Dear Barry,

Our family has an ongoing problem with shower temperature. Whenever someone takes a shower, everyone else must avoid using the plumbing. Flushing toilets, turning on faucets, doing laundry or washing dishes will make the shower flow turn cold. As a family of six, we take a lot of showers, so the inconvenience occurs frequently. The house is less than 25 years old; not old enough to need repiping (I hope). What could be causing this, and what can be done to fix it? –Gerald

Dear Gerald,

There are two common causes for shower temperature fluctuations when other plumbing fixtures are used: The first of these involves old, rusted, galvanized steel pipes. In your case, this would be unlikely because galvanized piping is typically found in much older homes.

In newer homes, the most common cause of shower fluctuation is water-saver showerheads. These heads contain small devices called flow restrictors. When other fixtures in the house are turned on, the water flow takes the path of least resistance. It’s easier for the water to flow through a wide-open spout than through the small hole in a water-saver showerhead. Therefore, the balance of hot and cold water at the shower is altered until the other fixture is turned off. Fortunately, there is a very simple solution: Just remove the flow restrictor from each of the showerheads. This can be done by unscrewing the head from the supply pipe and extracting the piece of hardware that has a small hole in the center. Hopefully, this will solve your family’s shower temperature problem.

The one argument against this solution involves the violation of water conservation requirements. To offset this negative effect, you can install a shutoff valve on your showerhead. This will enable you to turn off the water while applying soap and resume the flow when rinsing, thereby conserving water by alternate means.

Dear Barry,

The home I’m buying turned out to be in a flood zone. This was not disclosed by the real estate agent or the home inspector. It became known only when the mortgage company required flood insurance. Shouldn’t home inspectors determine whether a property is located in a flood zone or a FEMA-designated flood hazard area? –Jim

Dear Jim,

A determination of flood zone status is not within the scope of a home inspection. The purpose of an inspection is to report conditions that are visible and accessible at the time of the inspection and that involve the buildings and immediate surrounding areas. Not included are geological aspects of the property or other conditions that would require the expertise of an engineer.

Some real estate agents might have knowledge of flood zone locations from prior transactions, but such disclosure is not within their area of professional expertise. A prudent practice would be to advise all buyers to obtain flood information from the municipal engineering department.

Fortunately, your mortgage company alerted you to flood zone concerns prior to completing the purchase. This enabled you to consider the matter before closing escrow.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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