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Plumbing Sundries

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Several chemicals do an effective job of cleaning stopped-up drains. Some are a combination of potassium hydroxide, which turns grease to soft soap, and a depilatory agent, thioglycolic acid, which dissolves hair. This combination does not injure plumbing or septic tanks.

Several cleaners use sodium hydroxide and some use sulfuric acid.

Any toxic liquid drain cleaner must carry the skull and crossbones warning label in red. Many cleaners can be injurious to sensitive skin and should be used with caution.

Most liquid drain cleaners are heavier than water and will seek out the stoppage even if the sink, tub or bowl is full of water.

If a certain drain chemical does not do the job, they should never pour in a different brand or type of chemical; toxic fumes can result from the mixture.


Drain augers are commonly used to free clogged toilet bowls. Since these fixtures have a built-in "reverse action" or U-shaped trap, considerable pressure may have to be applied to the end of the snake to force it up and over drainpipe opening.

For these stoppages, an auger at least 6' to 8' long will usually be required. The wire must be worked vigorously back and forth as soon as an obstruction is felt in order to break up the blockage so that it can be easily flushed away with water.

A closet auger is best for unstopping a built-in closet trap. The spring wire is usually 3' to 6' longer than the handle. The handle shaft has a 90 degree to 120 degree turn on the end, which is usually covered with a rubber or neoprene sleeve to protect the china finish of the bowl.

Drill-operated augers with safety clutches are also available.


Another type of drain cleaner uses air or water pressure to force a clog loose. Compressed-air drain cleaners are a power version of the force cup and are generally useful only on sinks.

Hydraulic pressure drain cleaners allow a garden hose to be snaked down the drainpipe closer to the clog. This type of unit features a blocking device that fills with water to prevent water from backing out of the drain and to maintain pressure on the clog. It can be used on sinks, tubs, main drains and showers.


The primary market for water systems is in suburban and rural areas for home water supply. A secondary market exists for auxiliary water systems used by homeowners already served by city-water systems. These auxiliary systems are used to supply water during hot summer months, when water usage may be restricted by city authorities, and for home lawn-sprinkling systems.

Water systems consist of a pump, a pressure tank and switch. The tank will supply water between the cut-on and cut-off pressure setting on the pump, usually 20-40 psi. Since the tank supplies small amounts of water, the pump does not have to turn on each time a faucet is used.

Pumps are usually classified as shallow well or deep well. Shallow-well pumps are installed at well depths of 25' or less.

Deep-well pumps come in two types. Standard deep-well pumps have the jet assembly located in the well and are used in wells up to 120' deep.

Deep well submersible pumps can be used in installations where the water depth is up to 450'. These units consist of a sealed motor and pump assembly that is lowered into the well. They are highly efficient and reliable but require a well casing diameter of 4" or greater. Home water system pumps are generally of centrifugal type. In some older installations a piston pump may still be used. A piston pump builds pressure, which pulls water up through the casing. The centrifugal or jet pump builds a centrifugal force, which lifts the water.

Being familiar with the following terms will help you in selecting the right pump:

Well-size - inside diameter of well indicates proper size pump, ejector, cylinder or drop pipe (pipe that is lowered into well casing to transport the water) and foot valve (located at the bottom of the drop pipe to keep water from flowing backward into the well).

Pumping level - vertical distance in feet from pump to water level while pump is operating. If pump is installed away from the well and is on higher ground, this elevation must also be included. Most wells draw down (water level goes down inside the well as water is pumped into the home) so this must not be confused with standing water level.

Average discharge pressure - usual average discharge pressure is 30 lbs., halfway between the 20-40 lb. switch setting of most water systems. When the tank is installed away from the pump at a higher level or when house or yard fixtures are above the pump and tank, a greater pressure is needed and a larger pump must be used.

Capacity required - discharge capacity of the pump in gals. Per hour necessary for satisfactory service. The pump should have enough capacity so that it does not need to work more than the equivalent of two hours a day in intermittent service.

Well points - are used to drive wells in soil that is soft and primarily free of rock and where water is known to be close to the surface. Points are screwed onto the end of pipe to be lowered into the ground; then the point and pipe are driven into the ground with a sledgehammer or mallet. Well points have strainer baskets on the ends which sift out dirt and small stones.


To find the required capacity, count the number of faucets in the home (count tub faucets as two) and multiply by 60. This is the number of gals. Per hour the pump should supply from the well. Remember to allow for additional appliances that use water.

Recommend shallow-well pumps for wells up to 22', deep-well pumps for deeper wells. While 20-40 lbs. pressure is adequate, 30-50 lb. or 40-60 lb. is best for home supplies.

Size of pumps is determined by their horsepower ratings. Pumps used in the average home are 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 or 1 hp. The accompanying table illustrates gals. Per hour pumped at 40 lbs. Pressure

Gallons Delivered Per Hour
Well Depth (Ft.)Pump Model


A sump pump's purpose is to discharge groundwater that accumulates around a basement that is below the water line. The basement should have a drain tile around it; this tile collects groundwater and conveys it to the sump in the basement.

The pump can be a submersible type, in which the motor and pump are sealed in one unit that rests in the sump; or a pedestal pump where the pump is in the water but the motor is mounted on a column above the water.

Capacity is rated by gals. Per hour pumped as well as "lift" pressure generated.

Some pumps switch to battery power when the AC power fails.


These lightweight pumps are used to clear flooded basements, drain low spots after a heavy rain, etc. Farmers, boaters and campers all find uses for them.

There are two types. One operates off a 12V battery and can be attached to a car, truck, tractor or boat battery. The other type uses a standard 115V house current.

The units pump from 250-500 gals. Per hour and are self-priming and easy to operate.


Larger than all-purpose pumps, gasoline utility pumps used to pump manholes, for irrigation and lawn sprinkling, for fire protection and as an emergency water supply during power failure. Capacities range up to 85 gals. Per minute. Suction lifts to 25'.

High-pressure, hand-held utility pumps add as much as 80 lbs. to intake pressure. They operate on 115V current, and when connected to a standard garden hose, can be used to hose down hard-surface driveways and window screens, to wash cars and boats and to clean animal-housing areas. They will also draw water from shallow wells, tanks, etc.


A septic tank is a large watertight settling tank that holds sewage while it decomposes by bacterial action. It can be made of asphalt-coated steel, redwood, concrete, concrete block, clay tile or brick.

Septic tanks must be sized to suit the house. Two-bedroom homes need minimum 750-gal. tanks, says the U.S. Public Health Service. Three-bedroom homes need 900-gal. tanks and four-bedroom homes require 1,000-gal. tanks. Garbage disposers, washing machines and dishwashers are figured in this estimate.

Household sewage flows into the septic tank and decomposes. Sludge collects on the bottom of the tank and liquid effluent flows out to a distribution system.

The distribution system is a series of underground disposal lines that radiate outward from a central distribution point; the effluent seeps into the earth.

Sludge remaining in the tank must be cleaned out periodically to prevent this layer from building up enough to cause clogging of disposal lines or household sewer lines.

Under ordinary use, the tank may need cleaning at two- to four-year intervals, but most experts recommend that the sludge level be inspected every 12 to 18 months. This is done by opening a special manhole cover or trapdoor located at or near ground level.

Septic tank cleaners dissolve sludge through enzyme activators that regenerate the natural bacterial activity of decomposition for which the tanks were designed. These natural bacterial activators continue from the tank into the drain and tile field.


For consumers interested in adding a bathroom, there is a plumbing relief-vent valve that can be installed without cutting a hole in the roof to vent the new plumbing system. The vent is solvent welded any place that is above the flood level of the attached fixtures (usually the attic). Manufacturer literature should be studied carefully for proper installation.


The usual height for cabinets over a lavatory is 62" from floor to the center of the cabinet.

Ready-made cabinets are either wall hung or recessed. A 14" recessed cabinet is frequently installed because it will fit between 16" center-wall studs. Installation of wider recessed cabinets require that the studs be cut and box framing installed.

Lower-priced economy cabinets are generally 11" wide, 16-1/4" high and 4" deep. Most have two welded shelves and cabinets and are finished in white baked on enamel.

More expensive cabinets come with lighting fixtures above or at the side of the cabinet and offer a selection of color finishes. They range from 16" to 19" high.


A complete vanity consists of a cabinet with a top, bowl, faucet assembly and all necessary plumbing. All the homeowner does is set it in the bathroom and couple it to the existing pipes.

Most vanities come in 24", 30", 36", 48" and up to 60" widths, although 20" widths are available.

One of the major reasons for their popularity is ease of installation. With a few tools, any homeowner can install his or her own vanity. The money saved by not hiring a professional plumber makes up a large portion of the cost of the vanity.

How to Solve Household Plumbing Problems
Leaking faucetHas a worn washer. Shut off water, dismantle faucet and replace worn washer. Spout leak needs new faucet washer; under stem cap, bibb washer; handle stem, cone bonnet packing or "O" ring. For washerless faucets-replace entire cartridge.Water rushes down drain with sucking noiseMeans non-existent, improper or clogged vent. Depending on local plumbing codes, can be cured with anti-siphon trap.
Leaking pipesPlumbing joints may be parted. Copper plumbing joints are not threaded and can be permanently soldered or brazed if accidental bending or a hard blow causes a leak. Threaded joints of other metals may have to be reconnected, adding waterproof compound to threads.General noises in pipeAlmost always caused by underestimating the overall size of the plumbing system; pipes (or tubing) are too small. Accumulation of rust or deposits in old lines can also reduce the operating size of pipes. Installation of larger pipes, a pressure reducing valve, expansion loops or water-hammer arrester will correct most noises. A "creaking" noise is caused by expansion and contraction of piping which was incorrectly installed in direct contact with walls and floors instead of against sound-deadening devices. Urge customers, in initial installation, to allow for their own maximum use of plumbing, rather than always go by the minimum permitted by some plumbing codes. It will be less expensive in the long run.
Dripping pipesWarm, moist air condenses when it strikes cold pipe. Wrap with pipe insulation.Rumbling noise near water heaterWater may be too hot. Re-adjust thermostat to 140 degrees to 160 degrees.
Too much water in toilet tankIf water in tank flows off through overflow tube, replace supply cock. If water leaks past rubber ball stopper through outlet valve, replace valve.Sluggish drainsDrain piping must be of correct size and sloped uniformly; one quarter of an inch to the foot is best. Local codes prevail, but it is possible to oversize as well as undersize drain pipe. Piping that is too big may not allow water to completely remove materials clinging to its walls. The result-clogging.
Toilet tank ball does not fit (humming sound)Outlet pipe is corroded or covered with grit and makes irregular seat for stopper ball. Smooth with emery cloth or replace outlet pipe.Low water pressureUndersize plumbing or clogged pipes or both. A major plumbing job, by contractor, may be the only solution.
Hammering noise when faucet is turned off rapidly.Generally a simple do-it-yourself job to install air chambers, shock absorbers or pressure-reducing valves. If system already has air chambers, unclog by shutting off water supply and opening all faucets.Whistling when toilet tank fillsIncrease flow of water into tank by adjusting float valve.

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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