Fundamentally, all cisterns are alike in principle. A large hollow metal sphere (the float) is attached to a metal arm near the top of a cistern, controlling the valve. When the water is low, as after the the tank has been emptied by pulling the chain in a water closet, the float sinks, and automatically opens the valve, releasing the water, and as the latter rises in the tank, the ball-float rises with it, gradually closing the valve.
If the water in the cistern continues to drip perpetually, the valve is probably wrong. Climb up to the cistern, empty the tank, but hold the metal arm so that the tap remains closed—if water still drips from the closed valve, it must be at fault. Turn off the water at the main. Pull out the cotter pin and so release the arm. A little brass collar is now revealed. It has a projecting rim around the top of the barrel, and in it is a plug of rubber. Push out this plug, and fit a new piece cut from a square of ordinary india-rubber. Return the arm to its bearings and replace the cotter pin.
If the cistern still overflows, the ball may be causing trouble. Being made of thin metal, it is apt to become perforated, when it will get water-logged in time. Unship the arm as before, and shake the ball; if water has found its way in, it will be heard swishing about within. Shake out the water, and if the hole is too small to allow it to run away, prick a second and larger hole. When the ball is empty solder up the place according to instructions given for repairing kettles.
When neither the ball nor the valve are wrong, the arm may be the culprit. Bend it slightly, so that when the ball is at its maximum height the valve is shut.
Sometimes water overflows because the valve remains open when the ball has risen to the cistern lid. The ball wants to go higher but cannot; therefore, remove the lid until an opportunity can be found for adjusting the arm.
If a drain is suspected of leaking, an easy test is to take into the room a corked bottle of peppermint essence and a pail of boiling water. Close the door and window, and pour the peppermint into the drain, following it up with boiling water. Slip out of the room, closing the door after you, and hasten to the part of the house where the bad smell is suspected: search with the nose for the scent of peppermint. If there is the slightest smell of essence, there is something wrong somewhere. Another plan is to syphon out the water from the trap, and place powdered sulphur wrapped in paraffin-soaked paper down the drain; set fire to the paper, and a pungent smell will be given off which will easily be detected.
Repairs to drains cannot be carried out single-handed, and many local authorities would refuse to pass the amateur’s work, so he is advised not to attempt it.
Never attempt to repair serious defects in gas fittings unless qualified to do the work. Should a bad leak arise, cut off the gas at the meter, open all doors and windows, put out all naked lights, etc., and send for a gasfitter at once.
There is, however, no reasor why the amateur should call in a skilled man to put little matters right. To repair a slight leak, unravel a piece of string, and roll it into a loose twist with a little white lead. Bind the defect with this and finish off the repair with a coat of stiff oil paint. If white lead is not at hand, scrape >ut the leavings from a recently used paint can and proceed as before. Putty wrapped round a leak is a good temporary expedient and so is a dab of plasticine.
A fruitful source of trouble is the old-fashioned gaselier, which may still exist in some houses. It consists of two tubes, one of which fits inside the other in such a way that the burners can be brought to different levels. The tubes are sealed with water, which evaporates gradually. If no care is taken to see that the liquid is replenished occasionally, a time comes when the gas is able to bubble out and cause an explosion. To ensure against such accidents, the tubes should be recharged periodically, and the surface of the water covered with a little sweet oil to retard evaporation.
The first main thing is to locate its exact position, then shut off the water at the main or stop the flow from the cistern, whichever applies. The latter may be done by raising the arm of the ball cock, and keeping it in position with a piece of string.
When the pipe is empty, it should be dried thoroughly. Then (a) In the case of a lead pipe, try to solder the hole. When the split is very small, take a new penny, and, with the sharp edge try to scrape up a little of the surrounding lead, then burr it over the crack, (b) In the case of iron pipes, or when the above suggestions have failed with lead pipes, heat all round the split with a flat iron, then apply a paste made of one part of shellac and three parts of methylated spirit.
Put this on the split while the pipe is still hot, then bind the part with a cloth bandage. When two or three thicknesses of the ‘oth have been wound round, lint them with the paste, finish e winding, and coat the whole ith some more paste, made tinner by adding plenty of methylated pirit. Do not turn on the water until the cement has become quite hard, which, however, will not be long. If necessary, strap the bandage in position with some adhesive plaster or electrician’s tape.
When the sink water will not flow away, place a vacuum cup over the outlet grating and depress and release the rubber dome half a dozen times in quick succession. Not infrequently a gurgling noise will follow and the water will rapidly flow away.
Failing this, try a long piece of flexible cane. How it should be thrust down the pipe depends on the course followed by the latter. Usually, there is a U-shaped bend in it somewhere, and, naturally, the cane cannot be expected to adapt itself sufficiently to travel through to the outside sink. By forcing it down to the bend from the inside, and forcing it up to the bend from the outside, you will usually make a passage for the water. In thrusting the cane into the pipe, care must be taken not to use too much force or a split pipe may result.
Another plan is to buy a rubber plug to fit tightly into the zinc exit. In the centre a hole is bored and a short length of lead pipe is worked into the hole. A piece of hose is attached, at one end, to the lead pipe, and at the other to the water tap. When all the connections are properly made, the tap is turned on fully and allowed to run for a few minutes. The force of the water will clear away almost anything of a foreign nature.
As a last resort, go to the lowest part of the U-shaped bend in the pipe ; a small metal cap is usually found there. Put a pail under the bend and unscrew the cap. It will be difficult to remove, because the thread is always given a smear of red lead before being wound up, and you must do the same on returning it. As soon as the cap is removed, a jet of water will fall into the pail. When no more runs out, examine the inside of the U-bend, and here, in all probability, will be found the matter that is blocking the pipe. If the flexible cane is now used, there is no reason why the whole run of the piping should not be cleansed.