Tag Archives: plumbing

It’s hammer time!

Does your sink ever sing to you? I recently came across such a sink at a home in Oak Harbor. The song? A little ditty called “water hammer.” 

Water hammer is the result of waterline pressure causing water pipe movement when flow is stopped or started. The “hammer” noise—which is actually a shock wave within the pipes that can lead to pipe collapse–may happen for a host of different reasons, such as insecure pipes.

If you ever notice your sink bursting out into song, consider having it further evaluated by a qualified plumbing contractor to learn more about your options—or perhaps signing it up for “America’s Got Talent.” Thanks for watching!

Questions or comments about water hammer or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and let us know at @AIHomeInspect

Anti-scald valves

Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person.

Facts and Figures

  • Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
  • More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
  • Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
  • Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.

Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.

Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.

Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.

The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact an InterNACHI inspector or a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.

In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.

by Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI

Bathroom sink draining slow?

We ask a lot of our bathroom sink drains. We pour toothpaste, soap, shaving cream, makeup and stray hair into them and expect them to work. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t. A serious clog usually requires a chemical drain cleaner or a plumber’s snake. For a slow-moving drain, you might first try a plunger to dislodge the clog. It’s easy to use; be sure to use it carefully and avoid splashes. Before you begin, put a few inches of water in the sink to provide a good seal around the plunger. Next, stuff a wet rag into the overflow opening of the sink and seal it well. This air block greatly increases the effectiveness of the plunger. Then plunge away! You may have to refill the basin with water a few times to free a very stubborn clog.

VIDEO: Saturation under and around toilet

At a recent home inspection on Orcas Island, I discovered water stains around a toilet that the Seller informed us were “historic.” Probing with a moisture meter, it was clear that the subfloor was clearly saturated with the possibility of underlying damage not visible without pulling the toilet and invasively inspecting. Moisture meters and infrared thermography help home inspectors determine elevated moisture conditions not visible to the naked eye.

VIDEO: Broken toilet valve

Testing a toilet at a recent home inspection on San Juan Island, I couldn’t get it to flush. So, I removed the tank lid and attempted to open the valve to verify it actually flushed. In this video, you see the valve/stopper basically come off in my hands, but it flushed! If your toilet valve is tight or non functional, it’s a pretty easy repair. Universal toilet valve repair kits are available at most hardware stores; if you have a specialty toilet, you can check with your plumbing contractor and/or search online for replacement parts. I like Amazon.com because I can get parts quickly shipped to my door.

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Polybutylene plastic plumbing supply lines (PB2110) were installed in a house at a recent home inspection in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.  Polybutylene has been used in this area for many years, but has had a higher than normal failure rate, is no longer being widely used, and has been the subject of class-action lawsuits. Copper and Brass fittings used in later years have apparently reduced the failure rate. This particular house has copper fittings and PB2110 supply piping.  More information about PB water supply piping can be round at http://www.pbpipe.com.

VIDEO: Overflowing Air Gap

Water coming out the air gap should not be a regular occurrence, though occasionally it might happen when, for example, someone forgets to run the garbage disposal. Regular water discharge from an air gap points to a restriction in the water flow that should be further evaluated and repaired. This video was taken at a recent home inspection in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Continue reading