Quick Tips

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Quick Tip #2: Quick – Turn Off the Water! (Cold Climate)

Oh, no! Water is running from somewhere beneath the cabinets and ruining your new kitchen floor. HELP!

 

You can prepare for a crisis like this by knowing how to turn off the water to your home.

You should locate the main water valve, know how to operate it, and tag it.

 

Everyone in the household should walk through this drill.

Where is the valve?

You don’t know?

 

For us lucky folks in cold climates, supply piping is buried several feet in the ground; the pipe enters the home through the basement or crawl space.

Take a look at the illustration. (In warm climates, pipes don’t need to be protected from freezing, and water may enter the house through an exposed valve.)

 

To find your supply line, look on the street side of your home first. You can also trace the pipe from the water heater to the cold water source. Remember, “right is tight” (off) with older valves.

 

For ball valves: when the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, the water is off. If the valve is rusted or corroded, have a plumber test it and replace it if necessary.

Quick Tip #4 – One Cold Room

Does your home have one room that’s always cold? Is there very little air flow from the

 

heating grill, even when it is fully open? The culprit may be a heating supply duct that’s been closed.

 

In the basement, find the main warm-air supply duct, which originates directly above the furnace. Often this is a rectangular duct running down the center of the basement. It may branch off into smaller circular ducts serving individual room registers.

 

Where the round duct attaches to the rectangular main, look for evidence of a duct damper: a wing nut around the end of a quarter-inch threaded rod. At the end of the rod, you’ll see a screwdriver slot.

 

If this slot is perpendicular to the small round duct, the damper is closed. If the slot is parallel to the duct, the damper is open. You can loosen the wing nut and change the position of the damper. Then secure it by re-tightening the wing nut.

 

If opening the damper solves the problem, great. If the room is still cold, you may need to partially close other dampers to direct more air to the cold room.

Often, dampers fit loosely, and even when fully closed, they can leak lots of air.

Quick Tip #28 – Stains Around a Toilet = Serious Problem

Always be on the lookout for water leaks in your home, including little clues that could indicate bigger problems. For instance, if interior paint is bubbling or loose, you’re likely to find a water leak behind the paint.

 

Around your toilet, check the vinyl flooring. Any gray stain in the vinyl that can’t be washed away may indicate a leak where the toilet connects to the drainage pipe – or a leak at the wax ring sealing the toilet to the drain pipe flange.

The gray stain in the vinyl is caused by a small amount of water seeping under the vinyl. Water discolors the subfloor and vinyl; the stain can’t be removed.

 

Gently rock the toilet from side to side. It should not wobble or slide on the floor. Any movement means there may be a problem that should be checked by a plumber.

 

If your home has a basement or crawl space, you can also look for signs of drips or wood stains below the toilet. This type of leak is particularly bad because it can cause unseen rot that may require replacement of the subfloor – an expensive repair.

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Quick Tip #11 – Inside Info on an Outdoor Fixture

Here’s a bit of fix-it trivia for you: the exterior faucet to which you connect lawn hoses is

 

called a hose bib. You can toss out this technical term to impress friends and neighbors, right?

Whatever you call it, keep these tips in mind to help things run smoothly.

For cold climates, locate the interior valve before winter sets in so you can turn the water off.

 

Remove any hose attached to the bib, then open the exterior valve. This allows water to drain from the piping so it can’t freeze and break a pipe.

 

For both warm and cold climates, some type of vacuum breaker should be connected to the hose bib. It might be a round brass fitting attached to the threaded connection. In newer hose bibs, the vacuum breaker is built in; look for a large cap on the top of the valve.

 

Why does your hose bib need a vacuum breaker?

It prevents dirty water from flowing backward into your drinking water system. If there’s low pressure in your home’s system, water can be drawn indoors from a hose lying in a dog dish or connected to a garden chemical sprayer — yuck! Such low water pressure could occur, for example, when a fire department’s pumper draws water from elsewhere in the municipal system, creating low (negative) pressure all down the line.

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