Basement flooding due to sewer backup is an all too frequent occurrence in certain areas during heavy rainstorms. Many people are not aware that they can modify the plumbing in their houses to positively prevent sewage from entering their basements. Three different approaches are common and the one you choose depends on the piping layout of your house.
In the most basic type of basement plumbing, the basement drains are joined directly to the sewer pipe before it leaves the house. This plumbing is found in many older homes with basements and no sump pumps. Both sewage and footing drain water enter the sanitary sewer. Excessive footing drain flow from a residence may or may not cause flooding in that particular home. The footing drain flow contributes to any sewer or basement flooding that may occur. Your home may also have one of the following basement plumbing enhancements. Whatever your current plumbing arrangement, there usually are further steps that can be taken to prevent basement flooding.
Three common plumbing upgrades:
Upgrade #1: Add a Sump Pump
A sump pump is needed as part of any corrective measure. The sump pump removes the footing drain water from around the basement wall and discharges it to the surface of the ground, a ditch, or a storm sewer, depending on the surface grading around the house. Many communities require that new homes include sump pumps. Sump pumps in new homes usually discharge to the storm sewer system.
To protect a basement from flooding due to sewer backup, the plumbing fixtures and floor drain in the basement also need to be disconnected from the municipal sewer.
A sump pump, including the basement fixture disconnection, can be installed and while each home is different call for your appointment today!
Upgrade #2: Add a Sump Pump and Valves
If a sump pump is not sufficient, a check valve and a shut-off valve can be installed to provide a good measure of protection from basement flooding. These valves can isolate the house plumbing from the public sewer in the street. The check valve includes a flapper that shuts when water level in the public sewer is high enough to flow back into the house. The shut-off valve can be manually closed as an added measure of protection. The shut-off valve will also need to be closed if debris becomes lodged in the check valve preventing its full closure.
The homeowner will need to discontinue or, at least, sharply curtail the use of the sanitary facilities while the potential for flooding exists. During this time, showers, the clot hes washer, and dishwasher cannot be used.
Both the sump pump and the valves can be installed, and while each home is different call for your appointment today!
Upgrade #3: Add a Sump Pump and an Ejector Pump
An ejector pump can provide still further protection. An ejector pump can be installed to pump the sewage into the public sewer whether it is flooded or not. If there is a power failure, the homeowner will need to discontinue use of the sanitary facilities.
Both the sump pump and the ejector pump can be installed, and while each home is different call for your appointment today!
Faucets and Drains
My faucet won’t shut off, what do I do?
Leaky faucets can be both annoying and a preventable waste of money. Most leaks occur commonly in faucets, pipe joints and the toilet. Look closely at where the leak is centralized. Is the drip in the faucet or could it be that the water is leaking in the handle? Shut off the water valves under the sink or place of problem. There could be a number of things that could be wrong, so the best thing to do is to call the plumber to repair the leak.
My shower drain is slow.
It could be clogged up with hair and soap scum. Simply lift off the drain cover and remove any visible debris that you can see, and run some water down the drain. If the drain is still slow try a little bit of liquid drain cleaner and let that sit for the recommended amount of time and then run the water. If it is still slow, call your plumber to snake out the drain. Never use hangers or sharp objects to poke around in the drain to clear the clog.
Bathroom and kitchen faucets will often leak due to the washer or O-ring wearing out. Washer are made of rubber and sometimes metal. The washers are discs that seal and restrict the flow of water when the handle is turned. This type of faucet is known as a compression faucet. To replace a washer, remove the decorative cap by screwing it off or pulling it depending on it’s design. Next, unscrew the packing nut that holds the valve in place by turning it counterclockwise.
Value washers come in many various sizes and shaped. I would suggest that you take the valve stem with you to the hardware store to add in matching the exact size needed to the old washer. After replacing the washer if your faucet still leaks, the seat may have been dam aged.
Fixing a Damaged Valve Seat
If the washer has become to worn prior to replacement, the metal will grind against metal and damage the valve seat. Water particles and mineral deposits can become trapped between the seat and the washer so that closing and opening the faucet handle grinds the particles inside and damages the seal beyond simple washer replacement.
Hardware stores have a seat-grinding tool that is commercially available for do-it-yourself home repair. The tool comes with easy steps on hoe to reshape the damaged seat to accept the new washer properly.
Pipe Joint Leaks
Leaks along a pipe joint are the easiest to locate and generally the fastest to fix. Pipe clamps are a effective way to temporarily fix a leaking pipe and come available in a repair kit. They consist of a neoprene sleeve and screw hinge. You insert the rubber gasket the kit between the pipe and the clamp and slowly tighten the screws until the leak stops. Manufacturers suggest this method of repair will last 5-10 years.
Another way to patch a leak on a pipe joint is to apply plumbers two part epoxy putty around the leaky joint. This method is not as effective as a line-clamp repair made on a straight section of pipe and will not make a proper bond if your pipe is rusty.
More than a Drippy Leak
If your pipe is leaking more than an occasional drip the problem is more serious and you may need to call a professional plumber. Do n ot assume that the leak will fix itself or diminish over time. Leaks generally lead to bigger problems and could result in an expensive repair bill if not taken care right away .
My garbage disposal isn’t working.
This could be one of three things: plumbing, electrical, or the appliance itself. If the disposal doesn’t work at all, meaning you don’t hear a hum, try pushing the red reset button on the bottom of the disposal.
If the disposal hums but doesn’t turn, you can try unsticking it by using something strong like a broomstick. Stick the handle in the disposal and try turning the cutting wheel around to loosen whatever may be stuck in there.
The disposal should be off when you are doing this!
Never stick your hand in the disposal. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to call the plumber.
What do I do about sink odors?
Sink odors are caused by the buildup of food debris inside your garbage disposal.
To eliminate these odors: Fill the disposal about half way with ice cubes; run the disposal; flush out with cold water. Then put half of a lemon in and grind it up for about 30 seconds. Rinse with cold water.
Solving Plumbing Emergencies:
All homeowners know that if anything in the home can go wrong, it will happen at a most inconvenient time. Plumbing is no exception. At your sleepiest, busiest, most tired moment, the toilet begins to overflow and no amount of jiggling of the control handle stops the water from edging toward wall to wall carpeting. Or it may be the sudden bursting of a pipe, or an out-of-control faucet. Such emergencies are inconvenient and can cause expensive damage if corrective action is not taken immediately. Being prepared for plumbing emergencies is as simple as 1-2-3. A few minutes of your time now could be insurance for future security, and trouble free performance of your water system.
Know Your Plumber:
Your plumbing system includes a series of emergency shutoff valves throughout the home. Find and identify them. Make a tour taking along a flashlight, adjustable wrench, and pliers. You should tag each shutoff valve; such as kitchen sink hot, kitchen sink cold, etc.
Kitchen Shut-Off Valves:
Below your kitchen sink you will probably find shutoff valves for both the hot and cold water. In most cases, the valves will be below the kitchen sink.
Valves are provided for the lavatory, toilet, and bathtub. The lavatory valves usually are below the fixture for easy access. Most tub valves do not have shutoff valves, but some can be behind an access plate in the back of the faucet controls behind the decorative cover. The toilet has a single cold water valve normally installed below the water tank. Just about all that’s left, serviced by water, is the washing machine, the dishwasher, and the water heater. These, you will find, have shutoff valves conveniently located on or near the appliance.
Main Shut-Off Valves:
The water line coming in from the street is often connected to the water meter followed by a master shutoff valve for the entire home. Close this one valve and you have shut off water throughout the house – it’s instant action for serious emergencies. If you need to shut off the water at the main make sure the hot water tank is turned down to pilot. Electric water heater tanks require special attention, and it is best to enlist the aid of a plumbing and heating professional. However, if the emergency calls for the main water system to be shut off, the electric water system must also be shut off. The electric can be shut off at the main electrical fuse box by either removing the fuse from the box or switching the breaker to an “off” position. (Check and see if your breakers are labeled.) The electricity to the hot water tank should not be turned on until the water tank has been refilled with water – see the owner’s manual that comes with the electric water heater.
Locate and Test Every Valve:
You are ready for any water emergency when you know where the valves are located for all of your faucets and appliances. Plan a family house tour with husband, wife and older children. All should know what to do if water emergencies arise when they are alone in the house. Start with the main water line valve, which totally controls the flow of water in your home. Find the valve, be sure it operates freely, and apply the tag to the main water line. If it is especially hard to find, place a second tag in a more visible spot. Continue the same procedure with the kitchen. Find the valves below the sink and test to see if they open and close easily. It is especially important to make this check because over a period of time a valve can become “frozen” if not used for years. Usually a wrench applied to the control wheel will free up the valve. Do this carefully to avoid breaking the control head. If the control head wheel just can’t be moved, it is usually best to have it serviced by your plumber. Until this is done, make a mental note to shut off the main water line valve if this section of your plumbing gives you trouble. After moving and freeing the valve, check for possible leaks around the stem. Minor leakage can be stopped by applying a wrench to the cap or packing nut. Here is a plumbing tip: when you open any valve, open it all the way then turn it back the other direction slightly. This will help prevent it from sticking in the open position. Finally, apply a tag “Hot Water” and “Cold Water” to the control valves. Continue the water tour – the bathroom or bathrooms, water heater, water softener – every place in the home where water is used. Label all valves with the proper identification tags. To repeat, locating the main shutoff valve is especially important because when closed, it stops all water throughout the house in seconds. Be sure that everyone, including the children, knows where this vital control is located.
Basic Emergency Tools:
Here’s all that is needed to make simple plumbing repairs:
- Wrenches: medium pipe wrench and an adjustable end wrench.
- Screwdrivers: in a range of sizes to fit faucets, valves and other parts of the system.
- Stem screws for faucet handles usually call for screwdrivers suitable for Phillips-type screws.
- Adjustable pliers.
- Rubber force cup or plunger (for drain and toilet stoppages)
- Pipe joint compound: used when connecting threaded pipes.
- Plumbers putty: used for reseting the drain on sinks when leaks develop or when a new drain is installed.
Before going on your vacation, here are some helpful tips that you can do to help your home:
Closing the main water shutoff valve before leaving for a vacation is recommended. Emergencies do arise when the house is unattended, and a periodic visit by a neighbor is of value. In winter months, a daily visit by a neighbor while you are gone is suggested. If the home is vacated for an extended period or a neighbor is not available, you can have your water system drained to prevent freezing. This should be done professionally by a qualified plumbing and heating expert. If the main water supply is turned off, the hot water tank and the furnace should be turned down. Both appliances are equipped with pilot control valves (See “Main Shutoff Valves”).
When do I to Service or Replace?
Industry statistics show that the average water heater lasts 12 years. With regular maintenance and routine repairs, some keep operating two or three times as long. As with HVAC systems, however, it is not always to your advantage to hang on to older units. Modern high-efficiency water heater often pays for themselves in energy savings within 3 - 5 years.
Almost all components on a water heater can be fixed or replaced except for the tank. Once the tank rusts through, there is no way to rescue the water heater. Replacement is the only solution.
Water heaters come with internal sacrificial anode rods to protect against rusting. An anode’s sole purpose is to corrode away so the steel of the tank can’t. Replacing the anodes every 3 - 4 years (more frequently if water is softened) will add considerably to the life of the water heater.
Another main cause of failure is overheating from sediment build-up inside the tank. Ask your plumber to inspect the anodes and sediment periodically. Sometimes this can be done as part of an annual service agreement.
Automatic dishwashers are another appliance that should last a decade or more - though here, too, you often can save money by buying a newer energy-efficient unit.
Brand new units can be bought for $400 - $600, while repairs of various mechanisms typically run $150 and up. If your dishwasher is getting near the 10 - year mark, a major repair may be a signal that other components are also on their last legs. It won’t take many service calls to pay for a brand new unit.
Stoppages and minor malfunctions are worth repairing. But if the motor goes our, or the blades break, you are better off replacing the entire unit. Especially so if you deal with a plumbing company that warrants the product for 5 - 10 years or even longer.
Unless you crack the the porcelain, a toilet can easily last a life time. What will wear out is the flushing mechanisms comprised of moving parts. Leakage may occur from the wax ring seal by the floor, but that can be fixed short of replacement.
Toilets commonly replaced for reasons other than malfunction. Water conservation is one. Modern toilets operate with 1.6 gallons per flush or less, compared to 3.5 gallons for older standard models. (A few 5-gal. and 7.5-gal. flush versions from many decades ago also are still in operation here and there.) Depending on the water rates, sometimes you can save money by replacing a toilet.
Styling and quieter flushing are two other reasons to replace. This is a matter of homeowner choice than necessity.
Replacing a cartridge, washer or other internal component can repair leaky faucets. Tarnishes and nicks are harder to fix.
Good faucets will give at least 5 or often 10 or more years of trouble-free operation. Plumbers can keep them operating almost indefinitely, but here too most people would rather pay a few more bucks for a replacement that offers styling and convenience.
Decades ago plumbers repaired more faucets than they replaced. For most companies the opposite now holds true today.