp. and 1/2″ IPS are most common.

Sinks will have an outlet size of 1/2″ IPS. Toilets will have an outlet size of 7/8″ Ball Cock.

Be sure you don’t buy supplies that are too short.

Pre made supplies require no thread sealant because they have washers.


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Helpful Ideas That Make Your Plumbing Work Better

Taking the time to learn the proper methods of plumbing tasks can be extremely rewarding. It shows you care about proper upkeep and that you want everything to always be in working order. There is always a way to gain additional knowledge and improve your initial abilities. Below are a few tips to help.

If you have noisy pipes that sound like hammering or squeaking, this is something that is easy to fix. Exposed pipes need to be properly anchored. If the pipes are in the walls, floors or ceiling, you may want to call a professional to come and help complete the project.

TIP! A great tip to use to stop your septic tank from backing up is to make sure you have it pumped at least every five years. Deposit and debris build up in your tank can result in major problems.

To keep your pipes from freezing in the winter, maintain a constant temperature in your home above freezing, even if the house is vacant. Pipes will freeze as soon as they reach freezing temperatures. It could take some time for thawing to occur so that you can have running water. However, frozen pipes often burst, and that could make a mess and result in a big repair bill.

Only pay the plumber once the job is done. Sometimes plumbers will request a cash deposit before any work can commence; however, you avoid paying the total bill until the whole job has been finished to your satisfaction. You will feel better paying the bill when you are completely satisfied with the job.

TIP! Don’t use harsh chemicals such as toilet tablets in your toilet. These products can be great when it comes to getting rid of odors, but unfortunately, they can cause significant damage to the rubber portions of your toilet.

If your toilet is clogged, the water level in the toilet is low, and your water level inside of the toilet appears low, but be sure to pour it from a height that is waist level or above so you do not flood the bathroom. Do this as often as necessary if the water level gets too low.

Don’t put oil, grease or fat into your drain. These substances will clog the drain as they cool and harden. Especially if you operate a garbage disposal, the fat causes blades to be less efficient. Dump your oil outside or in a container that you throw out with the regular trash.

TIP! You can keep your bathtub pipes clear by pouring baking soda and vinegar down your drain once a month. Use one cup of each.

Check the floors in your bathroom for soft areas around the floors. You can save money if you notice these issue sooner.

Ensure overflow holes have not been clogged. Overflow holes are one of those things which you forget about until you need them. Make sure to clean out the overflow holes each time you do maintenance checks on your sinks.

TIP! If you run your garbage disposal after working in the kitchen, use a large quantity of cold water. Cold water keeps blades sharp and allows for smoother disposal.

Use filters on all drains to prevent small particles from getting through. The ones in the bathroom can be cleaned out on a regular basis.

If you are using a slower head, see to it that you replace it with one that has good quality. Many times, people think it is okay to buy the cheapest shower head that they can find. The issue with that is they’re less tough and can break.

TIP! Make sure to clean out the dryers lint trap. This will save a ton of trouble for you, it will also prevent fires.

Schedule your plumbing work at one time. You might be tempted to contact a plumber every time you face a small problem, but if you wait and hire the plumber for a single visit, you will have time to save money for the fixes.Most plumbers charge an hourly rate and a flat rate for the trip: asking a plumber to fix multiple problems in one visit to your home.

One costly plumbing repair is frozen pipes. Fortunately, such damage is easy to prevent. First, you need to check your outside pipe to make sure it has the proper insulation. In addition, as the weather turns colder, make it a point to drain and detach your hoses. Finally, turn off the faucet located outside. If you take these preventative measures, you will save money in the long run.

TIP! If you have grout caught in your line, it’s most likely impossible for you to clean yourself. Do your best to break it up and flush it down.

Pour equal parts baking soda followed by vinegar down your bathtub drain every month. Plug the drain and allow the chemical reaction takes place. Wait for a little while, and then use boiling water to flush. This should open up the pipes of accumulated hair and soap scum.

Research your plumber online even if you are in the position of not having the choice in which plumber is going to enter your home.. When your insurance company takes care of choosing a plumber for you, it is important to still look at their website, reviews and any customer comments they have. This will allow you to feel prepared when they come to your house.

TIP! Be certain that your toilet does not have a leak. Put food coloring in your toilet tank to test the toilet for leaks.

Overflow Holes

Some have no idea of plumbing in general, so they pay whatever the plumber wants. If you own your home, you should definitely be sure to learn enough to understand what the professional is accomplishing. This will ensure that you are not ripped off.

TIP! If your washing machine’s drain stack overflows, snake it with a regular pipe snake. The pipe may be clogged up due to lint.

For the conservation-minded consumer, it might be wise to purchase a tankless water heater. These heaters only heat water when it is needed, so they do not store any water the way a regular heater does. These water heaters will save you money, as they are not wasting energy to heat water that you are not using.

TIP! Certain things like chicken skin, carrots, pumpkin and banana are considered bad on the blade, because they have the potential of getting caught and clogging the drain. Sift your food for difficultly-ground materials like these so you can throw them away, then put the rest of your food down the disposal.

Check out any loose tiles for warning signs of damage from water. One cause for loose tiles is a water leak. You should press on tiles to see if they yield to the pressure you are placing on it. Consider loose tiles to be an early warning system so you can schedule a repair right away.

TIP! Water should never accumulate around your water heating unit. If it does, there is a leak and you should turn off the water to the unit immediately.

Now you have some necessary knowledge and tools in order for you to try out your plumbing skills. That must feel great! The tips listed above were put together with you in mind to help you keep improving on your plumbing skills. Perhaps you have acquired some go-to plumbing truths.


8 Easy Tips To Finding The Right Toilet

Maybe you’re building a house, or you’re remodeling. With the all the things you’re thinking about, the toilet probably doesn’t seem too important. However, don’t forget about the toilet, a true hallmark of a civilized home. Following a few straightforward steps can help you find a toilet that is right for you, both functionally and aesthetically. Remember, all toilets are not built the same!

Look for this in a toilet:

1). The toilet bowl’s shape: You can choose an elongated shape or a round one. The round front tends to be two inches shorter, and works well for smaller spaces. The larger elongated front is more comfortable and sanitary, since there is less drip on the toilet.

2). The toilet size: There are lots of choices, with different lengths, widths and heights To get a comfortable fit, make sure you measure the available space. Don’t forget about the rough-in space – the distance of the bowl’s center to the finished wall – as this too will determine the toilet’s maximum size.

3). The toilet trapway’s size: The trap way is that part of the toilet that through which the water and waste exit. The smallest size available passes through waste of a 1.5 inch diameter. Larger trapways make it less likely that the toilet will get clogged.

4). How the toilet flushes: In the US, by law all toilets must have a 1.6 gallon tank to conserve water. However, you do still have some choices. In gravity fed toilets, the weight of the water from the tank pushes the waste through an S shaped trap way, as the siphon that is created empties the bowl. For a little extra flushing help, pressure assisted toilets use compressed air in the toilet tank. When flushing, the pressurized air pushes the water more strongly into the bowl, resulting in a better flush. On the downside, besides the bigger expense, these toilets tend to be noisier and harder to repair.

5). 1 or 2 piece toilets: For the budget minded, toilets consisting of the two separate pieces of toilet bowl and tank are appropriate. There are up to six parts in a one piece toilet that seamlessly make it up. These have a bit more style to them (with a correspondingly more expensive price tag), and need less space and are easier to clean.

6). Ease of maintaining: Many higher end toilets are built explicitly for ease of maintenance. For instance, Toto, an innovative Japanese manufacturer, has SanaGloss, a ceramic glaze which prevents bacteria and mold buildup, making the toilet easy to clean. American Standard has its EasyClean feature. The designers at Kohler have come up with an insulated liner that prevents moisture from condensation on the toilet tank’s outside.

7). Appearance: While a toilet needs to work well, it also needs to look good in your bathroom. It’s a good thing that modern toilets are available in a wide array of styles, sizes and colors. This can come at a price – for instance, non-white toilets tend to be more expensive. One approach you may to consider is to choose a toilet that is part of a bathroom suite, thus ensuring that are the fixtures are in harmony.

8). What else?: If you’re willing to spend the money, you can get a fancy toilet with a built in bidet, heated seat or air drying system. Kohler Comfort Height toilets have a higher seat, making sitting down and standing easier.

You’re now ready to go and choose your perfect toilet.


Tankless Gas Water Heaters – Are They More Energy Efficient

Tank-less-water-heaters have been popular in Europe and Asia for many, many years, but in United States have become popular only recently.

What is a tankless water heater?

It is also call is “on demand” water-heater -increased energy efficiency 10% – 50 % .A tankless unit provide hot water only as it is needed This results in energy savings of from 14% to 50% depending on the size.

The traditional storage tank heaters keep large quantities of water heated whether or not is about to get used. Storage tank heaters also reheat water that has not been used but has cooled inside the tank. On the other hand, a tankless heaters only expends energy to heat water as it is used. The energy savings from using a tankless water heater instead of a storage tank unit are approximately 20% of your energy bill that goes to heating water.

Types of tankless gas heaters

Tankless water heaters are physically smaller than conventional tank heaters and are generally wall mounted.There are two types of tankless-water-heaters:

– Point of use – water-heaters are designed for dedicated use, meaning they supply a single faucet,

shower or appliance. “Point of use” tankless-water heaters are smaller than whole house models and fit easily

in a bathroom vanity cabinet or linen closet.

– Whole house tankless-water-heaters will heat water for all needs throughout the house. These water heaters are larger than “point of use” heaters and are best situated in basements, garages or, depending on the climate where you live, outside.

Tankless-heaters can be fueled by gas (natural or propane) or electricity. Your fuel choice will affect the heater’s price, cost to operate and flow rate. Gas heaters are generally larger than electric units and cost more initially, but since gas

is cheaper than electricity, gas powered tankless heaters are less expensive to operate. They can also generate larger flow rates, making them a more effective whole-house choice. If you’re considering a gas-powered tankless-water-heater choose a model without a pilot light to save energy and reduce operating costs.

Electric heaters are less expensive up front but cost more to operate. They also have lower flow rates than gas-powered units, so they’re better suited for point-of-use needs unless your home’s required flow rate doesn’t exceed its power. To maximize energy savings, look for tankless units with modulating controls that increase or decrease the amount of energy required to heat the-water depending on the flow rate.

Many tankless heaters qualify for a $300 Federal tax credit, so will get a well deserved break in that direction. Tankless-water-heater will last up to 20 years twice as long as conventional tank heaters. Add in their energy efficiency and lower operating costs . In most cases, the savings are even more if the heating unit is installed outside.,While a tank-less-gas-water-heater is quite an investment, it will pay for itself over time. The best part is that once it has paid for the investment, you will keep saving money each month.



As with all plumbing fixtures toilets must be kept clean in order to last. Two simple methods of cleaning a toilet are with a brush and toilet cleaner or for more difficult stains a good cleanser and Scotchbrite sponge. Try to keep up under the rim as clean as possible as this is a place for the buildup of calcium deposits and mildew.

Avoid using bleach or blue tablets in the tank as this is hard on the rubber parts. If you must use them expect to be changing the flapper regularly.

Be sure to keep caps on the floor bolts or they will corrode quickly.

Wipe down the sides and around the base with a light detergent or other cleaner.

Caulking around the base of the toilet is recommended for a neat appearance. Caulk must be kept clean to last.


Keeping a faucet clean will help it keep its shine for a lifetime. A daily or regular wipe down of a faucet will do wonders occasionally you may need to use a general purpose cleaner or a cleanser for tough stains.

One way to protect the finish of a faucet is to give it a car waxing.

Chrome will far outlast other finishes because of its nature. Polished brass finish may loose its luster because contaminants get under the protective coating. Avoid purchasing polished brass fixtures.

Occasionally you will need to replace the aerator to obtain a nice aerated flow.


Take care of the chrome and brass in the same manor as a faucet, wiping it down daily. Clean with a non abrasive cleaner. Protect with car wax.

An important part of tub/shower maintenance is the caulking. Clean caulking regularly with a bleach based mildew killer. Replace the caulk if it is separating from the fixture as soon as possible. Be sure to caulk around the faucet controls and tub spout. 

Scrub walls and base with a non abrasive cleanser such as comet.

Seal tile grout on a regular basis as recommended by the manufacturer of the sealant.

To keep clear glass shiny, use a squeegee after every shower.


Never put anything down the drain except water, soap, toilet paper and human waste. Avoid allowing food down the drain, even with a garbage disposal.

Treat trouble drains such as the kitchen sink drain with an enzyme made for drains. The bacteria will dissolve buildup before it clogs the drain.

Try to keep hair out of the shower drain with a strainer.

Pour bleach into drain and let stand for five minutes to destroy odors.


General Toilet Information

Plumbers refer to toilets as water closets or “closets” for short. A typical toilet has the following identifying parts:

A tank that sits atop the bowl and is attached by tank bolts and sealed with a sponge gasket

A trip lever handle that operates the flush valve

A flush valve with a flapper located in the center of the tank. Some make a flapper less flush valve now.

The tank has water that the level can be adjusted to the proper level, a half inch below the top of the refill tube on the flush valve.

A Float cock that opens to refill the tank and bowl. The float cock is on the left side of the tank and has a small tube going to the refill tube on the flush valve.

Bolts that hold the toilet to the flange. These are called closet bolts and closet flange respectively

Toilet Constantly Runs

It’s the old problem of the toilet stopping and going all night. It can drive you crazy! You have probably done a little of your own investigating already.

By lifting the lid of the tank you can see what is going on. On a typical toilet there is an apparatus in the center where all the water drains out to flush the bowl. It is called a flush valve. There is a rubber part that seals the valve and opens when the chain is pulled, it is called the flapper. The flapper must be in good condition to seal the tank. You most likely will need to replace the flapper. When you go to buy a new one, buy a Korky brand flapper. They make the best one. Kohler toilets and some other brands may require original replacement parts such as a large rubber washer that fits on a plastic flapper.

The seat on which the flapper sits must be absolutely clean and smooth. Use a Scotch-Brite scrub sponge or pad to clean the seat before replacing the flapper. The chain connecting the flapper to the handle must be properly adjusted. A small amount of slack is just right. If you still have problems with water escaping into the bowl chances are you need a new flush valve. To be certain this is the problem before proceeding, turn off the water supply to the toilet and see if the tank drains on its own. If you replace the flush valve, you will want to replace the tank bolts and sponge gasket at the same time. The tank bolts may need to be cut to be removed.

Another problem that occurs in the tank is the apparatus on the left side known as the float cock. The water in the tank should be about a half inch below the top of the flush valve fill tube, also known as the hush tube. A standard float cock with the ball on the end of the rod can easily be adjusted by bending the rod. If the float cock needs replacing, I recommend using a Fluidmaster brand float cock. It is easy to install and adjust. Please refer to replacing supplies and stops if needed.

Toilet Overflows

If the toilet overflows or gurgles when other drains are used you probably have a clogged main. If not, proceed to the next step.

By now you hopefully have stopped the toilet from overflowing, but if not be sure the water is off to the toilet.

Always attempt the easiest fix first. The Plumber’s Helper, the good old plunger. The proper plunger for a toilet is shaped more like a rubber ball than a cup. The correct action on the toilet plunger is the downward stroke to force the water down the drain. Be aggressive.

If the plunger doesn’t clear the toilet, the next easiest is the Closet Auger. The closet auger is a short snake designed to clear an object from the toilet itself. If you don’t have a closet auger, and most don’t, you can always remove the toilet and check it for objects.

Toilet Leaks

Toilets leak from one of three places: the base, the tank, or the supply connection. Leaks from the base are fixed by removing and replacing the toilet. Leaks from the tank require removing and replacing the tank

To remove the tank turn off the water to the toilet, empty the tank, and remove the tank bolts. Cut them if you have to.

Remove and replace the old sponge gasket sealing the tank to the bowl. Replace the tank bolts with new ones. If you can’t get the tank bolts to stop leaking, install an extra rubber washer, brass washer and nut between the tank and bowl. If the supply connection is leaking refer to repairing supply lines.

Toilet Doesn’t Operate

This section is for if you operate the handle and nothing happens.

Open the lid of the tank.

Check to be sure the chain is connected between the flapper and the flush handle.

Adjust the chain so that there is a tiny bit of slack.

If the handle is broke or droops replace it with a new one

Remember the toilet handles nut has a left hand thread and is removed by turning it clockwise or to the right, the opposite of a standard nut.

Toilet is Loose

Remove the caps from the closet bolts (floor bolts).

Tighten down the floor bolts.

If that doesn’t fix the problem you will need to remove and replace the toilet.

Removing and Replacing the Toilet

Turn the water supply off to the toilet. Flush the toilet. Remove all water from the toilet with a large sponge or wet vacuum.

Remove the caps from the closet bolts holding the toilet to the floor.

Remove the nuts from the closet bolts. If the bolts spin, use a pair of pliers on the nuts giving them upward pressure when removing them. If need be, cut the bolts with a hack saw or Sawzall.

If the toilet is caulked to the floor the caulking will need to be broken with a knife.

Prepare a place to set the toilet by laying down a rag or a piece of cardboard.

With hands on either side of the toilet seat hinge area, gently lift the toilet out of place.

If you are reinstalling an old toilet, the wax will need to be removed from the bottom with a small putty knife.

Inspect the closet flange for damage to the area the bolts hold onto. If the flange is broken it will need to be replaced.

Install new closet bolts on the flange. If there is a hole under the place the bolts go they will need to be secured to the flange with a stainless or brass nut and washer.

Install a new wax ring with a plastic insert onto the flange. If the floor level is above the flange you may need to add an extra plain wax ring.

Lower the toilet directly in place so that the bolts go through the holes. You should feel the toilet rest on the wax and crush the wax ring as it is secured to the floor.

If you have two-piece bolt caps, place the base on first. Next place the metal washer and secure it with a nut. After the toilet is securely fastened, check it to see it doesn’t rotate or move in any way. If need be, shim up the bottom to keep it from rocking.

Attach the water supply. If need be, replace the washer on the toilet connection. If the supply is corrugated copper the washer will need form fitting threads on the inside.

Turn on the water and test for leaks flushing the toilet several times.

Cut off the excess closet bolts with a hacksaw or sawzall being careful not to damage the porcelain. Install the bolt caps

Caulk the base of the toilet and install the seat if needed.