Gene Austin's Do-It-Yourself

By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, December 6, 2008

QWhen I turn on the hot water in my bathroom sink, it comes out in spurts. I also feel knocking and shaking in the hot-water pipes in the basement. What's wrong? -- N. Sehghl

AIf this is happening in only one faucet, it is possible you have a clogged aerator in that faucet. If you have the same symptoms in other fixtures, including sinks and shower heads, and you have a water heater made between 1993 and 1997, you are probably having a dip-tube problem.

Start by removing the aerator from the tip of the faucet. It screws out, but if it hasn't been removed in a long time you might need to use pliers to get it started. If the aerator is simply clogged with minerals, it can be cleaned by soaking it overnight in white vinegar, but it is best to buy a new one for a few dollars at a home center. But if you find small pieces of plastic in the aerator, suspect the dip tube.

Defective dip tubes -- plastic tubes intended to guide incoming cold water to the bottom of heater tanks -- were installed in many brands of water heaters during the years mentioned above. The tubes often broke into small pieces that moved into pipes and fixtures, causing clogging.

If there is a dip-tube problem and your water heater is more than 10 years old, the best bet is to replace it. All aerators and shower heads should be removed and the pipes thoroughly flushed. You can also have the dip tube replaced and flush out the water heater and pipes, but many water heaters are nearing the end of their lives after 10 years.

A settlement was reached in litigation involving dip tubes, but the period for claims has expired.

I have been using fiberglass furnace filters for years. I had the furnace cleaned this year and the heater guy told me the filters are inefficient. Is that right? -- P. Ryan

Fiberglass filters generally trap only the largest dust particles, letting many small ones back into the air stream. They also should be changed about once a month. You'll get much more efficiency with pleated filters, which cost more than fiberglass. There are also high-efficiency filters such as 3M's Filtrete, which are relatively expensive but trap extremely small particles.

The marble floor in our family room has become dull and dirty. What do we have to do to make it like new again? -- H. Gicking

Cleaning and polishing should restore much of the floor's appearance. You can find marble-care products at or

Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to Questions cannot be answered personally.

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