Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions

I suspect I have a gas leak. What should I do?
  • Leave your home immediately, taking any others in the home with you.
  • Once you have evacuated the building, phone your gas company to report the suspected leak.
  • DO NOT light a match or use a lighter.
  • DO NOT switch lights ON or OFF, use any electrical appliances, telephones (including cellular), your garage door opener, doorbells, flashlights, etc.
  • DO NOT start any vehicle.
  • DO NOT re-enter your building unit the gas company has inspected your building and declared it safe.

Where is my main water valve?
In case of an emergency, you should know where the main shut-off valve is in your home. Typically it is located near the water meter, or where the main water line enters your home.

If a water pipe bursts, you should shut off the water at the main shut-off valve and phone us. If you don't know where your main shut-off valve is, phone us at 203 386-1730.

I think I have frozen pipes. What should I do?
Any water pipes located in outside walls, crawl spaces and attics that are not properly insulated are vulnerable to freezing and bursting. In such areas, during extreme cold weather (typically 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below), it is advisable to open faucets to the point where water steadily drips. This practice can often prevent a water pipe from freezing (and ultimately bursting). Under extraordinary conditions, (low temperature and improper insulation) pipes can freeze even with a slow flow of water running through them.

You should know where the main shut-off valve is in your home. Typically it is located near the water meter, or where the main water line enters your home. If a water pipe bursts, you should shut off the water at the main shut-off valve and phone us. If you don't know where your main shut-off valve is, phone us at 203 386-1730.

NEVER TRY THAWING A FROZEN PIPE WITH AN OPEN FLAME! That is a sure way to start a fire in your home. You could also damage the pipe you are attempting to thaw. While some have reported success using a hair dryer, (WE SUGGEST YOU DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS) the process is often tedious, time consuming and unsuccessful, (as it is often difficult to access the frozen section of pipe). You should never operate an electrical appliance where standing water is present. MASTER PLUMBING & DRAIN CLEANING has special tools designed for the specific purpose of thawing frozen pipes.

Heading out for an extended period during cold weather? Don't lower your heat to the point where your pipes become vulnerable to freezing. You can also turn off your main shut-off valve as described above to protect yourself in the event a pipe bursts.

If you think your pipes have frozen, turn off your water at the main shut-off valve, leave your faucets turned on and phone us at 203 386-1730 or, if an emergency, phone us at 203 650-1953.

What should I do if a valve or faucet has broken and/or has developed a serious leak?
Look underneath your sink for water shut-off valves. You should find both cold water and hot water valves. Your shut-off valves will typically have a small, oval, chrome handle.

To shut off the water flow to the leaking faucet, turn the chrome handle clockwise until the flow stops. If the valve won't budge (shut-off valves often "freeze" from lack of use), you may need to use a pair of pliers to loosen them. DON'T USE TOO MUCH FORCE as you move the handle back and forth until the valve loosens. If the handle spins freely, you may have to tighten the set screw in the center of the valve handle. Once tightened, try loosening the valve handle again as above. Once free, turn off the water and phone us at 203 386-1730, or CLICK HERE to complete a simple service request.

I hear gurgling noises from my floor drain. Is that normal?
In short, "No." Gurgling noises are typically the result of trapped air which resides in front of the body of waste water that is moving down your drain pipe. Gurgling noises typically indicate a problem with drain venting, partial drain blockage, or a failing septic system. In most cases the sound is a harbinger of larger problems to come, including sewer backup. This is often the case if the gurgling noises are the result of partial drain blockage as "partial" often leads to complete blockage. You should phone us at 203 386-1730 and have us resolve this problem.

How often should my sewer line be cleaned?
On average, once every 18 months to 2 years. Perhaps a better answer might be, "Periodically." It really depends on the location of your sewer line, (including the proximity and type of trees that may be growing close to your sewer line) and the quality of your sewer construction.

One rule of thumb is that preventive maintenance can avert expensive repairs later. If your toilet, shower or sink is backing up repeatedly, more-so after having company, or after a heavy day of usage, you should probably call us at 203 386-1730.

How can I tell if my toilet is leaking?
Do you hear the sound of water running, (leaks can also be silent)? Does it start and stop? If your toilet is constantly running, you could easily be wasting in excess of 100 gallons per day. Here's one way you can verify your suspicion:

  • Remove the toilet lid (from the reservoir at the back of your toilet) and place a few drops of food coloring into the tank. Alternately (if you don't have any food coloring) you can use instant coffee, powdered fruit drink mix (grape is best) or dye tabs, (the latter of which you can typically purchase from a home center or local hardware store).
  • Wait about 30 minutes without flushing and look into your toilet bowl. What do you see? If the water is clear, you don't have a leak. If you see color in the bowl (from whatever material you placed into the reservoir), you have a leak. Phone us at 203 386-1730 or CLICK HERE to request service.

If you have water on the floor under and around your toilet, you have a different problem. Sometimes the cause can be as simple as condensation or sweating, (often occurs in summer when humidity is high). If that's not the case, the water supply connection under the reservoir could be leaking, the wax seal under the toilet could be leaking, or your bowl could have a crack. Whatever the cause, please know MASTER PLUMBING & DRAIN CLEANING stands ready to serve you. Phone us at 203 386-1730 or CLICK HERE to request service.

What do I do if my toilet flushes slowly?
Out of sight, under your toilet bowl rim, are a series of small holes. The holes are designed to be at a slight angle. As such, water flows into the toilet bowl at an angle so as to promote swirling of the water, (which promotes a more thorough flush). If the speed at which the water enters the tank is diminished, your toilet will flush slowly, or not flush at all. The small holes can be plugged, or partially plugged with calcite or other minerals. You might have success clearing blockage with a paper clip, compass point or other metal, pointed object. If you're able to clear the blockage, your flushing problem could be a thing of the past.

My toilet is loose, and rocks back and forth. Is there a quick-fix to this problem?
You might be able to solve this problem by tightening the bolts that secure your toilet to the floor, but you should not over-tighten! If your floor is uneven, and you tighten the bolts to compensate, you risk cracking the bowl.

We suggest you contact us to handle this problem. We can check to be sure the stool flange is not broken, and can replace your wax seal to ensure you don't have leaks. Phone us at 203 386-1730 or CLICK HERE to request service.

What is hard water?
Think of hard water as water containing an abundance of dissolved hard minerals such as calcium, manganese and magnesium, (the most common hardness minerals). What's more important is how hard water affects our lives.

Hard water is not nearly as convenient or efficient as soft water. When cleaning, you will typically use half as much soap with soft water as compared to hard water. Hard water and soap combine to form soap scum, something you may notice in your bathtub, and on your dishes in the form of spots.

When washing your hands, hard water can cause soap scum to remain on your skin, even after extensive rinsing. This can cause skin irritation, rashes, etc.

When hard water is heated, the dissolved minerals become re-crystalized, forming scale that can clog your water heating pipes and coat heating elements in water heaters causing premature failure. You should periodically drain a few gallons from your water heater two or three times a year to help avoid this problem.

How can I save on water heating costs?
The Department of Energy tells us that lowering the water temperature of your gas hot water heater just 10 degrees can result in 6% energy savings. If the setting is further reduced to 140 (or even 120 degrees), you could save as much as 18%.

Setting an exact temperature at your gas water heater can be a challenge as the temperature adjustment dial is not calibrated in degrees. One way to determine the hot water temperature from your gas-fired water heater would be to use a cooking thermometer under a faucet, (running only hot water, of course).

Many electric water heaters come preset at 150 degrees. We recommend a setting of 130, or even 120 degrees. Changing the temperature on an electric water heater requires that you turn off the power to your electric water heater at the fuse or breaker box BEFORE making adjustments. As most electric water heaters have two elements and two thermostats, you may want to call us for help in making any adjustments. Phone us at 203 386-1730.

If you have hard water, another way you can save energy is to periodically drain a few gallons from your water heater. Do this two or three times a year and you'll not only increase efficiency, you may increase the life expectancy of your unit. Why? Hard water often causes mineral deposits and scale to collect at the base of your water heater, surrounding the heating element. The scale and deposits effectively become an insulator, preventing the heat in your element from efficiently transferring to the water in your tank. By draining a few gallons from your unit, you can flush out the deposits so your unit can operate more efficiently.

Finally, you can purchase an insulation kit to insulate your water heater, (try Home Depot). Kits are made for both gas and electric units. The Department of Energy recommends that you use a kit (and only a kit) if your unit is gas fired. Follow all instructions when installing. If you have questions, simply pick up the phone and call us at 203 386-1730. We're here to help.

My garbage disposal unit is jammed. How can I "unjam" it?

You'll know it's jammed if the unit makes a humming noise but does nothing, i.e., the impeller is not turning. Something is probably lodged between the impeller(s), shredder ring or flywheel.

The first thing you'll want to do is turn the power off at your electrical service panel. We suggest you NOT attempt the following if you do not know where the breaker is that controls power to your disposal unit! If you're able to find the breaker, turn it OFF.

Head back to the disposal unit and flip the switch ON to ensure you have indeed interrupted power to the disposal unit via the breaker in your electrical panel. If you don't hear a hum, good. Turn the switch back off, (yes, even though you have the power OFF at your breaker panel).


Your disposal unit should have come with an "offset wrench." If you have the wrench, look to the flywheel in the disposal unit. In the center of the flywheel you will see a hole that you can insert the wrench into. Insert your wrench into the hole and attempt to turn the flywheel clockwise until you are able to dislodge whatever is jamming the unit. Once the foreign object dislodges, the flywheel should turn freely.

If you don't have the wrench, (you might find a replacement at your local hardware store) try using a wooden plunger handle or wooden broom handle to free the impeller and flywheel. With a little "elbow grease" at the right angle, you should be able to free the flywheel/impeller.

Once the flywheel and impeller are free, firstly make sure the power switch at the unit is still OFF.
Secondly head back to the breaker panel and turn the breaker back ON.

Head back to the disposal unit but don't turn the power switch on just yet.
Firstly, press the reset button which is typically located at the base of most units, under the sink. Next, open the cold water sink faucet and begin running water into the drain. Now flip the disposal switch on and off in short bursts. The flywheel and impeller should again be spinning. At this juncture, whatever you dislodged will hopefully flush down the drain.

If the above doesn't solve your problem, kindly phone us at 203-386-1730, or CLICK HERE to request service online.

There are foul odors emanating from my garbage disposal unit. What can I do?
Try slicing up some lemon peels (you can also use orange peels) and dropping them into your drain with some ice cubes and a small amount (short squirt) of liquid dish-washing detergent. Run the unit for half a minute and then turn on your cold water and run for another half a minute. If necessary, repeat the above.

Why is warm water backing up into my sink with the dishwasher running?
There is typically a plumbing connection from the dishwasher to your garbage disposal drain. If you've left food in your garbage disposal unit, it may be blocking the flow of water through your main drain. As the dishwasher "power drains," the dishwasher water is forced into your sink (as it cannot flow through the main drain).

As a general rule of thumb, make sure your garbage disposal unit is empty of food BEFORE you run your dishwasher.

Why does my shower change temperature when someone flushes the toilet, opens a valve or is doing laundry?
This has everything to do with the diameter of the water pipes that reside in your home. Smaller water lines simply cannot adequately feed many appliances at the same time.

Example: You take a shower. You adjust the hot and cold faucets to your comfort. Your son turns on the hot water in his bathroom sink. The water in your shower gets cold. Why? Your small diameter pipes simply cannot feed enough hot water to your shower and your son's sink at the same time, i.e., your shower gets less hot water and turns cold.

Your options are to replace the water lines in your home, sizing them properly, or to install a pressure differential type valve in your shower that will automatically compensate for pressure differences, (should balance the hot and cold to maintain a temperature range of +/- 2 degrees). Either way, we can help. Phone us at 203 386-1730 to discuss your options, or CLICK HERE to request service.

What is the difference between a conventional water heater and a tankless water heater?
Conventional water heaters are the most common type of water heater installed in the U.S. today. They typically range in size from 20 to 80 gallons (but are available larger), and are fueled by electricity, natural gas, propane or oil. Such units, often called storage units, transfer heat from a burner (natural gas, propane or oil) or an element (electric), to water which resides in an insulated tank.

Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than conventional water heaters as they only make hot water "on demand" as you need it, (on average they are 22% more energy efficient than conventional hot water heaters). When the demand for hot water has ended, your tankless water heater simply shuts down and uses no energy. Conventional hot water heaters heat continuously.

Tankless water heaters last longer than conventional hot water units. Most systems have a life expectancy in excess of 20 years. They also take up less space than their conventional counterparts.

Tankless water heaters provide an endless flow of hot water. This is because tankless water heaters heat the water directly, (no storage tank).

Things to consider if contemplating a tankless water heater:
If your hot water demand is high, e.g., you need hot water for several baths or a few baths and a laundry room at the same time, the flow of hot water from a tankless water heater may not be adequate. This is something you'll want to discuss with us if you are considering having a tankless water heater installed. If your demands are high, you can install a second tankless unit, or make changes in the way you use your hot water. Again, this is something you'll want to discuss as we evaluate your requirements.

There are many things to consider when choosing a water-heating system. We can guide you through the available options to ensure you end up with the right system for your home – one that will serve you for years and perform efficiently. Should you have any questions, kindly phone us at 203 386-1730.

With my electric hot water heater, my hot water seems to be running out more quickly than previous. What's going on?
Keep in mind that most electric hot water heaters have two heating elements. While they work in turns, (top element heats first, then lower element heats), if one element is out, you'll either have no hot water or marginal hot water, (depending on which element is out). While in some cases pressing the RESET button will get you back up and running, a replacement element may be needed.

Should you have any questions, kindly phone us at 203 386-1730.

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