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We stopped the tide, but broke everything else
November 5, 2008 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Plumbing Filter: After a water heater leak, our toilet is not filling correctly and our water isn't very hot. DIY antics ahead.

My bf and I were cleaning out our basement when a can of spray paint fell off a shelf and knocked into the plastic drain valve on our water heater. Apparently it was old and brittle and it snapped off leaving us with a steamy wet mess. We turned off the gas and the water to the whole house while we tried to figure out how to fix the damn thing at 2 am. We turned off every valve we could find trying to find the main water valve. We thought everything go back right, but out toilet water level is very very low now and the water doesn't seem to be very hot at all, what might we have done and how can we right it?
posted by stormygrey to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
First: it takes a long time for water in a water heater to heat back up; if you fixed it at 2am, it hasn't been 24 hours, so between filling up and heating up you've got some time to go. Patience on that.

Second: is it the toilet water in the bowl that's not high, or the tank? If the tank, I'd think you forgot to turn a valve back on, esp. since toilets fill up with cold water that bypasses the water heater altogether. If the tank's fine but the bowl is low...flush. ;)
posted by davejay at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2008


a good water heater should make hot water in 20 mins call a plumber
posted by patnok at 4:35 PM on November 5, 2008


One hindsight things:

Get some fluorescent toe tags and label and tie them to every shut-off valve in the basement. This will make the next time easier.

I don't know about the heater - maybe the gas valve is shut off or the igniter is shot/damaged/disconnected?

As for the toilet, open the tank and flush it. If the tank doesn't refill then you missed a shut-off valve. If you can't figure it out, in the short term you can still flush a toilet by pouring 1.8 gallons of water out of a pot filled from a working fixture directly into the bowl.
posted by plinth at 5:06 PM on November 5, 2008


This was a week ago. The tank fills up, but the bowl only gets a little water, just barely enough to flush.

The water is heating up, but now when I take a bath I just run hot water, not a mix and its just about right.

We will definetly label the valves, that is a good idea.
posted by stormygrey at 5:29 PM on November 5, 2008


The tank fills up, but the bowl only gets a little water, just barely enough to flush.

The bowl refills through the vertical overflow tube in the tank. Most of the water goes directly in the tank, but a small amount should be directed into the overflow tube. There should be a small nozzle that directs water down the overflow tube while the tank is filling. In your fooling around with the tank, you may have bumped the nozzle so it no longer sends water into the overflow tube and the bowl no longer fills.
posted by JackFlash at 6:17 PM on November 5, 2008


They hooked up your water heater backwards.
posted by gjc at 9:12 PM on November 5, 2008


The water is heating up, but now when I take a bath I just run hot water, not a mix and its just about right.

Check the temperature setting on the hot water heater's thermostat. Sounds like it got turned down. A good setting is 130 degrees F.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:17 PM on November 5, 2008


Besides shutting off the valves and turning them back on, it's not clear what you did to the heater. Did you replace it, or just fix the broken plastic drain valve?

Like exphysicist345 says, the temperature of the water is controlled by a thermostat on the heater itself. You could have easily changed the setting while mucking around with the valve repair.

The toilet's behavior is a different problem. Notice that water supply line to the toilet connects to the bottom of a valve assembly inside the tank. Next to the valve assembly is a fat vertical tube about 1" in diameter. This is the overflow tube that JackFlash mentioned. Any water that goes into that tube ends up in the bowl.

When the water level in the tank drops, the floating part of the valve drops too, and this actuates the valve. Most of the water goes into the tank, but there's a small piece of tubing that's supposed to direct water into the overflow to fill the bowl. My guess is that either that tube got moved so it's no longer directing it's flow into the overflow, like JackFlash suggested, or a piece of debris (rust, a fragment of a disintegrating faucet washer) got dislodged while you were mucking around with the plumbing and, like a blood clot in an artery, ended up stuck in your toilet fill valve, clogging up the works. If this has happened, you may be able to disassemble the valve and clean it up.
posted by jon1270 at 2:08 AM on November 6, 2008


Oh, and probably when they shut off and turned the water back on, it disturbed something in the works of the toilet filler upper. Or a chunk of debris got in there. Might have to replace/clean said works.

(The reason i say that the water heater was hooked up backwards is because all but the worst, cheapest water heaters should be able to maintain a decent shower, and recover fairly quickly. Inside the water heater, there are two tubes. One goes all the way to the bottom, one is right at the top of the tank. The correct way to hook it up is for the water in to go to the tube at the bottom, so that the cold incoming water is at the bottom being heated. The hot water rises, and outputs at the top hole. If it's hooked up backwards, the cooler water at the bottom is fed into your plumbing, and the incoming cold water falls through the hot water, cooling it off.

You can test for this by turning on a faucet for hot water, and then going to the tank and feeling the two water pipes. The tank will have indicators for "in" and "out" next to the two pipes. The in pipe should feel cold, the out pipe should feel hot. If not, it was indeed installed backwards. Happens all the time- it's just one of those things. The installer gets distracted by making the pipes fit and forgets to check.)
posted by gjc at 7:06 AM on November 6, 2008


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