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Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked QuestionsMy kitchen faucet sprays out the sides and the flow is less than normal. Do I need a new faucet?
This is a very common complaint, and one that many people unnecessarily call a plumber to repair. While there may be more than one reason the faucet is operating poorly, the most probable cause is sand, calcium or other build-up in the aerator. Simply unscrew it from the faucet head, noting the exact way all the components fit together, rinse or use a soft brush to clean out the material that is blocking normal flow and screw the aerator back on.


My garbage disposer is supposed to handle a variety of table scraps, but very often it gets clogged. What's the problem?
Although your garbage disposer can grind up many kinds of discarded food items, there are some that will cause clogging because they can't be liquefied enough to pass through the drain trap and into the main sewer line. Items like chicken skins, carrots, celery, and banana peels are too stringy and fibrous for the disposer to handle. Put those items into the garbage instead. Don't fill the disposer with a lot of vegetable peels all at once. Instead, turn the water and disposer on first and feed the peels gradually. To reduce the chance of clogging, run cold water (not hot) down the drain for about 15 seconds after grinding is completed to flush the drain line.
Then run hot water down the drain for a few minutes once a week to help remove any material that may cause a clog.


My shower has a weak stream. What's the cause?
It could be the pressure is being siphoned off by a filling toilet tank, the dishwasher, washing machine or even an irrigation system. If there is plenty of pressure at other faucets in the house, the culprit could be a showerhead that's been clogged by hard water deposits. If the blockage is severe, you must remove and clean the shower head. If the blockage is not too severe, you may be able to clean it in place. Pour a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag, place the bag over the shower head and secure it with a twist tie. Leave it there overnight. In the morning remove the bag and use a toothbrush to gently scrub the softened deposits from the holes.


Why does my toilet get clogged often?
If you have clogs on a regular basis, and the bathroom sink is also running slow, you may have an obstruction in the main sewer line. If the sink runs free but the toilet is slow, there could be an obstruction in the toilet trap. We often find things like toothbrushes, hair clips, and small toys that have stuck in the trap. If you have small children that have been taught to flush, they tend to enjoy putting almost anything into the toilet just to see what happens. If your plunger can't push the obstruction past the trap, do not try to free it with a coat hanger or other sharp implement because you may damage the bowl. It's best to call Rutan Plumbing at ...


How high do I have to set the temperature control on my water heater to make sure I have an adequate supply of hot water?
Most people are comfortable with their hot water set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pre-set by manufacturers. If you have an older model water heater, set the thermostat at medium. On gas models there is a dial on the front of the gas valve. On electric models the thermostat (there may be two) is concealed behind one or both panels on the side of the tank. NOTE: Turn off the electricity before removing the panels to set the thermostat.


What can I do about a foul odor coming from my garbage disposer?
Foul odors are usually caused by food debris in the disposer. To eliminate this odor, place ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposer and run for 30 seconds. While it is running, squirt a small amount of liquid dish washing detergent into the disposer, then run cold water for about 30 seconds after to rinse the debris away. Repeat the process until there is no odor.


What about a foul odor coming from a floor drain?
Traps under sinks, drains and other plumbing systems normally hold water to keep sewer odors out of the house. When the drain or fixture isn't used for a period of time, the water can evaporate, allowing odors to come up through the trap. Simply using the fixture or pouring a bucket of water down the drain will usually get rid of the odor. If it doesn't, you may have an improperly installed or damaged trap and should call Rutan Plumbing at ….


When our water heater is operating, I hear a banging, bubbling, rumbling sound. Should I have it checked out?
What you are hearing is boiling water that is trapped in sediment or a layer of mineral deposits inside the bottom of the water heater tank. Although not a cause for alarm, it means the water heater is not operating efficiently. Per the water heater manufacturer's instructions, you should drain the tank for five minutes or so every year, or more often if your water is especially high in iron, calcium, or minerals. You drain it by running a hose from the faucet on the bottom front of the tank to a drain outside the house. Do NOT drain it into a toilet, as the hot water may crack the porcelain. If your water heater is an older model that has not been drained regularly, the buildup of sediment may be too much to drain out, and it will gradually heat less efficiently until it must be replaced. Newer models have a feature that prevents or greatly reduces sediment buildup.


We need to replace a toilet in our home and I have been told that new toilets don't flush properly. What do you recommend?
To encourage water conservation, the federal government mandated new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Some homeowners were not happy about the performance of the early low-flow models, causing manufacturers to redesign toilets that put water into the bowl much more quickly to improve flushing. If you choose a major brand today, you should not be disappointed. An option is a pressurized toilet tank that works like a commercial toilet and surge flushes. It is much less quiet than a conventional toilet, but it works.


I always run out of hot water by the fourth shower. What can I do?
There are two possible causes. First, the dip tube is broken that forces incoming water to the bottom of the water heater tank so that hot water can be drawn off the top. Second, with an electric water heater, the lower heating element may not be operating properly, and only the upper half of the tank is heating up. In either case you should call Rutan Plumbing at … and a plumbing technician can fix the problem.


Can I increase the water pressure in my bathroom faucet?
First, check the emergency shutoff under your sink to make sure it’s fully open. If rubber washers or seals have begun to deteriorate, you’ll also lose water pressure, so check those. Calcium and lime buildup will also cause low water pressure.


What should I do to take care of my faucets and sinks?
Even small drips can waste thousands of gallons of water, as much as 150 gallons a day! Be sure to check under sinks for moisture or small leaks. And always repair leaky faucets right away to avoid paying for wasted water, and also to avoid water damage to your fixtures and pipes. Remove and clean your faucet aerators annually to ensure an even flow of water. Make sure overflow holes on tubs and vanities are clear and open to prevent water damage to floors and ceilings.


Can I replace my two-handled faucet with a single-handle faucet?
Usually, faucet dimensions and sink openings are standard throughout the plumbing industry, so the answer is usually yes. There are a few exceptions, so check the size of the sink opening before you buy new fixtures.


How can I prevent clogged drains?
Do not rinse fats or cooking oils down the kitchen sink. Liquid fats solidify in the cold pipes and create clogs.
To help prevent clogs, fit all your tubs and shower drains with a strainer that catches hair and soap chips, and clean the strainer regularly.


What causes my kitchen sink and washing machine drains to clog?
In most homes, the kitchen and laundry drains are connected. When the lint from the laundry drains meets the grease buildup from soap and food products, a nearly solid substance is formed, causing blockage. Using filters and strainers will help, but you’ll also need to get the drains snaked periodically as well.


Should I close and open the main water supply shutoff valve periodically?
Yes. You want to make sure they’re not stuck in the open position just when you have a water emergency! Do the same periodic check for the shutoff valves on your sinks, tubs, and toilets, too.


Why do I hear a vibrating noise in my pipes?
Noises can be fairly common in plumbing supply lines. If a washer in a faucet or valve is loose, you’ll hear it rattling or knocking. If the sound occurs when you open and close faucets rapidly, it generally means pipes are loose, and can be corrected by anchoring pipes more securely. If it really bothers you, you can add air chambers at the end of long pipe runs. Their installation will probably require a plumbing professional.


What can I do about a sewer line blockage?
The main culprit is tree roots, and once they’ve blocked the line, there is very little you can do. A plumbing professional can snake the line to get it as clear as possible, and then use copper sulfide products to kill the remaining vegetation. But odds are the sewer line will most likely need to be replaced.


Are caustic liquid drain openers (like Drano or Liquid Plumber) harmful to pipes?
For minor clogs, they’re fine, but never use them on a drain that is completely clogged. The caustic ingredients are trapped in your pipes, and it can severely damage them. If you can’t snake the drain yourself, contact a professional to do so. Never use caustic drain openers in a drain that has a garbage disposal.


Why doesn’t my old water heater work as well as it used to?
This is usually due to a sediment buildup in your tank. As water heaters grow older, they accumulate sediment and lime deposits. If these deposits are not removed periodically, the sediment will create a barrier between the burner and the water, greatly reducing the water heater’s performance level. At least once every three months, drain water from the tank. Draining a gallon or so on a regular basis helps remove the sediment.

You should also periodically inspect your water heater burner. The flame under the heater should appear blue with yellow tips. If it’s mostly yellow, or if it’s sooty under there, your flue may be clogged, which is a dangerous situation. Contact a professional to check it out. At least once every two years, have your water heater inspected by a service technician. He or she will also check the drain valve for signs of leakage, and the anode rods for corrosion.


What’s the best way to extend the life of my garbage disposal?
Always use plenty of cold water when running your disposal, and avoid overloading it. Never dispose of very hard items like bones or corn husks. And never use a caustic drain opener. You can extend the life of your hands by never using them to remove items dropped inside – use tongs instead!


What should I do if my garbage disposal stops working?
Before calling a professional, be sure to try the reset switch located on the bottom of most disposals.


What’s the best way to check for toilet leaks?
Toilet leaks can be wasteful and expensive. At least once a year, check your toilet for leaks by adding a small amount of red food coloring to the tank, and then check the toilet bowl later. If the toilet bowl water is colored red, water is seeping through from the tank. If it is leaking, you should replace the tank ball.


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