Cottage Plumbing Tips

Q) Why won’t my cottage pump keep it’s prime. I get it pumping just fine, it shuts off and when we turn the water on again, nothing…have to re-prime it. I checked all the fittings and don’t see any water leaks anywhere.

A) It is very possible that your “Foot Valve” is defective. The ‘footvalve’ is the gadget on the end of the water line that is in the lake or well. It is a one way valve allowing water to go in but not back out. If it isn’t working, water in your water line and system will drain back out, allowing your pump to lose it’s prime. It’s a good idea to replace the footvalve every year or two even if it looks to be OK. This is what a footvalve looks like….

Q)How can I keep my pump from having to come on each time I turn on the tap, even if I only run a cupful of water?

A) If you install a five gallon water storage tank between your pump and the house you will be able to run small amounts of water without having the pump come on repeatedly. This will save a little electricity and save your pump. The pump will still come on if you flush a toilet, shower or run large amounts of water, but not as frequently as without a storage tank.

Q) My old piston pump is on it’s last legs, it doesn’t pump like it used to, is there anything I can do to revitalize it?

A) Piston pumps last and last, take mine for instance, I’m sure it’s much older than my 50 years, but it still works fine. In the bottom of your pump there is a bolt you can remove which will allow you access to the inside of the pump. You can buy a kit at most hardware stores that will allow you to replace the springs, gasket and flappers, most of them also come with new ‘leathers’ which a little more complicated to get at but will make a big difference if you replace them. You can get one at most hardware stores, I found them online at Pompco Inc

This is what a piston pump repair kit looks like.
This is something that should be done to a piston pump every couple of years. I replace mine every year in the spring. After you replace the gasket etc, make sure you have the bottom tightend up well, so the pump doesn’t leak.

Q) How can I tell how big a motor I need for my jet pump?

A) That depends on several things but one of the rule of thumb methods is to factor in the number of people and the lift required. 1/3 HP for 1 or 2 people (small) lift required 0′-10′, 1/2 HP for 2 to 4 people (medium) 10′-20′, 1HP over 4 people (large) 15′-25′.

Q) Why does my water pump keep coming on even when we haven’t turned on a tap or flushed a toilet etc?

A) This is an easy one. You have a leak. Unfortunately with cottages that usually means crawling around under the camp looking for the leak, then shutting off the water to make the necessary repairs. It’s never what you call “fun”

Q)Why can’t I soder my water pipe? I know a little about sodering, but I cannot get the connections to soder together.

A) There are lots of possible reasons but one of the most common reasons why amateur plumbers have trouble sodering is because there is still some water in the pipe. You have to get the pipe as clean and dry as possible before you will be able to soder and get it to stick. Sounds basic and it is, but it is a common problem.

Q)I have never sodered pipe before, is there much to it?

A) First of all, let me say this, I recommend not sodering, buy yourself some of the plastic fittings that allow you to join copper to plastic water pipe. I believe they are called “Push-N-Turn I love them….absolutely love them…They are cheap and easy to use. But…if you feel you must soder here are the basic steps.
1) You need a torch, a bottle of propane, flux, some sandpaper of steel wool, a small roll of soder and of course something to light the torch.
2) To be sodered, copper pipe needs to be clean. Use the steel wool or sandpaper to shine up the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting.
3)Using a toothbrush, put some plumbers paste or ‘flux’ on the pipe and inside the fitting.
4) Join the pipe to the fitting, (it should go in about 1/2 inch) and then using the propane torch, heat the two of them, gently touching the soder to the top of the joint, closer to the fitting than the pipe. When the pipe and fitting are hot enough the soder will melt and should run down around the joint, including going inside. Once that happens remove the heat. If it worked properly the soder will set up immediately and should be water tight.

Note: Some plumbers insist on cleaning the end of the pipe, heating it until the soder melts on it, then using a wet rag to quickly wipe the soder off while it is still hot, leaving about half an inch of pipe which is shiny with soder. Then when you join the two and go through steps one to four above you should get a little better fitting.

One other thing, if you are new to sodering for heavans sakes, practice a few times sodering some pipe before you crawl underneath a cottage and start trying to soder above your head while fighting off skunks and whatever other beasties live under your cottage. Also none of this should be construed to be plumbing advice, if you are unsure of what you are doing, get a plumber. Finally, think hard about using the “push-n-turn’ plastic fittings and pipe, it is a heck of a lot easier than sodering copper….really…I mean it….crawling under a cottage with a lit blow torch is a recipe for danger, fires can start easily with the dry wood of under there, not to mention leaves twigs etc. It is dangerous…I am going to say it again…dangerous…be careful…remember, “Push-N-Turn” no fire, no soder, no flux, just a couple of adjustable wrenches and a hack saw or pipe cutter to remove the leaking piece of pipe….

whew….I am done….

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4 thoughts on “Cottage Plumbing Tips”

  1. Hi,
    Glad to stumble your article.When considering a new log home, the issue that is most likely to cause apprehension is the mechanical system. Future log home buyers are often overwhelmed by the vague answers that they receive from salesmen and contractors alike. More than one future log home buyer has decided not to build their dream home simply because they were scared off by this one issue.
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  2. There is nothing tougher than soldering copper pipe with a little water in the line. As one heats the pipe it draws water toward it.
    Try stuffing the the pipe with a small piece of stale white bread. this will soak up any excess water until the pipe is successfully soldered.
    Don't forget to remove the filter screen from the faucet and run the water after the job is complete to clear the bread.


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