Ask the Expert – Plumbing Tips from Vince

Noisy, Gurgling Pipes in My Sacramento Home

QUESTION: Help! Since remodeling the kitchen several years ago, there are loud gurgling noises in the sink whenever the clothes washer in the garage is draining. I have had it with this distracting racket and need advice on what could be causing it. Read the Answer

Noise, Knocking Pipes and Water Hammer

QUESTION: My mom’s home was built in 1959. For the last year, we have heard a loud knocking any time the water from one of the kitchen, bathtub or bathroom faucets is turned off after running. It knocks four or five times and then stops. It doesn’t happen when the toilets are flushed or when the dishwasher or clothes washer are run. We have never seen evidence of a leak. Can you shed some light on what is causing the knocking? Read the Answer

One-Piece vs. Two-Piece Toilet Flappers Developing Black Substace

QUESTION: Three years ago I purchased a Kohler low-profile toilet. I have had to replace the flapper three times. Also, the handle never returns to the “off” position regardless of how many times it is adjusted. Currently, there is a black substance appearing in the bowl, not in the tank. What is going on? Read the Answer

Bellies and Flat Spots

QUESTION: I purchased a new home in Rocklin in June 2002. In February 2004, the laundry room flooded. In other rooms, sinks, tubs and toilets were filled with backed-up water. A plumber cleared the system and said he found what he referred to as a “belly” in the pipes. We called the builders. They came out and determined the system to be clear but found what they called a “flat spot.” I fear that this mess could happen again. Also, from the time I moved in, I’ve noticed a musty odor coming from the kitchen sink. When I finally got the attention of the service rep, I told him the problem was getting more pronounced. He sent a plumber, who said everything is draining okay and that the odor is not unusual because garbage disposals are made differently now and they collect food particles under the rubber gasket. I feel they are not addressing the drainage or odor problems. Read the Answer

Orangeburg and Tarpaper Pipes

QUESTION: I live in a home that was built in 1950. My neighbor told me that he had to replace his sewer line because it was made of tarpaper that broke down. Our home has occasionally had sewer backups. Were tarpaper pipes used a lot in the Sacramento area and how can I know if I have the same tarpaper pipes? Read the Answer

Trenchless Sewer replacement with TV Camera and Landscaping

QUESTION: We have repeatedly had sewer problems in our home in the midtown area. I called a plumber who said that I probably need a sewer replacement. He said that there could be a break or roots affecting the sewer. My landscaping includes a new brick patio and well-established trees, shrubs and lawn. How can I be sure that I need a new sewer? Is there any way to avoid ruining my landscaping? Read the Answer

Tankless Water Heater Installation

QUESTION: It’s time we replaced our old water heater, and recently I’ve been hearing about “tankless water heaters.” Are these better than the traditional water heaters? And if so, could a homeowner install one himself or is the job better left to a professional? Thank you for any information you can give me. Read the Answer

Tankless Water Heater and Electric Water Heaters

QUESTION: My husband and I bought a 20-plus-year-old condominium that is all electric. We inherited a standard electric 50-gallon hot water tank that is over 10 years old and seems to be failing. We have done some research on replacement hot water tanks and systems, with an eye toward longevity, as well as the primary goal of generous amounts of ready hot water at a reasonable cost. We are seriously thinking about putting in a tankless hot water system. We are told by the manufacturer that it will afford us instant and endless hot water at an economical price, we will gain an extra closet where the old tank was, and that this is the equipment of the future. We are told by the naysayers that it will not heat quickly or hot enough, that we will incur a great fire danger due to the current needed to run through old electrical wires, that no one knows how to install them properly or how long they’ll last, and that they may be good for gas-powered installations but not for electric-powered installations. We talked to people at SMUD, and they were noncommittal, saying they didn’t know much about them. Can you tell me what is known about tankless hot water systems? Read the Answer

Toilet Seal Leaks

QUESTION: About two years ago, I discovered that the toilet in my main bathroom was leaking. In January 2003 I removed the toilet and found that the leaking seal had ruined the particle board. I removed all the damaged board and hired a contractor to replace the flooring with marine plywood. New vinyl flooring and a new toilet seal were installed. Six months later an annual termite inspection revealed that the toilet seal was seeping. The contractor returned to replace the double toilet seal. The termite inspection in May 2004 revealed again that the toilet seal was seeping. I hired a different contractor to replace the seal but upon periodic inspecting, I find there is some moisture. That’s three toilet seals in a year and a half. What can be done? Read the Answer

Cold water

QUESTION: My mother’s half-bath lost its cold water over a year ago. There’s still hot water at the sink, but no cold water either there or at the toilet. I can understand losing hot water from the water heater, but cold water? There don’t seem to be leaks anywhere – if there were, the yard would show it, wouldn’t it? There is a crawl space under the house with no apparent standing water. Could the pipes be clogged, even though this bathroom was added after the original construction? Can you tell what may have happened to the cold water? Read the Answer

Drain Vent or Slow Drain

QUESTION: Recently, a friend had a problem with his kitchen sink drain and tried all kinds of things to clear the drain. He finally had to call a sewer service, which fixed the problem when he wasn’t home. A service representative said the problem was a clogged vent, but my friend doesn’t know how it was repaired. I live in an older home with some slow drains, and I may have the same problem. How do you clear a clogged vent? Read the Answer

Toilet With Blue Streaks

QUESTION: I have an expensive commode with a pull knob on top and very low water flush. The back part of the commode has blue steaks that we have been unable to remove. What could be causing them? Read the Answer

Water Temperature Changes and Old Pipes

QUESTION: The water in our showers ranges from extreme cold to extreme hot without us turning the knob. This happens in both bathrooms. The water heater is about 12 years old. What causes this and how can it be fixed? Read the Answer

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