Ah, the biggest reason our phones ring. Pipes and drains.
Ok, so we know that it’s easy to spot a leaking faucet or showerhead. But sometimes you have leaks in piping that aren’t as obvious.
Here are some ways to spot pipe leaks in your home:
- You hear that running water sound but you know you aren’t running water anywhere in your home like the bathtub. It’s a pretty paranoid feeling, isn’t it? You feel like your basement is going to fill up with water any second. Well, we don’t want to make you more paranoid, but it could be a water leak. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in your walls but it’s somewhere.
- If you want to test for a water leak, especially if you hear running water, there is one test you can do. With this test, it’s even possible to determine if the leak is inside or outside of the house.
- First, make sure that no water is being used in the house. No faucets running, no bidets doing their cleaning, you get the gist.
- Second, wait a little bit.
- Third, find the water meter to your home. Water meters have a leak indicator and it is usually a small triangle or a silver wheel. If this leak indicator is moving, there’s a pretty good chance that you have a leak.
- Fourth, find the main shut off valve to your home and turn it off. This is turning off the main water supply to your home.
- Fifth, check the leak indicator again while making sure there is not water being used in the home. If the leak indicator has stopped moving, then that means that the leak is inside of the home. If the leak continues to move, then that means the leak is outside of the home.
If you think you have a leak in your plumbing, the next step would be to call a plumber or leak detection specialist. They have leak detection equipment that can find out exactly where the leak is so it can be repaired properly.
How on earth do pipes get plugged up? Good question. There are a lot of reasons. Soap scum, objects getting down the drain that shouldn’t be there, rust, corrosion, tree roots and dirt are among some of the reasons. One way that we fix these plugged pipes is that we can run a camera into the pipe and see where the plug is located and if it is even capable of being fixed or if the pipe is broken altogether. If it is simply a matter of the pipe needing to be cleared, we run a plumbing snake through the pipe and it essentially drills through the restriction and clears the pipe.
When temperatures dip below freezing, we see an increase in calls for frozen pipes. How do pipes freeze? Water sits inside of your pipes and when those pipes are exposed to cold temperatures, causing the water within the pipe to freeze, the water expands, which bursts the pipe. You may even hear the pipe burst. Other evidence that the pipe has burst is the sound of running water and moisture in the area. Our licensed plumbers are able to fix frozen pipes effectively. In order to prevent frozen pipes, one thing you can do is open the cabinet doors under sinks and other areas in your home where plumbing pipes are exposed. By doing this, you are allowing the warm air from the home to get to the pipes so they are less likely to freeze. Another option is to insulate your pipe with pipe insulation you can find at your local hardware store.
Types of Piping
It’s very helpful to know what material the pipes are made out of in your house. Why? Because different pipes have different strengths and weaknesses, and for that reason, they can break under certain circumstances. So here’s the run-down of the different types of pipes.
- Cast Iron – This is a piping that was commonly used before the 1970’s, so if you have an older home, this may be the piping running through it. The thing about cast iron is that it’s very durable, but it can rust over time. This is a reason for repair with cast iron.
- ABS Piping – This kind of piping was the first kind of plastic piping used. With more technology, we realized that we can avoid the rusting and corrosion associated with cast iron. With that, ABS came around. But there is a problem with ABS piping and it is due to the fact that joints come loose. Of course, this is a problem when you start to see flooding or leaking in the walls. Some places don’t even allow ABS piping anymore so you may have to make sure you’re familiar with code and what kind of piping can be used.
- PVC Piping – This is the type of piping we’re most familiar with. This is used most often with plumbing these days and is like the superman of piping. It’s very durable, seems to resist chemicals, and is strong. Of course, you should check with a plumbing or code inspector before going with this, but PVC piping is your safest bet since it is used the most.
- PEX Piping – This piping is the new kid on the block. This material is up to four times more expensive than plastic or copper but it is easy to install because it’s flexible and is attached with compression fittings. If you want to use this kind of piping, you’ll need to make sure it’s approved by code in your area since it’s so new.
- Galvanized Steel – If you’re the owner of an older home, this is possibly the piping running through your walls. It is known for being strong but it only lasts around 50 years. What we’re trying to say is, if you’re owning an older home and the pipes are giving you grief and springing leaks, make repairs with a plastic piping and take out the galvanized steel. It’s not a good long-term solution.
- Copper Piping – This type of piping is a lot stronger than other metallic piping. But it is not invincible, as we have seen. It is more expensive than plastic but is also flexible. It can certainly claim durability but the options should be weighed about whether or not to use copper or another material.
More than anything, when it comes to new construction or repairs, your #1 priority should be to make sure the construction about to take place is going to be up to code. It would be awful to have plumbing installed or repaired in a way that is not approved by code and then have to have it torn out. Any licensed plumber should know what the approved materials are in your area.
Piping in Old Homes
Now, we want to have a quick chat about old homes because we work with them a lot. Older homes tend to have piping smaller in diameter and this increases the water pressure running through your fixtures. If you have an old home, have you ever noticed that the water pressure seems really high? That may be due to piping small in diameter which was more common in plumbing back in the day. But this can damage the water fixtures in your home. You may also notice in older homes that when two different taps on are on, the water pressure decreases as soon as the second tap turns on. This makes for a fun experience in the shower when your hair is full of soap. This issue can be fixed with some repiping and this can also spare the need to replace ruined water fixtures.
We tend to get calls for clogged drains when the drain is so backed up that the homeowner has no other resort than to get a professional out there. And by then, they can’t seem to get a plumber out there fast enough because there are times when the drain has gotten so bad that the water is backing up.
I’m dividing this up into two sections: How to avoid the situation overall, and what to do if your drain is backed up.
First, here is a list of things to do to prevent your drains from backing up. It’s a whole lot of “DO NOTs”.
- Don’t put grease down the sinks. This is a common mistake in the kitchen sink. That grease will harden in the pipes and then become resistant to water—even hot water sometimes—and it will clog the drain. Even if you run hot water, it will carry it further down into the drain will it will harden again. So no grease down the drain. Pour excess grease from food into a leftover can from cooking. Then when the grease has solidified, throw away the can.
- Don’t try to put potato peels or other thick-skinned vegetables down the garbage disposal. Those garbage disposals are pretty tough, but this throws a jam into their function. They also clog up the pipes pretty quick.
- If you have a luscious head of hair that you like to clean in the shower, make sure to keep that hair from going down the drain. Using a comb or brush to snatch up loose hair is a good way to keep your drains from clogging up. We get so many plugged drain calls for hair in shower drains and it could easily be fixed by making sure the hair doesn’t go down the drain in the first place.
- Don’t flush feminine hygiene products. This is another one of the biggest reasons we get called out to clean out toilets that aren’t flushing. Nasty.
- Don’t flush wipes or other non-biodegradable products.
There are a few different ways we clear out drains and for the sake of keeping it short and simple, I’ll touch on two:
- Liquid chemicals – You’re probably thinking to yourself: “If you use liquid chemicals, then what’s the point of me hiring you? I can just go buy some from the store and pour it down my own drains.” A word of caution about store-bought liquid chemicals: The way these chemicals are made can eat away at your pipes. We have professional drain cleaners that are safer for you and your pipes.
- Drain snake. These are the big guns. Sometimes even liquid chemicals are not enough. The clog may be so deep that it can’t reach and effectively work on the plug. Or what’s restricting the drain is resistant to liquid chemicals. The drain snake essentially drills through the drain and clears the way.
If you have any other questions or would like some help with your plumbing woes, feel free to reach out to us!