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TOPIC: Any Ideas?

Any Ideas? 10 years 5 months ago #41697

I have a new next door neighbor that moved into a foreclosure that sat vacant for about a year.  The plumbing system had been winterized, and when the water was turned back on my new neighbor complained that all his fixtures were clogged with a "black granular material"  that restricted most of the flow.

When I went over to check on what he was experiencing, I determined he had not yet opened the cold water valve to his hot water heater or turned it on yet, and that the home had a water conditioner with both inlet and outlet lines shut off and completely out of the plumbing loop. 

I did see what he meant by the black granules-they were everywhere, and I took a guess that the backflush on the conditioner might have malfunctioned with the previous owner and filled the lines with resin particles somehow.  Sometimes out here in our water district homes that sit for a while with the water turned off collect mineral deposits which are usually quickly flushed from the lines when the water is turned back on.  My neighbor, however, had been experiencing this for days on end.

I suggested he open both the cold water line and the drain valve on his hot water heater and see if we could flush all of his lines to remove the particulate.  The next day he said he had tried it, but nothing came out of the drain valve but he thinks he had solved the problem.  When I asked what he had done he told me that the problem seemed to take care of itself when he opened the cold water line to the water heater and turned it on.  I can't figure how this would solve anything, but he doesn't seem to be experiencing the issue anymore.  What am I missing here?  He also told me that he has no plans of using the conditioner and had not fiddled with either valve since moving in, so I am assuming it is still bypassed in the plumbing system.  Where did all of that particulate go, and why?

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Re: Any Ideas? 10 years 5 months ago #41738

Bob, do you think the resin beads could fuse together at the bottom of the hot water tank?  I'm not really sure what their composition is.

Otherwise I would wonder if the lines were about flushed out when your neighbor first used the plumbing. Maybe the conditioner ruptured prior to the system being winterized and he was getting the back end of the problem. Or perhaps he should check the valves at the conditioner and make sure they are closed all the way and not blocked partially open with beads.

Either that or somewhere in the cosmos the beads are all piled up on top of a bunch of mis-matched socks lost during dryer cycles throughout the world.

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Title: Home Inspection Peoria, IL
URL:  www.aaintegrityhomeinspection.com
Last Edit: by Cameron Anderson.

Re: Any Ideas? 10 years 5 months ago #41741

Hey Cameron-
I have some of those socks and never noticed any beads that came with them ???.  Maybe I should look again...

This is probably going to be one of those "you had to be there" kind of stories.  My neighbor took out the conditioner and replumbed the lines so the conditioner can no longer be the issue, and probably all I will ever get at this point is second-hand information which is hard to piece together.

At any rate, regardless of where the particulate went the only conclusion I can draw is that it must have come from the conditioner somehow.  I don't have a lot of experience with conditioners and don't know if one of their failure modes could cause them to pump resin throughout the whole plumbing system.  Doesn't sound too feasible, but there's lots of stuff I don't know about.

On another note about this same house, the previous owner called me over to look at their living room walls and ceiling--soot (which I later determined was likely due to a stove fire that occurred when she must have seriously toasted whatever she was attempting to cook)had deposited on the walls and ceiling in an exact pattern which reflected where the underlying studs were.  I had never seen anything like it before, but some of my ASHI colleagues had seen similar patterns in homes that burned lots of candles or inscence.  The owner had had some tests done and ruled out mold and any moisture behind the drywall, and the problem went away after they re-painted.  On this one I was able to remove a picture on their wall and you could see a patch of clean paint.  The soot evidently went everywhere, but it was more concentrated at the studs for some reason.  No one has ever been able to give me an explanation as to why this happens, but it evidently is more common than I thought.
I'll keep everybody posted on this house-I'm sure we're not done with all of its strangeness yet.

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Re: Any Ideas? 10 years 5 months ago #41742

Typically that is caused by very minor amounts of condensation in the winter months.  The wall is coldest at the framing members and condensates small amounts of moisture and dirt, dust, smoke and soot collect over a long period of time in those spots.  You can also see it at the eaves of the interior rooms below the ends of the trusses or ceiling joists.  I see it all the time here in illinois.

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Title: Home Inspection Peoria, IL
URL:  www.aaintegrityhomeinspection.com

Re: Any Ideas? 10 years 5 months ago #41743

Thanks, Cameron-
I went on the web and it seems to be much more common than I had imagined--Time for another of my "brief" comments--I'll call this one "Stud Ghosting" which seems to be what most inspectors call it.

PS-Most of you guys have forgotten more than I will ever know about inspections.  Keep up the good work. 

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Re: Any Ideas? 10 years 5 months ago #41744

The 'soot' issue is as you found online and is more commonly known as just "ghosting". Now that you have seen it, you will notice it in more and more homes. Often times, it is very faint and not so evident.

Two questions on your plumbing question...
1) What was the plumbing supply pipe 'material'? Copper? Plastic? Galvanized?
2) Did your neighbor remove and clean all the screens at all the fixtures?

Believe it or not, the problem is common on systems that are properly winterized (completely drained except for the traps). There is always a buildup of minerals in the pipes, and when the pipes are drained, they dryout to a sort of grain-of-salt size/texture. You also find this in the WH more often (in normal use) due to settling, thus the need for flushing out the tank annually for maintenance.

Most likely it is not related to the softner, but it should be checked prior to use if he decides to go back to using it. A few showers and a couple of loads of laundry may change his mind really quick.


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Jeffrey R. Jonas
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