Over the years I have been asked hundreds of questions regarding Plumbing and Gas, some more than others.
From these questions I have compiled a list of the most frequently asked.
This article is listed in the following order. Use the list as a quick reference guide to direct you to the section that interests you.
- Hot water system
- Water pipes (general)
- Technical and Safety Questions
- Drainage, sewer and stormwater
1. Why is my toilet making a noise?
If your toilet is making a hissing noise, then it probably means that one of the valves in your cistern is leaking.
What to do next
If you open the cistern and the water level is high and overflowing into the top hole of the centre valve, then the water inlet valve is the problem and needs to be repaired or replaced. In most cases it is easier to replace, as the part is so cheap.
If the water level is lower than normal, then the outlet valve (this is the valve in the middle of the cistern) is likely the problem.
Normally the rubber on the outlet valve has perished or something is stopping the outlet valve from sitting flush on its cistern outlet – usually a cleaning tablet or cleaning product are the culprits.
Determine which is the problem and repair. If the rubber has perished, then it needs to be replaced. In some circumstances, the whole valve will need to be replaced. This is common with old toilets when it is not clear on the type of outlet valve rubber.
2. Why is there a pool of water at the rear of my toilet in the morning and night?
Either your toilet pan rubber, the flush rubber, cistern tap, or inlet connection are leaking.
What to do next
You need to locate the leak, so get comfortable, it sometimes takes a fair few flushes before a small leak materialises. Just start flushing the toilet while observing the rear of the toilet.
Make note of the leak and call your local plumber with your findings. With the information you provide, a quote can be given.
It is always easier to find a leak with good lighting.
3. Is it cheaper to replace my leaking toilet cistern rather than repair it?
It is cheaper to repair the leak in most circumstances.
If the cistern is sitting on the toilet then sometimes the pan needs to be removed as well. In this situation it is cheaper to repair the toilet.
If your cistern looks old and discoloured, then for a few extra dollars it may be wise just to install a new cistern.
4. Is it possible to change my toilet cistern flush volume without changing over the cistern?
Yes, the inlet water valves have level adjustments. Most water heights can be achieved with just a Philips head screw driver.
After you have adjusted the screw, flush the toilet to see the new height. Keep adjusting and flushing until you get the correct height.
Follow the video below to see how to achieve this.
5. Will putting cleaning products in my cistern cause the toilet to leak?
Yes, overtime the cleaning products will cause the toilet rubbers to deteriorate faster and cause toilet leaks. They can also cause the toilet to leak by stopping the toilet valves from closing fully.
6. Can I replace my toilet with an in-wall cistern type toilet?
Yes, but a lot depends on your wall thickness. If the wall is too narrow a builder will need to widen the wall without changing the drainage distance from the wall too much! If this is what you are thinking about doing, I would recommend getting a plumber in to give you an idea if this is actually possible.
7. Can I replace my old toilet which has an exposed drain pipe with a back to the wall type toilet?
Yes. But just be mindful of the distance the drain pipe is from the wall and if the water enters at the bottom of the cistern or from behind the cistern.
Most waste pipes will work, but the water entry into the toilet is normally the killer. Take a photo of your toilet and take it to the plumbing suppliers or send it to the plumber and they can organise the toilet you need to suit your job.
8. Is it hard to add rain water to my toilet rather than mains water?
If the rain water tank is already in place and close to the toilets, then it should be a routine task. Obviously the further the tank is away from the toilets and the more obstructions there are, the harder the job will be. For more info click here.
9. My toilet has a few small hair line cracks at base of the toilet, is it safe to use?
No. At the first signs of cracking, it is safer to just replace the toilet. The alternative could have dire consequences.
10. Why does my toilet gurgle when we flush the toilet?
A gurgling drain is a big indicator for a partially blocked drain.
What to do next
Hire a plumber who has a camera and drain cleaner. If you have the time, do a little bit of research by looking at prices and reviews, and beware of great “too good to be true” offers. Remember you need to confirm and cleaner a blockage, not confirm and try and clear a blockage.
If you discover tree roots are the problem, get the plumber to quote to replace the pipe because tree roots will come back. Before you agree to a job of this size, get a quote from 2-3 other plumbers. You will find that prices vary a lot. Do you research.
11. Why can’t I flush paper towels down the toilet?
Paper towel don’t break down very well and will block up the drain, and cause major problems for the treatment plants.
12. Why can’t I flush baby wipes down the toilet?
Baby wipes don’t break down at all and will block the drains and cause problems for our treatment plants.
13. There is a strong sewer smell coming from the toilet, it smells worse near the base of the toilet?
The toilet pan rubber has most likely perished. This is the black rubber which connects the toilet to the drain.
What to do next
Call a plumber and tell them what you suspect and ask for a price to repair.
If you cannot see the toilet drain pipe, then the toilet will more than likely need to be removed to repair.
14. Can I make my toilet more elderly friendly?
There are tons of products out there to help the elderly and people who need that extra help. These items do not need to be installed by a plumber, but it is recommended that someone with experience helps with installation due to the critical nature of the finished product. A badly installed product could cause more problems than good.
To list just a few:
- grab rails
- back rests
- higher seats
- shower benches
Watch this video for more tips.
15. I hate touching the toilet, do sensor toilets exist?
Yes, one brand can be found at http://www.thetoiletthrone.com/best-touchless-toilet-reviews/.
16. My toilet seat keeps coming lose, is there a solution to stop this?
Yes, universal toilet seat fastening kits come with layers of rubber and strong brackets allowing for very stable toilet seats.
Alternatively, watch this video for more tips.
17. Is it possible to change my toilet water inlet from the bottom of the cistern to the inside of the toilet?
Yes, every job will require different solutions to achieve this, but it will almost certainly require holes to be placed in the wall. If the wall is made of brick or stone then the water may have to be drilled through the wall and it may be pretty difficult without moving the toilet.
18. How much does it cost to fix a leaking toilet?
Prices should be around $150 – $250 including materials.
Watch this video to diagnose the problem yourself.
19. How much does it cost to replace my toilet with the same style of toilet?
If the toilet is supplied by you, then the labour installation cost will be around $200 – $300 for installation only. Taking the other toilet out and removing it from site may incur an extra fee; not much though.
20. How do I stop my cistern tap from dripping?
The easiest and fastest way is to buy a new cistern tap and replace the old one.
21. Can a plastic cistern go on a porcelain pan?
Yes, for more information click here.
22. Can you buy toilets which are not white?
Yes, I have installed white pans and black pans.
Hot water systems
23. My hot water seems to be producing less hot water, can you tell me why?
It could be a number of things;
- faulty thermostat or element (replace)
- leaking pressure valve on the hot water unit (replace)
- a dripping hot water tap in your home (repair)
- there could be a leak in the tank itself.
24. How do I know which hot water system best suits my family’s needs?
There are many factors to consider to make the right choice when trying to find the right hot water system. Factors like:
- family size
- house / land size
- number of kids
- what type of fuel source do you have available?
- family member ages
- looking at your peak period for usage – do you all use the hot water between 6 and 7 in the morning?
If you allow 60 litres per person this should give you an indicator to your hot water system size.
Watch this video for more help in choosing the right hot water system.
Click here to contact our team for more information regarding choosing the correct hot water system.
25. My hot water system has no hot water, but the power is on to the system, why is it cold?
It sounds like it is your thermostat or element which is causing you the problem. You will need to vall a plumber or electrician to check this out for you.
26. Does my hot water system need to be on a stand or base of some sort?
Your hot water unit needs to be on a solid base. If in the garden it needs to be elevated at least 50mm above the ground level.
27. Does my hot water unit need a safe tray?
If your unit is above 25litres and is inside, then yes. If your unit is outside, then no.
28. Why is the base of my hot water unit leaking?
It could be several things:
- your tank has rusted through.
- your element seals have deteriorated and are leaking.
- someone has pierced the tank with a screw and it is leaking out.
29. Is water supposed to be draining from my hot water system valves all the time?
No. Your valve is faulty.
What to do next
Try turning the valve on for one second then off, repeat 5-6 times. If there was some dirt on the seat this may clear it.
If this fails, call a plumber with as much detail as possible, even a photo of the faulty valve so the correct valve can be picked up from the suppliers on the way to your job thus saving the plumber’s time and your money.
30. Do I need to upgrade my water pipes when I install my new hot water system?
If your water pipes are non compliant then I would recommend it. Your plumber has a legal obligation to complete all their work to a standard.
If your water is not yet temperature controlled with a tempering valve I would recommend mentioning this to your plumber so they can install one for you.
31. Do I need to upgrade my electrical cables when I install my new hot water system?
If you increase your hot water system size and you have fairly old electrical wiring it is quite likely you will. You can call an electrician with your new hot water system power size (3.6kw for example) and wire size and they should be able to let you know over the phone if it will work.
32. Do I need to add a temperature control device to the water to my house when I install a new hot water system?
33. How often should my hot water unit be serviced?
The relief valves needs to be pulled every 3-6 months depending on the manufacturer.
These hot water system valves need to be replaced every 5 years. I heard of a situation recently of an insurer not paying out for a burst water pipe due to the hot water system valves being older than 5 years.
34. How often should I pull the relief valves in the hot water system?
To be safe every 3 months. Manufacturers say every 3-6 months.
35. Is it expensive to install a solar hot water unit?
The set up cost is a fair bit more than your standard hot water system but the long term savings are great. Over a lifetime solar hot water systems are cheaper.
36. Can I install my storage hot water in the wall or roof to give us more garden space?
Yes. There are a few extra precautions needed but quite easy to install a hot water system on a roof or wall.
37. Do my hot water system pipes need to be protected with lagging?
Yes, all valves and pipe within 500mm of the hot water system. If you live in an area which is prone to cold temperatures through winter then all exposed hot water pipe need to be lagged.
38. Can I put plants on top of my hot water system to make it look less of an eyesore?
Yes as long as the plants’ roots/leaves don’t grow into the hot water system. There are many hot water system cover options out there.
39. How much does it cost to replace a hot water unit which is the same size and same brand?
The hot water unit approx $1200, labour approx $300 – $450.
39. How long is the warranty for hot water system?
In most cases 5-7 years.
40. Do I need to inform my insurance when I have my hot water unit changed?
I would check with your insurance. All policies are different.
41. Does my hot water unit need to be pressure protected?
42. Is it ok to whipper snipper around the base of my hot water unit?
Yes, if the wiring is away from the cutting area and the hot water system is on a concrete slab.
Just be careful.
43. Can I put my hot water system inside my home?
Yes, but certain rules apply and precautions need to be taken. Usually a pretty routine task.
44. Can we install more than one hot water system in our house?
Yes, some internal pipe work will need to be changed but usually a pretty routine task.
45. Can an electrician change my hot water system for a new hot water system?
The wiring yes, the plumbing not legally unless they have a restricted plumbing licence. They need to provide you with a form 4 plumbing compliance form to say the work has been completed to standard and by a licensed person. If they do not and something goes wrong the insurance company may not cover you. This is the same with the electrical work, always ask to see the licence.
46. Should I get a compliance document from my plumber for a new hot water system?
Yes, a form 4
47. The hot water in our shower is boiling hot, I am scared for my kids safety, what can I do to make this safe?
You can get your plumber to install a tempering valve at the hot water system. This will control the water temperature to safe levels.
48. If we leave our house for a few days, when we return and use our hot water it comes out an orange colour for an hour or two. Why is this and what can be done?
This is just the sediment in your hot water system and pipes which have had time to settle.
What to do next
- Turn your taps on and let them run until the orange turns clear
- If you are pretty handy you can turn the water and power off to your hot water system and take the plug out of the base of the hot water system so the water drains (outside only). When all the water has drained, turn the water back on and keep it running from the open plug, until the water runs clear. Thread tape the plug and place back into the hot water system. Turn the water and power back on.
49. It takes about 8 seconds before the hot water comes through when we turn the tap on. Why is this and can we do something to improve this?
This usually means that there is a fair bit of pipe between the hot water system and the tap.
You have a few options;
- move the hot water system to be more central.
- add another hot water system.
- if the plumbing is accessible then the pipe work could be altered to allow for a circulation pump.
50. What type of hot water unit is the cheapest in the long run?
Solar. You would need it to be working for at least 10+ years.
51. Can I change a storage hot water system for an instantaneous hot water system?
Yes, a routine task. The electrical will need to be altered too.
52. What is the smallest hot water unit I can get?
The smallest storage I have seen is 25Litres. I do know you can get a 5Litre single sink hot water unit.
Stiebel electron instantaneous hot water systems are the smallest out there. Certain models can service a house and are only as big as an A4 piece of paper. Visit https://www.stiebel.com.au/water-heaters for more information.
53. What is the largest instantaneous hot water unit I can buy?
32 Litres per minute.
54. What is the largest storage unit?
For domestic, 315Litres is generally the largest, although I have installed one at 400 Litres and I know commercial hot water cylinders can be in the 1000s of litres.
55. What temperature is my shower hot water meant to be?
Maximum 50 degrees
56. Why are my pipes so noisy?
This could be a few things, but most commonly:
- water hammer
- excess water pressure
- the pipes are not clipped well enough
57. Why do my water pipes make a Big Bang when I turn the water on or off?
You have what is known as water hammer.
58. Can a water hammer be fixed?
Water hammer is sometimes hard to fix but there are loads of easy things to try and hopefully a combination of these fixes will fix your water hammer;
- install a 350kpa pressure limiting valve onto your hot water unit.
- turn the taps for your dishwasher and washing machine to about half open.
- put extra clips on your water pipe where possible.
- install water hammer arrestors.
Try one or two of the easy solutions yourself first but I would recommend hiring a plumber to resolve your water hammer issues.
59. How do I know if I have a water leak?
Major leaks will be evident on your water bill.
Take a reading of you water meter just before you go to bed and ensure no one uses the water through the night. Take a second reading in the morning. If the reading is different, you have a leak.
Time to investigate. Hint: check the toilets first.
60. Why is my water pressure so poor?
The first thing to find out is the water pressure that the council provides. You can do this by putting a pressure gauge on the nearest hose tap to your water meter. It would be better to get the pressure from directly after the meter so you can be 100% sure of the pressure you are being provided.
Next question – is the pressure poor at every outlet? If no, then it could just be a bit of a blockage in the aerator of just one tap.
If the pressure problem is more from the hot water side then it could also be a tempering valve strainer blockage (Call a plumber).
If galvanised water pipes are supplying water from the water meter to your house then this is quite often the cause of poor pressure as the internal pipe size gets corroded and decreases in pipe size over time (Call a plumber).
If the pressure has been poor since you moved in, but the council pressure is good, and it isn’t galvanised pipe, then check the size of your water pipes. They may be too small for your house. Do you experience big pressure drops? If yes then your pipe size may be inadequate in parts of your house.
Technical and Safety Questions
61. Are galvanised water pipes dangerous to drink from?
Yes they are, especially over the long term and when installed before copper water pipes. The zinc coating can leach trace amounts of lead.
62. How do I find an underground leak?
Firstly have a look between the water meter and your house connection point – are there any stand alone green patches of grass? Soft grassy areas? These are tell tale signs of a leak.
If nothing obvious stands out then you can call the services of a leak detection service. They have special sensors that can sense water movement below the ground.
63. If the water meter is leaking, is it my responsibility to fix or the council’s?
The water meter is the service providers responsibility; everything there after is yours. This may change if you are on a communal block of land where body corporate runs the services.
64. What size water pipe should we have in our house?
Generally 20mm for all cold and 15mm for all hot water, for a small standard house. I personally run part of the hot water service in 20mm too, where 2 or more showers are present do help reduce the changes of pressure drop.
For a larger house, a 25mm pipe may be required, especially if you have 4+ showers. And the hot water service should be also graded to 20mm.
65. Is plastic or copper pipe better for our water pipe installation?
Both have their own merits. I would use Plastic Pex pipe for all new homes and use copper for any exposed pipe work. I have a blog coming up, some of which covers this topic.
66. Why do we have fluoride in our water supply?
It helps reduce tooth decay.
67. Can we drink rain water?
Yes, if filtering measures are put into place. Everyone’s situation is different so if you are considering this, do your research and get the filters installed by a licensed plumber. I would personally consider UV filters for my family.
If your rain water tanks are really old I would get a professional to do a water test before your start using it for drinking water, just in case there are high levels of lead and other leach contaminants in the tank.
68. What can we use rain water for in our homes?
Toilets, laundry tub, washing machine, and hose taps for irrigation and washing your car.
If filtered properly, rainwater can be used anywhere in your home, even showers and drinking. I would not only consult your plumber but maybe your local council to see what restrictions they require – quite often the local council requires more than national standard.
69. Are there still rebates for installing rainwater tanks?
Not in QLD.
70. Are the still rebates for installing solar hot water systems?
Solar hot water systems, no. Solar electricity, yes
71. What is a water wise certificate?
It is certification that states that your residence has been inspected and passes a set criteria that determine your water design and use to be efficient and not wasteful.
- flow rates
- water leaks
- cistern flush size
are looked at to determine how well your home stacks up.
72. How often should filters be changed?
Depends on the type of filter, usage, and cleanliness of your water supply, but generally every 6 months.
73. Do you run hot or cold water to a dishwasher?
74. Do you run hot or cold water to a washing machine?
Cold, sometimes both.
75. The pressure in our shower drops when the kitchen tap is turned on, what can we do?
This is usually caused by incorrect pipe sizing. You need to get a plumber to have a look to see what can do done. If the pipe is accessible, then it’s a routine task.
76. Are there any warning signs before a drain blocks up?
- slow draining water
- gurgling toilet
77. Why are my floor drains so smelly?
- What is running to your floor waste? Basin, shower? Ask yourself, how often does this fixture get used? If it is for only a minute or two a day, then this may be not enough. If this is the case, firstly clean the floor waste with a disinfectant, then maybe once per week let the water run through the floor waste for 3-4 mins so a good amount of water can cleanse the trap.
- Alternatively, if you have an old fixture that used to service the floor waste but has since been deleted so there is now nothing servicing the floor drain. If there is no way of priming the trap with water then you need to install a chrome inspection cap or just be vigilant and keep priming with a bucket. Please note that if you come to sell your home this will need to be resolved before sale as all floor wastes need water running to them when open.
78. Why does foam come out of my floor drain every time the washing machine is on? Is there anything I can do to fix this?
Your washing machine likely runs straight to your floor waste gully, which is also most likely only shallow in depth.
Solution – install a grate seal into the top of your floor waste drain. This will stop the foam coming up and still allow the water to flow into your drain. You can get these from Reece plumbing supplies.
79. Should I inspect the drainages to a house before purchasing?
Yes, especially if the garden has trees in the same area as the main drain.
80. What is the best way to keep tree roots out of my drain?
There are a few ways:
- The most extreme way is to remove the trees.
- Ensure the drain is fully closed to the dirt. Your local plumber could inspect your drain via camera to find this out.
- Replace all urban ware drainage pipe with PVC.
- There are products out there which can be flushed down your toilet, which then coat your drain with a special foam which discourages roots to enter the drain.
81. Our house is level with the street and every time it rains our garden floods, is there anything that can be done for this?
This is such a common problem, there are a few things that can be done:
- You could install a gravel pit which catches the water and then slowly drains to the ground (only good in well draining soil).
- A retention tank can be installed above or below the ground. It works by catching the roof water and then pumping it to the street.
82. Every time it rains our gutters over flow, can we do anything to prevent this?
A few things:
- is your guttering clean?
- do you have down pipes roughly every 10 meters? (There are calculations for this to be more specific)
- are your down pipes 100mm in diameter?
If you have answered yes to all the above then increasing the size of your guttering or increasing the gradient of your guttering could be your next option.
A site visit is wise to get a better idea.
83. Is it expensive to set up a grey water system?
This will vary from house to house but if the drainage is easily accessible so that the tank could be excavated and installed in the day along with a hose tap for the irrigation, then I would estimate a figure around $4,000. This cost may seem high, but the task requires 2 people, an excavator, and around $2,000 in gear.
This is just an estimate to give you an idea.
84. Do I need a licensed plumber to cap my sewer line for my house demolition?
Yes, and a form 4.
85. Is it cheaper to get a plumber to quote or pay them per hour?
In most cases per hour. As long as you get an honest one.
86. Can I convert my LPG gas appliance to natural gas?
Yes, most appliances come with an appliance conversion kit.
87. Which is cheaper natural gas or LPG?
Natural gas is cheaper.
88. Why is my stove top gas flame bright orange?
It sounds like:
- an aeration issue to do with the primary air, or
- it may be that the you have natural gas injectors installed in an LPG appliance.
Call a gas service technician immediately; this situation can be dangerous.
89. Why does our gas flame look like it is jumping off the stove every time it is on high flame?
It sounds like you have too high a pressure entering your gas appliance.
Call a gas fitter to change your appliance to the correct pressure.
90. Do you need to be licensed to change an old gas cook with a new one?
91. I think I smell gas, what should I do?
Isolate the gas if safe to do so. Call 000 if you feel it is an emergency, otherwise isolate the gas and call a gas fitter to come and fix before you use the appliance anymore.
92. My nan keeps forgetting to turn the gas off, can I buy a gas timer?
Long story short, there are lots of gas solenoid timers out there where a timer can be set to shut off the gas.
93. Our pilot light on our hot water unit lights but will not stay on, why is this?
It sounds like your thermocouple needs to be replaced. (Call a gas Fitter)
94. Is there a way to tell when gas cylinders are running low?
There are magnetic stickers that you attach to the side of gas bottle which give you the level of the gas inside.
95. Can I work out how much gas I will use so I can be prepared?
- 9kg LPG = 440 mj
- 45kg LPG = 2200mj
I have inserted a table to give you an example of how these figure could be used to help you work out your gas usage.
96. I feel like my gas bottles are in the wrong location; where are they allowed to go?
The insert below gives you an idea of how the cylinders at your home should be located.
In addition to this, each supplier has further expectations such as minimum path width etc. Contact your supplier for more information.
97. How much would it cost to replace an existing gas stove top 4 burner.
Like for like replacement, approx $200 – $300, no extra materials.
98. How long will a 9kg gas bottle run a stove top four burner?
My family uses about 30 mins of gas per day on a 20mj burner, so about 10mj per day. That’s 44 days of use per 9kg cylinder.
99. Should I get a gas safety check before I can rent my house?
100% yes. Gas is a killer and can be a silent killer at that.
100. Can gas bottles be installed below ground?
Yes, I am pretty sure Elgas provide this service.
101. We have a big block of land, is it possible to install gas bottles at the front of the block so it is easier for gas bottles to be exchanged by our supplier?