In most cases, plumbing problems usually revolve around one of three things: clogs, leaks, or drips. One thing is for certain, it always pays to be familiar with your plumbing system so you can minimize the damage caused by plumbing problems as well as fix minor plumbing problems on your own. The number 1, most important thing you can do is find out where the main water shutoff valve is and how to turn it off. This is usually either outside your home or in your basement or crawlspace. If you can not find it or don’t know how to turn it off, contact your utility company and have them show you. If any tools are necessary to turn off your water, keep them handy. Being able to shut your water off at the main valve can be vital to reducing damage to your home if a pipe were to burst. You should also check each plumbing appliance (water heaters, sinks, toilets, etc.) for their own shutoff valves and verify they work. If the valves fail to turn off water to the appliance, you should have them fixed by a professional plumber immediately. These valves come in very handy when the need arises to repair individual plumbing appliances. If an appliance has no valves, you will need to shut off your water at the main valve to repair it.
When it comes to clogs and slow drains, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the tub or shower, invest in an inexpensive hair trap or screen to prevent the majority of hair and soap scum from going down the drain. In the kitchen, don’t pour cooking grease down your drain. It will harden and coat your pipes with a sticky scum that will catch other particles and eventually clog the pipe. Instead, keep it in a coffee can or milk container and dispose of it with your garbage once it’s cooled. You should also avoid dumping coffee grounds down the drain. They’re notorious for causing clogs. Maintaining your drains on a weekly basis is also a good idea to keep your pipes clear. One way to do this is to pour a half-cup of salt, a half-cup of baking soda and a half-cup of vinegar down the drain and follow with two quarts of boiling water. If you do encounter a clog, don’t panic. Clogs and slow drains most commonly occur in areas that can be easily cleared on your own without the help of a pro (if more than one drain or toilet is affected, you will need to contact a plumber). First, try a plunger. There is also the option of using chemical clog removers. Be sure to follow the package instructions when using them. Leaks can be slowed or stopped until you’re able to get a professional plumber out to your home or business. If you would like a thorough, professional inspection of your plumbing system by an expert, please contact one of our Best Plumbers® in your area listed in the Best Plumbers® plumbing directory. The plumbers listed in Best Plumbers® have been carefully researched, reviewed and recommended. Cold Weather Plumbing Tips to Save Your Plumbing. Cold weather can cause pipes to burst in your own household or business plumbing. Below are some helpful plumbing tips to avoid costly plumbing damage.
Before the Cold Weather Arrives
- As mentioned above, know the location of your water shut-off valve switch and test it regularly.
- Turn off and drain automatic and manual sprinkler systems before first freeze.
- Turn off outdoor faucets and be sure to disconnect hoses from them.
- Winterize unheated or vacant buildings.
- Insulate water pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold or have caused problems before.
- During a Deep Freeze (-5 Degrees and Below)
- Keep open cabinet doors leading to exposed pipes (such as access doors for sinks), so that household air can warm them.
- If you have an attached garage, keep its doors shut.
- Crack a very slow drip from a faucet furthest from the place where your water enters the house.
- Keep your thermostat set above 65 degrees when leaving your house or business for several days.
- If You Think a Pipe Has Already Frozen
- Thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call someone from Best Plumbers® for help.
- If you do it yourself, shut off the water or test the shut-off valve. You do not want water suddenly gushing from the pipe when it thaws.
- Remember: When thawing pipes, slower is better.
- A hair dryer at the frozen area of the pipe is appropriate. A blow torch is not. Pipes warmed too fast may break anyway.
- Frozen Water Pipes
- With freezing temperatures there is a good chance that unprotected water pipes will freeze. When this happens, you may experience only the annoyance of interrupted water service until the water in the pipes thaws. Unfortunately, for a few, the water line may rupture and cause property damage and require plumbing repairs.
- There are several preventive measures that can reduce your chances of having your water lines freeze.
- Shut off the outside water valve, disconnect water hoses and drain water from pipes, via an open faucet.
- Allow a trickle of hot and cold water to drip. The cost of the wasted water is small compared to the damage from frozen pipes. CAUTION: Be certain you are not running water into a drain line that is exposed to extreme cold, as that line might freeze as well.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors under sinks to allow heat from the room to circulate around un-insulated pipes.
- Heat unused rooms with plumbing, especially if the plumbing is in a north wall.
- Insulate all pipes in areas where there is no heat, such as the garage or crawl space.
- Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around pipes that are exposed to the weather and prone to freeze. You can purchase a variety of insulating and heating devices to install on both inside and outside plumbing.
- Seal any air leaks around doors and windows to reduce cold air penetration.
Garbage Disposals Advice
- Put ice cubes in the disposal to sharpen the blades between uses.
- Grind up citrus fruits in the disposal for a fresh citrus smell.
- Use a specially designed disposal brush to remove hard to reach deposits that cause odors and food build-up.
- Sewer Gas Smell
Occasionally a homeowner will notice a bad smell coming from the vicinity of plumbing fixtures in the home. This may be caused by “dry trap.” If a fixture such as a shower or bathtub has not been used in a long time, the trap may dry out and thus allow sewer gas to come back into the home. The solution is to run water into the fixture and allow the trap to again fill up with water. If this does not solve the problem, it is time to call a professional from Total Plumbing, Inc. to check it out and make a repair. If you have any other plumbing problems, or would like some helpful advise, call the professionals listed in Best Plumbers®. Even as a layperson, you can assess most of the plumbing inside of your home in order to determine which areas might need some special attention. By going through this home plumbing checklist, you can identify small issue before they become large issues so that you can take the proper steps to have them repaired by a professional.
Simple Guide to Checking Your Plumbing
It may not seem like a huge loss, but leaky faucets can actually cost a lot of extra money on a monthly water bill. If you need proof of how much water a leaky faucet can waste, simply place a bucket underneath the faucet in question and leave it overnight.
Low water pressure may be indicative of something as simple as sediment buildup in a shower head, or as serious as a problem with the water lines that feed your water supply. If you experience low water pressure in any area of the house, then you need to get to the bottom of it.
A leaky faucet is one thing, but leaky piping is something different altogether. This is generally a much more serious problem that requires much more complex repair work. If you notice wet spots on your walls, ceilings, or floors, then it may be that you need to repair and/or replace your piping – and pronto – before you incur serious water damage. Also, be on the lookout for mildew, which could be indicative of standing water (and a leak).
Corroded pipes can contaminate your water, or even further erode your plumbing, and need to be replaced right away. Look for green, yellow, or orange stains around shut off valves and pipe fittings to identify corrosion.
Examine the caulking around your showers, sinks, and toilets. Replace any damaged or loose caulking to prevent leaks.
There are a number of things that can go wrong with your water heater, impairing its ability to deliver hot water when you need it. Clean the water heater tank regularly to prevent sediment buildup. Also, check the thermostats and heating element to make sure they are functioning properly. While some problems can be avoided, many plumbing nightmares are inevitable, especially if you have old or poorly installed plumbing. Even so, there are steps you can take to either head off problems before they begin or minimize the chaos once it starts to unfold.
Summer Plumbing Advice
The transition to spring and summer is exciting, but it’s also the time to take action to avoid potential problems with your plumbing, sewer and drain systems. Here are some tips from Best Local Plumbers to get your home in shape for warm weather, save energy and save money too.
More outdoor fun means more dirty clothes. Be sure to check your washing machine hoses for bulges, leaks or cracks and be sure to remove drier lint regularly. Also, move your machine at least four inches from the wall to prevent hose kinking and damage, and never leave your home while the washer is running. Remember–washing machine hoses should be replaced approximately every three years.
In humid weather, your ductwork may sweat and create condensate. This can cause a backup if the drains are not clear. Leaks in the seams can also cause condensation. If you have an attic installation, be sure there is no water in the drain pan. If there is water, call for help as it could save your ceiling.
Be careful what you put down your kitchen disposal after your cookout. Most are not equipped to handle cornhusks, celery, banana peels and other fibrous or “stringy” foods. Some other items to stay away from are fats or cooking oils because they form clots in the pipes. Run cold water at full pressure for 15 seconds before and after you put anything down the disposal to flush it through. Never put instant stuffing, potato mixes or similar “just-add-water” foods down the drain—they’ll create an instant clog when you add water.
Save money and energy on your vacation. Turn down the temperature of your water heater.
Sewer line backups are common this time of year due to summer rainwater entering sewer pipes via cracks. New tree root growth from the spring can also cause sewer backup issues as roots are drawn toward the sewer line as a source of nutrition. Have a plumber inspect your sewer line pipes to let you know if you are susceptible to a sewer line backup problem or if damage has already occurred. In either situation, your plumber will be able to help you determine the best treatment option for proper drain cleaning.
Winter Plumbing Advice
Getting your plumbing ready for severe cold.
When the temperature drops to freezing lows, plumbing problems are very common. There are many things that a homeowner can do to prevent these problems that have the potential to cause severe damage to your home.
The following tips will help keep homeowners and their families throughout the nation warm as freezing temperatures take over. Avoid frozen pipes. Watch your water pressure this time of year because the first sign of a frozen pipe is restricted water flow. If you notice this, be sure to act quickly and call a professional. Let cold water trickle from your faucets, slightly smaller than a pencil’s width, during the evening when the temperature is the coldest. This helps prevent freezing as moving water does not freeze.
Garden hoses can cause major damage if not disconnected. During cold snaps, if a garden hose is left connected, ice will form and pressure will build up in the water lines inside your home. Once this occurs, a water line leak or break is common. This can cause severe damage to the home. Disconnect garden hoses and drain outdoor pipes to prevent damage during the winter.
After disconnecting hoses, you should install an exterior, insulated faucet jacket. This will protect your outdoor faucets, as well as the connecting lines running into the home, from freezing temperatures. Also, be sure to utilize the shut-off valves located inside your home to drain water from pipes leading to outdoor hose bibs. These valves can typically be found under sinks, in crawl spaces or basements, near your water heater or your meter, but every home is different and some homes may not be equipped with these valves.
Circulating warm air helps keep pipes in the walls from freezing. Keep your house temperature above 55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing and open cabinet doors under sinks and faucets and near exterior walls to help circulate warm air and keep pipes warmer.
Close crawl space vents and garage doors, especially if your water heater is in the garage. Check to be sure that snow is not restricting your water drainage. Watch the area around your sump pump discharge line used to avoid flooding indoors, as this line drains from a basement to an outside area. If the drainage area is blocked by snow or flowing into a puddle, freezing could occur as well as water backing-up into the house.
You can always access expert plumbing advice from the highly trained plumbing professionals at Best Plumbers®