Cleaning a P-Trap


Tyler shows you how to clean a P-Trap!

Get a Grip… on a new shower handle!

You know what they say: Life is too short (to hate your shower valve)

Old Shower Handles

An old shower valve with stiff handles, which were hard for my arthritic client to operate.

When it comes to a shower valve, there are many reasons you may want to replace it. Sometimes, the handles are ugly and/or difficult to operate (for example, old handles and arthritic hands don’t mix) Perhaps the shower handles and/or valve have begun leaking and no replacement parts can be found, or are too expensive. In one case, my customer found their existing shower valve to be too confusing for their guests to operate.

In the past, in order to replace your shower valve, which is typically buried behind tile or another type of shower encasement, you had two options: re-tile the whole shower wall, or cut open the sheet rock on the wall behind the valve, and replace. While opening the sheet rock behind the shower valve is still a viable option, there is now a third option: use an extra large remodel plate. This allows the replacement of an old shower valve (such as the two handle valve pictured above) with a modern shower valve, such as a Grohsafe Pressure Balance valve (pictured below). Parts for the new shower valve are easily replaceable and readily available. A new shower valve will also operate smoothly.

New Shower Coppers

The first step is to cut a large hole in the tile, surrounding the existing shower handles. The hole is large enough to give access to the plumbing behind the wall, but still small enough to be covered by the remodel escutcheon. The old shower valve is cut out and the new shower valve is plumbed.

New Shower Valve 2

After testing the new shower valve for leaks, the area is prepared to be “trimmed out”, or concealed once again.

New Shower Valve Moen Remodel Plate

And there it is! A new single-handle shower valve replacing those old, difficult to turn handles. This particular customer chose the Grohsafe shower valve with the Eurosmart trim. The large escutcheon, set behind the smaller Eurosmart escutcheon, covers the hole in the wall.

Depending on the circumstances, a job like this will take somewhere between 4 and 6 hours. Call today for a free estimate on a new shower valve.

All is Not Lost!

Is your toilet on the run?

No, this is not a joke where I ask you if your toilet is running, and then tell you that, well, you had better go and get it.

Over the years, some toilets may become wobbly and loose, no longer adhering to the laws of gravity. You take a seat and the whole commode shakes and moves. Additionally, or perhaps alternatively, every time you flush the toilet, a little bit of water leaks out from the base. Or, worse, there is a water spot developing on the ceiling below the toilet upstairs. Typically, this means that the toilet is no longer properly fastened in place, and the flange holding it to the floor may be damaged or (gasp!) completely eroded.

Such was the case with my contractor friend who called when he pulled his old toilet to install a new tile floor, and realized that he could not fasten the new toilet. The existing toilet flange was almost completely lost; over the years, and probably due to a slight leak, the toilet flange (an old cast iron flange) eroded away and no longer properly held the bolts and nuts for securing the toilet to the floor.

In most cases, the repair is relatively inexpensive. Pictured below is a replacement flange, a simple metal ring sold at most plumbing supply stores. The ring can be installed on top of the existing flange, fastened directly to the floor over the flange, or both. Below, you can see that I used six stainless steel screws going directly into his concrete floor to fasten the repair ring on top of his existing flange.

I reset the toilet and the wobble was gone.

Repaired Water Closet Flange

If your toilet has a mind of its own when you take a seat, or you notice some water escaping from the base each flush, call a licensed plumber (hint: me!) to check it out.

It’s 10pm: Do you know where your hot water is?

Water conservation is certainly a hot topic these days in California. In my personal opinion, water conservation should always be a hot topic, everywhere, but let’s not go down that road.

One major source of water waste is running water down the drain until the desired water temperature has arrived at the fixture. You might be familiar with this scenario. I’m not too proud to admit that I am guilty of doing this. But you can significantly reduce or eliminate the amount of time it takes for hot water to reach your faucet, shower, or washing machine with a very simple device called a hot water circulating pump. (If you’re not in the market for installing a circulating pump, do what I do: while waiting for your hot water to reach the fixture, catch the excess water in a bucket and water your plants.)

Circulating Pump Example

First, it is important to understand how a hot water circulating pump works. In homes with a traditional hot water return line, a circulating pump is installed on the return line, pulling hot water from the tank through the hot water pipes in the house, creating a constant supply of hot water. Return lines are especially popular among homes that are very long in design, or with plumbing fixtures located far from the water heater. There are several brands and different types of pumps that can be installed in a home with a return line.

But what if your home does not have a hot water return line? Well, there are now pump systems that utilize a special fitting that can be installed in any home to “create” a loop in the hot water pipes. This means that even if your home does not have the conventional hot return line, you can still install a pump to enjoy instant hot water at your fixtures, reducing the amount of time until your water reaches the desired temperature, which in turn reduces the amount of water wasted.

Check out my circulating pumps page for more information!

To Tankless or Not to Tankless: That is the Question

Rheem water heaters

Some Rheem tank water heaters.

It’s Sunday morning and you’ve rolled out of bed. You’ve finished a strong cup of coffee, checked your social media, and are getting ready to face the day. You head into the bathroom, turn on the shower, but wait… it’s cold. It’s really cold.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not as far-fetched as most of us would like. Hot water is something most Americans have grown accustomed to. It’s a large commodity that we often take for granted. That is, until it’s not there any more. When your water heater is broken, you want it fixed fast. But before you replace that old tank water heater with another one, there’s lots to consider; especially in this day and age when there are more efficient ways of heating water. It’s time to think about “going tankless.”

When should I replace my water heater?

When to replace a water heater has many variables. Typically, if your water heater is leaking from the tank, it’s time to replace it. Leaking means water dripping out the bottom, or from the connections at the top. Keep in mind that if your tank has water on the top of it, you’ll want to make sure it is not just a faulty connection to the plumbing, particularly if you have a newer water heater or if you recently replaced it. Most folks tend to wait until their old water heater is dead, and then swap it out with a new one. I subscribe to the saying, “if it is not broken, don’t fix it.” Other people like to be proactive about replacing their water heater, before it breaks, so you don’t have that -very cold- Sunday morning wake up. Typically, tank water heaters can last anywhere between 10 and 20 years. For one poor soul, her tank water heater went south at almost exactly 6 years and 1 month (1 month past the warranty of the unit.) However, in the mid-2010’s, I pulled a water heater out of a San Rafael office building that was from the 60’s. There really is no way for certain to say how long your water heater will last.

For more information on choosing the right water heater, head on over to my Water Heaters page!

Let’s Talk Water Pressure

Many homes in Marin suffer from high water pressure. Aside from being dangerous to your plumbing fixtures, high water pressure is also wasteful!


  • Banging, clanging or noisy pipes, typically noticed when turning a plumbing fixture on or off, can be caused by “water hammer” from homes with high water pressure.
  • Unusually high water bill.
  • Faucets and fixtures “blow out” or degrade quickly.
  • Faucets and fixtures that leak or drip is sometimes a sign that you have high water pressure, especially if more than one fixture develops a leak simultaneously.
  • In extreme cases, high water pressure can cause supply hoses (such as those feeding a toilet, faucet, or washing machine) to burst or fail.

How is water pressure determined?

Water pressure varies from street to street. Some homes do not require pressure reduction; the pressure coming from the municipal supply is adequate (between 60 and 80 PSI). However, some homes may have high water pressure (anything over 80 is worrisome, over 100 is definitely not good!) and will require a pressure reducing valve to regulate the supply coming into the home. You can test your water pressure using pressure gauge, available on Amazon or at your local hardware store. Connect the pressure gauge to a hose bib to determine your pressure.


A typical water pressure gauge.

Yikes! I’ve got high water pressure. What do I do?

Using a pressure reducing valve, you can bring your water pressure down to a safe level. A home with a water pressure around 60 PSI will have drastically reduced chances of water damage inside the home (caused by pipe failure). In some instances, reduced water pressure will soften and/or remove water hammer (banging pipes). Your fixtures will be under less pressure, usually allowing a longer lifespan for faucets and plumbing parts. Lower water pressure is particularly important in homes that utilize an on-counter water filter system, such as charcoal or reverse osmosis filters systems, as these typically use plastic pipe and compression fittings, which can leak or become disconnected because of high water pressure.


3/4″ Watts pressure reducing valve, installed at the cold water intake.

Installing a pressure reducing valve on the cold feed to the house is generally easy. A typical installation will take an hour or two. It can lead to reduced water usage and save your plumbing fixtures. Call us today for an estimate on installing a pressure reducing valve.