Ask The Plumber

For something so many people take for granted, plumbing is actually a very interesting topic. Here are some interesting questions and answers.

Why is My Toilet Bubbling?

There are many possible reasons why your toilet might be bubbling or gurgling when you’re not flushing it. Other drains are often connected to the pipe beneath the toilet, and if you run a large quantity of water through one of these drains the toilet might make noise. Another possibility is that there is a problem with the vent stack. However, the most common cause of toilet bubbles is a clog.

Why is My Water Heater so Loud?

Crazy knocking, banging, popping, whistling or hissing noises in a water heater are caused by sediment buildup in the tank. Water that gets trapped in the sediment deposits will get overheated and turn to steam. What you hear is the noise of the steam escaping from the sediment layer.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Water Damage in the Home?

While roof leaks are the most common cause of insurance claims for residential water damage, plumbing leaks are also a major concern. Left unaddressed, even a small leak can cause extensive water damage. Common culprits include:

  • Faulty shower pans
  • Leaky pipes under the sink
  • Overflowing toilets
  • Sewer line backups
  • Burst pipes
  • Leaky icemaker hoses
  • Burst washing machine hoses
  • Leaky water heaters

How Can I Tell If I Have a Water Leak?

Some water leaks are sneaky. They may be located in places where you can’t actually see the water dripping. To check for sneaky leaks, go to your water meter and write down the reading. Wait at least two hours without using any water, then check the meter again. If the meter says water was used, you have a leak.

Did Thomas Crapper Really Invent the Toilet?

Nope. Although Crapper held many patents for toilet-improving technologies (such as the floating ballcock), he did not actually invent the flush toilet. The flush toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596, based on designs from archeological sites in Crete. The first patent for a practical water closet was given to Joseph Bramah in 1778.

Who Invented Toilet Paper?

The first person to sell packaged toilet paper was Joseph C. Gayetty in 1857. His product consisted of flat sheets infused with aloe. Seth Wheeler was the first person to patent toilet paper on a roll in 1871. Splinter-free toilet paper wasn’t invented until 1935!

However, the Chinese were probably the first to really invent toilet paper. Large perfumed sheets of paper were produced for the emperor and his family as early as 875.

Am I Using Too Much Toilet Paper?

Maybe? Unless you are causing clogs, “too much” toilet paper is a personal preference. However, Americans do use a lot of toilet paper. The average American uses an average of 100 rolls of toilet paper per person per year and 384 trees’ worth of toilet paper in their lifetime. That’s 50 percent more than in most Western countries.

What Did People Do Before Toilet Paper?

Before toilet paper, people used whatever was handy: straw, hay, grass, snow, corn cobs, catalogs, newspaper, leaves, sand, etc. French royalty even used lace. However, you would not want to flush any of these items down a toilet. Today the best alternative to toilet paper is a bidet.

What About Flushable Wipes?

Just because a product is labeled “flushable” doesn’t mean you should flush it. Many products will pass through your own plumbing system with ease, but they can clog up the works at your local sewage treatment plant.

What Happens When Everyone Flushes at Once?

Nothing. The idea that a stadium full of people flushing during Super Bowl halftime can ruin a city’s plumbing is a myth. Although the “Super Bowl flush” does generate huge amounts of water comparable to seven minutes of Niagara Falls’ flow, municipal sewer systems are built to handle this kind of volume.

Should I Install Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures?

Do you want to reduce your water usage and save on your water bills? Then yes. The toilet is the single biggest water guzzler in the average home, using about 28 gallons of water per person per day. Switching to a low flow model can save 2 to 5 gallons per flush. Low-flow showerheads and faucets can cut your water usage in half—assuming you don’t compensate for the reduced flow by spending more time with the water running.