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Groaning sounds, plumbing linked

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune

Q. I have a very loud groaning noise in my house that seems to go on longer each time I hear it. I can’t tell where it originates. Can you help?

A. Groaning noises and a variety of other noises such as banging and whistling often originate in plumbing and can be very difficult to pinpoint.

Even an experienced plumber might not help much unless he or she hears the noise. However, here are some of the most common causes:

A defective refill valve or ballcock in a toilet can cause the noise. Suspect this if the groaning occurs after a toilet is flushed. The noise occurs as the toilet tank is being refilled.

The remedy is to replace the valve, which is located at the left inside the toilet tank. Older toilets often have a ball on a rod attached to the valve; newer toilets generally have a tower-type valve without a ball.

Do-it-yourself refill valves for most toilets are sold at home centers; just be sure to get a valve that will fit your brand of toilet.

Another possible cause is a loose washer in a faucet or shutoff valve. In this case, the noise generally occurs while a faucet is being used.

Most new faucets don’t have washers, but they are often used in outdoor faucets and in some laundry faucets and are still used in many older homes.

Loose plumbing pipes can groan as well as make rattling and vibration noises. Visible pipes that might be loose can be secured with pipe strap or small brackets, both sold at home centers and hardware stores.

Finally, waterlogged air chambers or water-hammer arresters can groan as well as make knocking and banging noises. Noise usually occurs when faucets or fixtures are shut off.

The remedy is to drain the water out of the system and let the chambers refill with air, which acts as a shock absorber for plumbing pipes.

Q. We have three toilets in our house. One of them, in a powder room, is used less than the others but regularly accumulates a hard-water stain in the bottom of the bowl that I have to remove with a pumice stone. Why would that toilet stain more than others?

A. I think your question contains the answer. The powder-room toilet isn’t used often, so hard water stands in the bowl and the minerals in the water have a better chance to cause staining.

Also, the pumice stone is a very fine abrasive that could be causing tiny scratches in the surface of the bowl, giving the minerals a better opportunity to stick.

I suggest putting a toilet-bowl brush in the powder room. At least once a day, swish the water around the bowl with the brush and lightly scrub the sides of the bowl. Then flush the toilet even if it hasn’t been used.

My guess is that you will get less staining.

Q. Our glass-top stove has burned-on stains that we haven’t been able to remove. We have tried Bon Ami and a couple of other things to no avail. Can you help?

A. A Stovetop Cleaning Kit for smooth-top stoves is available from Improvements and could solve your problem. The description says it will “safely remove cooked-on spills.”

The kit (item 269835) costs about $13. For more information, visit www.improvements catalog.com. Click on Storage and Home Care and type the item number into the search space.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com. Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.
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