Call Now
Service Area

San Diego County

Frequently Asked Questions


The Process

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most frequently asked plumbing related questions that we get from our customers. We thought providing a page for these questions would be beneficial to our customers. We offer answers to many questions such as what not to put down your disposal and how to turn the water off if your toilet is overflowing. Simply scroll down to find your question, and click on it to reveal the answer.
What are the most common causes of pipe corrosion?

Pipe corrosion can be caused by a number of things, almost all of which are related to water quality, including:

  • Chemicals in the water
  • The pH of the water
  • The amount of oxygen in the water
  • The temperature of the water
  • The water pressure and the speed at which the water moves through the pipes.
How can I check if I have a leak?
If you think you have a leak in your home, there’s an easy way you can check. Go out to your water meter and record the level. Make sure no one uses any water for a few hours, then go back and check the meter again (it’s easiest to do this when everyone goes to bed, then check it again first thing in the morning). If the level has changed, you probably have a leak – call Ability Plumbing to have it taken care of right away!
Can leaks get bigger over time?
Yes. Water leaking out of your pipes or fixtures will eventually cause enough corrosion that even a pinhole-sized leak can eventually grow and potentially cause damage to your home.
Do I really need to worry about hidden leaks?

Yes! Not only do leaks get larger with age (see above) but they can also potentially cause damage to your home. Leak detection and repair offers a number of other benefits, including:

  • Reduced or eliminated water loss
  • Reduced risk of damage associated with leaks
  • Reduced need for emergency repairs
  • Reduced need for water treatment and pressurization
How do I clean my new faucets?
Most faucets can be cleaned with a damp, soft cloth. If you just installed new faucets, you may want to find out if the manufacturer has any recommended cleaning solutions for more stubborn stains. Make sure to avoid any abrasive cleaners or pads – these may scratch the surface and finish of your faucet.
How much water is wasted from a dripping faucet?

A single drop from once faucet may not seem like a lot. In fact, it takes 15,140 drops to equal a single gallon. But think about it this way:

  • If you have one faucet that leaks 10 times a minute, that’s 14,400 drips per day – 347 gallons per year from a single faucet!
  • Multiply that by three faucets and it’s over 1,000 gallons!

If you want to figure out how much your faucet is leaking, count how many times it drips in a minute. Once you figure that out, you can figure out how many times it drips per hour – number of drips x 60 – or per day – drips x 1440. From there, you can divide the total number of drips into 15,140 to get the number of gallons you could save by calling Ability Plumbing for faucet repair!

Should I repair or replace leaky faucets?
If you can repair the faucet and restore the shine on its finish, faucet repair is a perfect option. However, if your faucet is too badly corroded or too old to find replacement parts, faucet replacement may be easier (and possibly cheaper!).
What causes a faucet to leak?
The most common thing we find is corroded O-rings, gaskets or valve seats that cause faucets to leak. Together, these components are what hold back the water until the faucet is opened, so if one of them is corroded, you’ll get a leaky, dripping faucet! To stop a faucet leak, shut off the water to the sink and open the faucet to let the water drain out. Next, use an Allen key or screw driver to remove the faucet handle. If it has a nut holding the internal parts in place, check to see if that’s loose – tightening it with pliers may be enough to stop the leak! If not, remove the nut and disassemble the faucet (just make sure you can put it back together again!). If the faucet contains a cartridge, don’t take that apart – just replace it with a new one.

Inspect all the components of your faucet – you should see washers, O-rings or seals and possibly springs – and figure out exactly what you need to replace. Find the precise parts at a hardware store and put the faucet back together. If all goes well, your faucet should be back to normal. If not, call Len The Plumber for faucet repair!

Is there anything I shouldn’t put down my toilet?

You really shouldn’t put ANYTHING down your toilet, except what’s supposed to go down there. Avoid putting in things like:

  • Baby wipes, napkins, facial tissue or paper towels. While these will flush fine, they don’t break down the way toilet tissue does and will cause clogs or damage your septic system.
  • Sanitary products or diapers
  • Q-tips, cotton balls or dental floss
  • Hair
  • Food scrap
  • Small toys
  • Cat litter
My water bills are going up, but I don’t think we have a leak. What’s going on?
Your toilet may be leaking silently. Here’s how to tell:

Put a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank and make sure no one uses that toilet for about a half hour. Once the half hour is up, come back and check if any of the food coloring leaked into the bowl. If it has, call Ability Plumbing for toilet repair as soon as you can!

My toilet constantly sounds like it’s running. Is there anything I can do to fix it?

Yes – it just depends on what’s going on.

  • If you’ve ever opened your toilet tank, you’ve probably seen a metal or plastic ball resting on the top of the water. This is called the float, and it governs how high the toilet fills. If the float is cracked, water will seep inside and the ball won’t be able to sit above the water. As a result, the toilet can overfill and water can leak into the overflow tube, creating an endless cycle of filling and draining that will wreak havoc on your water bill. Sometimes, fixing the float just involves bending the metal arm it is attached to so the float sits on top of the water – just be careful not to snap it! In newer toilets, the float rides up and down in a plastic tube. While these are generally more durable than float arms, occasionally the ball will get stuck on grit or debris and may need to be moved manually a few times to remove the obstacle.
  • If the float ball isn’t the issue, check the chain attached to the handle. If the chain is too long, it could get trapped under the flap and let water through. If it’s too short, it won’t allow the flap to seal properly. Shorten it or replace it as necessary.
  • If that’s still not the case, you probably have a leaky flapper valve. The flapper valve is located at the bottom of the tank and is generally pretty easy to replace – just pop it off and put a new one in.
Why does water back up into the sink when I run the dishwasher?
This usually means there’s food stuck in your disposal. Since the disposal drain and dishwasher drain are connected, a clog in one will lead to a backup in the other. To prevent this from happening, always make sure your garbage disposal is free of food particles before turning on the dishwasher and always run the garbage disposal with plenty of cold water. If it gets really bad, you can plug up the sink, fill it with water, then remove the plug and run the disposal. The weight from the water should help force out whatever is backed up in the drain, eliminating the blockage. If this doesn’t work, give us a call! We carry garbage disposals on our trucks and can have you up and running the day you call.
Is there anything I should NOT put down my garbage disposal?

Yes – in fact, there are a lot of things that should never go down a garbage disposal. Fibrous foods, including celery, asparagus, and artichokes can wrap around the blades and choke them. In addition, you should avoid putting down:

  • Potato skins
  • Bone fragments and eggshells
  • Banana peels
  • Fats / grease
  • Unpopped popcorn kernels
  • Onion skins
  • Fruit pits and seeds
  • Stringy vegetables like asparagus and celery
My garbage disposal broke down – what do I do?
Don’t run out and buy a new garbage disposal yet! There are a couple things that can cause an interruption in your garbage disposal service that don’t mean it’s completely destroyed. First, turn the disposal off, disconnect it from the power and check to see if something is jamming it – a spoon or any other hard object. If you don’t find anything, plug it back in and try to press the RESET button to fix it. Finally, check the breaker switch in your breaker box. If all else fails, call Ability Plumbing!
What size sump pump do I need?
The required horsepower for your sump pump is determined by the area of drainage connected to the sump, the depth of groundwater, the depth of the basement, and a few other factors (most homes use a 1/3 hp pump).
What is the most common reason for sump pump failure?
Sump pumps are generally reliable, but if they fail it’s usually because of a power failure. During a storm (when you rely on your pump the most), a power outage will render your pump useless. To prevent this, consider installing a battery backup. This will kick a few moments after the power goes out, letting you enjoy peace of mind the next time a storm is headed your way.
Do I need a sump pump?
If you have a basement that frequently floods or your home is built so water flows toward it, you should definitely have a sump pump. A sump pump will prevent the basement, as well as laundry areas and storage rooms from being damaged during heavy rains or in places where the water table is high.
What are some of the biggest benefits tankless water heaters offer over conventional heaters?
One benefit of tankless water heaters is unlike conventional water heaters, they never run out of hot water. While storage tank water heaters have a limited capacity (usually between 40 – 60 gallons), tankless water heaters heat water as it passes through the system, meaning you’ll never run out of hot water – especially important when the whole family is in town!

Another benefit is that since there’s no stored water, there’s no risk of an untimely leak (flooding from water heaters is one of the most common homeowner insurance claims!). And, since you’re only heating the water you’re using, you’ll see major reductions on your energy bills.

What size tankless water heater do I need?

Everyone’s needs are different so it’s hard to say without knowing exactly what’s going on in your home. To get a rough idea of the size (gallons per minute capacity) you’ll need, think about how much water you use on a daily basis – how long are your family’s showers? How often do you run the dishwasher or washing machine? Do you ever use them at the same time? Try to get a rough estimate of how much water you use, then call Ability Plumbing to install a tankless water heater that meets your family’s needs.

I’ve heard tankless water heaters are unreliable. Is this true?
When they were first introduced decades ago, tankless water heaters broke down somewhat frequently. These days, thanks to numerous technological advancements, tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years or more – longer than conventional storage tank water heaters!
Can I use a tankless water heater if I have hard water?
While tankless water heaters are less susceptible to the negative effects of hard water, they are still affected by it. If you have hard water, it’s best to have water softening treatment whether you use a conventional or tankless water heater.
Why is my water heater’s relief valve leaking?

High pressure coming from your water heater can cause your relief valve to leak. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Incoming water pressure from the main water line is too high.
  • Thermal expansion (water expanding in volume as it is heated) is causing the pressure to build up.

The easiest way to deal with a leaky relief valve is to call Ability Plumbing to replace it!

Why does my hot water heater not work as well in the winter?
When it gets really cold out, the water that enters your home is much colder. This causes the hot water in your tank to lose a lot more heat when it mixes with the incoming cold water. In addition, you may have a buildup of sediment in your tank that’s inhibiting your water heater’s performance.
Will a tankless water heater work for me?

In most cases, yes! There are very few situations in which tankless water heaters will not work (you can ask a top tankless water heater technician about these), and most will work in areas where conventional storage tank water heaters would not. Most tankless water heaters are about the size of a suitcase and require about 120V, 60Hz and 3 amps of power – requirements almost any house meets.

How can I tell if I need a water heater replacement?

A well maintained gas water heater should last you about 8-12 years. An electric water heater will last longer, around 10-15 years. A tankless water heater will last you even longer than that! That said, you should think about having your water heater replaced if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Rust colored water
  • Lack of hot water
  • Moisture or flooding around the base of your water heater

If you are on a well, the hard water can limit your water heater’s lifespan. Water softening or installing a water conditioner will help extend the life of your water heater.

Why does my hot water smell like rotten eggs?
Foul smelling water is caused by the combination of hydrogen, sulfur, and bacteria in the water. Sulfur and bacteria are naturally present in the water your appliances use, and they will not make you sick. When the magnesium anode rod in your water heater tank reacts with the sulfur and bacteria in the water, it creates enough hydrogen to create an odor. There are many ways to take care of this, from replacing the magnesium anode rod to purifying the water in your water heater.
What do I do if my toilet overflows?
An overflowing toilet is usually caused by a leak in your tank’s fill valve or deterioration of the shaft or wire that sets the fill level. Whatever the cause, call Ability Plumbing for the solution!
Why do my pipes rattle and make noise all the time?
Most likely your water lines are not properly secured, meaning there are some spots where they rub up against your floor joists. If you call Ability Plumbing we can make sure your pipes are properly secured and install pipe hangers between your pipes and the joists to eliminate the noises.