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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.

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.

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.

Have you ever stopped to think about how the City of Cincinnati gets its water and how it's cleaned? Read on as our resident expert offers insight.

Have you ever wondered where Cincinnati’s water comes from? There are plenty of bodies of water that meet here to combine with the Ohio River, but are theses the same waters that we later drink, cook with, and take showers in?

For more than 200 years, the Greater Cincinnati Water Works has treated and provided the Queen City with its water supply. It’s lasted through wars, floods, and fires, and continues to provide safe, quality drinking water for the region. 

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works supplies water from two sources. One source is the Miller Treatment Plant, which treats surface water from the Ohio River and supplies 88 percent of drinking water to Greater Cincinnati Water Works’ customers, including most of the City of Cincinnati. The other source is the Bolton Treatment Plant. This plan treats groundwater from ten wells in the Great Miami Aquifer. It’s located in southern Butler County and is 150-200 feet deep and 2 miles wide. The Bolton Plant supplies about 12 percent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works water.

Both the Ohio River and the Great Miami Aquifer provide plenty of water supply to the area and a focus on protecting those source waters. That’s why Greater Cincinnati Water Works regularly tests water from the Ohio River before it even enters the treatment plant. Additionally, Greater Cincinnati Water Works also works with an early warning organic detection system, the first of its kind. This system: 

  •  
  • Warns treatment plants downstream about spills so that measures can be taken before the spill reaches water intakes
  • Was developed by water utilities along the Ohio River in conjunction with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission
  • Consists of 13 monitoring stations located along the Ohio River

The state’s Environmental Protection Agency says that the Ohio River is highly susceptible to contamination, like other surface waters, and that makes it even more important that the Ohio EPA and Greater Cincinnati Water Works work together to ensure the safety and protection of the water.

The Bolton Treatment Plant treats groundwater and provides water to the northwestern area of Hamilton County and parts of Warren and Butler counties. And because the Great Miami Aquifer does not have a protective clay layer, it is also susceptible to becoming contaminated. To help keep this water safe, Greater Cincinnati Water Works is part of the Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium to protect the Greater Miami Aquifer.

Source: https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/water/water-quality-and-treatment/water-sources-resource-protection/

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. 

How do you know if you need a water softener? Our home improvement expert offers insight on what they are and how they work, and what to look for to know you need one.

While many of you may get city water, there are some folks who have to turn to water softeners to treat their water. Think you may need a water softener? Here’s a breakdown of what they are and what exactly they do:

What is a water softener?
A Water Softener is a filtration system that works to remove high concentrations of calcium and magnesium that cause hard water. When water flows through a Water Softener, the system filters out these hard water minerals and the softened water then leaves the water softening system to flow through plumbing.

What is hard water?
When you hear the words “hard water,” what’s being referenced is water that contains high concentrations of minerals, mostly calcium and magnesium, that bond easily with other types of metals. Eventually, all of this build-up becomes something that you can see, like the crusty residue on your shower head.  

Hard water got its name from the hardened mineral deposits that this type of water leaves behind. Hard water doesn’t build up in “safe” areas, it can clog and even corrode pipes and cause significant plumbing issues. Hard water deposits in boilers and hot water heaters can also make these appliances less efficient and more expensive to use. 

How does a water softener work?
A water softener works a lot like a magnet does. They work off the fact that positive and negative things attract. Because calcium and magnesium are both positively charged molecules, a water softener will sent these molecules through a filter that is filled with negatively charged resin beads. When the hard water moves through the resin beads, opposites attract and the molecules bond with the negative charges. 

With the toilet paper shortage, there’s been a lot of talk about bidets recently. Our home improvement columnist shares how to choose the right one for you.

A lot of buzz about bidets recently, many would say due to a toilet paper shortage in the midst of COVID-19. 

What is a bidet in the first place? Simply put, a bidet is a bathroom fixture designed to clean your nether regions after you use the toilet. You sit, you turn on the faucet, and a stream of water does what you would otherwise take care of with toilet paper.

Bidets are extremely popular throughout much of Europe, but they’ve been slow to catch on in the U.S. That is, until recently where we’ve seen a big spike in interest and new installations.

If you’re thinking about installing a bidet, there are several options out there on the market. For example, at 1-Tom-Plumber, we offer several different bidet options – ranging from the C-100 and the C-550. The basic features stay the same across the board, but the bells and whistles increase as you go up in models. They go from good to better to the best in their models. 

But even the most basic level is packed with features. The C-100 model comes with a heater seat, front and rear bidet washing, a blow dryer, an energy setting, and a tank to store the water. The tank on the back of the C-100 bidet holds 1 gallon of warm water to rinse. 

The seat, water, and blow dryer on the C-100 model come with an adjustable remote that is attached to the bidet.

The C-200 model is the same as the C-100, but the remote is separate from the bidet. 

The top-of-the-line C-550 model is a different seat design than the previous models. The C-550 includes the seat warmer, the bidet washer, the blow dryer, and electrolyzed water (also called “E-water”). Additionally, the toilet seat pre-mists the bowl and the lid closes automatically so that the bowl can be washed again with E-water. 

According to this helpful article on realtor.com, bidets offer considerable cost savings too. Did you know the average American uses 50 pounds of toilet paper a year? Bidet maker Brondell calculates that a person spends $243 a year on toilet paper, but with a bidet you’ll save about $182 a year.

Boil water advisories occur more often than you think. Read on as our home improvement columnist offers tips on what to do to keep you and your family safe.

Water boil alerts are becoming more common. They typically scroll across the bottom of the screen on your local news channel to let you know that you need to boil tap water before consuming it or opt for bottled water instead. But do you know what those alerts are really for and what you’re supposed to do?

A water boil alert includes information on what you should do with your water when it comes to preparing food, beverages, or even making ice.

If you’ve ever been under a boil water alert, you’ve most likely been told that you are better off using bottled water. However, bottled water isn’t always an option. If you need to boil water instead, it’s best to do so by bringing the water to a full rolling boil for one minute before allowing it to cool. Be sure not to use ice cubes from your refrigerator so that you aren’t using the contaminated water. Even if you have filtered water, you’ll still want to bring it to a boil, because anything connected to your water line can be contaminated.

Need to wash your hands? In many situations, you can use tap water and soap to wash your hands under a water boil alert. If you aren’t able to use the water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

When it comes to bathing and showering, be sure not to swallow any water while doing so. Oftentimes, kids consume water while they’re in the bath, so it may be best to not put them in the tub when you’re under a boil water alert. If you must bathe your child during this time, you may want to consider a sponge bath to reduce the chance of them swallowing any water. 

Just as you should not consume water without boiling it while under a boil water alert, don’t brush your teeth with tap water that hasn’t been boiled. It’s often impossible to not swallow any water while brushing your teeth, so you can protect yourself from contaminated water when you boil it before brushing. 

If you have to wash dishes while under a boil water alert, make sure that the water used on a final rinse reaches at least 150 degree Fahrenheit, to burn off any contamination. However, it’s better to use disposable plates, cups, and utensils under a boil water alert.

Water boil alerts aren’t just to protect humans, they also help to protect your pets from contaminated water. Pets can get sick by some of the same germs that people get sick from or even spread them like humans. If you’re under a boil water alert, be sure to give your pets bottled water or boiled water. 

While it may seem a little scary to be under a boil water alert, you don’t always need to be cautious about all that you do in the house during this time. You Can wash clothes as usual and even water your houseplants and garden without using boiling water.

Boil water alerts are a public health advisory given by government or health authorities when a community’s drinking water is, or could be, contaminated by pathogens. It’s important to remember that the point of these alerts aren’t to serve as an inconvenience but rather to help keep you safe.

Our home improvement expert says first-time homebuyers can save a lot of time, money and headaches if they know these simple tips!

So you’re a first-time homeowner? A little unsure about what to do when it comes to plumbing? We’re here to help! 

How to fix a running toilet

Does your toilet sound like it’s constantly running or refilling? This kind of sound can occur intermittently or as frequent as every minute and usually means your toilet is losing water. If you are experiencing a running toilet, you may have an internal/external leak or an issue with your flapper. Follow these simple steps towards finding a solution!  

Test if your flapper is leaking by marking the water level of your tank with a pencil. 

Turn your water supply off. Wait for a minimum of 25 minutes. If your water level drops below the pencil mark, you have a leak in your tank. 

Leave the water off for a couple hours and see where the water level drops to. 

Possible Solutions 

If the water level drops to the flapper, your flapper is leaking and needs to be replaced 

If it drops to a point on your overflow tube or your tank drain completely, your flush valve needs to be replaced 

If your tank is not leaking and your toilet is constantly running or water is rising into flush valve overflow tube, your fill valve is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced or serviced 

Tip: Before replacing damaged parts, shut off the water to your toilet by locating the valve in the wall behind it & turning it clockwise. Flush the toilet & remove the part; then take it with you to the store to ensure you buy an exact match. The sound of running water is now a thing of the past — and you’ll have the lower water bill to prove it!

How to clean hair out of a shower drain

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, hair is inevitably going to end up down your shower drain. Long hair, don’t care until you’re standing in a pool of water that just won’t drain. Or even worse, your shower drain begins backing up – talk about an icky mess. When this happens, here are a few tricks to try.

Turn to baking soda before you use harsh chemicals. White vinegar and boiling water are also other options when compared to Drano and Liquid Plumr, which can eat away at your pipes over time. 

If you have easy access to the drain, try to remove the blog by hand or with tweezers. It’s probably ideal to use gloves during this, so you avoid touching any of the clog with your bare hands. If this doesn’t get rid of the clog, you might want to try another method. 

A popular method for removing clogs is a plumbing snake. This trick tends to be one of the most successful at clearing your shower drain. 

You can’t avoid shedding, so you may want to consider brushing your hair before you shower or purchasing a shower drain hair catcher, that way you can prevent the hair from even going down the drain. 

How to unclog a drain
Watching what you put down your sink, toilet, and shower drain is a key way to avoid a clogged drain disaster. An accumulation of food, hair, soap, baby wipes, etc. can all cause a blockage. Tree roots may also bore their way through sewer lines in the right conditions. Sometimes, these things are unavoidable, but a conscious awareness of what goes into your plumbing system can stop a clogged drain in its tracks.

If you find yourself with a clogged drain, try these tips:

The Plunger Method

If you have a sink clog, place the plunger over the drain completely. Run the water for a second while placing the plunger on the drain to make sure you get a good seal. Begin to plunge in succession until you feel the sink unclog. You may have to repeat this cycle several times

Wire Clothes Hanger

The most common cause of a blocked shower drain is the buildup of hair (I’m talking to you, long-haired ladies). A quick and easy solution can usually be found right in your own closet. Straighten a wire hanger out, but make sure to leave the hooked end to grab the clump of hair. Once you remove as much as you can fish out, immediately run hot water down the drain to flush the rest. This method can also be used for stuck food in your sink.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

A run to your local grocery store can also do the trick when it comes to a clogged drain. Always follow exact directions when using chemicals to remove a blockage. This is not only for safety reasons, but also because different types of blocked drains require different solutions. A standing water blockage in a kitchen sink, for example, should be treated differently than a slow draining bath clog.

Remove the P-Trap

No tools are required to remove a clog under your sink as long as you know how to locate the P-trap. P-traps are required in homes to prevent sewer gas from leaking into your air, but they can also be perfect for accumulation of hair, small objects, or that piece of jewelry you can’t find.  Before removing, be sure to turn off the angle stops so no one else in the house can turn on the water and splash you. Place a bucket under the trap to catch water. Unscrew the two nuts carefully while holding the trap and let the water drain into the bucket. Remove the clog with a gloved hand and your blockage problem should be solved!

Our home improvement guru shares the seven small things you can do on a regular basis to avoid a plumbing emergency for years to come.

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.

Thinking of upgrading your sewer line? Our plumbing expert shares what pipes are set for your plumbing system.

Many of the earliest plumbing systems were made with clay sewer pipes. The first known example of clay pipes dates back to 4000 BCE and clay remained a popular material for city plumbing and drainage systems through the 1900s. Clay was so popular because it was made from natural products and because it is largely unaffected by the corrosive nature of wastewater.

Cons of Clay Sewer Pipes

Modern day clay sewer pipes, also called terra cotta sewer pipes, are challenging to work with. There is an extensive process to create the pipes. The pipes are air dried for 24 hours and then fired in a kiln for 50 hours, creating a ceramic-like end product. The terra cotta sewer pipes are very difficult to work with. They are also expensive to transport due to them being heavy and fragile. 

Over time, the ground will move and shift, creating cracks and eventually break the clay sewer pipe. These cracks release moisture, which tends to attract tree roots.  Roots of trees can easily wreak havoc on terra cotta sewer pipes!

When to Repair or Replace Your Clay or Terra Cotta Sewer Pipes

There are things you can watch for to let you know it may be time to have your clay sewer pipes inspected for repair or replacement.  

  • Foul odor or standing water in your yard 
  • Gurgling sounds coming from the pipes in your home
  • Drain back ups

If your clay sewer pipes are clogged, a plumber may be able to open them with a drain machine or with a hydro-jet. A drain machine may be a good solution for clearing blockages such as paper, build ups, or foreign objects. If the blockage is too much for a drain machine, a hydro-jet may be recommended. A hydro-jet is a method of sewer cleaning using high pressure water. A flexible hose with a specialized nozzle sprays water through the pipes and pressure washes the inner walls of the clay sewer pipe.

Depending on the severity of the problem, your terra cotta sewer pipes may need to be replaced. A licensed plumber can direct you with the most efficient, reliable, and affordable option for your sewer line replacement.

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