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Learn a Little About Plumbing & Save Money...
Here are Some Tips & Tricks You Can Use

You don't always need to have a plumber come fix things. With a little plumbing how-to's, you can keep things in check before they become problems. And, if you do need a plumber, you can sometimes buy some time until we get there. A little plumbing knowledge, can save you time, stress, and money:

Shutting off water to a fixture. If you want to shut off the water to a particular sink or toilet, look for a valve under the sink or behind the toilet.

Itís desirable to have valves which control the flow of water to each fixture in your house so that itís not necessary to turn off the water to the entire house to fix or replace a particular fixture. We can easily install these for you.

Shutting off water to the entire house. If youíre not finding a valve to a specific fixture, you can shut off the water to the entire house. Look for a main valve outside, possibly located in the basement on an outside wall that faces the street. If you donít have a basement, it may be located outside on a wall of your house. There should also be a main valve near the street or sidewalk in front of your house, although it may require a special tool to turn off this valve. Often this water shut-off valve is located in a buried box with a cement or metal lid.

Know in advance how to shut off the water. Itís a good idea to know where and how to turn off the water to your house in case of an emergency. Water pipes can break due to an earthquake, a freeze or other causes.

If you need help in locating and working the shut-off valve, a neighbor may be able to help you, or you can always call us and we will have a technician there as quickly as possible to help you out with your plumbing emergency needs.

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If a pipe bursts and your home being flooded, shut off the water to your house. See the section on this page, "How to Shut Off Your Water."

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First, determine the cause of the problem.

Toilet Won't Flush Completely
  1. Is no water running into the toilet? If you try flushing and no water runs into the toilet bowl, check the water level in the tank. It should be within about 1/2 inch of the top of the overflow pipe. The overflow pipe is the big vertical tube in the tank. If the water level isn't high enough, parts inside the tank may need replacement. You can buy these at a hardware store. If you aren't sure of how to do this, just give us a call and we can easily do the job for you.
  2. If water doesn't run into the bowl and the water level in the tank is high enough, try dumping a bucket of water into the bowl. If this clears out your toilet, the water inlet to the toilet is probably blocked (located inside the rim of the toilet).

    If you use a blue cleaning disc it may be jamming the flow of water. Taking care not to damage the porcelain, break up the jammed disc with a screwdriver or similar tool. Even if you can't remove all of the disc, your toilet should start working again. The remains of the disc will dissolve over time.

    Another possibility is that hard water has created mineral deposits which are blocking an inlet inside the rim. Being careful not to scratch the porcelain, use a nail or something similar to clean out the mineral build-up.
  3. If water is running into the toilet and the bowl is filling up without draining, you have a clogged drain.
Toilet Runs Continuously
If your toilet just keeps running, open the tank and check the chain that hangs down vertically and attaches to the rubber "flapper" at the bottom. The chain should be taut. If it's loose and you're handy, you can shorten it by removing some links with some needle-nose pliers. Toilet Tank Leaks

Toilet Tank Leaks
Sometimes water leaks from the tank into the bowl. This wastes water and money. At least once a year, check for leaks. Drop a small amount of food coloring into the tank. Check back a half hour later. If the toilet bowl water is colored, the tank is leaking. Some parts in the tank may need replacement.

Toilet Leaks at the Base
If water is leaking around the base of your toilet, check to see if the toilet has shifted. Shifting can break down the wax seal, allowing water to seep out under the toilet. If the toilet has shifted, you can sit on it and try twisting it back into position. If that doesn't work, you may need to have the wax ring replaced on your toilet. Remember, if none of these actions fix the problem that you're having with your toilet, we can easily take care of it for you. And if it's needed, we can replace your old toilet with a new one.

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Prevent Clogged Drains:
  • Buy and install a little strainer to place over the drain for trapping food, hair, soap, etc. Clean the strainer regularly.
  • Collect cooking fats in a container such as a can and dispose of it in the garbage rather than pouring fats down the drain. Fats can solidify in cold pipes and create clogs.
  • Pour a kettle of boiling water down the kitchen drain weekly to melt fat that might be building up.
  • Pour a mixture of a handful of baking soda with 1/2 a cup of vinegar down the kitchen drain weekly. This will break down fat and keep the drain smelling fresh too.
  • Use an enzyme drain cleaner regularly
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If your sink faucet is making a clunking sound or if it's dripping, it can often be fixed by replacing the rubber washer. Take apart the faucet and pull out the old washer.

When replacing the old washer, be sure to bring it to the hardware store - you'll need to find an exact replacement to ensure a perfect fit. If you need us to do the repairs, we're only a phone call away!

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If you have cold water, but no hot water and you have a gas water heater, check the pilot light. Follow the directions on the heater to make sure that the pilot light is working properly. If you are unsure how to do this and would like to save money on a plumbling service call, contact your local gas company. They may send out a serviceman, possibly at no charge, to help you with the heater. Be sure to ask them how soon they can come to your location.

As a note, many newer water heaters have no pilot light. Instead they have an electronic ignition. If you have followed the directions for your heater so that the pilot is lit (or it has an electronic ignition) and you know that the gas is flowing to the heater, but it's still not producing hot water, try turning up the water temperature.

If you can't get the hot water heater working, we can send out one of our experienced technicians to fix the problem for you.

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If all of your neighbors have low water pressure, then there may not be much you can do except to contact your water supplier and complain about the problem. If, however, your home is the only one with low pressure or if only parts of your house have low pressure, then there are steps you can take:
  1. Determine which of your fixtures suffer from low pressure and which don't.
  2. If the problem is a single faucet, you can take it apart to check for a clogged aerator or dislodged washer. If the problem is a shower, see the section on Low Water Pressure in Shower.
  3. If you can't determine the cause, you can request a check by your water supplier. The serviceman may discover that a valve to the entire house or to an individual fixture is partially closed. Or, give us a call to schedule our service and we'll come out right away to solve the problem for you.
  4. If the cause is still not clear, your house may have older pipes that have rusted or become clogged with lime deposits. Your house may need new copper piping, and we can give you an estimate for doing this type of work. Also see the section on Rusted Pipes.
Low Water Pressure in Shower
  1. Sometimes the water pressure in a home is fine, but the pressure in the shower is low. There may be a problem in the pipe leading to the showerhead, or the showerhead may be clogged.
  2. To check whether the problem is the pipe or the showerhead, start by unscrewing the showerhead from the pipe.
  3. Turn on the water so that you can check the flow coming from the pipe. If the water flow from the pipe seems to be okay, then probably the head needs cleaning or replacing. If the flow coming from the pipe is the problem, then that's an entirely different problem and if you give us a call we can quickly evaluate the situation for you.
  4. If the head is clogged, locate a small disc or screen where the water comes into the head. Before taking it out, notice which side is facing outward so that you can replace it correctly. If you need to, slide a knife or razor blade under it to pry it out.
  5. If the screen is only slightly clogged, you can try using a straight pin or something similar to clean out the holes. If it is thickly coated with mineral deposits, let the shower head and screen soak in vinegar for a few hours. Then scrub off remaining deposits.
  6. Rinse the showerhead and screen with water. Replace the screen and screw the showerhead back on.
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Garbage Disposal Not Working
  1. Before doing any work on the garbage disposal, ALWAYS make sure the switch to the garbage disposal is turned to the OFF position.
  2. Using tongs, clear out anything inside the garbage disposal which might be jamming up the motor.
  3. Briefly flip on the switch to the garbage disposal. Flip it off again.
  4. If you DO NOT hear any humming noise with the switch on, locate the small button that is somewhere on the disposal and press it. This will "re-set" the disposal. Try turning on the switch to the disposal again.

    If you still don't hear a humming noise, try re-setting the circuit breaker in your electrical panel that provides power to your garbage disposal. Click here to see How To Reset Circuit Breakers.

    If you can't get the garbage disposal to turn on or at least make a humming noise, it's time to call us for advice.
  5. If you DO hear a humming noise when you flip on the switch, there is power going to the disposal, but the disposal may be broken or there is still something stuck in it.

    Your next step is to insert a ľ inch Allen wrench into the hole in the center of the underside of the disposal. Wiggle the wrench back and forth until it moves freely. Again, you can use tongs to remove any obstruction.

    Now try flipping on the switch to the garbage disposal. If it works now, great! If not, it's time to call us for some expert help.
Garbage Disposal Smells
If a bad smell is coming from your garbage disposal, cut up some lemons and ice and drop them into your disposal. Turn the disposal on for about 30 seconds and rinse with water for about 20 seconds.

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If your home or building was built prior to 1980, then the chances are that you have galvanized (steel) plumbing pipes. Galvanized pipes rust. A one-inch galvanized pipe can become so clogged with rust over the years that it narrows to where you can hardly see through it.

The result can be low water pressure or clogged drains. Worse, the pipes can leak or burst, damaging your home or business.

If you see signs of rust on the pipes or if they suffer from low water pressure, or clogs or leaks which just keep happening, then we recommend repiping with copper pipes, which do not rust. We are copper repiping specialists, and we can give you a free estimate for this type of work.

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Natural gas, often simply called "gas," is used in homes to run many appliances. Gas is colorless and, in its natural state, odorless. The special "gas smell" is added to natural gas to let you know of a leak. It smells like rotten eggs or rotten cabbage. Whether the leak is large or small, it's important for your safety and the health of your family to take action immediately. Natural gas is a fire hazard, it's explosive, and inhaling it can damage health.

You may want to buy a natural gas detector for your home, particularly if your sense of smell is not good. A carbon monoxide detector will not detect a natural gas leak. The two are different gases.

While this article is about the dangers of leaking gas, natural gas has a good safety record, and natural gas emergencies are unusual events.

Leaks Outside the Home
When digging outside, if a gas line is damaged, follow any applicable steps from the next section of this article, including calling the gas company right away. Indications of damage to a gas pipeline include a gas smell, a hissing sound, dirt blowing, or bubbles rising in sitting water.

Emergency Steps for a Gas Leak
If you suspect a gas leak in your home, take action immediately:
  1. If there are cigarettes burning or any open flames, including pilot lights, put them out immediately and properly.
  2. Avoid any possible sources of electrical sparks. Do not turn on or off any electrical appliances or lights, do not use the phone, and do not plug in or unplug electrical appliances.
  3. If it's a very small leak, open all the doors and windows. If it's larger, don't take the time for this step.
  4. Get everyone out of the house
  5. .
  6. If you can, turn off the gas at the meter for your home. It is outside the home. Usually, the valve is on a vertical pipe to the left of the meter. The valve handle should be a straight blade. Use a crescent wrench or pipe wrench to give the handle a quarter turn so that it is perpendicular to the pipe - so that it looks like it's sitting across the pipe as if it's "blocking" it. (It is a good idea to hang such a wrench near the meter for emergencies.)
  7. From a safe distance, right away call your gas company and 911.
  8. Do not turn your gas back on and do not re-enter the house. Your gas company will take the next steps.
Fixing Leaks in Gas Pipes
If your gas company tells you to fix a gas pipe leak, you will need a licensed professional plumber. The plumber will fix your gas pipe so that your home is safe and sound and it's safe for the gas company to turn your gas back on.

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  • Fix leaking faucets right away. Leaks can waste gallons of water quickly. If hot water is leaking, it's wasting energy too.
  • Insulate hot water heaters and pipes to prevent heat loss. If you're doing it yourself, be careful not to cover the floor, top, thermostat or burner compartment of the heater. When in doubt, for safety, call us for our expert advice or to do the job for you.
  • Install low flow showerheads and aerators in faucets.
  • When buying a new water heater, select one with thick insulation. It may cost more initially, but it will pay off over the years in energy savings.
  • Hot water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings. Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 115įF.
  • Each month, drain about a quart of water from your water heater - until the water runs clear. This removes sediment that lowers the efficiency of your heater. Follow the manufacturer's advice on the exact steps for draining the heater.
  • Favor showers. Showers use less hot water than baths. A bath takes 15-25 gallons; a five-minute shower takes less than 10 gallons.
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