Been on your roof lately?


The roof is probably the last place you will inspect at your house. To check it means climbing a tall ladder, if you have one. Then you have to stand in the sun and walk all over it looking for issues and then deciding if the issues need to be addressed immediately or they can wait a while. If the answer is immediately, you then have to decide if you will do it your self or hire someone. As a result, roofs here tend to be inspected,after there are problems, that could have been prevented. Usually the issues are discovered after it rains and water finds it way into your house. We were recently asked, to look at a roof of a house, that a customer had just purchased. It might have been a good idea, to have spent the money on a pre-purchase inspection. They knew the roof was leaking from the stains inside, but the assumption was it just needed to be sealed. As soon as we stepped on the roof, we knew there was a little more to be done than that.


The first thing that stood out, was the centre portion of the roof formed a shallow fully enclosed lower area like a pool, that only had one small drain, which is just out of view in the lower right picture. Then note the palm debris, centre left of the picture. As soon as there is heavy rain the debris will wash to the hole and plug the only drain on the roof. The shallow pool will fill with water. The area is roughly 20 feet x 20 feet and is 8 inches deep on average it will trap 2400 gallons of water which is roughly 24,000 pounds. Thats like having 5 cars parked over your living room. Obviously better drainage is needed. That amount of weight in one area will cause the roof to flex and cracks will form. In addition to make maters worse, there were areas where the concrete had crumbled and formed shallow hollows, which would allow more water to seep in.


Several quick repairs had been done to fill the cracks, but the surface had become porous and you can see an example of the cement failing in several spots in the lower right, above

Then next thing we noticed was an attempt to put a cement cap over a joint between rooms, It might have worked if they had taken the time to remove the rebar, which was silently corroding out of sight and fracturing the wall below.20160423_125227_resized_1

Sections of the roof shown below, had never been finished properly with the final coat, this area was in poor condition and extremely porous


As a result, it is not as simple as adding a quick coat of impermeable coating. This particular roof, needs to have larger drains added. It needs to be completely chipped patched and resurfaced to ensure it drains in the right direction. Then it should be sealed with a quality sealer. It is not a 2 minute fix and is not cheap either.

Modern alternatives to block buildings

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Anyone familiar with construction techniques in the Yucatan or other parts of Mexico, has seen the familiar block buildings. Block is easy to work with and makes a reasonably strong structure, if several variables are taken into consideration. A block structure is only as strong, as the mortar bonding the blocks together and the traditional Viga and Bovedilla roofs are extremely heavy. The other main issue with block construction is heat transfer, as typical block buildings here, do not have any insulation. I have done some testing with a laser temperature gun. On average a block wall facing the Yucatan sun, is approximately 4 degrees C warmer, than a wall not in the sun. That is a very large difference, if you are using A/C in the evening to cool a bedroom. Not only does the A/C have to overcome the ambient air temperature, but it also has to counter the effects of the Blocks radiating heat into the room.

There are more modern alternatives to block buildings and one of them is structural panels. Structural panels are an interlinked welded zigzag of wire, supporting a styrofoam core. These types of panels have been used for constructing multi story hotels and are hurricane resistant, they are that strong.

Some of the benefits of these types of panels is they are light weight, facilitate a faster build, but also very important is they insulate due to the styrofoam core. The panels come in various thicknesses and sizes, so that they can load a second or more stories or just be the wall for a simple single story home. Structural panels also come especially formed to be roof panels, so the suns energy is not easily transferred to the inside of your home. This also means cool air from your A/C unit does not strike a sun heated surface and warm up. It is the house version of a styrofoam cooler.

We have been working on several projects with the manufacturers tech advisor, using these structural panels.. This has offered our clients a lightweight and insulated option for the addition of second stories, as well as the option to build entirely out of the panels for a thermally efficient home.

An unsolicited email

Normally we don’t post testimonials, as it is common to post nice comments from friends or just make them up. But this is direct from customers we worked for, renovating a house, including putting a pool on the roof, all via long distance emails. The project is discussed here

Morning Steve

I tried to post on your website but couldn’t.  Thought you could cut and paste this.

We would like to thank Steve and Fernando and the whole crew for the amazing job they have done.  The thought of renovating in a foreign country was a daunting one.  We had a vision and they managed to accomplish it and more. We are thrilled with the workmanship, help and generosity that we received from them.  The constant updates and communication enabled us to feel assured that things were going to be completed as we wanted.  After seeing the final result we were even more impressed. Thanks guys.

Dave and Elaine

Sent from my iPad

Ever look inside your Pipes ?

If you have a squeamish stomach, stop reading here. But maybe your stomach gets upset from the water in your home. I realize most people don’t drink house water in the Yucatan or the rest of Mexico, for that matter. But a lot of people do brush teeth in it, bet you won’t when you see the pictures.

Our customer who does not live here full time and rents the property occasionally, called and asked us to look at his toilet as it wasn’t working. Well we took our plumber to take a look and boy were we surprised. Not only were they plugged with saro, but also full of green/black algae and slime.


Remember 1/2 the diameter results in 1/4 of the flow.

This is a problem with pipes not being used often and once you have it this bad, there is really no way to clean them out. So new plumbing is required. There are several systems available to stop the saro from forming, but the algae is a different issue and a problem in stagnant water. You can kill it with a large dose of chlorine in your tinaco, but then the dead stuff gets washed down stream and plugs any sharp bend in the pipe and also all your sink filters. This continues to happen for a long period of time, so replacement is usually easier. But obviously more costly.


Concrete always cracks

We often, hear complaints from a variety of sources, saying the concrete on counters, walls or floors has cracked. The answer is yes, it cracks and in most cases it cannot be helped. If for example, you raise a block wall from 4 feet to 6 feet, the majority of the time a crack will develop between the new and old blocks. The “why” is simple, expansion and contract at different rates between the new and the old. When a new section is added the new mortar will not be exactly the same as the old and the new blocks will be slightly different in composition as well. The results in one thing, cracking. But rather that go further in explaining the reasons, this information courtesy of The Concrete Foundations Association of America, explains it perfectly.

Concrete Cracking


A common adage is that there are two guarantees with concrete. One, it will get hard and two, it will crack. Cracking is a frequent cause of complaints in the concrete industry. The Concrete Foundations Association has produced a new flyer to help contractors educate their customers about the causes of cracks and when they should be a concern. A more detailed explanation of cracking is presented in this article.

Cracking can be the result of one or a combination of factors such as drying shrinkage, thermal contraction, restraint (external or internal) to shortening, subgrade settlement, and applied loads. Cracking can not be prevented but it can be significantly reduced or controlled when the causes are taken into account and preventative steps are taken.

Another problem associated with cracking is public perception. Cracks can be unsightly but many consumers feel that if a crack develops in their wall or floor that the product has failed. In the case of a wall, if a crack is not structural, is not too wide (the acceptable crack of a crack depends on who you ask and ranges from 1/16” to 1/4”) and is not leaking water, it should be considered acceptable. It is in the best interest of you, the wall contractor, to educate your customers that the wall will crack and when it should be a concern to them.

Cracks that occur before hardening usually are the result of settlement within the concrete mass, or shrinkage of the surface (plastic-shrinkage cracks) caused by loss of water while the concrete is still plastic.

Settlement cracks may develop over embedded items, such as reinforcing steel, or adjacent to forms or hardened concrete as the concrete settles or subsides. Settlement cracking results from insufficient consolidation (vibration), high slumps (overly wet concrete), or a lack of adequate cover over embedded items.

Plastic-shrinkage cracks are most common in slabs and are relatively short cracks that may occur before final finishing on days when wind, a low humidity, and a high temperature occur. Surface moisture evaporates faster than it can be replaced by rising bleed water, causing the surface to shrink more than the interior concrete. As the interior concrete restrains shrinkage of the surface concrete, stresses can develop that exceed the concrete’s tensile strength, resulting in surface cracks. Plastic-shrinkage cracks are of varying lengths spaced from a few centimeters (inches) up to 3 m (10 ft) apart and often penetrate to mid-depth of a slab.

Cracks that occur after hardening usually are the result of drying shrinkage, thermal contraction, or subgrade settlement. While drying, hardened concrete will shrink about 1/16 in. in 10 ft of length. One method to accommodate this shrinkage and control the location of cracks is to place construction joints at regular intervals. For example, joints can be constructed to force cracks to occur in places where they are inconspicuous or predictable. Horizontal reinforcement steel can be installed to reduce the number of cracks or prevent those that do occur from opening too wide.

The major factor influencing the drying shrinkage properties of concrete is the total water content of the concrete. As the water content increases, the amount of shrinkage increases proportionally. Large increases in the sand content and significant reductions in the size of the coarse aggregate increase shrinkage because total water is increased and because smaller size coarse aggregates provide less internal restraint to shrinkage. Use of high-shrinkage aggregates and calcium chloride admixtures also increases shrinkage. Within the range of practical concrete mixes – 470 to 750 lb/yd3 (5- to 8-bag mixes) cement content – increases in cement content have little to no effect on shrinkage as long as the water content is not increased significantly.

Concrete has a coefficient of thermal expansion and contraction of about 5.5 x 10-6 per °F. Concrete placed during hot midday temperatures will contract as it cools during the night. A 40°F drop in temperature between day and night-not uncommon in some areas-would cause about 0.03 in. of contraction in a 10-ft length of concrete, sufficient to cause cracking if the concrete is restrained. Thermal expansion can also cause cracking.

Structural cracks in residential foundations usually result from settlement or horizontal loading. Most (but not all) structural cracks resulting from applied loads are nearly horizontal (parallel to the floor) and occur 16” to 48” from the top of the wall. They are much more prevalent concrete block construction. They can be brought about by hydrostatic pressure or heavy equipment next to the foundation.

Diagonal cracks that extend nearly the full height of the wall are often an indication of settlement. In either of the above conditions, an engineer should be consulted. Diagonal cracks emanating from the corner of windows and other openings are called reentrant cracks and are usually the result of stress build-up at the corner. Diagonal reinforcement at the corner of openings can reduce the instance of crack formation and will keep the cracks narrow.

It’s time again, Hurricane season starts June 1 in the Atlantic

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Todays weather forecast, shows the first named storm of the Pacific season and it is predicted to be a hurricane. We are lucky to be on the Atlantic side, but no one one wants to have a hurricane visit their area, but they are a fact of life in the tropics. Traditionally, the North coast of the Yucatan has generally been a safe place to be. Due to the geography of the area, which tends to see storms follow the Yucatan channel or lose strength as they cross land. However, there have been a few notable exceptions such as Glibert and Isadora, that did huge amounts of damage. The one good thing about hurricanes is you can see them coming for days and have lots of time to activate your plans. You do have a plan don’t you?  Here in Mexico, once a storm reaches certain proportions and is predicted to hit this area, on the North Coast of the Yucatan, an evacuation order will be given. Once given, it is mandatory that you leave and foolish or fatal if you don’t. You need to do your own homework, to find out where the closest evacuation shelters are and make sure you know how to get to them. For people who have pets, the problem becomes much more difficult, as the shelters do not allow pets. If you are a pet owner , you will need an alternate shelter for you and your pets. Now is the time to canvas friends, to see if they will allow you to bring your pets with you, in the event of an emergency. Remember, you may be stuck there for a week or more, under not so nice conditions, so tempers of both you and your pets might get frayed.

When a hurricane strikes it is not just a case of high wind. Hurricanes also bring massive amounts of moisture and humidity levels skyrocket. It could be 35+ degrees and 100% humidity for days on end, with no electricity for fans or A/C. Anything you get wet, will never ever dry, clothes, pills, papers, NOTHING! Plus mould and mildew will run rampant if unchecked. It will not be pleasant, to spend a week or more in a damp environment, exposed to mosquito’s nightly, along with your wet dogs. The only way to keep your sanity is to be absolutely prepared for the worst and make sure you have a way to keep everything as dry as possible. If you have an alternate place to stay inland and you have a generator. Make sure you have extension cords and spare fuel, also fill your cars gas tank and have a syphon hose. A modern car has 45 or so litres of fuel which can power a small generator for 4 or 5 days of reasonable use. So having a syphon hose handy is a good idea.

Below is a list of suggested items to have handy in the event that a hurricane does arrive. But, even if you head to a friends house or shelter and then return home, you will still need to be prepared. You may be with out power for a long period, if transmission lines are down and there is a good chance your beach home and more likely its contents maybe substantially damaged. Remember, no power means , no city water and fuel stations can’t pump gas, stores won’t have cold storage, etc. Like the Boy Scouts say “Be prepared”.

Here are recommendations on what to do before a storm approaches:

— Use hurricane shutters or board up windows and doors with 5/8 inch plywood. Make them now before you need them!

— Bring outside items in if they could be picked up by the wind, place screws in your tinaco lid, as they tend to fly away.

— Turn the refrigerator to its coldest setting in case power goes off. Use a cooler to keep from opening the doors on the freezer or refrigerator.

— Make sure your cisterna and Tinaco are full and you have 5 or more Garafons of water available.

— Make sure your vehicles fuel tanks are full and you have spare fuel for a generator, also have a siphon hose

— Have an evacuation plan.

— Learn the location of the nearest shelter or nearest pet-friendly shelter. This is a big issue for pet owners in the beach areas.

— Store important documents — passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, deeds — in a watertight container.

— Have a current inventory of household property.

— Leave a note to say where you are going, IN SPANISH!

— Contact relatives and let then know you maybe out of touch for a week or more.

— Unplug small appliances and electronics before you leave.

— If possible, turn off the electricity, gas and water for your residence.

Here is a list of handy supplies:

— A seven-day supply of water, a minimum of one gallon per person per day.

— Three days of food, with suggested items including: canned meats, canned or dried fruits, canned vegetables, canned juice, peanut butter, jelly, salt-free crackers, energy/protein bars, trail mix/nuts, dry cereal, cookies or other comfort food.

— A can opener and eating utensils

— Flashlight(s) and candles.

— A battery-powered radio.

— Extra batteries.

— A first aid kit, including latex gloves; sterile dressings; soap/cleaning agent; antibiotic ointment; burn ointment; adhesive bandages in small, medium and large sizes; eye wash; a thermometer; aspirin/pain reliever; anti-diarrhea tablets; antacids; laxatives; small scissors; tweezers; petroleum jelly.

— A seven-day supply of personal medications, in waterproof containers.

— A multipurpose tool, with pliers and a screwdriver.

— Cell phones and chargers, laptops are handy if the Wifi in Merida’s parks is still up and running.

— Contact information for the family.

— A hammock setup, for each person, as a bed is almost useless in high humidity and will never dry.

— Extra cash, ATM’s don’t work if the power is off

— Mosquito netting or mosquito coils

— A map of the area, as familiar routes my be closed due to downed trees or other debris.

— Pet supplies.

— Wet wipes, showers may not be an option.

— Insect repellent.

— Rain gear.

— Duct tape.

— An extra set of house keys.

— An extra set of car keys.

— Household bleach, lots of it.

— Toilet paper in zip lock bags or the handy single wrapped Costco rolls.

— Paper cups, plates and paper towels.

— DRY, Charcoal and matches, if you have a portable grill. But only use it outside.

Tinacos, Cisterns and city water.

imgresWe often get calls from customers, that go something like this. “My tinaco is over flowing”, “My tinaco is dry” “do I need a cistern” or “the city water is not constant and does not fill my cistern or tinaco”. It is obvious that a lot of people in the Yucatan do not understand how their water systems work.

The tinaco is a staple in almost every home in the Yucatan. A tinaco is a large roof top mounted tank, that gets filled with water. How that water gets to the roof tank, is often problematic. In addition to the roof top tank, a lot of homes have a cisterna or ground level tank to accept city water. This article, is meant for those hooked to a source of city water. So I will use Merida as an example.

Merida has a water system supplied by JAPAY, JAPAY supplies low pressure and low volume water. The key here is low pressure. A lot of people call us and ask, why does my roof top tinaco not fill during the day. Or the equivalent at the beach is, why do I have little or flow, during Semana Santa. The answer to both is supply and demand. Lets look at the Merida example, for the most part city water fills your tinaco, but some times it does not fill. The answer is simple. For arguments sake, it takes 10 pounds of pressure (PSI) to lift the water to your rooftop tinaco. Anything less and it will not fill the tank. Over night most people are asleep and businesses are closed. So water demand is low and pressure is higher than 10 PSI. As a result your tank fills. But, during the day maybe your neighbour is a laundromat and they are upstream on the waterline from you. They get the water before you and your pressure drops below the needed 10 PSI. Under this scenario, your tinaco is not filling to compensate for the water you use during the day. Depending on your demand, you may be using more than you can recover and over time you will run out.

So how to you solve this issue? Well is is simple and complicated at the same time. The simple answer is a tank (cisterna) At ground level. A ground level tank should receive water 24 hours a day as long as it is being pumped, as it will not require the 10 PSI to get to the roof. (Note it is not legal to attach a suction pump to JAPAY lines, to increase your supply) But now the issue is how to get the water from the cisterna to the tinaco. The only way is a pump, this pump transfers water from ground level to the rooftop tinaco. You could also use a well with submersible pump to supply the tinaco. But that is another topic of discussion.

OK, you have decided to add a cistern to you water system and have the space. You install the cistern, but what plumbing do you need. A basic system, needs a float valve to control the water entering the cisterna, an outlet from the cisterna, a suction line leading to a pump, the suction line from the cisterna needs a check valve at the end to stop water back flow and losing prime. A line to the roof top tinaco and a manual switch to shut of the pump, when the tinaco is full. That is the basic system, but it requires you to turn it on and off. However, there are self levelling systems. A self levelling system, consist of 2 electric switched floats and a manual float, 1 electric and one manual in the Cisterna and 1 electric in the tinaco, both hooked to the pump. When the tinaco gets low the float switch energizes the pump and fills the tinaco, unless the cistern electric switch float signals low water in the cistern. This prevents burning out the pump. The manual float, simply controls the flow of city water into the cistern. Sounds perfect right? An automatic float system that controls filling the tinaco, backed up by a manual float to deal with city water filling the cistern. I wish, the automatic float switches are notoriously unreliable. We have had them fail right out of the box and not just once. The electric float switches stick, I have not had a chance, to take one apart to see why, but it is a regular occurrence. One thing you can do is shake the float to free the mechanism so it works properly, but this is a temporary fix. I will take one apart later this week to see if i can find a solution to this common problem. The other less common problem is sticking mechanical floats, due to corrosion or the build up of sarro. In this case it is just cheaper to replace the float mechanism. Note:, due to lack of use. systems that are left unused for a period of time have the most issues.

Either way, equipment that does not work as designed, will leave you with out water.

Why does painting a house cost so much?

Exterior paint, takes a beating in the Yucatan. The sun breaks down the pigments and binding agents over time and the paint begins to chalk and flake. If you are at the beach, the salt air and sand are even harder on the paint and it does not last as long as house paint in Merida. I am currently having my own house at the beach painted and it is not a quick process if you want it done right, so that it will last. It is not a matter of a quick scrape and slapping on some paint.

First the exterior has to be washed with a good powerwasher. This will strip any flaking paint and dislodge any loose finish. The areas of loose finish, then need to be chipped away, to get to a solid surface, making sure the underlying material is sound.

IMG_3067This area then has to be prepped and resurfaced. We use a special bonding agent to make sure the new cement bonds to the old.


All to often what seems like a small crack ends up like this and of course it takes time to repair properly and time is money.  The whole house has be washed and repaired, then a sealer coat is put on. But this has to be done in sections to make sure the salt air does not get on the old surface again before you paint. The sealer does 2 things, obviously it seals the old and new surfaces, but it also acts as a bonding agent between new and old paint. Only now, can you put on the first coat of paint and it usually takes at least 2 coats, to get a good solid coverage. 1 man working on a small house, will take almost 2 weeks to do it properly, depending on repairs needed and the complexity of the colour scheme and house design. Then of course there is the cost of all materials required and paint is not cheap. Now you know why quotes for painting vary so much. There is quick and cheap or there is doing it right, which costs a lot more, but lasts longer.

SARRO, coming soon to a waterline near you!

If you have spent any time in the Yucatan, you have heard the word SARRO, probably in a combination of swear words. Sarro is to water systems, as cholesterol is to arteries, it plugs them up.


Saro in spigot filter of tap

Lets start with the basics, Sarro is simply a calcium deposit, also called scale in Canada or the USA. It slowly builds up in the inside of your tinaco and in some points of your piping as well. Till the water slows and eventually stops due to the build up. If you notice your water flow is starting to slow down, sarro is the most likely suspect. Remember when it comes to piping, 1/4 the diameter is a reduction of flow by 1/2. So if you kitchen tap normally delivers 4 gallons a minute a 1/4 reduction will reduce the output to 2 gallons a minute. So it does not take a lot of build up to drastically reduce the flow. The other related problem that creeps up and slowly stops the flow, is small particles of sarro breaking off and going downstream. They eventually end up in the fine wire mesh at the end of the tap spigot. Since it builds up over time you don’t notice the flow decrease, until it is partially blocked. The other place this occurs and I am willing to bet a lot of you do not know you have one, is the washing machine inlet filter. Samsung LG and most washing machines here, have a small fine steel mesh filter inside the coupling, where the water hoses attach to the machine. Usually it has a small tab to grab and you pull it out. If you notice the washer doesn’t fill as fast as it did, now you know why.


Saro taken from a tinaco after 2 years.

But, the issue is what do you do about it? The solution is not difficult, but is time consuming. First you need to drain your tinaco and clean every speck of sarro out of it. It is hard to reach the bottom of the big plastic tinacos, but it has to be done somehow. As they build up a lot of sarro over time and of course pieces break off and plug the works.

One way to avoid some down stream problems is to install a filter just downstream of the tinaco to catch particles as they break off. Just make sure it is easy to access and have spare filters handy. Now once the tinaco is clean, comes the messy and what could be dangerous part. No doubt when you have been in a grocery store here you have seen the shelves lined with Muriatic acid (diluted hydrochloric acid). It is used to dissolve sarro. People pour it in the toilet water tank to dissolve the sarro build up on the flapper valve as an example. The locals also use it to clean out the house water lines. I am not suggesting anyone, not familiar with its use, do this, as acid is dangerous, but this is simply an explanation of the process, in a non pressurized house.  Since muriatic acid dissolves sarro, It is diluted and poured into the plastic piping that exits the tinaco, do not use this method if you have old metal piping in the house or a cement tinaco. There are a few things to remember, if you are using this method. Acid stains stainless steel and dissolves limestone or concrete, so if you were to get any coming out of the tap in the kitchen, it needs to be caught in a bucket or other container. you also need to remove every wire mesh filter from taps and other locations and make sure the washing machine taps are turned OFF and all the other taps open and free to let all the gunk out. Now that everything is ready, what the locals do is just pour the acid in the lines, you will see a lot of bubbling and foaming as the acid dissolves the sarro and it may take many bottles of acid to get all the lines clean. While the lines are being cleaned, people pump the tinaco full of water, in preparation to flush the acid and gunk out of the lines. Once the acid has done its work, which could take an hour or more, depending how bad the lines are. the water is turned back on at the tinaco and the lines well flushed. This process may have to be repeated several times, if the lines are really bad.

For day to day removal of saro around sinks and taps, vinegar also works, but a lot slower. As it is not as powerful of an acid. I have also heard of people pouring a gallon or 2 of White vinegar in the tinaco, in an effort to slowly dissolve saro as the home owner uses up the water. But I have no practical experience with it. There are also commercial products like CLR that will do the same job, but they are more expensive than acid.

Water heater stopped working, maybe it is a 50 peso fix.

I received a call the other day from some good clients of ours. They have guests arriving and when they went to turn on the water heater, for that part of the house, it lit once and went out and would not relight. They needed to fix or replace it ASAP or the guests would be taking cold showers. The way almost all water heaters work, is pretty simple. They have a control box that looks something like this.

IMG_2903The dial on the face controls the temperature setting and the red button on top is held down as part of the pilot lighting procedure. The little bronze screw at the 10 o’clock position controls the pilot lights gas flow and is used to adjust the strength of the flame of the pilot light. A windy area may need a stronger flame (counter clockwise is more flame)




IMG_2909Under normal conditions, to start up a unit that has been shut off or blown out, you turn the control knob, on the face, to off and then to pilot. You open the trap door at the front of the unit and locate the pilot light which looks something like this when lit. The pilot light has a thermocouple, when hot it supplies a small electical charge to the control box, allowing the flow of gas. If the pilot goes out, all gas gets shut off at the control box. Once you locate the pilot you need a method to light it. Some heaters have a Piezo starter, but in my experience, they never work when needed. A good stand by, is a long match or BBQ lighter. Ok back to starting, main dial to pilot, light match or lighter and put near the top of the Thermocouple pilot assembly and press and hold down the red button. The pilot should light and after 20 or so seconds, you should be able to release the red button and the pilot should remain lit. Now all you need to do, is turn the dial to the on setting  and all should be good. But what if it won’t light or stay lit? It is usually 1 of 2 problems.

Problem 1  The gas line that feeds the pilot is very small and is easily corroded, if you are in an area near saltwater. It is also the perfect spot for small bugs to make a nest. Either one can block it while it was not being used.

Problem 2 The Thermocouple has failed and is no longer sending a signal when hot.

The solution to both problems, is to replace the thermocouple pilot light assembly, which as of Yesterday was a 50 peso part and should take about 20 minutes the first time you do it.


The thermocouple pilot light assembly looks like this when the flame is out. It is at the end of the 2 smaller tubes leaving the control box, and consists of a small metal cylinder (thermocouple) and a metal shape that looks like a Cobras hood (pilot light). To see the pliot light assembly you first have to open the trap door and most likely use a flashlight.  The assembly is held in place usually by 2 small screws that hold it to a bracket, so that its flame is close enough to ignite a main burner.

So So step 1 is to turn the control dial to off. Open the trap door, identify the pilot/thermocouple assembly and remove the 2 screws.

Step 2 is to go to the control box and see where the tubes enter the bottom, usually there is a protective thin metal shield, protecting the tubing just below the box and it is held on in most cases by 2 small screws. Now just unscrew the screws and remove the shield. You will see something like this.

IMG_2905This still has the shield on but shows the connections.

Step 3 You simply need to undo the 2 smaller tubes using a 3/8 and a 7/16 wrench or a small adjustable crescent will also work. The wrench goes on the little nut closest to the pipes they are on.

Step 4 once free remove the assembly, by feeding the small pipes back into the large hole in the heater body, as you remove the pilot assembly out the trap door

That is it. Now take that assembly to any plumbing and electric store and ask for a replacement, but make sure the one you get is at least as long as the original.

Step 5 Once you have the new part, just feed the tubing back out the hole in the heater body, so the pilots bracket will line up the existing bracket on the heater. You may need to bend the pipes as required, to get it in place. The pipes are flexible but do not kink them.

Step 6 Screw the pilot assembly back onto the mounting bracket and make sure it is more less in the same proximity to the burner. Bend the fixed mounting bracket if needed to move it as required.

Step 7 Bend the tubes one at a time so the ends go into their respective holes and retighten the nuts. Small word of caution, do not over tighten, these are small brass fittings!

Step 8 Put the protective cover back on and you are almost done.

Now Go ahead and light the pilot light. If it lights and stays on after you release the button, then you have fixed the problem. So turn the temperature control to your desired setting and the main burner should light off. This is a very common problem with water heater and is really a 50 peso fix.

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