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What are the Answers to Common Plumbing Questions?

Hillary Flynn
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many people have plumbing questions about the mystery behind just how all that water flows through the pipes, heated and unheated, sometimes causing clogs and sometimes lacking in adequate pressure to meet the needs of the homeowner. Most want to know how to handle drips, clogs, and overflows and some just want to know how it all works. Some of the most frequently asked plumbing questions are:

Why does the water get hot in the shower when someone flushes the toilet?

Without getting too technical, plumbing code regulates how many water lines can be used to supply water to a certain number of fixtures. This allows plumbers to use the same pipe to feed cold water to both the shower and the toilet. So, though water pressure is adjusted to create the perfect balance of hot and cold at the beginning of a shower, when someone flushes the toilet in a home without a separate cold water feed, the sudden draw of cold water to refill the toilet tank causes a temporary decrease in the cold flow the shower is using, but doesn't decrease the flow of the hot. Hence, the scalding spray experienced by the unfortunates who live with inconsiderate roommates.

What makes pipes freeze and burst?

In short, water expands when it freezes. This is the same reason that sodas burst in the freezer. When you have a pipe full of water that is exposed to freezing temperatures, the water in the pipes expands as it freezes, causing a tremendous amount of pressure that will eventually cause the pipe to bust.

Why does the toilet keep running?

The is one of the most common plumbing questions asked. The usual reason is that the flap in the bottom of the tank isn't sealing shut. Take the top off the tank and flush the toilet while watching the rubber flap. Does it completely close? If not, even though water is entering the tank, some of it is flowing out through the unsealed flap and therefore, the water continues to run because the float ball trigger is never activated to stop the flow since water never reaches the fill line. That's why jiggling the handle works to stop the running. It's attached to the rubber flap with a chain, and jiggling it will reposition the flap so that it may seal more securely.

What is the most likely cause of a big increase on a water bill?

Though the first assumption would be a leaky pipe or faucet, the majority of increases in water bills are due to a leak in the toilet tank. This happens when parts become worn or are misaligned as in the example above with the running toilet.

Why does the faucet make a clunking sound when turned on?

Plumbing questions regarding noises almost always require something be tightened to remedy the situation. In this particular instance, the noise is probably caused by a loose washer in the faucet. Tighten everything up and the noise should disappear.

Why does the tub drain so slowly?

Hair is usually the culprit in this plumbing problem. Pouring a cup of bleach down the drain will probably remove it, but if that doesn't work, a power snake can be rented.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Hillary Flynn
By Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the WiseGEEK team, where she contributes well-researched articles on various topics. In addition to her work with WiseGEEK, Hillary manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. With a passion for satirical writing and traveling to historical places, Hillary brings a distinctive voice to her content.

Discussion Comments

By anon347890 — On Sep 11, 2013

Where do plumbers disappear to during the day? When they say they are just popping out for a part, but they are gone for hours, is there a place where they meet and chat for the day?

Hillary Flynn

Hillary Flynn

Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the WiseGEEK team, where she contributes well-researched articles on various topics. In addition to her work with WiseGEEK, Hillary manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. With a passion for satirical writing and traveling to historical places, Hillary brings a distinctive voice to her content.
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