PRO-TIPS FOR HOMEOWNERS
Common and easily avoidable habits often result in unneeded visits by your plumber. Here are a few simple tips to avoid big plumbing bills!
Sink screens can be purchased at most hardware stores. As much as we believe we don’t put anything down the drain, the average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day. Many of them will find their way into the sink one way or another. Hair combined with soap scum or grease is one of the most common causes for blocked bathroom drains.
WHAT NOT TO PUT IN YOUR TOILET
Many service calls come from people who believe their toilets are a viable alternative to the garbage can. Countless calls are made to plumbers every week because of food, garbage, paper towels and other items that were flushed down the toilet. One common blockage is waste that has been caught on dental floss. It seems like you’re getting away with it, but eventually one day you have a blocked drain. Another surprisingly common misconception is that some sanitary products are flushable. Do not flush these items even if they claim to be flushable! I promise you the manufacturer of those products will not come out to clear your drain! So what can you put in your toilet? Nothing – unless it’s brown, yellow or white! Use your toilet for the purpose for which it was designed!
DON’T STORE ANYTHING ON OR NEAR THE TOILET
A very common service call is a blocked toilet. It is usually an easy fix but many times it ends up being a toothbrush, bottle of perfume, razor or similar item that was accidentally dropped into the toilet. The toilet will need to be removed in order to clear and sometimes it cannot be cleared at all. In this case a new toilet is needed. Storing your items away from the toilet can help you avoid a bump, a splash, and a service call!
If your toilet tank periodically fills without anyone using it, you have a running toilet. Because you have an overflow tube it is usually not a huge concern and some people will just live with it. However, if the toilet should ever block, the water will have nowhere to drain and the toilet will end up overflowing. A typical scenario I have seen many times is when someone with a running toilet uses the washroom at night. They go back to bed unaware that the toilet has blocked and wake up to a couple inches of water all over the floor. Having your running toilet repaired can help you avoid an expensive insurance claim!
REPLACE YOUR POLY B PIPES
Poly B is a piping material that was used extensively in BC for homes built during the 1980s until the late 1990s. It has been the subject of class action lawsuits against the manufacturer and deemed unfit for water piping by the National Plumbing Code. If you have this type of piping in your home it is only a matter of time before it fails likely leaving you with a very big problem. It is highly recommended to have it removed before something happens!
Garburator use is one of the most common causes of blocked kitchen drains and even main drains. After countless experiences with blocked drains around supper time, I tend to discourage the use of garburators, and I am not alone. There are two cities in Canada that have banned them outright! However if you grew up with one, it is likely you will not want to part with it. If you do use a garburator, try to stick to food waste which tends to be more buoyant. Stay away from vegetable and fruit peels. They tend to layer in the drain making a rather tough blockage to clear. Make sure you use a lot of water to carry the food out of your drain system. As always, be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions! If you use a Garburator, use common sense! It is not a garbage can!
RUBBER LAUNDRY HOSES
Rubber laundry hoses can hold for years but then suddenly split. Because of the sudden on/off action of a wash machine solenoid, a certain amount of water hammer will be absorbed by the hoses. Rubber hoses are not very resistant to pressure surges and can react the same as an overinflated balloon. A better alternative is steel braided hoses. The mesh of the hoses tends to protect the rubber from over expanding and causing a burst.
THE USE AND HEALTH OF YOUR APPLIANCES
A significant amount of water damage to homes is caused by appliance failures. Dishwashers, Laundry machines, and other appliances can leak suddenly while in operation should a safety switch, sensor, solenoid or other part fail. It is smart to use your appliances only while you are at home. Leaving the laundry on and going shopping is probably OK, but in the event of a failure, being home could save thousands of dollars in damage.
USE OF LIQUID DRAIN OPENERS
Liquid drain openers may seem like a great alternative to calling a plumber however you should be aware of a few things. Most drain openers are acid based, which has a very corrosive effect on metal. I once did a very expensive job for a lady who had used it for a few years in her shower. The drain hub was metal and corroded right through until it leaked. Unfortunately the only thing I could do was rebuild the shower from scratch. In this case she had saved a few hundred dollars in service calls, but ended up spending a lot more in the long run. Her shower was only a few years old. Normally a drain is cleared using liquid drain opener, but within a short period of time it blocks again, prompting another drain treatment. This becomes a “rinse and repeat” cycle until the blockage no longer clears. One reason for this, is that the products sold to the general public are reduced in their potency to limit some of the danger to the user. The blockage is not really cleared but only partially, leaving the user with the impression that the problem is fixed. Another reason is that many blockages cannot be properly cleared without using drain clearing equipment. The trips to the store for another bottle are only delaying the inevitable. A better alternative would be to use screens on your drains as previously mentioned. If you use drain openers be very careful to follow the instructions! They can be very dangerous if mishandled.
SHUT OFF VALVES
Shut off valves are installed for the purpose of isolating water pressure for a part or the whole of your system. Many an emergency is made worse when it is discovered that the shut off valves don’t work, or that they leak when handled. It is advisable to have your shut off valves checked regularly so they can be reasonably expected to work in an emergency.
TOILET AND SINK SUPPLIES
Most homes are built using ridged PVC or metal supply lines for the toilets and sinks. Over time these rigid supplies can breakdown, leak or burst. An excellent proactive measure would to have braided supplies installed. Braided supplies are more resistant to surges in the system.
YOUR PRV – Pressure Reducing Valve
Keeping the pressure in your home at 50 psi is a great way to extend the life of your piping fittings and fixtures. However the PRV (Pressure Reducing Valve) that regulates your pressure is a mechanical device that can breakdown, causing excessive force in your system. This can result in system failures, ruptures and leaks. It is advisable to have your PRV replaced at around the eight year mark as they tend to have a much more frequent failure rate after that time. This not to say, of course, that a PRV cannot fail prematurely. This is also why it is good to have your system pressure checked yearly.