Dishwasher Air-Gaps…Do You need One?

Dishwasher air-gaps are required devises in many states across the country and the best way to ensure you’re code compliant is to check with your local buildings department. Here in N.Y.C we have the option to use an air-gap or simply create a high loop in the dishwasher drain hose and secure it as high as possible under the sink base cabinet. I’ve been using the second option as described and honestly can say I’ve yet to see a counter top mounted air-gap in my everyday plumbing practice.dishwasher-air-gap

So what is the purpose of the dishwasher air-gap? It’s to prevent dirty contaminated sink drain water from backing into your dishwasher thus creating a potentially hazardous health issue. Not only is it unhealthy, but the stagnant water pooled at the bottom of dishwasher absolutely STINKS!. When I’m called in to address a leak under a sink, nine times out of ten I’ll find the dishwasher drain hose draped on the floor of the base cabinet and connected to either the garbage disposal or directly into a tailpiece.

What this does is allow drain water to migrate from the sink drain into the dishwasher and the homeowner has no clue it’s happening. They then open the dishwasher door and discover some nasty smelling water, especially if they don’t use the dishwasher that often. It’ll happen more frequently if the kitchen sink drain is partially clogged and draining slowly. The simple fix is to a. make sure the sink is draining properly and b. elevate the drain hose as high as possible and secure it to the underside of the counter top or cabinet wall. And if your state requires, the installation of a proper sink / counter mounted air-gap.

If a blockage takes place in the discharge hose between the air-gap and or tailpiece the sink mounted device will discharge water alerting you of a problem. You would be better served mounting it to the sink itself as opposed to a counter top, but each individual job will dictate what the best approach will be. If it does become clogged, you could remove the decorative cap and using the tube from a roll of paper towels attempt to blow free the blockage. On the other hand if it’s clogged with some hard food particles, you’re probably going to have to dismantle the waste hose under the sink to address the issue.

The point is dishwasher air-gaps are use to prevent hazardous sink water from getting into your dishwasher and contaminating dishes, utensils, etc. Check out the video below where I explain in detail why you need a dishwasher air-gap and an alternative option if your state does not require one. As always feel from to contact me at info@bobsplumbingvideos.com, stay well and HAPPY PLUMBING!

Best Regards,
BOB

How to Cut Off A Toilet Tank Handle

This post on “How To Cut Off A Toilet Tank Handle” is going to be a short one, as I agree with that old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In this case, it’s the video below which will unlock my trade secrets. Moving on, we all should know by now that when tightening pipe, fittings, nuts, bolts etc, it’s clockwise to tighten and counter clockwise to loosen or remove. The simplest way to remember this is that popular phrase “righty tighty / lefty loosey”.

But “stop the clock”, when we’re talking about toilet tank levers, that old phrase goes out the window! You see manufacturers figured out a long time ago that by constantly flushing your toilet, the handle would eventually become loose. So enter the reverse thread in which you would tighten to the left and loosen or remove to the right, thus keeping the tank lever from eventually flopping around.

Many older vintage toilet tank levers were made of a cheap white metal composite which would eventually fuse to the threads of the handle making it impossible to remove. Keep tightening in the wrong direction and you’re guaranteed to crack the toilet tank! When that happens the only solution is to cut it off or run the risk of replacing your toilet, especially if you’re not aware of the reverse threads.

Most homeowners aren’t aware and that’s exactly why I made this video “How To Cut Off A Toilet Tank Handle”. So why not check out the video and leave your comments, I would love to know what you think. Remember “righty tighty / lefty loosey” does not apply! As always, you can e-mail your questions to me at info@bobsplumbingvideos.com.

Best Regards & Happy Plumbing!

Bob

How To Cut Out A Toilet Tank Bolt

A YouTube viewer reached out to me after watching my video on installing a toilet tank onto a toilet bowl. He found out as most do that when removing an existing toilet tank to replace the bolts and a flush valve gasket, that they’re rusted in place and won’t budge. He sprayed them with WD-40 and every other lubricant he could think of but had no luck at all. He asked what the next step would be to cut out a toilet tank bolt? I replied “you have two choices, a. get a good old hacksaw blade and proceed to cut away by hand or b. if you’re experienced with power tools, a reciprocating saw will get the job done much quicker.
toilet tank bolt

Most new close coupled tank to bowl kit combinations come supplied with all brass bolts, washers, nuts and or wing nuts which are easily removable should the need arise. Generally, at some point in the life of a toilet the flush valve gasket and or the gaskets under the bolts holding the tank to the bowl start to leak. Pretty simple fix to go out and get a new tank bolt and flush valve gasket kit, but most over the counter generic kits are often supplied with a brass bolt and all the remaining components are galvanized steel. If you’re not aware of it by now, the two dissimilar metals are not compatible. Soon after being installed the galvanized iron will start to rust in place a bond to the brass bolt making it difficult or impossible to remove.

I will get a call for service stating that their’s water and or a rust stain on either side of the floor directly in line where the tank bolts pass thru the toilet bowl. At that point, I’ll make a judgment call as to whether or not to attempt to unscrew the nut and bolt or to proceed and just cut them off. My first choice if I have the room and in an effort to save time will be my trusted Milwaukee SawZall. I have the skill and experience in using this method, but the fact is you don’t always have enough room to use this method. When that occurs, a good old hacksaw blade mounted in a blade handle (available in most home centers) always gets the job done. It may take a little longer, but with much less risk of damaging or cracking a tank with the power tool!

The key thing to remember is that if you’re faced with replacing the flush valve gasket and bolt kit, try to find all brass components so you won’t have to deal with the tedious process of cutting out the bolts in the future. If you don’t have the experience with power tools, I highly recommend using the hacksaw blade method. You can cause some serious damage using the power tool method. When I’m faced with an aftermarket replacement kit, I’ll just replace all the galvanized components with brass parts and I’m good to go. Take a look at the video below where I go over some options on how to cut out a toilet tank bolt, and if you have questions feel free to reach out to me. I’m always available by e-mail info@bobsplumbingvideos.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards & Happy Plumbing,

Bob

My Delta Faucet Still Leaks!

I’m a big fan of Delta faucets and when that very first generation single lever faucet was introduced many moons ago I absolutely loved it. Well made, easy to repair and just an all around good product. A routine Delta repair would consist of a pair of springs, rubber seats, a new ball and you were good to go. Eventually, I would purchase complete repair kits which included all the previous parts mentioned plus all the “O” ring washers and a spray diverter if the faucet was so equipped.

delta guide imageThe original Deltas used a solid brass ball unlike the hollow stainless steel versions of today. In both cases the ball had a slot cut into it which would ride on a small brass guide located on the right side of the faucet interior.I would start to get service calls stating that the customer had to play with the handle and position it in exactly the proper spot in order to get the water to stop dripping. I thought this sounds a little flakey, but after taking a close look I figured out what was causing the problem.

The little brass protrusion or guide inside the faucet body would wear down and in some cases become virtually flush with the faucet body. The result being the ball lost its ability to be guided left to right for a positive shut-off. You would have to literally find a “sweet spot” for the handle in order for the water to stop running. I started to realize this would happen more often with the first generation Delta faucets which used the solid brass ball. Because it was one solid mass of brass, it eventually wore down the guide preventing the ball from making a positive shut-off.

If you find yourself having to get that handle in exactly the right position a.k.a “sweet spot” in order for the water to shut after you’ve replaced all the other parts inside the faucet, it’s time to take another look inside. If you find that the guide inside the faucet is pretty much worn down, you’re going to be faced with replacing the faucet. Check out the video below where I show you exactly what to look for. Don’t forget ! if you got questions, I got answers! Forward them to info@bobsplumbingvideos.com and as always,

Happy Plumbing.

Bob.

When To Use a Plastic Ferrule

Back in the good old days coming up into the trade, every faucet or toilet I installed was with solid pipe. For faucets we would reduce the 1/2″ water supply lines to 1/4″ using reducing couplings and then we would choose from varying lengths of 1/4″ brass tailpieces to make the connection into the faucet. For toilets there was generally 3/8″ brass riser pipe which fit into the male shank of the toilet fill valve a.k.a. (ballcock). We would use the female nut supplied with the fill valve and make the connection using some ball wick.

Slowly the chrome plated copper basin and toilet supply tubes made their way into the market which frankly made life so much easier. I still use them today depending on job circumstances, but boy have times changed! Walk into any home center or plumbing supply house and ask for the parts to connect your toilet or faucet and you’ll more than likely get a flexible stainless steel supply tube. Hey that’s progress I guess and truth be told I’ll use them again depending on the job circumstances.

What I won’t use is those braided nylon water supply tubes I see all over the home centers. They are just one big accident waiting to happen and I’ve seen my fair share of them blow right out of their crimp points causing some serious water damage. DON’T USE THEM! . Enter the P.E.X. style water supply tube which to me is something a handyman might use (no offense guys) and truth is I would use them before using one of those braided plastic supply tubes.

The key in using the P.E.X. style supply tubes is to use the plastic ferrule that’s generally supplied with the tube. All to often I’ll come onto a job perhaps to install a new faucet and I discover the last guy used the metal brass ferrule designed to be use with the copper supply tubes. News Bulletin Friends! That metal ring will cut into the tube and maybe not cause a leak instantly but down the road someone is going to be the unfortunate victim of a leaking supply tube and it’ll most likely happen when they’re not home!

Take a look at the video and if you have any concerns or questions concerning P.E.X. style water supply tubes. I’d love to hear from you, I can always be reached at info@bobsplumbingvideos.com.

HAPPY PLUMBING,

Bob

Damaged Fitting? How To Seal It!

A youtube viewer left a comment about how he was trying to remove the brass spud end of an old radiator valve from his cast iron radiator. He stated that while cutting through the brass spud, he cut into the female threads of the radiator. Now he has a damaged fitting and is concerned that he ruined the radiator and isn’t happy about the thought of having to replace it.

I outline that process in my video How To Cut Off A Steam Valve part two. When I’m removing a brass spud from a steam radiator my tool of choice is a Lenox close quarter saw. My second choice would be a good old hacksaw blade which will also get the job done. I personally think that you’re less likely to damage things when you cut by hand.

That being said I know many plumbers like to use their electric or battery operated reciprocating saw which admittedly is quick, but unless you’re experienced in using the tool you can damage fittings and radiators in a flash. Don’t get me wrong, we work in crazy some positions and sometimes even with hand tools I’ve cut into fittings and radiators alike.So when you do compromise a fitting, what do you do?

Well long before Teflon tape came around I used a good old bulletproof spool of lamp-wick.It’s basically a cotton based thread that you wrap in a clockwise direction in between the threads of a piece of pipe or a male radiator spud. Similar to how you would apply Teflon Tape, only it sits down in between the threads and builds as you make multiple passes. But the icing on the cake is a joint sealing compound called Blue Block which if left to set for 24 hrs. will form a leak proof seal and save you the grief of having to remove or replace a fitting.

Hercules manufacturers Blue Block in addition to a product called Grip. Either one will do the trick, but be warned! Wear gloves and be super careful not to get it on your clothes or tools. Lacquer thinner is the only thing that will get it off. So for those of you who find yourself in the unfortunate position of cutting too deep into a fitting or radiator, fear not! Lamp-wick and Blue Block to the rescue. Sure you cut so deep into a fitting that it may have to be replaced, but I would certainly check out my video first.

If you still have a question or special circumstances, I can always be reached at info@bobsplumbingvideos.com. Regards and HAPPY PLUMBING!

Bob

Which Toilet Gasket Should You Use?

Good Question, I think? For this old timer, the good old fashion 100% virgin wax seal has been and still is the most popular way to set a toilet bowl today. That being said, there are new products coming into the market each and every day. Today I’d like to briefly introduce you to two of them which are becoming ever more popular among the do it yourself community.

fluidmaseter gasketFirst up is The Fluidmaster “Better Than Wax” universal toilet seal. This wax-free toilet gasket fits most toilets and is easily re-positionable without the fuss of dealing with wax which can be somewhat messy if you have to re-position the bowl.The company says that once in place, it will create a very tight and effective seal that will resist the effects of average toilet plunging.

It’s made of a somewhat semi-hard rubber material that in my opinion will work just fine if you have a relatively level floor. If the floor is severely out of level and you find yourself having to shim the bowl in order for it to sit straight, this might not be the right choice. Next up is the Sani Seal waxless toilet seal.

The Sani Seal gasket is made of a very flexible polyurethane foam that is re-positionable, sani-seal gasketantimicrobial and functions no matter what the temperature, providing an easy trouble free installation. They both will position the toilet bolts in such a way that you literally can’t miss when setting a toilet bowl. Because the Sani Seal gasket extremely flexible, I think it would be the best choice if your floor is not exactly level.

I personally have not used either of them and that’s not to say they aren’t a reliable replacement for a good old fashion wax gasket. Wax can tend to get messy if you don’t know what you’re doing, so if getting wax all over yourself is something that doesn’t appeal to you, either of these two choices will work for you. If cost is a concern, consider this. A wax gasket will cost you a buck or two, the Fluidmaster gasket will set you back nine or ten bucks and finally the Sani Seal gasket will set you back twelve to fourteen bucks.

I give you my take on both of these products in the video below, so why not take a look for yourself and tell me what you think and if in fact you’ve used either of these products. If you have any questions at all, I can always be reached at info@bobsplumbingvideos.com. I look forward to your questions.

Best Regards and HAPPY PLUMBING!

Bob

Screw,Solder,Push or Press Fittings?

Should you use screw pipe, soldered joints, push fittings or press fitting technology? Good question with some good choices, so what should you choose? Well from my perspective I will generally try to match what already exists on the job. The majority of homes I work in features screw pipe a.k.a. i.p.s (iron pipe size) which is typically brass pipe. When making small repairs whether inside or outside of the wall I carry an assortment of brass fittings and pipe nipples from 1″ to 6″ in length in half inch increments. If I have to make a larger repair which goes beyond that 6″ threshold I will transition to copper pipe and fittings. Why? plain and simply it would be cost prohibitive to purchase, cut, thread and install brass pipe in today’s world.

When copper become the material of choice over brass pipe I thought there goes the skill required to fabricate a properly working water distribution system but in order to stay competitive the marketplace we had to make that transition. The soldered joint has been a widely accepted method of joining copper pipe for decades and does require a fair amount of skill to be done correctly. Just when you thought skill was back in demand, enter the Push Fitting! UGH! The most popular name associated with push fittings is Shark-Bite. You simply cut, prepare and then push the pipe into the fitting which is held in place by a series of stainless steel teeth that lock onto the pipe. The watertight seal is made by a single “O” ring washer and if you need to disassemble the joint, you can do so by using a removal tool provided by the manufacturer.

copper pipe imageI’m not particularly a fan of Shark-Bite fittings but will admit that I do carry a few couplings and caps in 1/2″ and 3/4″ sizes to make emergency repairs until I can make a permanent repair with a soldered joint. There are several manufacturers who make removable push fittings and they all share the same methods in assembling and removing the pipe. Thankfully at present in New York City we are not permitted to use removable mechanical connectors, and hopefully, they’ll write that into the plumbing code permanently. It’s only my opinion, but I just don’t like them. We are however allowed to use non-removable push fittings made by a few manufacturers and once the pipe is pushed into the fitting, that’s it! The joint is permanent and if you make a mistake, you have to start over again. A little more skill required!

Next is Press Technology which is becoming increasingly more popular especially if you’re performing larger scale renovations. Although the cost of a press fitting is typically four to five times more than the cost of a traditional copper sweat fitting, the savings in labor (no cleaning, fluxing, heating or solder) far outweighs the price difference. You’ll have to make and investment in the Press Tool to the tune of about $2000.00 plus depending on model and manufacturer, but if you’re cranking out a large amount renovation work, you’ll make that investment back in no time. The joint is formed by preparing the pipe which is inserted into the press fitting and then with the appropriately sized set if jaws clamped around the fitting, you pull the trigger and in about seven seconds you have a leak-free joint.

I personally have not invested in the tool because the majority of the work I perform is service and repair work and I can’t justify the expense for the tool or the fittings at this time, but that could change in the future. So in this video, I go over the pros and cons of all of these connecting methods
and hopefully, bring some new light to those of you wondering which one is right for you. And if you enjoy this video I would appreciate you heading on over to You-Tube and give me a thumbs up and also SUBSCRIBE to my channel.

Regards and HAPPY PLUMBING…Bob

Prevent a Plumbing Disaster

After months and months of procrastination and having second thoughts about it, I’ve finally decided to release my home plumbing inspection process called “The No Brainer Home Plumbing Inspection Checklist” I recorded this series which is a combination of video tutorials, screen capture tutorials and a keynote presentation by me back in late 2015. Why did I wait so long? The true answer is I didn’t think there would be a demand for it, but hey that’s not for me to decide after all I’m the guy you call when the shit hits the fan.

What I’ve done is to replicate the procedure I use for my own service agreement plumbing clients. I will once annually perform this walk thru inspection in their homes looking for small signs of trouble which could potentially turn into a plumbing emergency if left unattended. Generally speaking, if this is a first-time inspection I will always find a multitude of problems brewing that my clients weren’t even aware of.

The goal for me is to find small problems and take care of them before they get out of hand ultimately saving my clients money. This was the thought in creating the “No Brainer Home Plumbing Inspection Checklist” If I could show you where and what to look for, you could then call your plumber and have him take care of the small things before they get out of hand.

When a plumbing emergency takes place, it places a huge financial burden on most of the families I service. A burst water heater, washing machine hose or plastic water connector is all it takes to ruin the family vacation you’ve been saving for all year long. In addition, what most families don’t realize is that their homeowner’s insurance policy is NOT going to cover the plumbers bill. They’ll only pay for the damages caused by the faulty plumbing, the plumbers bill is coming out of your pocket!

Throughout my career, I’ve identified two types of homeowners: Pro-Active or Re-Active, the latter would rather wait until a problem occurs before tending to it. If this is you, “The No Brainer Home Plumbing Inspection Checklist” is definitely not for you. On the other hand, if you are the Pro-Active type who cares about your home and finds value in preventative maintenance, then I encourage you to check out “The No Brainer Home Plumbing Inspection Checklist” You could just end up preventing a plumbing disaster and salvage the annual family vacation.

HAPPY PLUMBING, Bob

Prevent a Disaster Now!

Frost Proof SillCock? Maybe!

IMG_2417So everyone is intrigued with the frost proof sillcock, WHY?  I know,I know, I’m just a grumpy old time plumber who’s not open to the new modern way of doing things. That’s somewhat true, but the fact still remains if these frost proof valves are not installed correctly, you still run the risk of  BURST water line due to a FREEZE UP. How? Well, the bottom line is this. If you don’t pitch them downward away from the water source, the water will remain inside the cavity and at the first sub-freezing temperatures will cause them to fail! I’ve been installing outside hose lines longer than I care to remember and  I’ve been doing it successfully without using expensive frost proof sill-cocks. I guess there is a place for them to be used in commercial applications,but for the average homeowner, I don’t think you need them.

The key to installing an outside hose line is this, Install a good quality ball type shut-off valve inside the house just before the water line exits the home and  pitch them downward away from the waters source. When winter time rolls around, shut off the ball valve and open the outside faucet to drain out the remaining water inside the line. Pretty simple! But wait, what if the line is pitched backward towards the water source? It happens all the time here in New York City and when it does I simply install another hose bib inside the home to drain the water out of the line. Again when winter time rolls around I shut off the inside ball valve and open both the inside and out hose bib’s ensuring there is no more water sitting in the line.

An aid in helping the water drain successfully out of the line is to use a shut-off valve with a side inlet air vent port which will relieve any vacuum. I personally don’t use them, but they are available should you want them. The key to successfully preventing an outside hose line from an annual freeze up is to  shut them off in the first place! I get called in every year from the same customers who simply forgot to shut off the water supply to their outside hose lines and I even equip them with BIG ORANGE GLOW TAGS with the words SHUT IN WINTER! Go figure! 

I was called in this past week because a customer  had a leak coming thru his foundation wall from his frost proof sillcock. He didn’t shut off the inside water supply valveIMG_2416 because he thought he was protected with his fancy frost-proof valve. What he didn’t realize was that the washer inside the valve failed and the entire valve was back pitched which allowed water to fill the valve cavity. Upon the first freezing temperatures, the valve body split open leaking water through the foundation wall into his basement.

Check out the video where I show you the exact valve I pulled out of his house and believe it or not he wanted an exact replacement! I reminded him he would be well advised to shut-off the inside water supply valve to prevent this from happening again. By the way, I tagged the valve, you think he’ll read it?  Anyway thanks as always for stopping by and  if you enjoy my videos please give me a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel. Regards, HAPPY PLUMBING. Bob