You’re in the shower and unexpectedly, just as your body’s all lathered, the water coming out of your shower head slows to a trickle. You scream downstairs …
SHUT OFF THE DARNED WASHING MACHINE! Or stronger words.
You are singing the low water pressure blues. You are joined by a chorus that rings out in thousands of Southern California homes.
Is it just your problem, or are your neighbors experiencing it too? If so, the cause may be a blockage or leak in a community water line. Notify your local water department to check it out and fix the problem at no cost to you.
Reasons for Low Water Pressure
More often, though, low water pressure stems from an issue inside your home, especially if it’s an older house. Low water pressure is common in older homes for a couple of reasons. One is lime calcification inside metal water pipes. As years go by, just as with outside water mains (or human arteries), deposits build up on the inside of your home’s water pipes. We at Dutton Plumbing have encountered ancient pipe so clogged up you can barely see through to the other end.
Our plumbers sometimes can remove this kind of blockage by blowing high-pressure air through the water line. This is a relatively inexpensive task. Unfortunately, more often than not the scale on the inside is too imbedded to be cleared in this manner.
Undersized Water Pipe
Another common problem found in older homes is undersized water pipe. Many homes were built in an era when the typical house had only a single bathroom. Back in those days three-eighths-inch diameter water pipe was the standard.
Since then many households have added a bathroom or two and many more water-using appliances. Nowadays half-inch water pipe is the minimum you will find in modern homes, and three-quarters of an inch is often specified, especially for multi-story homes.
This means re-piping may be the only way to permanently cure your water pressure blues. I won’t kid you, a re-pipe can run into big dollars, although our plumbers know some techniques to help cut costs. Sometimes we can save you money by replacing only the horizontal piping, which is most susceptible to build-up of deposits. If the risers also are involved, it becomes more complicated. That’s because to get to the risers our plumbers usually have to poke holes in walls. If possible, we will try to cut your expense by getting at bathroom risers from outside the bathroom. It’s cheaper to replace plaster and wallboard as opposed to tile.
The good news is that re-piping shouldn’t be required more than once in a generation. If you can take the pain that one time, you can avoid decades of blood-curdling screams from that second-floor bathroom!
P.S. If you suddenly experience slow flow out of a single faucet or shower head, before you call us, check to see if it might be caused by granules in the aerator or shower head openings. If so, you can easily remove the aerator or shower head by hand or with a small wrench and clean them out.