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Robert Lamoureux: Proper pitch required to avoid leaks

Your Home Improvements

Posted: June 5, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Updated: June 5, 2010 4:30 a.m.

I read your comments about putting roofing shingles on a patio cover and the need for a certain slope ratio in order to prevent future problems. Please refresh my failing memory — how much slope is required? I’m retired and on a fixed income. I have a friend who is repairing my roof and I want to be sure it is done correctly.
Mary S.

Hi Mary,
I have seen composition shingle roofs as flat as 2:12. That’s two inches of vertical fall for every 12 inches horizontal run — a 17 percent slope. For reference if you were to place one end of a ruler touching the roof and hold it level, there would be a two inch clearance at the one foot mark.

According to the California Building Code, the minimum roof pitch for asphalt shingles is 4:12; however, they may be installed at a pitch between 2:12 – 4:12 if two layers of Type 15 felt, applied single fashion are used, and if the shingles are self sealing.

One thing to keep in mind is, all things being equal, the less the pitch of a roof, the greater the chance of leaks.     

Hello, Mr. Robert,
I have a problem with one of my toilets. It drains very slow after flushing. After I tried a plunger and a snake it got a little better, but far from good. Sometimes the water in the bowl almost disappears. Can you tell me what is the problem and what should I do?

Also, a question about my hot water heater. The water doesn’t get hot enough. If I drained the tank, would it help?
Agnes D.

Hi Agnes,  
The problem with your toilet could be several things. It could be a partially obstructed vent or a bad toilet. Something as simple as a crack in the trap assembly will create a problem. That type of crack is something you can’t see because it’s internal. 

To find the source of the problem is a process of elimination — so to speak. If you haven’t had your sewer lines cleaned in a few years, I would start by having a plumber run a cable from the roof vent right down into your toilet and out as far as he can get it. That process will assure your lines are clear.  

If the problem still exists then the next step is to replace the toilet. Make sure you get a wax ring — and make sure you have a licensed plumber do the installation because sewer gasses are dangerous. 

Regarding the hot water heater, it sounds like it’s just old and sediment has built up on the bottom of the tank. This creates a two-fold problem. One, the energy being used to heat the water has to first travel through and heat up the layer of sediment before it reaches the water and two, you have less volume of water in the tank to use.

The draining of the water won’t do much. It may pull some of the loose particles of sediment out, but the minerals in our water can get almost as hard as concrete. Once that happens, the best thing to do is get rid of it. Replace the heater. A new one will pay for itself in the long run just from energy savings. 

You may want to consider a tankless water heater. These units are greener. You’ll have an endless supply of hot water heated as needed, instead of a water tank being heated 24 hours a day. I know several people who have tankless systems and they are thrilled. 

With a conversion in an existing installation, you need to look at proximity to the gas meter, and if it is a two-story house triple vents are required. The venting also needs to be triple-walled. So, instead of having just one pipe, you need three because of the heat generated.

This can be costly. Actually, the venting can be as expensive as the heater itself. A larger gas line is also required because tankless requires more BTU’s. For existing houses, it could get expensive, but if you’re building a new house, I’d go tankless without any hesitation.

Hey Robert,
Not a big emergency, but I’d like to get it fixed anyway. The sink in my bathroom has one lever that adjusts between hot and cold. Whenever I turn the water on, water seeps out from under the silver base and onto the top of the sink. It appears to be getting worse so I’d like to take care of this before it becomes a real problem. What kind of tools would I need? How expensive? Thank you,
Janis F.

Hi Janis,
You have a standard conventional faucet that has got a pin hole leak, a crack or a problem with the seals. The best thing to do is to replace.
There are many styles of faucets available for your budget. If you’re handy and want to install yourself, turn off your angle stops and know where your main shut off valve is. If the angle stops go and you start flooding, you’ll want to be able to valve down as soon as possible.

Get yourself a basin wrench. It costs about $10. Basin wrenches will swivel and pivot allowing you to get into tight spaces. 
Now would be a good time to replace your angle stops — if necessary. If you don’t know how to sweat copper you can use compression fittings. If you have galvanized pipe and it’s a threaded connection be sure to use plumber’s tape.
Apply the tape in the same rotation, the same direction, as you will be twisting the angle stop on. Otherwise, it will unravel itself.

Run new flex lines with your new faucet and you are good to go.      

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question.

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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