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Robert Lamoureux: Flapper may solve flushing mystery

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 8, 2010 10:14 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
I read in one of your columns recently that whenever a toilet flushes itself to check the flapper.

I checked my toilet and found the flapper was molten and covered in some green stuff. I replaced it.
It’s at least 90 percent better, but it still flushes itself periodically.
What do you think this could be? 
Thank you very much,
Rafa S.

Hi Rafa,
Check where the flapper seats. Lift the flapper and run your finger around that seat and make sure that none of the calcium you’re describing on the flapper is on that rim.
If there is, and it’s not seated all the way around, it will permit a little water to come in at that point, which will eventually cause the toilet to flush. Just wipe it off, or scrape it with your nail, and this should take care of the problem. 

Dear Robert,
I would like to do some saw cutting at my home.

I’ve never done this before and want to check on any protocols I should be aware of. Specifically, I heard I’m not allowed to wash anything into the street.  Is this true?
Many thanks,

Bob C.

Hi Bob,
Yes. What you have to do is use a shop-vac with a minimal amount of water.
Vacuum up the cement and make sure it doesn’t go down into the storm channel.

Hi Robert,
We have trash chutes on each of our hallways that lead down into the trash rooms, and we had a plumbing problem that damaged the drywall in the ceiling.

Our handyman is saying that we need 5/8” drywall for the repair, but shouldn’t that be double drywall? Shouldn’t that be a fire-rated ceiling? We don’t have a lot of money in reserves, but I would rather do it right while we have everything exposed.  Thank you,

Jim A.

Hi Jim,
You are absolutely correct. Double 5/8” drywall would be a fire-rated ceiling, which is required in a trash room. 
You don’t want your tape joints to be back-to-back. The joints of the second layer of drywall have to be offset from the joints of the first layer.

Since this ceiling was not built to code, I would also check the walls because they should also be double drywall. Trash containment areas have to be fire-rated rooms. This means fire sprinklers, metal fire-rated doors and a slide on the trash chute door. 

Once all of the drywall is complete, check to make sure the track for the chute door is clear and free of any debris or corrosion. This is a fire door that is held open with a spring and a 155-degree, lead-fusible link. If a fire breaks out in the trash room — if someone drops a lit cigarette down the chute, for example, the lead would melt very quickly and cause the door to slam shut.

This prevents flames and smoke from traveling up through the center shaft of the building.

The big picture is to prevent smoke from billowing out onto the main corridors of the building, where the trash chute doors are located. Generally, it’s not the fire but smoke that kills people. Of course, each chute door on each floor should be self closing to prevent this kind of disaster, but never take fire safety for granted.

This is why it is absolutely critical that the door at the bottom of the chute slides freely and easily. 

This door and track should be checked annually. To inspect, have a professional remove the springs and fusible link to ensure the door rolls smoothly on the track.

They will lube the track with WD-40, then reattach the springs and lead link. 

Also, the roof vent should be clear and open to the outside. In case of an emergency where fire or smoke does enter into the shaft, this is designed to vent out the smoke. This should also be checked periodically for obstructions.  This mostly falls under Reg 4, if you would like to study more on the subject. The fire department should check annually, but I would also check everything myself just to be on the safe side. 

You had mentioned that your reserves are low, but fire safety is a priority, even if assessments to the homeowners are necessary.

Hello Robert,
I have a massage shower head that doesn’t do all of the fancy moves it once did.  I’m sure there’s something inside blocking some of the jets, but I can’t find a way to get to them to clean.
What should I do? 

Jayne L.

Hi Jayne,

For something like this, disassemble it as much as you can. Then get some CLR or Lime-A-Way and sit the shower head inside of it for a couple of hours, then run water through it.
You may need to repeat this process two or three times to clean it out.

Hi Robert,
I’ve got a four-year-old pool that now has some white mineral deposits on the tiles along the water feature. I’ve scrubbed and have got most of it off, but there is still a film. It’s a deep blue tile that won’t get clean. 

I’ve used a pumice stone to the point of it scratching the surface of the tile. Is there a way to get the tiles really clean? Thank you very much. I wear a size XL T-shirt if you still have some left.

Ben P.

Hi Ben,

Yes, we have plenty of T-shirts. 
Regarding your tiles, there are companies out there that do bead blasting using little glass beads.
They come out and set up a compressor. Then they just vacuum. While you’re at it, they’ll need to lower the water level below the tiles.
So if you haven’t changed your water, this would be a good time to drain half the pool and refill with fresh water. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. 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.

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