The installation of a dishwasher is not as complicated as it looks.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a multi-unit apartment building with a 100-gallon water heater that serves all the residents. The problem is that only the nearest units to the water heater gets any hot water. The units at the other end of the building only get cold water or it takes a long time to get hot water. The heater seems to be working and producing hot water. How do I solve this dilemma?


Dear David:

Sounds like your circulation pump is not working properly. Calcium or hard water deposits in the water heater and lines may also aggravate this problem. The circulation pump’s job is to bring hot water to all the units at the same time. When the pump is not working or is clogged, the hot water will take much longer to get to the units furthest away from the heater. The first step is to determine if the pump is working. Locate the pump near the water heater, check that the motor is plugged into an electrical outlet. Next, touch the water lines on either side of the pump and determine the temperature. If it is working properly, the lines should be warm or cool to the touch, not hot. If the pipes are hot or very hot to the touch, the pump is not working properly.

If the pump does not spin when plugged in, it may need to be replaced. If the pump motor is working, the pump may be clogged with debris. Remove the pump and clear out the lines. Take care to clean the line from the pump to the water heater. This is generally the problem. While you have things apart, this is a good time to clean out the calcium deposits in the water heater. These deposits may have caused the clog in the first place. Water heater clean outs should be done at least once a year depending on how hard your incoming water is.

Check with your water department, to determine the hardness of the water in your area. If the calcium buildup continues to be a problem; consider adding a water softener to your system.

Dear Maintenance Men:

One of my residents is requesting a grab bar for the shower/tub. What do I need to get and how do I install it safely?


Dear Bob:

This is a subject that is surfacing more and more as our residents are getting older. The use of handrails and safety bars help provide stability and extra support required by the elderly and people with limited mobility. Shower and bathroom safety grab bars are available in a wide variety of configurations, colors and finishes. The most common is the stainless steel or chrome finish. Installation of grab bars must be done securely. The bars must be able to support a dead weight pull of 250 pounds. The preferred method is to bolt directly into the wall studs. This is not always practical, as the stud might not line up were they are needed.

Grab bars can be mounted vertically or at an angle to match wall stud spacing. Horizontal installation can be difficult because stud spacing and bar size do not always match. If finding studs becomes a problem, alternate installation methods are available. If your walls are in good condition and have not been compromised by water intrusion, you may use large toggle bolts or if you have access to the back side of the shower or bath walls, insert a backer plate or add a new stud for an anchor point. Safety grab bars can be found at any local hardware store.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I need to replace a dishwasher and I am little intimidated by the process. Can you walk me through the installation procedure?


Dear Mac:

The installation of a dishwasher is not as complicated as it looks. Turn off the electricity leading to the machine. Turn off the water at the main shutoff. If your dishwasher site is not pre-plumbed with a separate water valve, remove the existing hot water angle stop valve under the sink and install a double threaded angle stop/shutoff valve under the kitchen sink. Use a stainless steel braided flex water line to hook up to the dishwasher. You may need to buy a fitting to screw into your dishwasher to accept the hose. Most new machines don’t come with the fitting, or remove the existing fitting from the old dishwasher.

Next, connect the drain line from the dishwasher pump motor outlet to the garbage disposer inlet. (Don’t forget to remove the “knock-out” in the garbage disposal inlet.) It is important to install an “Air Gap” between the dishwasher and the garbage disposal. The air gap is installed next the faucet and stops the water from draining back into the dishwasher by siphon action. If you are unable to install a true air gap device, loop your drain line over the dishwasher before hooking up to the garbage disposal. Both methods will prevent debris from sucking back into the machine.

Look for the small electrical box under the dishwasher, remove the cover and pull out the wires. Connect your wires or pig tail to the machine (a “Pig Tail” is a wire with a plug on one end and bare wires on the other end). Be sure to hook up the Green ground wire for safety. Carefully push your machine under the counter. Once in place, adjust the legs by turning them in or out to level the machine. There should be two tabs at the front top of the dishwasher, use these to secure the machine to the counter top with screws. Now turn on your water and electricity and test your dishwasher and check for leaks.

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!! If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men” column, please send in your questions to:

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., at 714-956-8371. Frank Alvarez is a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at For more info please go to: Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.