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Plumbing Hints and Tips

General hints on blocked pipes, faulty faucets, taps, drains, and more.

Sweating Copper; an article extolling the virtues of, and uses for the magic metal

Re: Slow Draining Sinks -- If your sink drains are chronically slow and you live in an older house, the problem may be an accumulation of sludge in the lines. No amount of plunging and chemicals is going to fix this. What's needed is to climb up onto the roof of your house with a metal snake (preferably one with a business end looking a bit like a ballpeen hammer) and ram that snake down each of the drain lines, entering through the vent stacks, with a fair amount of force. It may require 50 or 100 motions for each stack. A licensed plumber will charge you about US$250 or, you can venture it yourself. You should also snake out any drain clean-outs you can find at ground level. -- Mark Gilman  Note: Climbing onto your roof can be very dangerous, better to get someone else to do it, - preferably someone with good experience. - ED

Tips on Pipes. If you have a split pipe, instead of draining down the whole system you can buy 'pipe freeze', (I know this product is available in the UK but not sure about anywhere else), It comes with a jacket that you wrap around the pipe and you spray something very cold into it and it freezes the pipe for about 30-40 mins. Saving time and money. -- Kevin Rockell UK   

Blocked Tap. Make sure you turn the water off at source before attempting to clear a blocked tap by taking it apart. -- Adam Le Gresley - Adam you sound as if you are talking from experience ? - Ed

Keep the Plug in. When working above a tank, cistern, sink or a bath remenber to keep the plug in the outlet or cover it somehow. Everything from swarf to screwdriver bits can fall down the outlet. Even professionals do it all the time - Darren Llewellen

Blocked Sinks. If you are using a plunger, trying to unblock a blocked sink, cover up the overflow holes with a damp cloth. This helps build up the pressure. -- Janet Adamson, Washington DC.

Toilets. If your toilet ball float is leaking and filling with water here is a useful trick I learnt to tide you over until you can get a new one. Take off the float (by unscrewing it), empty it, then screw it back on and wrap it in a plastic bag. -- David Edmunds

Starting Threads on Pipes - When threading pipes it is sometimes difficult to get started. You can make it easier by cutting slots in the end and then cutting off the end later  -- Richard Heffer. Camberley UK

Leaky Cistern - A clever way of checking to see if your cistern is leaking is to put in some food coloring. -- Anon

Good Practice - If you are installing tanks and fitting pipes to them be sure to cover the ends of the pipes with tape to stop pieces of plastic and swarf from dropping down them, the bits and pieces will block taps later on and cause all kinds of problems.- Talking from experience -- Richard Heffer. Camberley UK


Water Hammer Problem. When we lived in England we had a water hammer problem. The plumber who came to fix it simply added a pressure reducing valve and clipped the pipes where they were loose. The whole job took less than an hour. Steve Sutherland.

Ref 'hammering water pipes'. This is caused by a pressure build up of water in the pipes. The simplest solution is to turn down your water pressure at the stop-cock -- Alan Brighton 

Repairs to low pressure water pipes can be carried out while the water is held back by stuffing bread up the pipe.  It should remain in place long enough for a repair to be made -- Handy Andy. (Andy Hand-Davis Hedge End, Southampton England)

Split Pipes. If your water pipe has split, a temporary fix you can do whilst waiting for a qualified plumber is to wrap torn strips of fabric very tightly around the break. Keep a large saucepan or bucket underneath the join to catch any drips. -- Harry James.


Taps. If you are removing nice tap fittings (such as gold ones) for maintenance reasons, use a thick cloth to protect it from the jaws of the wrench, otherwise you'll get a load of scratches on them. -- Geoff New

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