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The Inside Outside Guys ~ Phantom Flushes, Birds Seeking Roughage, and More!

Mar 14, 2023

From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, May 25, 2023 ~ The Guys really enjoy the email questions we receive every day.

Very often, the issues are ones likely to be experienced by many of our listeners, so it is appropriate to put the answers together for all to see and read.

Q. I swear we have ghosts! In the middle of the night, I hear our downstairs toilet flush when I know for a fact there is no one else in the 60-year-old house. We are also on a well and our water softener has black stuff in it. What could this possibly be?

A. You don't need to conduct an exorcism. What you probably do need is a good well person to check out the bottom or point of the well and a trustworthy plumber like Shelby Mechanical in Shelby Township or Water Work Plumbing in Ferndale.


May 25, 2023 ~ Chuck "The Inside Guy" Breidenstein and Ken "The Outside Guy" Calverly offer the knowledge and resources you need to make the home of your dreams a reality. Catch them every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon on 760 WJR.


Private wells draw your water from ever changing underground rivers. As the aquifer rises and lowers over time, you may also experience some deterioration of the screen at the bottom of the pipe that allows particulate to be pumped up with the water — and into your pipes and softener.

An experienced well person can often take care of this by replacing the point and screen and it likely will improve water flow.

That same issue might be the cause of your phantom flush. Small particles may allow a trickle of water to leak from the toilet tank into the bowl. When the water in the bowl reaches a certain level, it will push down through the drain and the valve in the tank will open to refill. Not an actual flush, but it sure sounds like it!

A professional plumber can check this out. It may simply require replacement of the rubber flapper that keeps water in the tank until it is raised during a flush.

Q, Our bedroom has two outside walls, one of which is the lower edge of the roof below the attic where our gutters are attached. Early in the morning I hear all kinds of commotion above my head. I have checked the attic and there is no evidence of any critters in residence. What's going on?

A. The granules that create the weather protection and color on your shingles do end up in your gutters and rain is rarely enough to wash them completely out.

What you likely have is birds in the gutters consuming that roughage. Birds need such grit to help break down and digest their food.

Some birders provide soluble grit for their feathered friends made from ground oyster shells.

Q. We have lived in this house for 35 years. It has a block basement foundation that has stood up well over the years; except for one thing. When I apply masonry paint, which is quite expensive by the way, I always get bubbles in the paint over time even though I follow all the guidelines for application. What the heck is going on?

A. Concrete masonry units, or cement blocks, were the common foundation material for several decades in residential construction.

They were often coated with tar prior to back filling earth around the walls, but this tar can break down over time and allow moisture to move from the damp soil outside the basement to the space under the house.

Many masonry paints do not breathe, so moisture building up behind the cured paint will cause it to bubble or push off the wall.

If you are looking to brighten up the space, but know you have an ongoing moisture issue, it is better to coat with a breathable product that does not seal in moisture.

Q. We moved into a 50-year-old house this past year. The city water pressure in most faucets is quite low even though we have great flow through the hose from the outside spigot. What gives?

A. If the house has good pressure on one point of use, it likely is a piping issue where the pipes have slowly become clogged with minerals in the water.

This will diminish flow. You could also have some similar issues with the old faucets in the home.

We would suggest a plumber "re-pipe" the home using a PEX type plastic pipe. They can even add an additional outside hose bib to accommodate your yardwork.

Keep the questions coming and remember you can find trustworthy professionals at


For housing advice and more, listen to "The Inside Outside Guys" every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact them at

From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein DETROIT, May 25, 2023 Q A. Shelby Mechanical Shelby Township Water Work Plumbing Ferndale PODCAST: May 25, 2023 Chuck "The Inside Guy" Breidenstein Ken "The Outside Guy" Calverly 760 WJR (CONTINUED) Q, A. Q. A. Q. A. The Inside Outside Guys