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"Called 2/8/1010 at around 4pm and got the answering service. This was during the aftermath of DC's biggest snowstorm in quite some time at 24". I left" my info and they did not call back. Morning of 2/9 I was on the phone with another plumber and they finally did call, caller mentioned that answering service had given him the incorrect number. Told him they were my first choice and I would be home all day. He said they would call when the technician was on his way. About an hour later, knock on the door the guy was already here. No call, but I guess no harm no foul. He sized up the problem and attentively listened to my description of the plumbing as I am pretty familiar with the layout. Retrieved proper tool from the truck and had it cleared within about 30 minutes. Tested the drain by running washing machine and also filling sink and watching drain time. Total time start to finish about 1 hour. Service man was pleasant and I am pretty happy that they were able to fit me in during a pretty chaotic time for the city.

-david B.

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Local Articles in Washington DC

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Does your toilet gurgle? Are you hearing a "glug glug" sound? Have it checked out; a noisy toilet often signals a blockage in your residential plumbing system.

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Sink and tub clogs drain your time, energy and money.

Angie's Answers

?

First - NOT full septic tank - if that was the case you would be getting backup of sewage into the lowest drains in the house, and possible very slow flushing or refusal to drain out of the bowl - the opposite of your case.

Second - I assume you are the owner. If a renter or on a lease, this type of problem may be the responsibility of your landlord, depending on the terms of your lease or rental agreement.

OK - two possible situations here - low water in BOWL, or low water in TANK. I am assuming your toilet flushes OK, with adequate water to clean out the bowl, and that it is a typical type toilet with a tank sitting on the back of the bowl. If this is not the case and it is a designer toilet or looks like those at public restrooms (no tank), then the BOWL answers still apply if it is initially refilling OK, but if not enough refill water coming in at all then call a plumber.

First, low water in the toilet BOWL case. If the water in the toilet BOWL is low after flushing, I see four likely causes, in order of most likelihood -

1) the fill valve is not putting enough water into the toilet bowl. If you take the top off the tank, you will see a small hose (typically black plastic) coming from the fill valve (a vertical mechanism, usually at left side of tank, that the incoming water tube or flex hose connects to the bottom of on the bottom side of the tank). While the tank is refilling after a flush, a steady but not large flow of water flows through this fill tube and down into a vertical pipe or tube (usually brass or plastic and about 3/4 inch diameter, which stands almost full height of tank). The small tube puts water into this pipe, from where it flows into and refills the toilet bowl. This is also the overflow tube, which keeps the tank from overflowing if the fill valve fails to shut off. If the fill valve has a problem or the fill tube has a blockage, it may not be letting enough water into the bowl. Also, check the tube is actually pointed down into the overflow tube - if the clip came loose, rusted away or broke, then it may just be filling the toilet tank rather than the bowl. Check that a steady flow (will not be a real foreceful jet) of water is flowing out of this tube into the overflow pipe while the toilet tank is refilling. You should also see the bowl filling up at this time. If it come in but does not fill high enough because it does not run long enough, some fill valves have an adjustment - check fill valve manufacturer website for instructions. Others just have to be replaced - doable if you are handy at home repairs (see web videos on how to do it), or call a plumber for probably about $150-200 to replace fill valve (have him replace the flapper valve at same time if you get this done).

2) there is something like a rag or string caught in the trap (the waste passage within the toilet body itself) which is slowly wicking the bowl water down the drain - would be solved by a good snaking. If this is the case, the bowl will fill fully after flushing, but then slowly (typically many minutes to hours) drain down to just filling the start of the oval or round drain passageway where the waste passage starts to curve up into the toilet body.

3) blocked sewer vent pipe (which vents sewer gas and lets air into the sewer system so when you flush the traps in drains and toilets and such do not get sucked dry by the vacumn caused by the exiting flow. If this is the problem, then several drains in your house may have the same problem, or drain slowly. When you flush, the water will drain totally down the pipe and almost all the water in the bowl and trap will go down the drain too, typically with a gurgling sound for a few seconds at the end as the air seal is broken in the trap, then a small amount of water will flow back from the trap into the bowl, leaving you with water in the entrance curve to the trap but nowhere near normal height in the bowl - maybe not even enough to fill the entrance of the drain passage.

4) a crack in the toilet, letting water gradually leak out of the bowl onto the floor or into the subfloor. If this has been going on for long at all you should see water on the floor, or water coming out in the ceiling downstairs, or in the basement or crawl space under the toilet.

Case 2 - the problem is low water in the toilet TANK - since this is a sudden problem, two likely causes:

1)  the float arm has corroded or the float setting has moved. Look in tank for any broken part. You may have a black ball on the end of a metal or plastic arm connected to the fill valve (which is the part, normally at the left side of the tank, that the flexible or copper tubing comes into at the bottom of the tank), or it may be a sliding cylindrical float that slides up and down on the fill valve (typically all plastic) - see if it is broken or loose or alll corroded up (for the arm type). When you flush, this float hangs down (if lever type) or slides down the fill valve (cylinder type), opening the fill valve so fresh water comes in to fill the tank and bowl. As the tank fills it lifts this float, till at the proper elevation the bouyancy of the float shuts off the fill valve. If the setting on this float has changed then it will either cause the toilet to "run" continually because it is trying to overfill the tank (float shuts off at too high a level, so water is continuously flowing down into the overflow tube and into the bowl); or it will shut off too soon, causing only a partial tank fill. There are adjustments to adjust the float shutoff setting - typically an adjustment xxxx on the arm-type, and a slider stop clip on a small rod for the sliding type. See web videos on how to adjust this, or call a plumber.

2) your flapper valve (in bottom of tank, the part a chain or cord or rod connects to the flush handle, which opens it when you flush the toilet, leaks. If it leaks AND the fill valve is working, the tank level drops till the fill valve opens, then the tank refills. This repeats at intervals, with the tank refilling periodically even though it has not been flushed. May need new flapper valve or just a good wiping of the sealing surface to remove grit that is causin it to leak. If this is the problem you will have a slight flow of water into the bowl continually, and will probably see a slight ripple in the toilet bowl.

3) water is leaking out of the fittings or bolt holes on the bottom of the tank. If this is happening enough to make you notice low takn water level, the tank will refill periodically the same as if the flapper valve is leaking, plus you will have water on the floor and dripping off the bottom of the tank.

 

Fill valve and flapper valves each cost around $15 if you do it yourself (you can buy just replacement flapper for less if that is the problem and the matching seal is good, but that is rarely the case). A plumber call to replace both probably $150-200, ASSUMING your water shutoff valve (at the wall, under the tank, with a flex or copper tube coming fromit up to the toilet tank) will work.. If it will not shut off the flow of water, then add another $50-150 to replace that, depending on how it is plumbed and whether he has to cut into the wall to replace it (rarely required). If you do go and have a plumber do it, have both the fill valve and flapper valve (and flush handle, if aluminum or brass and corroded) replaced at the same time, as all tend to go out with age - every 10 years or so. You don't want to have to call the plumber to replace another part in just a year or two.

?

From the sounds of it, you have a clog between the floor drain and the connection to the city sewer (unless you have a septic tank).  The lower flow rates of sinks / showers / dishwashers probable don't cause a backup like the washing machine does.  A couple of suggestions.

1.  Snake the drain line with a spade tip snake, twisting the snake as you advance it.  This should clear the partial blockage.

 2.  If feasable, have your washing machine discharge into a utility sink and put a strainer on the drain to catch the clothing fibre (fibres and grease from the sink probably made the clog in the first place not to mention a garbage disposal).

3.  Replace your floor drain with one that has a backflow preventer (looks like there is a ping pong ball in it).

 Good Luck

?
It is not uncommon for a plumber to have to go get the parts necessary to repair and complete the job.  It is very hard to determine what the problem is over the phone and it is not until the repair process begins that the parts needed to resolve the problem is discovered.  It may also depend on if the plumber is using hourly rates or per job rates.  I would hope the time to get the parts would be minimal and the charge would be as well!
?

Well , you've certainly started a debate that will endure forever , but personally , having worked with both products , PEX is a better product . Now granted , the 1st time i used it

I was not impressed , cause it leaked.......NOT because the product was at fault, it was because I did not understand how to use the product !

The trick to using Pex , is to make certain that the fittings seat, they MUST be pushed together with force, and if you do not push with force to get the seat to seal, it leaks .

Therefore , when using PEX , you have constantly to be aware of leaving room to make your connections -Properly !

The beauty of PEX is that it bends , it is flexible and decreases the labor factor ,although the connection costs are often 100-300 % higher than copper , but again , it can cut labor costs in half  and it is safer to work with,  NO FLAMEs!

?
FYI: CPVC and PEX are two different materials and installed differently.  PEX is not intended to be glued but instead has special crimp fittings.  PEX is a brand name of one product that is manufactured slightly differently by others as well so it is important that the same brand fittings are used to match the pipe material.

Mobile homes used CPVC for years and some still do.  It works fine but is not as strong as a properly soldered copper pipe system.  Is the contractor installing this new plumbing a licensed plumber?  I'd be surprised if he is since he's using CPVC and not PEX (or similar) or copper.  PEX pipe is even cheaper than CPVC when run by a knowledgable plumber.  It doesn't require nearly as many joints since it comes in rolls and can flex through spaces easily.

There are some groups raising a fuss about BPA and other chemicals found in plastics that don't like the use of CPVC, PVC, or PEX pipe.  I haven't seen the results of any lab tests to confirm or dispute their concerns.  As far as durability goes it's fairly safe as long as it's properly installed and secured.  It is not as susceptible to hard water damage as copper.  It absolutely must be insulated along it's entire length to protect it from contact to other materials as well as freezing.  Also, the fixtures in the house need to be grounded electrically since the pipe itself provides no electrical protection against accidental shock or electrocution.  In a copper plumbed house the system is grounded so static electricity, a short in a wire near a water line, or lightning strike will carry the current out through the pipe instead of through the water to you, ideally.

If it's installed correctly you should be fine but make sure the contractor knows what he is doing and follows the proper procedures to use CPVC pipe.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services
www.thomeservices.com
?
It is usually cheaper to remove part of the ceiling below and patch it after the leak has been repaired.  Remember that water can travel before settling in one area, causing the spot you've seen.  Just because it is below the toilet does not mean that the toilet is the problem.  The cheapest option is to pull the toilet and check the floor around the wax ring to see if it has been leaking.  A new wax ring only costs a few dollars.  When was the last time you caulked the shower in that bathroom?  The water can leak around the corners or at the door (if you have one) and travel along the floor joists until it pools in a lower spot on the ceiling below, then seep through.  It could also be a seal at the drain of the tub or shower. 

I get a few calls a year for this sort of thing.  It's usually something simple but can be a nightmare to diagnose, especially if the problem is intermittent.  Start with the simple possibilities and use deductive reasoning to narrow the possibilities.  Before you do a lot of damage it may pay off to hire a reputable contractor to help you make sure you've exhausted all of the imple and more obvious possibilities.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services

All Drain Plumbers in Washington DC

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3-R Contracting, LLC

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ACEHIGH CO

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BASEMENT UNLIMITED

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BAUMBACH PLUMBERS

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BEALL INC

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Bedrock Construction LLC

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BGE Home

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Bill's Handyman Service

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BK Contracts

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C & C Plumbing

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C & G Plumbing & Htg Co

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C & R ACUNA INC

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C W FIELDS PLUMBING

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C.E.B. Services, LLC

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CALABRESE PLUMBING

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CARL'S HOME IMPROVEMENT

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Carlos Camayo

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Casco Plumbing

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Castro Enterprises, Incorporated

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Castro Property Management, Inc

11427 Scottsbury Terr

Coleman Plumbing & Heating Co

13414 Fairland Park Dr

Coleman's Plumbing Inc

10725 Hampton Mill Ter

COMPLETE CONTRACTING SVCS

7401 ABBINGTON DR

Covenant Plumbing LLC

618 Centerpoint Way

CroppMetcalfe

8421 Hilltop Rd

Dawson Plumbing Inc.

40024 Quarter Branch Rd

Dawson's Plumbing

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DB's Plumbing & Drain

4137 Marjon Ct

Denny & Gardner

506 Shaw Rd

Denver's Plumbing

3110 Hall Ct

Diamond Plumbing LLC

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Durance Plumbing

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Duvall Corp

8103 B Centreville Rd

Dwyer Plumbing Corp

8394-J Terminal Rd

Elkot's General Services

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EMB HOMES LLC

PO BOX 25707

Emerald Plumbing

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave NE
Washington

Emerald Plumbing Co.

3180 Draper Drive

Feature Construction LLC

3831 S. George Mason Dr.

FEATURE DESIGN INC

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FERLO'S PLUMBING INC

10227 Antietam Ave.

FIRST CLASS PLUMBING LLC

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five handyman llc

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FLOW RITE INC

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Foley Plumbing Inc

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Foley Plumbing Inc

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FOOTE'S PLUMBING

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Franconia Plumbing LLC

5464 Peaceful Ter

Franklin Construction LLC

10377 Green Holly Ter

Fred and Son Plumbing

4911 Aspen Hill Rd.

Free Line Inc

9244 E Hampton Dr

Fridinger-Richie Co Inc

132 E Washington St

Friedman Plumbing Express

13549 Flowerfield Drive

Friedman Plumbing Express

1319 Powhatan Street

FV GENERAL SERVICES

205 S. Harrison Rd

G D Bolton Inc

102 James St

Gainesville Plumbing LLC

7679 Limestone Dr

Galaxy Electric LTD

6404 Telegraph Rd

GENEVIE PLUMBING

11826 PIKA DR

George The Plumber

2608 Redmiles Dr

Gerber HandyMan Services

5556 Neddleton Ave

Germantown Plumbing

13017 Wisteria Drive

Gladhill Plumbing & Heating Inc

10510 Woodsboro Pike

Golden Plumbing Services

20880 ISHERWOOD TER APT304

Grass Roots Inc

PO Box 6054

Great Falls Septic Service Inc

34176 Charles Town Pike

Handyman Ashburn

43350 Greyswallow Terrace

Handyman Connection of Maryland

19520 Club House Road

Harvey W Hottel Inc

18900 Woodfield Rd

Haynes Plumbing

10509 Lanham Severn Rd.

HIRED HANDS

26241 JOHNSON DR

HMS Plumbing

10319 Piper Ln

Hollin Hall Plumbing

5221 Franconia rd #10154

Home Contractors Plus

8402 Quill Point Dr

Home Town Plumbing, LLC

6423 Carriage Drive

Homedic

10476 Business Center Ct

Homeowners Discount Plumbing

2928 PS Business Ctr Dr

Homepros Contracting

12612 Izaakwalgon Drive

Honest Abe Plumbing Heating & Cooling

7095 Milford Industrial Rd

House Doctors

3308 Mt Vernon Ave

HP Building Electric Llc

140 Little Falls St Ste 103

HPC Maintenance, LLC

4010 Brussels Way

I S ENTERPRISES

1324 H STREET NE
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Ideal Plumbing Services

8024 Tyson Oaks Circle

IED painting services

6335 landover rd

J.E. Merino Plumbing

3610 Freeport Ct

J.J. Handyman Services

3022 Javier Road

J.R Remodeling Inc

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Jaks Services Inc

9113 Glenville Rd

James A Wheat & Sons Inc

7834 Beechcraft Ave

Jav Remodeling

1320 Old Chain Bridge Rd

JBI Services LLC

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Jestar Plumbing Inc

23130 Ridge Rd

JH PLUMBING&HEATING LLC

11514 MAPLEVIEW DR

Jim Stalp Handyworks

7418 Dunston St

Jim's Inc.

PO Box 5451

Jimmy Greer Plumbing

5048 Free State Road

JJN Construction Inc

4809 Howard Ave

JM PLUMBING AND HEATING

5242 Port Royal Road Suite 1401

John C Flood of Virginia

6430 General Green Way

John G Webster

10738 Tucker St

John H. Seipel

6718 Newman Rd

John Nugent & Sons Inc

1387 Chain Bridge Rd

JPG Plumbing Services, Inc.

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JR Snider Plumbing

104 S Pendleton St

JRM DRYWALL & FINISHING INC

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Juan Linares

2822 Lindel St

JW Home Improvement

1390 Chain Bridge Rd

Kargmans Inc

10429 Reisterstown Rd

Kass Remodeling

15209 Frederick Rd

Kevin Hoover Plumbing

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Kinnett Plumbing

5064 Anchorstone Dr

L.R. BENNETT INC.

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Larry and Sons, Inc.

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Larry Doyle Roofing & Remodeling

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Larry's Plumbing

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Lauck Plumbing Inc

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LK Services

6401 Country Club Ct

Lofft Construction Inc

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Long's Corporation

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Lorenzo's Plumbing Inc.

12458 A Liberty Bridge Rd

LOWE'S

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M B NICHOLS CONTRACTING

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M E Flow Inc

12 Cardinal Park Dr

M&M Quality Home Improvements LLC

6032 Gholson Bridge Ct.

M.I.B. LLC

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m2 BUILDING AND DESIGN

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MAC'S PLUMBING

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Mady-Sons Inc

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Mag plumbing & Remodeling

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Magna Construction

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Washington

Magnolia Plumbing Heating & Cooling

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Mahon Plumbing Inc

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Michael & Son Services Inc

5740 General Washington Dr

Michael Albarelli

104 Balmoral Dr E

Michael C Bower LLC

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Michael Matters Plumbing

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MJ Home Services LLC

4367 Hollins Ferry Rd

Molina's Contruction INC

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