Know Your Pipes
The type of plumbing in your house determines how long you can expect it to last. So review the home inspection report you got when you bought your home to see what kind of pipes you have—or bring in a trusted plumber to do a free inspection of your plumbing system.
Your Pipes’ Lifespan
• Typical lifespan
• Supply pipes
(under constant pressure and therefore most likely to cause water damage when they leak)
• Galvanized steel
• 80-100 yrs
• 70-80 yrs
• 80-100 yrs
• Drain lines
• Cast iron
• Polyvinyl chloride (known as PVC)
• 80-100 yrs
• 25-40 yrs
If your pipes are older than these guidelines, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be replaced. Well-maintained pipes may last longer, and poorly maintained ones or those in areas with hard water (meaning it has high mineral content), may fail sooner, says Passaic, N.J., plumber Joseph Gove, who supplied the lifespan estimates.
So, no matter what kind of pipes you have and how old they are, you need to keep an eye on them.
Remove Lead and Polybutylene
There are two other types of water supply pipe that should be removed immediately no matter how old they are.
Lead pipes, used in the early 1900s, have a life expectancy of 100 years, but they can leach lead into your drinking water, a serious health hazard. Polybutylene pipes, used from the 1970s through the 1990s, are extremely prone to breakage.
Signs of Trouble
If your house is more than about 50 years old, make it an annual ritual to look at any exposed pipe—in basements, crawlspaces, and utility rooms—for telltale signs of trouble. Check the tubing for discoloration, stains, dimpling, pimples, or flaking, which are all indications of corrosion. If you find irregularities, bring in a plumber to do an inspection.
You’ll want to keep a watch for leaks too, of course. Even small ones that are easily repaired may be indicators that the time for whole-house replacement is approaching. After all, the original pipes in your home are the same vintage, they’re made of the same material, and they’ve been subjected to the same water supply and usage patterns.
“So if you’ve got sporadic leaks in some places, they’ll start showing up throughout your system soon,” says Philadelphia plumber Joseph Emanuel.
It’s time to change your water lines
Also, when you fill your bathtub, look at the color of your water—especially after a vacation when it has been sitting in the pipes for a while. If the water looks brown or yellow, what you’re seeing is rust, a sign of decay inside the pipes. Consider replacement soon.
Best Opportunities to Replace Pipes
Ultimately, you’ll need to rely on a trusted plumber to advise you whether it’s time for a pipe replacement.
Replace what’s exposed. For a home with plaster walls, wood paneling, or other features that make it difficult to gain access to in-wall pipes, consider at least replacing pipes that aren’t buried in the walls. Although it’s a big job, replacing exposed pipes in a basement, crawlspace, or utility room is fairly straightforward, because the plumber can easily get at the pipes.
Replace when you renovate. Whenever you remodel a portion of your house, take the opportunity to inspect—and if need be, replace—any plumbing lines that you expose when you open up the walls and floors. This includes not only the plumbing in the kitchen or bathroom that you’re remaking, but also any pipes passing through the walls to feed upstairs bathrooms.
Is It Time to Replace Your Pipes?
Sorry if our title makes you a little anxious. Pipe replacement is maybe the biggest, scariest home repair project this side of a total teardown. Unfortunately, the very fact that so many of us feel too overwhelmed to think about our plumbing systems is what eventually creates so many of the big problems. We’re afraid of what we’ll find when we look, so we never look. In the meantime, a minor problem becomes a MAJOR problem.
There are a lot of reasons to replace sections of piping or even your whole piping system. In some circumstances, keeping old or corroded pipes is not only dangerous, it’s expensive. Pipes that need replacing can be the source of all kinds of pervasive plumbing problems. If you have to keep paying to treat the symptoms without addressing the root problem, your costs will just keep rising and the problems will just keep coming back. Before you can figure out whether some plumbing surgery is the right call, however, you should understand why pipes need to be replaced in the first place. Just like you don’t want to use dangerous or corroded pipes any longer than you have to, you don’t want to replace perfectly good pipes because of a problem that could be fixed more easily. That’s why we’re putting together this rundown of the why’s and how’s of pipe replacement. Know your pipes, and you’ll know what step is best for you.
Why Pipes Wear Out
Your pipes last a long time, but unfortunately we haven’t discovered a way to make them last forever (yet!). Older or worn-out pipes can have all kinds of negative effects on your whole plumbing system. Corrosion or blockages deep in your pipes can interfere with water pressure by preventing the water flowing through your pipes from gaining momentum. This can lower the effectiveness of your water-based appliances and also makes clogs more likely. Corrosion or build-ups of scale or other minerals can materialize on the inside of older pipe’s walls, forcing the water to work harder to push through to you. This will raise your water bill and eventually lead to full clogs. Given a severe-enough block, pressure could rise in your pipes and cause them to tear, rupture, or even burst. Replacing corroded pipes is annoying. Replacing drywall, insulation, flooring, and ceilings that are ruined by water damage is very annoying.
If the integrity of your pipe’s walls has become compromised, harmful materials like heavy metals or other minerals might also be coming dislodged from the pipe or other areas of the plumbing system and leaking into your water supply. Not only can minerals like this damage appliances and limit the effectiveness of cleaning, they can even be dangerous to drink.
This is especially a concern if you live in an older home. If your pipes were installed before 1980, they could have been made with lead components that have proven to be harmful. If you suspect your pipes contain lead, find out immediately and be prepared to replace them. It turns out lead is really bad for you. Don’t panic about those pencils you swallowed in grade school, though; just replace your pipes now. You’re probably fine. Pencils are graphite, anyway. Right?
How Pipes Wear Out
Your plumbing system does a lot of work. Pushing so much water up and through narrow openings requires a lot of pressure, force, and energy. That force puts a lot of strain on the inner walls of your pipes. Over a long-enough time, the violent force of fast-moving water grinds away at your pipes. Home pipes are usually made out of metal. This is because metal is sturdy and lasts a long time. However, metal is also susceptible to electromechanical electron exchange. When water contains or passes through heavy metals, it picks up the ionic charge of those metals. Your metal pipes have a different charge than the charge the water picked up, which produces a strain. This strain works at the inner walls of the pipe as the water passes through, wearing them down.
Even if your pipes aren’t metal, however, there are several properties your water might have that contribute to wearing away at your pipes. Chemicals added to drinking water can sometimes have a pH value that disagrees with your pipes. This produces an acidic factor in that water that is tough on pipe walls. Hot water and hard water also have corrosive properties. Hot water is harder on metals and hard water contains minerals that scrape away at pipe walls. Similarly, if your water has a high salt content, salt crystals can scrape up the inside of your pipes, wearing them away over time. Hard water and salt also leave behind deposits of their minerals as they pass through pipes, making clogs and causing corrosion.
This problems coordinate with one another, so the more you have, the more frequently you’ll need to replace your pipes. Pouring the liquid metal T-1000 from Terminator 2 down your drain, for instance, would be really hard on your pipes. Because he’s hard, metallic, hot, and salty.
How to Tell if Your Pipes are Corroded
Good news, bad news, and more bad news. The good news: if your pipes are really corroded, it’s hard to miss. Extensive corrosion will make your water turn the color of rust. It will taste metallic (we don’t recommend drinking it) and sometimes even have visible flecks floating in it. Nasty. The bad news: If your pipes are that corroded, you’ve got problems. If one pipe is that corroded, it probably means your whole system is either old or compromised somehow. Usually when we see that nasty brown water, we recommend a full plumbing inspection at the very least, and usually a full pipe replacement service.
The more bad news: If your pipes aren’t quite this bad, it can be a lot trickier to find out how corroded they are and whether or not replacement is something you should consider. Do some troubleshooting. Are you having more clogs in your toilets and drains than you feel you should be? Have you tried solving your plumbing problems at their respective sources and experienced limited success? Do you have inconsistently low water pressure? Is your water pressure getting worse? Is your water bill getting higher even though you’re pretty sure you haven’t been using more and more water? Do you feel like your pipes leak a lot?
If your pipes are leaking or clogging up a lot, or your water pressure keeps getting worse no matter what you do, it’s a pretty good sign of corroded pipes. If you can’t say for sure one way or another, you can always give a professional a call. We have our ways of getting your pipes to tell us their dirty secrets. What? No, we don’t torture your pipes. We have, like, cameras and stuff. Jeez.
What to Do About Worn Out Pipes
Call a plumber. Our consultations will be able to tell you when your pipes were made, what they’re made of, and how they’re holding up. One of piece of good news (hey, it’s not all bad!) is that often times, a plumber will be able to solve piping problems in relatively un-invasive ways. Like we’ve said before, sometimes what you might perceive as a pipe problem could be a tree root that grew into your sewage system outside. It could be a leak or tear resulting from poor initial installation or natural home movement. It could be that an appliance got jostled somehow (ever see how fast your kid runs for the bathroom after a long car ride?) and knocked the system out of balance. Sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting a gauge! If we do decide that a partial or total pipe replacement is your best option, don’t panic! You still have options. Our experts will help you find the solution that works best for your needs and budget. The trick to successful pipe replacement is to figure out what went wrong and to ensure that the problem doesn’t happen again. That means we do a full post-mortem on your plumbing to see what went wrong and what we can do about it. Then, we figure out what you want out of your pipes. What are your concerns? What’s your budget? What is your house at risk of? What is your water like? After we’ve got enough information, we put together a pipe system that’s customized optimally for your house. Optimum optimization is… optimal. You know what we mean? No, we’re not going to make your house a Transformer. But man, will those pipes work well.
We know pipe replacement is intimidating. We know there’s that little voice in the back of your head saying, “You’re probably going to move outta here eventually, just let the next sap take care of it!” Don’t listen to that voice. They’re kind of a jerk. Like with most plumbing issues big and small, if you’re proactive now, you’ll save yourself a headache later. If you’re having pipe issues, or you’re concerned your pipes are outdated or dangerous, get in touch with us today. After one of our consultations, you’ll know everything you need to about your pipes to feel safe and in control. Also, we can make sure they’re not going to explode at four in the morning. Which is a plus.
10 Signs You Need to Replace Your Cast Iron Plumbing
Did you just buy a new home or build your own house? If so, you don’t have to worry about your plumbing. But most people live in homes built before 2000. If your home is older than two or three decades, there is a high probability your plumbing is outdated.
Is it Necessary to Replace Cast Iron Plumbing?
The danger is even greater for houses built before 1970 since chances are you have cast iron pipes. The age of the pipes and type of material used will affect when and if you will have plumbing issues.
Cast iron was a popular choice for water and sewage pipes in the 20th century for a number of reasons:
Plastic piping hadn’t been invented yet
Cast iron pipes have a long life and were built to last for anywhere between 80-100 years Cast iron plumbing is durable and can withstand heavy loads/high-pressure The material deadens the sound of flowing water and sewage very well In spite of their durability, it might be time for you to the replace cast iron pipes in your home. Why is that? The original cast iron plumbing inside houses built in the 1930s and 1940s are reaching the end of their lifespan. Extreme weather changes, type of soil, and water quality will also affect plumbing longevity.
If you have mature trees in the yard, their root systems may grow extensively underground. At times, they can spread into the plumbing system and damage the pipes.
It’s not always easy to know if your pipes are damaged because most of them are hidden behind walls or in crawl spaces like the basement. Unless you’ve recently renovated the kitchen or bathroom, odds are you haven’t checked on those pipes in a while. However, there are a few visible plumping signs that are a dead giveaway.
Top 10 plumbing signs you need to watch for
Do you occasionally find brown or yellow colored water coming out of your taps? Unless you live in a rural area or use water from a well, discolored water is a sign of damaged pipes.
Discoloration in the water is a result of corrosion or rust and cast iron pipes are especially vulnerable. Discolored water is the most visible sign that you need to replace cast iron pipes.
Frequent leaks are another plumbing sign you should watch out for. It could be happening because of cracks in the pipes or damage caused by sulfuric acid. If the leaks persist even after repeated cleaning, you should have a plumber check them out.
Backups or Slow Draining
If you often experience slow draining when you flush the toilet or run water down the sink, it could be a sign that the cast iron sewer pipes are damaged. Unfortunately, cleaning products for unblocking pipes also contain sulfuric acid which is very damaging to iron pipes.
A sewer system in good condition should be airtight with the exception of a few vent stacks. Cracked pipes could cause sewer gas to escape which is certainly not healthy for you. If you can smell sewer gas anywhere in your home, it’s time to call the plumber.
Mold is another visible sign of damage. Some types of mold can start growing with as little as 55% humidity. A cracked pipe that leaks water behind your walls can easily cause the right conditions for mold growth.
Visibly Healthy Lawn
For humans, coming into contact with sewage is unhealthy. But it acts as a natural fertilizer for vegetation. If you notice your lawn is looking better even when you haven’t done anything, it could be a sign of leaking sewage. If you see patches here and there, that could be where the pipes have developed leaks.
Indentations or Sagging
If a water or sewage line is cracked and leaks water, it can pool underneath your garden or pavement. Over the long-term, it can dissipate the soil and cause parts of the ground to sag. This type of indentation may be hard to spot but is a clear sign that your plumbing is not in the best condition.
Cracks in the foundation or along the walls are an extreme symptom of damaged pipes. This often happens because the main line has a leak that was undetected. If you don’t replace the plumbing and repair the damage, it can cause sinkholes to appear!
If you suddenly find puddles of water or sewage waste anywhere in the yard, it is a quite obvious sign that your plumbing is damaged. 9 times out of 10 the leak will be located directly underneath.
Rodent or insect infestations are an indirect clue to damaged plumbing. Rats, cockroaches, sewer flies and other insects can get into your house through very narrow cracks in the pipes. Cockroaches can squeeze into pipes through gaps as small as the width of a quarter! Rats don’t need much bigger openings either. Calling a pest-control agency will solve the problem albeit temporarily. The pests will keep coming back since you haven’t solved the source of the problem i.e. cracks in the pipes. Regardless of the age of your house or the plumbing, you should periodically inspect the pipes. Any cracks, pools of water underneath a pipe, rust spots, and dimples are all plumbing signs you should watch out for.
Sometimes it takes more than a visual inspection to spot damage. If it has been a while since the last time you called a plumber, you can ask them to come over for an inspection. A comprehensive sewer video inspection will help you determine if the pipes need replacing. Have you seen any of these plumbing signs in your home? Don’t delay calling us! Replace cast iron pipes now and prevent major repairs down the line. The cost of replacement will certainly be less than repairing the potential damage in future!
Do I Need to Replace My Toilet?
Toilets are difficult things to know. They’ve been built pretty much the same way for hundreds of years, so you can’t really tell how old they are. It might not work very well all the time, but you can’t tell if that’s normal or not. Plus, there’s that never unacknowledged but omnipresent feeling that it’s you–you’re somehow doing something wrong in there.
Luckily, it’s someone’s job to understand toilets so you don’t have to. Specifically, it’s our job. If you think it might be time to replace a toilet but you just don’t know, start here. You should seriously consider getting your personal “oval office” replaced if…
It clogs once a week or more
Every toilet clogs once in awhile. How often a toilet clogs depends on the strength of its flush, the cleanliness of its drain pipes, and what it’s trying to flush. If your toilet clogs more than once a month–or even once a week!–it’s probably because mineral deposits have built up around the top of the drain or in the drain pipes themselves.
Mineral deposits get caught on the sides of a pipe and harden. Over time, the deposits accumulate, until they form a bottleneck that makes it harder for water and waste to pass through your pipes. These deposits happen more frequently when a toilet is old or has a weak flush, because the toilet doesn’t have the power to blast the minerals away from the drain pipe. If you want to make doubly sure your toilet is the problem before you replace it, you could have your drain pipes professionally cleaned. If your drain pipes are clean and your toilet still clogs, it’s time for a new one.
The tank or bowl are cracked or leak significantly
Toilets and bathtubs are made of porcelain because it’s waterproof, sanitary, and durable. Unfortunately, however, porcelain isn’t perfect–it can crack. Even if your toilet isn’t leaking now, hairline cracks and fractures grow, because even a tiny crack compromises the resistance of the entire structure. Look for cracks or leaks when you clean your toilet. Feel around the wax sealing at the base of the toilet, check the intake pipe behind the toilet, and look in and out of the tank as well as the bowl. Some cracks and leaks can be safely repaired without replacing the entire toilet, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have a crack in your toilet that’s actively leaking, you should get it replaced immediately. If your toilet does enough water damage, it could wind up crashing through the bathroom floor. That’s a mess you don’t want to clean up. Trust us…
Your water bill is very high, and getting higher
Like frequent clogs, a high water bill isn’t exactly a smoking gun. There are plenty of non-related reasons why your water bill could be high. Try looking for places where you could cut down on water use. If you still can’t seem to bring the bill down, the toilet may be the problem. As toilets get older, they have to work harder to do their jobs. Harder work means more water. Even if your toilet functions effectively, it’s also possible that it’s simply an old design that uses a lot of water. If you’re worried about your water bill, consider replacing your old toilet with a modern low-flow model. The new low-flow toilets work just as effectively as any other type of toilet, and you’ll save a surprising amount on your bill.
The toilets wobble or shift when you sit on it
This is a bad sign. Toilets should absolutely never wobble, shift, or wiggle. It’s not you, and it’s not something you’re doing. If you can move a toilet around by doing anything less intense than swinging a sledgehammer at it, that toilet should be replaced. Incorrectly seated and sealed toilets could leak, damage plumbing, or even compromise the structural integrity of the home.
First thing’s first: check the bolts in the seat and tighten as needed. Hopefully, it’s just that simple. If the toilet still shifts and moves, however, you should call a plumber right away. Don’t use the toilet until they’ve had a chance to look at it. A pro might be able to fix the toilet without replacing it, but chances are a wobbly toilets’ time has come. Don’t wait to call, either–if the problem isn’t the toilet then it could be the floor underneath it. You definitely want to fix that, too, and fast.
In general, toilets are pretty simple to operate and repair. Almost any part can be removed and replaced relatively easily and quickly. The flipside of the toilet’s low maintenance nature is, when it has a problem, the stakes are high. Damaged toilets can do some truly extensive, expensive, and… stinky damage to a home.
If you’re worried about the state of your toilet, give us a call today. We can perform a thorough inspection and let you know exactly what your old commodes’ deal is. If you decide it’s time for your toilet to go to the big bathroom in the sky, we can even replace it for you too.
Will a plumber install a new faucet in my bathroom?
Plumbers will indeed install a new faucet in your bathroom. In fact, if the plumber was already at your house dealing with a leaky faucet, they may be able to do that replacement the same day. It’s not terribly difficult for a plumber to replace a bathroom faucet, as it’s a very routine job for an experienced professional. The entire process can easily be done in about an hour (one the plumber has the new faucet in hand), and there’s no reason a plumber can’t do the job for you, if you don’t feel comfortable or inclined to replace the bathroom faucet yourself. Keep in mind that a quick job for a plumber might be a long, difficult job for a novice do-it-yourselfer.
5 Times You Should Call a Plumber
Jumping into a major plumbing project without the right know-how can result in personal injury, major property damage and tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. If you run across any of the following problems, it’s time to call a plumber.
1. Low Water Pressure
The cause of dribbling sinks and showers isn’t always easy to pinpoint. Pipe obstructions, city supply issues, and poor pipe design can all play a part in low-pressure fixtures. A plumbing professional will be able to recognize the source of your problem and provide an appropriate solution. Attempting to DIY a low-pressure problem can damage your home and sewer lines, as well as result in a continued low flow.
2. A Lack of Hot Water
No hot water is usually the result of a failed water heater. Water heater defects can stem from a variety of issues, ranging from total breakdowns to minor component defects. Regardless of the source of your water heater’s failure, it’s a good idea to hire a plumber or technician to handle the job. Water heaters operate using electrical and gas systems. Mistakes in working with these devices can result in personal injury and damage to your home.
3. Pipe Blockage
Severe, regular backups are common signs of a blocked sewer line. These clogs are normally caused by tree roots, sediment buildup or non-flushable items affecting your sewer line. Attempting to clear your blockage by using chemicals or rodding machines can damage your sewer lines and cost you thousands to repair. A pro will have the experience and skill necessary to identify the source of your problem and provide a safe solution. This is especially important in the case of a broken or punctured sewer line. Attempting a DIY repair on a broken sewer line can expose your home and property to raw sewage, as well as incur thousands of dollars in damage to your neighborhood’s sewer lines.
4. Burst Pipes
Burst pipes usually occur in the wintertime when frozen water in the line expands and causes the pipe to break. Cracked pipes can cause major flooding and incur thousands of dollars in water damage. Additionally, affected pipes can be difficult to locate. Damage can occur in your yard, below your foundation or behind your walls. A plumber will be able to pinpoint the source of your leak and begin the water abatement process immediately. Searching for the source of your leak, even after you’ve turned off your main, will give water additional time to seep into vulnerable parts of your home. A professional plumber will also be able to recommend repairs in the case of damaged flooring, drywall or foundation.
5. Major Installations
Installing major appliances or fixtures will require the expertise of a plumber. Attempting an involved plumbing project without the proper knowledge and experience can result in expensive repairs, and sometimes entire re-installations. It’s especially important to enlist the help of a plumber during remodels and renovations. Many large overhauls include updated room layouts. In bathrooms and kitchens, this means moving appliances and fixtures. Relocating items like sinks and dishwashers will require moving supply lines and the necessary drains. Attempting these updates on your own can result in a ruined renovation and extremely expensive repairs.
7 Signs That it is Time To Call a Plumber
Plumbing problems are often depicted quite humorously on TV. Everybody gets a good laugh seeing a character’s struggle to repair the issue – but in a real life situation, nobody laughs when faced with a plumbing issue. Leaking pipes, toilet backflow, clogged sewers, gas leaks – all of these are truly nothing to laugh at. They can pose a huge inconvenience to households and commercial establishments. They compromise routines and expose people to health risks. Many homeowners are too grossed out by the idea of wastewater that refuses to go down the drain. This is why, more often than not, people can’t wait 24 hours until proper repairs are efficiently carried out. However, there are some folks who do not make such a big deal out of plumbing woes. There are those who think that time can solve the problem, and all they need to do is wait things out. They tend to refuse to think of plumbing problems as emergencies and will simply let a few days pass before calling a plumber. Although it’s nice to be a person who’s not easily frazzled by plumbing issues, it’s important to refrain from treating such problems so lightly because delayed action can easily turn a small plumbing problem into a big and complex one. In these cases, it’s always best to assess the situation carefully and study its potential impact. If you wish to avoid costly repairs and replacements due to plumbing problems, trusted plumbers recommend keeping an eye out for the following signs of plumbing problems. These indicate the need for professional plumbing services ASAP due to their serious consequences.
7 Signs to Watch Out For
1. Mold growth A damp environment encourages the growth of mold. If this is the issue in your home, it’s important to locate where moisture is specifically coming from. If there’s a leak somewhere in the plumbing structure of the building, it’s best to identify where it is and have it fixed instantly to prevent further proliferation of molds, which is a hazard to both health and safety. It’s worth mentioning as well that mold removal is a stringent and costly process, so if you can halt its quick proliferation, you can effectively prevent this disturbance in your home life and the need to renovate your home after the removal of contaminated components.
2. Frequent dizziness, headaches, breathing difficulty, fatigue, and nausea If you use natural gas for cooking and heating, these enumerated symptoms typically indicate a gas leak. This kind of leak is hard to detect, even if a scent has been added for easier detection and you have a heightened sense of smell. But it’s not just the health impact that you need to worry about in this case; with a gas leak, there’s always the potential for fire as well.
3. Discolored water When water turns a different color, then you better beware and find out what may be causing the discoloration. Call your water company to find out if they are dealing with the issue, because if they are, they’ll be able to give you a time frame of how long the problem may last. However, if discolored water is not coming from the main source, then it’s quite probable that your plumbing structure has been compromised and contaminants have made their way into the system. Surely, no one would want to consume discolored water.
4. Backflow of wastewater This usually means that there’s a problem with the sewer line (which is not easy to see because your systems are underground). It can be caused by the buildup of waste (due to unhygienic practices, such as flushing wipes down the toilet) or tree root infestation.
5. Noisy drains or pipes, sinks, and toilets These may be due to bubbles in the system or fittings that have come loose; whichever the reason may be, it shouldn’t be ignored. A loud noise in water pipes, especially, should be inspected by a plumber right away because it indicates that something in the system is already broken or is about to break.
6. Low water pressure There may be a clog in your pipes that is preventing water from flowing freely. This is can be dangerous as the blockage may cause the pipe to burst or fittings to come loose, which then can damage your floors, walls or roof.
7. Indoor flooding When flooding happens indoors and it hasn’t been raining, it’s most likely due to plumbing problems such as an improperly working drainage system, a full septic tank, leaking water heaters, or a faulty washing machine hose. Indoor flooding is a huge hassle; it can negatively affect the quality of life at home because of the damage it can create, along with the health and safety risks it presents. When these signs manifest, you’ll know it’s time to call a plumber. These are all indicators of a complex plumbing problem that only properly trained plumbers should fix. The smart thing to do is to call one immediately in order to prevent further damage and to quickly restore the proper working order of your home systems.
The Most Common Plumbing Problems and When to Call a Professional
Almost every homeowner or renter has a few essential tools on hand to cope with minor plumbing emergencies. Many times, a clogged toilet or slow drain may only need a little elbow grease and a plunger to work as intended. If you’re handy around the house, you can generally tackle a small repair such as changing out a worn washer or replacing a drain cover. However, bigger plumbing repair jobs need professional attention. Trying to repair some common issues such as slow drains or leaking toilets could lead to bigger problems later.
One way to prevent costly repairs to your home is a regular maintenance schedule. Because many issues with your pipes sneak up on you, a thorough inspection is the key to catching small problems before they grow. Hidden leaks in sink drains or below water heaters are more than just a nuisance; over time, they can cause structural damage. Water that seeps into sheetrock or plaster contributes to mold growth. Porous tile or wood flooring can discolor or warp when wet.
Inspections from a certified plumber can give you a more in-depth look at your home’s pipes and drains. Your inspector will check the water heater, garbage disposal and every area of your home’s plumbing system. More thorough assessments might include remote video inspection of pipes, lead testing and filter system inspection. After a thorough inspection, remove and clean aerators on faucets and shower heads. Sediment can build up and slow water flow. If you opt for professional plumbing maintenance, your plumber will take care of this step and others for you. Some of the maintenance duties a licensed plumber can perform include: Drain treatment to maximize flow rate Cleaning of garbage disposals and water heaters Pressure tests to detect hairline leaks Water pressure assessment and adjustment.
Common Plumbing Repair Jobs
Even the most thorough plumbing maintenance inspection won’t prevent the occasional clog or leak, especially in older homes. The high water table in the Sarasota and Bradenton, FL area also contributes to septic system problems that can affect toilets and drains. Many of these common issues have equally common solutions.
If you’ve ever tried to fall asleep with a dripping faucet in the next room or wrestled with a kitchen sink that didn’t know when to stop, you know how annoying this common problem can be. A dripping faucet also drives your water bill higher. A single faucet can send hundreds of gallons of water per year down your drains a drop at a time. Water entering your home is under pressure to move it through the pipes. When you turn off the tap, rubber or silicone-based washers form a water-tight seal that prevents more water from pushing its way through the pipes and out of the faucet. Over time, washers can become stiff, torn or dislodged, allowing a tiny trickle of water through and creating that annoying drip. While you can replace washers yourself, the repair job can be more of a challenge than you might expect without specialized tools. If the leak has gone on long enough, the valve seat may have become worn or corroded, necessitating a more involved repair that’s best left to a professional plumber. Not all sinks have washers to hold back the flow of water. Ceramic taps, also called disc or canister taps, use durable ceramic plates that fit together to form a seal. Although they need maintenance less often than rubber washers, the repair job is more complex than a simple washer replacement. If you have a lever-operated sink or tub instead of one with separate knobs, you probably have a ceramic disc or canister tap.
Low Water Pressure
When water that should gush, only trickles from the tap, you have low water pressure. This problem might not be related to the pipes in your house but to the municipal water supply. It’s rare, but a break in a main line can temporarily reduce your water pressure. A more common cause of this problem is a build-up of deposits or sediment on faucet aerators. The water entering your pipes carries dissolved minerals in it that eventually deposit themselves on metal surfaces. If you have a filtration system, these deposits wind up in the filters and get changed; without such a system, these mineral deposits collect on inner surfaces of aerators and shower heads, clogging screens and slowing flow. Most kitchen faucets have easily removed aerators that just unscrew from the tip of the faucet for easy cleaning. Taking off the aerator and soaking it overnight in a vinegar solution will generally dissolve the calcium deposits common in Florida water supplies. Shower heads and bathroom faucets may not be as easy to remove, but you can affix a plastic bag filled with vinegar to the shower head overnight to clean it. If you still notice low water pressure after cleaning aerators and shower heads of sediment and deposits, you might have a more complex issue. A leak or breach in pipes leading into your home is an emergency that could damage your home’s infrastructure or foundation. Sudden and significant reduction in water pressure with no known cause merits a call to a licensed plumber who can pinpoint the reason for the change.
If you’re tired of jiggling the handle to make your toilet behave after flushing, it might be time to replace its inner workings. Toilets typically run when the flapper valve that lets water pass from the tank to the bowl no longer fits properly, the float is imbalanced or the fill tube comes loose. Toilet repair kits work for most models and require little effort to install. Occasionally, though, toilets run for more complex reasons. If you’ve replaced the flapper, float apparatus and fill tube, you may have sediment that’s affecting proper flushing and filling. Higher water bills could also indicate a silent leak. To detect a silent leak in your toilet, add a few drops of food coloring to the upper tank and wait 15 to 20 minutes. Look in the bowl for any hint of color; if you see tinted water, your flapper valve isn’t working as it should.
Whether your regular inspection reveals a puddle under a pipe or you get an unpleasant surprise when you reach under your sink, leaks can be a costly nuisance. Leaks usually happen at joints, which is why commercial joint fillers and fitting compounds occupy plenty of shelf space in your local hardware store. These products are a temporary fix, though; a permanent plumbing repair may mean replacing a length of pipe or its fittings. Although replacing a leaky U-joint under your sink isn’t a complex repair, it is a messy one. You may want to have a professional handle it for you to save the clean-up time. Until the plumber can get to your leak, use a compression clamp and a rubber sheet or leak tape. These temporary repairs keep water from spraying but are easily removed when it’s time for a permanent solution.
Slow or Clogged Drains
When the water that goes into your sink, tub or toilet won’t go out, you probably have a partial or complete clog. In many cases, your trusty plunger can fix the problem. Plungers use air pressure to dislodge a clog, but they can’t remove it entirely. Commercial drain cleaners and clog removers are safe for most drains for occasional use, but these caustic materials can damage some pipe materials if used too frequently. If you’re dealing with clogs on a regular basis, it’s time to call a pro. Even if you don’t have a complete clog, debris in pipes can slow drainage to a trickle. Shine a flashlight into the drain and see if you can spot the problem. A pair of pliers or tweezers might be able to reach a clump of hair or fallen bottle cap that’s obstructing your pipes. Installing drain screens can prevent detritus from finding its way into drains.
When to Call a Professional Plumber
Some issues are too dangerous or complicated to tackle alone. Hire a certified Bradenton, FL plumber for the following tasks for your safety and the integrity of your home: Installation of new pipes, sinks or tubs Water heater problems New construction that requires building permits Septic tank leaks Sewer line breaks or leaks.