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kathleentsy 05-15-2007 10:59 PM

No flow to shower head; toilet runs constantly
About a year ago, the landlord for my building completely redid our bathroom -- new sink, toilet, shower -- after repeated problems with leaking pipes (ours leaking to lower floors).

About two months ago, we completely lost the ability to get water to come out of the shower head. The water pressure out of all of the sinks are fine, incl bathroom sink, and the water pressure coming out of the bathtub spigot seems to be fine. When we pull the lever to route the water into the shower head, not enough pressure builds to make the shower work, and the water does not completely stop flowing through the tub spigot.

We're also having a problem with the toilet running constantly -- since it is all new, it's not a problem with an old flapper, and the valve arm seems to be straight and properly tightened. I am beginning to wonder if the two problems are interrelated, and/or if any of these malfunctions could be a problem with the initial repairs. Regardless, our bathroom is becoming a nightmare -- help!!

kathleentsy 05-15-2007 11:28 PM

oh, and...
...when we turn on the bathtub, the initial blast of water that comes out of the spigot is rusty. There is not a separate hot/cold tap -- one spigot, with one knob that adjusts to make the water hotter or colder.

Again, oddly, no problems with bathroom sink whatsoever.

Toilet: Problem seems to be related to the two screws on the fill valve. If the left-most screw (centered on the valve) is tightened, the water flow stops entirely and the tank does not fill. If it is loosened, water flow is restored, but toilet runs. If the other screw is tightened (the one closest to where the guide arm for the floater screws into the top of the valve), it raises the guide arm, but also turns off water flow completely. If that screw is loosened, water flow is restored, but never shuts off.

moneymgmt 05-16-2007 08:34 AM

Rusty water yummy! My assumption is, as was the case in my home, you still have galvanized pipes. Even if the landlord changed the pipes in your bathroom, its probably waaaaaay over his budget to convert the whole building to copper. When I converted my house to copper, I couldn't believe that water even got through some of the old pipes. In some places there was litterally 1/4 inch of space for water to flow through.

If the tub spigot still runs when you change it over to the shower, you're correct, there isn't enough pressure coming into the bathroom in the first place. Take off the shower head, there should be a filter where it meets the pipe and it may be as simple as cleaning it off or putting in a new one. When the pipes sit dormant the rust settles, and then when you turn on the water that setiment flushes through at the initial flow. You say "in my building" so I'm assuming this is a large unit and I doubt that your toilet is directly effecting the shower. I do not have an answer for you on the toilet, I will say that I think something in the tank assembly is not correct. The problem is not in the pipes in this case, its in the toilet.

Unfortunately, the only solution I can think of to increase water pressure for the shower (assuming its not as simple as changing the filter) is to change out the gummed up pipes..... and since you rent, I'd say there's a slim chance of that happening.

Brik 05-16-2007 09:51 AM

No, the two problems are not related.

two simple fixes if you want to do it yourself. I'll tell you how if you want.

Just call you super. He will be able to fix both in under an hour. If its a large complex with a dedicated super he likely stocks the parts as well.

kathleentsy 05-16-2007 01:22 PM

Yes, Brik, I am curious for your advice on how to handle it myself. The building (a four-flat) is owned by a guy that has no real interest in doing repairs -- as a result, our rent is pretty damn cheap. I have a couple of other repairs I need done, so the more I can do myself without calling them, the more of a chance I have of keeping my rent down. :)

Moneymgmt: You're probably right re: the pipes. I am guessing they only replaced the pipes between my unit (3rd floor) and the unit below. Luckily the only rusty water is in the tub, only for those first few seconds, and only when the tub has not been run in a few hours (giving it time to build back up, I assume). Will try your filter trick, plus whatever Brik has for me, and hope for the best. Am also guessing you're right about the toilet -- I think there's a leak somewhere in the valve mechanism, or something not right there. Am tempted to just replace the whole mechanism and see if that fixes it.

Brik 05-16-2007 03:22 PM

The rust may also be from the water heater. Thats a more complicated fix if thats where the problem is.

As for water to the shower head. All you need is a new diverter. Your local home center will have these from just a couple of bucks to maybe $25 or $30. There are two styles. One uses a rubber washer to seal around a copper pipe, the other is screwed on. Look at the bottom of the spout. if you see a small screw, loosen it then pull off the spout, straight off, a little back and forth twisting will help. If there is no screw on the bottom then its threaded on. Just unscrew it. lefty loosey. (Counter clockwise) . Take the old spout to the home center and find a sutible replacement that attaches the same way. If it is the screw type you want to get some teflon tape thread sealant to put on the threads of the pipe that will be protruding from the wall. If its a slip fit this will not be nescary.

As for the toilet.
Running constantly means to me that the valve is defective. These can sometimes be fixed with just a new washer. Explore a little with teh water shut off to see if you can find a washer at the top of the valve, near where the float attaches. Take that washer to the hardware store and get a replacement. If you cant find the washer you can just get a fluidmaster replacement valve for under $10. Its an easy swap, just follow the directions on the box.

So, if you can just replace the washer, and get a cheap diverter you may be out well under $10 and more time will be spent going to the hardware store than actually fixing the stuff.

Good luck.

Mike Swearingen 05-17-2007 06:11 AM

Old galvanized pipes are probably part of the shower pressure problem. Hard black scale builds up inside the galvanized pipes until they eventually plug up completely. Replacement is the only solution. However, I think your problems are primarily local to your bathroom.
RUSTY WATER AND TUB SPOUT w/SHOWER DIVERTER: A short burst of rusty water in a tub usually means that the pipe from the wall into the tub that the diverter spout is on is a galvanized nipple which needs to be replaced with 1/2" plastic CPVC with male threaded fittings on both ends (wrap teflon tape clockwise only on these threads as the threaded ends face you). Copper is best, but all that you have to do is glue the fittings on the plastic CPVC (no soldering). Remove the galvanized nipple when you remove the diverter to replace it, and take both to the store to match up the lengths.
SHOWER: Replace the tub spout diverter and take the showerhead off and soak it overnight in vinegar to dissolve any mineral buildup, and then rinse it out good, which will also remove galvanized debris. Use teflon tape on the threads of the shower arm before re-installing the shower head.
RUNNING TOILET: As Brik advised, replace the toilet water inlet valve with an adjustable 400A Fluidmaster (usually less than $6 bucks here), as advised. It comes with illustrated instructions. Just follow these very easy directions and that should stop the toilet running.
Good Luck!

Brik 05-17-2007 09:05 AM

Yea, i suppose if when the spigot (diverter) is removed the pipe sticking from the wall can be inspected for rust and build-up. If its a threaded piece of pipe there is no reason to go cpvc (plastic).
They sell these, pre threaded, in the length required to replace in brass and chrome. If there IS a lot of constriction this piple could relatively easily be remove after the diverter is removed.

To the OP. I wouldn't do this replacement unless when you remove the diverter and look into the pipe you see a lot of gunk.

Unfortunately, if the pipes really are clogged so badly then replacing this short section will have little impact. If things are REALLY bad with the pipes, trying to remove this section could cause issues that would be A LOT more work. For example, what if, when removing the pipe the diverter attaches to, the threads break off, right inside the elbow, inside the wall? Been there, done that! Then you need to replace the elbow. To do so you need to get inside the wall. Oh, and while you are inside the wall might as well replace all the piping in that area.

My advice, if the inside of the pipe is not really clogged up then leave well enough alone.

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