Plumbing Info

courtesy of – by Ed Del Grande

Q: I read your column every week in my local paper and I have not seen anything in your articles like the issue I’m having. I know this sounds crazy, but I think I have a ghost living in my plumbing system. We have a 1950s bungalow with one and a half baths and a vintage plumbing system. Recently, we noticed that if we flush the toilet or use the washing machine, some water runs out of our showerhead. Outside of a haunted bathroom, we cannot figure out how the tub runs when no one is using it. Any ideas as to where to start identifying the mystery? Or do we need to call a ghost hunter? — Chris, Ohio

A: One good thing about being a plumber for more than 30 years is that, sooner or later, you get to see just about everything. Oddly enough, I have witnessed an issue similar to the one you describe, and could not believe my eyes as well. Before I tell you my story, let me point out that you need to call a local licensed plumber to diagnose your problem, since what I experienced may not be what’s going on at your house.

Here’s what happened to me during a service call at a client’s house, years ago. When we flushed the toilet, and after the toilet tank refilled, water ran from a sink faucet that was shut off. How could this happen?

First, keep in mind that with plumbing fixtures like toilets, dishwashers and washing machines, they all shut off rather quickly. This could cause a pressure spike in a plumbing system, especially if the house has high water pressure to begin with. Now, if you have older compression-type faucets, they work sort of like a screw, and in extreme cases may be forced to open up a bit during a pressure spike. This could cause some water to flow out of the faucet, even after it was turned off.

The first thing I did on my job was to take a pressure reading from the plumbing system. My pressure gauge confirmed very high water pressure in the system. This house had water pressure well above 100 psi. Keep in mind that most codes do not allow residential water pressure to be more than 80 psi. My thinking was that if we lowered the water pressure in the home to well under our local code, it could solve the problem. We installed a pressure-reducing valve along with a water hammer arrestor to absorb any system shocks, and that seemed to solve the issue.

I have to stress that this is technical plumbing stuff, and I’m just relaying an experience I had. With plumbing, you never know up front what it may take to solve an unusual issue.

Bottom line: Work with a local licensed master plumber and your local codes, and you should have more than a ghost of a chance at solving your problem.

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