Category Archives: plumber/ plumbing

Simple Ways to Avoid Plumbing Nightmares

There are few things more frightening than the thought of having your plumbing fail during the night and waking to discover that an entire floor of your home has become a morass of raw sewage. The trouble is, most people just don’t know to prevent such a nightmare from becoming a reality. Some simple rules can help avert disaster before your home becomes a scene of horror only Wes Craven could dream up.

Be materialistic

The material from which pipes and fixtures are made has a certain life expectancy, although this can be influenced by a number of factors. Proper maintenance can increase the lifespan of your existing plumbing considerably. Hard water (high mineral content) however, can wreak havoc on your home. If you are unsure of the type of plumbing used in your home, your best bet is to bring in a certified plumber to do an inspection. PVC drain lines have a comparatively short life expectancy at 25-40 years. Copper supply pipes may last 70-80 years, depending on past maintenance. Brass and cast iron pipes and fixtures may serve their intended purpose for a century or longer.

Look out for leaching

Pipes constructed of lead or polybutylene need to go no matter what their age. Lead pipes can leach harmful lead into your drinking water, causing severe and long-lasting health problems. Polybutylene pipes were a cheap alternative often installed between the 1970s and 1990s, but have caused homeowners a myriad of problems related to unexpected breakage.

Beware of the brown stuff

Does the water in your tub or sink basin appear unattractively brown or yellow in color? If it does, rust may be eating away at your pipes. This will most evident when you have been away from home for a period of time because water sitting dormant in pipes will have time to collect a greater number of rust particulates. If you see signs of rust, consider replacing effected pipes ASAP.

Kill two birds with one stone

If you are conducting a remodel, be sure to have a plumber check to see if your system in that area of the home needs to be replaced. Because you may already be tearing away at things, or even expect to have a plumber on site for a time, costs can be considerably less.

Flex your PEX

If an $8000 to $10,000 bill for new copper piping falls outside your home improvement budget, consider using cross-linked polyethylene tubing (a.k.a PEX). PEX can eliminate the need to rip into walls it is flexible enough to snake into position where it is needed. Substituting PEX for copper in a 1,500 sq ft home can save you as much as a whopping $4000 in parts and labor!

Avoid a corrosion explosion

Always be on the lookout for leaks and signs of corrosion such as discoloration and dimpling, which might indicate that your plumbing system is on its last legs. Flaking and stains are also strong indicators that fixture failure may be imminent. Leaks in one area are often predictors that you will soon have then in other places as well. Your best bet is to have them inspected, repaired, and if need be, replaced, before you have to in figure the cost of new walls and flooring.

Get Cozy with a fantastic plumber

(We’re talking so cozy you could date them). Find the wrong one and you could be in for big problems down the road. A plumber who is in and out and handing you the bill before you have the chance to blink may be doing a shod job. Your best bet is someone who guarantees both materials and workmanship against future mishaps. Be sure to secure the services of apreferred plumber who offers a 100% guarantee.

Keep a watchful eye on water bills

Watch your water bills closely to see if you detect any unexpected increases. An unexpected uptick in water usage (when your actual usage patterns haven’t really increased) can be an indication of a leak (or leaks) somewhere in your plumbing system. Another way to detect possible leaks is to see if water is pooling below fixtures. In addition to leaks, thinks clogged drains and pipes can lead to unexpected bill changes, so if you have a curious toddler who hasn’t seen their favorite stuffed cat Chu Chu in a while, it may be time to seek professional help.

Protect your pipes

Even the greediest garbage disposals can be overwhelmed and contribute to clogs if too much of something is thrown in all at once. If you have a large quantity of gunky foodstuffs to dispose of, be sure to do it in your household trash. Better yet, start a compost pile if you don’t have one already. Plumbers receive thousands of calls each year to venture out and solve problems caused by once-tasty leftovers clogging up the works.

Choosing the Right Plumber

As with any service professional, choosing the right plumber can be a difficult task. Plumbing work is never cheap, and when you need a plumber, you often find yourself in a negative mood. Still, when the pipes are clogged, the toilet overflows, and the shower just won’t work, you need someone to turn to.

Ideally, a homeowner would have a go to plumber before ever needing one, but in reality this is usually not the case. When you do find the need for a plumber though, take your time and don’t let emotion influence your choice. If you examine your decision thoughtfully, you can get the best value possible and not feel like you were completely taken advantage of.

Price

Of course, price is one of the most important considerations for any major project. For some people, this is the only thought that comes to mind, which can lead to more trouble down the road. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” often rings true in the plumbing world. Just hiring someone based on having the lowest price will often result in more and more plumbing bills down the road. If you hired based on other factors, you might have avoided all these future problems.

Quality

Where price ends, quality begins. Having a low price is great, and when you are sure quality is equal, you definitely want to go with the price. On the other hand, quality needs to be your number one concern when dealing with a plumber. The reason for this is that low-price, low-quality plumbers are just going to cost more in the long run.

You are better off paying a plumber once to do the job right than hiring a cheap plumber ten times to get the job done. When looking for a plumber, look for someone who is a professional in their industry, not someone who just comes out, fixes the issue and leaves. Usually, a short conversation with a potential candidate can tell you enough to judge the quality of his work.

Punctuality

Sometimes not considered, having a punctual plumber can be a very important deciding factor. If you call a plumber, leave a message, and don’t get a response until the next day, it can be very off-putting. Similarly, if you call a plumber and he tells you he’ll be there between 1 and 2 but doesn’t show up until 3, that is simply unacceptable.

Before making a major plumbing decision, make sure you are working with someone who is punctual. If you want to really get great service, go beyond just having that person be on time. A really exceptional plumber will tell you what time he’ll be there and get there 10 minutes early. When you call a company and they give you a 6 hour window, you may want to reconsider.

Reviews

Knowing you’ve found someone you can trust can be tough, but the best place to start is to look at reviews. The internet is full of great places to get reviews, and if you used the internet to find the plumber in the first place, the site you found them on probably had reviews to begin with. Rather than just trusting one site though, look at various reviews from different websites that have a good reputation of screening reviews – like TrustedPros :).

Get a real measure of what the company represents and how their cost versus their quality of work. Remember to look for details in a review, as vague reviews just saying something like “The best plumber ever!” can often be manufactured. When a review includes personal details and some real thought, you’ll know it is real.

Compare the positive and negative reviews. Unhappy people are twice as likely to post a review online, so keep this in mind if you are unsure. Sometimes a negative review is not negative towards the company, but just shows the buyer’s frustration over the situation. After all, no one wants to need a plumber.

Warranties & Certifications

For plumbers, there are a few key certifications to consider when looking at their materials. Plumbers themselves should have specific certificates they have earned, but also consider the fixtures they are installing. Some of these include: water sense, CSA, cUPC, NSF 14, UL Plumbing Mark, and WQA Certification Mark. Make sure that whatever materials are being used for your plumbing work passes Canadian standards.

Also, make sure that whoever you are looking at has warranties and guaranties. If someone is not willing to back his work, that person is not someone worth working with.

Overall Value

Once you have assessed all of these variables, you can really put together an idea of what the overall value of this plumber is. Remember not to leave out any variables, and to really assess the skills and costs of a plumber before choosing to hire him. Upon successfully determining a company’s overall value, you can begin to compare and make the best informed decision.

Compare

The last step to assessing a plumber and deciding whether he is the right one for you is to compare him to other plumbers. The best prepared home owner is one that has a go to plumber, electrician, handyman, tree guy, lawn care expert, etc. With that in mind, pick out a plumber that you can use for the rest of your time in that home.

Look at multiple options and consider their advantages and disadvantages. Look at the positive and negative reviews, consider how quickly they responded and how exact a time they gave you, consider the quality of their work, and then consider price. Once everything is sorted out, really examine the different options side by side.

Plumbing is a service industry, so don’t be afraid to be a harsh critic. With the cost of plumbing repairs, it pays to know you can consistently have someone to trust with your plumbing needs. Once you have evaluated all options, make the choice and stick to it. Long term relationships with service professionals can have unspoken perks.

How to Hire a Plumber

This is very important and can be very beneficial to you. I know you’re busy so I’ll try to make this short and to the point.Your plumbing and heating systems are “mechanical”. All “mechanical” systems eventually fail. It is just a matter of time. When it fails, you will need help. “Who you gonna call?”

It’s About Education

Most people don’t realize that plumbers know more about the inner workings of a home than any other tradesmen. They are the first group of tradesmen in the building process and the last ones to leave after they set the fixtures, turn on the water and light the heaters. During the building process plumbers must learn the structural layout, electrical and duct work layout and how most everything will be installed. Plumbers must know how the walls are built and what lies within them. They work directly with the building inspectors as well as coordinating their work with all the other tradesmen. Plumbers know an amazing amount of information about your home.

“Who You Gonna Call?”

Who are you going to choose when your mechanical systems fail? Would you rather call a “stranger” or your “local, trusted family plumber”? Wow! Imagine that, a “local, trusted family plumber”. What a concept! Imagine this. You are driving to work or better yet, you’re heading out of town on a “romantic weekend get-away”. Everything is running smoothly and then your cell phone rings. The kids are calling with panic in their voices. Water is gushing! Sewage is oozing!

“It’s All About The “Trust Factor”

Would you feel comfortable calling a stranger? No. Would you feel better calling someone you know? Yes! Having someone you know and trust taking care of your home is definitely better! Most plumbers are honest, hard working citizens, but you still don’t “know” them. It is difficult to trust someone when you’ve never met them. How comforting it would be to have a “local, trusted family plumber” that you already know to call when an emergency arises. It would be great to know that your kids, your home and your valuables are safe and in good hands with someone you know, someone you trust.

Choosing A “Trusted, Family Plumber”

Ok. You’re convinced that I’m right about this. A “local, trusted family plumber” would be a good thing. How do you go about finding one? How do you find the right one for you? You need to have a face to face, heart to heart interview with a plumber in your own home. There are specific steps to take. First, ask your friends, neighbors, and co-workers if they know a plumber they could recommend. Always call your local Chamber of Commerce. They usually have good insight as to the quality of a local plumbing company. Ask the chamber person you are talking to if they have used a plumber lately. It’s the Chamber’s job to be aware of the integrity of the businesses they support. Next, look in the local phone book. You can often tell a lot about a business by the look and professionalism of their add. Decide which adds you like and if the companies they represent were also referred to you by others. That would be a great place to start. It is best to have three plumbing companies to choose from. You will be interviewing all three. I know this can take some time but I believe it will be well worth your effort.

The Free Interview

You will want to do a phone interview first. When you call, you should have a list of questions to ask. Questions like; what are the hours of operation? How are “after hour calls” handled? What licenses does the business hold? Does the business belong to any associations? Is the business a member of the Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau? Does the business have a web site? Make a list of the items that are important to you.

After you have picked the three companies you would like to choose from, call back and ask to talk to the owner of the company. Tell the owner that you are interviewing three companies to find the one you would be most comfortable calling on an on-going basis or in an emergency situation.

Ask the owner the following question and when you do, listen carefully to his response. Ask if his plumber will come to your home to perform a “FREE HOME INSPECTION” of your plumbing and heating systems. If you sense any hesitation to perform the “free home inspection” this may be the wrong service company for you. A smart “customer oriented” business owner would consider that invitation a great opportunity to impress a new, potential customer.

Communication Is The Key

You want to interview three plumbers because every plumber is different. You want to find the best one for you and your situation. Communication is the key, so choose the plumber you feel you would get along with best.
Again, be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Make a list of questions and give the list to each plumber. If you need a list of the most important questions to ask, I have made a “free” list for you to print out at the end of this letter.

The Comfort Zone

Once you find the companies who are happy to give you the “free home inspection”, set up appointments at times that are convenient for you. Make your appointments in the morning if possible. Schedule the plumbing technicians as close together as possible so that their individual interviews will be fresh in your memory. The plumbing technicians should have a form or checklist of their own to record the location of, condition of, concerns about and solutions for your plumbing and heating systems. Follow the technician on his inspection throughout your home. This will help you to get to know him and he will give you great information about your homes’ mechanical systems.

The Big Decision

Now that you have spent all this time and effort, it is time to make the big decision. By now you have probably narrowed your choice to one or two technicians. Before making the final decision you need to consider a few more things. Notice that I have not yet talked about price. Price is important but it should not be your top priority. You are looking for a plumber that you can trust and feel comfortable with in your home. That is your top priority. If the technician you like is with a lower priced company, great! If the technician you like is with a more expensive company, but you feel he is genuinely trustworthy, isn’t he worth the price?

It is always best to use a company that uses a “flat rate” pricing system. “Flat rate” pricing means the technician will come to your home. Look at and diagnose your problem and then quote you a price from a “printed menu” price book. The ‘flat rate” system is fair and equitable to all concerned. Here is a list of a few of the many reasons this system is beneficial to both you and the plumbing company.

  • You know the price before the work begins. It is easy to budget your finances.
  • You don’t have to watch the clock worrying about the time it is taking to finish the job.
  • You don’t have to be concerned about the cost of the material.
  • The price should be fair to allow the plumbing company to make a profit (approximately 15% is the norm). You want your “local, trusted family plumber” to be able to afford to stay in business How to save money on your favorite plumber!

Would you like to save money on your favorite, trusted plumber? The best way to save money on your service work is with a “Service Contract”. A “service contract” usually includes an inspection of your mechanical systems, waives all trip charges, (my service company does and that is a $39.00 savings each trip), gives discounts off the “flat-rate” book price and always gives “top priority” to it’s “contract customers”. Every company has different perks for their “service contracts” so you must consider this when interviewing your plumbing companies. “Service contracts” do cost the customer money, but sometimes you have to “spend money” to “save money”. Most service companies charge a fee for the “service contract” to give it value and in return, you, the customer, receive an even higher value through their quality service and lower prices.

It’s All Very Clear Now!

You have your favorite grocery store, hair salon, doctor. You have your favorite auto mechanic, restaurant, babysitter. We all have our favorite businesses and business people. Having your own favorite plumbing company and “local, trusted family plumber” makes sense! Don’t wait for the “emergency” to catch you “off guard”. Trust your family, home and valuables to someone you know and who will treat you right.

Tips to Maintain Your Electric Water Heater

When it comes to water heaters there are lots of great choices available to homeowners. Some water heaters are electric while others are gas fueled. Keeping up with your water heater is a choice that you’ll need to make for better preservation of the system because we often take maintenance for granted.

Types

Choosing from the correct water heater for the home can be quite confusing especially if you are not aware of what’s out there. Today there are lots of choices as water heaters come in the following varieties:

  • Gas
  • Oil
  • Electric
  • Tankless
  • Gas Water Tanks

These are the most popular type of water heater as they incorporate gas as the fuel source. These water systems are economically efficient to run as the energy savings make it one of the best choices. A great option in a gas water tank system is one that has an electric ignition which automatically lights the burners without having a pilot light.

Oil Water Tanks

An oil-based water tank has as fast a recovery time as the gas system. The only downfall to an oil-based system is that it requires a lot more maintenance. On the plus side there is no need for a pilot light which makes the unit safe to run.

Electric Water Tanks

Another popular option is the electric water heater. These systems are cheap and very easy to install. However, the cost to operate them has gone up over the years and still continues to. The cost is reflected onto your utility bills.

Tankless Water Heaters

A tankless system can be fueled either by gas or electric. They do not require a storage unit or a tan. This is why they are known as “tankless” systems. A tankless water heater benefit is that it provides hot water on-demand when a faucet opens.

Signs A Water Heater Is Going Bad

You might not give too much thought to your water heater, but when it starts giving you trouble you have to be ready to act fact. This means recognizing the warning signs. If you experience any one of the following signs, you’re going to need to replace or have your system repaired:

  • Noise
  • No hot water
  • Slower recovery time
  • Leaks
  • Noise

If you hear your system rumbling, it can be a build-up problem of the sediment inside. The air bubbles that rise through the sediment are what cause the actual rumbling. The sediment can cause the heating element to burn out.

No Hot Water

If you’re getting warm but no hot water, this means one of the heating elements may have gone out. In a conventional water tank, there are two heating elements. When one works and the other don’t, hot water cannot be achieved.

Slow Recovery Time

If you’re noticing that your water tank has a slower recovery time after running a load of laundry or after a shower, sediment build-up could be affecting the heating element. When sediment interferes with the heating of the water, the lengthier of time it takes to heat the water.

Leaks

If you observe water around or under your tank, the tank could be rusting out which means that it will need replaced. Sediment can be trapped in a gasket causing the drip from a plumbing connection. A new water tank won’t give you these plumbing problems.

Maintenance For A Water Tank

When a water heater is working its best, you can have hot water anytime that you need it. A water heater can be a very reliable appliance given the proper maintenance. Maintenance will help keep it preserved and run efficiently. The typical lifespan of a water heater is anywhere from 10-15 years as you must concern yourself with the following in order to keep it maintained:

  • Safety
  • Pressure relief valve
  • Flushing the system
  • Safety First

Any tine that you’re servicing your water heater, always remember to turn off the power supply. This is due to some heaters being hard-wired. If you own a gas heater, before the maintenance begins, turn the gas switch to the pilot position.

Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure relief valve is located on the upper-side of the water heater. When and if a tank becomes too over-pressurized, the valve cuts out to relieve the pressure. Testing the operation of the valve will help this problem from occurring and preventing future damages.

Flushing Out The System

Your water heater should be flushed out at least every six months. This helps to keep the sediment from corroding the tank because tank sediment build-up can also help to cut down the water tank’s energy efficiency too.

Following these simple steps and getting the right water heater for your home will prevent you from having to prematurely replace it along with costly repairs. Call in your local plumber for maintenance or electrician for installation.

Water Heater Systems

There are a lot of choices whenever it comes to water heaters. A water heater comes in either gas or electric with each fuel source offering a different way to heat the water inside the home. A gas-powered water heater heats the water inside of the tank more slowly than an electric unit.

The main benefit of a gas heater is that it saves the homeowner more money because of its ability to heat water faster than its counterpart. An electric water heater is the more popular choice amongst units because of its consistency.

An electric water heater heats water very quickly so that there is no gap in-between cold and hot. The homeowner instantly receives hot water for many things in the home that include:

  • Bathing/showering
  • Washing dishes
  • Laundry (washer)

Tankless and solar water heaters are something new on the plumbing market. They provide hot water instantly but are more compact and efficient. A tankless system, for example, uses either gas or electric in order to heat the water up.

One of the main advantages to a tankless system is the money savings. There is no money being spent on heating the tank full of water like traditional units do. It does have some limitations though as it may not be able to heat the entire household.

Solar water heaters are heated by the sun. Panels are installed that help heat up the water. As it is a newer way to heat water in the home, there are some disadvantages such as the main installation cost being on the higher side.

The main advantages of a solar hot water heater is that it provides the homeowner with a less expensive run time and does not cause pollution. Solar also helps cut down on the dependency of electric and gas too.

Maintenance

A water heater is often placed in the crawl space of the basement and forgotten about. It is responsible for heating water in the home and allowing for warm showers to be taken along with using the “Warm” setting on the washer.

A heater that has been maintained will last anywhere from 10-15 years. If and when it goes; the owner will see the following signs as these are indications that it needs to be replaced:

  • Hot water that doesn’t last
  • No hot water at all
  • Noises
  • Leaks
  • Odd taste or smell of water

Little to not how water at all may be a problems stemming from the thermostat. If the water tank starts to show these signs, it’s important that a local plumber is called in immediately to replace the thermostat.

Most electrical appliances make noises. This is normally a low humming sound. But when there is a loud banging sound, it could mean that the unit needs to be repaired or replaced. It all depends on what the problem is.

Odd tasting or smelling water means that the water is tainted. Most complaints are that the water has a metallic taste or smell. This could means that the unit has aged or not being taken care of properly as maintenance is required for most plumbing appliances.

Replacement

If the water heater has finally gone out for good, upgrading to a new system is beneficial. New and efficient models can serve well into the future without needing any maintenance. Before buying a new water heater, there are some things to consider:

  • What size is needed
  • Where to be installed
  • Type of power source

Size matters when it comes to water heaters. Many make the mistake of assuming they all come in one size and upon getting it home, it needs to be returned for either a bigger or smaller- sized unit. Oversized units waste a lot more energy.

An area where the hot water tank is to be installed is important. Many feel that it’s safe to assume that the tank needs to be installed in the same spot as the old one. A water tank put into a smaller space risks extensive damages to the home such as leaks.

The main options for power are gas, electric and solar. Electric needs a dedicated line where as gas needs its own natural gas or propane line. Sticking with what is already there helps save homeowners money and time.

How to Catch Basin Cleaning

The duty of a catch basin is to collect trash and debris from entering a drainage system. Different examples of this type of system include storm drains or a car wash catch basin. The reason taking care of this type of cleaning is so important is that it helps to prevent or limit the amount of pollutants that enter a storm sewer which can eventually make its way to local waterways like streams and rivers.

Another important function of this type of drainage system is to relieve surface area of a heavy influx of water. Heavy rain or water from places like a car wash need a runoff spot. If the grates are blocked by leaves, trash, sediment buildup or other materials there is a good chance this will cause blockage and eventually lead to flooding.

The elimination of sediments, debris or other materials from a storm water catch helps ensure proper function of the drainage system. This in turn can help to alleviate the likelihood of flooding in areas like parking lots or eventually, city streets. Regular maintenance of a catch basin can also reduce the risk of contaminating or polluting the local water ways.

How Often Should You Clean A Catch Basin

The common mistake organizations make is waiting until there is a visible need for catch basin cleaning. If the grate is already blocked or water has been backing up the cleaning should already have occurred. The idea behind setting up storm drain cleaning is to prevent any problem altogether.

Setting up a scheduled regular maintenance program is your best approach to preventing future problems. In other words, get your catch basin cleaned before it is blocked. This will make it possible for water flow to continue through the drain as needed.

One think to take into consideration is the amount of use your catch basin goes through. If you own a busy car wash you will need cleaning on a much more regular basis. Also keep in mind that in some areas it may be part of your codes and guidelines to operate this type of business to have these drains cleaned and inspected. Make sure you set up service so that you comply with the restrictions in your area.

If you live in an area that is known for having heavier rainfall then it is also your responsibility to take care of this task more frequently. For example, if you own a parking lot in Seattle you may need more recurrentcatch basin service than one that is located in Phoenix. The important thing is not to wait until the system is blocked or flooded to resolve the issue; use a preventative approach.

Benefits Of Preventative Maintenance

For one thing, if you are running a business, it is more cost effective to have regular cleaning than wait for something to go wrong. If you neglect to have cleaning done then eventually a problem will arise. Your catch basin will back up and the area will flood. This could even lead to a temporary halt to your business.

Hiring a professional crew to clean up the mess and fix any resulting damages is already going to be an unwanted expense. Add to that the potential financial losses there could be as a result of your business being temporarily shut down. Be a smart business owner and take care of this service.

Cleaning storm drains also helps the area to be prepared for any severe weather events. One of the main functions of these types of drains is to keep runoff water flowing in the event of a storm. So it is important to enable them to be able to do their job when severe weather occurs.

Of course one of the other main advantages of having your system cleaned is for customer satisfaction. Your customers are what drives your business. But if you own a commercial property that has a catch basin system you could be threatening to inconvenience them. A backed up car wash system or flooded parking lot is not going to make your clients willing to return.

The bottom line is that part of being a responsible business owner is taking care of catch basin cleaning. Help keep your company running smoothly and your customers happy by taking care of this. Get on a regular maintenance schedule and you should be set for success.

Tips to Choosing a Flood Prevention System

 When you think about floods, what comes to mind? Torrential rains? Levees breaking? Sandbags? What about washing machine hoses? A failed pump? Sewer backups? We tend to underestimate the potential for disaster that exists in our homes, and those not living in a flood zone may think themselves fairly safe from the massive damage that just a few inches of water can produce. This is not even true when it comes to natural floods (they can happen anywhere), and such a mind set leaves a homeowner unprepared and vulnerable.

Every home is plumbed with a network of pipes that connect to a water supply, and any one of the fittings, tubes, fixtures, or appliances found within it or connected to it are susceptible to damage or failure. If they do fail, that water has nowhere to go but out of the damaged area and throughout your home – damaging almost everything in its path, including floors, furniture, and belongings, some of which may be irreplaceable or of significant sentimental or monetary value. There’s little that can be done to prevent these types of accidents – man-made machines fail and leaks happen – but there are plenty of relatively inexpensive ways to prevent or mitigate the damage unchecked water flow can cause when these incidents occur.

Natural Floods

If natural flooding is a major concern or frequent occurrence in your area (i.e., you live in a flood zone), we strongly recommend as much preventative maintenance as possible. For example, performing regular gutter cleaning, installing backwater valves on your sewer lines and floor drains in your basement or low-lying areas, keeping appliances like washers and water heaters above the base flood elevation, and making sure you have a good sump pump system installed and regularly maintain it.

To prevent sewage flowing back into your home through the over-worked or clogged municipal sewer lines during rainy seasons, you can easily and economically install backwater valves on your drainage pipes. When reversal of flow occurs, the backwater valve closes and cuts off the flow so that wastewater and raw sewage cannot get into your home.

Having floor drains is a good way to mitigate water damage from flooding caused by burst pipes or faulty appliances, but these drains are susceptible to backing up during a natural flood and allowing sewage or other wastewater into your home. To help prevent this, we suggest installing a Flood-Guard™ on all basement or low-lying floor drains. Flood-Guards™ use check valve technology to seal off the drain opening. If sewer water begins to backup, it will push up the float inside the Flood-Guard™ until the float seals off the opening. Once the sewage begins to flow back down the drain again, the float will lower and the drain will operate effectively again.

It is important to note, however, that Flood-Guards™ can become blocked by debris, which could allow wastewater to back up into your home. Additionally, water may not drain as quickly through a drain with a Flood-Guard™ installed and (although it is unlikely) could be a problem for homeowners whose primarily flooding concern is from above rather than below.

Appliance Specific Systems

While natural floods are the most common cause of home water damage, washing machines and water heaters aren’t far behind. It makes sense, if you think about it, as the sheer volume of water these appliances use on a regular basis is enough to cause plenty of damage in just minutes. We have a number of appliance specific flood prevention devices that are very effective in protecting your home from renegade machines.

Washing Machines

Our favorite flood prevention device for washing machines is the FloodStop. Installed directly between your washer shut-off valves and supply lines, it turns the water off whenever a leak is detected and sounds an audible alarm. The feature that gives the FloodStop an edge, however, is that it can be connected to an auto-dialer, home automation system, or home alarm system to contact you (or someone else if you are out of town) if a leak occurs. The primary downside to the FloodStop for washing machines is that it won’t turn the electricity to the machine off – which is somewhat mitigated by the automatic alert system since once you’re notified of the leak, you could come turn the machine off.

Similar to the FloodStop, the IntelliFlow™ automatic washing machine shut-off valve is designed to turn the water flow to the machine on or off whenever it senses the machine has been turned on or off. This keeps leaks related to burst supply lines or faulty valves from damaging your home when the machine is turned off. When the machine is on, the IntelliFlow™ will also sense leaks during the wash cycle and turn the water off. This won’t turn the electricity to the machine off either, however.

If you’re looking for something that will turn your washing machine off to help prevent flooding, the WasherWatcher is an excellent solution. The WasherWatcher is plugged into your grounded electrical socket, then the washing machine is plugged into the WasherWatcher. The attached sensor is placed in your laundry tub, standpipe, or wall box. When water levels get too high, the WasherWatcher automatically cuts power to the washing machine so that no more water is pumped into or out of the machine. Once the water level goes down, the WasherWatcher automatically turns the washing machine back on. When used in conjunction with a FloodStop or the IntelliFlow™, you have comprehensive flood protection from washing machine leaks.

Water Heaters

While we do offer FloodStops for both residential and commercial water heaters, we feel the FloodSafe™ Water Detector Shutoff is an excellent option for water heater specific flood prevention. FloodStops will turn off the water supply to your water heater when a leak is detected and notify you of the problem. However, it will not turn the power off to the unit.

The FloodSafe™, on the other hand, will turn off both the water supply and the power source if a leak is detected, then generate an alarm so you know it’s been activated. Different types are offered for gas and electric water heaters, and the leak sensor can detect as little as 1/16th of an inch of standing water. This system also comes with a special “water dam” that surrounds the ground below the water heater to help prevent leaks from spreading.

Other Appliances & Fixtures

For other appliances or plumbing fixtures, there are a variety of FloodStop systems available. They work just like the FloodStops for washing machines and water heaters, and are great for under sink areas, refrigerator water filters/icemakers, dishwashers, and toilets. A multi-purpose FloodStop is available for unique appliances where there is the potential for leaks.

Alternatively, you could choose a Leak Controller system. With a choice of two different connection sizes, these systems work almost the exact same way FloodStops do and are general use – making them great for all kinds of home appliances.

For the ultimate flood prevention with home appliances, we suggest using a WaterWatcher in conjunction with a FloodStop or Leak Controller. While the other systems will turn off the water supply (making them ideal for faucets and toilets), the WaterWatcher turns off the power to the device. Simply plug the WaterWatcher into the electrical outlet, place the sensor, and plug your appliance into the WaterWatcher – so easy almost anyone can do it.

Alarms

Sometimes you don’t want or need some type of shut-off system – you just need a way to know when there is water where it shouldn’t be. For example, some outdoor places like ponds, barns, sheds, or patios don’t have anything to shut off, but you may still want to know if water is getting into these areas after a storm. An alarm is usually the best solution for these types of applications.

We offer a variety of high water and low water alarms, perfect for ponds, water tanks, and many other outdoor applications. If you need an alarm inside to fit behind your refrigerator, in the bathroom, by the attic swamp cooler, or near the fish tank, our portable water detection alarms are battery operated, loud enough to get your attention, and small enough to fit almost anywhere without being in the way.

We hope you never have to deal with the high costs, headache, and sometimes heartache that can accompany severe water damage, however, now that you have read this article, you have the information needed to choose the right flood prevention device or system for your home. Always remember to regularly check and maintain your home’s plumbing system and any flood prevention device or system you have in place to ensure they work properly and help keep your home flood free.

Preventing Water Damage in the Bathroom

 Pretty much everything in the bathroom uses water, so it’s no surprise that around 75% of household water use takes place there. All that water is meant to be confined to specific places, though: in the sink, in the tub/shower, in the toilet. Beyond these fixtures, a bathroom is, on the whole, just another room. Apart from the sealant around those fixtures, and waterproofing materials in the floor/walls of a shower, there’s not a whole lot else to stop rogue water from doing damage. Except you!

At the end of the day, it’s the vigilance of the homeowner that keeps mold and rot at bay. Knowing the signs of water damage, where it’s most likely to occur, and how it happens is just as important as a properly-installed shower pan. A keen eye, paired with the information below, can help you avoid the heartbreak and high costs of water damage repair and mold remediation.

Helpful Tips:

  • Leaks can be deceitful: just because evidence of a leak appears in a certain spot doesn’t mean the leak originates there. Take time to track down the actual source before planning out or attempting a repair.
  • Discoloration on walls or floors? Musty smell? Are any areas softer than others? These could point to a leak, mold, or bacteria. If you have access underneath/behind the suspicious area, you may be able to address it. Otherwise, you’re best off calling a professional.
  • If drywall has become warped or bubbly, it’s gotten wet. Poke a hole to allow any moisture a way out. If the drywall isn’t saturated and feels nearly dry, you may be okay. If it’s soft, it should be replaced. If the source of the water isn’t obvious, there may be a leak in the wall.
  • Regularly test the shut-off/stop valves on fixtures, and replace as necessary. Keep an eye out for any wetness or staining around them that could indicate a leak. These valves are hugely important: should a fixture overflow, they’re the quickest way to shut the water off. If you have flexible supply lines connected to them, make sure they’re tightly secured to both valve and fixture.
  • If your bathroom doesn’t have an exhaust fan, it needs one. While you can get away with a good window, nothing beats a properly-installed bathroom vent fan in taking moisture (and odors) out.
  • Always check around your shower after taking one. Curtains can get torn and seals on doors can deteriorate, allowing water to escape, collect, sit, or find its way to cracks and openings elsewhere.
  • Kids love to play with water. It’s super cute, but it’s best kept outside. Try to minimize the splashing of little ones in the tub, and wipe up any water that does make it to the floor/walls as soon as possible. A good bath mat goes a long way!
  • Drain the tub as soon as you’re done with it: standing water can find its way into all sorts of hairline cracks and spaces in compromised drains.
  • Cracked, broken, or missing tiles allow water to seep in behind walls and under floors – repair or replace them immediately! The same goes with decaying or cracked grout. If things have been that way for a while, it’s recommended that you have a professional check for any hidden damage – mold could be growing out of sight.
  • Shower pans can crack or be punctured, potentially leading to serious damage. Test your shower pan annually to catch any leaks before they have a chance to destroy your subfloor.
  • Toilets will leak, but most of the time it’s a “contained” leak between the tank and the bowl – something that definitely needs to be fixed, but probably won’t ruin anything else in the room. If the floor around the toilet is wet, has any give at all/is spongy, or you notice significant staining around the base, there’s a problem. If you don’t have experience with toilets, call a plumber – there could be a problem with the tank-to-bowl connection, the floor flange, or the gasket. Note: The wax ring under a toilet only seals air and gases from entering through the closet flange connection. It is not designed to seal against water.
  • If your toilet does not appear to be leaking, be sure that the base is sufficiently sealed with silicone caulk or a similar product. This keeps water and other liquids (think mopping and “bad aim”) from making their way underneath. Keep an open gap at the rear so that any future leaks can make themselves known, otherwise that water will be completely sealed in (and you won’t know until it’s too late!)
  • Keep in mind that the toilet is usually the lowest point in a bathroom, and it’s not uncommon for water to collect there from other sources (kids splashing, an open shower curtain, a leaking supply line or shut-off valve). For instance: a small leak from a supply line could travel along pipes to the floor, remaining unnoticeable until enough of it accumulates where gravity directs it: the base of the toilet. Assuming there’s a leak in or around the toilet, unnecessary repairs could be made while the real problem keeps dripping away.
  • Regularly check inside and under vanities, where leaks from supply lines and poorly-caulked sinks can be hidden.
  • Also check sinks for cracked or deteriorating caulking, and repair as needed. Keep the faucet and the area around the sink dry (don’t let water collect and sit).
  • If you’re going on vacation, or just leaving the house for the weekend, it’s a good idea to shut off the water supply to the entire house. A burst pipe or similar emergency when no one’s home can be catastrophic.

Creating a Water & Energy Efficient Bathroom

 Remodeling an existing bathroom or putting together a brand new one can be a fun and exciting challenge. Among all of the things to consider, something like water or energy efficiency can easily fall by the wayside as finishes and design take center stage. Luckily, it’s not hard to create an efficient bathroom these days, thanks to various regulations and popular certifications. Still, it helps to have some familiarity with the options available to you… and it’s even better to go in with a plan. The following tips – for new construction and remodels – will help you get started.

Toilets

Any discussion about water efficiency in the bathroom has to start with the toilet: flushing accounts for over a quarter of total indoor water use! Older houses that haven’t had a new toilet since before 1994 are using 3.5 gallons or more per flush – an entirely unnecessary amount. New toilets use 1.6 gpf or less, generating significant water savings. Some models go even further, providing two separate flush options for liquid and solid waste: usually 0.8-1.1 gpf and 1.6 gpf, respectively.

If you already have a 1.6 gpf or lower gpf model that you don’t want to part with, make sure it’s working at maximum efficiency by doing a quick toilet checkup and replacing any parts that could be leaking.

Bathtubs

Bathtubs get a bad rap when it comes to water savings. This is understandable when you consider that the average tub holds anywhere from 30-50 gallons of water – if you fill it up. If you fill it only halfway, you’re using considerably less water. Before you ditch your tub, keep in mind that the time spent in your bath doesn’t mean more water is used (unless you’re letting some out and re-heating!), whereas the longer you shower, the more water you’re using. Additionally, most people don’t take a bath every single day, they primarily shower and mix a bath in occasionally.

There are plenty of reasons to keep your tub. Bathtubs make bathing young children easier, it can be expensive to replace a bathtub with a shower only, and there’s a certain relaxing quality you can get from a good soak that a shower just can’t mimic. However, if you are truly concerned about the water savings, you’re trying to make your home more accessible, or you’re just not a bather, a well-designed shower can still offer plenty of relaxation and significant water conservation. When switching to a shower-only design, you may also want to consider adding a steam shower. Many people find that 15-20 minutes in the steam shower offers exceptional relaxation, physical health benefits, and overall improved well-being – for about 3 gallons of water. Remember though, that a steam generator will still use some energy, just less than the average tank-style water heater.

 Shower Heads

The other major water-guzzler in the bathroom is the shower. Pre-1994 shower heads can use up to 8 (!) gpm, while new shower heads are currently capped at 2.5 gpm (in California, this will be further reduced to 2.0 gpm in July 2016, and to 1.8 gpm in 2018). As with the earliest low-flow toilets, low-flow shower heads were often disappointing, and are still treated with suspicion. Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with all kinds of designs to ensure a powerful, effective shower using very little water. And because less water is used, less energy is required to heat it!

 Faucets

Faucets are one of the easiest and cheapest things to make water-efficient with the addition of a simple aerator. By adding air to the faucets water stream, a steady and stable flow is produced that feels like more water than it is. Some of these handy little devices can go lower than a gallon per minute, saving a lot of water in the long run. And don’t forget that a slow drip can still waste hundreds of gallons per year, so make sure to attend to needed repairs quickly.

Note: If you have a tankless water heater, be aware of the minimum flow rate required to activate it. Be sure that the aerator you select will give you the hot water you need.

If you’re wanting a new faucet, choose one that already has a lower flow rate, preferably a WaterSense® certified model. Manufacturers have risen to the challenge of providing fixtures that work well, look great, AND save water, so you have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to lavatory faucets. And for the forgetful (and germophobic) among us, touchless faucets are a godsend.

 Water Heating

The bathroombiggest energy user isnt even in the same room! Water heating accounts for up to 30% of a homes total energy use, and with a standard tank heater, anywhere from 10-20% of that energy is wasted as water sits and loses its heat to the environment (prompting endless heating cycles). You can reduce the water temperature to save some energy, but keep in mind that below 140 degrees, bacteria like legionella can still reproduce.

If its time for a new water heater, consider going tankless. Although standard tank heaters are more efficient than ever, tankless units heat water only when theres demand, eliminating standby heat loss and cutting down on energy use. To save even more energy, a solar water heater can be used to preheat the water going into a heater, be it standard or tankless.

Note: Converting to tankless can involve more than a quick swap-out. Because theyre on-demand, tankless heaters require a lot of energy at once. Depending on the electrical setup in your home, upgrades might be necessary to power the unit. The same is true of some gas units.

Another method of efficiently pre-heating water for the water heater is called drain water heat recovery. In most systems, incoming cold water is directed through copper pipe coiled around a drain pipe. As hot water flows down the drain (from a shower or dishwasher, say), its heat is transferred to the cold water, which goes on to supply the water heater. Check with local authorities for code-compliance before purchasing or building, though.

Recirculating pump systems are a more advanced option for water (and sometimes energy) savings. These setups reduce the time it takes for hot water to reach fixtures, resulting in less water waste – just think about how long you let the shower run before getting in. You can choose a setup that will run throughout your home (with or without a timer), or go with an on-demand option that helps to save even more energy.

 Ventilation

Bathrooms get wet. And smelly. Neither of these things are good. A good ventilation fan takes care of both, but dont go thinking you need an industrial-strength unit to get the job done. Highly efficient, Energy Star certified bathroom fans can clear a room of moisture and noxious fumes quickly and quietly. Take a look at our buying guide to get an idea of what your bathroom might need.

Did you know that windows can be Energy Star certified? Utilizing a variety of designs and materials, manufacturers have been able to create windows that do an excellent job of keeping the outside out. If you rely upon windows for bathroom ventilation and are unable to install a fan, invest in quality and efficiency. Dont throw money out the window!

Lighting

Messing with the lights in any room can be contentious, and the bathroom can be particularly troublesome. Between makeup application and mood-setting for relaxing baths, theres little room for error. Fortunately, many of the latest LED and CFL bulbs are indistinguishable from their incandescent forerunners, allowing even the most discerning to find the right glow.

Even if you don’t replace your bulbs right away, there are other ways to save lighting energy. Timers are a good idea in any bathroom, especially so with children and forgetful adults – hook one up to control lights and fans. Some even operate by touchless sensor, turning on when someone enters the room, and shutting off when activity is no longer detected. Dimmers can also help save a bit of energy when lights are regularly dimmed for baths, toilet visits, and other times when full brightness isnt a necessity.

Cant quite get the lighting right for makeup or shaving? Think about investing in a lighted mirror: these will provide a bright, dedicated light for exacting tasks. In addition to having many magnifying options, we also offer mirrors with multiple color temperatures for different settings.

Ultimate Plumbing Maintenance Guide

 We all forget about things: let them go for a few weeks… then months… then years. At that point, they generally fall away (which is great since they’ll never get taken care of). And usually, if something can go unaddressed for that long, it probably wasn’t that important to begin with. Plumbing maintenance is an entirely different and particularly vicious beast. While just as easily forgotten, put off, or ignored, plumbing never lets you off the hook. With the patience of a saint – and the malice of a demon – plumbing problems can take their time developing, smoldering, until that once-tiny leak turns menace, threatening the very structure of the home.

Fortunately, routine maintenance and observation can forestall or eliminate most of those problems. The key is to be comprehensive – and to actually devote a few hours to getting to know your house (as off-putting as “doing maintenance” might sound, it is an opportunity to do just that). To aid in this learning/bonding experience, we offer the following checklist, hitting up the most vulnerable and troublesome spots in the home.

Plumbing Maintenance Checklist

  •  Perform an in-depth leak check throughout your home. For help, take a look at our guide to finding leaks.
  •  When you visit each fixture, look for a shut-off valve on the water supply lines. Test them out to have some assurance they’ll work when you need to perform repairs, or prevent a flood!
  •  Check any visible pipes and joints (you really should go into the basement or crawlspace) for signs of corrosion: bluish-green deposits on brass and copper, rust on iron and steel. While there may be no problems as of yet, leaks will eventually develop. Consult with a plumber to determine the best course of action.
  •  Look and listen to the drains in your sinks, tubs, and showers. Are they draining quickly and smoothly? Is there any gurgling? A slow drain is an obvious indicator of a clog; gurgling could mean the same, or a blockage in the drain vent. While some blockages can be dealt with by the amateur, if you can’t solve the problem by manually clearing the drain or using vinegar and baking soda, it could mean the issue is further down the line, requiring professional attention. Learn more about clog prevention and drain maintenance.
  •  Even if your sink drains seem fine, you know what they say about prevention and cure. Cleaning out the p-traps under your sinks will help protect against future clogs, and you may even find that earring that went missing last Thanksgiving!
  •  While you’re under the sink, take a good look around for leaks, or signs thereof: stains, mildew, warping, or peeling. Not every leak is constant, and a seemingly dry area may be hiding damage below.
  •  Garbage disposal? There’s likely regular maintenance recommended by the manufacturer; consult your owner’s manual or our tips on garbage disposer care. At the very least, give it a quick cleaning using ice cubes made of white vinegar.
  •  If your refrigerator has an ice maker, take a look at the water supply tubing and connection to ensure no leaks are present. Leaks from ice makers can become big problems, and are often overlooked.
  •  Check faucet aerators and shower heads: each can become clogged with minerals and debris, compromising performance. Aerators can usually be cleaned with a toothbrush and soapy water, or vinegar. Shower heads should be submerged in vinegar for 30 minutes (or overnight, depending) – for more help, check out how to clean a shower head.
  •  Examine the caulking around the tub/shower, shower doors, toilet bases, and sinks (including the kitchen). If any spots are dried out, missing, or otherwise iffy, thoroughly remove the old caulk and replace with some fresh silicone.
  •  Without using too much force, try to move or rock your toilets. If there’s movement, check the mounting bolts at the base. If these are tight, the flange may need to be replaced and the toilet reinstalled.
  •  Remove the tank lids off your toilets and peek inside. Check for any obvious signs of wear or damage. Reach in and feel the flapper: these and other rubbery parts have a habit of rapidly deteriorating in highly-chlorinated water, and with the use of cleaning additives (the blue stuff, which should never be used). Beware! Deteriorated flappers can leave a serious mess on your hands (literally). If you want to make sure your toilet is in top-notch working order, check out how to improve toilet performance.
  • Note: Be extremely careful when taking off tank lids! They can be heavy, and break oh-so-easily. Place them on a flat, steady surface to avoid damage. And if you’re sitting there thinking, “Well that information would have been useful to me yesterday…” – we have a HUGE selection of replacement tank lids.
  •  If you have a running toilet – and the flapper is in good shape, forming an even seal – perform some troubleshooting to help figure out what the problem may be. Many times this is a quick and easy fix.
  •  Any rarely used toilets in the house? Give them a flush to make sure things are as they should be. Your future guests will appreciate it.
  •  Another oft-overlooked leak source is the washing machine: in particular, the water supply lines. Examine these hoses for cracks or brittleness, ensure the connections are secure, and that the surrounding walls and floor are dry.
  •  While low water pressure is pretty easy to notice, high pressure can be a bit trickier. Even if you have a pressure regulator installed, check the actual pressure regularly using a test gauge. An ideal pressure is somewhere between 40-65 psi. High pressure can mess with valves and fixtures, and can even cause blowouts in supply lines. Regulators and pumps can help keep things proper.
  •  If you haven’t done so in the past year (or ever), flush your water heater and replace the anode rod, if necessary.
  •  The Temperature and Pressure Relief valve on your water heater should be checked every few years for proper operation. If it’s been a while, be sure you have a receptacle for the hot water that will stream out (be careful – it can be VERY HOT water), and flip that switch! Sometimes if they’re too worn, these won’t re-seal after testing them out, so be prepared to replace this vital mechanism.
  •  Be sure to know the locations of the main water shut-off, as well as your sewage cleanouts.