What to do When you need a Plumber

Until the dawn of the 20th century, lead was the main choice of material for molding tubular conduits, and the word plumber meant a person skilled in working with lead. Polyurethane, copper and other materials gradually became more popular and widely used, as it was discovered that the seemingly harmless material of lead was actually causing various chronic and fatal conditions by being ingested.

Of course, today’s modern buildings have complex plumbing systems consisting of not only hot and cold running water, but also sewage disposal, air conditioning, gas heating, systems for fire defense and a pneumatic / hydraulic power delivery system. Many emergencies in the home can be prevented or resolved by your friendly residential plumbing expert, making the plumber the 4th emergency service for many people.

Getting to Know a Local Plumber

One of the most common problems with calling any Vancouver plumbers to your home is that it seems they are always busy when you need them the most. If they are available they’ll charge double or triple for coming during the evening or on the weekend. You might be expecting to be charged at least double the normal rate as well as an after hours premium if you have the audacity to call the plumber out on a Sunday!

However, most plumbers who specialize in residential plumbing services are only too aware of how valuable the time of their customers is, and how inconvenient a leaking or burst pipe can potentially be.

Most plumbers do make all reasonable efforts to be at your home as soon as possible, and just as importantly, to be there when they say they will. Plumbing work sometimes results in an explosion, flood or other disaster and because of the risks associated with this type of work, plumbers need to have professional indemnity insurance, which inevitably leads to higher prices for their services.

Take Your Time and Look Around

Be wary of using a plumber that seems too cheap, as they probably don’t have the proper insurance. Unfortunately there are dozens of unreliable and disreputable plumbers out there just waiting to take advantage of you and take your money, although of course not all plumbers are charlatans and many strive to deliver the best possible work. Don’t be afraid to ask for the VAT registration reference from the plumber, and look for membership of professional or trade bodies.

You can avoid a lot of this by getting acquainted with one of the local Vancouver plumbing companies in your neighborhood before a problem happens. Call a family member or friend who might have had to use a plumber in the past. They can tell you if they have a preferred service company. You can also find good people by looking up reviews on plumbing companies that look good to you online.

Most of us Don’t Want to Deal With This

Although you will probably have need to call a plumber at some point, it is hoped that you won’t have to, but of course it pays to have the contact information for a reliable and experienced plumber in your area. Calling a plumber in Vancouver for a routine check up and overhaul of your plumbing and heating systems is a much better option than waiting until you have a plumbing emergency and then calling one.

The Kitchen Sink Has Moving Parts

Keeping things in working order is a good policy, so we’ve gathered a few tips for keeping the kitchen sink looking good, and hopefully trouble free. Whether you have a single bowl stainless steel sink or a double bowl sink, keeping the drain clear is a universal thing.

Grandma Knew Best

If you cook a lot of greasy foods like bacon for instance, pour the grease into a can and toss it in the garbage later. Pouring hot grease down the sink causes buildup, which also causes food particles to cling to the sides of the pipe.

Take A Little Extra Time

If you have kitchen accessories like an electric food disposal unit under the sink, run cold water when its grinding, to help flush mash down the pipes. Garburetors are not designed to clear the bowl right away, it needs time to do its job.

If you find your drain clogging on occasion, try mixing up 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Pour in down the drain and let it sit for a few minutes with the drain covered. After 15 or 20 minutes, pour boiling water through to flush it out. The mixture should break down the grease and kill any odors that may be lingering.

Pour a couple liters of boiling water down the drain once a week or so to melt away any fat or grease that may have collected.

Throw coffee grounds in the garbage, not down the drain.

Buyer Beware

Rumor has it that products claiming to clear drains by dissolving grease with enzymes may not be very effective. Some of those products may use chemicals that kill the bacteria needed to break up solid wastes thereby causing more harm than good.

If the clog has gotten too big for you to handle, click here for more information.

Drainage Problems Around the House

Let’s start with the kitchen. There is not a lot of difference between kitchen and bathroom drains, so many of the steps you must take are the same. However, there are some common sense points you should keep in mind.

First, if you are dealing with a double sink, you will need to plug one of the sinks while you plunge the other to avoid simply moving the water back and forth between sinks. Also, keep in mind that kitchen sinks move and hold a lot more water than bathroom ones.

Make sure you have a large receptacle underneath the trap to catch water. Last, remove the trap very slowly, moving it the smallest distance possible. This will allow you to re-tighten it and stop the flow of water when your bucket or bowl beneath it gets full. It may take several rounds of loosening, tightening, and emptying before you lose all of the standing water. Once the water has been removed, remove the p-trap and look for clogs.

Garbage Disposals

A clogged garbage disposal will most likely be stuck fast and immovable. If your disposal has a reset button (most do) you can reset the motor. See if that will get things moving again. If that does not help, or if there is no reset key, you should try moving the disposal manually. You will need an allen wrench: an L shaped tool with a hexagonal shaped end, sometimes called a hex key. There is a shaft on the bottom of the unit; you can fit the wrench into the shaft and move it back and forth a couple of times. That is often enough to get things moving again. After removing the wrench, try the disposal to see if it is working again.

If it still won’t move, you can actually look for debris in the disposal. Always remember to turn off the breaker to avoid accidents, then grab a flashlight and look for any foreign objects. The needle nose pliers are the perfect tool to remove anything that does not belong.

If it is still jammed, it is time for the help of a professional. Let them know what you have done, so they don’t repeat those steps. It will save them time, and hopefully it will save you precious labor fees.

Whole House

The thought of an entire home that is not draining is daunting. This is most likely an urgent situation that calls for a local plumber. There are some preliminary steps you can take and hopefully shave off some of the formidable costs.

You need to determine if you are connected to a sewer system. You can look at your latest water bill to see if there is a charge for the sewer; you can ask your neighbor- odds are they will have the same system that you do; or you could look in your yard or street for a manhole- a sign of a sewer system. A clean out can be another sign that you are connected to a sewer system. Search the perimeter of your home for one. A clean out is an exterior pipe with a large plug. The plug can be removed and provide a way in to the sewer pipe. Look carefully, they can be difficult to spot.

A Temporary Solution

You can possibly remove the cap of a clean out and circumvent a disastrous flood in the house. If you choose to do this, proceed with caution. There may be a houseful of backed up pressure beneath that cap. Move slowly, a full line could cause a spray of backup when you make the last few twists while removing the cap.

Once the cap is removed, assess your situation. A clog beyond the clean out will allow you minimal use of your plumbing. Keep in mind that, without the plug, your waste water will be draining into your yard. This could help you avoid the damage that could occur with the buildup of pressure in the pipes of the home. It is not an ideal solution, but may buy you some time while you wait for help, perhaps until regular business hours to avoid the high fees associated with emergency calls.

Armed with a little knowledge, you may be able to solve some of the minor plumbing troubles associated with clogged drains. At the very least, you may eliminate a few of the first steps for a professional and save yourself at least a portion of the $100 plus fees a plumber could charge.

If the problem has gone beyond the simple issues discussed here then you might want to read a little more about the dangers of allowing the drainage to get out of hand. A flooded basement is usually a serious problem that must be dealt with immediately. At the very least make an effort to find out what plumbing companies in the area are considered trustworthy by friends and neighbors.

Knowing When to Hire A Professional

Many money conscious homeowners are trying to find ways to attend to home maintenance and minor repairs on their own, rather than spending hard earned money to have the jobs done by a professional. Some jobs, for example, plumbing repairs, are best left to someone with training and experience to avoid costly mistakes. There are, however, plumbing tasks like unclogging drains, that can be do-it-yourself projects without disastrous results.

Clogged drains are a recurring and common problem. As a matter of fact, many plumbing businesses dedicate most of their time to clearing drains. With a little knowledge and some common household tools, a clogged drain can be cleared and expensive fees eliminated. Many drains in a home can become clogged. They include, but are not limited to tub drains, bathroom and kitchen sink drains, and garbage disposal drains.

Tub Drains, Usually a Simple Fix

Not surprising, many of the blocked tub drains are the result of an accumulation of hair at the stopper. Although the first inclination may be to grab the plunger, it will most likely be ineffective. The hair is wrapped in there tightly. The stopper needs to be taken out to allow you to access and remove the hair. Your first need to know which type of drain is in your tub. Most likely it will be the trip lever near the overflow plate or the lift and turn type located at the actual drain.

The trip lever stopper has a rod in the overflow pipe that is attached to the stopper. Sometimes, the stopper is actually inside the pipe while at other times the stopper is in the drain and worked by the connecting rod. Before you take your drain apart, try to pull the problem hair out using needle nosed pliers. Hopefully, that will end you problem.

If this is ineffective, you need to remove the stopper. Depending on its location, you may need to take off the overflow plate to remove the rod and stopper, or remove it from the tub drain. After you have cleaned off any hair and sludge, you can test the drain to be sure the water runs freely. Then simply put the pieces back together.

The lift and turn drain, also called the tip-toe drain, has a stopper connected to the drain which must be removed to clear the clog. Simply unscrewing the drain will get you nowhere; you must apply a little upward tension by slightly lifting it as you unscrew. Again, needle nose pliers will be effective for pulling out the offending hair and debris. Check your efforts and make sure everything drains correctly.

If these simple steps have not solved your clogged tub problem, you may want to consider a professional who can use a snake. This long tool fits in the drain and twists around, removing clogs beyond the reach of your pliers.

Bathroom Sinks

p trapWhen faced with a clog in your bathroom sink, or lavatory, you should first try using a plunger designed specifically for a sink drain. A sink plunger is a smaller version of a toilet plunger, with a domed rubber piece fastened to the end of a sturdy stick. When plunging, if you do not plug the overflow of the sink, you will not be able to create the necessary suction. Put a wet washcloth in the overflow to create a seal. Run water into the sink, place the plunger over the drain, and move it firmly up and down. Don’t be overzealous. Some lavatories have pipes constructed of plastic, and if their connections are not snug enough, they could pull apart with the pressure of the plunging.

If plunging fails, you will need to remove the p-trap (the section of pipe under the sink designed to catch things that may have fallen down the drain), the trip lever (connected to the small handle you pull to plug the drain), and the stopper itself. Put a bowl or bucket under your trap when you remove it, as there may be standing water. Be cautious if you have metal pipes- unlike plastic ones, they can become fragile over time and break easily. Clean out all areas, reassemble, and try your drain.

If these measures don’t solve your problem, contact a local plumbing company who handles drain cleaning. You have done everything a layman can do and can hire someone with a clear conscience.