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Robert Lamoureux: Low water pressure vexes HOA residents

Your Home Improvements

Posted: May 15, 2009 2:31 p.m.
Updated: May 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
We live in an HOA and our water pressure is very low. We had a plumber come out and he said that, “The city is bringing it in at 55 pounds of pressure which should be fine.” I don’t know if this is high or low, but our shower pressure, especially upstairs is very, very low. He also said some people take off the prv and this would help with the pressure. I don’t want to remove anything until I know if it’s safe.  Thank you,
Brian H.

Hi Brian,
Once the water comes in from the meter through your PRV, pressure regulator valve, it will lose 7 to 8 pounds of pressure, and will drop another 7 to 8 pounds for every 8 to 10 feet of vertical run to reach your upstairs fixtures. So even though you’ve got 55 pounds at the street, by the time the water reaches your upstairs showers, it’s down to about 40 pounds of pressure.

The developer of your property knew how the grid was set up before they installed the PRVs, so you’re home’s pressure was decided based on the existing amount of pressure from the city. There are some people that remove the PRV, and this will give you another seven pounds of pressure, but it is not something that I would recommend. If the city changes their grid and bumps up the pressure, you run the risk of coming home to a flood. They will not go door to door beforehand and alert homeowners of grid changes, and it is possible that the increase will blow out your flex lines to your sinks and washing machine, or ball-cocks on your toilets.    

With commercial high-rise properties, there are pumps we install called jockey pumps that go in every five floors. These pumps push that water on up to the next floor. For residential, you could install a pressure pump with a bladder after your PRV valve. This will increase the pressure and would cost between $2,200-$2,800 installed.

Hello Robert
We have two doors to a trash room; I think they’re fire doors. There is a plate that is fastened to one door that slightly covers the other door when it is closed that is loose. We have screwed this plate back on in the past, but it is loose again. I want to keep it there since it is part of the original assembly, but don’t know the best way to keep it secure. Thank you,
Mary A.

Hi Mary,

There are several ways to check if you have or required to have fire rated doors in a trash enclosure. Check to see if you have a chute from the upper floors, with a door that sits on a track with a slope. If you see a ledge at the base, this is a lead bead that will burn and close the door shut in case of a fire. Let’s say someone drops a lit cigarette in their garbage that lands inside the dumpster and catches fire. This lead will melt causing the door to slide and seal that chute so that the flames don’t go up and inside the building.  

Another way to tell is if you see fire sprinklers, then that is indicative of being a fire contained room where the doors need to be fire rated.

You can also always check on the hinge side to see a label riveted or welded to the door. If this label is missing, or has been damaged to where you can’t read it, you can still find the manufacturer by measuring the hinges. Measure from the top of the door to the top of the first hinge, then from the top of the door to the top of the second hinge and so on. The placement of those hinges is proprietary to particular fire rated door manufacturers.  

As far as reattaching the plate, you can’t. You cannot make any modifications to a fire rated door. The minute you alter it in any way, the manufacturer will not provide any warranty under any circumstance. Even if that plate had been professionally welded back into place, the entire door would have to be replaced. The fire department in your municipality determines what type of fire door rating you should have which could be a 20 minute, 30 minute or one hour and will be listed on the label. Doors with 20 minute burn ratings are cheaper than a one hour door.

When you hang your new door, which is already primed from the manufacturer, make sure that your painters don’t paint that label.

This is considered an alteration and is illegal.   

Hi Robert,
This is my first time writing in. We just bought a home with a swimming pool that is eight years old. It has a Purex filter which I wanted to get cleaned out before using. It took me forever with pliers and vice grips to get the lid off and then back on again. I would say at least two hours of fighting, kicking and cussing. Do you know of an easier way for next time? Many thanks,
Joe K.

Hi Joe,
I know exactly what you mean. Those covers are not easy but there is a trick you can use. First thing to do is go and get yourself a new ring, a new seal. Over time, they stretch out, get longer and the lid won’t go on as easy.

On top of that Purex lid there is a pressure gauge. Every manufacturer will have a normal operating pressure as read by that gauge. With Purex, it is about 15 lbs. when the filter is clean. When the pressure goes up that means the grids are dirty and restricting the flow.  When the pressure goes up to 25 lbs., you have to break it down and clean. It’s a stainless steel filter and requires diatomaceous earth.

In order to get that lid off of there easily, take the ring off. Then bump the motor to the pool timer. The pressure of the water going through the filter from the bottom up, will pop that lid right off. Otherwise, you’re in there with a screwdriver and will damage the ring. When cleaning your filters, take as much as that diatomaceous earth off and throw it away in the trash. Some people make the mistake of washing their filters and letting the DE go into the drain. This stuff will turn into something almost like plaster and will harden in the pipes and will eventually back up the drain lines. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for adding the new DE.
Now, for putting the lid back on, put some silicone grease around the new ring to make it slippery. Fill up the filter with your pool pump motor until the water cascades out from the top. Place your lid on top around the seal which will act as a vacuum. Once the water starts to drain out, it will pull the lid right down. That’s all there is to it.  

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection.Send your questions to


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