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Water Heater Repair Basics

Water heaters are familiar fixtures in many homes. They are big metal cylinders usually kept in the basement or utility room. If you have no hot water, check the circuit breaker or fuse in your home that serves your water heater. It may have tripped and needs to be reset.

Tank-Style Water Heaters


A traditional tank-style water heater has a gas or electric heating element. Hot water rises from the bottom of the tank, passes through a dip tube, and back to the top. From there, it goes through your home’s pipes and into your faucets. The tank also contains a temperature pressure relief valve that keeps pressure from building in the unit. Depending on the age of your water heater, it can start to experience issues. This may be due to wear and tear, corrosion, or a leak. If you notice an increase in your utility bills, a change in water temperature or unusual sounds coming from the water heater, it could be time to call in Plumbing Company Shreveport.

The first thing you should do is test the elements. There are two on most units, and they run an electrical current through them to heat the water. If these aren’t working, it may be because they are causing your circuit breaker to trip. Another possibility is that they have burned out or become shorted. Element replacement costs about $20 each. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it is possible that there is a thermostat or high-temperature cutoff switch issue. These can be difficult to diagnose and repair, and are best left to an experienced plumber.

Another common issue is a faulty dip tube. This tube transfers cool water to the bottom of the tank so it can be reheated by the lower element. If this tube is cracked or broken, it can cause cool water to mix with the hot water and reduce its overall temperature. A plumber can replace this tube, which shouldn’t be too expensive.

If you’re dealing with smells or discoloration in your water, it may be a sign that the anode rod is corroding and releasing sulfur into the water. You can try turning off the water for a few minutes and then re-turning it on. This should help get rid of the odor or discoloration. If not, the anode rod will need to be replaced.

While it’s possible to extend the life of a conventional water heater through regular maintenance, it will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Our plumbing technicians can assess the condition of your tank-style water heater and recommend an appropriate replacement.


A thermostat is the control mechanism that keeps a water heater running when hot water is needed. The thermostat is usually located on the outside of the unit or in a cabinet at the top of the tank. If your water heater is acting up, you should check the thermostat first to make sure that it hasn’t tripped or that its dial isn’t set too high.

The thermostat works by detecting the temperature of the water and sending an electrical signal to turn the heating elements on or off depending on what it is reading. There are a few different types of thermostats, and each has its own way of working. One type uses a bimetallic strip that coils and uncoils based on the water’s temperature, triggering an electric switch to start the water heater. Another kind of thermostat, called a rod and tube thermostat, has two pieces of metal with dissimilar coefficients of thermal expansion that create proportional pressure on a diaphragm or piston assembly that actuates the electrical switch.

There is also a third kind of thermostat called a mercury switch, which has a vial of mercury with three wires inside it that make connections when tilted left or right. This kind of thermostat is less common than the others.

If you have an older water heater, the parts in it may be worn out or corroded. If this is the case, your water heater will probably need to be replaced.

A malfunctioning dip tube is another possibility for a faulty water heater. If the dip tube breaks, it could cause cold water to mix in with the hot water. Unless you’re comfortable replacing a dip tube, you should call a professional plumber to do it for you.

If your gas water heater is having problems, it’s possible that its pilot light has gone out. If this is the case, it’s important to follow the safety instructions in the manual that came with your water heater to relight the pilot light correctly. If this doesn’t fix the problem, it might be a sign that your thermocouple or gas control valve has failed.

Anode Rods

Anode rods are long metal rods, usually made of magnesium or aluminum. Their purpose is to attract the iron, limestone and rust in the water that would otherwise corrode the steel tank. This saves the water heater and keeps the water clean, but they do wear out after a while and need to be replaced periodically. You can determine when they are worn out by noticing a “rotten egg” smell or looking at the rod and seeing that it is quite corroded.

Depending on your model, the anode rod may be exposed or hidden within the tank. If the former, it may be covered by a plastic cap. On the latter, you may need to remove a screw and insulating material to expose it. The first step in removing the rod is to turn off the power and drain the water heater (if it has a gas valve, use the “vacation” setting on the pilot light to avoid relighting when you’re done).

Once you have the tank empty, loosen the hex head bolt with a socket wrench, using work gloves, as it will be hot. When the bolt is loosened, pull out the old anode rod. The sacrificial anode will likely be corroded to the point that you can no longer see it. If you have trouble getting the rod out, you can try bending it, though this will make it harder to replace in the future.

When installing the new anode, smear Teflon pipe thread sealant on the end that will be in contact with the tank to help prevent leaks. If you have limited space above the tank, consider purchasing a flexible anode rod instead of the traditional model; these are made from short segments that snap together like tent poles.

Place the anode rod into place, tighten the bolt and install a new plastic cap. Then drain and refill the tank to flush out any sediment that might have collected at the bottom of the tank. Be sure to turn on the power and water again after you’re finished working to ensure that everything is running correctly.

Flushing the Tank

It’s important to regularly flush your water heater tank, which removes mineral buildup and prevents a corrosive layer that reduces the tank’s capacity. This is one of the most common maintenance tasks that DIYers miss, but it can help you save money in the long run.

First, turn off the power to your water heater at the circuit breaker or fuse box. This is an important safety measure because water inside a hot water tank can cause scalding burns if touched. Then, open a hot water faucet in your home to prevent a vacuum that could keep water from flowing.

Then, attach a hose to the standard outside-style drain valve on the bottom of the tank. It’s typically located next to the thermostat control knob. Open the drain valve and allow the water to drain for about 10 minutes. Then close the drain valve.

Repeat this process until you have drained about four gallons of water from the tank. This should flush out most of the sediment, but you may need to drain more.

After you drain the tank, use a bucket to catch the water. If the water is cloudy or you still see sediment in the bucket, you may need to flush it again. Repeat the procedure until you have clear water and no sediment in the bucket.

Finally, flush the drain and anode rod. This is a simple task for a plumber, but you can do it yourself with the right equipment.

A faulty or improperly installed gas water heater can leak carbon monoxide, an odorless and tasteless but deadly gas that can poison your family if in sufficient concentrations. It’s also a fire hazard and must be repaired or replaced immediately.

The best way to avoid these problems is to have a plumber inspect and service your tank-style water heater twice a year, and perform routine maintenance on it in between. This will not only keep your water heater running efficiently but will lower your energy bills, too. If you notice signs of a malfunctioning water heater, like lack of hot water or strange smells and tastes in your home’s water, call the plumbing experts at Simpson Plumbing today.

Bathroom Tile Installation Techniques For Everyone

Bathroom Tile Installation

The first step is establishing a baseline and center point. This might mean removing old tile or laying down concrete board.

Few walls are plumb and even if they are, tile simply amplifies their imperfections. That’s why it’s important to set up a guide to help you lay square and even rows of tile.

Lay Out Your Tiles

Using an interesting tile layout in your bathroom can elevate design and polish the overall look of the room. But to get the most out of this style technique, it’s important to do a thorough job in the planning stage to ensure smooth installation and an attractive finished product.

Creating accurate layout lines is one of the most important tasks that will help you achieve square and evenly spaced tiles. To do this, run a chalk line between the center points of opposing walls to create a straight line that will serve as your baseline for laying tile. This step should be done even before you begin tiling to establish a reference point for each row of tiles.

It’s also important to ensure that your substrate is sound and will be stable under the weight of the tile. A flexing floor or a sagging wall could lead to broken tiles and grout failure. Regardless of what type of substrate you choose–backer board, plywood or concrete–the surface should be water-resistant to prevent mold and mildew growth.

While many home centers stock all the necessary materials, it’s best to begin with a trip to a dedicated tile showroom where you’ll be more likely to get expert advice and assistance. While you’re there, sketch out your room and jot down dimensions for reference. This will help you determine the exact amount of tiles and supplies you’ll need.

Once you’ve determined the exact dimensions of your room, it’s a good idea to dry-fit your tile pattern (placing them on the ground without adhesive purely to plan the layout). This will give you an opportunity to see how the cut tiles at each end of a row will fit together. If they’re too small, you can shift the layout starting point to accommodate or you can use a wider tile on the ends.

If you’re working on a wall, it’s also a good idea to use a level to establish a top line that’s straight and flush with the ceiling. Few walls are truly plumb or level, so having this line will help you avoid a dizzying “everything’s slightly slanted” look.

Preparing the Surface

The substrate — the surface upon which tile is laid — plays just as important of a role as the tiles themselves. It must be sound, clean and dimensionally stable. For a wall, this means a backer board or cement, and for the floor it can be drywall or plywood. If the underlying material is concrete, it should be pre-treated to ensure proper curing and strength. The substrate must also meet industry standards for tolerance in surface plane irregularity and pitch toward drains or scuppers.

Prior to beginning any work on your bathroom tiling project, you should familiarize yourself with the specific requirements for your particular product and surface. This is to help ensure you understand how your installation process should proceed and comply with the manufacturers printed recommendations and trade and construction work health and safety standards.

When laying tile, it is generally best to start from the center of the room and work your way outward. This helps to keep your lines straight and allows you to minimize the number of cut tiles. You can use a bubble level to determine your center line and snap chalk lines on the floor to guide you as you work.

Before applying any thinset, make sure your tools are in good working order and that you have all the necessary supplies on hand. Some of the most essential tools include a wet saw, a level and a variety of trowel sizes. It is also recommended to wear a respirator mask to protect yourself from any airborne dust that may be generated during the work.

Before starting, it is important to prepare the surface of the wall or floor where you will be tiling by priming it. This will ensure that the bonding agent will properly adhere to the surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to prepare the primer for your specific substrate. For example, some gypsum plasters require a sealer while others may need to be primed with a special masonry primer. It is also possible to purchase pre-mixed thinset that eliminates the need to mix the liquid and powder together. This can be a huge time saver but it is still a good idea to read the manufacturer’s recommendations for mixing this product.

Applying Thin-Set Mortar

To adhere your new tile, it must be set in a proper mortar. Traditional thinset is a cement-based mix of sand and Portland cement with water retention agents or activators. It’s available at home improvement stores as a dry mix that you must add water to create a slurry or pre-mixed buckets that are ready to use immediately. Thinset is also sold in a variety of viscosities, ranging from very thick to very runny. It’s important to use the right type of thinset for your project, as different types perform differently on various substrates.

To begin, mark accurate layout lines for your tile installation. Use a chalk line to run a vertical and horizontal line across the room where your center point will be for positioning tile rows. This will ensure that all tiles are installed in straight, even rows and that each tile is evenly spaced.

After the scratch coat dries, apply a second layer of thinset using the notched edge of your trowel. As you spread the mortar, keep a consistent finger pressure throughout the process to avoid lippage, which is where a tile is higher or lower than its neighbors.

If your thinset starts to stiffen, re-wet the surface by running water over it with your sponge. Continue this process as needed to maintain the correct consistency.

Once you’re satisfied with the consistency of your thinset, it’s time to lay your first row of tile. Use your straightedge to guide you as you place each tile, ensuring it’s placed square to the wall. To avoid uneven joints, use tile spacers between each tile as you install them.

Once each tile is in place, use a framing square or A-square to check that it’s level and straight. If it’s not, use a hammer and chisel to tap the tile in place. This helps to set it firmly in the mortar and eliminates the possibility that it will shift and become loose over time. It’s important to do this for every tile that you set, as shifting and crooked tiles can cause the entire floor to look uneven.

Laying the Tiles

Choosing where to begin is the first step in laying bathroom tile. It’s tempting to choose the wall that looks straightest, but you’ll get much better results by starting in the center and working outward. This will help ensure a symmetrical pattern, and it’s much easier to keep track of where you are in the process.

To establish your reference lines for the tile layout, run a chalk line from the center of one wall to the center of the adjacent wall. Then draw a line on the floor that intersects those two points, and use this as your guide. You can also mark out these lines with pencil and a straight edge, but the chalk method is more precise.

Once you’ve marked your reference lines, you can dry-fit a few rows of tiles without mortar to test the layout and make any necessary adjustments. It’s a good idea to include at least a quarter of your overall tile quantity in the dry-fit, because it will give you an accurate sense of how much room you have to work with once you begin to lay the actual mortar.

Before you start laying tile, check that the tile edges are perfectly flush with the wall edges. If you see any gaps, you’ll need to sand the edges down or apply some sort of sealant to prevent moisture from penetrating the surface and causing the wall to crack and chip over time.

Most tiles have directional arrows printed on them that point in the direction they should be installed. If you ignore these arrows, your pattern will look asymmetrical when you’re finished. This is a simple fix, and it will be far less noticeable once your grout has dried.

When you’re ready to install the tile, position a ledger on the floor or tub deck and then set your first row of tiles along it. The leadger should be slightly longer than the full width of your tile, and it’s helpful to place it a few inches back from the edge of the wall. You can create a similar effect by using a piece of wood or other straight board, but the leadger method works much better because it’s easier to control the placement of the tiles and makes it impossible to over-extend your grout lines.