QUESTION: Our hot water storage tank recently leaked and was replaced by another stone-lined tank. My family and I noticed an unsettling change in the feel and texture of the water in the shower and sinks the evening of the installation.
My wife describes the water as feeling slimy or soft. I thought it felt more silky, such as diluted mineral oil or water that had portland cement residue mixed in with it. Nevertheless, the water was nice and hot.
What can you tell us about stone-lined hot water storage tanks? Will the residue rinse away with time and is it a health hazard?
ANSWER: The term stone-lined is really a misnomer. The storage tank is actually lined with concrete. Probably, the company that manufactured your unit uses a fine sand in the concrete mix, which has the texture of flour.
You were on the right track when you said the water had a cement residue feel to it. Any tank residue should flush out shortly. If it doesn't, contact the manufacturer.
There is nothing inherently unsafe with stone-lined hot water tanks, but if you are concerned, you can have the water tested to see if its mineral content exceeds the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standard for potable water.
How to Bypass Water Softener to Get Ice
Q: We have a water softener in our house. Unfortunately, it adds a lot of salt to our water. For health reasons, we don't want to drink this water because we are on low-sodium diets. As a result, we buy bottled water for drinking and cooking. However, we can't use our refrigerator's ice maker because it uses the softened water. Is there a way to bypass this and pipe in unsoftened water?
A: Cut into the water supply line before the softener and install a Tee or Y fitting. Run a one-half-inch diameter copper pipe from this fitting to the back of the refrigerator. You can then tap into this pipe and run a copper tube to your ice maker.
Redo Entire Wall to Enclose Pass-Through
Q: I recently installed a central heating system in my home. The old heaters, measuring 20-by-60 inches, are mounted back-to-back in the wall between rooms. Removing these units will leave a huge pass-through between rooms. I want to frame out the openings and repair the walls so the patch won't be noticeable. Should I use lath and plaster or should I try to make a flush patch with wallboard?
A: If you want a perfectly smooth wall, you should cover the entire wall--from corner to corner--with wallboard. It's very difficult to achieve perfection with a patch. Depending on how light strikes the wall, you will see ripple shadows at the patched joints.
But, if you intend to hang pictures on this wall or cover it with a textured paint or wallpaper, patching would be adequate. Because of the size of the opening, filling it with wallboard would be best.
Repairing a Stress Crack in Concrete
Q: There's a wide stress crack running diagonally across my patio. Can I patch it or must I replace the concrete?
A: For cracks larger than one-eighth inch wide, undercut the sides with a cold chisel. Clean out and soak the crack. Use a cement-sand patching mix like Sakrete or a vinyl polymer patching compound.
Fill the crack and allow the material to set about 15 minutes, then smooth with a trowel, feathering the edges. If the patching material is a cement-sand mix, keep it covered with plastic for about five days, moistening it occasionally.