One of the things we take for granted is the plumbing system; that is, until it fails. Loss of these facilities can lead to intolerable unsanitary conditions, dangerous walking conditions, and damage to physical, mechanical, and electrical structures. Maintaining this system is extremely important in the overall functioning of the facility. There is an old saying, "a stitch in time saves nine," that can be applied to plumbing maintenance. By taking care of a small leak, damage to a plaster wall a or a fall may be prevented. In addition, small problems tend to grow to be big problems if left alone. As part of your job in this facility, you may be called upon to clear a clogged drain, repair a leaky faucet, or repair a faulty toilet.
Clogged drains are among the most frequent problems for plumbing systems. The drains may be for a sink, floor, shower, or toilet. Someone putting something into the drain that does not belong there usually is the cause of them. In an industrial setting, the process of cleaning greasy hands can lend itself to causing a drain to clog or slow. The grease will tend to build up on the inside of the drain pipe system. As other items, such as hair or dirt particles, enter the drain, they are captured by the grease that has settled on the piping surfaces and start to build up, causing a slowing of the drain or drain stoppage.
Floor drains are easily clogged, as dirt and debris can be swept into them during normal cleanup and eventually can build up enough to clog or slow the drain. The following are some basic steps to clearing floor drains. These steps may vary depending on the type of drain.
a. Remove the strainer or grating that covers the drain box. b. Clean out any debris in the box using a spoon or stick or similar device. c. If the drain is still clogged, a coiled spring auger (snake) will be needed to clean out the bend or trap. In many cases, a clean-out plug is provided to facilitate this process. d. Pour some hot water into the trap or drain to flush out any loose material.
If the drain is sluggish, but not completely clogged, turn on the hot water tap for five to ten minutes. This sometimes opens the drain. If running hot water does not open the sluggish drain, try an environmentally safe chemical drain opener. Such cleaners are available in several forms. They are made primarily from caustic soda with bauxite and other ingredients. Read the label on the drain cleaner and follow manufacturers instructions. After using any chemical cleaner, flush it from the drainpipes by allowing hot water to run for at least ten minutes.
In some cases, using a simple suction cup will open a clogged sink drain. First, remove the basket strainer from the drain. Run hot water until it stands about 2" deep in the sink. Take a suction cup plunger and pump it up and down directly over the clogged drain (see Figure 1). The water in the sink provides a seal. If the suction cup does not clear the drain in a few minutes, you will probably be forced to remove some of the pipes to get the job done.
Figure 1: Plunging Clogged Sink Drain
If you cannot open the drain with the suction cup, set a pail underneath the sink trap and remove the clean-out plug and washer (Figure 2). If the drain is only slightly clogged, a few quick probes with a screwdriver may solve the problem.
Figure 2: Cleaning Trap
If the screwdriver does not open it, use a snake or drain auger through the pipe. A drain auger works best if you rotate it, feed it in a short distance, and then rotate it again. This enables the drain auger to be inserted deeply into the pipe. After the drainpipe is opened, replace the clean-out plug and washer. Run hot scalding water through the pipe to carry away any accumulations.
If the lavatory sink drain is only slightly clogged, try opening it by removing the drain stopper and probing for hair and other debris with a short piece of wire. If this does not work, try a plunger. Since your lavatory sinks drain has an overflow outlet, you will need to plug it with tape or rags before using a plunger (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Using a Plunger
After plugging the overflow drain, use the plunger exactly as you would in opening an ordinary sink. If the wire and plunger treatments do not work, use a sink auger or plumbers snake. You may be able to do this without removing the sink trap (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Using a Sink Auger or Plumbers Snake
If none of these efforts works, set a pail under the lavatory sink and remove the trap (Figure 5). Cover the chrome nut with tape or a rag to prevent marring by the wrench.
Figure 5: Remove Trap
Loosen the thumbscrew on the plumbers snake and move the handle back about 3 feet (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Using Manual Snake
Insert the snake into the drainpipe, rotate the auger, feed it in, and then rotate again. This allows you to drive the snake deeply into the drainpipe. When cleaning drains, especially sanitary drains, wear protective clothing, gloves, and eye protection to prevent spray from backpressure in the pipe from spraying the effluent on you. Always wash after cleaning out the drain. Remember to clean your tools, as the effluent contains many forms of bacteria that may be harmful to you.
Faucets are sold in many different makes and models, but the common ones fall into just a few types. You will find only two basic kinds of faucets: washer-type (or compression) faucets and washer-less faucets.
Washer-type faucets work by using a rubber or composition washer that closes onto a metal washer seat (Figure 7). The washer can become either hardened or worn, or the seat could wear, causing the faucet to leak. You can close the faucet tighter to stop the leaking temporarily, but this increases the internal damage to the faucet.
Figure 7: Compression Faucet
To repair the leak, first turn off the water. If there is a shutoff valve beneath the fixture, turn off the water at that point. Otherwise, turn it off at the main house shutoff valve in the basement, utility room, or crawlspace. Turn off the hot water supply at the water heater. Take the faucet apart by removing the handle (this may not be necessary on some older faucets). Loosen the Phillips-head screw, which usually is beneath a decorative cap in the center of the handle. The cap either unscrews or snaps off when you pry it with a knife blade.
If you must use pliers on decorative faucet parts, pad them with electrical tape or cloth to protect the finish, and take special care with the plastic parts found on many modern faucets.
Next, lift or pry the handle off its broached stem. Unscrew the packing nut beneath the handle, exposing the rest of the stem. Remove the stem by rotating it in the "on" direction. It will thread out. Reinstall the handle if you have difficulty turning it. Clean chips from the faucet cavity, but do not use harsh abrasives or a file. Examine the stem. If the threads are badly corroded or worn, take it to a retailer and get a new stem to match. Clean the stem if it is dirty.
Now look at the washer, which is located on the lower end of the stem and held in place by a brass screw. If the washer is squeezed flat or has a groove worn in it, replace it - this should stop any dripping. Take the washer with you to a store to ensure an exact match in size and style. If the brass screw is damaged as well, replace it with a new brass screw.
The washer seat is located inside the faucet body. You probably cannot determine if the washer seat is causing the leak just by looking at it.
Any faucet that needs frequent washer replacement obviously has a damaged seat. The seat should either be refaced with a seat-dressing tool or replaced. A seat-dressing tool is not costly.Every location with a washer-type faucet needs one. Use the tool according to the manufacturers directions, placing it in the faucet along with the packing nut. Then, rotate (Figure 8) until the seat is smooth and blow out the chips.
Figure 8: Dressing Valve Seat
Some washer seats can be unthreaded and replaced. Check the faucet body with a flashlight to see if it has a square or hexagonal hole through its center or if it is slotted for a screwdriver. If so, it is replaceable. However, if the seat simply has a round hole through its center and no slots, it is not replaceable.
In this case, dress it with a seat-dressing tool. To replace it, you will need a faucet seat wrench, which comes with a combination of square and hex heads to fit most faucet seats. Turn the washer seat counter-clockwise to loosen, clockwise to tighten (see Figure 9). Add a little silicone rubber sealant (RTV) or pipe joint compound around the threads of the seat before you install it to make it easier to remove during future repairs.
Figure 9: Removing Valve SeatIt is important to install the correct type of faucet washer (Figure 7). A swiveling washer (C) is preferable to either A or B. To install washer style C, file the shoulder off the end of the stem and drill out the threads of the screw hole. Instead of rubbing against the seat as it closes, a swiveling washer closes with a straight-down, frictionless action. This allows it to outlast fixed washers.
Following this seat and washer service, your faucet should be like new. Put the parts back together in the reverse order of taking them apart. Spread a bit of petroleum jelly or silicone grease on the threads of the stem to lubricate the faucets action.
If the faucet leaks around the stem rather than from the spigot, install new packing. You may want to install one of the newer nylon-covered or graphite-impregnated packing types - their lubrication allows the faucet handle to turn more freely. Wrap one turn of this packing around the stem just beneath the packing nut (Figure 7). Use three complete wraps if you are applying string-type packing. Some stems use O-rings rather than packing. For these stems, replace the O-ring with a matching one to stop a leak. Hand-tighten the packing nut, then tighten it another half-turn.
A loose seat washer usually causes a noisy washer-type faucet. To stop the noise, first turn off the water and take the faucet apart as described previously. If the washer is loose, tighten it or replace it. After threading the stem back into the faucet body, try moving it up and down. If it moves, the stem is worn and the entire faucet must be replaced. Some faucets are noisy due to poor design and construction. The only way to solve this problem is to replace the faucet with a quality one.
To take apart a bath/shower faucet for repair, first turn off the water. Then take the faucet apart by removing its handle, escutcheon, and packing nut. The packing nut may be buried deeply in the wall, requiring a socket wrench for removal. Your bath and shower faucets may have a renewable seat that can be smoothed with a seat-dressing tool or removed and replaced using a seat wrench. For replacing and repacking the washer, follow the same instructions provided for a washer-type faucet. Some faucets may need a complete replacement of the combination stem/seat unit.
A leak in a washerless faucet usually indicates that the working parts need replacing. Often, prepackaged repair kits are available. Kits may contain all the necessary parts, or they may include only the specific parts that need replacing. Follow the instructions for installing the replacement parts. Washerless faucets on tubs and showers are repaired in the same way as those on sinks and washbasins.
The diaphragm faucet (Figure 10) is washerless, but it is similar to washer-type faucets. A rubber diaphragm between the stem and seat creates a straight-down, frictionless close. As with washer-type faucets, diaphragm faucets have two handles.
Figure 10: Diaphragm Faucets
Remove the stem by following the steps outlined for washer-type faucets. Instead of a washer on the end of the stem, you will find a swiveling disc. If the rubber diaphragm does not come out with the stem, it is still inside the faucet. If the diaphragm did not come out with the stem, use pliers to peel it from inside the faucet and pull it out. Install a new diaphragm around the swiveling disc, and then replace the stem in the faucet. If the faucet is leaking around the stem, replace the stems O-ring before reinstalling the stem.
Disc faucets may have one or two handles. The water is controlled by openings in the two discs. When the discs are rotated to align, the water flows; when the discs are misaligned, the water shuts off. If the discs wear, the worn discs cause the faucet to leak. Simply turning the handles harder will not stop the leak. To repair a leak in a two-handle disc faucet, turn off the water and remove the handle on the side that is leaking. Use pliers to pull the disc assembly out of the faucet (Figure 11).
Figure 11: Disc-Type Faucet
Beneath the disc unit is the seat assembly, or seal. Replacing this special O-ring may stop the leak.
You may need to install a whole new disc assembly for faucets that have been used over a long period of time. In this case, all moving parts of the faucet will have been replaced and should last as long as the original discs did. The parts of some disc units snap apart into a separate bonnet assembly and bottom cap.
To repair a leaking single-handle disc faucet, turn off both the hot and cold water and remove the handle to expose the disc assembly. Take out the screws to lift the assembly out of the faucet (Figure 11).
You will notice that beneath the disc units are three O-ring seals. Though unlikely, water could be leaking between the unit and one of these seals. In this case, you may be able to stop the leak by cleaning the disc assembly and faucet body and installing a new set of seals. If that does not work, the entire disc unit must be replaced. This will renew all moving parts.
Replacing the unit is fairly simple. Place the three O-rings into their recesses in the bottom of the disc unit. Then install the unit and tighten the screws. Finally, replace the handle.
Single-handle faucets with a ball inside to control both hot and cold water may leak either at the spigot or at the handle.
A handle leak usually is caused by improper adjusting-ring tension. Simply adjust the tension to stop the leak. Leaks at the handle can also result from a worn cam gasket.
Worn spring-loaded, soft rubber seat assemblies usually cause dripping from the spigot.
Parts for ball-type faucets are available in kits. Get the spring/seats kit for spigot leaks, or the complete kit for handle leaks. It may be advisable to use the complete kit to replace all working parts of the faucet at the same time. In any case, you will need a kit containing the spanner/hex wrench for removing the handle (hex end) and turning the adjusting ring (spanner end).
Without turning the water off, loosen the handle setscrew. Slide the handle from its stem.
For a handle leak, use the spanner wrench to tighten the adjusting collar (see Figure 12). Tighten it by turning the wrench and collar clockwise until the faucet does not leak when it is turned on and off. If the adjustment is too loose, the faucet will leak. If you turn it too tight, the handle will be hard to move.
Figure 12: Ball-Type Faucet
When the adjusting ring cannot be turned with the wrench, it is corroded. At this point, you will need to remove the cap to free the adjusting ring. You must turn the water off before removing the cap! Apply penetrating oil to the threads, remove the ring, and clean all parts before reassembling.
Install the seats. For faucet leaks at the spigot, you must install new rubber seats and springs. You must turn off the water to make this repair. Unscrew the chrome cap by turning it counter-clockwise. If it will not turn easily, wrap electrical tape around the cap and turn it with pliers. The adjusting ring, which is threaded into the caps center, will come off with it. For a seats/springs replacement, pull the ball up and out by its stem. The gasketed cam will come with it. Now you can locate the two rubber seats and springs inside the faucet body. Remove them with pliers or yours fingers and install the new ones. The springs go into the holes first, and the cupped sides of the seats fit over the springs.
Service the ball. If the ball is dirty or coated with scale, clean it or replace it with a new one. Both plastic and brass balls are available, but use a plastic one if your home has hard water.
Reassembly: Put the ball and cam back into the faucet with the slot in the side if the ball fitting over the pin in the faucet body. Then make sure the tab on the cam slips down into the notch in the body. Not aligning the tab and notch is the number one cause for a faucet leaking after it is repaired. Finally, screw on the cap and adjust the ring. If a properly adjusted ball-type faucet leaks at the cap, the cam and gasket must be replaced.
Swing spouts: If a single-lever ball faucet leaks at the base, you should replace the O-rings. Remove the spout-retaining parts, as well as the spout. Wrap the spout-retaining nut with electrical tape to protect it, and remove the nut with a wrench or pliers by turning counter-clockwise. Remove the spout by pulling it up and side-to-side. One or more O-rings should now be exposed (Figure 36). Take the O-rings to a hardware or home center store to get matching O-rings for replacement. Clean any scale that appears on the spout base, faucet body, and the inside of the swinging spout. Install the new O-rings and reverse the steps above to reassemble the faucet.
Cartridge faucets have only one moving part. The stem slides up and down to open and close the faucet and rotates to regulate the flow of hot and cold water. Any leaking requires replacement of the cartridge.
First, turn off the water. To remove the cartridge, you will need to remove the handle. This repair can be like working a puzzle. If you have the manufacturers instruction sheet for the faucet, you are ahead of the game. Without it, look for a retainer clip at the rear of the faucet just below the handle. Alternatively, you may have to remove a setscrew or snap-in "hot-cold" button and a handle pin or screw.
On some faucets, the swing spout must come off first. The retainer clip may be hiding beneath the handle inside a lift-out tube. Some cartridge faucets use two retainer clips - one by the handle and another by the cartridge. Retainer clips can be pried out with a screwdriver.
Once the retainer clip is removed, the cartridge simply pulls out. Use pliers, as shown in Figure 13. Install the new cartridge by pushing it into place with the flat arrow or other mark upward. If you use a lubricant on the cartridge, make sure it is silicone grease.
Figure 13: Cartridge-Type Faucet
This problem can be a simple fix or a major headache. It all depends on the severity of the leak, the location of the piping, and the type of pipe. Minor leak repairs in accessible locations can be temporary or permanent. If the leak is in a spot that requires that a length of pipe be replacement, it may require a skilled plumber to complete the repair. A temporary patch clamp may be applied over the leak until permanent repairs can be made, thereby restoring the piping system to service.
Figure 14: Pipe Clamps
Figure 15: Manually Operated Flushometer
Figure 16: Automatic (Sensor) Flushometer
Figure 17: Automatic (Electric Sensor) Flushometer
Most soldering done for plumbing requires the use of flame soldering rather than the use of a soldering iron. The solder used comes in various metals, e.g., brass, copper, zinc, silver, aluminum and gold (if you are a jeweler). The two categories of solder are hard and soft. The hard type usually contains silver and requires the use of oxyacetylene equipment for larger jobs, or just acetylene for smaller (usually less than 1 inches) jobs. Soft solder is the most common type used by plumbers and comes in several compounds:
Fluxing the material to be soldered is important, as the solder will not flow on the material being soldered. The application of solder prevents the rapid oxidation of the copper as heat is applied during the soldering process. The flux prevents air from contacting the copper pipe and cleans the pipe in preparation for the application of the solder to the joint. There are many types of fluxes available; the key is using a good grade commercial flux properly to ensure a quality joint.
Before fluxing and soldering can be performed, the pipe or tubing must be made clean and bright on the mating surfaces to be soldered. There are several ways this can be accomplished:
The pipe should be cleaned above the point where the fitting will be connected. When cleaning the fitting and the pipe, use care so as not to let your fingers touch the area that will be soldered. The oils from your fingers will prevent the solder from adhering to the surfaces.
Apply a thin coating of flux to both the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting. Turn the fitting on the pipe to evenly spread the flux inside the fitting. Do not apply excessive amounts of flux to the joint, as this may cause corrosion if the flux gets on the inside surfaces of the pipe.
Apply heat to the fitting, not the solder. Depending on the size of the pipe and fitting, the amount of heat required will vary from just heating the fitting ( inch or smaller) to the use of two torches for piping 3 inches or larger.
Where heating is required for both the fitting and the pipe, remember that the fitting usually is thicker than the pipe and requires that the heat be applied longer to it then to the pipe. Proper application of heat will cause the solder to flow toward the hotter side, the fitting, and provide a complete seal around the joint.
Care should be taken so as not to overheat the copper. This will cause two problems. The first is that the flux will be used up, or evaporated, before the solder is applied and the solder will not adhere properly. Secondly, the joint may oxidize and turn black, and the solder will not adhere. If this happens, the joint must be taken apart and re-cleaned and re-fluxed before application of solder or the joint may fail when placed under pressure.
When the solder is placed against the fitting and begins to melt, remove the heat and feed the solder into the joint at one or two points until a ring of solder is seen around the joint. Remove the excess solder with a cloth or small brush while the solder is still plastic.
Figure 18 graphically depicts the steps in the soldering process, as follows:
Figure 18: Soldering Process
Flaring is done by evenly spreading the end of the tube outward, as shown in Figure 19. The angle of the flare must be accurate to match the angle of the fitting being used. A flaring tool is inserted into the squared end of the tubing and then hammered into the tube a short distance, spreading the tube end as required. This is called the impact method. An alternate method uses a screw-type flaring tool.
Figure 19: Flared Tube Ends
Figure 20 illustrates how a flare is used to form a leak-proof joint between a tube and a fitting. It also shows some incorrectly formed flares.
(A) Correctly Made Flare, (B) Flare Too Small, (C) Flare Too Large, (D) Flare Is UnevenFigure 20: Flared Fittings
Figure 21 shows the resulting flared joint. Note that the flared section is inserted into the fitting in such a way that the flared edge of the tube rests against the angled face of the male connector body. In this fitting, a sleeve supports the tubing. The nut outside the sleeve is tightened firmly on the male connector body, making a firm joint that will not leak even if the tubing ruptures because of excess pressure.
Figure 21: Flared Fitting
Some flares are made that use a single thickness of the tube. Other flares are made with a double thickness of metal on the flare surface. Called double flares, they are stronger and usually cause less trouble if properly made. Most flares are made at a 45 angle to the tube. Flares on steel tubing, however, usually are made at a 37oangle. This is because steel tubing is not as easily flared as copper tubing.
To make a flare of the correct size using a flaring block, you would perform the following steps:
1. Carefully prepare the end of the tube for flaring. The end must be straight and square with the tube and the burr from the cutting operation removed by reaming. Figure 22 shows the steps necessary to prepare a tube for flaring.
Figure 22: Tube Prepped for Flaring
2. First, use a smooth mill file to square the end of the tube. Use care that no fillings enter the tubing. Next, use a burring reamer to remove the slight burr remaining after the cutoff operation.
3. Place the flare nut on the tubing with the open end toward the end of the tubing. Insert the tube in the flaring tool so that it extends above the surface of the block, as shown in Figure 23(a). This allows enough metal to form a full flare.
4. If the tube extends above the block more than the amount shown, the flare will be too large in diameter and the flare nut will not fit over it. If the tube does not extend above the block, the flare will be too small, and it may be squeezed out of the fitting as the flare nut is tightened. Figure 23(b) shows the appearance to complete a flare.
Figure 23: Tube Flaring
5. To form the flare, first put a drop of oil on the flaring tool spinner where it will contact the tubing. Tighten the spinner against the tube end a half turn and back it off one-quarter turn. Advance it three quarters of a turn and again back it off one-quarter turn. Repeat the forward and backing movement off until the flare is formed.
Some facilities make the flare using one continuous motion of the flaring tool; that is, without a back-and-forth motion. However, it is believed by some that the constant turning of the tool, without back-turning, may work-harden the tubing and make it more likely to split. Other facilities like to use a flare that is not completely formed and instead is only about seven-eighths complete. They depend on the tightening of the flare nut on the flare to complete it.
Double thickness flares are formed with special tools. Figure 24 shows a cross-section through a simple block-and-punch type of tool to make a double flare. The correct shape of the double flare is shown in the final operation in this figure. Some flaring tools are fitted with adapters that make it possible to form either single or double flares with the same tool.
Figure 24: Block-and-Punch Tube Flaring
Simple block-and-punch tool for forming double flares on copper tubing. The tube is clamped in the body of the flaring block (A). The female punch bends the end of the tube inward (B). The male punch is inserted in partially the flared tube (C). The male punch folds the end of the tube downward to form a double thickness and expand the flare into its final form.
Figure 25: Double Flare Tooling
Figure 25 shows the correct procedure for forming a double flare using adapters with a combination single-flare, double-flare flaring tool, (A) tubing, (B) a block, (C) an adapter, and (D) a flaring cone. Double thickness flares are recommended for only the larger sizes of tubing 5/16 inch and over. Such flares are not easily formed on smaller tubing. The double flare makes a stronger joint than a single flare.
Figure 26 shows examples of flareless fittings. The plain tube end is inserted into the body of the fitting. As in Figure 22, there are two threaded outer sections, but in this case, a ferrule, or bushing, is located between them. As the threaded members are tightened, the ferrule bites into the tubing, making a tight joint. This is also known as a compression fitting.
Figure 26: Flareless Fittings
Just like the nut-ferrule body design described, the welded flange type of connection is a reliable means of connecting tube components. The flange welded to the tube end fits against the end of the fitting. A locknut is then used to securely tighten the fitting.
For making either joint, it is important to cut the tubing squarely and cleanly. This can be done with a hacksaw or a tube cutter. Figure 27 shows an enlarged section of a tube cut off with a tube cutter (left) and a hacksaw (right).
Figure 27: Cuts Made by Tube Cutter and Hacksaw
Stainless steel is work-hardened more by a tube cutter than by a hacksaw; that is, stainless steel will tend to harden as it is being cut. For this reason, stainless steel tubing should be cut rapidly with as few strokes as possible. The rough edge of the cut must be smoothed with a burring tool to remove the small metal whiskers or burrs. One type of burring tool has a cone of blades that fits into the tubing to remove internal whiskers and a second set of blades inside a cylindrical end that smooth the outer surface. If a hacksaw is used, the tube end should be filed until it is straight and square to the length of the tube.
Pipe can be cut with a hacksaw or a pipe cutter. The pipe cutter gives a squarer cut to the face of the pipe. After cutting, the pipe must be reamed and burrs removed. To determine the proper length of pipe to complete a connection, measure the distance from the face of one fitting to the face of the other fitting. Add the enclosed length of the pipe that enters the fittings on both ends (Figure 28).
Figure 28: Finding the Proper Length of Pipe
After a pipe has been cut to the proper size and reamed to remove any burrs, place the section of pipe in a pipe vise (see Figure 29). Place the proper size die into the stock and lock die. Make sure the stock is cleaned, as metal chips will cause the die to be angled and cause the threads to break when cut.
Figure 29: Threading Pipe Using Stock and Die