If you're lucky enough to be a homeowner, you've probably got a big wish list for improvements. A fresh coat of paint for the exterior or interior walls, planting a Japanese maple in the yard, installing a skylight ... but the plain truth is, nothing trumps plumbing on a homeowner's list of priorities. If the stove or oven break, you can always order takeout, and if the lights go out, you can fire up some candles and call it "mood lighting." But when the toilet isn't working, life gets really unpleasant. (Especially if you've got a one-bathroom place). It can really come in handy to know some things about plumbing and plumbing repairs, and this is true whether you're an owner or a renter. Even if plumbing issues are ultimately the landlord's problem, that doesn't help much when water is shooting out of a broken pipe!
So if you think a flapper is a vivacious 1920s woman in a short dress, you might be in trouble. And you certainly won't ace this quiz. But if you give our quiz a shot, you're liable to learn a few things that'll start you on your way. Some of the questions you'll encounter are on basic things that a layperson should know. Others will be more complicated, on issues that a professional plumber would handle. But we think you'll enjoy learning a few things about one of the most important types of home maintenance. Ready? No toolbox needed; just your brain!
Every building with plumbing has both _____ and drainage systems.
All this means is that clean water enters the house, and wastewater leaves it. These are separate systems, to prevent contamination.
For the most part, wastewater drains from your home propelled by nothing more than gravity (with a small amount of force provided, sometimes, by the weight of water above it). This is pretty efficient, given that we have a never-ending supply of gravity!
Why do traps need to hold some water at all times?
To keep rats and mice out of the house
To keep sewer gas out of the house
Gas from the sewer or septic tank, being lighter than air, would rise up into the house otherwise, which would be frankly unpleasant. Not-so-fun fact: If a rat is determined to get into a building, it will go through a pipe, and the water in a trap won't stop it.
To be a fixture, a machine or appliance must both take in water from the supply system and discharge wastewater. The water heater doesn't do this, though it is closely related to the house's plumbing system, and some plumbers might feel comfortable helping you do maintenance to it.
Which of these is a simple way to keep pipes from freezing?
Paint them black.
Coat them in grease.
Let the faucets drip/trickle just a little bit.
Again, the physics isn't tricky. Molecules in motion don't freeze as easily as those kept still, and this is true of water. It's why, size and volume notwithstanding, ponds freeze more readily than creeks. Letting the water trickle is a short-term defense against freezing pipes. However, in the long term, you should get them insulated.
You might be more familiar with this in cookware. But Teflon tape can wrap around pipe ends and adhere to the threads in such a way that it doesn't interfere with coupling -- which is very handy. Note that this tape doesn't actually contain Teflon, but the name has stuck. (A little tape joke, there.)
If you regularly hear your toilet refilling as though someone just flushed it, there's no need to call Zak Bagans. Just make sure the flapper valve is in its proper place. If that doesn't help, replace the flapper altogether.
What's the easiest way to block a vent in a sink or tub while plunging?
Board over it.
Seal it with duct tape.
Stuff a rag in it.
This is very necessary to do -- otherwise, you won't get any suction, because the vent provides an alternate air intake. You might be able to seal the vent with a kind of waterproof tape -- but a rag is a lot easier.
Why should you close the drain while taking a faucet apart?
To keep water in the basin
To keep small parts from falling down it
You don't need water in the basin, and if your trap is fine, sewer gas can't come up. But believe us, some of those smaller parts can slip out of your fingers and right down the drain. Better to have the drain cover closed than to take the trap apart looking for them.
About how many gallons of water are used per toilet flush?
Less than one
Back in the day, toilets used more than 3 gallons of water per flush. Now, that's gone down significantly -- and you don't have to have installed a "low-flow" toilet to get the savings; it's pretty standard.
What is the most common cause of sink and shower drain clogs?
Yes, hair is the number-one reason for sink and shower clogs. And women's hair is the worse offender, as women have longer hair and groom it more (causing it to come out more easily). Ladies, if your man is complaining about hair in the drain, smile sweetly and offer to get a quarter-inch shaved look like Natalie Portman in "V for Vendetta." He'll likely decide a mesh drain cover is worth the $5 instead!
Which of these items is it safe to flush down a toilet?
None of these
All of these items are liable to cause an eventual clog. Some plumbers even advise keeping human hair out of the toilet (for example, if you pull it out of your comb or hairbrush), but small amounts are unlikely to do much damage.
The word "plumbing" itself is derived from the Latin word for what?
Lead used to be considered an ideal material for pipes. It naturally resists tiny leaks. However, because it's also a neurotoxin in higher levels, builders need to be very careful about not channeling potable water through it.