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How to Replace the Flapper and Fill Valve on Your Toilet

April 1, 2013 by  
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Replacing the flapper and fill valve on your toilet is a simple job that can dramatically improve your fixture’s functionality and water use efficiency. This process can be easily undertaken by anyone with any level of mechanical competency, and shouldn’t take more than half a day, at the very most. The first thing you need to do is turn off the water to your toilet tank. The valve is located underneath the tank. With the valve off, you can flush your toilet to drain most of the water out of the tank. There will still be a little water left, so have a bucket handy for the next few steps. Second, disconnect the water supply line and remove the old fill valve. The fill valve is secured to the bottom of the tank with a lock nut, and removing it will allow you to fully drain the tank. Also remove the flexible tube that runs from the fill valve to the overflow pipe. Keep your bucket handy to catch any excess water. Disconnect the linkage running from the flush lever to the flapper located on the inside bottom of your tank. Remove the flapper. When you do this, you’ll see a hole where the water exits the tank and enters the bowl when you flush. On the underside of the tank, there is a gasket between the tank and the bowl, which requires you to remove the tank to replace. This next step is sometimes a little tricky, and it can be a real pain without a second pair of hands. You need to remove the bolts that hold the tank to the bowl. In order to do this, you have to get a wrench on the nuts on the underside of the tank to hold them while you unscrew the bolts from inside the tank. This can be a bit of a stretch for one person, but with two people it’s much easier. Next, lift off the tank and remove the old gasket. Now that you have all of the old components removed, check to make sure that they match your replacement parts. It’s usually a good idea to hold off even going to the store for replacement parts until you’ve reached this point, as you can now bring the old parts in and guarantee a match. Installation is the reversal of this process, and should not present any real surprises. It can be a good practice to take a quick photo of everything in the tank before disassembly so that when you reassemble, you can make sure you put everything into its proper place. While this is a job that’s possible for DIYers, call a certified plumbing professional if you have any questions.

The Most Common Myths of Plumbing

March 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog

If you have a home maintenance project and you look online for tips, you’re likely to find dozens—if not hundreds—of homespun fixes to common problems. Some of the most common “tips” out there for plumbing issues miss the mark to the point where, rather than fixing a problem, they can cause a whole host of new issues. The following are some of the most common plumbing myths out there. Myth #1: After feeding waste into your garbage disposal, run the faucet to wash it all completely down the drain. This seems to make a lot of sense. It’s like giving your disposal a palate-cleansing drink after a good meal. We expect the water to prevent clogs, even when it goes down the drain after the waste material. If a clog were to form, however, it would form even before the water got there. Would it make sense to give someone who’s choking a glass of water? Of course it wouldn’t. By filling the basin with a ratio of 4:1 water to waste material before running the disposal, you can effectively reduce the chance of a clog forming. It’s a lot like feeding your garbage disposal soup rather than large chunks of waste. Myth #2: You should use regular soap to clean fixtures in your bathroom. One might assume that because soap does such a nice job of cleaning you off, it should work equally as well on your bathroom fixtures. In fact, soap can cause these fixtures to corrode, making the chrome surface bubble and peel off. Instead, simply wipe down your fixtures after each use to maintain them for the long term. Myth #3: In-tank cleaners actually keep your toilet clean. In-tank toilet cleaners are marketed on the promise that they will reduce the amount of time you spend scrubbing your toilet. The reality is that they do no actual scrubbing themselves—no matter what the animated brushes say in the advertisements. Instead, in-tank toilet cleaners simply bleach the buildup in your toilet, making it look nice and white while your toilet slowly deteriorates. Pouring vinegar down your toilet’s overflow tube can wash away buildup. It’s not quite as fun as cartoon scrubbing brushes, but it gets the job done much more effectively. Myth #4: Putting lemons down your garbage disposal helps keep it clean. One of the more common plumbing myths out there is that you can clean your garbage disposal by throwing lemons down it. Thanks to the staggering variety of cleaners available with a pleasant lemony scent, many of us tend to associate the smell of lemons with freshness and cleanliness. You almost automatically expect it to have the same effect on the disposal as pouring a glass of cool, refreshing lemonade down your parched throat in the summertime. But for your disposal, it’s more like guzzling battery acid. Lemon juice can dull the blades of your garbage disposal by causing them to corrode. Instead, you can polish your disposal blades by simply letting them grind up a few small ice cubes. This is noisy and considerably less lemony, but much better in the long run. Keep these myths in mind the next time you’re addressing an issue with your plumbing, garbage disposal or bathroom fixture. After all, you can’t always believe what you read online—except for this article, of course!

What to Look For in a Good Plumber

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog

If you’re like most people, you don’t think much about your plumbing—much less hiring a plumber—until you really need to. And while you may be fortunate enough to know a good plumber, chances are you typically check the yellow pages or search online when you need a specialist to address an issue with your pipes, faucets or garbage disposal.


But how do you know you’re working with the best person for the job? There are a few things you should keep in mind during your search for a reliable plumber.


First, when reviewing the options, it’s helpful to think of yourself as an employer going over potential hires. The same criteria on which you landed your last job are the same criteria that will help you decide on your choice in a plumber. Consider things like personal references, experience, availability and pay rates.


Personal references are the quickest and easiest way to identify a good and fair plumber. Ask friends and family about plumbers with whom they’ve worked in the past. It’s likely that someone you know has had some plumbing work done at some point and can provide some feedback about the company they hired. If nobody you know has any references, check consumer reviews, which usually come with highly detailed personal accounts about individuals’ experiences with specific plumbers.


You should also be sure that the plumber has the necessary licenses and insurance. Licensing means that the individual holds certain verifiable skills within the field and has had to pass a written (and sometimes a practical) exam centered on plumbing. An unlicensed plumber may be just as skilled as a licensed one, but you really have no way of knowing.


Insurance is even more important—specifically workers compensation and liability insurance. This will protect you from liability if your plumber is injured on the job or if he or she causes damage while trying to fix your problem. Without these types of insurance, you could end up incurring expenses far beyond what you originally expected.


Availability is another important consideration. If you call a plumber for an emergency job, make sure he or she can get there in time to address it. Many plumbers are available 24 hours a day, but you also have to factor in distance and driving time. If your problem may become catastrophic within the hour, don’t hire a plumber based 100 miles away from your home or business.


You also need to establish the rate you’re willing to pay. It’s likely that you will be able to narrow down the field to a few equally qualified candidates, but the final consideration is how much they charge for services. If you have a good idea of what’s causing your plumbing issue, ask each company to provide you with a ballpark estimate. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t necessarily go with the lowest price, as like with everything else, you get what you pay for.


Finally, once you’ve decided to have a plumber come to your home or business, ask for a more detailed quote. Be sure that the individual has looked at your plumbing issue in person, as over-the-phone quotes are rarely accurate. This gives you an added level of protection that you wont’ be subject to unexpected fees.


Use these tips the next time you need to call a plumber, and you’ll ensure that you hire a professional who gets the job done right the first time.

The Benefits of Trenchless Pipe Repair and Replacement

March 3, 2013 by  
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Replacing underground pipes traditionally requires the full excavation of the original pipe, which is a costly, destructive and lengthy process. However, trenchless pipe repair is a new method for replacing underground pipes that avoids many of the difficulties and expenses of traditional replacement methods.


Until recently, if your underground plumbing burst or became infiltrated with tree roots, the necessary course of action was to hire a crew to dig a trench the full length of the pipe and rip it completely out of the ground. This is a hugely invasive process that can leave your lawn looking like an exploded minefield, particularly if the pipe was located under any paved area like a patio, street or driveway. The man-hours involved are staggering, and the cost of repair frequently unaffordable.


Trenchless pipe repair and replacement is exactly what it sounds—it doesn’t require the excavation of the full length of the pipe. Instead, small holes are dug on either end of the damaged pipe, and a splitting head is affixed to the replacement pipe. The replacement pipe is hammered through the length of the old one. This expands the old pipe to fit the new one, with the new pipe filling the space the damaged pipe used to occupy.


The advantages of trenchless repair and replacement are many. It requires fewer laborers to install, making it much less expensive than other methods. The trenchless repair process can take only a few hours, as opposed to the many days or weeks required for a full trench replacement, so you don’t have to move into a hotel or a friend’s house for the duration of the process.


But what’s the best feature of trenchless repair? There is no unsightly trench, which means no landscaping fees as you try to scrape together the ragged bits what you used to call your front lawn.


In addition to the process being superior in nearly every way imaginable, the replacement materials are more durable and better constructed, and therefore will last much longer than the original pipes you’re replacing. This is partly because the replacement pipes are typically seamless, which means that they won’t be infiltrated by tree roots. Also, the polyethylene that replacement pipes are made from is much less susceptible wear from exposure to the elements.


In all, trenchless repair and replacement takes a lot of the difficulty and financial hardship out of replacing your damaged or broken underground plumbing.

Fixing a Clog: Should I Use Drain Cleaner?

February 1, 2013 by  
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We are all familiar with drain cleaners, as they are heavily marketed as the first resort solution to all household drain clogging issues. In fact, if you walk down the home goods aisle of any convenience store, drain cleaners are about all that’s offered for this problem. The tendency is thus to believe that because drain cleaners are the most common solution, they are also the best. This is not necessarily the case. How many of your household chores are best solved by dousing them with a bottle of expensive, highly corrosive poison? Not many examples spring immediately to mind. When you take a look at how exactly drain cleaner does its job—essentially giving the clogging material a severe chemical burn—it starts to look like a serious case of overkill. Considering that just having this stuff around the house poses a clear risk of injury and even death to children, pets and just about anybody who makes physical contact with or accidentally consumes it, drain cleaner begins to sound like an outright terrible idea. Fortunately, there are a few benign alternatives for fixing a clog that are cheaper, safer and can prove just as effective as drain cleaner. A mixture of baking soda and vinegar (the same stuff you used to make a working diorama of a volcano in grade school) is about as powerful a chemical reaction as most clogs really need. Pour a quarter cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. The reaction will take about a half hour to fully run its course. If you have metal drainpipes, wash this mixture down with boiling hot water. If you have plastic pipes, don’t use boiling water, as it can soften or melt them. For a really tenacious clog, you might need to run through this process a couple of times. If you’re not keen to wait a half hour for baking soda and vinegar to do the job, you can always try using a plunger, as they are specifically designed to pull clogged material out of drains and work just as well on showers and sinks as they do on toilets. For the best results, make sure there is enough water around the drain to help the plunger create a good seal. Of course, if drain clogs are a constantly recurring problem, prevention is probably the best solution for you. Specially designed drain plugs catch hair and other materials before they wash down to form a clog. They are easy to clean, inexpensive and can save you the time you would otherwise be spending trying to remove hair from inside the drain. Using these alternatives, it should be possible to avoid resorting to the extreme measure of using a drain cleaner. If they simply don’t work in unclogging your drain, you may need to call a plumber for a more comprehensive fix.