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Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions
Why is my tap leaking?
Most of the time it's the tap washer's worn out. However, sometimes it has more to do with to do with the tap wear. It could be near the end of its life. this is especially possible if you are living in an older old house. Generally speaking, a leaking tap can be fixed by replacing a tap washer. This is one of the more simpler jobs we get called out for. Generally, it is a pretty straightforward job. Two reasons to call a plumber.
Some taps are very old and quite fused together, so you need some specialised tools to get them apart.
It's really hard to undo a tap without damaging the tap.
If you decide to have a go remember you've got to turn off the water before replacing the tap washer or pulling apart your tap. It is also wise to have a backup plan if you break the whole thing.
Is it a problem to have old terracotta pipes?
Many older style houses in Melbourne have terracotta pipes. They can crack a bit, and tree roots can grow in there and cause blockages.
They're quite problematic around the Brunswick area because the clay is highly reactive so it moves a lot with the changing moisture with the seasons. They say you can get up to 40 millimetres movement in some areas. Terracotta doesn't like moving, it cracks. That's when tree roots get in and cause blockages.
What are the most common plumbing repairs that you get involved in?
I guess it's a little bit seasonal-based. During winter months we are generally testing heaters. In the winter everyone turns on their heaters and realise they have a problem. If the equipment is just sitting there you might accumulate a bit of calcium on the sensors.
It's like a car. If you sit it there for six months and don't start it, then you try and start it, it might not start properly. That's the same kind of thing that happens with heaters.
The winter rain triggers a lot of maintenance calls about roof leaks. All the leaves fall, block the gutters, and then there is a big downpour that causes flooding inside your building.
There are always problems with toilets, whether it be a blocked toilet or they're leaking when they flush. Sometimes after they're flushed they keep running into the bowl because the mechanism in the system may be getting jammed.
What causes a pipe to burst?
It can be that the pipe was slightly defective when it was installed. Eventually, that defect or that weakness in the pipe can cause it to split.
Sometimes it's a chemical reaction. The pipe might be touching something that creates a bit of corrosion and then it can leak.
Sometimes it's people digging in their garden and they hit a pipe.
Temperature Stress Fractures
All pipes expand and contract slightly. Hot pipes especially, expand and contract as cold water or hot water goes through it and that movement over time can cause stress fractures and cause the pipe to leak.
How do you unclog a sink?
Sometimes it can be as simple as giving it a plunge.
Sometimes removing the trap or the U-shaped piece underneath the sink and cleaning that out.
Other times it requires a cable to be sent down the drain to unblock it. That’s where a plumber comes in handy.
How do you know if you've got a water leak?
Lawn Wet Patch Followed By A Big Bill
Sometimes people might notice a bit of a wet patch in their lawn that's a bit unusual or maybe a greener patch than the rest of the grass. Then it turns out they get a high water bill. That's a pretty good sign that there's a pipe leaking in the ground in the front yard.
If you've got a dripping tap, that's is a water leak. Sometimes water running into the bowl a toilet is considered a leak. It will certainly increase your water usage.
If you have a roof leak you will sometimes notice;
- unusual stains on the ceiling
- a bit of mould forming maybe in the corner
- a patch on the wall or roof where the paint has started to bubble a bit.
What can you do about rising damp?
Start With The Roof
If you have a rising damp problem you start by assessing the roof and seeing whether there's any immediate issues with water getting into the brickwork.
Assess the in-ground pipes. You might get your plumber to do a pressure test on the water line or send a camera down the drains.
Sometimes it can be something like a concrete driveway causing the rising damp. Perhaps when it was first installed it sloped away from a building. Over time there might be movement of the ground. That driveway might start to slope a little bit towards the building, so you get all that water that lands on the driveway and goes towards your building.
If you've got rising damp, getting a plumber in means that you can actually go through a whole lot of checklists of things to try to identify the area of concern.
What to do when you smell gas?
The first step would be to open some windows and then check.
Check The Stove
Next check to see if someone has left the cooktop maybe just a little bit on.
Find The Gas Meter
Find the gas meter and turn it off. Gas meters are normally found on the front left or right-hand corner of the house.
Call A Professional
You should also get in touch with your local gas plumber or gas fitter to sort out any other issues that might be occurring.
Why don't we have hot water?
We sometimes get called out because people have no hot water. There can be a couple of reasons for that.
Check Recent Use
It may be that someone has just had a very long shower and you have exceeded the capacity of your hot water system.
Sometimes a gust of wind will cause the pilot light's to go out. Usually, the lighting instructions are found on the hot water unit that will tell you how to light it.
The next common is the thermocouple sensor may have worn out. This can be easily replaced by a plumber.
Sometimes you can lose hot because a washer is jammed.
Another reason can be that the hot water cylinder has split. It may be leaking water onto the burner and it's extinguished the burner. This stops the water heating.
Thermostatic Mixing Valve
Sometimes loss of hot water can be caused by a valve called the thermostatic mixing valve. They sometimes don't mix the water properly and you only get cold water.
Why should I change to a solar hot water system?
People are increasingly changing over to a solar hot water system because of cheaper long-term running costs and environmental reasons. Australia is famous for its sunlight, so why not use it? Solar hot water systems are very reliable.
They are just as reliable as a normal hot water unit because the sun will heat the hot water throughout the day. If you happen to get a few cloudy days in a row the solar hot water unit has a backup. Generally, it's either a gas booster or an electric booster. Probably the better option is a gas booster, and that will heat the water just as any other normal hot water unit would do.
How do you fix leaky valves?
Leaky valves may be more common under the kitchen sink or under the bathroom basin. The inside of a toilet is essentially a valve, so sometimes when they're leaking you get water running into the bowl of the toilet. Quite often garden taps are quite hard to turn off. They can leak without having to really turn them off hard.
In most of those cases, you do need a plumber, because they've got the equipment to do it. They can spot any other problems occurring once they get in there.
What are the consequences of putting off plumbing repairs?
Damage to Foundations or Walls
The biggest thing that you wouldn't want to put off is maybe to do with your stormwater management. This means anything from your roof to your gutters, your downpipes, and the pipes that are in the ground. If your gutters are leaking or your stormwater pipes are leaking in the ground it can cause excessive moisture in the ground and cause the ground to move. That's why you might get a crack forming in your wall, generally on the corners of the house.
Someone who has a bad storm water system and leaves it ultimately is creating potential problems with foundations and expensive repairs to their house because of cracks in the side of a building.
Gas Leaks Are A Potential Hazard
You'd never even really consider putting off a repair on a gas line if you smelled gas. That should be an immediate concern if ever you should smell gas. A small leak over a long period can be quite dangerous, given the right circumstances.
Major Water Bills
A dripping tap is literally money down the drain.
Gas Heater Maintenance
Your gas heater needs to be serviced regularly due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if they don't run as efficient. They might be clogged a bit with dust and debris and they don't quite get the heat out that they're meant to but still costs as much to run.
Energy Safe Victoria recommends servicing and testing your heater for Carbon Monoxide every two years.
How do you fix low water pressure?
Old Steel Pipes
Low water pressure can be caused because the house has old steel pipes in the system. These steel pipes become corroded on the inside and this can restrict the flow. You might also notice that the water from the taps is not very pleasant to drink.
Sometimes valves can become partially blocked with a lime build up over time. This can cause low pressure.
Shower Head Blockage
Sometimes debris coming through the line and going to your shower head can cause low water pressure.
Sometimes kids playing around with the water can adjust the water meter because it is just another tap at the front of your house.
Why is my hot water running out so fast?
Size of Hot Water Unit
Your hot water might run out quickly because of the size of your hot water unit. Some apartments only have a 50-litre hot water unit, which is barely enough for one shower.
Hot Water Unit Leak
Sometimes the PTR valve can be excessively leaking. This valve is normally on the top right-hand side of your hot water unit. It is meant to dribble slightly when the hot water tank is being heated but should stop after the tank is hot. It should never constantly run. If so, this valve will need to be replaced.
How to deal with a major water leakage at your home?
Turn off The Water Meter
The first step is to find your water meter and turn it off. Generally, they're at the front of the property. They can be anywhere along the front of the property, but normally within about a meter of the footpath or a meter of the front of your property. Quite often they're near the front garden tap.
What If I Can't Find The Water Meter
If you can't turn off your water meter, go outside and turn on all of your garden taps. This reduces the amount of water that might be running inside your house.
Call Your Plumber
A large leak will need a plumber.
When should you have carbon monoxide testing done?
Energy Safe Victoria recommends that you have your gas heating checked every two years. That's at the minimum. Your plumber will clean the appliance. We check that the appliance is running correctly, that it's burning correctly, the incoming pressure's correct, the flame pitch looks sufficient.
We also check that the safety devices are working and we check it's been installed properly, that it's got the correct flue into the atmosphere and then we perform a carbon monoxide test, which is an instrument that rates carbon monoxide in points per million in the air that's coming out of the heater. As long as heaters are serviced and maintained they're perfectly safe, but it's only when people neglect their heater that they can become an issue.
What is the advice you give to people who are thinking about plumbing a new home?
The new homeowner might need to look at first where their council assets are, whether there are any easements in the property. This is important because there are restrictions for building over easements or close to easements.
You also need to establish where your sewer connection point is, whether it's at the front of the property or the back of the property, or whether you've got a shared drain with next door. Sometimes given the lay of the land you've got to make sure that you can get your sewer point to the council point and make sure that it's going to flow the right way, given the way you're going to build.
There are restrictions on building over combined drains. If your drain's shared with next door you might not be able to build over it because their sewer may actually come into your property and then go to the council drain.
If you are an owner builder they will get that information off the water authority of the council. If they're getting a builder, obviously he's going to be sorting that out.
It is important to know what's happening with the stormwater, whether your stormwater goes to a council drain underground in your backyard or whether it goes to the front gutter or there is no connection point. Your connection point might need to be brought in by the council.
Power and Communications
It's important to know the basics of what services are there, what your house is going to be connected to. You need to establish where your power's coming in, where your communications are coming in, and these are the other things as well.
If you're going to have solar hot water the angle of the roof important.
It should be placed on a north facing roof to get the full effect of the sun.
Style of Fittings
You need to consider then what kind of style and what kind of feel they want for the house. This will influence what kind of toilets and tap ware and used in your interior plan.
Heating and Cooling
Consider how you're going to heat and cool your house. You want to know whether you're going to go with a gas ducted heater or whether you're going to look to have hydronic heating or something like that. They all need to be decided early on.
How long does a bathroom or kitchen renovation take to complete on average?
From start to finish these sorts of projects are generally completed over a month.
Are you involved in commercial plumbing in Melbourne?
We are very involved in commercial building projects. What's usually involved is there will be a tender from builders. Usually, their people we work with because we really respect their work. We'll put in a price in the tender we're involved. That's the process. The builder will liaise with the project management over all the details of the plumbing and we will often sit in on those meetings to consult and give advice.
The success of building projects is all about being organised. It's all about there's a certain timeline. You need to do some things before others. The right timing of those stages is critical for the smooth running of a project. This means giving people notice when timelines change. Some domestic and commercial builders are outstanding at co-ordinating trade teams and we prefer to partner with them as it helps us to deliver a quality plumbing service.
Recent Commercial Plumbing Projects
Commercial Food & Beverage Venues.
We've done some new restaurants, cafes, and we've renovated some pubs.
We've done some work at some schools. This included the plumbing on a new building that included a playground, the art room, a staff room and a toilet block. We've also done some work at Science Works.