Advocate Blog

Burst pipes

Frozen pipe solutions

The Lee’s Summit area recently went through a polar vortex. This isn’t too uncommon for us, unfortunately. As it came, the phones began to ring at Advocate Master Plumbing.

I had many conversations with scared home owners. The usual issue of frozen pipes or worse burst water pipes would be a discussion I’d repeat many times in the coming days. I’d begin each conversation with the same detailed & methodical questions.

What kind of water pipes do you have? If you have frozen pex pipes it’s unlikely you’ll have burst piping issues. Pex is a memory plastic that is burst resistant. Just get warm air around the affected plumbing fixtures and they should thaw without any damage.

If you have copper or other rigid plastic water piping you could have a problem. Water changing state from liquid to solid creates pressures in excess of 100,000 psi. I’ve seen large commercial bronze water valves that looked like a mortar shell blew through them.

Is your frozen plumbing fixture above a cold garage? If so, open the door between your house & garage. Then place as many electric space heaters as you have in the garage. Leave the plumbing fixture affected turned on while someone is home. When the pipes thaw you’ll hear it.

Is your whole house without water? If so, this is likely a frozen water meter. This can easily be thawed by putting a halogen lamp or drop light into the water meter pit & sealing around the water meter lid with towels or blankets. Leave a faucet on while someone is home. It may take a few hours but it will thaw.

Fix the problem rather than leaving water running. In the spring find where the cold air is infiltrating your home and seal the air leaks. You may need heat tape and pipe insulation if you have a crawl space. Repair damaged water meter lids & rings. Be sure to get enough dirt around the meter ring that the meter lid is just above the dirt.

Owning a home is expensive and complicated sometimes. Insulate your home properly. Seal around house utility penetrations. Seal around your garage door.

I wouldn’t have a plumber in my house if I could avoid it. You do the same. But if you need help always feel free to call me. I’m Jerry Miller. I’m a master plumber and owner/operator of Advocate Master Plumbing.

Water Heaters

Recent water heater installation

This week I had one of my plumbing customers request a water heater installation. I had done quite a bit of work on their home. But this time they threw me a curve.

They had a 50 gallon natural gas water heater in a closet in their garage. This isn’t uncommon in the Lee’s Summit area. What was uncommon was that the floor drain the furnace & water heater had next to them was under the water heater.

Apparently they had a chronic clog issue with the floor drain. And to access the drain they had cut a hole in the basement wall directly behind the water heater & furnace to unclog it.

This was an unsafe situation since there was a basement bedroom & the opening between the garage and the house. Also, the water heater & furnace need to be seperated from a sleeping space. This is due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Water heater installation, water heater repair, hot water heater replacement
Old floor drain
Hot water heater installation, hit water heater replacement, water heater repair
Finished work

My only option was to remove the water heater & relocate the floor drain. This allowed free access to the drain for maintenance purposes. And they could seal the hole in the wall for safety.

So I broke up the garage floor, dug up the floor drain & piping, removed the old drain & replaced it with a new pvc drain pipe & floor drain. Then I backfilled around them & repaired the concrete.

Then I was able to replace their water heater. I installed a new gas shutoff & thermal expansion tank to boot.

I told my customer afterward that I was going to go home & have a good cry before I cleaned up. It was a tough day! But I was proud of the work I did. And they were very happy.

Water Heaters

What’s the best water heater temperature setting

If you search online for the best water heater temperature setting you’ll find multiple answers. There will be many different arguments for and against a temperature setting. I doubt many studies have been done. But I can give you my two cents.

The best water heater temperature setting

After 27 years in the plumbing trade I’ve seen a lot. The temperature setting on your water heater is a personal decision. But what factors dictate the best water heater temperature setting.

  • Comfort – Your preference.
  • Water heater recovery – Lower temperature settings are easier to maintain.
  • Disease – Lower water heater temperature settings may promote disease.
  • Scalding – Children & special needs people can be scalded.
  • Energy efficiency – The hotter the temperature the lower the efficiency.
  • Calcification – The higher the temperature the faster hard water deposits in the tank.

My professional opinion is 120 degrees.

Why set your water heater temperature setting to 120 degrees

As a plumber I’ve found that most people can be comfortable with a hot water temperature of 120 degrees. If you want a hotter shower just take shorter showers and set the temp higher.

Most manufacturers recommend a setting of 120 degrees for the calculated recovery time. This just means the water heater will keep up better at this temperature.

I’ve not heard of anyone in my customer base getting ill due to a low water heater temperature setting. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. But it’s pretty unlikely.

The reason I usually mention for keeping the temperature setting to 120 degrees is to protect kids from scalding themselves. This also applies to seniors & disabled folks.

I know that energy efficiency kind of goes out the window when you’re only talking about 3 to 5 percent savings over a year for every 10 degrees lower it’s set. But we all do want to be environmentally responsible where we can.

The other important reason I mention for keeping your water heater temperature at the manufacturers recommended setting is it will extend the life of your water heater. The hotter it’s set the faster hard water deposits in the bottom of gas water heaters or on the electric water heater heating elements.

How do you set your water heater temperature

It can be difficult to adjust the temperature on a standard water heater. If I’ve ever worked on your homes plumbing you’ve probably heard me snivel about plumbing manufacturer engineers. They just don’t seem to be able to translate their ideas to real world problems. So they over complicate a simple thing. Plumbing is simple. Plumbers are simple. Let’s keep it that way. But for now, lets look at how to adjust the temperature on your standard water heater.

How to adjust the temperature on an electric water heater

An electric water heater actually has two temperature settings. They have an upper and lower heating element. And so they have an upper and lower thermostat. And although they’re made unnecessarily difficult to access, they do at least put numbers on the dials. You’ll need to remove an upper and lower tin cover. Set both thermostats to the same temperature: 120 degrees.

How to adjust the temperature on a gas water heater

For some reason unknown to me manufacturers insist on making this complicated. If you look at the gas valve at the base of your gas water heater you’ll see the round temperature dial. The labels on them aren’t in degrees. Instead they have either arrows or letters. As a rule, line the arrows up with each other or set the arrow on hot. The “A”, “B”, and “C” settings above that are higher temperatures in 10 degree increments.

When to adjust your water heater

A water heater should normally just be left alone. The plumber that installs water heaters will set it up. But if you’re leaving your home for an extended period it might be worth setting the temperature to its lowest setting. It’ll save you money. And sometimes if it’s an exceptionally cold winter you might want to raise the water temperature up 10 degrees to compensate for the colder water supply.

Who to call for water heater repair and installations

You’ll find that other trades advertise water heater installation and repairs. But if you want a qualified water heater tradesman, call a plumber. We know how to install and repair water heaters. We also know why it’s done that way. There are many safety considerations. For more information check out the Advocate Master Plumbing water heater services page.

Water leak

Pipe Thread Sealants: Teflon Tape and Thread Compound

Pipe thread sealants are not an interesting subject. But if you’re reading this, you’ve realized how important they are. But I’m not going to write an in depth and comprehensive plumbing blog about this dry subject. This isn’t for the apprentice plumber to learn their trade. This article is for the average homeowner just trying to make a plumbing repair. So look further on the internet if you want to win an argument or double check what your plumber recently did. I’m going to explain what you need to know and not all that you can know about thread sealants.

What are thread sealants?

Thread sealants are a product to be applied to a manufacturers thread to assure a tight seal. In plumbing you’ll normally find this on water, drain or gas pipe threads. And before we talk about what they do let’s figure out what basic forms they take.

Teflon tape

pipe thread seal tape
Pipe thread tape sealant

Teflon tape isn’t the correct name for this particular type of thread sealant. But it’s probably the term you’re most familiar with. Thread seal tape is the correct term. Teflon is a brand name. And plumbers have a million terms for just about everything. Thread seal tape normally comes in the form of a 1/2 inch white tape that’s wrapped around a thread multiple times. My preferred brand of thread seal tape is manufactured by Oatey. The type you use matters. But it isn’t used for all threads or connections.

Thread compound

pipe thread compound
Pipe thread compound

Thread compound is the paste version of thread seal tape. It’s very easy to use but can be pretty messy. And it’s usually overused. It was originally yellow. Ol’ yella number 5 was the term we used. But the white teflon based thread compound is what you want. My preferred thread compound is Tplus2 manufactured by Rectorseal.

What do thread sealants do?

Thread sealants aren’t a fix all. And they don’t do as much as you might think. They serve only a few purposes. And can actually create problems if not used properly. Thread sealants do the following:

  • Lubricate threaded joints to allow for a tighter fit.
  • Partially seal any voids.
  • Prevents thread joints from rusting and allows for an easier removal of threaded fittings.

As you can see, they do a few things. And not always all for each joint. Sometimes you just need a threaded fitting to come apart more easily in the future. It doesn’t necessarily have to be leak proof. This is common on the thread joint between a water heater relief valve and it’s threaded drain pipe.

Where to use thread seal tape

Where to use thread seal tape is very much a personal decision. Many plumbers will argue this point. But after being taught in the plumbers union and serving as a residential plumbing technician for an additional 20 years, I’ll tell you my opinion.

As a rule I use thread sealant tape on all threaded fittings that must be air or water tight that do not have an alternative seal on them already. That means that if there’s a rubber o-ring or washer of any sort, I won’t use thread seal tape. It could get in the way of a proper seal. Flare joints are another spot that I won’t put thread seal tape. That includes flared copper water pipe and tubular drain pipes such as p-traps and tailpiece connections. But I never use thread seal tape on gas pipe of any kind…ever. I don’t even use the special tape for gas pipe. I only use thread compound on gas pipe.

Where to use thread compound

You can use thread seal tape and thread compound interchangeably. The only exception to this rule is gas pipe and flare joints. Gas pipe should be joined with thread compound only. Flare joints should be joined with thread compound only. If I were a homeowner and had limited resources I’d just purchase liquid thread compound. You can use it anywhere a do it yourselfer would work.

How to install thread sealants

As I’ve said before, you can use both thread seal tape and thread compound pretty much interchangeably. But I was taught to never take any chances on a leak if you don’t have to. And you never have to. So I follow the guidelines already discussed. But when I use them I do it in a very specific and consistent way.

How to install thread seal tape

When wrapping threads with thread seal tape you begin at the second or third thread. Never the first. This helps with starting a thread connection without cross threading it. You wrap your threads clockwise three times. Clockwise so that the tape won’t unwrap while screwing things together. Three times because any more is really a waste.

How to install thread compound

Install pipe thread compound only on the first and second threads of the male thread only. This will prevent it from getting inside the pipe. If you wipe it into the female connection the compound will be forced into the pipe. If you’re working with gas pipe the compound could get into a gas control valve and foul them badly.

And don’t waste thread compound. Only spread a little bit onto the first and second threads. Any more than that is wasted. It’ll just make a mess.

How this plumber was taught to install thread sealants

When I use thread compound I follow the instructions above. When I use thread sealant tape I use both; always. I wrap the threads three times starting at the second thread. I then wipe thread compound on the first and second thread only. I do this every time; not most of the time. And I don’t get leaks.

When to call a professional

Sometimes a thread will leak no matter what you do. And sometimes you can damage a plumbing appliance or fixture if you improperly apply thread sealants. If it just won’t seal correctly or if you’re dealing with gas pipe just call us. Advocate Master Plumbing will ensure you’ll always speak to a master plumber on the phone. And that same master plumber will come to your home and resolve your plumbing issues. We don’t train our plumbers to sell. We train them to serve our customers.

Drain pipe repair

Bathroom Sink Pop-Up Drain Assembly

The pop-up drain assembly is one of the least understood plumbing accessories. Most bathroom sinks have them. But often they have a drain plug that won’t stay up or a missing drain plug. And the sink always has a toothpaste cap in the drain. And it’s usually because the homeowner doesn’t know how it works.

How does a pop-up drain assembly work?

A pop up assembly is nothing more than a bathroom sink drain plug. My preference is the Gerber brand. For convenience, there’s a linkage under the sink attached to the lift rod. You pull up on the lift rod and the linkage pulls down the plug. When you want to unplug your sink drain you push the lift rod down. But problems do arise.

Problems with the pop-up drain assembly

Pop-up drain problems are common. And most people don’t know how simple they can be to repair. So what are the most common problems?

Sink pop-up won’t work

If you pull up on the lift rod and the nothing happens it means the linkage has pulled apart. Sometimes it’s because the clip holding the horizontal rod and linkage together has just fallen off. But sometimes the tip of the horizontal rod has rusted away and detached from the pop up plug. This is caused by either age or acidic drain cleaners. The only way to fix that is replacing the horizontal rod.

Pop-up sink drain leaks

A bathroom sink leak at the pop-up connection can be a few things.

  • A gasket that leaks can be due to an improperly sealed flange or loose nut.
  • A leaking horizontal rod nut can be a missing pivot seat or gasket or a loose nut.
  • A drain tailpiece leak was either installed incorrectly or needs to be replaced.

Different styles of alternative bathroom sink pop-up drain assemblies

There’s been a lot of plumbing innovation over the years. Bathroom sink drains come with a few different options now. Some of the more common options are:

  • Grid strainers like in convenience stores.
  • Lift & turn sink drain stoppers similar to a bathtub drain.
  • Lastly a push style sink stopper similar to the tub tip-toe stoppers.

Pop-up drain assembly repair and installations

Sink drain repairs and installations can be difficult. It’s a good homeowner diy repair for an intermediate skill level. But I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. So call your local plumbers in Lees Summit. Call Advocate Master Plumbing. You’ll always speak to a master plumber; not an answering service or dispatcher. And your plumbing technician will be the same master plumber that you spoke with. We won’t sell. We’ll serve you.


How Does A Pressure Assist Toilet Work

Since much needed water conservation standards mandated low water flow toilets the pressure assist toilet has stood out as the hallmark of plumbing engineering. It’s simplicity is its strength. Most homeowners in Lee’s Summit are looking for a high efficiency toilet with a larger drain opening. Many are being sold on the idea of a larger drain opening to prevent drain clogs. But there’s another option.

What is a pressure assist toilet?

I often use the analogy of a convenience store bathroom to describe a pressure assist toilet to my plumbing customers. It isn’t exactly correct. Most of those toilets have flushometer valves. That’s a specialty commercial flush valve and a conversation for another time. But they both work on the principle of water pressure for a toilet flush. But, in short, a pressure assist toilet is a toilet that uses a combination of water and pressurized air to flush a toilet. And the people at Flushmate know how to make them.

How do these high efficiency toilets work?

A pressure assist toilet is exactly the same as a standard toilet. The difference is in the tank.

Pressure assist toilet repair, toilet replacement
Standard and Pressure Assist Toilet differences

Instead of stored water in a tank waiting to be pulled by gravity into a bowl there’s an air tight plastic tank. It’s inside the porcelain tank. When water fills the air tight tank there’s trapped air. As the pressurized water fills the air tight tank it pressurizes the air. When the toilet handle is pushed the pressurized air blows the water into the toilet bowl. This velocity is it’s advantage. Instead of gravity and the weight of water creating a siphonic action and pulling water and waste through the toilet trapway it’s high velocity water. Any waste is partially broken up while passing through the trapway due to the waters velocity. This negates the need for a larger trapway.

Who installs and repairs pressure assist toilets?

If you’re tired of using that plunger sitting next to your builder grade standard toilet call us. At Advocate Master Plumbing you get actual master plumbers to come to your home. They understand how to install and repair all high efficiency toilets. They also know how they work and why they work. We live and work here. We won’t sell you. We’ll serve you.

Drain pipe repair

Drain Pipe Repair Like A Plumber Does It

Making a drain pipe repair in your home can sometimes be necessary. Leaking drains are a common occurrence. Kitchen drain leaks, tub drain pipes or cracked main drain pipes are a homeowners nightmare. In this plumbing blog we’re going to discuss how to perform a drain pipe repair like plumbers with plastic pipes.

How to repair a broken or leaking plastic drain pipe like plumbers do

PVC and ABS plastic drain pipes are the most common types of drains in a home. There aren’t many differences between them other than their chemical makeup, color and the glues you use to join them. If you’re repairing an ABS drain pipe you’ll need to use the single stage ABS glue instead of the primer and glue process discussed below. No primer is needed. Otherwise, it’s done exactly the same as PVC plastic pipe repairs.

PVC drain pipe repair

If you find that you have a section of PVC piping that has a leak at a fitting or a crack you can easily repair it yourself. When a plumbing customer calls with a cracked kitchen drain pipe or a broken clean out drain tee the plumbing portion of it is pretty straight forward. Remember all you have to do is cut out the cracked pipe or leaking fitting and rebuild it exactly.

How to cut PVC pipe when making a drain repair

PVC drain pipe repair
How to cut PVC drain pipe

You do this by using your cut out portion of damaged PVC pipe as a guide. Measure each piece of pipe you removed. Then cut new pieces to the same lengths. If you’re going to use glued couplings remember to subtract a quarter of an inch to make up for the stops in the PVC couplings. If you’re using rubber couplings with band clamps you won’t need to subtract a quarter inch.

To cut PVC plastic pipe you can use a saw or power saw. I’ve used a chop saw or table saw at times. Clean the burrs on the cuts. Fittings will be the same dimensions. So just purchase the exact same fittings at your local home store.

How to rebuild a cut-out portion of damaged PVC pipe and glue it

Assembling drain pipes
Mark the repair before assembling it

You always want to “dry-fit” the pipe fittings and pipe by assembling it before gluing it. Arrange each fitting at the correct angle and insert pipe cuts completely. Measure your assembled repair and compare it with the cut out portion. If it matches correctly make a one inch mark on the fittings and pipe while assembled so that you’ll know how they are to be assembled exactly.

Disassemble your repair. Always use clear PVC primer and medium set clear PVC glue when working with plastic PVC pipe. Apply the primer inside each fitting and on the outside of each piece of pipe. Only primer to the point that they will be attached. And I will normally be sure to pass over the plastic at least three times to be sure that it’s clean and free of debris. I also like to primer and glue the face of the cut pipe.

gluing PVC drain pipe
3 rotations on pipe & fittings when applying glue & primer

Then apply glue to each pipe ene and pipe fitting to be attached. Apply glue only to one connection at a time. And then make your solvent weld joint immediately. Insert the pipe into the fitting fully and twist the pipe about a quarter turn until your marks line up. Hold them in place for about 10 seconds so they don’t push apart. Move on to the next connection. Continue until you’ve completely assembled your repair.

Install your assembled PVC pipe repair

At this point I normally use a glued PVC pipe coupling on one end of the newly assembled pipe and fittings and a rubber coupling on the other. I glue a coupling on one end of my assembled pipe repair. Then I slide my rubber repair coupling fully over the other end of the assembled repair. If the pipe is too short for the rubber coupling to go on all the way I slide it all the way onto the pipe that it’ll be attached to. Then primer and glue the other end of the standing pipe and glue your assembled repair. Quickly push them together. Position the pipe repair and slide the rubber coupling so that it’s half on each pipe. Tighten the bands with a screwdriver or 5/16″ nut driver.

Rubber coupling drain pipe transition
Rubber coupling transition

When to hire a professional plumber

If the idea of making a plastic drain pipe repair yourself is too intimidating then call Advocate Master Plumbing. Our technicians are all master plumbers. And they are all union trained and live and work in Lee’s Summit, MO. Let us diagnose your leaking drain pipe correctly and give you all the information to make an informed decision. We’re not here to sell you. We’re here to serve you.

Faucet Repair

Faucet Aerators

Faucet aerators serve an important function in your home plumbing system. They’re very simple. But aggravating when they don’t work. As plumbers, they’re a pet peeve. It drives me nuts when I see a low kitchen faucet water flow or a crooked bathroom sink faucet stream. But what are they. And what do faucet aerators do?

What is a Faucet Aerator?

A faucet aerator is the threaded fitting on the tip of a faucet spout. If your kitchen faucet has a pull-out or pull-down sprayer it may be inside the sprayer. But it’s the last thing the water touches before leaving the faucet. And it really does serve an important purpose. It also needs regular maintenance.

faucet water flow
Faucet Aerator

What do Faucet Aerators do?

Faucet aerators are a marvel of engineering. Partly because of their simplicity. And also because of how many functions they actually serve. A few of those are discussed below.

Aerators in Faucets Conserve Water

Federal guidelines mandate that the maximum flow rate of a kitchen faucet or bathroom faucet be 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). This is based upon a home water pressure of 60 pounds per square inch (psi). Many faucets today restrict it even further. A shower valve is probably where you are most aware of it.

They also Soften the Faucet Water Stream

Aerators also prevent water from splashing on you when you put something in the stream. It makes washing your hands or dishes much less messy. The bubbles in the water softens the stream.

Faucet water flow
Faucet aerator parts

Aerators Give the Appearance of Greater Water Flow

Nobody enjoys less water coming out of their faucets. Restricting the faucet water flow doesn’t have to leave you with an unsatisfied feeling. With the injected air in the faucets stream you’re left with the impression of more water flow.

Aerators Clean Debris from Faucet Water

As highly filtered and chemically enhanced as city drinking water is, it still has some debris. Sand particles from recent water service repairs can get in the pipes. And the pipes themselves can be very old and have chunks of rusty iron or copper shavings in them. The faucet aerator screens filter all this out.

Kitchen faucet repair
Aerator Removal

Maintenance of Faucet Aerators

When I took my master plumbing test it was grueling. The first question on the test had nothing to do with the proper sizing of a water piping system or correct gas pipe fittings. It asked what the first thing was a person should check when there’s a faucet water flow restriction. The answer was the aerator. It’s the quickest thing to check. The simplest solution. And the most likely culprit. Aerators get clogged with water debris, rubber from plumbing seals upstream even construction materials. Removing the aerators and either cleaning or replacing them can save a visit from the plumber. A popular brand is Danco.

Faucet Repair in Lees Summit

Aerators in faucets are a pretty simple task. I wouldn’t hire a plumber for that. But if you find that you need a new kitchen faucet installation or have a leaking shower valve that needs repair call us. Advocate Master Plumbing will send a local master plumber to your home to address any home plumbing repair or installation you need.

Sump Pumps

How to Extend a Downspout

When my wife and I decided to move our plumbing business and family home to Lee’s Summit it was difficult. We were so happy to stumble upon a home being built just the way we wanted one. It saved us the hassle of building it. But I know that being on a hill would mean drainage issues. Since sump pumps only fix a symptom of a problem I knew I had to minimize how much water got around my foundation. So before sod was laid I had to figure out how to extend a downspout.

Downspout Extension Options

Extending your gutter downspouts is a good investment. Water around your foundation is incredibly damaging. And groundwater will cost you tens of thousands of dollars if not dealt with. And addressing the problem will only cost a few hundred on a weekend. It’s one of the best sweat equity options for a homeowner. Before beginning you need to decide if you’re running your downspout extensions above ground or below.

Downspout Extension Above Ground

Downspout splash guard

Above ground gutter downspout extensions are the quickest, easiest and most common. They normally come in the form of concrete splash blocks, corrugated extensions and landscaping channels. If you’re in a home with exceptional grading and little groundwater issues these will be more than adequate. But most of us aren’t. And as tempting as it would be to just slip a corrugated downspout extension on and forget it, we can’t. So our best permanent solution is to install underground gutter downspout extensions.


Downspout Extension Underground

alternative drain pipe
Corrugated underground downspout

Downspout extensions installed underground are very common. They prevent foundation shifting. And they preserve your landscaping. It seems like a no-brainer. But it also seems like a lot of work. Well, it is. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating. And thanks to the local rental store and home stores it can be done in a weekend. Since that is the real focus of this article I’ll get to it.

Installing Underground Gutter Downspout Extensions

Being a plumber I have my preferences regarding underground downspout extensions. I’ve come across a lot of homes that have had flexible corrugated pipe that’s crushed or clogged. I’m not going to get into a debate with builders or landscapers. I’m just going to tell you how I installed mine.

Best Pipe to use for Underground Downspout Extensions

PVC drains
SDR 35 PVC drain pipe

I installed an inexpensive rigid pvc pipe called SDR 35 sewer pipe. I got 4 inch SDR 35 in 10 foot lengths in the Lowes plumbing department. It comes with couplings on one end without rubber inner rings. This allows you to quickly glue it together. And it saves on the cost of couplings. And since it’s rigid it’s much less likely to crush. And there are no holes in it. So there’s no dirt or tree root infiltration.


Pipe Fittings and Transition Fittings

Since this isn’t the usual pvc pipe you have to be sure to get the correct fittings. Regular pvc pipe has a different outside dimension and the fittings won’t work. Get pipe fittings and gutter transition fittings for sdr 35 pipe only. That includes elbows, wyes and tees. You can just ask the folks at the store.

Drain Pipe PVC Glue and Primer

I use PVC glue and primer all the time. This is easy stuff. Get regular clear PVC primer and glue. The other stuff is messy and unnecessary in this case. Despite what you’ve heard you should primer and glue all your fittings and pipe before attaching them. The ground shifts and moves the pipes. And you don’t want trees finding that water. They’ll create a drain clog.

How Deep to Bury the Drain Pipe Downspout Extensions

underground drains
10 inch trench depth

Your trench should be about 10 to 12 inches at the start. This will allow for the 4 inch PVC drain pipe to be fully buried with a 6 inch cover of dirt for your grass. I just rented a trenching machine from my local tool rental store. And yes it’s fun!

Assuming your yard grades away from your home, you can keep your trench at the same depth. But if you have high or flat spots in your yard you’ll need to go a little deeper as you go. Not much. You want and inch or two of grading from one end to the other of each ten foot length of pipe. It’s just water. So don’t worry about the usual quarter inch per foot plumbing standard for plumbing drains. There shouldn’t be any solids or chemicals going through this pipe.

Underground Downspout Extension Drain Pipe Terminations

underground rain water discharge, gutter downspout termination
Gutter Extension Termination

I’m in a part of the country that gets cold winters. So I have to be aware of how much water is left in my drain pipes if they’re not under the frost line. In this part of the country that’s at least 3 feet. So since I’m not going that deep I have to be sure that the pipe is dry as often as possible to prevent ice plugs. I also don’t relish the idea of breeding mosquitoes in the summer. So at the ends of each termination point of my underground downspout extensions I dug the holes an additional 2 feet square and a total of 2 feet deep. I put a tee connection on the ends and filled the extra dug out portion with gravel. So if you can visualize this, when the pipes are draining they’ll fill up that dug out end and then bubble out the top of the tee. When it stops raining the water should eventually drain into the ground. This avoids standing water at the ends. I also put pop up style drainage connections on top of the tees to prevent mosquitoes. Most landscapers put elbows. This encourages standing water.

Connecting a Sump Pump to an Underground Downspout Extension

Sump pump discharge
Sump Pump discharged into Downspout Extension

If you have groundwater around your home you probably already have a sump pump. You’re going to want to make that ugly discharge pipe sitting on your lawn disappear. I ran mine into the downspout piping before it went underground. The special adapter I added was a rubber coupling on the sump pump discharge before it attached to the downspouts. I wanted the option of replacing or repairing the pipe due to my home or the downspout extension drain pipes settling over the years.

I also put a grid strainer type of termination on top of the tee at the end to avoid the popup being blown off. I did have to silicone it on later. It even got blown off by the sump pump water. But be careful if you have trees around your home. If leaves get into your gutters they may plug the strainer connections. You may want to stick with the popups. And remember, you don’t have to tie all the drains together. I have 4 different downspout terminations in my yard. I put pop up terminations on all except this drain.

How to Pipe the Downspout Extensions

underground drain
SDR 35 PVC Downspout Extension

Gutter downspouts come in a couple of different sizes for most homes. You’ll want to measure the dimensions of your gutter to find a sdr 35 transition fitting that will fit over your gutter ends. The 90 degree elbows that change direction from vertical to horizontal can be standard radius turns. Since this is just rain water, tees will work fine if you’re attaching drains together underground. The internet is full of pictures of how to run the underground drain pipes. Since this is just rain water without any solids or chemicals you have a lot of latitude with what drain fittings to use. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Backfilling the Downspout Extension Trench

When backfilling the trench don’t just throw dirt back in and compact it. It’s very important that you get gravel and fill the trench half way up the sides of the pipe. Some people prefer sand. Then take a two foot level and walk the full length of the pipe and check for consistent downward grade. When a city inspector walks the full length of the underground drain or sewers they literally walk on top of them. This tells them how it will settle and if it stills has the proper grading when backfilled. If you find it going the wrong way just lift up on it a little and push gravel or sand under it. When you finish backfilling with dirt you’ll want to be sure to pack the dirt in tight to prevent further settling in your yard.

Landscapers Install Underground Downspout Drains

I’m writing this article for those of you that want to do this yourself. I’m not trying to imply that Advocate Master Plumbing installs downspout extensions. This is a simple, labor intensive job. If you get stuck or decide you want someone else to do it call a landscaper. You don’t want to pay plumbers to dig. For any other home plumbing repairs or installations we can help. If you find that you need ethical local Lees Summit plumbers call us. We’ll unclog your drains, faucet repairs, replace your water heater or sump pump and do all other manner of residential plumbing repair and installations.

Water Heaters

Thermostatic Mixing Valve

A thermostatic mixing valve is a lesser known water heater option. At Advocate Master Plumbing we’ve installed and serviced many of these valves. After reading this plumbing article you can call for an estimate.

What’s a thermostatic mixing valve?

A thermostatic mixing valve or hot water mixing valve is a valve that mixes hot and cold water to ensure a consistent temperature. It can be installed for a single faucet or for a whole home hot water heating system. In a residential setting they are normally installed on the water heater.

What are the advantages of a hot water mixing valve?

water heater capacity
Thermostatic mixing valve

A hot water mixing valve can have a couple of advantages for a homeowner. The most popular being you can increase the output of your water heater. Install it and you can turn the temperature setting above 140 degrees. Then by setting the mixing valve temperature to 120 degrees you’ve raised the water heater capacity. This is a less expensive alternative to a larger water heater or dual water heating system.

Another advantage is scald prevention. If you have young children or a developmentally handicapped loved one in your home there’s always a possibility of scalding. But if you set the mixing valve temperature below 120 degrees then you’ve avoided that scald hazard.

water heater tempering valve
Water Heater Tempering Valve

What are the disadvantages of mixing valves?

A hot water mixing valve can also have some problems. The first one being that you’ll need a professional to install it. This means they can be an expensive hot water heater accessory. When you’re cross-connecting your hot and cold water you need to be very careful. And soldering is usually involved. So a master plumber is recommended.

Another disadvantage is that they are sensitive to hard water. Since there is a rubber diaphragm and seals and multiple screens, debris and hard water deposits can foul it’s workings. So maintenance is necessary.

Lastly, it’s really not a good idea to turn your water heater temperature up to much beyond the manufacturers recommended 120 degrees. The more you heat water the more hard water deposits will accrue on the bottom of the tank. This can age it more quickly. But you can avoid this by flushing your water heater annually.

Lees Summit hot water mixing valve installation

If you’re in Lees Summit and want a hot water mixing valve installed, call Advocate Master Plumbing. We’ve installed, repaired and serviced thermostatic valves such as the Cash Acme Tank Booster in residential homes and in commercial applications. When you want a local plumber and don’t want to break the bank call your homeowners advocate. We’ll evaluate your specific needs and make the best recommendations. Remember you’ll always get a master plumber at your door when you call us.