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10 Tips to Prepare Your Home’s Plumbing System for Winter

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There is a common old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This wise nugget of advice means that it is better, and often much easier, to stop a problem before it happens than to correct issues once they begin. So it is with winterizing your home’s plumbing system.

It’s now autumn, and the warm days and cool nights will soon lead to the first frost of the season. That means it is also that time of year again to make sure your home’s plumbing is ready for the bitter cold weather of winter.

To prevent pipes from freezing and bursting from extreme cold temperatures we offer these ten tips for you to take:

  1. Check all outdoor faucets to be sure they are not dripping or leaking water.
  2. Disconnect all water hoses from faucets on the exterior of your home.
  3. Faucets on the outside of your house, or other areas where the temperature can freeze, should be covered with Styrofoam faucet covers or hose bibb.
  4. If your house has interior shut-off valves for the outside faucets and pipes, they should be turned off and then the attached exterior faucet valves opened to prevent possible freezing.
  5. Have your rain gutters checked and cleaned to be sure they are free of leaves, twigs, and other debris.
  6. Check all areas in and around your home that are not heated to be sure the plumbing pipes are insulated.
  7. Each year it is recommended that you fully drain and flush your home’s water heater. This prevents sediment and rust buildup, and can enhance the appliance’s performance while extending its lifespan.
  8. Check all your house’s indoor plumbing fixtures and faucets (sinks, showers, toilets, washing machine, etc.) to be sure they are not leaking. If you find leaking, repair or call a trained professional to have it fixed.
  9. Where pipes enter your home, check to see if there are any gaps. If you find spaces, seal and insulate them.
  10. Clean and insulate sump pumps to avoid malfunctioning or possible freezing.

 

If you need help preparing your home’s plumbing system for the cold weather months of winter, give the trained and certified pros at A & A Plumbing a call at 402-932-3899. Our family business is locally owned and has the experience, reliability and customer care that will get the job done the right way, the first time.

Avoid Falling for these Plumbing Myths

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Indoor plumbing has come a long way over the years, yet there are some myths that have developed over time. As professional plumbers, it’s our job to educate our customers about their plumbing, and that includes dispelling the untrue myths they may have heard.

“Flushable” Wipes Un-Flushable

While you may have seen or used sanitary wipes marketed as “flushable” – they’re not truly flushable because they don’t dissolve like toilet paper. This means they can cause drain blockages. These include baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, and paper towels.

If you use these products for long, it is only a matter of time before your toilet backs up and can become a costly mess.

The Problem with a Slow-Dripping Faucet

It may not appear to, but did you know dripping faucets waste a LOT of water and drive up your water bill? A single drop of water leaking from a closed faucet every second seems insignificant, but did you know that single drip can eventually account for over 3,000 gallons per year?

With millions of homes around the world having dripping faucets, that means billions of gallons of fresh water wasted. Many areas on the planet don’t even have a readily supply of clean drinking water, and we simply must conserve this precious resource.

Hot Grease Down the Kitchen Sink?

Many homeowners and renters think it’s okay to pour hot grease down the sink. While hot grease is very liquid at the time, it quickly cools and sticks to the insides of their pipe. There it can harden and continues to build up over time until it fully clogs that drain and sink. To avoid this, we recommend you pour hot grease into a steel can until it cools and pitch that in your trash.

DIY Chemical Drain Cleaners?

Well advertised as the go-to solution for a clogged drain, the chemical drain cleaners found in hardware stores, grocery stores, etc. can make some SERIOUS problems for your plumbing system. They are simply not that effective at eating away blockages and can do damage to your pipes. Plus, the chemicals in these products are incredibly toxic, with even the smallest splash on your skin possibly causing burns. We suggest the use of Bio-Clean, an effective and environmentally safe waste eliminator.

Grinding Lemon Peels in a Garbage Disposal

Of course throwing some fresh lemons into your garbage disposal will grind them up and smell lemony fresh, but most people don’t realize lemons contain citric acid – which can corrode a garbage disposal’s metal parts. If you want a safe and natural cleaner for your garbage disposal, we recommend simply using ice.

The Problem with Fluctuating Water Pressure

Despite what some people have heard or think, fluctuating water pressure can be a sign of a problem. Water pressure should remain consistent otherwise, it may be a sign of a leak somewhere or a failing pressure reducing valve. Get it checked out!

That Brick in the Water Tank Saves Water?

While it is accurate that placing a brick in your toilet’s water tank may conserve a little bit of water per flush, many people don’t realize that over time bricks decay and crumble and may damage a toilet’s mechanics. If you want to save water, have a high-efficiency toilet installed.

Keeping Toilets Clean with Bleach Tablets

There’s no question that bleach is a powerful cleaning product, but putting bleach tablets inside a toilet or its tank potentially may do more harm than good. Toilet parts including the gaskets, washers, and pipes are prone to corrosion. Having a corrosive bleach tablet sit in your toilet’s water may take its toll on it’s functionality.

Bleach may also damage the glazed finish of your toilet if it sits there for a long period of time at full strength before rinsing it. If you do use bleach or any other product containing bleach to clean your toilet, we recommend you wash it off with warm, soapy water soon after application.

8 Things to Consider Before Getting a New Toilet

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If your toilet is becoming a nuisance, it may be time to review the cost of having it repaired or replacing it with a new one. Installing a new toilet could be the best option, but it is not necessarily the only solution. We have seen it all in toilet issues over the years. Sometimes an adjustment or new part can make it work like new. The key is knowing when to repair a toilet vs completely replacing it. The following will help you to decide:

  1. Constant Clogging – Nobody likes to deal with a clogged toilet. If you are having to flush multiple times or (worse yet) grab the plunger to clear the bowl, it’s a sign you may want to upgrade to a new, more powerful toilet. But did you know that most of the newer toilets not only flush more effectively, but they save water doing so? Yes! Toilets have come a long way and the new line of water savers work much better.
  2. Cracks – If you notice puddles of water around your toilet, you need to check for cracks in the porcelain. Nearly invisible hairline cracks can develop in the tank or bowl of a toilet over time or through being struck. Unfortunately, these small cracks can turn into a flood of water at the worst possible time. We recommend you check your tank and bowl each time you clean the toilet. If you find one, we recommend you replace it right away, before it breaks completely. An unnoticed leak can lead to a ruined floor over time – a very expensive repair.
  3. Repairs, Repairs, Repairs! – Weighing the cost of repair or rebuild versus having a brand new toilet installed is a wise idea. If you are planning on replacing your toilet anytime soon, we recommend you save the money on the repair and upgrade to a new one. While it may be a larger expense up front, you should save money in the long run.
  4. Excessive Age – Everything in our homes has a limit to its age of usability. If your toilet is very old, a new one may be in order.
  5. Wobbling, Unstable Toilet – There are few things more unsettling than sitting on a wobbly toilet. It could be a simple fix of having shims installed. It could be floor structure damage. Have it checked out by a professional.
  6. Inefficient Flushing – Multiple flushes are annoying and can be embarrassing if you have guests. Plus, they waste a LOT of water. If it’s not flushing properly on the first flush, have it looked at to see if it can be adjusted, fixed, or should be replaced.
  7. Surface Damage – Over time if a toilet’s porcelain gets worn or scratched, it will become increasingly difficult to keep clean. If you find yourself having to scrub and clean the toilet more often, it might be time to have a new one installed and rid yourself of the extra maintenance.
  8. Built-Up Mineral Deposits – The water supply in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa is very high in minerals. These build up over time and if your toilet is not performing as expected, you may need to have parts replaced or simply to get a new, more efficient one.

Without considering the cosmetic issues of color, style, and the condition of the surface, there are still a few reasons when getting a new toilet is a good idea. To help you determine when to replace a toilet please give us a call.

How to Find a Plumbing Water Leak

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If you find or suspect a water leak in your home, tracing it to the source quickly is necessary to avoid potential water damage that can get very costly to repair. Identifying the leak’s source depends largely on the type of leak happening. A leaking pipe under the sink is far easier to identify than to find one that is hidden within a wall or in the ceilings.

Check the Water Meter

One of the easiest ways to tell if your home has a water leak is to check the water meter. Go to the water meter, typically located near the main water shut-off of your home. Note exactly where the water meter reads and write it down or take a photo of it with your phone. Confirm that you have a water leak by shutting off your water-using appliances and fixtures. This includes faucets, showers, washing machines and refrigerators. Check back in a few hours, just make sure all the water stayed off. If the reading has advanced, this indicates a leak somewhere in your plumbing system.

Large Appliances

Wherever possible, carefully move appliances to look for the source of the moisture. For example, a loose or damaged water line to a dishwasher will leak water under and around the appliance.

Kitchen & Bathrooms

Open all cabinets under your sinks and clear out supplies and other products so you can more easily examine the space for water, dampness, stains, mold or mildew, and buckled or peeling material. Shine a bright light inside to look for moisture around all the joints and at the bottom of the P trap. Signs of a leaking pipe may also include corrosion on the supply lines, and pipe fittings and valves. If possible, tighten fittings and wipe away any moisture present.

Turn your water back on to see if you still have a water leak problem. Sometimes the leak is in the supply valve or line, and it will be evident when the supply is turned off and then activated again. If this is the problem, have the leaking supply line replaced.

Like any plumbing problem, attending to it quickly can save you a lot of money in repairs. If your house is more than 20 years old, your plumbing system may require a professional inspection.

Floors, Walls & Ceilings

Water leaks can be tricky to find. Try these tips to look for any that may be inside walls, above ceilings, or on the floor:

  • Examine the flooring around fixtures and appliances that use water, including toilets, bathtubs, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Cracked or warped flooring or soft, “spongy” spots in the floor most likely mean moisture is present and a possible leak.
  • Check the ceilings throughout your home. Stains on the ceiling indicate a leak somewhere coming from above.
  • Also examine the walls in your home for water damage, such as bubbled paint, stains and cracks. Leaking water pipes may also leave wet spots on the wall. But the location of this damage is not usually the exact location of the leak. Water may run the length of a broken pipe and pool at a different location in the wall.

Contact us to inspect for, confirm, and repair the leak BEFORE you begin ripping out walls or floors.

Basements & Crawlspaces

Inspect all the exposed pipes you can see in your basement and crawlspaces. Moisture and/or corrosion around the pipes are an easy indicator you have a leak.

If you discover rotted wood, mildew around these pipes, your leak is most likely in this area. Water will travel downward because of gravity, and occasionally the location of water stains is not the exact location of a leaking water pipe. Still, it is a good indicator of the general area of the source of moisture.

Checking Outside the Home

Walk the circumference of your home and check hoses, spigots, and (if you have one) the irrigation system. Just a tiny pinhole leak can account for losing and wasting over 6,300 gallons of water a month.

Call A Trusted, Trained Plumbing Professional

If you have any plumbing problems or concerns at all, give us a call today at (402) 932-3899 or visit our website at anaplumbing.com. Since 2009, A & A Plumbing & Drain Services is the leading plumber serving Douglas and Sarpy counties and surrounding areas. We offer commercial and residential plumbing services, drain cleaning, water heaters, and much more.

Keeping Tree Roots from Damaging Your Sewer Line

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There are many benefits of having trees in your yard, including adding value to your home; breaking the cold winter winds to lower your heating costs; and providing food and shelter for wildlife.

Unfortunately, a poorly placed and planted tree can be a hazard to your sewer line.

The roots of trees and shrubs naturally grow toward sewer lines. The sewer pipes can be a bountiful source of water, oxygen, and nutrients that they crave. When a root discovers a sewer line leak, it will rapidly grow and expand into the pipe – and can slow the flow of waste, cause blockages, damage pipes, and other serious problems.

Sewage leaks are unsanitary and have been shown to cause health problems. Repairing the sewer line damage caused by tree roots can be very costly, sometimes thousands of dollars!

The professionals at A & A Plumbing & Drain Services offer the following tips to help you avoid costly repair bills by taking a few steps when planting trees and maintaining your home’s pipes.

 

  • Choose Only “Sewer-Safe” Shrubs & Trees

When planning out your landscaping, educating yourself is the best way to avoid future problems and potentially expensive repair bills. First, limit the number of plants you place near the sewer lines. If you are planning to plant larger trees, be sure they are far enough away from sewer lines so that, as they mature, roots are not within reach of the pipes. If you believe you want a tree closer to a sewer line, select slow-growing trees with a smaller mature root impact area.

 

  • Be Aware of the Warning Signs

In plumbing, there is one thing you can eventually rely on – clogged drain lines. For infrequent clogs, there are often simple solutions to clear a drain that most homeowners may try. But if your drains clog frequently or completely, it could be a sign of a larger problem. Root damage to sewer lines can lead to slow-flowing, clogged, or even overflowing drains – sometimes accompanied by a gurgling noise from the toilet.

 

  • Having an Inspection and Maintenance

When drains clog frequently, are difficult to clear, and emit gurgling noises, call A & A Plumbing & Drain Services to have the drain and sewer lines inspected. We can inspect your drain pipes by running a camera probe through them to look for damage or issues and can (if necessary) recommend repairs or replacement.

 

To avoid major sewer repairs, we can clean your sewer lines regularly and inspect the structure of the pipe system. Regular maintenance will help prevent root growth inside the pipes. Sewer-line maintenance involves us threading a cable through the sewer pipe that cuts through any clogs or tree roots, clearing the sewer pipe so the sewage can flow freely out of and away from your home.

With more than 20 years of experience, we have been serving first-class residential and commercial plumbing throughout the Omaha metro area. We believe our customers deserve service that is reliable, responsive, and complete, with GUARANTEED satisfaction. If you have any plumbing questions or concerns, call your friends at A & A Plumbing & Drain Services at 402-932-3899 or visit our website www.anaplumbing.com

Is Your Sump Pump Operational and Ready for Spring?

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Like the old saying goes, “March came in like a lamb and therefore is expected to go out like a lion.” And with that, the risk of basement flooding is much higher.

With warmer temperatures in the Omaha metro, the combination of snow melting and frozen ground thawing might lead to basement flooding if your home’s sump pump is not working properly. Unfortunately, many people don’t even think about their sump pump until an emergency has already happened.

Like any appliance or system in your home, it should be inspected regularly to be sure it is in working order. Below is a checklist of our recommendations for you to complete to ensure it’s operational. If there are any issues found from this checklist, we suggest you call your plumber to check it out, and if necessary, remedy the problem or repair the unit.

A home sump pump is an electric water pump used to remove water that accumulates in a water-collecting “sump basin,” most oftentimes found in a property’s basement. Excess water can sometimes enter through the outside drains of a basement waterproofing system, channeling down into the basin or in some cases because of rain or quickly melting snow.

Sump pumps are used where basement flooding has happened and sometimes to solve dampness in cases where the water table is above the home’s foundation. Sump pumps divert water away from the property to where it is no longer a problem. This could be a nearby municipal storm drain or a dry well.

Follow these steps to ensure your pump is operational and ready to keep your home’s lowest level dry and safe:

  • Clean the Screen.
    Start by unplugging the pump from the electrical power supply. Disconnect it from the discharge pipe, then lift the pump up and out of the sump. Clear away and spray away any debris that has accumulated on the screen at the pump’s base. Then wipe down and rinse off the housing. If required, lubricate the pump bearings. (Consult your unit’s owner’s manual to be certain.)
  • Inspect the Check Valve.
    If the pump’s internal flap doesn’t easily swing free, flush it out with fresh water. If you find mineral deposits, soak it in vinegar. When reconnecting it back to the discharge pipe, be sure the arrow points upwards.
  • Test the Unit’s Float Switch.
    To test that the automatic switch kicks on when water enters the sump, pour a few gallons of water into the sump. If it automatically kicks on and sucks out the water, the floater switch (and pump) are operating properly. If not, contact your plumber to repair or replace the switch.
  • Check Your Outlet.
    Building codes require that all sump pumps must only be plugged in to a GFCI receptacle. This is the type of outlet with a built-in circuit breaker which will shut it off if it becomes wet. For your safety, check it by pressing its test and reset buttons.
  • Battery Backup
    It’s a good idea to consider having an uninterrupted power supply in case you lose power to your home when you need the sump pump. If you already have a backup battery, see if it’s the type of unit that needs to have its cells full. If it is, and the cells are low, fill them with distilled water, as needed.

A sump pump is a small investment for a home that could face serious water issues from high ground water level, or the possibility of melting ice and snow, or our very common heavy rain storms Nebraska and Iowa face each year. If you don’t have a sump pump, but have experienced water in your basement (or just want peace of mind), call A & A Plumbing & Drain Services at               (402) 932-3899 to assess your situation and give you an estimate.

Plumbing Checklist For Home Buyers

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We don’t have to tell you that buying a home is a huge investment – it’s usually the biggest investment you’ve ever made! That’s why we recommend you get a whole home plumbing inspection done by your trusty plumbers (hey, that’s us!).

Sure, the home inspector will go through the home and find a lot of the flaws. But, we’ve seen more than a couple cases where there were plumbing issues that should have been found, but weren’t.

Not only is that scary, who knows what could be going on in those pipes, but it’s a missed opportunity. Knowing what kind of pipes and drains you have, and what condition they’re in can be a very useful negotiation tool.

To avoid any surprises down the road, inspect these three things before purchasing a home.

Main sewer line

It’s always a good idea to have a plumber perform a camera inspection on the main sewer line. Not only will it alert you of any clogs, but it can show you the overall condition of the line. If your line is severely deteriorated, this inspection will make you aware of a hidden, costly issue.

Water heater

The rule of thumb is that a water heater will last about ten years. Granted, that estimate is dependant on the water quality, how the heater is being used, maintenance, and installation. For example, if it heats your home and delivers hot water to all of your faucets, there’s a good chance it won’t make it a full ten years.

Having a plumber inspect the water heater to see what condition it’s in and if it’s a good fit for your water needs is a must. A lot of times, families will downsize their water heater after the kids move out, because they’re using less water. So, it’s important to ensure the home’s water heater will meet your family’s needs.

Toilets

A lot of toilets leak at the base. It’s an insignificant problem most of the time, except for when the issue persists. Over time, it can cause serious damage and in some cases, it can make your floor rot.

Luckily, identifying a leaky toilet base is fairly simple:

  1. Look for discoloration or warping around the toilet base.
  2. With your foot, check if the floor moves or feels soft at the base.
  3. Check to see if the toilet bowl will rock from side to side. If it does, it signals that the seal is bad, the toilet isn’t properly secured to the flange, or the flange itself isn’t secured.

We’re not trying to scare you out of buying a home. In fact, we’re trying to inform and empower you. If you have a house you’d like us to inspect or any additional questions, just give us a call!

Plumbing 101: Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

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Welcome to Plumbing 101! If you’ve resolved to become handier around the house this year, then you’re in luck. We’ve compiled some tips that we think every homeowner should know.

Lesson number one, identify this object:

toilet

  1. Chair
  2. Desk
  3. Toilet
  4. Invention of the future

Just kidding, we know you know what a toilet is. You chose option C, right?

In all seriousness, here are the real Plumbing 101 tips:

When in doubt, shut off the water valve.

The last thing you want is to do while performing maintenance is to make things worse by creating a mess, or worse, causing water damage. If you’re working on your plumbing, shut off the valve to that area of the house as a precaution.

Locate the valve for your toilet before you need to use it.

One of the most common issues we see is the good, ol’ overflowing toilet. If you’re unable to stop the water from sloshing out all over your floor, you may be looking at some pretty costly water damage.

Luckily, every toilet has an emergency shut-off valve near it. Many times, it’s located on the wall near the lower half of your toilet. Find it? Good, now commit it to memory in case you ever need to use it.

Find your home’s main water valve.

This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with what we just said. Ideally, you want to know where these things are before you need to use them.

Know how to fix a dripping faucet.

Often, dripping faucets can be fixed by simply replacing the washer. To do so, remove the faucet handle cap and use a socket wrench to remove the valve from the faucet.

Do you see the faucet washer now? Great, take the old one out of there and replace with a new one. Screw everything on, and you’re good to go.

But wait, did you remember to shut of the water to that area of the house before working on the faucet? If not, you better get in the habit of doing so. Trust us, it will save you in the long run.

These are just a few tips to get you going. Expect to see more posts like this in the future, we have a couple more tips up our sleeves.
We sincerely believe that everyone should know how to do simple plumbing tasks. But don’t worry, we’re always here for the tasks you can’t handle on your own.

Frozen Pipes: What You Need To Know

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We’ve all heard them – horror stories of pipes bursting in winter, causing hundreds of dollars of damage. Those stories are exactly why it’s so important to understand what happens when a pipe freezes and how to prevent it from ever happening in your home.

We’re sure you remember learning that water expands when frozen. It’s a lesson every kid in grade school learns, and remembers when a frozen water bottle bursts in their car years later. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands and causes the pipe to crack, no matter how sturdy the pipe was before.

Generally the most vulnerable pipes are those exposed to the outdoors such as hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and pipes located in higher or unheated areas like attics, garages, crawl spaces, and outside walls.

One of the most noticeable signs of a frozen pipe is a drastic decrease in water pressure. More times than not, if your water pressure suddenly decreases in the winter, it’s probably due to a frozen pipe.

There has to be a way to prevent pipes from freezing though, right? You’re in luck! We’ve compiled a fairly lengthy list below to try and save you the trouble of calling us, even though we love hearing from you.

  • Installing your pipes in either an insulated or heated area can help to keep them warm.
  • If your pipes are already installed in an uninsulated area, you can fit them with insulation sleeves or wrapping. You can also install a heating cable to run alongside pipes.
  • Burying outdoor pipes lower in the ground, specifically below the frost line, can be very effective.
  • This one seems obvious, but turning up the heat indoors can help. We know you want to save money on your heating bill, but is a few dollars of savings worth hundreds in repair?
  • Believe it or not, opening cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom can help the heat reach pipes nestled in the wall behind them.
  • If you have pipes in your garage, make sure to keep the garage door closed at all times to help retain as much heat as possible.
  • Never let your thermostat reach below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, this even applies when you’re going out of town.
  • In extremely cold conditions, and we mean extremely cold, letting a faucet drip can help prevent a pipe from freezing or a frozen pipe from bursting.
  • Outdoor winterization is extremely important. Before the first freeze, make sure to remove, drain, and store all outdoor hoses. Close the inside valves supplying water to the hose bib and then open the outside bib to allow any remaining water to drain. You can even leave the outside bib open throughout the winter. That way, if there is any water still in there, pressure is never able to build and cause a pipe to burst.

We know it’s a lot to take in, but taking five minutes to learn about frozen pipes can really save you a lot of hassle in the long run. If you suspect a frozen pipe, please call us immediately! Acting quickly can help to prevent any further damage.