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Remove clogs to raise water volume

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 22, 2008 8:34 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Hey Robert,
I have plenty of water pressure in my home, but I have to flush the toilet several times until the water is really clean again. It's just not flushing right. The toilet itself is not that old and is not leaking. There is also what I think would be plenty of water in the back. Do you think I need a new toilet? I'm really not in the position to hire a plumber right now, so is there something I could do to fix it?
Dana W.

Hello Dana,
I don't think you need a new toilet. It just sounds like a water volume problem. Take a compact mirror and look under the toilet bowl where the water comes down around the flush ring. Look and see if any of those holes are obstructed. From what you've described, there is a good possibility that they would be.

Then take a coat hanger and jab the wire inside each and every one of those holes, all the way around the flush ring. This will get all of those mineral deposits out of there.

Some toilets also have a small vent hole in the bottom about the size of a quarter. Sometimes that vent will get obstructed. Take your coat hanger and stick it down in there a few times and make sure that is cleaned out as well. Something else you can do is to take some cleanser like CLR.

Shut the water off to your toilet at the angle stops and drain the toilet down - empty it out. Then pour a quart of CLR down into the bowl and let it sit overnight. Be sure and spray it to the underside of that flush ring. Come back the next morning, turn the water back on and flush the toilet. This will probably take care of the problem.

Hi Robert,
I have a question for you. I am going to add some brick work to my outside patio to dress it up. I watched a home improvement show and they didn't use concrete to set the brick. They only used sand. What do you think the pros and cons would be?
Jim A.

Hi Jim,
Well, with the sand you'll always have a maintenance issue. It's faster and easier than using mortar, but it will wash away. If you're using sand, you would need to first build a border to prevent the interlocking, brick, or pavers, from moving outwards. I would build a concrete curb at the same height as the pavers all the way around.

Once you get the pavers laid out where you want them, sweep some silica sand in between. Then you would spread a layer of sand across the top and come in with a vibra-plate to compact and let that sand work down in between. When you're finished, sweep up the excess and save it for when you have to spread it again. One thing about using sand, if any of the bricks ever get damaged, it's very easy to replace them.

If you go with mortar, use a sealed or fired brick or paver. If not, the pavers are porous and will absorb the mortar and stain. It will turn the brick a grayish white and once it gets in there, it pigments the brick so you can't get it out. Even with the fired pavers, keep a bucket of water and a sponge nearby to keep them clean as you go.

Use a rubber mallet and level, for both the sand and mortar, to set them in place.

Hello Robert,
At our building, a truck hit one of the overhead sewer lines and a piece of pipe about 6" long came loose from the band. It also pulled a long screw that was holding a bracket out of the ceiling. What's the best way to put that screw back up there?
Raphael D.

Hi Raphael,
OK, it sounds like the all thread and hanger pulled out of the concrete ceiling? You could use a masonry bit and re-drill then put in a new nipple and coupling; or you could just use epoxy.

Hey Robert,
I saw you at Home Depot the other day and told you I'd be sending you a question. Here goes: I just got my general contractors license and went out on my first bid. It was a nice size job and they wanted both electrical and plumbing work. I don't consider myself to be really a plumber or electrician, so I was going to sub in the work. When I got to this job, I saw mostly plumbing and electrical companies. My question is why would the owner hire me, when I would sub the work in with a profit, instead of just hiring who I would sub directly?

Do subs give me a better price? If not, what's the best way for me to get work?

Hi A.Z.,
Well, there's the problem.

If the subs are charging $100, and you are charging $125 for the work they are doing, who is going to get the job?

That's why I have all of my own licenses. Everything is done in-house.

Generally, the trades have their price and that's that. That price is based on several factors including the contractor's overhead. It's hard for the contractor with 20 trucks to compete with the guy that has one. The small guy doesn't have near the overhead like fuel prices, insurance, work comp, salaries, etc.

But, the small guys can't compete on the big jobs because they don't have the tools or the manpower to back them up.

So, in your case, start small and grow. With subs, it doesn't matter to them if they are working with or without you, they're still doing the same amount of work.

If you could offer volume, they might come down a little, but usually no.

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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