Do-It-Yourself

Mysterious noises in your house? Could be the plumbing.

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By Gene Austin
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Q: I have a loud groaning noise in my house. I can't tell where it originates. Can you help? -- J. Culbertson

A: Groaning noises and a variety of other sounds such as banging and whistling often originate in plumbing and can be difficult to pinpoint. Even an experienced plumber might not help much unless he or she hears the noise. However, here are some of the most common causes.

A defective refill valve or ballcock in a toilet is one possibility. This is likely if the groaning occurs after a toilet is flushed. The noise is generated as the toilet tank is being refilled.

The remedy is to replace the valve, which is inside the toilet tank at the left. Older toilets often have a ball on a rod attached to the valve; newer toilets generally have a tower-type valve without a ball. Do-it-yourself refill valves for most toilets are sold at home centers; make sure you buy a valve that fits your of toilet.

Another possible cause is a loose washer in a faucet or shutoff valve. In this case, the noise generally occurs while a faucet is being used. Most new faucets don't have washers, but washers are used in many outdoor faucets and in some laundry faucets. Faucets with washers are in many older homes. Loose plumbing pipes can groan as well as make rattling and vibration noises.

Visible pipes can be secured with pipe strap or small brackets, both sold at home centers and hardware stores. Finally, waterlogged air chambers or water-hammer arresters can groan as well as make knocking and banging noises. Noise usually occurs when faucets or fixtures are shut off. The remedy is to drain the water out of the system and let the chambers refill with air, which acts as a shock absorber for plumbing pipes.

Q: We have three toilets in our house. One of them, in a powder room, is used less than the others but regularly accumulates a hard-water stain in the bottom of the bowl that I have to remove with a pumice stone. Why would that toilet stain more than others? --S. Lewis

A: I think your question contains the answer. The powder room toilet isn't used often, so hard water stands in the bowl and the minerals in the water have a better chance to cause staining. Also, the pumice stone is a very fine abrasive that could be causing tiny scratches in the surface of the bowl, giving the minerals a better opportunity to stick. I suggest putting a toilet bowl brush in the powder room. At least once a day, swish the water around the bowl with the brush and lightly scrub the sides of the bowl. Then flush the toilet even if it hasn't been used. My guess is that you will get less staining.

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QUICK TIP: Reader John Nagy, a house painter, said he has an effective method to deal with rust stains on drywall screw heads. He scrapes off the joint compound covering the screw and drives it deeper into the drywall, then applies new joint compound to cover the screw. In some cases, he said, he removes the old screws entirely and inserts new ones, driving them deeper than the originals so they are covered by a thicker layer of compound. The same procedure is used to treat rust stains on drywall nail heads.

Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422


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