As a homeowner, you probably don’t think of your plumbing systems until they don’t work. Don’t feel ashamed, the vast majority of homeowners are right there with you! “Out of sight, out of mind” is an easy mentality to adopt, especially considering the craziness of everyday life and the fact that most our plumbing systems are hidden behind walls and underground. Unfortunately, that mentality can leave you extremely vulnerable when your plumbing system has an issue. To help you defend yourself against the vulnerability we’re going to give you our Top 10 Things You NEED to Know About Plumbing.
What does plumbing involve?
To be very short, plumbing involves anything that allows waste to leave your house and water and gas to come into your house. Yes, gas. Many people are unaware that plumbers are responsible for the natural gas service from the meter to your home. All the more reason to make sure you’re using professionals that you trust!
A plumber’s job consists of much more than unclogging toilets and sinks. Many of our calls involve leak detection and repair. Leak detection is a specialized process in which high tech equipment is used to discover how the system in your house is laid out, then they use more equipment to find out where the problem is and give you the best options for repair. Water heaters are another example of the type of work plumbers can do. Water heaters may involve intricate work combining gas or electricity, and water. Handling these issues require specialized skills. Plumbers go through five years of training to know and understand how to safely work on these systems. One of the best ways to decide if you need to call a plumber is to ask yourself “does this problem involve water, sewer, or gas?” If yes, you may need to call a plumber.
Why call a plumber?
This question arises often in our world, and the answer is: Handymen can’t legally do it! Every person who works on the water, gas, or sewer system is required to have a license. When we explain to our customers what work we will be doing, many say to us, “Well I can do that.” But really, why call a plumber? Well we touched on it a little in the previous paragraph; expertise. For every customer that questions “why call a plumber?” we have just as many who have heartbreaking tales of being taken advantage of. Now here we need to make ourselves very clear: 99% of plumbers are great people who just want to help. But, like with any industry, there are a few bad apples that end up causing more harm than help. To differentiate ourselves, we try to give our customers as much value as we can. Which is why we write blogs, make YouTube videos, make Facebook posts, have an intense screening process for our employees, have training sessions every morning for our employees, and treat every house we go to like it’s our grandmother’s house. Our goal is never to walk in and charge the most for doing the least. Our goal is always to impress our customers by giving them exceptional service that exceeds their expectations. But enough about us, back to the question. Plumbers are supposed to follow the plumbing license law and board rules for every job, to make sure that their work is done safely and properly. There are departments in every state that spend a lot of time writing codes for plumbers to follow. On top of that, every city has codes that they too have adopted that are more applicable to their community. These codes are written with you, the homeowner, in mind. That’s what separates a plumber from everybody’s favorite uncle: Joe the Handyman. Sure, after a job is done it may be easy to look back and say “Well I could’ve done that…” but that’s also why we encourage you to ask your plumber what will you be getting in exchange for your money. Is there a good warranty on the work? Will the plumber go above and beyond to make sure they’ve fixed the real underlying reason why your toilet keeps clogging every two weeks? Are they going to evaluate your entire home to make sure your plumbing system is up to par? If you’re not getting any of these things in exchange for your money, you need to call a plumber who will deliver these things.
How do I maintain my water heater?
Water heaters are another prime example of “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Your water heater serves such a big purpose but so often goes overlooked. Then once it stops working, people call the first plumber they find on Google. Since water heaters are expensive, it’s worth it to call someone that you know, like, and trust. We tell our customers that you need to view your plumbing as an investment. Like any investment, you want to protect it. Learning a little bit about how to protect your investment will make your ROI increase exponentially and will make your overall stress level decline. We have videos that will help you maintain your water heater, so you never have to worry about that awful moment when you’re halfway through your morning shower and your water goes ice cold! Check out our YouTube Channel for some cool videos and be sure to like us on Facebook and read our blogs for more info. If you can’t find it, give us a call and we’ll help you out. So how do you maintain your water heater? First, let us explain why water heaters stop working after a few years. There are minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, in our water. These minerals are good for humans, but bad for our plumbing systems. Overtime these minerals settle at the bottom of your water heater. Literally so much sediment settles that it decreases the amount of water that is in your tank. Imagine pouring a bag of sand into a bucket and then pouring water into it. The sand takes up a lot of room and the bucket won’t hold as much water as it would if it was empty. So, to prevent this, we recommend our customers flush their water heaters at least annually. This is a process in which we run water out through the hose connection and flush it. This allows us to “flush” out any sediment that has settled at the bottom of the water heater. This will make your heater operate more efficiently, and will also increase the life of your water heater.
How much is a bathroom remodel?
The simplest answer is probably the answer you don’t want to hear: As cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Bathroom remodels can be just replacing faucets and toilets yourself and a new coat of paint. Depending on what you buy, it can cost a few hundred bucks. If you’re wanting to completely gut the bathroom, rearrange it, upgrade the fixtures, and upgrade the aesthetics you will be looking at an investment of a few thousand dollars. The deciding factor is to determine your reasoning for remodeling. Are you moving and need to update your house? Or are you wanting to modernize your home? If you’re remodeling to sell, you need to speak with a real estate agent or a home stager to decide how to get the most bang for your buck. Maybe it’s as easy as painting the walls and retiling the floor. If you’re remodeling for your own personal wants, the sky is the limit. You can install a toilet with a heated bidet seat, you can expand your shower and install fancy showers heads, you can even put a TV in your mirror, so you don’t ever have to miss a moment of your favorite show! It all comes down to cost versus benefit. This is a subject that’s hard to write about because we know you just want a direct answer, but this is nearly impossible to put a direct figure on. Your best bet is to make a list of all the plumbing work in the remodel that you want your plumber to do and work with them to decide if it’ll be worth it.
Are tankless water heaters worth it?
This is another one of those things that just depends. There are benefits to switching to tankless, but there are drawbacks as well. For smaller homes and smaller families, tankless can be a good investment. But for larger homes with larger families, the tankless water heater may not be able to meet the high demand for hot water. The initial price of tankless water heater is higher than a standard tank water heater. Tankless fans also claim that the energy savings is what makes it worth the switch, but modern statistics show that the savings may only be marginally better, taking years to meet Return on Investment. Additionally, with advances in technology happening so rapidly these days, traditional water heaters are becoming more and more efficient (especially when homeowners follow our water heater maintenance recommendations). Another advantage to tankless is that homeowners will pretty much get hot water on demand, but you may need multiple units for higher water flow. That may mean that trying to shave, while another person is in the shower may lead to one or both users being stuck with cold water, depending on water flow. Tankless water heaters usually come with stellar warranties and longer life spans, which is awesome for the cost! But simple maintenance to your home plumbing system may allow your traditional water heater to keep on trucking for years. The best general advice we can give is to take an inventory of your home (what size is it, how many people live there, how much water does your home use) and consult with your plumbing company. Usually they can give you honest opinions if switching to tankless would benefit you or not.
How does leak detection work?
As we have mentioned, leak detection is a specialized process that usually requires high tech equipment designed specifically for this. The first thing we must do when doing leak detection is determining if the leak is from a sewer line or a water line. Depending on how big the leak is we can administer tests on each of the systems to determine which it is. There are other tricks that can sometimes be applied, like watching the water meter. But if the leak is too small we might not be able to tell that way. One thing to remember about plumbing is that no two jobs are ever the same. It really requires someone with a lot of experience to use their knowledge to solve the problem. Once we have determined which line is leaking, we need to find the exact location. In case of a sewer leak, we can sometimes run a camera in the line and see the breaks. In other cases, we must use multiple test balls, hoses, and cameras to isolate every line to test them. This is the most accurate way to find a leak. Sometimes there are issues with lines and a camera can’t get through. However, when we can get the camera at the break we can then use it send out an electronic signal to another device that works like a metal detector to determine where the camera head is. From there we can determine all the X factors and what all it will take to repair the line and help the customer determine the best option.
Water lines are a little different. We trace them out and induce air to make certain noises. With the right equipment we can locate those noises and pinpoint the water leak. Leak detection can be a long meticulous process that isn’t always 100% correct. In those scenarios, we put all our experience together to find alternative methods to find the problem and make the repair. A leak in your plumbing system can be quite stressful. When talking to your plumber, make sure you fully understand the process he or she uses to find the leak, and ask for multiple options for repairs. You have the right to feel confident and comfortable.
How does drain cleaning work?
Drain cleanings are relatively common procedure in most plumbing businesses and the process is usually straightforward. In most cases drain cleaning machines, or “snakes”, can be put down the sewer line (the place where the machine goes in depends on where the “clog” is) and with a little patience the machine can break up the clog and get the sewer running back to normal. However, some homeowners find themselves dealing with the same clogged fixture every year, or few months, or even every couple of weeks. That can end up being expensive and tiring. Your plumber should go above and beyond to do a little investigation to try to figure out the underlying reason why your system keeps clogging. Sometimes the reason fixtures keep clogging could be due to a breakage in the line or poor installation work. Good plumbers will use their knowledge and experience to conduct various tests on different branches of the sewer system and the system as a whole to draw a conclusion as to what the issue is. Often tree roots can push into lines, creating small breaks in the pipe that cause big clogs. Other times foundation work can separate lines. Sometimes plumbers will discover that the system wasn’t installed correctly and a rebuild may be necessary. But you should always ask the plumber if they know why the system clogged and what can be done to prevent it again in the future.
Can you repair a shower handle?
More than likely, yes. It takes multiple steps but this is another relatively common job for plumbers. This is another job that many people feel can be a DIY project, and if you know what you’re doing you’ll be fine. Just be warned, if you start to get in over your head, you may end up causing more damage to the valve and will be forced to replace it. The type of handle that you have will determine the level of difficulty when removing it. PRO TIP: close/cover the drain so you don’t lose and little parts. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes when people want us to repair a shower handle, the handle itself is usually fine. The issue is inside the shower valve and the reason they say the handle is broken is because that’s the part they see. Sometimes it’s as easy as replacing a shower cartridge, sometimes it involves cutting pipes and soldering on new parts. If it’s the latter, you should call a plumber just to ensure the work has been done correctly. Improper repair of a water line can lead to a leaking water line. Which can make the inside of your walls wet. If they get wet, mold may become an issue, and that is never fun.
What do I do in a plumbing emergency?
STAY CALM! Make sure your plumbing company has an emergency line before you ever have an emergency. Your plumbing company should be reachable in case of water rupture or other plumbing emergencies. There’s one thing that every person who lives in your home should know: how to turn off your water. You should have a valve box in front of your house which can be used to shut off the water and possibly drain it down. Also, in your front yard you have a water meter where the city supply line connects to a meter to determine your water usage then runs to your home. Any home supply store sells water meter keys for less than $15. Some of them are two-sided, one side looks like a key and is used to lift the heavy meter cover. The other side looks like a wrench and is used to open and close the valve from the city supply line to your home supply line. Teach your spouse and children to use this tool in case of an emergency. It’ll not only save your house from a never-ending flow of water ruining your floors and walls, but it’ll also save you money. This knowledge can change your issue from an emergency to a priority. Emergency plumbing is often expensive because it’s inconvenient for everyone involved. However, if you know how to turn your water off you may not need a plumber in the middle of the night, you may be able to wait until the morning.
How to repair a water heater?
There are many ways to repair water heaters depending on the problem, the age and condition of the heater, the location of the heater within the house, and even the quality of the water entering the home. By using our recommendation on water heater maintenance, you may be able to prevent this from happening all together! But, if you find yourself in need of water heater repair give your plumbing company as much detail as possible. With enough detail your plumber may be able to even guide you through the repair process. Water heaters are intricate appliances that have many internal and external parts. Obviously, the external parts are easier to access and usually easier to repair/replace than the internal parts. Sometimes the damage is so bad the only option is to replace it. Water heater replacement is pricey but is absolutely worth the cost. If repairing your water heater is an option, here’s what you need to do:
If you have an electric water heater. First go to your circuit breaker and turn off power to your water heater. Just to be safe, test the water heater with a non-contact voltage detector. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Test it by using the detector on the wires leading into the water heater. They may be covered by a conduit of some sort, but you should be able to remove the cover to access the wires. If your detector gets no signal, then you know you’re ready to test the element and thermostats. Bad elements and thermostats are a common reason that your water heater isn’t working. You should use a continuity tester to test the element. The way it works is if the tester and the element create a circuit, the tester will beep or light up. If not, you’ll get nothing. If you’re element is bad, you’ll need an element wrench to remove and replace it. Drain your water heater first! Put the wrench on the element and turn it counter-clockwise to loosen it. You may need to use a hammer to break the tension with a light tap, or a pipe wrench for more leverage. With the bad element out and the new one in hand, screw the new element clockwise to screw it in. Once it’s in fill the tank back up with water. You must fill it with water before turning electricity back on. Then, go ahead and reattach the terminals to the element. Put all coverings back on it and flip your circuit breaker back on. If it still does not work, double check your work to make sure it was done properly. If still doesn’t work, call your plumber for an evaluation.
Gas water heaters are a little different. If you have no pilot light, turn the knob on your water heater to the off position for at least 5 minutes. Then turn to pilot and try to relight. If this works, try turning your heater back on to a warm setting then working the temperature up to your desired setting. If it doesn’t work, you can test the thermocouple and control valve with an electrical meter. One or both parts may need replacing. Remember to turn off the gas when you change the control valve or any gas parts. This may be something you want a licensed plumber to do since this involves natural gas. Newer water heaters have trouble lights and indicators to let you know the trouble code. These are wonderful. Now you can contact the manufacturer and see what parts need replacing. Once again, you may want to contact your plumber.
Hopefully this gave you some insight to what plumbers do and some of the most common questions we come across. If you found this helpful please like us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and be sure to check out the rest of our blogs. We want to keep our customers as informed as possible. If you have any question feel free to call us at (972)-442-4101.