When you call a plumber it will cost you over $100 just to get us in the door. That’s an expense you don’t want to have to deal with in the weeks leading up to Christmas. So what we’ve decided to do is give you a few insights from our experienced staff that will allow you to navigate your plumbing service this season. These tips and tricks range from DIY standbys for those of you who have a bit of technical skill and are willing to get a little dirty in the process to ways to limit water damage when you have a broken faucet or leaking toilet. Most plumbers won’t tell you this kind of stuff because they make a pretty penny on an easy fix, but in the spirit of the season, we’ve become quite a giving bunch!
- If you can wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to get service, schedule ahead. We get the most calls on Mondays when wives are calling us to fix what their husbands “fixed” over the weekend.
- Don’t know a reputable plumber in the area? Call us. Or, if you want to get an unbiased opinion, call a local plumbing supply company for a recommendation. They won’t usually work with unlicensed or below average plumbers.
- Don’t put a brick or half gallon of water in your toilet reservoir. Your toilet was designed to flush with a specific amount of water. Changing it could keep your business from going down the drain (not something you want to deal with if you have guests over the holidays). Instead, if you want to save money, invest in a low flow toilet. They aren’t excessively expensive and can pay for themselves in water savings in just a few years.
- If you do have a clog, avoid using over the counter liquid drain cleaners. They are caustic and not only can be harmful to you, but to your pipes too. Use a plunger, or better yet, purchase a hand auger (drain snake). The snake will come in handy and pay for itself on its first use.
- Clogs are the bane of most bathrooms. If you happen to have a long locked beauty in your home, invest in a drain cover to catch all of the excess hair that comes out during a shower. Not doing so can lead to slow running drains and even full clogs (another good use for that drain snake).
- Replace the rubber hoses on the back of your washing machine with stainless steel reinforced ones. The flimsy ones will break over time and are one of the top insurance claims from homeowners. Even a small leak can cause a problem because the washing machine is almost always in a low traffic area. The drip can go on for quite a while before being caught. We suggest (if you still have the flimsy rubber hoses) that you check the hoses every time you do the laundry.
- Don’t let drippy faucets and leaking toilets go. Get them fixed right away. A single dripping faucet can waste up to 8 gallons of water a day. A leaky toilet up to 200! If you don’t want to pay for the fix, you’ll be paying for it when your next water bill comes. And the bill after that and the bill after that. You get the picture.
- Do you find yourself jiggling the handle of your toilet to get it to work properly? If so, you probably need a new drain flap – they cost about $5. They are quite easy to install and will stop your need to jiggle without having to shell out a Benjamin just to get a professional plumber in the door.
- When you purchased your garbage disposal it came with an Allen wrench. This is a manual way to advance the interior grinding mechanism when the disposal gets jammed. Keep it under the sink (taped to the unit is best) so it is there when you need to clear a jam.
- Get multiple estimates for any large plumbing job that you need to have completed. The estimates should be within 25% of each other. Any that are excessively high or low may indicate either an overpriced company or a company that is going to try to nickel and dime you with hourly charges.
- Asking for quotes is good, but asking for references is better. Get them from customers that have used the service in the past 3 months. Also realize that plumbers can change their names or company name at any time they wish. So look for a well established company that has a good track record to be on the safe side. Again, if you don’t have any personal references to go from, contact a plumbing supply company to get their recommendation.
- Always work with a plumber that warranties his work for at least a year on all major installations and repairs. A plumber that doesn’t stand behind his work is a plumber I don’t want messing with my pipes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask us to check your water pressure or those pesky banging signs in the supply lines under your sink. Just do it after we’ve completed the work we have been contracted to do. Plumbers never turn down the potential for new work.
- Do you have a wire hanger handy? If you do you can easily fashion a hook that can be snaked down your bathtub drain to remove hair and soap scum clogs. Remember, about two inches down almost all bathtubs have a 90 degree drain turn. This is where the clog is likely to strike.
- Learn where your shut off valves are. This is an invaluable piece of information. When a leak starts you can literally have minutes until you are dealing with an interior flooding situation. Locate both the main shut off for your home and the interior shut offs (usually under the sinks and behind the toilets). Know where they are can literally save you thousands of dollars in damages.
- If you have some food coloring handy, you can check you toilet for leaks with a dye test. Simply drop a few drops of food coloring (we prefer green) into the reservoir and let the toilet it for half an hour. Check the bowl. If you see colored water you have a leak. The darker the color, the worse the leak. Replacing the flapper valve is usually the solution.
- Don’t buy a brand new low flow faucet to reduce your water usage. There are aerators that will thread on to your existing faucets for about 1/10th of the cost and will do the exact same thing.
Hopefully at least a few of our insights will help you save some cash or trouble. If you happen to have other questions or concerns about the plumbing in your house, send them in to our professionals. We will be starting a monthly readers question and answers section to our blog. And again, a happy holiday to yours from every one of us at My Plumber Ca!