I have been a homeowner for five years and during that time I have had a myriad of homeowner problems. This is especially true since my house was built in the decade of the forties and has had additions since that time. Now when I say “problems” I am talking about the typical problems homeowners have such as roofing
issues, electrical issues and of course plumbing issues. Being a do-it-yourselfer I have had to teach myself many new skills in order to repair the problems I have had without hiring a contractor to do it for me. A major recurring issue that homeowners will always have to deal with is plumbing. Indoor plumbing and the supply of water makes our lives indescribably convenient however it is not without its pitfalls. One major pitfall that homeowners would rather deal with than repair is that of low water pressure or the loss of heated water at certain times. The problem will manifest most often when multiple water sources are in use simultaneously (such as when your warm shower goes cold when your spouse flushes the toilet or turns on the sink faucet). There are a few different ways to rectify this problem. If you do not mind getting under your house or getting your hands dirty then you will be able to save yourself the cost of calling a plumber.
Clearing Up Some Myths: How Indoor Plumbing Really Works
There is major myth surrounding plumbing that often makes for good humor, but bad logic. There is a misconception that if someone flushes the toilet and the pressure for other water inputs drops, then somehow the toilet drain and the incoming water are tied in with one another. The implication of this, in the minds of some, is that the potential exists for unclean toilet water to come in through a faucet. This idea is understandably repulsive however it is quite unfounded.
The large drain pipes that carry away waste and used water is quite separate from the pressurized lines that bring water into the home. The two are not connected in anyway and so it is physically impossible for water from your toilet to intermingle with water coming into your faucet from the water supply. The biggest cause of water pressure loss is from blocked incoming pipes. The reason you may lose water pressure when flushing the toilet is due to the water that has to be diverted to the toilet to fill up the tank with fresh water. It has nothing to do with the waste water that is being flushed away. That is carried out on a completely separate system of pipes.
Imagine a water hose that puts out a set amount of water. Imagine that this hose can only put out that particular amount of water with its current capabilities. Now imagine if you were to hook other hoses onto this main hose and send water to different locations. The more ancillary hoses you add that are feeding on the main hose the less pressure each ancillary hose will have because it is sharing a fixed amount of water among all the others. So the only way to fix this loss in pressure is to decrease the number of ancillary hoses or to increase the amount of pressure that comes from the main hose. The latter is often the only choice.
Tools You Will Need
The usual cause of this loss of pressure is a decreased output of water from the supply line. This will happen because of mineral deposit build-up or, in the case of older galvanized pipe, rust deposit build-up. Unfortunately the only means of correcting the issue is pipe replacement. It is quite easy to do if you have the right tools and materials.
It is recommended to replace any old piping with modern CPVC pipe for lines that bring water into the house. In order to determine the amount you need, start by measuring the section of old pipe that you will be replacing. After doing so, purchase that amount plus some extra. In addition you will need to purchase any elbows or other couplings necessary to replace the existing pipe. This will all take some planning ahead of time. Also purchase some CPVC primer and CPVC cement in order to connect CPVC piping together.
The necessary tools will include a pipe wrench (for detaching metal pipe), a hack saw (for cutting pipe), a tape measure, gloves, and a flashlight.
What To Replace and How
After you have all of the necessary tools and materials, it would be proper for you to measure, cut, and lay out the pipe in the way in which you will assemble it. Do not connect any pipes or couplings at this time; this is merely a “dry run”. Once you are sure you have everything ready, then you may turn off the water main for your home. This will cut all water, so no water-related facilities can be used in your house until the water main is re-engaged. Use your pipe wrench to unscrew the beginning of the section of pipe that you need to replace. This may prove difficult at first if the pipe is really old. In the case of copper piping you may have to simply cut it with your hack saw.
Once you are ready to attach the new CPVC pipe, be sure you have the correct coupling to attach the CPVC to the old copper or galvanized pipe (check with your local plumbing supply store). When you are ready to connect to pieces of CPVC to a coupling you will need to have the primer and the CPVC cement ready. These two products have a strong odor and could be harmful so keep inhalation to a minimum. Apply the purple primer to the outside of the end of your pipe and to the inside of the coupling. Then do the same with the orange cement. Immediately insert the pipe into the coupling and give it a slight twist making sure that the pipe is inserted firmly and securely in the coupling. The cement will take hold in a matter of seconds so once this bond is made it cannot be undone. If you make a mistake you will have to simply cut the pipe and use a new coupling.
Continue this process until you have removed all of your old pipe and replaced it with the new CPVC. Finally at the point in which the new pipe connects to your sink, shower or toilet, you may need a particular coupling which you can obtain at your local plumbing supply dealer such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Ace Hardware. Finally check all of your connection points to insure that you have made all of the proper connections. Next turn the water main back on and check for any leaks. If there are no leaks, then try your shower, sink, and/or toilet to insure proper operation.
If you have properly replaced all of the clogged pipes with CPVC then you should now notice a marked difference in your water pressure and you should further notice a decrease in the potential for lost pressure when engaging more than one water source.
Over the next few days keep an eye on your new plumbing to be sure that no leaks develop. After that you can be confident that your new plumbing is going to hold up to the rigors of daily use and you will be able to enjoy your indoor plumbing the way it was meant to be used. Good luck!