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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.

As plumbers prepare for their busiest time of year, our resident guru offers insight that could save your system. From grease and garbage disposals to when to run your dishwasher, keep reading for some helpful tips.

Believe it or not, the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for residential plumbing companies. Even in a year that’s been anything but normal, it’s still expected that even the households eating amongst themselves will still having a plumbing system running at full speed. 

To help you avoid plumbing catastrophes this holiday, check out these tips:

Get Your Home Ready

If you have time between now and Thanksgiving, give a plumber a call about any current issues you may be experiencing. If they’re able to make it to your house to resolve them before the holiday then you’re less likely to experience major and costly issues.

Keep It Out of the Kitchen

One of the biggest plumbing issues on Thanksgiving is with objects going down a drain that shouldn’t be. Jewelry, watches, toys, silverware, and broken glass are the most common items. But when you limit the amount of activity in the kitchen it’s easier to prevent these things from going down the drain.

Properly Dispose of Grease

It’s never a good idea to dump grease down the drain or garbage disposal. Once it cools down it gets solid and can back up your pipes. The best way to get rid of grease is to pour it in a mason jar or plastic bag and throw it in the trash when you’re done.

Garbage Disposals Aren’t Garbage Bags

Don’t let your garbage disposal become a catch-all for food waste this holiday. There are several foods that can cause plumbing issues and you want to make sure you aren’t tossing things in the garbage disposal that can cause backups or damage to your pipes. These food items include: celery, potato peels, eggshells, bones, coffee grounds, pasta or noodles, and fruit pits.

Don’t Run the Dishwasher

If you’ve been using the garbage disposal a lot, it’s suggested that you hold off on running the dishwasher as they share the same drain. In some instances, if you use your garbage disposal while the dishwasher is running you can end up with food waste in your wash cycle. You will also want to avoid the dishwasher if you’re already having garbage disposal issues as this can cause flooding. 

Don’t Flush Wet Wipes

Wet wipes aren’t made to dissolve like toilet paper, so you want to make sure there aren’t any non-dissolvable wipes being flushed down the toilet. This can cause a serious backup with your sewer system and a mess you don’t want to deal with ever, let alone on a holiday. You also want to make sure you aren’t flushing items like: cotton balls, Q-tips, napkins or facial tissues, feminine products, paper towels, and facial cleaning/makeup remover wipes.

The falling leaves may be pretty but don't let them clog up your drains! Click here for more from our local plumbing expert!

Temperatures are dropping, sweaters are being pulled out of storage, and pumpkin spice is running rampant. Yup, it’s that wonderful time of the year again.

However, the changing of the seasons also means leaves falling from trees and wind blowing debris everywhere! Your outdoor drains become vulnerable to the elements and may suffer blockages that often result in damages.

The question everyone is asking is, “How do I prevent leaves from clogging my drains?”

Every year during the fall, leaves start to turn all sorts of beautiful colors and drop to the ground. Although, the red, yellow and orange leaves make for a beautiful sight, autumn is the worst time of year for clogged outdoor drains. Don’t let decomposing leaves, mulch, and grass clippings wreak havoc on your yard drains this year. Let us help you prepare in advance to keep your outside drain from clogging with leaves.

Everyone know, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Fortunately, drains clogged with leaves are fairly easy to unclog and future clogs are even easier to prevent! But first, let’s start with the basics.

Joe, 1-Tom-Plumber’s drain specialist, using a hydro-jet to unclog an outside drain.

Effects of Clogged Outdoor Drains

A clogged outdoor drain is similar to that of a clogged indoor drain. When an outdoor drain is blocked by leaves, rainwater has nowhere to go, resulting in flooding in your yard.

Some serious blockages may even cause flooding in your own house. Sometimes minor symptoms, such as slow water drainage, can turn into major issues like corrosion, flooding. In extreme cases, sewage backup can lead to costly repairs. It is best to take care of these problems as soon as they arise, and even better to take a preventative approach now as warm summer nights transform into cool autumn evenings.

How to Unclog an Outdoor Drain

Most of the time, unclogging an outdoor drain is just as simple as removing leaves from the grates of the drain. However, in a more serious blockage, leaves may get in between the grates and into the actual drain. In this case, the drain needs to be snaked.

A drain snake uses a metal cable to grind up and push the leaves through the drain. If the snake fails, a special tool, such as a hydro-jet, may be needed to clear the leaves from the drain. A hydro-jet uses 3000-4000 psi water to pressure wash the pipes from the inside. It is so powerful, it will disintegrate any of the leaves it comes in contact with. In the case of one of these serious blockages, it’s best to leave it to a professional drain specialist.

Small leaves, dirt, and debris can gather into the sump (the area beneath the grate) of the drain due of heavy winds. These materials can accumulate over time to form a clog if not removed. In this case, open the grate to see if there is an accumulation of debris directly beneath it. You can use your hands or a small shovel to scoop out the cause of the blocked drain. Make sure. however, that you remove debris in all directions, as some drains can be multi-directional. 

An UltraTech Ultra-Drain Guard will catch all soil, leaves, and silt washed down your drain.

How to Prevent Future Clogs

When it comes to leaves in drains, prevention is always easier than the remediation. During the fall, always be sure to rake leaves and keep them away from your outdoor drains. Regular gutter cleaning can prevent water from backing up and flooding your yard, pushing debris into your yard drain.

Whether you have a storm drain, a yard drain or a basement drain, leaf guards or drain guard may be able to completely prevent your yard drain from clogging.

So keep in mind that as seasons change, and especially when the leaves start falling, it’s time to start thinking about how to keep your outside yard drain from clogging!

Is that slow drain innocent or could it be a sign of a bigger issue? Our plumbing expert offers tips for telling the difference.

Oftentimes the thought of a clogged drain or sewer line brings up toilets and sinks that could use a drain cleaning or plunge. However, that’s not always the case as your drainage pipes run into your main sewer line located on the outside of your home. 

Occasionally these sewer lines will get clogged and even collapsed, leaving you with thousands of dollars in repair costs and no drainage capability until you pay to repair it. However, you can take preventive measures to ensure that you catch a damaged sewer line before it collapses. 

Here are the signs of a collapsed sewer line:

Frequent Backups

When the toilet backs up, your bathroom gets soaked in wastewater. It’s disgusting, and you’re more likely to call a plumber than if the sink or the bathtub backup. The truth is that frequent backups, especially those in the lower regions of your home, are signs your main sewer line is clogged or collapsed.

You’ll likely notice it first in any plumbing you have in the basement as these would be closest to the main sewer line. What happens is the water from all the other drains converges into the main sewer line. If the pipe is collapsed or clogged, then the water has nowhere to go.

It then reverses and uses the path of least resistance. That’s likely the lowest drain in the basement.

If the pipe is collapsed and there is access to the dirt surrounding the pipe, the dirt will slowly absorb the water, and the water recedes. Since the pipe is still collapsed, the water frequently backs up over and over again.

Since the major drainage points are usually in the basement, you may not even notice it, but if it isn’t taken care of it gets worse and worse.

More than One Fixture Clogs

Since all the drainage connects to the main sewer line, when it collapses, it impacts every drain. If the water has nowhere to go, then multiple fixtures can clog or have backups. For example, if you take a bath and the water doesn’t drain quickly, and then your toilet starts bubbling, then it could be water or air rushing into the toilet.

It could also manifest in your bath not draining followed by the toilet, bathroom sink, and other drain outlets. If the collapse is major, then plunging the toilet may not work in removing the water.

Instead, the collapsed pipe either drains the water slowly or not at all. This is an obvious sign, and the plumber uses a camera to view the pipe and find where the clog or collapse occurred. The location is a major factor in the cost of fixing the problem.

There are many causes of the collapse or clog from pipe corrosion, grease, and other detritus collecting in the pipe. Tree roots can also grow into the pipe, breaking it and causing a collapse. Since this happens underground, it can be a tremendous undertaking to replace or repair the pipe.

Your Plumbing Does What It Wants

When you main sewer pipe clogs or collapses, it can impact your drains in surprising and disturbing ways. The drainage pipes in your home are a complicated tapestry of connections, bends, and turns.

When your sewer line clogs, it can cause drains to emit strange sounds, odors, or bubble up. You might think your toilet is haunted, but it’s just air rushing back to the surface.

If your toilet suddenly starts bubbling and does it often, then run the bathroom faucet for a bit and see if continues unabated. You might also notice a gurgling sound coming from the toilet or bathtub drain, which is another clear sign that something isn’t right.

You also might notice an odor coming from the drains. This is because waste and sewage aren’t draining properly from the toilet, so the smell can come rushing back through the other drains. It may not be a full sewage backup into your bathtub, but you’ll smell something isn’t right.

Sewage backups into other drains are not only smelly and disgusting but also a health hazard to your family. Wastewater teems with bacteria and other pollutants that cause illness. The diseases it spreads can be run the gambit from a minor cold to serious health problems.

Your Lawn Is Wet

Since the main sewage line is outside, it can cause changes in your lawn. When a pipe corrodes or breaks from a tree root, it causes dirt from the outside can rush in and water now has access to the outside world.

When you flush or drain water from dishes, etc., it flows down the pipes and into the main sewer line. When the water hits the collapsed area, the surrounding dirt absorbs the water. Slowly over time, the ground saturates, and you’ll notice the lawn above the collapse soaked with water or even have standing puddles.

If you have standing water in your lawn caused by the pipe collapse, the plumber will need to dig down to the collapsed pipe to fix it.

The Grass is Growing

One of the common side effects of having an area of your lawn saturated with water is the grass in that area grows faster than in other areas. It might start out slowly as water seeps to the surface, but eventually, you’ll see a dramatic increase in growth over the collapsed sewer line.

You’ll mow the grass, but that area continues to grow faster. If the water puddles, then the grass in that area can become oversaturated and will die. It takes time for this to happen, so if it gets to the point where the grass dies off or if the area of fast growing grass gets bigger, then it could be a major project to fix the collapsed pipe.

Looking for ways to reduce utility bills while helping to save the planet? Our plumbing expert has tips for cutting your water usage.

This year has been anything but ordinary, and in times when money is tight and resources are running low – you may be looking for ways to lessen your environmental impact. 

One of the ways you can reduce utilities and help to save planet earth is by reducing your water usage. 

Simple changes can add up to big differences that don’t just help to save the planet. Here are a few tips for reducing your water usage:

  1. Turn off the taps. You can save several gallons of water a minute by turning the tap off while you brush your teeth.
  2. Short flush. Around one-third of all water used in the home goes down the toilet. If you have a dual flush system, make sure you use the short flush (usually the smaller button) when possible.
  3. Look for leaks. Regularly check your toilet for leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 26 gallons of water a day!
  4. Take a shower. Taking a bath using much more water than taking a shower. It may seem like the opposite, but once you consider how much water it takes to fill a tub you’ll see that a quick shower can in fact save you water usage. 
  5. Wash a full load. Saving up your dirty clothes until your washing machine is full is better than doing two half loads. If you need to replace your washing machine, always try to buy one that has an A-rating for energy and water consumption.
  6. Use a dishwasher. Filling up a dishwasher until it’s completely full each time will save more water than doing the dishes by hand, even if you’re using a bowl. Similar to your washing machine, it’s always best to look for A-rated appliances.
  7. Only use what you need. If you’re cooking pasta or putting the kettle on…only filling the pan or the kettle with as much water as you need, rather than filling them right to the top, will help you to save water and cut down on electricity bills from using the stove or oven.
  8. Catch rainwater. Around 600 gallons of rainwater falls on the average roof in one year. Install a water butt in your garden to catch rainwater to water your plants with.
  9. Use a trigger hose gun. Watering your plants and borders with a hose can use a lot of water. Installing a trigger gun on the hose makes it easier to turn on and off the water supply, and control the flow.
  10. Stay hydrated. Water is essential to support healthy bodies and minds. Keep a jug handy in the fridge, so you don’t need to run the tap every time you want a drink.

We all know what a water tower is, but do we know what it does? Our plumbing expert shares the basics!

Water towers are a common landmark in every small town and large city. Their use, however, isn’t as commonly known to those who don’t even know they use them. 

Many ask, why do we need to store water hundreds of feet in the water? What does the water do in a water tower? The answer is more simple than you may think. 

Clean, treated water is pumped up into the tower, where it’s stored in a large tank that might hold a million or so gallons—enough water to supply its residents for a day. When water is needed, water pumps utilize the pull of gravity to provide high water pressure. Because water towers work with gravity, they must be taller than the buildings they’re providing water to in order to reach the highest floors of every building.

There’s significant importance to keeping water high off the round as well, as it allows for the use of smaller water pumps. In general, water demand for a city fluctuates throughout the day. Lots of folks are taking showers before work and school, but fewer people are running a lot of water at 3 a.m.

Without a water tower, the municipality would have to buy a water pump big and powerful enough to keep up with peak demand in the mornings, which would then largely go to waste during less busy parts of the day for water usage. Instead, municipalities can buy a pump just large enough to satisfy the region’s average water demand for the day, and let the power of the water tower take over during the times with demand that exceeds the pump’s capabilities. When water demand goes down at night, the pump can replace the water in the tower. Also, if the power goes out and the city’s water pumps fail, the water tower can keep water running smoothly for at least 24 hours.

With today’s technological advancements, it may seem like a water tower is useless, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, even Louisville, Kentucky, still uses the water tower it constructed back in 1860. Millions of people in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles also get their water from water towers, which are often located on top of tall buildings so that they can provide high water pressure for residents.

Winter is just around the corner, and a winterizing of your plumbing pipes can help save you thousands.

Winter will be here before you know it, and that means it’s time to get your pipes ready for the cold. Preparing now can help you save a good deal of money in the future if you can stave off any cracks, broken pipes, or other serious plumbing issues. 

To prepare your pipes for colder weather, winterizing is a good idea. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare your pipes for winter:

Insulate pipes – Pipes in unheated areas like a crawl space, garage, or attic are susceptible to freezing temperatures. Use heat cable along the pipes and cover with pipe insulation. The insulation by itself isn’t designed to withstand long-term cold temperatures and can actually prevent warm air from reaching the pipes when not partnered with heat cable.

Shut off outdoor faucets – Open your outdoor faucets to allow excess water to run out, then turn off the faucet at the shutoff the valve. If you don’t first allow the bleeder cap to drain, the pipe can still freeze and crack, causing issues in the dead of winter.

Open cabinet doors – When we’re in the middle of a cold snap, open your kitchen or bathroom under-sink cabinets to allow warm air to circulate near the pipes. Behind closed doors, pipes are vulnerable because the warm air in your home can’t reach them.

Check your furnace of HVAC unit – If your HVAC unit or furnace goes out during the middle of winter, your pipes will suffer through the freezing temperatures until a repair can be made. Ensure your heating system is working properly before winter arrives.

Run water – Allow a trickle of water to run through the faucet to avoid freezing pipes. The pressure relief from a slow drip can prevent frozen pipes from cracking. While you may see a minor bump in your water bill, it’s much better than footing the cost for pipe replacement.

Inspect the exterior of your home – Do a walk-around of your home looking for visible cracks that need to be sealed. Cold air will seep through the cracks, causing your pipes to freeze. Use spray foam or caulking to fill the gaps and protect your pipes.

Think your sewer main may be backed up? Our plumbing expert shares warning signs to help you know when your sewer main may need serviced.

So your shower gets backed up every now and then. What’s the big deal? 

It’s not always just a simple clog. Sometimes, when you notice a clogged drain or toilet, you may be on your way to bigger issues than you realize. Sewer main backups are a reality and not resolving the issues when they first arise can lead to costly repairs. 

If you think you may be at risk of a sewer main backup, check out these warning signs:

Multiple backups – If several things with a drain are draining slow or clogged, this is more than likely the clue you need to know that your sewer main is clogged. All of the drains in your home run through the sewer main, so if it gets clogged you can expect all your drains to start draining slow.

Mysterious sounds – Bubbling or gurgling sounds are a sign that you should probably get your sewer main checked out. Bubbling sounds in a sewer line are typically caused by air pockets after the pipe has already been clogged, so if you’re hearing these sounds when there is no water running it may be time to call a plumber.

Flushing Wipes – Mom always told us to never flush a wipe or paper towel down the toilet and she was right. Even the wipes that claim to be flushable aren’t so sending them down the toilet is going to increase your chances of a sewer main backup. 

One Drain Causing Another to Backup – A big indicator that you have a sewer main backup is when one drain causes another to backup. Flushing a toilet and seeing water come out of another shower drain isn’t a good sign. This happens when water can’t pass through a clog and it looks for another open drain, which leads to the other drains in your home.

Sewer line issues? A complete replacement may not be necessary thanks to a quicker, easier fix.

If you’ve ever dealt with issues in your sewer lines, chances are you weren’t too excited about it. Most people aren’t jumping for joy when they realize there’s an issue with their sewer line. 

While sewer lines typically last around 50 years, there can be moments when they encounter issues here and there, or you may just happen to purchase a home that is at the end of its sewer line life and needs replaced. However, if you’re running into issues with your sewer line, a complete replacement may not be necessary and you can spot repair issues along the way. 

A spot repair in a sewer line focuses on fixing the broken part of a pipe, or pipes, without ripping out and re-installing a brand new system. If you’re a first-time homeowner, or haven’t needed to deal with sewer line issues yet, here’s some advice on spot repairs and how they may work for you.

When Should I Choose a Spot Repair?

Oftentimes you know when your sewer is experiencing issues. Typically, signs of a sewer line issue include backed up drains, clogging, changing toilet water levels, and even foul odors coming from your drains or your yard. In worst case scenarios, sewage may start seeping into the ground and event attracting rodents. 

A plumber can help you determine if a spot repair is a good option for your issues by letting you know if the entire pipe is in bad condition or if there’s a simple fix for it. 

Is a Spot Repair My Best Option?

Cost effectiveness is the biggest benefit to choose a spot repair over an entire sewer line repair. Spot repairs can save you thousands of dollars while still resolving your issues. A spot repair is also easier to do than a sewer line replacement. as they are quicker and less invasive. There’s also no risk to your other utilities lines when doing a spot repair. 

How Is a Spot Repair Done?

Rather than digging any holes, a flexible pipe liner is inserted into a drain and placed at the problem area. This liner is flexible enough to get into the pipe, but once it is in place it molds to the sides of the pipes and hardens, creating a waterproof seal. It may not seem like the most foolproof method, but the lining can hold up for upwards of 50 years

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. 

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