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´╗┐Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 2202: Simple Plumbing for the Home
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribers Note

Text emphasis denoted as _Italics_ and =Bold=.


for the Home and Farmstead



Farmers' Bulletin No. 2202




  Repairing water faucets and valves        1
  Frostproof hydrants                       4
  Repairing leaks in pipes and tanks        5
    Pipes                                   5
    Tanks                                   7
  Water hammer                              8
  Frozen water pipes                        8
    Preventing freezing                     8
    Thawing                                 8
  Repairing water closets                   9
    Flushing mechanism                      9
    Bowl removal                           10
    Tank "sweating"                        12
  Clearing clogged drains                  12
    Fixture and floor drains               12
    Outside drains                         13
  Tools and spare parts                    13
  Emergencies                              14

Northeastern Region

Agricultural Research Service=

This bulletin supersedes Farmers' Bulletin 1460, "Simple Plumbing
Repairs in the Home."

=Washington, D.C.=

=Revised December 1972=

=For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing: Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 - Price 15 cents Stock Number


for the Home and Farmstead

You can save money and avoid delays by making minor plumbing repairs

Jobs that a farmer or homeowner can do with a few basic tools include:

  Repairing water faucets and valves.

  Repairing leaks in pipes and tanks.

  Thawing frozen pipes.

  Repairing water closets.

  Cleaning clogged drains.

Extensive plumbing repairs or alterations in the plumbing system
usually require authorization from local authorities and possibly
inspection of the completed work. Therefore such work should be done by
a qualified or licensed plumber.


Faucets and globe valves, the type of shutoff valves commonly used
in home water systems, are very similar in construction (fig. 1) and
repair instructions given below apply to both. Your faucets or valves
may differ somewhat in general design from the one shown in figure 1,
because both faucets and valves come in a wide variety of styles.

Mixing faucets, which are found on sinks, laundry trays, and bathtubs,
are actually two separate units with a common spout. Each unit is
independently repaired.

Dripping faucets are the most common plumbing problem. Normally a new
washer is all that is required. If water leaks around the stem, either
the packing is loose or needs replacing. To repair the faucet, first
shut off the water at the shutoff valve nearest the particular faucet.

Disassemble the faucet by removing the handle, packing nut, packing,
and stem in that order. You may have to set the handle back on the stem
and use it to unscrew and remove the stem.

Remove the screw and worn washer from the stem. Clean the washer cup
and install a new washer of the proper size and type.

Reassemble the faucet. Handles of mixing faucets should be in matched

If a washer requires frequent replacement, it may be the wrong type or
the seat may be rough and scoring the washer. Flat washers are used
on seats having a crown or round ridge for the washer seat. Tapered
or rounded washers are used with tapered seats. These seats may be
replaced if worn or damaged.

Replaceable seats have either a square or hex shaped water passage
for the seat removal tool. Seat dressing tools are available for
non-replaceable seats.

Occasionally a faucet will be noisy when water is flowing. This may
be due to a loose washer or worn threads on the stem and receiver,
permitting the stem to vibrate or chatter. Pressing down on the handle
will stop stem vibration but will not affect a loose washer.

[Illustration: _Figure 1._--Globe type angle valve. Faucets are similar
in construction.]

Replacement stems are available; however, if the receiving threads are
worn excessively a new stem would not eliminate the problem completely.
In some faucets it is possible to replace the stem receiver, the stem,
and the seat, thus restoring all normal wearing parts within the faucet.

Several new faucet designs aimed at easier operation, eliminating drip,
and promoting long service life, are on the market. Instructions for
repair may be obtained from dealers.

If a shower head drips, the supply valve has not been fully closed, or
the valve needs repair.

After extended use and several repairs, some valves will no longer give
tight shutoff and must be replaced. When this becomes necessary, it
may be advisable to upgrade the quality with equipment having better
flow characteristics and longer-life design and materials. In some
cases, ball valves will deliver more water than globe valves. Some
globe valves deliver more flow than others for identical pipe sizes.
Y-pattern globe valves, in straight runs of pipe, have better flow
characteristics than straight stop valves. Figure 2 shows the features
of different types of valves.

[Illustration: _Figure 2._--Different types of valves: _A_, Glove
valve; note large passages of water. _B_, Y-pattern globe valve; the
flow is almost straight. _C_, Ball valve, straight flow; some makes are
available with the port in the ball the same diameter as the pipe.]


Polluted water or sewage may carry such diseases as typhoid fever and
amoebic dysentery. If you do your own plumbing work, be sure that--

  There are no leaks in drainpipes through which sewage or sewage gases
    can escape.

  There are no cross connections between piping carrying water from
    different sources unless there can be reasonable certainty that all
    sources are safe and will remain safe.

  There can be no back siphonage of water from plumbing fixtures or
    other containers into the water-supply system.

Once a pipe has become polluted, it may be difficult to free it of
the pollution. For this reason, building codes do not permit the use
of second-hand pipe. All initial piping and parts and subsequent
replacements should be new.

Since a plumbing system will require service from time to time,
shutoff valves should be installed at strategic locations so that
an affected portion can be isolated (water flow to it cut off) with
minimum disturbance to service in the rest of the system. Shutoff
valves are usually provided on the water closet supply line, on the
hot- and cold-water supply line to each sink, tub, and lavatory, and on
the water heater supply line. Drain valves are usually installed for
water-supply piping systems and for hot-water storage tanks.

A pressure-relief valve should be installed for the water heater
storage tank to relieve pressure buildup in case of overheating.

[Illustration: _Figure 3._--Frostproof hydrant; _A_, Closed; _B_,
opened. As soon as the hydrant is closed, water left in the riser
drains out the drain tube as shown in _A_. This prevents water from
freezing in the hydrant in cold weather.]


Frostproof hydrants are basically faucets, although they may differ
somewhat in design from ordinary faucets.

Two important features of a frostproof hydrant are: (1) The valve is
installed under ground--below the frostline--to prevent freezing, and
(2) the valve is designed to drain the water from the hydrant when the
valve is closed.

Figure 3 shows one type of frostproof hydrant. It works as follows:
When the handle is raised, the piston rises, opening the valve. Water
flows from the supply pipe into the cylinder, up through the riser,
and out the spout. When the handle is pushed down, the piston goes
down, closing the valve and stopping the flow of water. Water left in
the hydrant flows out the drain tube into a small gravel-filled dry
well or drain pit.

[Illustration: _Figure 4._--Vacuum breaker arrangement for outside hose

As with ordinary faucets, leakage will probably be the most common
trouble encountered with frostproof hydrants. Worn packing, gaskets,
and washers can cause leakage. Disassemble the hydrant as necessary to
replace or repair these and other parts.

Frostproof yard hydrants having buried drains can be health hazards.
The vacuum created by water flowing from the hydrant may draw in
contaminated water standing above the hydrant drain level. Such
hydrants should be used only where positive drainage can be provided.

Frostproof wall hydrants (fig. 4) are the preferred type. For servicing
sprayers using hazardous chemicals, hydrants having backflow protection
should be used (fig. 5).



Leaks in pipes usually result from corrosion or from damage to the
pipe. Pipes may be damaged by freezing, by vibration caused by
machinery operating nearby, by water hammer, or by animals bumping into
the pipe. (Water hammer is discussed on P. 8)

[Illustration: _Figure 5._--Protected wall hydrant suitable for filling
agricultural sprayers.]


Occasionally waters are encountered that corrode metal pipe and tubing.
(Some acid soils also corrode metal pipe and tubing.)

The corrosion usually occurs, in varying degrees, along the entire
length of pipe rather than at some particular point. An exception would
be where dissimilar metals, such as copper and steel, are joined.

Treatment of the water may solve the problem of corrosion.[1]
Otherwise, you may have to replace the piping with a type made of
material that will be less subject to the corrosive action of the water.

[Footnote 1: For information about water treatment, see FB 2248,
"Treating Farmstead and Rural Home Water Systems." You can get a
free copy from your county agricultural agent or write the Office of
Information, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.
Include your ZIP Code in your return address.]

It is good practice to get a chemical analysis of the water before
selecting materials for a plumbing system. Your State college or
university may be equipped to make an analysis; if not, you can have it
done by a private laboratory.

_Repairing Leaks_

Pipes that are split by hard freezing must be replaced.

A leak at a threaded connection can often be stopped by unscrewing the
fitting and applying a pipe joint compound that will seal the joint
when the fitting is screwed back together.

Small leaks in a pipe can often be repaired with a rubber patch and
metal clamp or sleeve. This must be considered as an emergency repair
job and should be followed by permanent repair as soon as practicable.

Large leaks in a pipe may require cutting out the damaged section and
installing a new piece of pipe. At least one union will be required
unless the leak is near the end of the pipe. You can make a temporary
repair with plastic or rubber tubing. The tubing must be strong enough
to withstand the normal water pressure in the pipe. It should be
slipped over the open ends of the piping and fastened with pipe clamps
or several turns of wire.

Vibration sometimes breaks solder joints in copper tubing, causing
leaks. If the joint is accessible, clean and resolder it. The tubing
must be dry before it can be heated to soldering temperature. Leaks in
places not readily accessible usually require the services of a plumber
and sometimes of both a plumber and a carpenter.


Leaks in tanks are usually caused by corrosion. Sometimes, a safety
valve may fail to open and the pressure developed will spring a leak.

While a leak may occur at only one place in the tank wall, the wall may
also be corroded thin in other places. Therefore, any repair should be
considered as temporary, and the tank should be replaced as soon as

A leak can be temporarily repaired with a toggle bolt, rubber gasket,
and brass washer, as shown in figure 6. You may have to drill or ream
the hole larger to insert the toggle bolt. Draw the bolt up tight to
compress the rubber gasket against the tank wall.

[Illustration: _Figure 6._--Closing a hole in a tank: _A_, The link
of the toggle bolt is passed through the hole in the tank (hole is
enlarged if necessary). _B_, Side view of tank edge (nut is drawn up
tightly to compress washer and gasket against tank). _C_, Outside view
of completed repair.]


Water hammer sometimes occurs when a faucet is suddenly closed. When
the flow of water is suddenly stopped, its kinetic energy is expended
against the walls of the piping. This causes the piping to vibrate, and
leaks or other damage may result.

Water hammer may be prevented or its severity reduced by installing an
air chamber just ahead of the faucet. The air chamber may be a piece of
air-filled pipe or tubing, about 2 feet long, extending vertically from
the pipe. It must be airtight. Commercial devices designed to prevent
water hammer are also available.

An air chamber requires occasional replenishing of the air to prevent
it from becoming water-logged--that is, full of water instead of air.

A properly operating hydropneumatic tank, such as the type used in
individual water systems, serves as an air chamber, preventing or
reducing water hammer.


In cold weather, water may freeze in underground pipes laid above the
frostline or in pipes in unheated buildings, in open crawl spaces under
buildings, or in outside walls.

When water freezes it expands. Unless a pipe can also expand, it may
rupture when the water freezes. Iron pipe and steel pipe do not expand
appreciably. Copper pipe will stretch some, but does not resume its
original dimensions when thawed out; repeated freezings will cause it
to fail eventually. Flexible plastic tubing can stand repeated freezes,
but it is good practice to prevent it from freezing.

Preventing Freezing

Pipes may be insulated to prevent freezing, but this is not a
completely dependable method. Insulation does not stop the loss of heat
from the pipe--merely slows it down--and the water may freeze if it
stands in the pipe long enough at below-freezing temperature. Also, if
the insulation becomes wet, it may lose its effectiveness.

Electric heating cable can be used to prevent pipes from freezing. The
cable should be wrapped around the pipe and covered with insulation.


Use of electric heating cable is a good method of thawing frozen pipe,
because the entire heated length of the pipe is thawed at one time.

Thawing pipe with a blowtorch can be dangerous. The water may get hot
enough at the point where the torch is applied to generate sufficient
steam under pressure to rupture the pipe. Steam from the break could
severely scald you.

Thawing pipe with hot water is safer than thawing with a blowtorch.
One method is to cover the pipe with rags and then pour the hot water
over the rags.

When thawing pipe with a blowtorch, hot water, or similar methods, open
a faucet and start thawing at that point. The open faucet will permit
steam to escape, thus reducing the chance of the buildup of dangerous
pressure. Do not allow the steam to condense and refreeze before it
reaches the faucet.

Underground metal pipes can be thawed by passing a low-voltage electric
current through them. The current will heat the entire length of pipe
through which it passes. Both ends of the pipe must be open to prevent
the buildup of steam pressure.

CAUTION: This method of thawing frozen pipe can be dangerous and should
be done by an experienced person only. It cannot be used to thaw
plastic tubing or other non-electricity-conducting pipe or tubing.


Water closets (commonly called toilets) vary in general design and in
the design of the flushing mechanism. But they are enough alike that
general repair instructions can suffice for all designs.

Flushing Mechanism

Figure 7 shows a common type of flushing mechanism. Parts that usually
require repair are the flush valve, the intake (float) valve, and the
float ball.

In areas of corrosive water, the usual copper flushing mechanism may
deteriorate in a comparatively short time. In such cases, it may be
advisable to replace the corroded parts with plastic parts. You can
even buy plastic float balls.

_Flush Valve_

The rubber ball of the flush valve may get soft or out of shape and
fail to seat properly. This causes the valve to leak. Unscrew the ball
from the lift wire and install a new one.

The trip lever or lift wire may corrode and fail to work smoothly,
or the lift wire may bind in the guides. Disassemble and clean off
corrosion or replace parts as necessary.

Most plumbing codes require a cutoff valve in the supply line to the
flush tank, which makes it unnecessary to close down the whole system
(fig. 7). If this valve was not installed, you can stop the flow of
water by propping up the float with a piece of wood. Be careful not to
bend the float rod out of alignment.

_Intake (Float) Valve_

A worn plunger washer in the supply valve will cause the valve to leak.
To replace the washer--

  Shut off the water and drain the tank.

  Unscrew the two thumb-screws that hold the levers and push out the

  Lift out the plunger, unscrew the cup on the bottom, and insert a new
    washer. The washer is made of material such as rubber or leather.

  Examine the washer seat. If nicked or rough, it may need refacing.

If the float-valve assembly is badly corroded, replace it.

[Illustration: _Figure 7._--Water closet (toilet) flush tank.]

_Float Ball_

The float ball may develop a leak and fail to rise to the proper
position. (Correct water level is about 1 inch below the top of the
overflow tube or enough to give a good flush.) If the ball fails to
rise, the intake valve will remain open and water will continue to
flow. Brass float balls can sometimes be drained and the leak soldered.
Other types must be replaced. When working on the float ball, be
careful to keep the rod aliened so that the ball will float freely and
close the valve properly.

Bowl Removal

An obstruction in the water closet trap or leakage around the bottom
of the water-closet bowl may require removal of the bowl. Follow this

  Shut off the water.

  Empty the tank and bowl by siphoning or sponging out the water.

  Disconnect the water pipes to the tank (see fig. 7).

  Disconnect the tank from the bowl if the water closet is a two-piece
    unit. Set the tank where it cannot be damaged. Handle tank and bowl
    carefully; they are made of vitreous china or porcelain and are
    easily chipped or broken.

  Remove the seat and cover from the bowl.

  Carefully pry loose the bolt covers and remove the bolts holding the
    bowl to the floor flange (fig. 8). Jar the bowl enough to break the
    seal at the bottom. Set the bowl upside down on something that will
    not chip or break it.

  Remove the obstruction from the discharge opening.

  Place a new wax seal around the bowl horn and press it into
    place. A wax seal (or gasket) may be obtained from hardware or
    plumbing-supply stores.

  Set the bowl in place and press it down firmly. Install the bolts
    that hold it to the floor flange. Draw the bolts up snugly, but not
    too tight because the bowl may break. The bowl must be level. Keep
    a carpenter's level on it while drawing up the bolts. If the house
    has settled, leaving the floor sloping, it may be necessary to use
    shims to make the bowl set level. Replace the bolt covers.

  Install the tank and connect the water pipes to it. It is advisable
    to replace all gaskets, after first cleaning the surfaces

  Test for leaks by flushing a few times.

  Install the seat and cover.

[Illustration: _Figure 8._--Connection of water closet to floor and
soil pipe.]

Tank "Sweating"

When cold water enters a water closet tank, it may chill the tank
enough to cause "sweating" (condensation of atmospheric moisture on the
outer surface of the tank). This can be prevented by insulating the
tank to keep the temperature of the outer surface above the dew point
temperature of surrounding air. Insulating jackets or liners that fit
inside water-closet tanks and serve to keep the outer surface warm are
available from plumbing-supply dealers.


Drains may become clogged by objects dropped into them or by
accumulations of grease, dirt, or other matter.

Fixture and Floor Drains

If the obstruction is in a fixture trap, usually the trap can be
removed and cleared. If the obstruction is elsewhere in the pipe other
means must be used.

Cleanout augers--long, flexible, steel cables commonly called
"snakes"--may be run down drainpipes to break up obstructions or to
hook onto and pull out objects. Augers are made in various lengths and
diameters and are available at hardware and plumbing-supply stores. (In
some cases, you may have to call a plumber, who will probably have a
power-driven auger.)

Small obstructions can sometimes be forced down or drawn up by use of
an ordinary rubber force cup (plunger or "plumber's friend").

Grease and soap clinging to a pipe can sometimes be removed by flushing
with hot water. Lye or lye mixed with a small amount of aluminum
shavings may also be used. When water is added to the mixture, the
violent gas-forming reaction and production of heat that takes place
loosens the grease and soap so that they can be flushed away. Use cold
water only. Chemical cleaners should not be used in pipes that are
completely stopped up, because they must be brought into direct contact
with the stoppage to be effective. Handle the material with extreme
care and follow directions on the container. If lye spills on the hands
or clothing, wash with cold water immediately. If any gets into the
eyes, flush with cold water and call a doctor.

Sand, dirt, or clothing lint sometimes clogs floor drains. Remove the
strainer and ladle out as much of the sediment as possible. You may
have to carefully chip away the concrete around the strainer to free
it. Flush the drain with clean water.

When drains have become partially clogged due to lack of water to
transport all solids through them, large buckets or other containers
should be used to flush them. Water should be poured fast enough to
nearly fill the drain.

Occasional flushing of floor drains may prevent clogging.

=CAUTION: Augers, rubber force cups, and other tools used in direct
contact with sewage are subject to contamination. Do not later use them
for work on your potable water supply system unless they have been
properly sterilized.=

Outside Drains

Roots growing through cracks or defective joints sometimes clog outside
drains or sewers. You can clear the stoppage temporarily by using a
root-cutting tool. However, to prevent future trouble, you should
re-lay the defective portion of the line, using sound pipe and making
sure that all joints are watertight.[2]

[Footnote 2: For information on laying sewers, see Agriculture
Information Bulletin 274, "Farmstead Sewage and Refuse Disposal."
For a free copy, send a post card to the Office of Information, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250. Include your ZIP
Code in your return address.]

If possible, sewer lines should be laid out of the reach of roots. But
if this is impossible or impracticable, consider using impregnated
fiber pipe which tends to repel roots.


Basic tools that you should have on hand to make simple plumbing
repairs include:

  Wrenches, including pipe wrenches, in a range of sizes to fit the
    pipe, fittings, fixtures, equipment, and appliances in the system.

  Screwdrivers in a range of sizes to fit the faucets, valves, and
    other parts of the system.

  Ball peen hammer or a 12- or 16-ounce clawhammer.

  Rubber force cup (plunger or "plumber's friend").

  Cold chisel and center punch.

  Cleanout auger ("snake").

  Friction tape.

  Adjustable pliers.

Additional tools required for more extensive plumbing repairs include:

  Pipe vise.

  Set of pipe threading dies and stocks.

  Hacksaw and blades (blades should have 32 teeth per inch).

  Pipe cutter, roller type.

  Tapered reamer or half-round file.

  Carpenter's brace.

  Set of wood bits.

  Gasoline blowtorch.

  Lead pot and ladle.

  Calking tools.

  Copper tube cutter with reamer (if you have copper tubing).

Always use the proper size wrench or screwdriver. Do not use pipe
wrenches on nuts with flat surfaces; use an adjustable or open-end
wrench. Do not use pipe wrenches on polished-surface tubings or
fittings, such as found on plumbing fixtures; use a strap wrench. Tight
nuts or fittings can sometimes be loosened by tapping lightly with a
hammer or mallet.

It should not be necessary to stock a large number of spare parts. Past
plumbing troubles may give some indication as to the kind of parts most
likely to be needed. Spare parts should include:

 Faucet washers and packing.

 One or two lengths of the most common type and size of piping in the
 plumbing system.

 Several unions and gaskets or unions with ground surfaces.

 Several couplings and elbows.

 A few feet of pipe strap.

 An extra hose connection.


Grouped below are emergencies that may occur and the action to take.
The name, address, and phone number of a plumber who offers 24-hour
service should be posted in a conspicuous place.

_Burst pipe or tank._--Immediately cut off the flow of water by closing
the shutoff valve nearest to the break. Then arrange for repair.

_Water closet overflow._--Do not use water closet until back in working
order. Check for and remove stoppage in closet bowl outlet, drain line
from closet to sewer, or sewer or septic tank. If stoppage is due to
root entry into pipe, repair of pipe at that point is recommended.

_Rumbling noise in hot water tank._--This is likely a sign of
overheating which could lead to the development of explosive pressure
(Another indication of overheating is hot water backing up in the
cold-water supply pipe.) Cut off the burner immediately. Be sure that
the pressure-relief valve is operative. Then check (with a thermometer)
the temperature of the water at the nearest outlet. If above that
for which the gage is set, check the thermostat that controls burner
cutoff. If you cannot correct the trouble, call a plumber.

_Cold house._--If the heating system fails (or if you close the house
and turn off the heat) when there is a chance of subfreezing weather,
completely drain the plumbing system. A drain valve is usually provided
at the low point of the water supply piping for this purpose. A pump,
storage tank, hot-water tank, water closet tank, water-treatment
apparatus, and other water-system appliances or accessories should also
be drained. Put antifreeze in all fixture and drain traps.

Hot-water and steam heating systems should also be drained when the
house temperature may drop below freezing.


Transcriber Note

Produced from material made available from the Internet Archive
and is placed in the Public Domain.

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