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1-Tom-Plumber Staff

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1-Tom-Plumber (the plumber whose name is his number!) is the official plumbing expert of Cincy Chic, providing a weekly column with helpful tips, trends and information about all things plumbing. Learn more at www.1tomplumber.com.

First-time homebuyer? Our plumbing expert shares plumbing tips for new homeowners.

As a first-time homeowner, you may not know all the ins and outs when it comes to making this big purchase. In the past, you’ve been a renter so when something went wrong with where you were living, it wasn’t up to you to get it repaired or replaced.

However, as the owner of your very own home, those duties are now on you to ensure that if something goes wrong, it gets fixed. We know that plumbing can be tricky, and repairs can be expensive, so we’ve lined up some tips on ensuring that you and your plumbing system have a good relationship from the beginning.

Get an Inspection

Before you even try to learn anything about taking care of your own plumbing, you will want to schedule an inspection. This is something people should always do before buying a new home and it can help you figure out what you might be getting yourself into. When you get a home inspection, not only will they check the plumbing but they will also check other areas of the home to ensure that you are not about to get yourself into a pickle. An inspection can also tell you some minor issues that may be something you will have to take care of in the near future.

Find Out When The Water Heater Was Last Replaced

If you are buying an older home rather than building one, you should familiarize yourself with the plumbing history. A major part of this is knowing when the water heater in your home was last replaced. Water heaters only last about 8-12 years before they need to be replaced. You will want to figure out the last time your water heater was replaced so that you are prepared to replace it when need be.

Many people will replace the water heater in their home before selling it to increase the value of their home. Whether they do this right before they put their house on the market or a few years earlier, knowing they will be moving in the near future, this will give you time to spare and allow you to avoid replacing the water heater right away. However, if the previous owners did not replace the water heater in recent years, you will want to figure out when it was replaced. The last thing you want is to run out of hot water mid-shower on a workday. This will only add stress to your life that is not necessary.

Find Out Where you Main Gas and Water Valve is Located

When you first move into your home, you will want to be sure to locate the main water and gas valves. Knowing where these are in your home and how to shut them off can help if you ever run into an emergency. While it may not happen while you are living in your home, a water or gas leak can happen in any home and knowing how to quickly shut off the main valve can help you a lot in the long run. You will also need to know where the main water valve is if you ever want to replace a pipe or do other DIY plumbing projects.

Check the Home’s Sump Pump

If you have a sump pump, you will want to test it to make sure that it is running smoothly. To do this, pour a few buckets of water into the sump pit. The pump should quickly turn on and remove the water before turning off. If you run into a problem, you will want to get your sump pump fixed before you actually need it. Testing your sump pump every so often can ensure that it is ready to perform efficiently when it needs to.

Clean the Drains

Keeping your drains clean is important for so many reasons. Your shower and bathtub drains can clog easily because of all of the hair, soap residue, and other debris making its way down your drain. Because of this, it is important to clean them regularly. If you ever notice the water draining slower than it should, be sure to snake them to remove any clogs. Cleaning your drains regularly will help you avoid more serious plumbing problems in the future and allow you to save money.

Cleaning slow drains in your basement is also important. You will want to ensure that they are clean and draining quickly in case there is ever a flood. By doing this, your drains will be better able to remove water from your home quickly and prevent a ton of flood damage

Our plumbing expert is sharing how you can unclog those pesky drains without spending a fortune.

Slow drains in the house are more than just a pain, they can cause unpleasant smells in your home and even lead to expensive repair costs. 

Oftentimes, these slow drains are due to a sewer clog or backup, so we’re sharing the benefits of how a professional drain cleaning can help.

Sewer Clogs 101
Drains in the bathroom are typically due a combination of soap scum and shed hair, both of which go down the sinks and showers every day. Kitchen drains are often clogged up by food debris and cooking grease, which can leave behind a nasty smell. 

But one reason for a drain clog you may not have thought of: tree roots. If you have trees or shrubbery growing near your sewer main, you’re certainly at risk of the roots infiltrating your pipes in search of water and nutrients, thus leading to a backup of your pipes and drains. 

Time to Call in the Pros
A plumber can look at your pipes and determine just how bad the clog is, and where it’s located. Thanks to video camera technology, you won’t need to dig anything up unless that’s the only solution to your problem. 

Once your plumber knows the cause of your issues, they can suggest treatments such as hydro-jetting your pipes and drains. Other options for drain cleaning include a combination of chemicals, acid cleaners, or oxidizing cleaners that can break down whatever is holding up your pipes so that you can get things flowing again. 

Another often used method is a snake. This is one way to work on treating your clogged drains without putting harsh chemicals and products through your pipes. 

Old Man Winter will soon be here. Our plumbing expert shares how to get your pipes ready for cold weather.

Fall is just around the corner and that means winter will be here before you know it. To help you keep your home’s plumbing sound during these cold months, here are some tips to get your plumbing ready for the seasonal change!

Shut off outdoor faucets
Turn off outdoor faucets at their shutoff valves. Open the faucet and then open the bleeder cap on the shutoff valve to drain any water out of the pipe. If you don’t drain the pipe, it can still freeze and crack. Leave the bleeder cap open with a bucket underneath to catch any drips. If the dripping continues, your shutoff valve needs to be replaced.

Disconnect hoses
A water-filled hose left out in cold weather will freeze. If the hose is still connected to the faucet, ice can back up into the pipe inside your house, causing the pipe to crack. Disconnect all hoses from their faucets, drain them and store them for the winter.

Install heat cable
Heat cables are a perfect solution for vulnerable pipes. They have an integral thermostat that senses pipe temperature, turning the heat on and off as needed to keep the pipe from freezing. You’ll need an accessible outlet to plug in the cable. Heat cables are available at home centers for $15 to $40, depending on the length.

Shut the water off if you leave town
If you’re leaving town for a few days or more, turn the water off at the main shutoff. That way, if frozen pipes do crack, you’ll have far less damage. Shut off your automatic icemaker so it doesn’t continually try to make ice, burning out the motor. Even if the ice bin is full, the ice will evaporate and the icemaker will try to make more.

Insulate your garage door
If you have water lines in the garage, insulate the garage door, if not the whole garage. Consider a combination of heat cable and insulation as well. If it’s really cold, put a portable heater in the garage.

Keep the temperature steady when it gets really cold
What constitutes a cold snap depends on your climate and your home’s insulation. A temperature of 32 degrees F isn’t cause for alarm in Minnesota, but it might be in Mississippi. So during extreme cold, bypass your thermostat’s program and leave the temperature steady. You may even want to turn it up a couple of degrees.

Leave faucets running when it gets too cold
A trickling faucet acts as a relief valve for the pressure that builds up if frozen pipes do occur. That pressure relief can prevent frozen pipes from cracking. A slow trickle is all you need. It’ll bump up your next water bill a bit, but compared with major home repairs, that’s an easy price to pay. Don’t leave a faucet running if the drain is on an exterior wall, though; the drain can freeze, causing the sink to overflow.

 

It's happened to the best of us: a clogged garbage disposal. Read on as our resident plumbing expert offers tips that could save you time and money in the future.

Garbage disposers, or disposals, can be subject to several common problems. They can jam up when objects bind the impeller blades inside the appliance. The drain fittings can loosen and cause leaking beneath the sink. Or the drain connecting the garbage disposer to the rest of the sink’s drain trap assembly can become clogged and cause water to back up into the sink basin where the disposer is installed.

In a double-basin sink, when it’s only the disposer basin that backs up with water, the likelihood is that the drain fitting on the disposer is clogged.

Causes of a Garbage Disposal Clog

A disposal generally has no problem grinding most food waste, but it’s what happens after the grinding that usually causes a clog. Often this has to do with how ground food waste reacts to water (or lack of water) after the disposal unit grinds it up and sends it on its way toward the drain line. When a garbage disposer clogs, you will often find the problem in the drain trap assembly located on the waste discharge side of the disposal.

Disposals also can back up over time because the waste line or trap gets coated and eventually obstructed with food waste. If your disposal is draining very slowly or not at all, the problem is most likely in the drain trap—the U-shaped plumbing fitting that is located downstream of the disposal discharge pipe.

Here are some of the most common ways that users create garbage disposer clogs:

  • Lack of flushing water: Not putting enough water down the disposal when it’s grinding is a sure way to get a clog. Without sufficient water, the waste can’t be flushed through the pipes and will quickly build up. Once a full blockage occurs, water can’t flow at all.
  • Grinding up eggshells or coffee grounds: These items are a bigger problem than you might imagine. When ground up by a disposal, egg shells and coffee grounds create very tiny granular waste that will stick to any sludge found in the pipes, quickly becoming a clog.
  • Grinding potato peels: Potato peels are notorious clog makers. Once ground up, they form a starchy paste similar to mashed potatoes that will quickly clog the drain.
  • Grinding banana peels: These are a similar problem to potato peels, except they also add stringy fibers to the mix.

Not getting enough hot water? Our plumbing expert shares what you may need to boost your hot water and even save you money.

Are you struggling with low hot water in your home? Does it feel like you are constantly adjusting the temperature on your hot water heater? If these are things you find yourself constantly fighting against, you may want to consider a new solution. There are a few options on the market that could work, but the best option for your needs may actually be a booster. 

What is a Water Heater Booster? 

A hot water heater booster is a device that can be attached to your already existing hot water heater. The booster takes cold water and mixes it with hot water from an input valve. The booster helps to conserve the hot water in the tank without wasting energy. 

The water heater booster helps to ensure that you have hot water more readily available between uses than you would without it. Boosters are a good investment for those that need multiple sources of hot water throughout their home or for those who have a water heater that struggles to produce hot water regularly. These boosters can also help for those who struggle with low hot water pressure. 

Are There Benefits to Having a Water Heater Booster?

There are a ton of benefits to have a booster for your hot water heater. Water heater boosters may feel like something you don’t actually need, but they can help to save you money in the long run. Here are some of the benefits of a hot water heater booster: 

More Hot Water: A water heater with a booster will give you more hot water. That means no more running out of hot water after running the washer, dishwasher, or a few family members take a shower. These will also help to preserve your plumbing because of the improved water pressure boosters supply.

Energy Efficient: Water heater boosters use less energy to produce similar, if not better, results of a complete water heating system.

They’re Easy to Install: A water heater booster can be easily installed, as compared to a complete water heating system.

Water Conservation: A water heater booster will help you to use less water overall in your home. The booster helps to store hot water for longer between uses so you don’t have to wait for the water to get to the right temperature. 

Slow drain? Our plumbing experts weigh in on what the causes may be and how you can fix them.

Slow drains are a common plumbing issue faced in homes across the country. Whether it’s in the bathroom or the kitchen, it’s an inconvenience that no one really wants to deal with. 

Food, hair, grease, and other things going down the drain oftentimes plug up your pipes and require you to clean and find ways to get your drain back to normal. 

Here are some reasons why you may find slow drains:

Bathroom drains

Hair is the most common culprit related to a slow drain in your bathroom sink, tub or shower. Whether you’re shaving, trimming, combing or washing it, your hair can quickly slow down a drain. The problem only increases for folks with long hair. Your flowing strands wind up in the drain and often become trapped in the pop-up assembly, where they form a sort of net and accumulate all sorts of other debris, leading to a slow or even clogged drain.

Kitchen drains

The most common causes of a slowly draining kitchen sink are food related: grease and other debris get trapped in either the drain basket or the P-trap. The P-trap is the curved section of drainpipe located underneath the kitchen sink. Over time, grease, food particles and sediment can become trapped in the bottom of the P-trap, inhibiting the flow of water. Food can also restrict waterflow by getting stuck in the bottom of the drain basket.

Venting problems

For your home’s drain lines to function properly, they must work in conjunction with the vent stacks placed strategically in the bathroom and kitchen areas around your home. Most often, vent stacks take the form of those pipes protruding through your roof. The vent stacks allow air to be drawn into the drain lines to reduce the vacuum that would otherwise restrict the flow of water passing through them. If a vent stack becomes clogged by sticks, leaves or even birds’ nests the drain line associated with it will slow down significantly.

Sewer line problems

Sewer lines are the main lines that carry sewage and wastewater away from your home. Tree roots, deteriorating or collapsing pipes, and sludge buildup can all lead to slow drains in your household. When your toilet flushes slowly or clogs on a regular basis, it is most likely related to a problem somewhere in your main sewer line.

Slow drains are more than a minor inconvenience. If ignored, they can lead to major sewer problems and costly repairs. Periodic maintenance and inspection by a licensed plumber will help you prevent a complete shutdown of your home’s sewage system.

Having sump pump issues? Our plumbing expert is showing you two fool-proof ways to check to see if your sump pump is working!

Not sure if your sump pump is working? Don’t worry! It is super easy to check to make sure that everything is in working order.

When it comes to checking your sump pump, there are two fool-proof ways to tell if something is wrong.

Lift the float

Perhaps the easiest method for checking your sump pump is to lift the float, however, it can be a little intimidating to do this if you know nothing about plumbing. 

The float is the sump pumps on switch. It quite literally floats and when the water level gets high enough it tells the pump to kick on. It is usually very easy to identify the float. The float is attached to the side of the sump pump. To turn the sump pump on, simply push the float as high up as you can. If you see the sump pump kick on, great you know it’s working! If the sump pump does not kick on skip ahead to the troubleshooting section. If you are not sure where your float is, there is no need to waste any time! Simply try dumping water into the pit, directions below.

Dump water in the pit

Dumping water into your sump pump’s pit is a fool-proof way to make sure your sump pump works. If you have no plumbing knowledge, identifying the sump pump’s float can be a little tricky. Start by getting a 5 gallon bucket, trash can, cooler, or even 5 gallon jugs. Then dump the water into the pit. If the pump kicks on, it works! If the pump does not kick on, you will need to do a little trouble shooting.

Trouble Shooting Your Sump Pump

When it comes to sump pumps, there is not much to them. This makes troubleshooting very easy. Basically, if it has power and it’s not working it needs to be replaced. It’s not easy!

Unplug It, And Plug It Back In

The old unplug it and fix it trick. When it comes to making sure that an electronic is working, this is the gold standard! This step is very self-explanatory, just unplug it and plug it back in.

Make Sure the Outlet Has Power

By code, sump pumps must be connected to a GFCI outlet. A GFCI outlet contains it’s own switch and if there is any sort of fault the outlet will turn off. Most GFCI outlets have a green light on them letting you know that they are on. If your sump pump’s outlet does not have a green light on it, you may need to plug something else in to make sure it has power. If your outlet does not have power, press the reset switch and double check the breaker. If that does not work, you will need to contact an electrician.

Replace the Pump

The average life expectancy of a sump pump is 10 years. However, depending on the brand and amount of use your sump pump may last between 5 and 15 years. Sump pumps do not last forever: If your outlet has power and your sump pump is not working, it probably needs to be replaced. Almost all sump pumps can be repaired, but it is usually quicker and less expensive to replace the pump. On top of that, you have a brand new pump when you’re done!

I hope this guide was helpful. If you have any more questions about sump pumps check out our other guides, like this quick buyer’s guide. We also have a more comprehensive guide.

Stay ahead of the plumbing game with these tips on protecting your home's plumbing system.

New modern faucet and kitchen room sink closeup with island and granite countertops in model house home apartment

We tend to give our home’s plumbing system little attention until something goes wrong. Even the smallest plumbing issue can put several of your day-to-day activities on hold, like laundry and doing the dishes. Fortunately, there are several tips you can put into action to protect your home’s plumbing. Regular plumbing maintenance and periodically draining the water heater are two great tips for keeping your home’s plumbing in tip-top shape.

Educate Your Family

One of the simplest ways to protect your home’s plumbing is to educate yourself on what you shouldn’t flush. While city sewers are capable of accepting a range of debris, your home is not. Common that will clog your pipes if you flush them include:

  • Plastic
  • Cotton balls
  • Cigarette butts
  • Paper towels
  • Feminine products
  • Q-tips

To make things easy, make a it rule to only flush toilet paper. It’s also important to avoid putting animal fats and cooking grease down drains.

Insulate Your Pipes

During colder weather, the pipes in your basement and crawl spaces are prone to freezing and cracking. This is especially common if your pipes are copper. A busted water pipe can lead to major water damage and costly repair bills. To prevent this, consider insulating your pipes.

Insulating sleeves are helpful for preventing frozen pipes. They also minimize condensation, which is crucial to mitigating decay. However, before you opt to insulate your plumbing, it’s important to determine the material of your pipes. If you have copper pipes, insulation will be of the utmost value. Plastic pipes are well-known for their reliable insulation value, meaning you probably don’t need to insulate them.

Clean the Faucet Aerators

Once a month, go around the house and take the mesh tip off of each faucet. This mesh tip is known as an aerator. You need to clean it regularly to prevent a blockage of water.

Clean the Filter

If you have a water softener system or an ice maker, it’s important to clean their filters. Not only does this make the water healthier, but it greatly protects your home’s pipes. You can find instructions in the manufacturer’s manual explaining the best way to clean the filters.

Be Careful With Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals are super helpful in getting rid of waste. However, they can quickly clog your kitchen’s pipes. If your home’s plumbing connects to a septic tank, it’s best to use the garbage disposal as little as possible. This minimizes the possibility of the septic tank backing up.

Drain the Water Heater

Over time, sediment will build up inside the water heater tank. Even a small amount of sediment can hinder the functionality of this appliance.

To keep this from happening, drain the water heater on a regular basis. Because it can be unsafe to drain the water heater on your own, it’s best to leave this in the hands of a professional plumber. You can easily ask your plumber to drain the water heater during a maintenance session.

Prepare the Plumbing for Vacations

If you’re going on vacation, you’ll need to take certain steps to protect your home’s plumbing while you’re away. You can start with shutting off the home’s main water supply. This ensures that you won’t come home to a major water leak or flooding. You’ll also want to shut off the hot water heater. If you don’t, this appliance can overheat if it doesn’t have the proper water supply.

Lastly, check the flapper valves on all toilets to make sure they’re functioning properly. If one of them isn’t, you run the risk of the toilet running the entire time you’re on vacation, which is counteractive if you’re trying to reduce your water usage.

Avoid a garbage disposal mishap with these helpful tips and common foods to avoid from our resident plumbing guru.

If you have a garbage disposal chances are you see it as an easy way to get rid of food you don’t want stinking up your trash. But did you know that there are things that should go down the disposal, unless you want majorly expensive plumbing issues? 

Here’s a rundown of things that shouldn’t ever go down the garbage disposal:

Bones: This one is probably a no-brainer, but bones will spin around with the blades and can break your garbage disposal.

Celery: You may think celery can be easily chopped up, but its fibrous strings can tangle around the disposal’s blades, as can asparagus and corn husks.

Coffee Grounds: This one might be a shocker, but coffee grounds shouldn’t go down the garbage disposal. They may look like they’re going down easy but really they can pile up and cause a sediment-like mess in your drain. 

Egg Shells: There’s a divide as to whether or not egg shells can be put down the garbage disposal. Some say that egg shells can sharpen the blades of your disposal while others say that the membrane lining of egg shells can stick to the sides of the disposal and wrap around the shredder. We prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid putting egg shells down the disposal.

Grease & Oil: Grease and oil are more than likely not even going to make it into the disposal and will probably clog up your pipes instead.

Pasta: It may seem like pasta noodles will easily go down the drain, but pasta swells when it gets wet, so you don’t want it filling the disposal trap.

Potato Peels: Potato peels can get soupy once they’re in the disposal, along with other starchy veggies.

Going back and forth between installing a septic or sewer system? Our plumbing expert gives you a breakdown of the differences between the two!

Drainage systems make wastewater disappear whenever toilets are flushed or hands are washed in buildings and residential properties. But for all the functions that drainage helps make possible—dishes, laundry, showers—few people stop and think about the mechanisms that go into the process. The whole thing basically comes down to two types of systems: sewer and septic.

Sewer systems are more common because they’re funded and maintained by local governments. Septic systems, however, are becoming more popular as an affordable, environmentally sound alternative that give homeowners full control over their drainage. The following article examines the facts, pros, and cons of the whole septic vs sewer system debate.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between sewer and septic systems:

Where does the waste go?
Septic System: The waste goes into a holding tank.
Sewer System: Sewers lines carry waste to a treatment facility.

How does it work?
Septic System: Bacteria break down the solid waste and the liquid effluent is then released into the drainfield.
Sewer System: The facility removes contaminants and then discharges water back into local water supplies.

What is the cost?
Septic System: If buying a new home from a reputable new home builder, then the cost of the septic system is included in the price of the house.
Sewer System: The cost to use a public sewer system varies depending on location.  Some areas separate the cost of water and sewage, while others combine the two.

What type of maintenance is needed?
Septic System: Depending on the usage, septic tanks need to be pumped out yearly or every few years.
Sewer System: None

Who is responsible for the maintenance?
Septic System: It is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the septic system.
Sewer System: Your local municipality is responsible for maintaining the public sewer system.

What do you do if it fails to work?
Septic System: Call a professional septic repair company.
Sewer System: Call your local municipality public works department

What are the benefits?
Septic System: If maintained properly a septic system generally has fewer ongoing costs.
Sewer System: Sewer systems are very convenient and the homeowner has no responsibility for repairs

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