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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!

Top 5 Reasons for a Slow Draining Sink

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One day, you notice the water in the sink isn’t draining as quickly. You hope that maybe the issue will go away, that it isn’t a clogged sink, but as days pass it continues to drain increasingly slower.

There are many issues that can cause a slow draining sink. By familiarizing yourself with some of the most common causes, you may be able to keep your sink draining at its optimal level for longer periods of time. We’ve provided you with the top 5 reasons for a slow draining sink below.

  1. The sink may be clogged by a collection of small materials. It’s easy to think that if an item makes it down the drain, it’s safe and will drain without an issue. A small piece of food here, the tiniest amount of grease, a few small hairs, that won’t clog my sink, right? Wrong. Even small materials that make it down the drain can become lodged in your pipes and create a kind of nest, catching more and more small particles as they’re washed down.
  2. A large object may clog the sink. This scenario is very similar to the first; however, the item that was washed down the sink was probably large enough for you to second-guess your decision to do so. If you’re ever wondering, “Should I wash this down the sink,” don’t do it and save yourself a call to the plumber.
  3. Believe it or not, the slope of your pipes may cause a slow draining sink. When the slope of the pipes is too steep, it can cause the water to drain too quickly, leaving waste behind. That waste will eventually build up and result in a slow draining or clogged sink.
  4. Your pipes may be deteriorating from within. This happens often in older homes or homes where the pipes have not been properly maintained. It is an inevitable situation, which will end with shiny, new pipes for your sink.
  5. A clogged sink can result from an issue with your main drain line. We’ve seen clogged sinks due to outdoor issues such as roots impeding drainage.

A slow draining or clogged sink can be caused by a multitude of issues, some avoidable and some not. When your sink does become clogged, it’s best to reach out to the professionals to find the underlying issue.

Do You Love Calling Your Plumber for a Clogged Toilet? Use “Flushable Wipes”

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You may have seen “flushable wipes” popping up more in stores. A wipe that can just be flushed away and comes in varieties for both babies and adults is a convenient concept. While these wipes claim to be “flushable,” you may want to hold off on flushing them, unless you love calling your plumber in for a clogged toilet. With sales of these wipes soaring to $6 billion a year or more, it is important for consumers to be aware that these wipes may not be as safe as they appear.

Irate customers have been suing the companies manufacturing these wipes since they came onto the market. Consumers claim their toilets clogged after flushing the wipes, even though they were simply following product instructions.

Regardless of the lawsuits, many manufacturers of the wipes continue to claim their product is flushable and that tests continue to prove so. However, independent testers have found otherwise. In a report issued by California’s Orange County Sanitation District, staff noted that “field observations have found [flushable wipes] to be a cause of back-ups within the sewer system leading to sanitary sewer overflows, clogs at lift stations, and disruption within the treatment plant.”

A video posted by manufacturers depicted the wipes disintegrating after 35 minutes. However, the same report mentioned above noted the wipes were completely intact and recognizable after as long as 24 hours.

In a lawsuit filed by Dr. Joseph Kurtz, the city of New York City confirms that the wipes are wreaking havoc on the city’s sewer system. They also claim the wipes do not break down as the manufacturers advertise. The city ends up spending about $18 million a year collecting and discarding debris caught in the machinery at their 14 wastewater-treatment plants. While the wipes do not account for all the debris, the city insists there has been an increase that directly correlates with the sales of the wipes.

It is important to note that while the products claim to be “flushable,” the term is not currently legally defined nor does the Federal Trade Commission regulate it. The item can technically be flushed down the toilet; however, there’s no telling what will happen after doing so. Until the government begins regulating these products more closely, it’s probably best to steer clear of flushing any wipes. That is, unless you want to give your friendly plumbers a call for a clogged toilet.