Plumbing FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q) Basement Bathroom :- Is a basement bathroom possible even though my sewer piping is higher than the basement floor ?
A) The most challenging part of basement bathrooms, as with any plumbing project is the ventilation piping. Plumbers will tell you there are four parts of a plumbing system 1 = water, 2 = drainage 3 = venting and 4 = venting. Properly vented plumbing fixtures are critical in keeping airborne diseases and sewer gases from entering your building.
Most Basement bathrooms are below the building drain (sewer main) and will require a pump chamber to collect the refuse and pump it up into the building drain (sewer main). The pump chamber will needs to be vented to remove negative pressures and odors, as too will the new plumbing fixtures.
Your plumber will need to tie all the basement venting into your existing plumbing vents (six inches above the highest plumbing fixture) or install a new vent through the roof. Most newer houses (built after 1990's) have future vents set up in the basement for future use.
Basement bathrooms are possible, but be prepared for a sizable project especially if your house is not equipped with a future vent
Q) Ground Water :- I get some water in my basement during heavy rain. How do I stop this from happening ?
A) The most economical plumbing solution would be to first install a sump pump system approximately two feet below the grounds surface, in an area were water is often found and if this does not remedy the problem ask your plumber about installing a perimeter drain system. The perimeter drain system is installed by cutting open the concrete floor around the inside perimeter of your basement walls and installing drainage pipe and stone. The drainage pipe is installed in the direction of the sump pump system, so if water were to rise through any part of the foundation it will be removed before getting to the level of the finished concrete floor.
Ground water is very common in areas were the water tables are high, water tables in the ground will rise during heavy rain storms and also when snow melting occurrence is rapid.
Q) High water pressure :- My plumber says the water pressure in my house is high (110psi). Is this really an issue ?
A) High water pressure contributes to most plumbing problems, high gas bills, higher water bills and in some cases flood damage. Burst washing machine hoses are the leading cause for household floods and high pressure is the leading cause of burst hoses. The maximum pressure in your home should not exceed 80psig (as per most plumbing codes).
There are a number of reasons for high water pressure, geographical low points or distance from a water pumping facility, may be a factor. Whatever the reason, this problem is very costly. Water pressure has an effect on the flow rate of every plumbing fixture in your home. Consider how many times per day your kitchen faucet is used. Just saving half a gallon per minute every time faucets or a shower is used, will reduce your yearly water bill. Since water takes longer to boil under pressure, gas or electric bills are reduced by approximately 5% after installing a pressure regulator valve (pressure reducer) on your water main.
Q) Low water pressure :- What is normal water pressure ? The water seems to trickle out of my shower head.
A) Properties which are located on hill tops or high geographic areas are more likely to have low water pressure (below 49psig). This problem is remedied by installing a pressure booster pump and tank which would boost the pressure up to around 60psig. (pressure relief valve set at 70psig).
Water trickling out of shower heads may not always be an indicator of low water pressure. Minerals such as calcium, lime and rust may be stuck in the shower head. Have your local plumber check the water pressure to your property before taking action.
Q) Toilet Repairs :- We love our older bathroom fixtures as the colors all match. However the toilet doesn't work quite as well as it used to. Is the toilet repairable ?
A) Most toilets can be rebuilt by replacing all the tank parts. This is done by removing the tank from the toilet bowl, usually held down by two or three bolts. The tank is then cleaned out and all removable parts are discarded and replaced. In some cases the toilet bowl rim holes are gently rodded to dislodge calcium or debris that may have built up over the years.
Your toilet should work as good as new once rebuilt.
Q) Water Main Shut Off Valve :- How do I shut off all the water to my house, if I have a plumbing emergency ?
A) Your water main will most likely be located in the basement at the front of the house, either mounted on your foundation wall or coming through the basement floor. The pipe will be connected to your water meter and have a shutoff valve before and sometimes after the meter. Try to brace the piping as best you can when operating the shutoff valve as older piping tend to snap/sheer off at the concrete/penetrating surface. Please don't hesitate and call your plumber or your City DPW (Department Of Public Works), if water continues running at full force after 90 seconds of shutting the main water valve. Some shutoff valves do fail after being in service for many years.
Gas FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q) Gas Fireplace :- Is it possible to convert my wood burning fireplace to gas ?
A) Converting your wood fireplace to gas is not very difficult when properly planed. Before purchasing a firelog or gas-log first measure the fireplace cavity (height, depth, front width, & back width) then ask your fireplace store if they can provide you with a gas-log which will safely fit in the area and is legal for use in your State.Gas piping in your house may need to be modified for the additional load. Gas logs are perfect for those days when you don't feel like chopping or lugging wood and just want to sit by a warm fire. Gas logs have proven to be a perfect backup source of heat when the power goes out, as the gas valves are self powered and don't require electricity.
Q) Gas Smell :- I smell gas when I go into my basement, but the smell goes away after a little while. What could this be ?
A) Most of your high output appliances such as furnaces, boilers and water heaters are located in utility rooms or basements. Your presence in these areas moves the air around, diluting the gas with the surrounding air, making it seem as if the problem is gone. Pilot tubes on appliances the most common to have small leaks, as too is older gas piping. Either way, this problem is not one which comes and goes. There is no such thing as a good gas leak, so get your gas company or gas professional out as soon as possible to locate and repair the problem.
Q) Oil to Gas Conversion:- I currently have oil and would like to change over to gas. How do I go about doing this ?
A) Call your gas supplier first to confirm that your street has a gas supply line. Keep in mind, most gas companies have incentive programs for new gas conversion customers and rebate programs for certain gas appliances. Once the gas company has installed new gas piping to your building your licensed gas fitter (PHD Plumbing) will coordinate the installation of gas piping inside the building. City gas Inspectors will inspect the gas fitters work after piping and equipment is installed, and if all is well, will issue a signed off gas tag which will be affixed to the gas piping. The gas tag provided by the City Inspector is required by the gas supplier to release and install your new gas meter..
Q) Ventless Gas Heaters & Fireplaces :- What is a ventless gas heater and are they safe ?
A) Since ventless heaters and fireplaces expel 100% of its burned byproducts into the rooms atmosphere there is almost no heat loss, no lost heat going up a chimney or through a vent, making the appliance 99% efficient. However most ventless appliance manufacturers instruction manuals will recommend opening a window whilst using these appliance (reducing the claimed 99% efficiency). Legal in most States and restricted for use only as a secondary source of heat, ventless gas heaters have their place in certain applications. Please be aware of the fact that by burning gas and expelling the byproducts directly into your living space can be harmful to your health.
In my opinion, gas fired ventless heaters and fireplaces should primarily be used for their aesthetic value and should not be used as a heat source.
Water Heaters FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q) Water Heater Size :- What size water heater do I need for my home.
A) Water heater size is determined by demand , usage and recovery. Please see below table for general sizing while keeping in mind that high capacity fixtures such as whirlpool tubs etc, need to be considered when making a decision about your next water heater.
The general rule for water heater recovery is - High efficient water heaters such as direct or indirect water heaters will recover faster than a power vented water heaters, were power vented water heaters will recover faster than atmospherically (chimney or gravity) vented water heater.
Q) Installing My Water Heater :- Can anyone install a water heater.
A) There are many safety requirements and local codes which pertain to water heaters, forgetting or eliminating a single safety mechanism on a water heater (electric or gas) could lead to catastrophic results. Many accidents have occurred in the past, so the quick answer is no, It is against the law for any unlicensed person to install plumbing fixtures in MA & NH.
Please take a couple minutes and watch my favorite twosome Adam & Jamie from the Discovery Channel with the repercussions of an incorrect installation.
Q) Water Heater Flooding :- How do I prevent flooding in my finished basement when my water heater fails ?
A) Water heaters generally last 6 to 15 years depending on the make, model, water pressure, usage and warrantee. A water heater usually never gives any warning of failure and some just crack open, spewing hundreds of gallons of water into your basement. The best prevention against water damage from water heater failure is the "FLOOD MASTER" device. Flood Master is a plug in solenoid device which is mounted on the water supply to your water heater. A sensor is placed either on the floor beside the water heater or in a pan under the water heater. Once water hits the sensor an alarm will sound and the solenoid valve will turn the water feed to the off position.
Q) Hot Water From Steam Boiler :- I currently have a tankless water heater connected to my boiler which has failed. Do I have to replace the tankless coil, as my oil professional suggested, or do I have options ?
A) Tankless coils work well when new, but still supply a fluctuating temperature. Over time coils get clogged up with sediment or encrusted with minerals reducing the heat transference. Replacing the coil is one of a couple reliable options, depending on a variety of factors.
My personal favorite solution to this common problem, is installing an indirect water heater (Superstor, Amtrol etc) off the steam boiler with a separate loop. Recovery is super quick, especially in the winter when the boiler is at its peak performance.
Q) Water Heater Maintenance :- Should I have a maintenance plan for my water heater ?
A) Maintaining your water heater is a wise way of extending its life. Draining sediment from the bottom of the tank every couple years is a quick and easy form of maintenance,which most home owners can perform without the aid of a plumber, by simply attaching a hose to the bottom drain (spigot / faucet) of your water heater and, without turning off the water supply to the water heater, drain approximately three gallons of water from the hose.
Changing the water heaters anode rod every four years is the best way of getting more life out of the tank. Anode rod's are installed in water heaters to draw the corroding effect away from the steel tank and sacrificing itself instead. Below is a picture of two anode rod's. The significantly shorter rod on the left has been in service for three years, and as you can see is quite corroded compared to the new anode rod to the right. I would recommend having a licensed plumber for this project as it will effect the water heaters warranty and some water heater anode rods are connected to the plumbing, which would require cutting and soldering.
Heating & AC FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q) Leaking pipe :- Why is the pipe attached to my boiler leaking ?
A) The pipe your referring to is most likely attached to the pressure relief valve, and is leaking because it has reached it's blow-off point (pressure over 30psi). This is a safety device which is designed to keep the boiler from reaching pressures above 30psi. High pressure combined with high temperatures will result in an explosion, at this point I’d recommend shutting off the water & power to your boiler and giving us a call.
Q) Boiler & Furnace maintenance :- How often should I have my boiler / furnace cleaned ?
A) Gas fired furnaces & boilers should be serviced and cleaned every four to five years and oil fired boilers should be serviced and cleaned every second year. All boilers should have mechanical parts such as pressure regulator, backflow-preventor, pressure relief valve, and expansion tank replaced every ten to twelve years.
Furnaces and air handlers with evaporator coils should be cleaned and washed down every three to five years, same goes for the outdoor condenser. Evaporator coils and condensers get plugged-up with pollen and small particles of dust, which reduce the efficiency and effective transfer of hot or cool air.
Q) Adding AC :- Is it possible to add AC (cool air) to my heating furnace ?
A) Most furnaces can be retro-fitted with a cased or uncased evaporator coil depending on the existing furnace age ; blower motor and controls.
Have your HVAC specialist assess the system first.
Q) Heat Pumps :- Will a heat pump work in New England winters ?
A) Heat pump technology has come a long way. Many mini-split systems will now operate effectively under harsh winter conditions (3F-20F) whereas a whole house split systems may not be as effective. Many variables should be considered before deciding to install a 100% heat pump system over a mixed energy system such as a gas/electric system where the heat pump would be used for a short period before freezing temperatures arrive and switch over to the gas or electric coil portion during freezing temperatures.
Q) Radiant heat:- I want to install radiant heat in my basement. Is this possible without having to rip-up the concrete floor ?
A) Any installation of radiant flooring which keeps the tubing off the concrete is recommended and preferred. Some of our best installations of radiant heat have been done in basements, using a floating floor system which acts as both a vapor barrier and an insulator, we install a slotted radiant track which provides even heat to the entire area. Below are some pictures of a section of radiant flooring in which antifreeze was needed (note the red color in the tubing) for a separate section of the heating system which was exposed to the elements on a four season deck.
Q) Frozen baseboard:- I have a section of baseboard in a four season porch which freezes up occasionally. How do I prevent this from happening ?
A) The first and most cost efficient way of keeping any part of your heating system from freezing would be to pump antifreeze (non toxic solution) into the heating system. With the exception of systems containing Aluminum, CPVC and Galvanized Steel. Most antifreeze solutions will even protect the metals in your heating system against corrosion and lubricate moving parts. Antifreeze solution should last up to 6-7 years depending on the size of your heating system, and should be checked every two to three years for high acidity (pH) levels. Whether you have freeze-up problems or a fully functional heating system that has never frozen up, I would recommend anti-freeze to all homeowners with radiant (hot water) heating systems. Since mechanical items such as circulators, gas valves, etc break down at the most inopportune times, anti-freeze is your insurance policy against high repair costs of burst, frozen piping & boilers.
The second solution to your problem is to create a seperate zone just for that four season room, by adding a switching relay to your boiler and rerouting the piping going to and coming from the radiators. This room can now be controlled by its own thermostat. Other solutions would include installing a jog/exercise relay on the heating loop to periodically keep water moving through the heating lines.
Q) Incentive Programs:- I'm thinking of replacing my old heating system / water heater, will I qualify for any rebates or incentives to install new equipment ?
A) Utility companies change, incentive / rebate programs frequently. Most providers will incentivize high efficient heating, hot water and A.C equipment. Please call your provider for more information or if located in Massachusetts, contact Mass Save at - http://www.masssave.com/residential/mass-energy-rebate. See current Massachusetts residential energy rebates on our "coupons and specials page".
Drain Cleaning FAQ'S (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q) Clogged Drains :- What is causing my kitchen drain to clog-up so often ?
A) Most kitchen sinks these days are equipped with garbage disposers (disposals). This leads the belief that garbage should go down the drainage system, hence overloading the drainage system with refuse. Try using your garbage disposer for the necessary duties only, like scraps left on plates and always remember to use two parts water for one part solid. There are other contributing factors to drains clogging, such as natural build up of soap-scum, dirt and hair (drain grease). These are mostly prevented by using a monthly drain treatment.
Q) Tree Roots :- How did tree roots get in my sewer system.
A) Tree roots in sewer mains (building drains) are quite common, even more so during dry seasons. A trees rooting system is always in search of water and nutrients, so if your buried sewer main has the smallest of cracks. The root system will find it and in most cases enlarge the crack in order to get more of its root system in that drain. Once you have tree roots growing in your sewer main your guaranteed to have them return every two to four years if left untreated. The best way to keep these roots at bay, is by firstly, having a professional remove them and then treating the drainage system with a Root Destroyer. The best way to completely eradicate this problem would be to pin-point the broken or separated section of piping with a sewer camera (cctv system) and locator, then spot repairing broken or separated sections of pipe. Replacing the entire sewer line with new PVC piping from the house/building, to the street would be a guaranteed long term solution.
Q) Liquid Drain Opener :- Were do I find plumbers strength liquid drain acid.
A) Plumbing supply companies sell strong liquid acid formulas. These formula are only sold to licensed plumbers who are insured against damages and are equipped to repair piping, in the event acid formulas eat through old steel piping or soften the joints on PVC fittings. We recommend cleaning drains the old fashioned way by using a snake, rod, pressure or plunger. Our company promotes the use of organic or environmentally safe products, such as bacterial enzymatic liquids (ProClean). Used during a maintenance regiment, ProClean is proven to convert grease and organic buildup into carbon dioxide and water.
Q) Don't Flush :- What shouldn't be flushed down the toilet.
A) Its amazing what we've found stuck in toilets and sewer drains over the many years cleaning drains. From tooth brushes and diapers, to the not so obvious, such as kitty litter and planting soil. The most common items found jamming-up sewers and toilets are those products which you would think are flushable, such as - paper towels, towelette's, Feminine Products (tampons, pads etc). The rule of thumb is, If it doesn't break up or dissolve shortly after coming in contact with water, It most likely will accumulate, and plug-up the drain.
PO Box 8061 Ward Hill, Bradford MA 01835
(978)556-5617 ; (978)360-0550 or (781)581-0700
Coverage Area FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q) Cities & Towns We Service :- Which Cities & Towns does PHD Plumbing service ?
A) PHD Plumbing serve Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
Massachusetts Cities & Towns We Service - Amesbury, Andover, Ayer, Bedford, Beverly, Billerica, Boxboro, Boxborough, Boxford, Bradford, Burlington, Byfield, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Danvers, Dracut, Lynn, Pepperell, Essex, Everett, Georgetown, Groton, Groveland, Hamilton, Haverhill, Ipswich, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynnfield, Malden, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Peabody, Plumb island, Reading, North Reading, Revere, Rowley, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, South chelmsford, Chelmsford, Topsfield, Wenham, Tyngsboro, Wakefield, Ward Hill, Westford, Woburn.
New Hampshire Cities & Towns We Service - Atkinson, Brentwood, Danville, Derry, Exeter, Hampstead, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Hudson, Kensington, Kingston, Litchfield,
Londonderry, Merrimack, Nashua, Newton, Pelham, Plaistow, Salem, Seabrook, Windham.
MA # 13471
Fast reliable service
PLUMBING . HEATING . DRAIN CLEANING
MA # 13471
Fast reliable service