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Plumbing Tips and Advice

Plumbing Tips and Advice (148)

If you're considering buying or renovating an older home it's important to understand the problems that older plumbing systems can present. Many times pipes, sewer and drain lines and fixtures will require upgrades to operate reliably. Before buying an older home, it's a good idea to have a professional plumber inspect the home to ensure it is up to code.

Pipe Inspections

Prior to the early 20th century, lead pipes were common in Florida homes. Because lead can leach into the water supply, they should be replaced. In the 1960s, galvanized steel was a popular pipe material. because they have a lifespan of around 40 years, they should be replaced to prevent leaks. Polybutylene plastic pipes were popular in the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s. Because they can become brittle and are prone to breaking, they should be replaced.

Sewer and Drain Lines

One of the most common problems with older sewer lines is tree root intrusion. Once a sewer line has been damaged, it's only a matter of time before it completely fails. For this reason, older homes should have regular sewer and drain line inspections.

Other areas that should be inspected in older homes include:
  • Roof vents
  • Floor drains
  • Toilets
  • Water heaters
  • Disposals
  • Washing machine hoses
Need help with plumbing upgrades to your older home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
One of the most common causes of damage to the home, and insurance claims, is water. While some insurance policies may cover catastrophic damage from floods or hail, gradual water damage is usually not covered. Here are some tips to protect your home from water damage.
  1. Test your sump pump and water backup valve regularly.
  2. Notice changes in your plumbing. If you're experiencing low water pressure, have a professional inspect the plumbing system for leaks.
  3. Have your sewer and drain lines inspected. A video camera inspection is cheap insurance against a sewer line failure and backups.
  4. Check your water heater. A tank storage water heater will last around 10 years. You can extend the life with regular maintenance, including flushing the tank and inspecting the anode rod. For extra peace of mind, consider installing a drain pan under the water heater to drain potential leaks to the floor drain.
  5. Clean out your gutters and downspouts and ensure that there is adequate drainage away from the foundation.
  6. Check your washer hoses for cracking or buckling.
Have plumbing questions? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
There are several reasons you may need to drain your home's plumbing system. You may have a vacation home that will be unoccupied during the winter months, and the water needs to be drained to prevent damage from frozen pipes. You may be undertaking a major plumbing, repair, or you need to drain the lines to fix water hammer or another issue.
  1. The first step is to locate the main water shut-off valve. This is usually located near the water meter.
  2. Next, go to the highest floor in the house and open the sink faucets.
  3. In the basement or lowest level of the home, open the laundry tub faucet.
  4. Return the the top floor of the house and turn on the shower and tub drains.
  5. Next, flush the toilets on every floor.
  6. All the faucets should be left open and the water should be drained now.
Need help with your home's plumbing system? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditoning. From the kitchen sink to sewer lines, we can help with all your plumbing needs.
It's a common problem, a wash cloth or other object falls into the sink, jams the garbage disposal and it stops running. Now what?

First, and most importantly, never attempt to clear the disposal until the power has been disconnected. Do not rely on turning power off at the switch, unplug the disposal from the wall outlet located under the sink. If the unit is hard-wired and has no plug, turn off the power at the circuit breaker.

It is not recommended that you forcefully try to remove whatever object is stuck inside the disposal. Instead, most under sink disposals can be unjammed using an allen wrench to manually turn motor shaft and free the impeller. The flywheel lug is located on the bottom of the disposal. Insert the wrench and turn the shaft counterclockwise, then clockwise until the obstruction is cleared and you can feel the motor shaft spinning freely. It may takes several attempts to free the shaft. Once it has been cleared, restore power the disposal, turn on the cold water and check that it is operating correctly.

If the disposal cannot be powered on, you may need to press the reset button located on disposal. Make sure the disposal power switch is in the OFF position before pressing the reset button.

Have garbage disposal problems? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help with all your plumbing, sewer and drain repairs.
The toilet fill valve a.k.a. "ballcocks" are the plumbing part that enable the toilet tank to drain, then refill after flushing. When it's time to replace the ballcock, you will first need to know what kind you have. Here are the 5 main types of fill valve:

1. Plunger / Piston Fill Valve – Plunger or piston style fill valves are one of the earliest designs. Made of cast brass it uses a bottom-fill water discharge tube. If you have this style of fill valve, you should replace it with a newer anti-siphon design that meets current plumbing codes.

2. Plastic Diaphragm Fill Valve – Diaphragm fill valves have also been around for a long time, but have anti-siphon design and are usually made of plastic.

3. Brass Diaphragm Fill Valve – Also has an anti-siphon design with brass construction.

4. Float Cup Fill Valve
A more up-to-date style of anti-siphon fill valve introduced in the 1950s is the float cup fill valve. Made of plastic, it has a floating O-shaped cup that moves up and down around the fill valve shaft. The floating cup is attached using a metal spring clipped to a metal actuating rod.

5. Floatless Type Fill Valve
Floatless fill valves are made of plastic and use a diaphragm pressure sensing design to adjust the water level in the toilet tank.

Need help replacing your toilet fill valve? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help with all your home plumbing repairs.

One of the more common plumbing problems we see is a slow filling toilet. Depending on the water pressure, a toilet tank should refill in around 3 minutes.

If the toilet tank is slow to fill, the first thing to check is the shut-off valve located behind the toilet. Make sure it is fully open for maximum flow. If the valve is fully open, try cleaning the pump and valve inside the toilet tank. Mineral buildup can cause the parts to stick. If the toilet has an older-style ball cock assembly, replace it with a new fill valve and float cup design.

If none of the above fixes work, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can can find the cause and recommend solutions.
Fall is a good time to insect your home's plumbing system to identify any problems that could lead to damage, wasted water and unexpected repairs.<br /><br />

1. Fix Leaks - Inspect shower heads, faucets and other plumbing fixtures for drips. A single dripping faucet can waste hundreds of gallons of water in a year. Check toilets for leaks by adding several drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the tank is leaking, colored water will appear in the toilet bowl.

2. Test Your Sump Pump - Test the sump pump by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pump pit. The pump should turn on immedaitely, remove the water, then turn off.

3. Sewer & Drain Maintenance - Check that all drains have strainers to prevent debris clogging the drain lines. Schedule a sewer line inspection. A video sewer line inspection will help to find the small issues before they become a major problem.

4. Ensure Plumbing Systems Are Regularly Used - Exercising faucets and water valves under sinks and toilets will prevent them from sticking from underuse.

5. Maintain Your Water Heater - Drain a few gallons from the water heater tank to remove sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and can shorten the life of the water heater. Check with your water heater manufacturer's instructions for your specific make/model.

Need help maintaining your home's plumbing system? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.

Installing low-flow toilets is a great way to conserve water and reduce your water bill. By using about half the volume of water as a standard toilet, you can save around a gallon and a half of water per flush. That adds up to thousands of gallons of water saved every year.

Many states and municipalities now require low-flow toilets on new homes or when replacing a toilet when remodeling a bathroom. For most homeowners, the process is simple and straightforward, but what if your home is 50 years old or older? Can your plumbing system handle a lower flow toilet?

The key to whether a low-flow toilet will function in an older home is the waste drain pipe slope. The waste pipe beneath a toilet needs a slope of between 1/8-in. and 1/4-in. per foot for the water to carry solid waste to the sewer. If it's too steep or not steep enough, the flow of water could allow waste to collect, causing a clog.

In some older homes the slope may not have been carefully planned. Since older toilets had plenty of flushing power with 3 gallons of water to work with, it may not have been a concern.

If you have an older house, here are some things to be aware of if you decide to install low-flow toilets.

1. If your current toilet backs up occasionally, even when solid waste isn’t being flushed you may have a clogged waste line. Have the waste and sewer line inspected prior to installing a low-flow toilet.

2. When the toilet is lifted off the floor for other maintenance, use a flashlight to check the drain for standing water in the waste line. Even if it’s just a small amount, it could be a sign that you have a negative pipe slope.

If you're concerned that your older plumbing system may not be able to safely handle a low-flow toilet, consider installing a unit with a pressure-assisted flush that uses water pressure to charge a compressed-air tank inside the toilet tank. When flushed, it will use the compressed air to drive water out of the bowel fast, forcing it down the drain and into the waste line with enough force to remove solid waste.

Have questions about low-flow toilets? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your plumbing questions.
If you're noticing water around the base of your toilet, the cause may be a worn toilet wax ring. Made from a molded wax loop around a short plastic tube, wax rings are designed to fit almost any toilet and floor drain by conforming to the shape and size of the fitting. One benefit of wax is it's ability to resist mold and bacteria and retain a secure seal for many years.

Whenever a toilet is removed for any reason the wax ring seal should be replaced. If the toilet wobbles from side to side, or the height at the base is changed (when going from a vinyl floor to tile, for example) the toilet anchor flange should also be replaced or a spacer added to fill the gap.

If you're replacing a wax ring because of a leak around the base of the toilet, be sure to inspect the subfloor around the toilet for water damage and make any necessary repairs before mounting the toilet back to the floor.

Need help installing a new wax ring on your toilet? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.
One of the concerns many homeowners have when making the switch from a conventional tank-style water heater to a tankless, or on-demand water heater, is whether it can get the water as hot as a tank water heater. The short answer is yes.

Most tankless water heaters have a thermostat that can be adjusted between 100° to 140°, depending on the brand and model. By comparison, most tank water heaters have the temperature set around 120°.

The key to ensuring the water heater can supply a consistent 120° or higher is the climate and number of sources the tankless water heater will need to supply. It is critical that a tankless water heater is sized based on a household's needs. If the unit is too small for the amount of flow it’s being asked to produce it may work fine for a shower, but not work as needed when a washing machine and a shower are in use at the same time.

Tankless water heater ratings are based on the rise in water temperature they produce. The colder the temperature of the incoming water supply, the lower the maximum temperature of the heater. This means in a warmer climate like Florida, you don't need as large a tankless water heater as someone living in a colder climate, like Minnesota.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
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