Archive for Home Improvement

Do or Don’t : Plumbing Checkups

You probably already know what we’re going to say. Do. But why?

Most of us make yearly appointments with our doctors for regular checkups. Like a doctor, a plumber is typically called only when a problem has already happened. So, what if plumbers also gave checkups?

Prevent future problems.

If you had a bacterial infection, you wouldn’t let it go until it became worse. You would want to cure it before it became much worse. It’s good to start thinking this way about plumbing issues. If you let them go, it could cause severe and expensive damage. Particularly mold, water damage, rot and decay. This type of structural damage can cause leaks and rusty pipes.

Water damage is often behind homeowner’s insurance claims, and unfortunately plumbing repair neglect isn’t covered  as it’s seen as routine maintenance.

A plumbing checkup can prevent major problems and solve minor ones, like lack of hot water or weak water pressure.

Make it easier to sell your home.

Plumbing damage can also decrease your home’s value. It can effect both the price you ask for and the prices you are offered. Even if you receive an offer, a buyer could be inclined rescind it or request you pay for any damage found in an inspection before they purchase your home.

Prevent insurance costs from increasing.

Having your home inspected regularly keeps your home insurance low. Signs of water damage in particular can cause rates to go up. Stopping any problems before they happen will ensure this doesn’t happen.

Buying a house is an investment, so think of plumbing inspections as a way of keeping your investment valuable and secure.

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The 3 Most Common Causes of Toilet Problems

Of all the plumbing appliances you want to stay functioning as efficiently as possible, the toilet may be number one. Due to the unsanitary nature of its function and purpose, it’s pretty important that toilet problems be avoided as much as possible like the Bubonic Plague (which might not have ever happened if they had well-functioning toilets).

Some problems with the toilet are minor but annoying, like “phantom flushes” and hissing sounds. Others are more bothersome, like overflows, clogs and leaks. Most of these issues occur because of the following causes. Keep in mind there really is no finite number of possibilities (oh, good).

Foreign objects

There are certain things you never put down a toilet, but people definitely do it anyway. Ask any plumber. They have found things in toilets that you wouldn’t believe. So, it happens. People forget, or they don’t know, or they have small children that find the toilet as a fascinating source of entertainment.

The trusty plunger can release most non-serious clogs. Usually, someone just used a little too much toilet paper. In those cases a regular household force-cup plunger will do the trick. Insert the bulb into the bowl over the drain and pump vigorously.

For more serious clogs, you’re going to need a closet auger to clear the drain hole. Most homeowners don’t have a closet auger readily available, so these are the cases where they tend to call the plumber.

Bad or worn parts

A bad flapper (or flapper seat), when worn, dirty or damaged can allow water to leak into the bowl, causing the dreaded “phantom flush”. Your toilet will run intermittently as if someone had recently flushed it. Drain the tank and bowl, then check and clean the flapper seat. Replace the flapper if it’s too far gone.

If you ever hear a constant hissing sound coming from the toilet, it’s probably a result of water seeping into the tank through the supply line. This is normally caused by the float, refill tube, ballcock and inlet-valve assembly (the “hiss” is usually the sound of water coming through the inlet valve). Sometimes the float is sticking or just needs adjusted a bit. The refill tube might be inserted too far into the overflow tube. If none of those solutions work, you may need to replace the ballcock assembly.

Chlorine helps kill the microbes in the toilet bowl,  just as it does in a swimming pool. However, chlorine is a powerful chemical that can actually eat at or deform rubber parts of the toilet and surface of the seat.

Mineral build-up

This is a particular problem for anyone living in places with hard water. Hard water contains a higher volume of minerals that can build up over time and restrict water flow, causing a blockage that makes the water in the bowl empty very slowly when you flush. Using a curved wire (like coat-hanger wire), just poke gently into each flush hole and siphon jet to clear out the debris. Use a little mirror to help you see under the rim.

Whoever installs the toilet also has to make sure all of the parts are in the correct place. Improper installation can cause many of the above problems and beyond.

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So, as you can see, most toilet problems can be avoided by using good parts, cleaning, maintenance, and not flushing random things! By the way, plumbers, we are very interested to hear about some things you have found clogging up customers’ toilets. Feel free to share.

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Water Softening: Is it for you?

What is “hard water”?

Think about the water that enters your home through your plumbing. It is a pretty important thing to think about, since we come in close contact with it every day. We drink it, use it to brush our teeth, wash our dishes in it, shower in it, and clean our clothes with it. It had better be safe and clean!

So, you know you that you can test your water to make sure it is safe, but have you ever thought about the hardness of your water? “Hard water” means that the water contains more minerals than it should, especially calcium and magnesium. Hard water tends to clog our pipes, harden and fade our linens, and reduce the life of our appliances more easily because soup and detergent cannot dissolve in the water as well. The build-up in hard water can also affect the effectiveness of boilers and tanks, increasing the cost of your water bill by 15-20 percent.

What is “water softening?”

Luckily, there is a successful method of “softening” our water. Water softening works by removing the minerals that are hardening the water using a device that attaches directly to your water supply. They are designed to remove the ions of these minerals automatically, semi-automatically, or manually.

Water softeners are becoming increasingly popular products to use in our homes. Those who use them find that their hair is softer, their clothes look better, and their sheets and towels feel like they are brand new again. Their appliances also last longer and the pipes in their home seem to remain clear.

A good water softener will last a long time, even decades, if maintained properly. They require very little maintenance – just fill them with salt (rock, solar, or evaporated) every so often, maybe once every month.

Is soft water safe to drink?

It is safe to drink as long as it contains less than 300mg/L of sodium, as some sodium is added in the softening process. It should not be used to prepare baby-milk due to the sodium content. The salt from the softener will not enter your drinking water. Soft water still contains minerals we need, just less of calcium, magnesium,  and sometimes iron.

Who can use a water softener?

Everyone has the option to use a water softener in their home, whether they use city water systems or wells.  Choose one from a reputable company with plenty of positive testimonials, and ask a plumber to install it in your home if you are not comfortable doing it yourself. Here is a brief list of some good companies:

Culligan – www.culliganwateroffers.com

Pelican – www.pelicanwater.com

GE – www.geappliances.com/products/water/water_softeners.htm

Waterboss – www.waterboss.com

 

Posted in: Home Improvement, Water Quality

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When DIY Should Be Avoided

Owning a home can be expensive, so we understand the tendency to try and make repairs yourself. It is completely doable in certain situations, but in others it is best to call a pro. When it comes to plumbing, it’s alright to clean your own drain and plunge your own toilet, but there are a number of instances where you should put the DIY book away and call a professional plumber.

Gas-Related Issues

Natural gas is a great way to provide energy to your home. It can be a suitable substitute for electricity for appliances such as your hot water heater and your stove. When problems arise, be aware that natural gas and the items that use it must absolutely be handled properly. Do not attempt to work on gas lines in or around your home, because a small unexpected mistake can make it a very dangerous place to be.

Main Sewer Line Problems

This is a job you probably wouldn’t want to look into yourself anyway. Licensed plumbers are trained to handle this sort of thing and use the proper heavy machinery that is required to access the sewer lines deep within the ground. They are also aware of the problems that can occur, such as running into large tree roots, and know what to do in such an event. Finally, they understand all of the permits required to begin such a project.

Hot Water Heater Installation

Hot water heaters have plenty of lines that must be hooked up. Hooking them up incorrectly can be a very expensive mistake. It also needs to be connected to a power source to make sure it is heated efficiently. Plumbing contracters are trained in many types of installations, including hot water heater installation.

For these situations and more, calling a plumber can save your equipment, your money and your sanity! When it doubt, pick up the phone. Trust us — Even if you found a video on YouTub, a plumber will always do it better.

 

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4 Plumbing Myths Debunked

We have heard plenty of advice when it comes to housekeeping, and unfortunately some of this advice actually does more harm than good. Plumbing is no exception. The following myths are just a few that we have heard.

 

MYTH 1: Turning on the water while running the garbage disposal will prevent clogs.

If you turn on the water while the disposal is running, the water just gets smacked away from the waste by the blades. As a result, the food is still intact and more difficult to blend. The best way to prevent clogs in the garbage disposal is to turn on the water before you turn on the disposal. Let the water run for a few seconds to first let it break down and soften the waste. Turn the faucet off. Wait a few minutes, then turn on the disposal.

MYTH 2: Using an in-tank toilet cleaner will eliminate the need to clean the toilet.

In-tank toilet cleaners use bleach to make the toilet bowl appear clean. There is still plenty of buildup leftover that needs to be cleaned up regularly. Many people are unknowingly ruining their toilets because they don’t think they have to clean them anymore, thanks to their in-tank cleaner. We know it stinks, but the best way to clean the toilet is with a good old-fashioned brush and toilet cleaner. Pour some vinegar down the overflow tube to reduce funk.

MYTH 3: You should use soap and water to clean the bathroom faucet.

Soap and water can corrode the faucet fixture over time, eventually leaving you no choice but to replace them. To keep your faucets lasting as long as possible, keep them dry and soap-free.

MYTH 4: Adding lemons to your garbage disposal will keep it from getting rank.

Lemons are rather acidic. Too many lemons going into the disposal could damage the blades over time due to its corrosive chemistry. Ever hear a dentist warn you about acids from citrus fruits? Eating too many can corrode the enamel on your teeth. Considering lemons can so easily damage enamel, one of the hardest materials on Earth, it’s probably best to keep them out of the disposal as well.

 

Anytime you are given some advice, be somewhat skeptical. Always check the facts and see if the tip you’ve been given is legitimate, before something gets ruined!

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