Renovation Tips 

Unlike a change of carpet or new paint, plumbing isn’t as often thought of when making improvements to your home unless there are major problems with the toilet for example. However, there are some cheap and easy plumbing tips and improvements that can add value to your home without stretching the dollar.

Tapware

Just as wallpaper can date a home, so can outdated taps and faucets. There is a huge choice out there to pick from and as established Queenstown plumbers we always recommend using high quality tapware – but there is a case for cheaper options:

Using cheaper tapware in rooms that are used less frequently – like bath taps and basin mixers – can save a lot of money.

Shop around for bath spouts – they have no complex parts so you’re only paying for looks.

Shower mixers are a different story as they are designed to give you an even mix of hot and cold water at a high pressure. Cheaper mixers can be prone to delivering low pressure, and since they are housed behind the wall, if they fail they can be tricky (ie expensive) to replace. So it’s not worth going cheap on your shower mixer.

The kitchen mixer is probably the most used tap in every household and with constant use comes wear and tear, so again, don’t compromise on quality. Money spent will be money saved on repairs and replacements further down the track.

Toilets

There’s a huge variation in the price of toilets. Given that they all do the same job, and the working parts are all very similar and replaceable, then it’s just a matter of cost versus preferences. Though it’s not always possible to try before you buy be aware that some cheaper options may not flush properly and can leave toilet paper behind. Where possible, stick with well-known brands. Bear in mind that not only do in-wall and wall-hung cisterns cost more but they take longer to install, meaning a higher labour cost also.

Another consideration, especially if the Queenstown Lakes DC plough ahead with water metering, is the efficiency of the toilet. It might be preferable to choose a toilet with a half-flush option to conserve water.

Vanities

Vanities are basically all made of the same material – chip board, meaning the real differences come down to design, hardware and fittings. Expect to pay more for soft closing doors and drawers, and it’s worth a thought that it costs more to make drawers than doors so these will add to the price as well.


Common Plumbing Questions

I think my hot water is too hot! What should I do?

If your water’s too hot, it can be dangerous. An alarming number of NZ homes have hot water that’s too hot. At 60°, a child’s skin can sustain a serious burn in one second. At 54°, it takes 10 seconds to burn. A safe bath temperature for young children is between 37° and 38°.
If you think your tap water may be too hot or too cold, see if you can test the temperature out of the tap with a thermometer. If it needs adjusting you’ll need to call us.
We may need to lower (or increase) the temperature in the cylinder, or install tempering valves, temperature limiting taps and shower mixers.
Tempering valves control the temperature of the delivered water by mixing cold water with hot as it leaves your hot water cylinder.
The New Zealand Building Code requires that all new and modified existing hot water systems in people’s homes have hot water delivered to bathroom fixtures at no more than 55°

My spouting is overflowing or blocked. What should I do?

Spouting, gutters and downpipes take water away from the house on to stormwater drains. Spouting channels rainwater from the gutters to downpipes, so a blockage or hole in the system can mean a lot of excess surface water.
If problems arise, you can check that leaves or debris haven’t built up and blocked outlets. It’s a good idea to give them a clean out each Autumn.
If a blockage isn’t the culprit, then age could have caused metal spouting and downpipes to rust. This problem is best remedied as soon as possible – rust spreads fast and if caught in the early stages less spouting may have to be replaced. Give TaylorMade Plumbing & Solar a call and we can sort it out for you.
The most common spouting material today is PVC. Light and hardwearing it doesn’t require painting and it is relatively easy to install.

I want to install or replace a woodburner – what are the rules?

If you’re wanting to install a new fireplace or replace an existing one, you will need to be familiar with the new clean-burning regulations and choose an appropriate woodburner. See our Heating page for advice. If you’re replacing an existing one, it is a Council requirement that your old non-compliant woodburner is destroyed, not sold or given away.

Remember that the ORC Clean Air grant is available until July 2016. The grant of $1500 (inc GST) is available to homes in the qualifying zones that were built before 2000. To qualify for the grant you must be replacing an old non-compliant woodburner with an approved clean burning one. There’s not much involved on your part – TaylorMade Plumbing & Solar will do all of the paperwork for you.

Why is there poor water flow in my shower?

If you have poor shower pressure, it’s probably because your water supply tank is mounted on your hot water cylinder or in the roof space. Or it may be that you have a pressure-reducing valve supplying water to the hot water cylinder.
There are several ways you can boost the hot water pressure at the shower:

– change the shower mixer
– change the shower rose – they get clogged up with deposits over time and –   restrict the flow of water
– change the method of supplying water to the shower
– change the hot water system to valve vented
– replace the hot water cylinder with a medium-pressure or mains-pressure type

The chosen method will depend on how much water you want at the shower, how much it costs to do and what is possible. Give us a call and we can have a look for you, assess the situation, and advise you on the best options for your budget.

How can I prevent my pipes freezing or bursting in winter?

You can reduce the risk by repairing leaking taps and fittings, and lagging external water pipes. Also, check that your hot water cylinder vent pipes aren’t susceptible to getting iced up. This means you may have to lag all of the vent pipe if it is out through the roof. Also, if you have a relief valve at the end of the vent pipe, make sure the valve is pointing down so it can’t be blocked with a plug of ice.

Keeping the house warm in winter is a good way to help avoid frozen pipes. As most homes now have ceiling insulation, all plumbing pipework and header tanks in the ceiling space should be insulated if you have any chance of frost.

A good idea if you’re going away for a few nights and your pipes are prone to freezing, is to leave some form of heating on low (make sure you only do this with a thermostatically controlled heater!). This will prevent the water in the pipes from freezing. The cost of heating is a lot less than the damage caused by burst pipes.

If your pipes do become frozen, or worse they burst, turn off the water supply at the street, (if you don’t know where the toby is call the council – 441 0499) turn the power off to the Hot water Cylinder and call TaylorMade Plumbing & Solar.

Can I fix my leaking cylinder?

Leaks in a hot water cylinder are usually caused by corrosion or from the pressure of hot water. If your cylinder is leaking this is usually a sign that the tank is wearing out and should be replaced. It doesn’t make financial sense to repair a tank if it’s reached the end of its life, which is generally 20-40 years for electric low-pressure tanks and five to 20 years for mains pressure steel tanks. (For the latter, the valve train may need upgrading to meet modern codes and installation instructions.)

Turn off the tap in the piping that leads to the cylinder or the tap that controls the water to the header tank in the ceiling. If you have a mains pressure gas-heated hot water system, cutting off the mains supply will do the trick. Also turn off the power to the cylinder.
You will have to wait until the water system empties before the flow at the leak slows down. A small leak in a pipe can be temporarily fixed with a rubber patch and metal clamp or sleeve. This should be followed by a permanent repair as soon as possible.

How do I make my electric storage hot water cylinder more efficient?

If you put a wrap around it, you will reduce heat loss, which wastes valuable energy. Wraps are available from any local hardware store.
To increase efficiency, the pipes leading from your storage water heater should be lagged for the first 2 m of horizontal piping using pre-formed closed cell foam pipe insulation of 12 mm nominal thickness. This insulation material is available from plumbing stores like Edward Gibbons.
If the pipes run upwards first, then horizontally, the lagging will still need to extend to the first 2 m of horizontal piping, as well as the vertical section of pipe.
If the pipes run downwards before you get to the 2 m horizontal length, the downward pipe acts as a heat trap. You do not need to insulate beyond the first 150 mm of the downward pipe.
If in doubt, give us a call.

How do I unblock my drain?

Most blocked sewer and stormwater drains are caused by tree roots penetrating broken or cracked drains. It is rare for a foreign object to go down the drain and block it, as it would have to pass through the pan U-bend or the gully trap U-bend where the waste pipes discharge.
To unblock the drain, there are three methods of ‘rodding’:

Hand rod
Machine worm
Industrial water blaster

None will actually repair the drain – just unblock it. The only sure method of repair is replacement, which we can sort for you.

Drain cameras are sometimes used to show evidence of the blockage. However, a plumber can usually tell you what the problem is – and where it is – just by using a hand rod, assuming they can gain access to the drain

Drains that are in good condition rarely get blocked; particularly the new PVC drains used today. So, while rodding is cheaper than replacement and can keep a drain clear for a period, you may decide it’s better to fix it if the problem continues.

What do I do if my toilet, sink, bath or shower is blocked?

A rubber cup plunger can be effective when pumped up and down for a couple of minutes. If it’s a blocked sink, keep a damp rag over the overflow while you do it. If that doesn’t work, remove the trap under the sink to check for blockage (remember to keep a bucket underneath!), or try flexible wire to dislodge a possible blockage in the pipe. If none of this works, give us a call.

Why is my under-floor heating using so much gas or diesel?

Under-floor central heating systems are meant to be left on for long periods of time. It takes a lot of energy (fuel) to heat up a big concrete slab and it may take a couple of days for the slab to heat up once your boiler is turned on. Once the slab has reached temperature it uses much less fuel to maintain that heat. If you turn your under-floor heating on and off the slab just needs to re-heat each time, so it will use a lot of diesel or gas. If you have an under-floor heating system turn it on for the winter and leave it on to make the most efficient use of your fuel source.

Radiators, on the other hand, are much more suited to being turned on and off as they have a quick response (ie they don’t take days to heat up like a concrete slab does).