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Originally published Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Cold tap running hot water needs prompt repair

Ed the Plumber: Master contractor/plumber Ed Del Grande answers questions about a "cold" tap running hot water and an apartment dweller's efforts to switch out a toilet.

HGTVPro.com

Q: Ed, thanks for your great column. We have a 12-year-old home and for the first time last August we started experiencing a problem with "hot" water coming out of our "cold" water tap! Eventually, it goes back to cold after running for a minute or two. How is this possible? Thanks for any information.

— Jim in California

A: Jim, you may have a problem that plumbers commonly refer to as "crossover," and you need to call a licensed plumber. Crossover is where somewhere in your plumbing system the hot- and cold-water lines may actually be connecting. When a hot and cold line meet, the hot water will usually travel or "crossover" into the cold-water line and now you can have two hot-water feed lines to a fixture. This can be very unsafe and needs to be corrected right away.

Common causes of crossover could be when someone may not follow local codes when connecting special equipment, hoses or fixtures to both hot and cold lines without the proper backflow valves or controls installed. A licensed master plumber should be able to find your problem. It's time for you to call one and get yourself out of hot water!

Q: I'm new to this country and a new fan of your column. In Europe we have wall-mounted toilets everywhere in homes and public places. In my N.Y. apartment building, the toilets are all floor-mounted. I miss my wall-hung toilet. Could you please explain to me what is required to change from a floor-mounted unit to a wall-mounted one on a sheet-rock wall in a multiunit apartment building? All the plumbers I contacted seem to think I'm wasting their time. Many thanks!

— S.J. in New York

A: Welcome to America. I'm sorry for the culture shock when it comes to all our floor-mounted toilets. I do understand your concern because, in general, wall-hung units are usually easier to keep clean than floor-mounted toilets since you can easily mop under the bowl. That's why in America most of the public restrooms do use wall-hung toilets. However, when it comes to residential structures, with the homeowner footing the bill and there is much less regular cleaning needed than in a public restroom, floor-mounted facilities have become the industry standard.

The main reason I see for this was to save money on home-building costs, and, cosmetically, floor-mounted toilets are "less commercial looking"than their public counterparts. But, I must admit that I have installed some very good-looking wall-hung units in several high-end homes over the years. Usually they are by special request — and the key words here are "high-end homes,"since the toilets themselves and the extra labor costs are not practical for most home-building budgets in the United States. I'm guessing that in Europe the industry standard may be wall-hung toilets, and that could be the reason why they are more common.

I know you are used to wall-hung facilities and can see why you would like to change from your present toilet. But you may not be able to change to a wall-hung toilet because you are presently in a multiunit apartment building. Because of costs, codes and building regulations — even if you can afford the job yourself — there may be too many hoops to jump through to get permission. I would start with your landlord or apartment manager to get some solid information.

Even if you had your own home, you may get second thoughts about this job because it will be a lot of work and it's unlikely that it will add much value to your home. Basically, the old toilet will have to be removed, then depending on the circumstances, parts of the wall and floor will have to be opened up and the old water and drain connections will have to be cut out. Then a special supporting harness needs to be installed in the wall according to local codes to hold the weight of the new wall-hung toilet. Once the harness is installed, new water and drain connections are run inside the wall according to the manufacturer's rough-in sheet. Finally, the wall and floor are patched back up and the new wall-hung toilet is bolted and installed to the harness connections.

Whew! I get tired just thinking about that job.

But the good thing about living in America is that if you work hard enough you can get anything you want. So good luck, good health — and I hope you eventually get your American dream.

Master Contractor/Plumber Ed Del Grande is known as the author of the book "Ed Del Grande's House Call" and for hosting TV shows on Scripps Networks and HGTVPro.com. For information visit eddelgrande.com or write eddelgrande@hgtvpro.com. Always consult local contractors and codes.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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