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Why You Should Avoid Store Bought Drain Cleaners

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The water in your sink has been progressively draining slower over the last couple of months until one dreaded day when the water begins to pool. It’s official, you have a clog in your drain and there’s no way you can continue to ignore it any longer. But before you reach for the ever-so convenient store bought drain cleaner, you should read up on the effects they can have on your plumbing.

We know that pouring drain cleaner into your sink is both an easy and cost-effective solution, but they often do more harm than good. Most store bought drain cleaners contain highly corrosive chemicals meant to ‘eat’ through the clog. While they are a great solution in the short-term, they will damage your pipes over time. Years of intermittent use can lead to severe structural damage on your drain pipes, meaning they will need to be replaced sooner than usual.

In addition to damaging your pipes, store bought drain cleaners don’t always remove the entire source of the clog. Often, waste is left behind and acts as a starting point for future clogs. Have you ever noticed that after using drain cleaner to get rid of a clog, another soon forms? The extra waste left in the pipes is exactly why that happens!

Store bought drain cleaners can be very harmful, and even toxic if used incorrectly. The chemicals used in drain cleaners are extremely dangerous – they are meant to corrode metal! Not only are the chemicals dangerous if you come in contact with them, but the fumes can be deadly when mixed. A good rule of thumb is that if you try one drain cleaner and it doesn’t clear the clog, never immediately try a different brand of drain cleaner. There is a chance the chemicals could mix, resulting in toxic fumes.

If you have small children or pets, you should be even more cautious about keeping such dangerous chemicals in your household.

So, what should you do when a drain clogs? You should call a professional to have it removed. Having a professional remedy the problem will help you to avoid costly repairs in the future and will help prevent serious clogs from forming.
If you have any questions about store bought drain cleaners this blog didn’t cover – please don’t hesitate to contact us! That’s what we’re here for.

Common Toilet Issues

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We don’t have to remind you that your toilet is one of the most important appliances in your home. There are a lot of appliances that are nice but not necessary, and the toilet is not one of them. Because it is so important, we think everyone should have a basic understanding of how the toilet works and some of the most common issues people experience with their toilets.

Let’s talk about how the toilet functions. You push the lever and the wastewater magically disappears and is replaced with clean water, right? Not quite. There are five steps that take place each time the toilet is flushed.

When you push the handle to flush, a chain lifts the flapper valve. Water from the tank then flows through the flush valve opening into the toilet bowl. The water from the tank forces the wastewater in the bowl through the trap and into the main drain. Once the tank is empty, the flapper valve closes and the fill valve opens, refilling the tank. Once the tank is full, the float ball shuts off the fill valve.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the toilet’s inner workings, let’s tackle four of the most common problems people encounter with their toilets.

Running toilet

Have you ever heard a toilet that always sounds like it has just been flushed? That’s what a running toilet is. It’s also referred to as a ‘phantom flush’. A running toilet is caused when the flush valve ages and hardens, allowing water to constantly escape into the toilet bowl. This issue is definitely an annoying one, but it can also be quite messy if not repaired properly.

Leaking toilet bowl

A leaking toilet bowl is most often caused by a defective wax ring. In rare cases, it can be caused by a crack in the porcelain of the toilet bowl.

Partial flush

A partial flush is when the toilet flushes, but not all the way. If your toilet isn’t flushing fully, there are generally three potential causes:

  1. There could be too much slack in the lift chain.
  2. There could be too low of a level of water in the tank.
  3. The flapper may not be installed properly or isn’t the correct model.

Strong but partial flush

This issue is very similar to the partial flush, but is signified by the flush seeming to be strong, yet still not flushing all the way. This issue is often related to the flush valve volume. If the valve becomes waterlogged and is dropping too fast, the strong but partial flush will occur. If you take the lid off your tank and watch as you flush the toilet, the flush valve should stay up until about 80% of the water has drained from the tank. If the valve does not stay up that long, it’s time to install a new one.

 
Of course, reading this won’t make you an expert on toilets, so give us a call if you encounter any issues – we’re always happy to help!

Flooded Basement? Here’s What You Need To Do

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No one wants to walk downstairs to find their basement flooded. However, it’s bound to happen at one point in your life, and it’s important to know how to handle the situation. The following steps should help you navigate your flooded basement with ease.

Shut off the source of the flood as soon as possible.

This seems like an easy enough task unless, of course, the water is coming in because your area is flooded. In order to turn off the source of water, you will likely need to turn off the plumbing in your entire home. Don’t know how to turn off the plumbing? It’s better that you learn now, when you don’t need to know, than wait until disaster strikes.

Oh, and if the source of the water is a sewage backup, it’s imperative you don’t use any appliances that use water, such as the toilet or dishwasher.

Examine the damage from a distance.

You need to assess the damage but do not attempt to wade through the water; there is a very real potential for electric shock. If you must walk through the flooded area, make sure you can complete the following steps, first:

  1. Turn off the power in your home.
  2. Wear protective gear, especially if the flood is from the sewer line.
  3. Ensure there are no gas leaks.
  4. Check for structural damage.

Again, if you cannot complete the steps above, do not attempt to walk through the water. Assessing damage can wait if your safety is in danger.

Call the plumber immediately.

We understand that plumbing emergencies happen at all hours of the day. Never be afraid to call outside of business hours, that’s what we’re here for.

Call your insurance company.

Your very next call after us should be your insurance company. The sooner you call, the more likely they will be to cover the majority of the damage. Taking photos and video of the damage is also a good idea. And don’t forget to save the receipts from any emergency repairs or purchases you make. A lot of times those expenses will be covered by your insurance or at least count toward your deductible.

Prepare for the future.

Your basement flooded and there is a chance it may happen again in the future. To try to avoid this in the future, we’ve provided three preventative measures you can take:

  1. Store valuables in watertight containers.
  2. Install a sump pump.
  3. Upgrade your foundation’s drainage system.

Taking these preventative measures will not only make you more prepared for a flooded basement in the future, but also will make your insurance company more likely to satisfy your claim.

 
Only after completing the steps listed above will you be ready to clean and restore your basement to its former glory. But don’t worry, A&A Plumbing is always just a phone call away if you have any questions or a plumbing emergency.

Dangers of High Water Pressure

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Water pressure is normally referred to when there is a lack of it. You don’t often hear people complaining about their home having too much water pressure, but they should be. Your home’s water pressure is similar to blood pressure in the body. There is a range that is acceptable to keep all other systems running smoothly. When levels drop too low, there is a noticeable change. When levels climb too high, it can be detrimental to every part in the system.

When water pressure levels are too high in your home, it can cause irreversible damage to pipes and appliances, and make your water bill outrageously expensive. High water pressure stresses pipes, leading to tiny pinhole leaks that leak intermittently, meaning they are hard to detect. It can also be damaging to appliances such as your water heater and dishwasher. The damage may not be noticeable at first, but it will significantly decrease the life your appliances.

Now that you know how damaging high water pressure can be, you’re probably wondering how to tell when it’s too high. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to tell by the pressure coming out of your water fixtures. Does the water seem to come out more forcefully in your home than your friends’ homes? Do overnight guests comment how great the water pressure in your shower is? Then you may have high water pressure.

Another tell-tale sign is when you can hear a banging in your pipes. This noise is referred to as a ‘water hammer’ by most plumbers and is caused by high water pressure. Toilets running intermittently when they aren’t in use is another sign of high water pressure.

Still not sure? You can visit your local hardware store and purchase a water pressure gauge. Follow the instructions included and if your water pressure is higher than 80 psi, then you have high water pressure and need to be on the lookout for the signs of wear mentioned above.

Now you may be wondering, why does your home have high water pressure? The most likely culprit is your local water company. Sometimes they have to keep the pressure higher in certain areas to accommodate increased demand, such as fire hydrants and taller buildings. Another likely reason could be because your home is located at the bottom of a hill. Water naturally runs downward, meaning the water picks up momentum coming down the hill from the main water line.

 
If you purchase a water pressure regulator, you can temporarily ensure the pressure in your home is at a safe level. However, you may want to look into having your local plumber come out for a consultation as they will likely have a better idea for a long-term fix. As always, we’re just a phone call or comment away for any questions you may have!

Most Common Household Plumbing Mistakes

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You’ve met them before: people who believe they can fix everything in their home, regardless of their qualifications. You may even be one yourself: a self-proclaimed DIYer. While there are many plumbing issues that can be fixed without calling in professionals, you should at least be aware of the most common household plumbing mistakes before attempting to remedy the issue yourself.

Forgetting to turn off the water.

This may seem like a no-brainer. About 90% of plumbing projects require you to turn off the water before beginning work. However, it’s easy to forget this simple task and be subsequently drenched with water when attempting to begin the repair.

Not only is being sprayed with water a nuisance, but it also creates a mess that, if left alone, could cause water damage. The last thing you want when making repairs is to create future repairs in the process.

Trying to tackle a job without the proper tools or skills.

You’re about to start a DIY plumbing project. You watch an online tutorial only to find out you don’t have the necessary tools to complete the job. What do you do?

You definitely shouldn’t try to make do with whatever tools you have around the house. Plumbing fixes require specific tools to be done correctly. A good starting place for your plumbing starter tool kit is to purchase a hand auger, basin wrench, and plumber’s wrench. Those tools will see you through the majority of plumbing repairs.

Overusing drain cleaner.

The kitchen sink is draining a little slower than usual. Your first impulse is to pour a bit of drain cleaner down to make the problem disappear. It is a convenient solution; however, using drain cleaner too often can cause damage to your pipes. The chemicals in drain cleaners slowly erode your pipes. Meaning, they’re safe to use every once in awhile but, if used frequently, can leave you with even bigger repairs than a clogged sink.

Next time your sink is draining slowly try one of these solutions as opposed to drain cleaner: hand auger (remember this tool from the short-list of plumbing tools you need?), natural drain cleaner, or a rental drain snake. Or, you could just call a local plumber!

Joining mismatched pipes.

You cannot join two pipes made of different materials and expect a long-term fix. If you do, the chances of leakage is higher meaning you’ll need to keep an eye on it in the future.
We applaud people who like to tackle DIY projects in their spare time. However, certain projects are better off handled by the professionals. When you encounter one of those problems or accidentally make one of the mistakes listed above, you know who to call.

How to Properly Care for Your Garbage Disposal

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Garbage disposals: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. They come in handy anytime little scraps of food end up in the sink, but can be a pain when they aren’t working properly. Did you know there are do’s and don’ts to caring for your garbage disposal? Following these rules will help to keep yours running strong.

Do’s

First rule to keeping your garbage disposal running is to keep it clean. You should also be cleaning your disposal regularly. Cleaning can also be as simple as pouring a little soap in and running the disposal with some cold water. Another cleaning method is to fill your disposal with ice cubes and rock salt. If you would like a deeper clean, consider making vinegar ice cubes to use instead of regular ice cubes.

Believe it or not, running your garbage disposal regularly can help to elongate its life. Using it frequently helps to prevent rust and erosion while keeping drain obstructions from forming. Always remember to run cool water while using the disposal. The water’s flow will help to push items down the drain after being chopped up.

Why cool water, you may ask? Hot water causes any grease or fat to melt, increasing the likelihood of a clogged drain.

Don’ts

To keep your garbage disposal running at full speed, you need to remember to only wash food down the drain. Do we even need to tell you this? Avoid grinding glass, plastic, metal, cigarette butts or anything combustible.

In addition, avoid grinding the following foods as they have been known to cause clogs: grease, corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins, artichokes, potato peels, pasta, rice, coffee grounds and large animal bones. And remember, never try to wash a large amount of food down the drain, regardless of what kind of food it may be. Section the food off and send it down the drain in small amounts, waiting for the previous section to fully grind before adding the next.

Don’t turn off the garbage disposal until the grinding is complete. After the grinding stops, allow the water to run for about 15 more seconds, flushing out any remaining particles of food.

Finally, never try to retrieve anything from the disposal while it’s running. Even when it is stopped, don’t use your fingers, always use pliers or tongs.

 
Following these simple do’s and don’ts should keep your garbage disposal running at full speed. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment on this post and we’ll get back to you. As always, request an appointment with us if you think your garbage disposal isn’t running at its best.

Six Summer Plumbing Tips

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The summer months are finally here. Kids are out of school, days are longer and the fun is just beginning. Don’t let a plumbing issue wreak havoc on your summer plans. You can avoid most major plumbing issues by simply following these six tips.

Turn down your water heater while you’re away on vacation.

When you leave for vacation, you may think of turning the air conditioner to a higher temperature, but have you ever considered turning down your water heater? It not only helps you save on energy costs, but also it could help lengthen the life of your water heater. Remember, the average life of a water heater is about 10 years.

Avoid putting certain common foods down the garbage disposal.

Summer is a time for cookouts with friends and family. But, if you want to keep your kitchen drain running at full speed, don’t put any of the following foods down your drain: grease, celery, onion peels, lettuce, pasta, potatoes, rice, coffee and bones. In addition, avoid trying to force any large amount of food into the garbage disposal, regardless of what kind of food it is.

How prepare your washer for the increased laundry load.

Summer months mean dirty clothes. Between yard work and children who always seem to find mud in the back yard, your washer will have its work cut out for it. Be sure to inspect your machine at the beginning of the season. Check washing machine hoses for bulges, leaks or cracks, and remember to replace them about every three years. Moving your washer approximately four inches from the wall may help to prevent damage to the washing machine hoses.

Water your lawn at the most opportune time.

The best times to water your lawn are early morning and late evening. These times tend to be the most efficient because the sun is not out, meaning you won’t lose any precious water to evaporation. If you have a sprinkler system, program it to run at these times and you won’t have to worry about turning on the sprinklers at strange hours.

Use your dishwasher instead of hand washing dishes.

Yes, you read that correctly. Most dishwashers are energy-efficient, meaning they use less water than you would washing the dishes by hand. Recent studies have shown that running one load of dishes through the dishwasher saves about 37% of the water you would use to wash them by hand. So, make cleanup easy after your next cookout and throw those dishes in the dishwasher.

Have your sewer lines checked.

Spring and summer rains can cause cracked sewer lines. Make sure to have yours checked by a professional to avoid sewer backups this summer.

 
Hopefully these tips will help you avoid any major plumbing issues this summer. If not, give us a call and we’ll happily come fix it for you!

Four Signs Your Water Heater Is Acting Up

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No homeowner looks forward to replacing appliances but, unfortunately, it’s a necessary aspect of the American dream. No appliance will run efficiently forever, no matter how well built it may be. The problem, however, isn’t always replacing the appliance; it’s knowing when it needs to be replaced.

As plumbers, we’ve seen many water heaters go bad and want to educate you to the warning signs to ensure the quality of your water.

Your water heater is more than ten years old.

As a general rule, plumbers suggest you start monitoring your water heater’s efficiency when it gets to be about ten years old. While some water heaters may fail before then, and others after, ten years is when the majority begin to go bad. That being said, if you notice any of the following warning signs before the ten-year mark, don’t ignore them and wait for the magic number ten.

Your water looks rusty or muddy.

If your water quality has deteriorated due to your water heater, it’s time for a replacement. How do you know your water heater is to blame for lower quality water? If your water quality only decreases when the hot water is on, your water heater is likely to blame. The heater is essentially rusting from the inside out, causing impure water to flow to your faucet. If left untreated, the water heater will eventually begin to leak. And, in the meantime, no one likes using dirty water.

You hear an unusual noise coming from the water heater.

Are you starting to hear strange rumbling or clanking noises from your water heater? That’s not a good sign. Over time, sediment builds at the bottom of the water heater’s tank and, after being heated and reheated repetitively, the sediment will harden. Not only is the noise annoying, it will also lead to less efficiency and more damage.

The water heater is leaking.

Any standing water around your water heater indicates that you need to contact a professional right away. The constant heating and reheating of the tank causes tiny fractures to form over time, allowing water to leak out. We hope you have a drain nearby or you may have a flooded basement on your hands.

As you can see, there are multiple warning signs your water heater may be going bad. If you still aren’t sure, always make sure to contact your local plumber to have the heater looked at by a professional.

Five Plumbing Myths That Just Aren’t True

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No one really knows how these plumbing tall tales began, but you’ve probably heard at least one. As your friendly plumbers, we feel like it’s our duty to inform you that these are all untrue, no matter how much your grandmother swears it works.

Myth: Throwing ice cubes down the garbage disposal will sharpen the blades.

Throwing ice cubes down the garbage disposal will not sharpen the blades, but it also won’t hurt anything. In fact, the ice cubes may help to clean the blades of your garbage disposal. So, if your sink is a little smellier than usual, throw a couple of ice cubes down the garbage disposal to help freshen it up.

Myth: Placing a brick in your toilet tank will help to save water.

We’re not really sure how this myth started, but putting a brick in your toilet’s tank will not help to conserve water. In fact, putting a brick in there could harm your toilet. The brick will deteriorate over time and possibly cause other parts of the toilet tank, like the flapper, to break. It can also displace too much water, resulting in you having to flush the toilet twice, defeating the purpose of the brick in the first place.

Myth: Toilet tablets containing bleach are safe and will keep your toilet clean.

A tablet containing bleach designed to sit in your toilet tank for an extended period of time is not safe. Within six months of using the tablet, all working parts of the toilet would be destroyed. Don’t shy away from using bleach to clean your toilet bowl, however. Just make sure to not let the product sit in the bowl for more than ten minutes.

Myth: Flushable wipes are safe to flush down the toilet.

Regardless of their misleading claim to be flushable, flushable wipes should not be flushed down the toilet. These wipes can cause major clogs and are wreaking havoc on city sewer systems all over the world. For more information on the impact of flushable wipes, please read our previous blog on the topic.

Myth: Based on which hemisphere you’re in, the toilet will flush a different direction.

The direction in which a toilet flushes is based on the way your toilet is designed, not the hemisphere you are in. This myth was most likely based on the Coriolis effect, which applies to much larger bodies of water not toilet bowls.

Have you heard any additional DIY plumbing tips that you think might be untrue? Comment below for an answer!