Diagnose Sewer Line Problems with a Camera Inspection

One of the absolute worst places to need plumbing repairs is in the sewer line. That’s the main outtake pipe that removes all the used greywater and waste from your home and into the municipal sewage system. When that waste water starts backing up into your house, not only is it gross, it can foretell a very difficult and expensive repair. Since the sewer pipe is often buried by several feet of dirt and pavement, it’s difficult to even diagnose what the problem is without a major excavation. Fortunately, one of the increasing popular plumber services available is sewer inspection by camera, which allows technicians to discover and diagnose problems in your sewer pipe without having to dig it up first.

Worth A Thousand Words

Plumbing cameras have been emerging over the past several years, and these waterproof devices are able to maneuver through all different types of pipes to arrive at the source of your problem. Plumbers have a variety of cameras at their disposal, each of which can fit into different size pipes and have the ability to pan, rotate and zoom to give a comprehensive view of what’s inside. The cameras transmit high-res images from every angle, allowing the plumber to tell you exactly what’s going on – be it good news or bad.

If you’re lucky, a clog in the sewer line is just a garden-variety buildup of hair and household waste. Worse is an accumulated crystallization of soap and grease, but both of those problems can be addressed without tearing up the yard. The worst-case scenario is a break in the sewer line itself, perhaps from a tree root tearing into it and allowing dirt to cave in the passageway.

Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Although there are less invasive ways of fixing underground sewer line problems, such as trenchless plumbing repair, sometimes the only solution is to dig, which can push the cost into five figures. With a camera diagnosis, you can at least take solace in the knowledge that you wouldn’t be excavating the yard if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Plumbing cameras can be used to find problems in other parts of your system as well, such as hidden leaks somewhere in your walls, mineral buildup that hurts your water pressure or clogs that are found within the main pipe system. Before you schedule a costly and invasive diagnostic visit with a plumber, ask if they can provide the service more efficiently with a camera.

Call An Expert for All Your Plumber Services

If you are having trouble with your drains and need your sewer line inspected, or require any other plumber services, call a local contractor today.

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How to Add a Bathroom to Your Basement

Anyone who comes from a large family can tell you horror stories about waiting in line for the bathroom. Everybody loves to take their time showering, brushing their teeth, applying makeup and answering nature’s call, but if you only have one or two bathrooms in your home, you are liable to have serious conflicts in the morning. One way to take some of the pressure off without giving up valuable square footage is to install a bathroom in your basement. Read on for tips on how to add extra plumbing installations and bring harmony to your household.

Underground Plumbing Installations

Installing a bathroom in the basement does more than give you an extra sink and toilet. It also adds convenience to your home life and is a great first step toward reclaiming unused basement space and turning it into a comfortable, livable area – perhaps even a separate apartment to rent out. It can also add value to your home when it comes time to sell.

Keep in mind, however, that there are special considerations when it comes to adding plumbing installations below ground level. The key factor is the depth of your existing plumbing – if there’s room to install the sink and toilet above the current drain depth, the job will be much easier. If the sewer line isn’t deep enough, however, you may need to install a pump or other way of removing the wastewater from your home. There are also likely to be special rules in your local building code that deal with below-grade plumbing installations.

The Great Shower Conundrum

There are a number of factors to consider once you decide to go forward with your basement bathroom. Placement is of prime importance. To some extent, you are limited by the architecture of your basement. But if you can slot the bathroom so it is near your existing plumbing installations, you will make your life significantly easier when it’s time to lay pipe.

You also need to figure out if you just want to add a powder room with a sink and toilet, or if you need to put in a full bathroom complete with a tub or shower. The powder room option is a lot simpler and less expensive, but if you want to use the basement as a guest room or apartment, a tub or shower is crucial. Also, since basements tend to be more damp than the above-ground areas of your home, you’ll want to include a ventilation system to help prevent mold and mildew from building up.

Expert Advice for Your Plumbing Installations

When you’re ready to move forward with your basement bathroom plumbing installation, don’t hesitate to call your local plumber for expert service and advice.

How to Save Water When You Shower

Showering is part of everyday life. Be it a luxurious hot shower in the middle of winter, or a cold shower in the summertime to wash the sweat away, we love to get clean. In fact, showering accounts for 17 percent of all indoor household plumbing use in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s 1.2 trillion gallons per year – a significant use of resources, to say nothing of all the energy used to heat water for hot showers.

Save Money, Energy and Water at the Same Time

Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but we all have a responsibility to conserve. Check out these tips to cut down on water consumption with your household plumbing while still maintaining proper levels of hygiene:

  • Go Low Flow: Your average shower head uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute, all of which goes right down the drain. If you upgrade to a Water Sense certified low-flow shower head model, you cut down consumption to a maximum of 2 gallons per minute, leading to household plumbing savings of 2,900 gallons per year for the average family, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. When energy to heat the water is taken into account, you can save about £70 per year by making the switch.
  • Don’t Waste Water: When you let the shower run before you jump in, waiting for it to reach just the right temperature, you’re wasting gallons of water. “Typically 20 percent of every shower, the duration, is essentially lost,” Jonah Schein, technical coordinator for homes and buildings for the EPA’s WaterSense program, said to the Daily Herald. “The average shower is a little over eight minutes long, so that’s a good chunk of the shower that we’re not actually being able to utilize.” That’s a significant loss, especially when you take into consideration the serious droughts facing certain parts of the country.
  • Take Fewer Showers: According to a story in the Atlantic, more than 70 percent of people in the United States shower every day, and the average American takes just under seven showers per week. That’s right around the global average – Brazilians were in the lead with nearly 12 showers per week! Still, a shower per day is a lot of water. Try cutting down to every other day and see how it works for you.
  • Recycle the Water: One of the best ways to reduce water waste in your household plumbing is to use it twice. You can take the simple route and put a bucket in the shower with you to capture excess water, and then use it to flush the toilet or water the garden. For a more complicated option, you could install a greywater recycling system that automatically takes water from the shower drain, treats and filters it, then diverts it to the toilet or irrigation system.

How to Adjust the Sink Stopper in Your Drain Plumbing

The bathroom sink stopper is a handy little gadget, allowing you to fill the basin with water to help with shaving or washing your face. However, like most household systems, the stopper isn’t perfect and it can become maladjusted over time, causing the sink to drain instead of holding the water for you. Fortunately, the sink stopper is a perfect candidate for a little DIY drain plumbing. With the right tools and a bit of know-how, you can have your stopper sealing the drain again in no time.

Why Good Stoppers Go Bad

There are two reasons why most stopper malfuctions occur – either it’s out of alignment, or it’s clogged with hair and gunk. You can address both problems in the same repair. Best of all, you don’t need to buy a new toolkit. For most sink setups, all you need to fix a problem with the stopper is a pair of adjustable pliers and a cleaning brush.

All you have to do is crawl under the sink and look for the nut that sticks out of the back of the drain plumbing. A rod comes out of the nut and is connected to a bar that leads up toward the faucet handle. Use the pliers to loosen the nut and remove the rod from the pipe, which will allow you to pull the stopper out of the sink entirely.

Cleaning and Adjustment

This is your opportunity to clean off years of accumulated goo and hair from the stopper. Use the brush and give it a thorough scrubbing. That alone might be enough to fix the problem and allow the stopper to move up and down normally while providing a tight seal. You should also use the brush to clean out goo and biofilm from the inside of your drain plumbing while you have it open.

Then, when you put the stopper back together, you simply adjust it to your liking. Place the stopper back down in the drain, then run the rod through the pipe and the hole in the bottom of the stopper. You can then manually unclip the rod from the flat bar that leads to the faucet handle and reattach it at a point that pulls the stopper down to make a tight seal in the drain. Finally, when everything is where you want it, tighten the nut.

The Final Touches

That’s all there is to it. Move the handle on the faucet up and down and make sure the stopper responds to your liking. If not, give it another adjustment. Run some water down the sink and take a look underneath to make sure you tightened the nut properly and didn’t create a leak.

Sometimes, no matter how many times you readjust the stopper, you can’t get it to function just right. If you are still having trouble keeping water in your sink, have a qualified plumber fine-tune your drain plumbing and get you back in business.

Avoid These Common DIY Plumbing Mistakes

There’s nothing like a little do-it-yourself knowledge when it comes to your home’s plumbing system. You can save money and feel good about completing a project using your own skills and ingenuity. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as easily as planned – and when plumbing work goes wrong, it can go very wrong in a hurry. Make sure to avoid these common plumbing mistakes so you don’t end up creating a messy and expensive repair job.

Not Shutting Off the Water

There’s a main water shut off valve somewhere in your house, and probably localized shutoffs for some of your individual rooms and fixtures. Be sure you shut down the flow of water before you start taking anything apart, lest you end up with an inadvertent flood.

Too Much Drain Cleaner

A clogged drain is one of the simpler problems for the DIY plumber, but even this fix can go wrong. Many plumbers recommend that you avoid using chemical drain cleaners, or if you do indulge, use very sparingly. If you overdo it, you could end up corroding your pipes. Better to use mechanical methods like a plunger or a plumbing snake to clear up whatever is causing the blockage.

Mixing Up Your Materials

There are a variety of pipe materials on the market, and you should be aware of what’s installed in your home. If you want to make a change, like swapping outdated PVC plastic for more modern PEX, be sure you understand what the consequences might be. Some types of plastic can’t handle hot water, and there are other materials you shouldn’t match – copper connectors on galvanized metal pipes can cause corrosion, for example, leading to blockages down the road. Consult a professional before making any material changes.

Not Having the Right Tools for the Job

When you’re trying to pull your pipes in and out of place, there’s not a lot of margin for error. You don’t want to be tightening joints with the wrong kind of wrench, or struggling to remove a nut when it would come off easily with the right tool. Make sure you have the correct tools for the job before you start, and know how to use them.

Ignoring Local Code

Your municipality has a local building code which includes rules and regulations for plumbing, covering what types of materials you can use, what types of configurations are legal and more. The code is there for a reason – it helps protect your home from cheap, shoddy work that’s likely to break down and cause more problems in the future. Know the code and follow it.

Not Knowing When to Throw in the Towel

Know when it’s time to give up. A repair that looks easy on video can end up taking you days, especially if you have to run out for new parts or tools in the middle of the work. There’s no shame in admitting that a job is beyond your capabilities. If you end up in over your head and in the midst of a DIY plumbing disaster, call in an expert plumber ASAP to help mitigate any problems and get you back on the right track.

How to Clean Out Your Sink Trap

Are you struggling with a clogged sink? If you’re lucky, you can resolve the problem by using a plunger or  using a plumbing snake to clear the drain, but a tougher clog might require you to remove the trap in the pipes. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple task that you can probably take on yourself. It’s also a valuable skill to have in case you accidentally wash something valuable, like a wedding ring, down the sink. When in doubt, call in a professional.

The Right Tools for the Job

Before you put wrench to pipe, try sending hot water down the drain and using a plunger to dislodge the blockage. If both the plunger and the snake fail to get the job done, it’s time to get an up-close look at the pipes under the sink.

First, gather your tools. You’ll want a bucket to catch spilled water, a wrench or channel lock pliers to get the pipes apart and a brush to clean out the clog. The trap is easy to find – just look directly under the sink for the pipe that’s bent into a “J” shape.

Set the bucket underneath the trap to catch any water or debris. Next, use the wrench or pliers to unscrew the joints on each side of the trap and remove it from the other pipes, letting the water drain into the bucket. Keep an eye out for the o-rings that should be sitting between the trap and the other pipes.

Clear Out the Gunk

Now that you’ve removed the trap, you can use a brush to remove the hair, soap scum and other debris that may be clogging the pipe. It’s also a good opportunity to clean it out with the hose to remove any lingering goo or biofilm.

Once the trap is clean, all that’s left to do is put it back together exactly the way it was – minus the clog, of course. Don’t forget to reinsert the o-rings between the pipe fittings before you screw them back together. Tighten up the joints until they are firm, but be careful not to twist too tightly or you could damage them. This is especially important if you have plastic pipes.

Finish the Job

When the trap is back in place, run some water down the drain to refill it and check for any leaks. If it’s dry, clean up any mess and you’re done.

If something does go wrong, however, don’t hesitate to call up an expert to come put everything back together. It’s better to admit defeat and ask for help than risk creating an even larger problem.

What Do Those Funny Plumbing Noises Mean?

When your plumbing system is working properly, you don’t have to think about it. Water comes in, water and waste get removed – that’s the end of the story. Unfortunately, things don’t always go so smoothly. Sometimes, the plumbing can break down – noisily. Here’s a primer on the possible meaning behind the strange noises coming from your pipes, and how to remedy them.

Hissing in the Sink: A hissing sound coming from your fixtures is often a sign that the water pressure is too high. This can run up your water bill and stress your pipes over time. Having a pressure regulator installed can keep the PSI within normal levels.

Thud or Hammer: The distinctive thud when you turn off a faucet can be another indication that your pressure is too high. A regulator might help, as could installing air chambers or shock absorbers in the pipes. These devices compress when the water shuts off, cushioning the hammer effect.

Whistling from the Pipes: If your fixtures whistle, that could indicate the opposite problem – the pressure is too low. Try turning your pressure regulator down, if you have one. A whistle could also be a sign that there’s air or debris in the pipes. To address that issue, turn off your main shutoff valve and run the faucet until you drain out all the water, then open the valve again and see if that helps.

Rattle and Shake: Do you hear your pipes rattling when you flush the toilet or otherwise drain out water? They might be physically loose. Test the fittings to find any spots that aren’t properly secured, and simply tighten them up to quiet down the racket.

Strange Gurgling Coming from the Drain: This could mean that your vent pipe is blocked, which prevents water from draining properly and also could cause bad odors and gases to back up into your home. The vent opening (usually located on the roof) should be visually inspected for anything that might be obstructing it.

An Ominous Dripping: If one of your plumbing fixtures is dripping, it’s not just a minor annoyance – it’s also a serious waste of water. A single leaky faucet can waste 3,000 gallons of water per year, according to the EPA. Before you waste another drop, you can solve the problem by putting in a new washer or even installing a brand new faucet.

Whooshing from the Shower: If you hear a whoosh when you take your daily shower, it probably means that there is mineral buildup in your pipes or hot water heater. This is most common in areas that have “hard water,” or water with high quantities of mineral content. You may need to have your heater or pipes professionally flushed to clear out the sediment. A water softener can also help minimize future problems.

When in doubt, call in a qualified plumber to diagnose your noisy pipes and get your plumbing system flowing in peak condition again.

Debunking common plumbing myths

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So, you’ve purchased your own home and want to educate yourself on prudent and effective home maintenance. You’ve learned the basics about your plumbing system and have even brandished an adjustable wrench a time or two. Kudos on taking responsible steps to safeguard your home investment. However, make sure you aren’t being fooled by some common home plumbing myths that are at best useless and at worst could end up costing you a lot of money.

Some of the biggest plumbing myths to avoid:

Don’t worry about a leaky faucet: It’s just a tiny drip, how big a problem could it possibly be? Very big. According to the EPA, a leak can lead to 10,000 wasted gallons of water per year in a single household, or the equivalent of 270 loads of laundry. Plus, a leak can actually damage the faucet and stain the fixture. Get it fixed ASAP.

Toilets make a great garbage chute: Unless you want toilet water overflowing onto your floor, followed by a nasty plumbing job and cleanup, never flush anything except toilet paper and human waste.

Lemons and water are the key to a clean and functional garbage disposal: While a lemon slice or two can help eliminate odors, they don’t do anything in the way of cleaning. Read your manual to find out what kind of maintenance your disposal really needs to keep it running in peak form. Similarly, water will not prevent clogging. If you toss in something that the disposal isn’t equipped to handle, or if you overload it with too much at once, running water at the same time won’t be enough to prevent a clog or other damage.

You don’t need to think about your pipes unless they are clogged: Just because the water is draining for now doesn’t mean you don’t have nasty clogs building up in your pipes. Debris like food in the kitchen sink and hair and shampoo in the bathroom can accumulate over time, until the water starts backing up at the worst possible moment. Always practice good drain hygiene by using a trap to catch any solids, and have your system inspected annually to make sure there isn’t a major issue lurking just around the corner. You can also ask your plumber about maintenance products that will help keep your drains clear without damaging pipes.

In an emergency, any plumber will do: When you have a major problem and need plumbing assistance immediately, it’s tempting to hire the first handyman who answers the phone. However, if you trust your pipes to an untested novice you could find yourself out a lot of money while the problem remains unresolved, or even worsens. Only accept experienced professionals when it comes to the plumbing in your house so you know the job will be done right the first time.

Preventing a plumbing emergency

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Homeowners can save money with a little do-it-yourself spirit when it comes to minor plumbing projects. However, tread carefully, because with a single misstep you could make things worse than before or even flood your house. Plumbing disasters can be a huge hassle and end up costing much more than you hoped to originally save, so it’s crucial to be prepared and take steps to avoid a worst-case scenario and to know your limitations. Even homeowners who would never dream of attempting a repair can take preemptive measures to help preserve the integrity of their pipes and faucets and ward off emergency calls to the plumber.

If You Have a Project You Can Take on Yourself:

  • Study and understand your plumbing layout. Figure out where the pipes run in your walls, which are bringing water in and which are taking waste away. The more familiarity you have with the overall system, the better informed you will be when DIY-ing and the less likely you are to create a major problem.
  • Know where your main water shutoff valve is located. Usually, it’s found near the meter where water first enters your house. If you have a major leak, turn off the water flow as quickly as possible so you don’t have to deal with flooding and water damage in addition to whatever caused your original problem. Your home probably has individual shutoffs for different rooms, as well (typically found in the basement). Take advantage of this to cut off the room where you’re working but still have water flowing to the rest of the house.
  • Make sure you have the right tools for the job. Assemble a full assortment of pliers, wrenches, saws and files and whatever else a project calls for before you start so you don’t find yourself making an emergency trip to the hardware store while your sink is disassembled.
  • If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Better to admit when you’re stumped and call an expert than stubbornly attempting a repair and mucking it up worse than it was. Never attempt a repair on your plumbing system unless you’re sure it’s something you can handle on your own.

Even if You Have No Intention of Breaking Out a Wrench:

  • Be careful with what you put down your garbage disposal. Don’t overload it, and make sure silverware doesn’t fall in.
  • Don’t pour grease down the drain. That’s a surefire way to clog the pipes.
  • Don’t flush anything but human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.
  • Keep a plunger in every bathroom. When a toilet starts overflowing, you don’t want to have to run through the house to find a plunger. Keep it close at hand and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to clear the clog before the waste water overflows onto the floor.
  • One tip especially for winter: Make sure you don’t have prolonged heat outages when the temperatures are below freezing. You risk freezing your pipes, which is annoying in and of itself. This could also cause them to burst, leading to floods and much bigger headaches. If you are planning on being away from home during the cold months have somebody check on the house periodically to make sure the heat hasn’t failed.

One more, very important step every homeowner should take
Establish a relationship with a reputable plumber before you have a problem. This has several benefits: your new plumber can give your system a once-over and point out any potential issues you may have missed, further reducing your chance of having an emergency. And if despite all your best precautions, disaster still strikes you already have someone to call who is familiar with your setup, does quality work and whom you can trust.

The best ways to unclog a shower drain

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There are many reasons why you might need to call a plumber, but a clogged drain doesn’t necessarily have to be one of them. Shower drains can clog often, and you may be able to clear it yourself using some  simple tricks. Of course, you should always keep the number of a professional plumber on hand in case the clog turns out to be too serious to handle on your own.

Use a plunger
Plungers aren’t just for toilets — you can use them to unclog drains in your bathtub or shower as well. Remove the drain cover, place the plunger over the drain and let the shower run until the rubber portion of the plunger is submerged. Then pump up and down and see if you can dislodge the clog.

Snake it out
Another common way to tackle a clogged shower is to snake the drain. You can purchase a quality snake from most hardware stores. Feed the snake slowly into your drain until you feel some resistance, then wind the snake around to break up the clog. Once the snake clears it, the debris should go down the drain by itself. If you don’t have a snake you can try using a bent clothes hanger. If you opt for this method, try to fish the clog out; the hanger won’t be able to break up the blockage and you could end up pushing it further down the drain.

Get a liquid drain cleaner
There are many drain cleaners on the market that can help you remove a clog. Ask a professional plumber for a recommendation on which is best for your plumbing system.

Boil some water
If you’re not comfortable using professional-strength chemical drain cleaner, there are natural remedies that may work. Try carefully pouring boiling water down the drain to see if that assists in breaking up the clog. If that doesn’t help, try pouring in a mix of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup vinegar to see if this is more effective.

If none of the methods above is successful, call a plumber. A professional will have the tools and expertise to trace the cause and clear the drain.