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Robert Lamoureux: 'Manly' toilet comes with a high price

Posted: July 24, 2009 10:36 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Dear Mr. Lamoureux,
My house has both copper and galvanized pipes. The copper is hooked up to the hot water and galvanized on the cold side.
We had a leak in one of the galvanized pipes in the attic. I've got all of the junk out of the way now so I think it's a good time to replace that galvanized with copper.
While I'm at it, I also want to change out the water heater lines. I've heard I should use a union or brass pipe to go between copper and galvanized.
Which one should I use for the transition? Thank you,
Stan H.

Hi Stan,
When you connect two dissimilar metals they will corrode. This is known as galvanic corrosion.
One of the pipes becomes the anode, the positive side, and the other acts as the cathode, the negative side.
When you connect two different metal pipes to each other they create a positive difference and exchange ions creating a small electric current.
The water flowing inside the pipe is the electrolyte - since basically all water is slightly acidic, so what you've done is made a battery.
To prevent this corrosion, you need to use a dielectric union between, for example, the galvanized and copper pipes.
A dielectric union is made of steel and brass, with a washer and a plastic insulator that stops the electrical connection so there is no flow of current. No current, no discharge, no problem.
The brass gets soldered or sweated to the copper side, and the steel is threaded to the galvanized.
Or, you can use a brass nipple to transition between the two. You'll want to use a minimum of a 6" length.

Dear Robert,
I am a faithful reader of your do's and don'ts.
I am renovating my bathroom and want to replace the toilet. My last toilet was a low flow model that was constantly backing up.
I'd like to get your opinion of one of those manly commercial toilets that feels like they suck the air out of the room when you flush.
Is there any reason why I couldn't install one of those in my house? Do you know how much they cost? Many thanks,

Dale G.

Hi Dale,
That swoosh you're hearing from the commercial toilets is the jet action within those toilets.
You are talking about toilets with a pressure assisted siphon jet flushing action that can cost about $1000.
You probably only have a 1/2" line coming in for your toilet, while the commercial units will need a least a 1" line.
This means you will have to run a 1" pipe from your main to the toilet or it will not work.
Also, you have to check if you are you going to need a flushometer. Is it already part of the unit or do you need to install one?
This is a device that uses your water supply pressure instead of gravity to discharge water into the bowl, and uses less water than conventional flush toilets.
This is good news considering the water shortage we have in California, but not good for preventing back-ups.
It's been my experience with these types of toilets, you have more main line back ups because of less water volume. If you don't have the water to push down the line, you will have blockages.
The same holds true for using your garbage disposal. If you don't run the water behind the food and debris, it won't go down the line properly and it will eventually cause problems.

Hey Robert,
We went to an amusement park and they had an area with misters that really cooled us off.
What would I have to do to install something like that in my backyard? I've got a barbecue next to a gazebo that this would be perfect for.
Thank you,

Glen M.

Hi Glen,
If you want exactly the same thing, you would go to a plumbing supply house to purchase the atomizer nozzles.
Then you could just run PVC from a water source and attach to the gazebo.
You could tie off every five feet or so depending on the coverage, to install a new nozzle.
Another way would be to install a fan - I'd go at least a 12" fan, and run some plastic line, like ice-maker maker tubing, up to the front of the fan and adjust the amount of water flow with a ball valve.
This plastic line is clear and inconspicuous so it makes for a nice installation. I've seen several places that have put these in this way and they work like a charm.
You would probably get more distance with a wind driven fan spray as opposed to the atomizer nozzles, so it would cover a larger area.
I would tie-wire the hose to the front grill of the fan to keep it in place.
Don't run the hose in the back of the fan because you don't want water going through the blades.
Then all you have to do is adjust the water for volume of mist you want.

Hi Robert,
I own a small strip mall and one of the parking spaces in front of a store is cracking and lifting.
The section of the curb nearest this damage is also cracked and someone could easily trip walking into the store.
This is not caused by root damage because there are no trees anywhere near this corner of the parking lot. Do you know what would be causing this concrete to lift and the best way to repair?
Thank you,


Hi S.S,
You're right, roots are generally the cause for breaking and lifting concrete and trip hazards, but expansive soil can do just as much damage. Expansive soil is basically clay which is usually found on old lake beds or flood plains or hillsides. The amount it expands is related to the amount of water present.
Through rainfall or watering, the soil will expand and cause cracks and damages not only to the concrete but to the structures sitting above it. This clay can exert tremendous pressure on concrete and foundations. I've heard estimates that this pressure can reach 15,000 lbs. per square foot. There are steps you can take to help minimize these damages.
First of all, you want to make sure you have adequate drainage on the property. All water needs to drain quickly and with no ponding next to the buildings. Ponding water could soak through and cause structural damages. Gutters and downspouts will help if the drainage flows toward the street, away from the buildings. Also, limit the amount of watering on the property. You will probably start to see similar damages in front of the other stores as well, but the repair process would be the same on an as-needed basis.
First you would saw cut and remove the damaged concrete. Drill through the edges of the good concrete and install rebar pins to hold the new pour. Then excavate the expansive soil out and replace with fill dirt then compact. Next you would just form and re-pour and finish to the existing.

Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as a commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in "Your Home Improvements" are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made. Submit your questions to: robert@imsconstruction.


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