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Plumbing in the Home/toilet no longer flushes as strongly as before


QUESTION: Hello, Thomas Ambler.  I have a home built in the late 40's, and I think the toilet is the original that came with the house.  However, I've lived here 13 years, and this toilet has always flushed strong, eliminating most "loads" with one flush.  Now it is taking me two flushes to get the water to completely exit the bowl, even with moderate-size loads.  This toilet has needed a few repairs over the years, but not for this problem.  I have no clue what could be causing it, but I'm afraid I may find that I have an underground drainage problem, and may end up having to dig up half the yard from the street to the house.  Before I call a plumber here in Memphis, I'd like to know the probabilities of what is causing the problem.  Thanks so much.

ANSWER: Dear Lana,

   The most likely cause of a poor flush is the water flow from the tank to the bowl.  Older toilets require between 3 to 5 gallons to flush properly.  If the water level is good, then it might be scaling or mineral buildup in the holes and openings in the toilet bowl.  Finally, a blockage or partial blockage could cause the toilet to not flush properly.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you.  By blockage or partial blockage, are you referring to something in the pipes that drain the toilet under the house and connect with the city's sewage system?  If that is what you are referring to, does that mean that I might have to have all that dug up in order to clear the blockage?

Dear Lana,

   No, if it is a blockage in the pipes, it simply needs to be cleaned out.  You could use a company such as roto-rooter or most plumbers to do the job.  But it still could be any of the three options that I mentioned earlier... a blockage is only one possibility.  

   As an expert, I could only determine which cause it was by directly examining the problem.

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Thomas Ambler


I am experienced at troubleshooting and solving all types of plumbing problems. Issues related to specific manufacturers fixtures and specifications though are beyond my field of expertise. I have dealt with problems in both rural and urban areas, and with water supply and drainage systems. Plumbing issues can be very obscure... such as odors, stains or occasional seepage. I have even had to chase rats from a customer's sewer line.


I have 25 years experience dealing with plumbing systems (which also includes hot water and steam heating systems). My main expertise is in diagnosing and solving problems. I have worked in construction and installation of new systems but do not regard myself as an expert in that area.

Asbury Park Press, Seattle Times, Denver Post.

I completed high school and one year of college. I served 4 years in the Marine Corps and have education in electronic and electrical troubleshooting and repair. I have attended classes on installing and repair of oil burners, and I have EPA universal certification for air conditioning and refrigeration. I am now enrolled as a full-time student at Everest college to re-train for a new career. Any donations of financial support would be greatly appreciated.

Past/Present Clients
All of Denny's Restaurants in NJ, Several Burger King stores, I have done work at two different homes for Bruce Springsteen. I have also worked for Jim Johnson (of J&J) and his family, Whitney Houston, Steve Forbes and many others.

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