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Plumbing Vent Boots

You see these on almost every roof.  They are the vent pipes that let the sewer drain pipes “breathe”.  Without vents, your drain pipes would not function properly.  Much like holding your finger over the top of a straw and finding out the liquid will not drain out of the straw, your drainage system needs to allow air in to allow liquids out.

Most of our vent drains have a lead boot covering them.  Something like this:


But if you have squirrels in your neighborhood, and they travel across your roof, they will often stop to gnaw on these lead vents.  Evidently, chewing on the lead feels good to them. The down side is that once they chew through the top of the boot, moisture (rain) can get into the home via the gap now in the system.  This water will drain down into a wall cavity where it and it’s associated damage are hidden from view.

Here we can see two examples of failed boots.  They both are allowing water into the walls of the home.



Water Heater Maintenance

If you own a home, you probably have a water heater.


Unless it is one of the tankless types, your heater consists of a tank with an inlet, an outlet, and some sort of heating method (gas or electric).  These tanks act as sediment bowls for the home.  Incoming water sets in them and the suspended particles settle out.  The number one killer of electric water heaters is this sediment.  It accumulates to the point that it comes in contact with the lower heating element, overheating the element and killing it.


Periodically, the tank should be flushed to eliminate this sediment.  If your tank is older than 10 years old or has rust showing on the base or top and has not been flushed before, you may not want to flush the tank as the sediments may be plugging pin-hole leaks.

Flushing a water heater is a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Connect a hose to the lower drain.
  2. String the hose out to a safe place to drain it. The sediments may not be good for planting beds or grass.
  3. Turn the drain valve on and run until clear.
  4. Shut off the drain valve.
  5. Disconnect and remove the hoes.
  6. Repeat every 6 months.


Some valves require a large screwdriver to open (like the picture above).  Other have a standard knob like the hose bibs on your home.


Leaky Mixing Valves in the Shower/Tub

As the mixing valve in the shower ages, sometimes the water inside the valve comes out of the valve.  Mixing valves of various brands us various types of cartridges and o-rings to keep the water inside the valve.  The chemicals in the water such as chlorine and calcium break down the synthetic rubber compounds in the o-ring, aging it and making it brittle.  As the valve gets twisted or pulled, the brittle rubber o-ring cracks, allowing water to escape the valve.  A new cartridge will normally correct this.

If the leak falls onto the edge of the tub or the spout, water may get back behind the tile and into the wall cavity.  This will lead to mold, wood rot and worse.  Keep the tub spout well caulked in any case.

More Fun With Flex Drain

Flex drain is a boon to those that cannot seem to get the plumbing to connect properly. Usually, a bit of wiggling and fitting and a plumber can get by without using this stuff.  However, those that should not be allowed under the sinks seem to love using it in the most unusual and in improper fashion.

Here, we see a flex drain used horizontally to move water uphill from a garbage disposal to the sink drain, then from the sink trap to the sewer connection at the wall.  Flex should not be used in a horizontal application.  The ridges trap bits of food and anything else washed down the drain.  Not to mention that water does not gravity flow uphill very well at all.



Then here, another industrious homeowner has used flex drain pipe to get from the sink to the wall connection.  The only trouble is he forgot the trap.  Traps are very important as they hold water to prevent the sewer gasses from coming back up the system into the home.  Yes, the bathroom did smell somewhat like the septic tank. Notice the connection at the bottom of the sink tail pipe to the flex drain.  This person should have called a licensed plumber.


Do-It-Your-Self’er Strikes Again

Here we see a prime example of someone that has watched too much HGTV.  This is Non-Metallic Electrical Conduit being used for plumbing.  Granted, they are both Schedule 40 PVC, but NM conduit is not rated for plumbing, and not rated for exterior use.  This is another example of why you should use a licensed professional when doing work around the home.DSC05992

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