Residential and Commercial Plumbing Repair
Replacement and Installation

General Questions (14)

I am building/renovating my house. What kind of water pipes I should use, copper or plastic?

Two decades ago copper pipe was not only state of the art when it came to plumbing, it was the only choice. Not so today.

We have a choice between copper and a range of plastics. You'll be presented by the plumber with a couple of piping options: copper or plastic (PEX). Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons for each type.

Typically you'll decide based on the plumbing job for your home project, and which type of piping your plumber recommends and is skilled at installing. Copper tubing has been the long-time standard for plumbing but it requires sweating (soldering) for fittings pipes together. This labour consumes more time comparing with PEX tubing installation. Copper has natural attributes that make it ideal for plumbing. It creates a biostatic atmosphere preventing bacteria from growing inside the pipes. It is unaffected by ultraviolet rays, which makes copper tubing ideal for use outdoors.

While copper is generally resistant to corrosion, acidity of the water will still affect the longevity of the pipes. If you live in a cold climate, frozen water can cause copper pipes to burst. Another disadvantage is that copper would react with different metals like nails or galvanized clamps on contact. This electrolytic reaction can create pinholes in pipes causing leaks.  

Over the past decade Cross-linked Polyethylene Flexible Tubing â�� commonly called PEX â�� has grown in popularity for residential plumbing as an alternative to traditional copper and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) piping. Most people are using PEX because copper is more expensive. Just cost of coper piping is typically three times of the PEX piping. PEX installs quickly, which significantly reduces labor costs compared to copper pipe installation. Installation of PEX costs some 25 percent less on average than copper, and it is an excellent alternative for areas too small or tight for rigid copper and CPVC pipes. PEX pipes do not corrode. Sediments do not build up inside PEX pipes. Plastic can expand eight times its size before it freezes. PEX tubing is flexible enough that it can be gently curved around corners, reducing the number of joints. PEX tubing is even available in color-coded rolls to differentiate between hot and cold water lines. Plumbers working with PEX should be certified by the product manufacturer. Should the product not be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions, the warranty could be voided. 

Some qualified plumbers, and many homeowners, prefer to work with materials with a history and fewer unknowns. Copper pipes are usually good for 40 to 60 years as long as the plumber solders them correctly. With PEX there is always a question what water will do to that plastic plumbing 30 years from now.  A licensed and experienced plumber can help homeowners determine which type of material is best for their project. Your choice of plumbing material should be made according to the plumbing code, your plumber professional skill level, and your personal preferences. No matter which material you choose if installed properly by certified plumber, plastic and copper piping will both give you years of trouble free service.

I am renovating my 80 years old house. My general contractor recommended leaving Cast Iron stacks as they could stand for another 80 years.  Only galvanized steel pipes must be replaced. What would a licensed plumber recommend?

Cast Iron (CI) is a very durable metal, but it also rusts. The inside surface of the pipe rusts faster than the rest of the pipe because it would be exposed to moisture from the flow, and moisture from the atmospheric air. The visible surface could look fine, but inside the rust is causing differences in the thickness of the pipe walls. CI is a rigid and brittle metal. The temperature gradient especially during the winter months, between inside and outside surfaces could cause sections of the stack to crack vertically. You can patch the visible part of the crack, but it would still rust under your patch. The rusting will create a pressure on the metal and the crack will continue upward past your patch. There is no long-term repair solution but replacement. We receive many service calls to waste floods caused by vertical CI stack cracks, even to newly renovated houses. Including replacement of CI stacks in renovations of your old home would save you trouble and money in the long run. A licensed plumber will assess the condition of the stack and if needed replace it.

Do you recommend replacing old toilet in the house?

Modern toilets are much more water-efficient than older models. The difference between older toilets and the models available today on the market is the amount of water they use. The current federal standard for toilets in Canada is 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush), but many old toilets use much more water. Older models typically use 3-5 gpf, or even up to 6 gpf. On average, a person flushes a toilet 2000 times per year (about 5-5.5 times per day). Therefore, replacing an old toilet with a 1.6 gpf model would save the household lot of money. In our opinion it is worth replacing old toilets with new models.

I bought a new refrigerator with an ice maker. It was installed by the recommended store technician. Why it takes long time to fill a cup of water?

Most likely a saddle valve was used. This valve punches the water pipe and creates 1/8” opening in the water line but the flow is low for your ice maker line. At Tom’s Plumbing we do not install saddle valves and plastic water lines for ice maker line connections.  We use high-quality ½” to ¼” compression shutoff valves and ¼” braided steel supply lines or copper flexible pipes. Our clients do not need to worry about slow water supply from the fridge water outlet, or leaks from the fridge water supply line.

Why should I hire a licensed plumber?

Licensed Plumbers must demonstrate their competence as installers of plumbing systems to Ontario College of Trades by passing the licensing exam. They are tested on knowledge of the part of Ontario Building Code related to plumbing.  The Plumbing Code is technically perfect but is valueless if its provisions are not observed and enforced. The issuance of the license by Ontario College of Trades specifies that the holder is qualified both theoretically and practically, and that their technical knowledge is sufficient to maintain the standards of the Code. By complying with the Ontario Plumbing Code the licensed plumber protects public health.  Keeping up-to-date on the Building Code also promotes building safety and efficient construction within the province.  While your small bathroom remodel might seem like a great, inexpensive DIY project, it is probably wisest to spend more and make sure a licensed plumbing contractor performs the work.

What is the Plumbing Code?

Ontario Plumbing Code is a part of the Ontario Building Code. The Plumbing Code outlines the best and most modern methods to be used in plumbing installations. Plumbing in any private or public building is a part of the community water and sewage disposal system, it is vital that such installations must meet Ontario Building Code requirements. Its main basic objectives are protection of public health, standards and materials for installations, and standardization.  The Code is reinforced by plumbing inspectors, public health inspectors, and other authorized inspectors.

Just a year ago we installed a new tile floor but my toilet now leaks at the base.  What may be the reason?

We are called to lots of leaking toilets.  In this case, it is possible that multiple wax rings were used for toilet reinstallation. The top of the toilet flange must be even with or max ¼”above the finished floor.  The easiest way to even the flange with the new floor is to add a second wax ring. Unfortunately, the excess wax crushes with time and causes a leak under the toilet. Tom’s Plumbing plumbers always use proper closet flange extensions and wax seals with plastic no-leak insert for reinstallations of toilets.  Please contact a licensed plumber as soon as you notice the leak.  The failure of immediate fixing of the problem will cause damage and contamination of the floor, the subfloor, and the ceiling below with the waste water.

My toilet tank fills up every 10 minutes. Why?

This usually indicates that the flush valve in your toilet tank is not seating correctly and water is leaking from the tank into the bowl. This could be the result of the lift chain being tangled, faulty flapper or a problem with the flush valve itself.

I have poor water pressure at my kitchen sink faucet.

Try removing the faucet aerator at the end of the spout and cleaning the screen of any dirt and debris. The faucet aerator is designed to diffuse the water to prevent splashing, but it can become clogged over time.

What could be causing of my recent higher water bills?

You may want to check whether your toilet tank is leaking. Check the water level in the tank to see if water was overflowing into the overflow tube. This tube is located in the middle of the tank, and it has a small plastic pipe connected to it. If water is running into the overflow tube, adjust the fill valve to stop the flow approximately one inch below the top of the overflow tube. Call a plumbing professional for a preventive maintenance.

Plumbing in my house makes banging noises. How can I stop it?

You have a Water Hammer effect in your plumbing system. When Water Hammer occurs, high intensity pressures waive travels back through the piping system until it reaches a point of some relief.  The shock will then surge back and forth the point of relief and the point of impact until the destructive energy is dissipated in the piping system.  It is violent action that accounts for the piping noise and vibration. The common causes of shock include: the quick closing of electrical valves (washer machine valves) or faucets (one handle faucets).   Call a certified plumber to install water hammer arresters in your plumbing system.

Why is my shower pressure so weak?

A weak shower pressure may be due to the accumulation of debris, sediments, and other waste substance that has clogged your shower head. Remove the showerhead and clean it up.  If sediments damaged the showerhead replace it with a new one.

What are the vents in the plumbing system?

The sanitary system consists of two distinctively different systems: the drainage system and the vent system. The drainage system (drainage piping) is that part of the sanitary system which actually transports water-borne waste from the fixture to the place of disposal. The vent system (vent piping) is that part of the sanitary system which provides a flow of air to or from the drainage system to increase its efficiency and, most importantly, to protect trap seals. A trap is a fitting or device that provides a liquid seal to prevent the emission of sewer gases without affecting the flow of sevage or waste water trough it.  Therefore unprotected trap seals creates health hazard.

 I like to renovate bathroom in my house. What will it cost?

Bathroom construction and remodeling can be expensive propositions. After all, bathrooms are complicated spaces laced with extensive plumbing, electrical, heating and ventilation systems and lots of expensive finish materials or plumbing fixtures. So what can you get for your money?

  • $2,000 and under: plan on cosmetic surgery only; new paint and perhaps a new toilet or sink. In this price range, you might also be able to replace a shower door or install new floor.
  • $2,000 to $4,000: Project in this price range will generally be limited to the existing layout, so don’t plan on moving walls or fixtures. You might replace the toilet and sink and still have money left over for new cabinets, flooring, and paint. Or you might upgrade the bath tub or a new tile surround on an existing bath tub.
  • $4,000 to $9,000: You can make some major changes in this price range, including a new suite of fixtures and new finish materials (but moderately priced) â�� as long as you don’t change fixtures locations or try to move walls
  • $9,000 to $14,000: Gutting an existing bathroom, changing fixture locations, and installing new fixture can easily put you in this price range
  • $14,000 to $25,000: If you are making major architectural changes, like moving the walls, replace an old window; add a skylight or converting closet space, plan on beginning in this price range. Premium materials or fixtures can also quickly bump up the price of a basic remodel into this range.
  • $25,000 and up: Start thinking steam showers, marble and granite, wall hung fixtures. The sky is the limit!