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Sewer Backup Caused by Heavy Rain? Here’s What To Do!

drainage-pipe-1547589The rainy season can causes a number of problems for homeowners, including sewer backup. What happens if a sudden downpour or especially ferocious storm leaves you with inches or feet of water – potentially waste-water – in your basement?

Here’s what you can do:

First, it’s important to understand why these backups occur. Heavy rains mixed with other factors in your neighborhood can lead to disaster. For instance, if you live near a grassy area that was recently paved or formerly vacant land that’s under development, you should be on the lookout for problems if it rains harder than usual.

Protect Your Home from Danger

Next, if a backup does occur, realize you aren’t dealing with the usual type of flood. The water from a sewer backup can bring hazardous materials into your home, so you’ll want to take every precaution possible to keep your family and your home safe.

Never move into a flooded area if there is any chance a live electric current is present. This can be fatal, so don’t even risk it. Also keep in mind flooding can cause a pilot light to go out on a nearby appliance, which can cause gas to leak into the air. If you detect even the slightest smell of gas after a flood, call your utility provider immediately.

If the flood came from city sewer water, there actually isn’t much you can do to remedy the problem  other than wait it out.  Once the rain ends, the water level should return to normal and the water in your home will drain. Of course, you’ll need to deal with the cleanup, but as far as the water backup, it should recede on its own.

If you suspect your home is at risk for a sewer backup, make sure your trap plugs are tightly fitted to filter any sludge and debris from flood waters that pour into your home.

It’s also possible to have a backwater check valve installed if the house sewer is for sanitary use only. This can prevent water from flowing backward and prevent sewer backup from the public system. It will need to be cleaned twice per year, which is something you can do or you can contact a plumber to take care of.

A backwater check valve should be cleaned every 6 months to a year, a task easily performed by a non-professional by removing a few screws. No special tools or skills are required for maintenance on a backwater check valve.

If you’d like to know more about whether a backwater check valve could help you prevent damage in your home or you have other questions about your home’s plumbing system, give us a call!



How to Fix a Drain Clogged by Grease

greasy-1175882Most people know how important it is to not pour used greases from cooking down their drains, but not as many people are aware of all the ways bits of grease can make it into the drain. Unfortunately, because of the nature of grease, it builds up over time. Just tiny bits from your meals each week can result in a big problem over time, leaving you with a messy, smelly drain clog.

Grease is one of the most common causes of drain clogs. What you need to know about grease accumulation and how do you deal with a clog should one occur?

In addition to the gradual accumulation that occurs with grease, mixing it with other problems compounds the issue. The little bits of grease that build up unknowingly are mixed with the coffee grinds, egg shells, soap (especially those that contain animal fat as part of their ingredients), and other things that you put into your drain thinking there is no cause for concern. The problem is anything that comes into contact with grease just adds to the problem – greases is like a sticky web that causes a big mess of your plumbing.

How Do You Remove Grease Clogs?

Despite your effort to avoid grease build-up, it can still happen. And when it does you’ll eventually have a clog. What should you do about it?

Simple grease clogs might be fixable by flushing hot water combined with dish soap down your drain when you wash away food scraps. Some dish liquids will break of grease, but only if the buildup isn’t serious. If you’re trying to avoid buildup, flushing your drain with water and anti-greases buildup soaps can be helpful.

Caustic cleaners are more effective if your buildup is bad enough to cause a clog. You’ll need to use a generous amount of a caustic cleaner to get through dense accumulation and you’ll need to be patient – it can take an hour or more for caustic cleaners to clear a drain.

Keep in mind that frequent use of some products meant to clear a drain can corrode drain pipes over time. If you have recurrent problems with grease clogs, you’ll need to take a different approach.

Homemade cleaners can be effective and are safer for your pipes. A 1:1 ration of water and vinegar might be enough to clear a clog. Pour the boiling water and vinegar mixture down the drain, wait a few minutes, and follow up with more boiling water.

Unfortunately, some grease clogs are bad enough that no at-home remedy will do and you’ll need to call in a professional. Chances are you’ll get tips on how to avoid future clogs, but if not, ask for advice about what you should be doing and not be doing to keep your drains clear.

If you need help clearing a drain or you’re looking for ways to avoid grease clog problems, give us a call!

How to Keep Your Washing Machine Running

Your washing machine is the primary way you keep the process of doing the laundry at home convenient and efficient. Unfortunately, if your washing machine breaks down, dirty laundry piles up and you’re faced with a large repair bill.

The good news is there are things you can do to keep your washer up and running, and increase the likelihood it will last a long time.

washing machineMost people understand the basics of washing machine maintenance: keep an eye on washing machine hoses to make sure there are no cracks or blistering, keep an overflow pan beneath the washing machine in case of flooding, avoid overloading it during washing, and use as little detergent as possible. It’s also important to clean your machine about once a month and make sure gooey, liquid fabric softener doesn’t build up in the dispenser.

There are also a number of questions related to washing machine maintenance that come up often for homeowners. What are some of the things you need to know to make sure your washer lasts as long as possible?

Should the machine be level?

One of the most important things you can do with your washer to ensure it works efficiently and doesn’t malfunction is to keep it on level ground. This might mean moving it to a different space, but it’s worth it to ensure proper operation.

Will a front load washer work better?

Front load washing machines are more efficient than top loading machines. Initially they are more expensive, but the investment pays off over time (usually just a few years) because you save water, drying time, and detergent usage.

Why isn’t the warm water really warm?

In most cases, the warm water setting doesn’t get warm enough because the hot water mixing with the cold to create warm isn’t hot enough. Water that is extremely cold can also warm down the hot water too much as it enters the machine.

There are more recent washers with temperature sensors that help alleviate these problems, but in some cases, it’s the water inlet valve’s restrictions creating an issue. You might also have sediment build up on the screen.

How do I know what “overloading” is for my washer?

In most cases for a top loading washing machine, you want the clothes to be loose against the agitator. Any time they are packed in it’s too much. In front loading washer, you can load until it’s full, but make sure there isn’t too much packing or compression.

How do I know I’ve used too much detergent?

One of the primary indicators you’re overdoing it on detergent is the remainder of soap suds at the end of a cycle. The best way to get the right detergent amount is to cut whatever you are using right now in half. If clothes aren’t clean with this amount, gradually increase what you’re using a little at a time until you get clean clothes.

Do I really need to follow the washing suggestions provided by clothing manufacturers?

Yes! Whether it’s water temperature, cycle suggestions, or turning clothing inside out before washing, make sure you are reading labels and following the instructions provided. Turning clothing inside out reduces pilling and extends the life of some fabrics. It can also protect decals, embroidery, and other embellishments on clothing.

If you’d like to know more about increasing the life span or improving the performance of your washing machine, or you need help with repairs, give us a call!

Can My High Water Bill be because My Toilet Has Been Running?

toilet-1493961Your toilet might be the cause of your high water bill. A leaking toilet wastes as much as five gallons of water per minute, which adds up fast. Even a small leak could be responsible for the loss of 20,000 to 40,000 gallons of water each day. If you think there might be a leak in your toilet, you need to repair it as soon as possible to avoid an unpleasant surprise when your water bill arrives.

How Do I Detect a Toilet Leak?

Chances are if you can hear your toilet running you have an issue, but confirming a leak is simple. Add one teaspoon of food coloring to the water in the toilet tank and wait about 15 minutes before flushing. If there is colored water in the toilet bowl after the flush water is leaking into from the tank into the bowl, which means there’s a leak.

The Process of Flushing

Fixing a toilet that won’t stop running and wasting water first requires you understand a bit about how flushing works.

Modern toilets have worked about the same since they were invented. When you flush, the lever opens a flapper to cause the flush of water, then water fills the tank and lifts the float that shuts off the water when it reaches a certain level.

Now that you understand how a flush is supposed to work, you can determine what’s causing your toilet to constantly be in a sort of flush mode.

Float and Valve Problems

The culprit for a running toilet is often the float. When the float is set too low it results in a weak flush, but when it’s set too high water spills into the overflow tube and the fill valve won’t shut off.

To determine if the float is too high,  measure down about an inch on the toilet’s overflow tube and make a mark. Flush the toilet and see if the water reaches and stops at the mark. If not the float needs adjusting.

Chain and Flapper Problems

Sometimes the problem is the valve. If your valve won’t shut off  it’s defective and you’ll need to have it replaced.

Another potential problem that can cause a toilet to run is the chain length. The chain affects whether or not the flapper can close, and when the flapper is left open it causes constant running.

Finally, the problem might be caused by a worn out flapper. This is often discovered by process of elimination – if none of the issues listed above is causing the toilet to run, you can assume you need to have the flapper replaced.

The good news is a running toilet usually isn’t the sign an expensive fix is needed. More often than not the cost of the water wasted because of the problem is far more expensive than the problem itself. This is why it’s so important to get things fixed as soon as possible.

If you’d like more information on detecting and dealing with leaks in your home or you need help identifying a leak, give us a call!

When Should I Get Leak Detection?

Leaks can be a messy and expensive plumbing problem, but they are usually easy to fix. One of the best ways to determine if you have a leak is through leak detection.

It’s possible to detect leaks on your own and many homeowners try this DIY leak detection method before calling a pro.

There are a few steps you can take to detect a leak in your home, including:

  • Check exterior hose bibbs to make sure one wasn’t left on.
  • Check toilets by placing a dye tablet or food coloring into the toilet take. If the color seeps into the bowl, you’ll need a flapper valve repair or replacement. You can check for a flushing leak by wedging toilet paper between the tank and the bowl and seeing if it stays dry during the flush.
  • Check faucets by turning them on one at a time, moving the faucet handle back and forth, and looking for leakage around the valve stem and faucet spout. Also check the drain piping under the sink for water.
  • Work drain plugs open and closed with the water running in baths and sinks, and check for leaks where they connect to the drain system.
  • Inspect the garbage disposal and dishwasher for leaks while each appliance is running.
  • Check the walls where pipes connect and look for moisture, sponginess, or discoloration.
  • Listen for a humming sound from your pipes. This is usually a good indication of water loss, which can occur through a fixture or outlet, or through a leakage point along the line.

Calling in the Pros

If your DIY inspection doesn’t put you at ease or you would rather a professional check for leaks right from the get-go, there are a few things to know. You’ll want to hire an experienced professional who can find your leak and help you repair it. This is a situation in which cutting corners can lead to property damage and greater expense long-term, so if you go with a pro, make sure you’re choosing someone qualified for the job.

Here’s what to consider when choosing a leak detection specialist:

Experience – Before hiring any leak detection or plumbing specialist, ask how long they have been in business, with what professional organizations they are affiliated, and if they have a staff or if it’s just one person running the show. It’s also a good idea to find out if they participate in continuing education about leak detection.

Equipment – Ask if the company uses the most up-to-date electronic equipment for leak detection. “Old school” methods don’t cut it anymore and won’t do you much good. They’re really no better than DIY methods of leak detection, so before you invest in a professional, make sure they are really offering professional services.

Satisfaction guarantee – If the professional you hire is unable to find the leak, what comes next? What happens if they don’t detect all of the leaks? Is there a guarantee they’ll come back and fix additional problems, or will you need to pay for another service call?

Pricing – Get a price estimate on leak detection beforehand. Also ask if their price quotes are guaranteed.

Insurance – Some homeowners insurance companies offer leak detection services or can at least refer you to someone they’ve worked with. In some cases, insurance will even pay for leak detection. You can also check with property management companies or online review services for highly recommended leak detection professionals in your area.

If you’d like more information on detecting and dealing with leaks in your home or you need help identifying a leak, give us a call!

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