Happy Halloween! Candy and costumes make any day fun; we hope you have a fantastic time trick or treating! Remember to be safe this holiday, and don’t forget it is time to start thinking seriously about fall maintenance for inside and outside your house. A quick tune up of your plumbing system will save you some trouble during this upcoming holiday season!
Archive for October, 2011
A good sump pump is the only thing standing between you and a basement full of water, so it makes sense to implement a good maintenance plan for your pump. A lot of Stroudsburg homeowners don’t even think about their sump pumps, however, probably because they are buried out of sight, but the only way to know for sure that it will work when you need it most is to keep it in good operating condition. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
- Check the GFCI – Your sump pump should be plugged into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). This is a special outlet that keeps the system from getting waterlogged. If it gets damp, it shuts down, turning off your sump pump. Unfortunately, GFCIs can be faulty or break, so check it regularly to make sure it is always on.
- Upright Operation – If you have a standing sump pump, make sure it stays upright and doesn’t fall over when operating. These things can move a lot and if they do fall over, they may not pump properly.
- Test it Regularly – Pour water into the sump pit when empty to make sure it will work when needed. Most people who need emergency service could have pinpointed the problem weeks or months earlier if they had known the system was broken.
- Check the Outlet Pipes – Check the outlet pipes regularly for leaks or damage. If they start leaking back into the foundation, they can cause damage or leakage into the basement.
- Clean the Grate – Submersible pumps are often left to sit in their pits for months or even years without cleaning. At least once a year, remove the sump pump from its pit and clean away any gunk that’s built up. Stones or debris in the pump can break the motor if left unchecked.
A good sump pump is all that stands between your home and a boat load of water whenever it rains. To keep your home clean and dry, check your pump often and if necessary, call someone for routine maintenance.
Most of the problems that pop up with sump pumps can be avoided entirely if they are maintained on an annual basis. Sometimes you may need to call a professional for advanced cleaning or part replacement. If so, try and do so before the raining season starts.
A water leak can be a big problem in your Media home. Not only does it increase your bill – pouring water out of pipes that you now have to pay for – but it puts your home and its foundation at risk. Steady water flowing into concrete under your home is incredibly dangerous if left unchecked. Here are some quick tips to check for a leak if you suspect there might be a problem.
Your First Clue
The first clue that there might be a leak in your home is the water meter. If it suddenly starts to rise much faster than normal, you probably have a leak. You use the same amount of water on most days for showers, dishes and laundry. If the meter goes up by double each day, that water must be going somewhere. Many meters will even have a marker on them that indicates a leak (a red flag that you are using too much water and it’s probably a leak).
Finding the Leak
If you notice your water meter rising when all of your water using appliances are off (or the little warning meter is going off), you have a leak – let’s find it.
Start by turning off the main shut off valve to your home. Make sure your shut off valve is working properly by running a faucet after the valve is closed to see if water still comes out. If the leak indicator or meter is still moving after the shutoff valve is closed, the leak is before the shutoff valve, but after the meter. If it’s not moving, the leak is somewhere in your home, after the shutoff valve.
From here, look for signs of water damage or dampness throughout your home (and possibly outside). Most of the time, an indoor leak will manifest somewhere – either in a dripping ceiling or a damp spot on the carpet.
If no such evidence presents itself, look outside for water. Damp spots on your lawn on dry days are a sure sign as well. If you cannot find any signs of water leakage on or around your property, it may be time to call in a professional to take a closer look.
Every now and then something strange happens in your Radnor home that is simultaneously baffling and frustrating. Gray water from your washing machine backing up into your sink is one such problem and for many homeowners it can be an ongoing source of annoyance.
Why does this happen? To start with, know that your sink and washing machine drain lines tend to run congruent to each other. This means they combine at some point on the way to the main sewer line. So, if there is a problem after they combine, it can affect both systems.
How to Fix the Problem
First, you must pinpoint the problem. More often than not, a washing machine backup will occur in one or more sinks during or after the drain cycle of your washing machine. This may not happen every time or it may get progressively worse. It depends on why it is happening in the first place.
If the sink doesn’t back up on its own when you do the dishes or run the faucet, the clog is probably deeper in the pipes and only responds to the large volume of water being drained from your washing machine. In either case, you probably have a clog in the drainage pipe after the two combine.
Do NOT use any chemicals to clear the clog. Not only do chemicals cause damage to your pipes, which can lead to cracks and leaks later, they are not always effective at actually removing the problem – they simply minimize it in the short term.
To solve the problem, you’ll either need to plunge the sink and hopefully clear out the clog or have someone snake the line to pull the clog out of the drain pipe. If you cannot clear it on your own, it may be a good time to call a plumber for a more in-depth attempt to fix the problem.
When you notice a leak, you fix it right away, but what happens when you don’t notice a leak for days or even weeks? The damage it causes can have a profound impact on your water bill and the good repair of your Scotch Plains home. To avoid hidden leaks – the ones that hide in your walls or your yard, keep a close eye on your water meter.
The Hidden Leaks
Obvious leaks are…well, they’re obvious. They pour water down the walls, leave puddles in your bathroom or create ponds in your backyard. Unfortunately, the majority of leaks are much less obvious. They result from small drips between pipe joints in your walls or a hairline fracture in your water main or drain pipes. They may not even appear where you can see them.
If this happens, it’s important to have a keen eye for the signs that a water leak has occurred. Specifically, look for jumps in your water meter readings.
Watching the Water Meter
Your water meter tracks every drop of water consumed by your family. To check for water loss, record the reading at the same time every day and watch how it changes. To be sure of a leak, you can turn off all the fixtures in your home and watch for the meter to move. If the meter moves despite the fact that no one in your home is consuming any water, it is likely a leak.
You can also compare your bills from one month to the next. If your bill rises suddenly, without any clear reason, check the meter readings and the rates. If the meter reading increased suddenly and the water rate did not, there might be a leak to blame. If that’s the case, call a professional to inspect your water lines immediately – what is hidden to you might be a relatively obvious, straightforward repair to someone else.
Your kitchen sink is backed up in your Princeton home and you can’t prepare dinner. Or your toilet is plugged and even the plunger isn’t fixing the problem. It may be time to call for a plumber’s snake.
For those of you who are intimidated by tools, take note: you have nothing to fear from the snake. It is easy to operate and is an effective alternative to expensive plumbing repairs.
Okay, so you’ve decided to use a snake to unclog your pipe. Do you have one? If you rarely use a snake in your home you might want to consider renting one. Most tool rental shops have snakes in varying sizes for rent – from hand-held to electric. But it is a good idea to have one around for emergencies and you can find hand-held snakes for under $10 (often named “augers”).
The first thing you need to do is prep for the job. Make sure you have cleared out an area to work on the plumbing and that you have plenty of rags to mop up any spills or drips. It is a good idea to lay down some newspaper or plastic to keep the floor and cabinets dry, too.
Make sure you have access to the pipe by removing any drain covering. Obviously you will have directly access to the toilet drain. Before operating the snake you should put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands from the metal coils of the snake and any debris that might be in the pipe.
Next, slowly feed the snake into the pipe. You may have to turn the snake in a clockwise direction to move it along. Once you have reached the clog – and you can usually tell when the snake stops feeding – it is time to rotate the snake into the clog and loosen it up. The head or tip of snake should be able to grab on the debris so that you can pull it back out and dispose of it. In the process, some of the debris may wash away down the pipe and that’s okay (well, as long as it doesn’t accumulate further down the circuit). You really want to use the snake head to “chew up” the debris for removal, rather than just pushing it further down the pipe.
Once you have removed the debris clogging the pipe, run hot water down the pipes to wash away any remnants. Replace the drain cover if necessary and clean up your mess. Voila!
If you have a stubborn clog that won’t snake out or if you just aren’t comfortable using a tool, call a professional plumber to save you the effort.
If you’re like most people in Union, your plumbing is usually the last thing on your mind. Until something goes wrong, that is. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll have a clogged drain or leaky pipe in your home sooner or later. But while some plumbing problems are certainly unavoidable, there are quite a few things you can do to help keep them to a minimum and avoid larger plumbing emergencies later on.
For one thing, it’s a good idea to have your plumbing system checked by a professional every year or two. They can make sure that no roots interfere with the pipes in your yard and that things are generally flowing smoothly throughout the system. A professional inspection will also uncover any leaks, cracks or partial blockages that you may not have realized were there but that could cause significant damage later on if not dealt with promptly.
Do It Yourself Maintenance
In addition to professional inspections, though, there is some maintenance you can do on your own. For instance, every season brings new challenges for your home plumbing. Many people know that there are dangers associated with freezing pipes in the winter, but did you know that there are things you can do all year round to help your plumbing work better?
Fall is the best time of year to start disconnecting outdoor faucets and checking them for leaks. If you take these steps before the really cold weather sets in, you’ll be able to get necessary repairs done well before freezing outdoor temperatures become a problem.
This is also a good time of year to check for proper insulation around pipes and to make sure your water heater is tuned up and ready to go for the winter. Sure, you use it all year round, but the colder it is outside, the harder your water heater has to work all winter.
Once spring rolls around again, there are plenty of other tasks you can take on to ensure the continued healthy functioning of your plumbing. For instance, you should check all of your outdoor drains and gutters to see that they’re clear of debris that could have built up during the winter. You can also flush out your water heater again to clear whatever’s accumulated over the winter and check any pipes and faucets for problems that may have developed during the cold months.
What are some of the costliest repairs in your Media home? Costly can be characterized by lost money or lost time – or both. You may have experienced some of these so-called “disasters” and wondered what you could have done to prevent them. In particular, let’s talk about disasters of the wet variety – plumbing problems.
It goes without saying that nothing is built to last. Parts and products will eventually wear out and need to be repaired or replaced. But the rate of repair or replacement has a lot to do with how well things are maintained, especially common plumbing fixtures and appliances in the home. In order to identify some of the disasters caused by plumbing fixtures and appliances, let’s identify the source of the problems – and their location in the home.
We spend a lot of time in the bathroom so let’s start there first. What disasters happen in the bathroom? At least three come to mind: running toilet, leaking shower head, and clogged sink (also found in the kitchen so let’s kill two birds with one stone here). First, the toilet.
A running toilet is annoying and wastes several gallons of water by the hour. It is often caused by a defective flapper inside the tank, not properly sealed and causing water to leak from the tank. Next, the shower head. Leaks often occur when something as simple as a small rubber washer is worn out, breaking the seal and allowing water to leak. Lastly, the clogged sink. The most common culprit of a clogged sink is something that will not decompose or wash away, namely human hair, bits of plastic or fingernails, etc.
All of these bathroom backups can cause extensive water damage to walls or floors. In the most severe cases, a bathroom’s structure can be compromised by something as small as a dripping faucet – if left unchecked over time.
The next place we spend a lot of time is in the kitchen, another prime area for plumbing disasters. Two appliances that drive homeowners nuts (when malfunctioning) are garbage disposals and refrigerator ice makers.
First of all, garbage disposals are not made to dispose of everything. Utensils, plastics, bones and other goodies do not grind up but rather, bind up a disposal. A backed up disposal can shut down the sink drain and spill over its top. Just as annoying is a refrigerator icemaker, which depends on a plastic or copper tube for its water source. A break in the tube or crimp in the copper line can back up the water and cause a major leak behind or below the refrigerator. And like the bathrooms disasters, damaged flooring and walls can be the result.
Maybe the biggest plumbing disaster of all comes from something unseen by the naked eye: frozen water pipes in crawl spaces or attics. Water pipes in uninsulated areas can freeze when outside temperatures fall below the freezing mark. Often, homeowners are unaware of the problem because they are away from the home for extended periods of time or have failed to properly insulate pipes, crawl spaces, or attics. Frozen pipes can burst, causing extensive damage and lead to an even more dangerous situation: mold growth.
How can you avoid common disasters? Make sure your fixtures and appliances are maintained and if needed, serviced by a professional plumber. You may also want your plumber to give you a whole-house inspection, which can pinpoint potential trouble spots where your next plumbing disaster might be brewing.
Because it is so specialized and can lead to big messes if handled improperly, home plumbing is sometimes neglected among routine areas of maintenance in your Bethlehem home. This is a mistake, however, as there are some routine tasks that should be performed on plumbing systems, such as:
- Remove rust, calcium and lime deposits from the water heater
- Cleaning the aerators
- Clearing drain lines
- Sharpening disposal blades
Some of these are simpler than others, but for the most part, unless you are a very savvy homeowner, they should be done by a licensed plumber. Even if you are not up to doing your own plumbing work, there are still plenty of routine things you can do in order to detect potential problems and see if further work is needed.
In the Bathroom
- Unscrew the showerhead and look for deposits of lime, calcium, rust and other minerals.
- Run water down shower and tub drains for signs of slow drainage.
- Inspect the shower/tub for cracked tiles, which can be signs of leakage beneath the surface.
- Flush each toilet with the tank lid off to make sure they are flushing properly and all parts are working.
- Examine all caulking for cracks, gaps or peeling.
In the Kitchen
- Turn on the faucets. See if water leaks out of the knobs, handles or elsewhere.
- Have leaky faucets fixed right away.
- Look beneath the sink for signs of leakage from the exposed drain pipes.
Elsewhere around the House
- Take a look at the flame and burner chamber of your water heater. A yellowed flame may mean the fuel jets need to be cleaned. Make sure the chamber is free of rust and other small debris.
- Inspect the washing machines hoses for loose joints, cracking or holes.
- Look for mold and mildew throughout.
If you find any troublesome issues during this inspection, it is time to call in a professional to get them fixed right away. Doing this simple walkthrough once to twice a year can help prevent plumbing disasters before they happen.
Clogged and slow drains can be a real bummer in your Scranton home. Water standing in the kitchen sink is gross, and no one likes to shower with the tub gradually filling around their feet. Calling a plumber when the clog gets out of hand is easy enough, but it’s time consuming. Plus, it means having to do without whatever water source that drain is involved with until a plumber can get there to fix it.
The best solution, then, is to prevent clogs from forming. With proper use, some brief regular maintenance and a few tricks, most clogs can be stopped dead in their tracks before becoming a problem. Follow these guidelines and you may never need to make that emergency plumber call again.
- Don’t pour liquid grease, such as bacon grease, down drains. It can solidify in the pipes and cause a clog.
- Don’t flush anything down the toilet that is not designed to be flushed.
- Avoid using bleach or other chemicals to clean tubs, sinks and drains. Particles from these cleansers can build up to cause clogs, or even erode pipes.
Even with best practices, no drain will remain completely clean. However, a little proactivity can stop everyday residue from accumulating and forming a nasty clog. Try some of these maintenance tips to keep things running smoothly:
- Use a screen, guard or trap. These can catch food, hair and other debris which would otherwise wind up sitting in your pipes.
- Clean sink and drain stoppers regularly. Debris can get trapped on and under the stoppers, just waiting to break loose and cruise into the drain to cause a clog.
- A few times a year, stop up your sinks and tub, fill them up all the way, then let them drain. The pressure and volume of the water will help shake loose deposits in the pipes.
- Once a month or so, carefully pour boiling water down the drain to dislodge stubborn deposits. You can also do this any time you notice a drain is starting to run slow. Vinegar is also effective.
It really can be as simple as that to keep your drains clear and avoid using nasty chemicals or shelling out big bucks to a plumber in an emergency.