Below are some handy reference materials for home plumbing projects and information about common plumbing systems, such as septic tanks.
Buying a new sink goes beyond the aesthetics of kitchen fixtures. A quality sink will provide consistent functionality to a high traffic area in your home for many years. If you are beginning a complete kitchen remodel, you have a wide variety of design options based on the uses that suit your needs. If you frequently wash large pots and pans, a deep basin sink may be the best choice. Two basin and single basin models are the most popular configurations to consider, and different materials like stainless steel and coated enamel have their pros and cons. Before you begin, think about how you use your current sink and the things you want to change about your kitchen’s overall layout.
If you only want to replace the sink and do not want a countertop redesign, you need to match the dimensions of your new sink with the one currently installed. If your countertops will accommodate it, you could possibly install a sink with a deeper basin to make washing pots, pans, and other oversized items easier. Measuring accurately and as many times as it takes to get everything just right is the best advice when it comes to replacing any fixture.
Reading a fitting tells you the size of its inlet, outlet, and branch. A standard reading procedure has been established by the plumbing industry.
The following rules will give you a good idea of how to read a fitting:
- Elbows are fairly simple; they are full size or reducing. Tees and wyes are a little different; they have an inlet, outlet, and branch. Look at Figure (b) below; see the inlet labeled A, the outlet labeled B, and the branch labeled C.
- If the inlet, outlet, and branch sizes are of the same diameter, you need only read the one size. Example, a ¾” elbow has a ¾” socket on both ends. A 2” tee would have 2” sockets at all three openings.
- If an elbow has two different diameters, it’s called a “reducing elbow.” Read the larger diameter socket first, then the smaller diameter socket. Example: a 1” x ¾” reducer ell would have a 1” socket and a ¾” socket. See (a) on the illustration.
- When reading tees and wyes, read the larger socket first, and the straight through socket next. Then, read the branch diameter. Refer to view (b).
- If the first and second sockets on a tee or wye have the same diameter, you need only state the size once, as shown in views (c) and (d). If the second socket and the branch are the same size, you must still identify the size separately, as shown in (e).
- If the branch size is larger than the size of the first and second sockets, the fitting is called bullheaded. You must still read the fitting according to Rule 3 above.
The first thing you should do is to see how the unit is wired. If it has a cord with a plug, then simply unplug it from the receptacle. If it is hard wired, find the breaker or switch and turn it off.
Step 1: Disconnect the 1½" drain tube that connects to the disposal and set aside. In some areas the dishwasher drain line may drain into the disposal at the neck. Remove this line and tie up out of the way. Turn the locking ring that holds the disposal to the flange assembly; it usually can be done with a screwdriver. Set the disposal down inside the cabinet.
Step 2: At the bottom of the disposal, remove the electrical cover plate. Being sure the power is off! Remove the wire nuts and disconnect the ground wire. Pull the wiring out of the disposal. You may want to remove the wire connector that holds the wire into the disposal and use it on the new one.
Step 3: Remove the flange assembly from the top of the new disposal by turning the aluminum lock ring clockwise.
Step 4: Lay out the flange assembly and roll out a ½" diameter rope of plumber’s putty. Put it around the underside of the chrome flange. Coat the rubber gasket with pipe dope on the side that will join the sink.
Step 5: Place the flange piece through the hole in the sink. On the underside of the flange, slip the rubber gasket, then the paper gasket—in that order—over the threads. Screw the plastic nut on the flange piece, and tighten with a wrench (DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN). Next, slip on the aluminum lock ring. Last, slip on the rubber flange piece that will join to the disposal. Clean any excess putty from the flange in the sink.
Step 6: Remove the electrical plate from the bottom of the disposal. Install the wire connector in the hole provided. Pull the two wires out of the disposal and strip the black and white wire about ½" from the end of each wire. Place the existing power wire into the connector and pull it into the disposal. Hook the copper ground to the green screw, connect the wires, black to black and white to white with wire nuts. Replace the cover plate.
Step 7: If the existing drain from the dishwasher emptied into the disposal, and you want to do the same, then you must remove the plastic plug that is molded into the nipple. Knock out the plug using a screwdriver and hammer. Leave the plug in if you are not going to use this drain.
Step 8: Assemble the black elbow drain fitting to the side of the disposal. You may want to put some pipe dope on the rubber gasket. Tighten the two screws through the metal flange.
Step 9: With one hand, raise the disposal up to the flange assembly. Line up the locking ring with the studs on the disposal. With the other hand turn the locking ring counterclockwise until the ring locks. Place the dishwasher drain hose onto the connection at the top of the neck and tighten the hose clamps. If possible, turn the disposal so that the drain is in the back.
Step 10: If you are lucky, the old piping will line up with the new disposal. If not you may have to cut or turn the black elbow pipe. Using a new continuous waste pipe or the existing pipe, reassemble the drain.
Step 11: Always use NEW rubber or nylon gaskets. Always use pipe dope on the gaskets.
Step 12: Turn the water on to the sink and test the disposal and drain for leaks. Turn the electrical power on while the water is running. Check for operation as described in the installers’ manual.
Congratulations! You have successfully completed the job!
Households that are not served by public sewers usually depend on septic tanks to treat and dispose of wastewater. A well-designed, installed, and maintained system can provide years of reliable low-cost service. However, if they fail to operate effectively, property damage, groundwater and surface water pollution, and disease outbreaks can occur. Understanding how your septic tank works and how you can best care for it every day are the best ways to prevent an issue in the future.
There are many different types of septic tanks to fit a wide range of soil and site conditions. The following information will help you understand a conventional gravity-flow system and keep it operating safely at the lowest possible cost.
A conventional system has three working parts:
- The septic tank.
- The drainfield with its replacement area.
- The surrounding soil.
The Septic Tank
The typical septic tank is a large, buried rectangular or cylindrical container made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Wastewater from your toilet, bath, kitchen, laundry, etc., flows into the tank. Heavy solids settle to the bottom where bacterial action partially decomposes them to digested sludge and gases.
Most lighter solids, such as fats and grease, rise to the top and form a scum layer. Septic tanks can have one or two compartments. Tees or baffles are provided in the tank’s inlet and outlet pipes. The inlet tee slows the incoming wastes and reduces disturbance of the settled sludge. The outlet tee keeps the solids or scum in the tank. All tanks should have accessible covers for checking the condition of the baffles and for pumping both compartments. If risers extend from the tank to or above the ground surface, they should be secure to prevent accidental entry into the tank.
Solids that are not decomposed remain in the septic tank. If not removed by periodic pumping, solids will accumulate until they eventually overflow into the drainfield. Most tanks need to be pumped every 3 to 5 years, depending on the tank size, and the amount and type of solids entering the tank.
The wastewater that leaves the tank is a liquid called effluent. It has been partially treated but still contains disease-causing bacteria and other pollutants.
The drainfield receives septic tank effluent. It has a network of perforated pipes laid in gravel-filled trenches (2-3 feet wide), or beds (over 3 feet wide) in the soil. Wastewater trickles out of the pipes, through the gravel layer, and into the soil. The size and type of drainfield depends on the estimated daily wastewater flow and soil conditions. Every new drainfield is required to have a designated replacement area. It must be maintained should the existing system need an addition or repair.
The soil below the drainfield provides the final treatment and disposal of the septic tank effluent. After the effluent has passed into the soil, most of it percolates downward and outward, eventually entering the groundwater. A small percentage is taken up by plants through their roots, or evaporates from the soil. The soil filters effluent as it passes through the pore spaces. Chemical and biological processes treat the effluent before it reaches groundwater, or a restrictive layer, such as hardpan, bedrock, or clay soils. These processes work best where the soil is somewhat dry, permeable, and contains plenty of oxygen for several feet below the drainfield.
Warning signs of a failure:
- Odors, surfacing sewage, wet spots or lush vegetation in the
- drainfield area.
- Plumbing or septic tank backups.
- Slow-draining fixture.
- Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system.
Caring for Your System:
- Practice water conservation. The more wastewater you produce, the more the soil must be treated and disposed of. By reducing and balancing your water use, you can extend the life of the drainfield, decrease the possibility of system failure, and avoid costly repairs.
- Keep accurate records. Know where your septic tank is and keep a diagram of its location. Records of its size and location may be available at your local health agency. It is also wise to keep a record of maintenance on the system. These records will be helpful if problems occur, and will be valuable to the next owner of your home.
- Inspect your system once each year. Check the sludge and scum levels inside your septic tank to assure that the layers of solids are not within the early warning levels. Also check the tank to see if the baffles and tees are in good condition. Periodically inspect the drainfield and downslope areas for odors, wet spots, or surfacing sewage. If your drainfield has inspection pipes, check them to see if there is a liquid level continually over 6 inches. This may be an early indication of a problem.
- Pump out your septic tank when needed. Don’t wait until you have a problem. Routine pumping can prevent failures, such as clogging of the drainfield and sewage back-up into the home. Using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids entering the septic tank, requiring more frequent pumping.
- Never flush harmful materials. Grease, cooking fats, newspapers, paper towels, rags, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, and cigarettes cannot easily decompose in the tank. Chemicals such as solvents, oils, paint, and pesticides are harmful to the system’s proper operation and may pollute the groundwater.
- Keep all runoff away from your system. Water from surfaces such as roofs, driveways, or patios should be diverted away from the septic tank and drainfield area.
- Protect your system from damage. Keep traffic, such as vehicles, heavy equipment, or livestock off your drainfield or replacement area. The pressure can compact the soil or damage pipes. Before you plant a garden, construct a building, or install a pool, check on the location of your system and replacement area.
- Landscape your system properly. Don’t place impermeable materials over your drainfield or replacement area. Materials, such as concrete or plastic, reduce evaporation and the supply of oxygen to the soil for proper effluent treatment. They can also hinder access to the system for pumping, inspection, or repair. Grass is the best cover for your system.
- Never enter any septic tank. Poisonous gases or the lack of oxygen can be fatal. Any work on the tank must be done from outside.
Sooner or later, every homeowner asks a plumber for advice on how to deal with a clogged kitchen or bathroom sink. This is one of the easiest plumbing problems to fix. All you need are a few minutes and a couple of common household tools.
First, open the cabinet under the sink and take a look. There is a section of pipe beneath the sink that is shaped like an “S” or a “P” which is called the trap, and it could be at the root of your problem.
Using gravity, this curved section of pipe traps water inside to keep sewer gases from seeping back up through the drain into your home. Over time, however, this fundamental force of nature also causes soap, hair and other debris to collect in the trap. When water can no longer pass through a build up, it is tempting to use a chemical drain cleaner as a quick fix, but it is best to open the trap and see if you can clear the line first. Many home drain systems are now constructed of PVC pipe, which some caustic chemicals can damage.
Warning: Never remove a trap after chemicals have been added to the line without wearing protective gloves and eyewear. Always inform a plumber if chemicals have been added to a drain line so he can take proper precautions.
Removing the sink trap is a simple process. You'll need a bucket, a pair of slip-joint pliers and a wire brush that is small enough to fit inside the pipe once you remove it.
Follow these simple steps:
- Clear out the area under the sink and place the bucket under the trap.
- Use the pliers to loosen the slip nuts located on each side of the trap. Once the slip nuts are loose, unscrew them by hand and push them to the side.
- As you loosen the trap, the water that is trapped inside will gush out. Let it run into the bucket, along with any debris that has accumulated.
- Once all the water and debris are out of the trap, remove it and use the wire brush to clean it thoroughly. Rinse it with hot water to get rid of accumulated greasy material, but don't forget – you'll need to use a different water source because you've disconnected the drain.
- After the trap has been cleaned thoroughly, set it aside and inspect the slip nut washers. If they look stiff or cut replace them now to avoid a leak later on.
- Once you are satisfied that the slip nut washers are ready, add pipe joint compound to the surface of each washer, and fit the trap back into place, making sure it is seated properly on either end. Holding the trap steady with one hand, slide one of the slip nuts back into place and tighten it. Then, slide the second slip nut back into place and tighten it.
- Use the pliers to make sure the slips nuts are snug, but do not over tighten.
- Turn on the faucet and check for leaks. We recommend putting a sheet or two of newspaper under the trap to help you spot drops of water.
If a leak appears, you may have tightened one of the slip nuts improperly. Loosen each slip nut and try tightening them again, making sure they are aligned properly. Pipe joint compound will be especially helpful in avoiding leaks. It can be purchased at plumbing supply stores for use on certain types of pipe to help form an effective seal.
When the trap is secure and no leaks are apparent, turn on the tap and see if the drain flows smoothly. In most cases, removing the accumulated grease and debris from the trap will solve your problem.
Knowing how to remove a sink drain trap can come in handy in another kind of emergency, as well. Sometimes, items such as rings can fall into the sink and go down the drain. To reclaim your valuables, simply remove the trap.
If your drain problems persist, you may need to contact a professional plumber.
Put several drops of dark food coloring into your toilet tank. If the dye appears in the bowl, you need to replace the valve seal ball or flapper at the bottom of the tank.
If there is a major leak, turn off the water immediately, either at the fixture shutoff valve or the main shutoff valve. You will most likely need to replace the leaky section of pipe. If your experience working with pipes is limited, call your local Mr. Rooter technician for emergency plumbing services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If the leak is small, you ultimately need to replace the pipe. However, there are temporary solutions until you have time for the replacement job.
The following methods work for small leaks only:
- Clamps should stop most leaks for several months if they’re used with a solid rubber blanket. It’s a good idea to buy a sheet of rubber, as well as some clamps sized to fit your pipes. You can purchase these items at a hardware store and keep them on hand just for this purpose.
- A sleeve clamp that exactly fits the pipe diameter works best. Wrap a rubber blanket over the leak, then screw the clamp down over the blanket.
- An adjustable hose clamp used with a rubber blanket stops a pinhole leak.
- If nothing else is at hand, use a C-clamp, a small block of wood and a rubber blanket.
- In a pinch, try applying epoxy putty around a joint where a clamp won’t work. The pipe must be dry for the putty to adhere. Turn off the water supply to the leak and leave the water off until the putty hardens completely on the pipe.
- If you don’t have a clamp or putty, you can still stop a small leak temporarily by plugging it with a pencil point.
Should you wish to perform your own plumbing maintenance using the information we provide on this website, please be aware that Mr. Rooter Corporation cannot be held responsible for any actions not taken by a trained Mr. Rooter technician.