There’s no delicate way to talk about sewage. Sewage problems are just… gross. Ever smelled backed-up sewer pipes? Ugh. Worse yet: Ever had sewer water actually back up into your shower or spill out onto the floor? Barf.
Without a proper waste disposal system, you can experience a whole host of issues: spreading diseases, mold outbreaks, and breathing problems. As your Columbus plumbers, we’re just as serious about helping your family stay healthy as we are about plumbing.
We’ll come investigate any problem you might be having, but there are some issues we tend to hear about more often than others. Here are four top causes of sewer damage.
Sewer Damage Cause #1: Tree Roots
Tree roots are one of the top external causes of problems with your sewer lines. Tree roots are attracted to the… ummm, “fertilizer”… in the wastewater. As roots grow around your pipes trying to get at these nutrients, they create cracks big and small. Tree roots have been known to crush or completely fill whole sewer lines! Even if you don’t have trees in your own yard, a neighbor’s tree could easily become your plumbing nightmare.
Sewer Damage Cause #2: Physical Obstructions
Clogs are one of the top internal causes of sewer damage. So repeat after us: “Your toilet is not a trash can.” We’ve pulled all sorts of things out of sewer pipes: garbage, toys, diapers, cooking grease, paper towels, menstrual products, even too much toilet paper at one time. All of these can lead to blockages or clogs in your sewer pipes. And even if you take care of your pipes, dirt, debris, and hair can create obstructions in your sewer lines over time.
Sewer Damage Cause #3: Rodents
We wish sewer rats were more like Remy from Ratatouille than Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. (Unlocked some deep childhood memories there, huh?) Unfortunately, burrowing rodents are an archenemy of sewer lines. They loosen joints, turn small cracks into big cracks, and use pipes to nest and multiply. It’s never a good sign when rodents are involved.
Sewer Damage Cause #4: Normal Wear-and-Tear
Time isn’t kind to your pipes. General corrosion and sediment build-up can create leaks and blockages. Natural soil movement over time causes sagging sewer lines, which can become a problem when the low spots create repeat blockages, ruptures, or leaks. Regular monitoring and maintenance can help, but ultimately sewer pipes have a shorter lifespan than your sewage needs.
When should you call a Columbus plumber about sewer issues?
Here are seven obvious signs that point to possible sewer damage:
- All your drains are backing up at once. If you flush the toilet and the toilet, sink, and shower drains all spit up water, there’s a clog in a main pipe somewhere.
- Weird things are happening when you use your toilet. We’re talking toilet water bubbling, gurgling sounds when you flush, or backed-up water in the shower after flushing your toilet.
- Your lawn starts to change. Indentations in your yard may indicate a break in the line or a sagging pipe. Changes to your grass are also a big red flag. Soggy patches or extra green, lush patches mean sewage is probably coming up from the pipes below and fertilizing your lawn.
- It smells. This is an obvious one. If it smells like sewage, it’s probably sewage.
- You’re growing mold. Leaking sewage pipes mean moisture in places you don’t want moisture. This can cause fungi and mold to grow in seemingly strange areas of your home. If you notice a mold spot, look for other signs of sewer damage.
- Your drains are slow. If your drains are slow to… well, drain… you’re on your way to a larger clog. Don’t use chemical drain cleaners, which can ultimately make the situation much worse by corroding your pipes. Try natural alternatives or calling in the pros. It’s worth it!
- You have a pest infestation. Remember the sewer rats? If you start seeing evidence of a rodent infestation, they might be coming in from your sewage pipes. Same with bugs like cockroaches. These pests are great at finding little cracks to wiggle through, especially underground where your sewer pipes are!
Very few people in the world would attempt a DIY fix for their sewer damage. Even if you’re one of those folks, please give us a call first! We want to help keep our Columbus plumbing customers safe and healthy in their homes.Read More
Let’s be honest: A clogged garbage disposal is just ewwww. First, there’s the mystery smell. Then there’s the inconvenience of a slow-draining sink, complete with bits and pieces of yesterday’s breakfast floating around in there. Gross.
Garbage disposals back up for plenty of reasons—including these top three.
Disposal Clogging Culprit #1: Incorrect Use
File this problem under “things they should have taught us before we became adults but didn’t because, instead, they wanted to see how fast we could run a mile.”
Way too many homeowners use their garbage disposals as a replacement for their trash cans, putting everything and anything down that poor drain. But there are definitely some things you should never, ever expect your disposal to deal with:
- Fibrous foods, like celery, asparagus, or sprouts
- Fats, oils, and greases
- Coffee grinds
- Starchy food, like peels, beans, rice, or pasta
The problem isn’t necessarily that these things will hurt your disposal. The problem is how these food items react to water after they’re ground up. If poorly ground-up or sludgy food waste is left over time, it will eventually clog up your disposal completely.
Another way you might be misusing your disposal is not using enough water. Without sufficient water to flush the ground-up food through your pipes, the waste will build up and cause a blockage. Keep a decent flow of cold water running for a few seconds before and after putting your food scraps down the drain.
And this should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t put non-food items down your disposal. Ever.
Clogging Culprit #2: Dull “Blades”
If you put the wrong things down your drain or don’t keep up with regular maintenance, your disposal “blades” might just be too dull to do the trick. Once a month, grind up a handful of ice cubes. This can help keep them in tip-top shape.
For those who are curious, we put “blades” in quotation marks, because garbage disposals don’t really have blades; they have impellers. The impellers aren’t particularly sharp… until they spin really fast. (Here’s another “it goes without saying”: Never put your hands inside a disposal when it’s turned on. In fact, it’s best to keep your appendages out of it altogether—running or not.)
Clogging Culprit #3: Old Unit
Garbage disposals aren’t invincible to typical wear and tear. Eventually, the impellers will wear down too far or the motor will burn out. In general, you should expect your disposal to last anywhere from eight to 15 years. But you may be looking at a replacement in three to five years if your disposal isn’t properly used and maintained.
Five Steps to Clearing a Backed-Up Disposal
- Turn off the power. You can either unplug it from the outlet or turn off the circuit breaker at your home’s main panel.
- Inspect the disposal with a flashlight. If you see an obvious clog, clear it with tongs, pliers, or a wooden spoon. Move your tool of choice around the blades to make sure they’re moving freely. Don’t use your fingers!
- If you don’t see an obvious clog, use a sink plunger. Fill the sink with a few inches of water, place the plunger over the drain opening, and start plunging. Look for obvious clogs again and remove any debris.
- If your sink still seems backed up, try some DIY drain solutions. Don’t waste money on pre-mixed or chemical solutions; they’ll probably hurt your disposal in the long run. Instead, mix one part baking soda to one part vinegar and pour it down the drain. Wait about 30 minutes before pouring hot water down the disposal to flush out any broken-down debris. Then, let water flow for about a minute.
- Turn the power back on and test it. Run water into the disposal, and flip the switch on and off for a few short bursts to make sure all debris is unclogged.
If your garbage disposal won’t turn on at all, make sure it’s plugged in first. If it is, press the reset button on the bottom of the unit under your sink. Sometimes, a circuit trips and a quick press of a button can solve the problem.
Finally, if your garbage disposal seems to be working just fine, but your sink is slow-draining or you’re constantly running for the plunger, your problem might have nothing to do with the disposal. We’re happy to help you figure out what’s up.
Still need help?
It’s time to call a plumber. We don’t recommend tearing apart your disposal because we don’t want you to do permanent and expensive damage. We’re Columbus’ most-trusted plumbers, and we can handle whatever your disposal wants to throw at us. (Hopefully not literally.) Give us a call!Read More
Tankless water heaters are energy-efficient, have low maintenance costs, and are reasonably durable. But just like any appliance, they’re not completely immune to issues.
If your tankless water heater isn’t performing up to par here’s what you should check.
Scenario 1: There’s no hot water!
This is the most common problem you can expect with a tankless water heater. To get to the root of the problem, ask yourself the following questions.
How many appliances am I running at once? If you’re running the dishwasher, doing a load of towels, and showering at the same time, chances are you’re just running your water heater to its limits. Choose which hot water activity you need right now, turn off the others, and restart your unit.
Am I reaching my minimum flow rate? The minimum flow rate is the amount of water (in gallons) the tankless unit needs flowing through every minute to produce hot water. If you’re asking for less than the minimum flow rate, the unit is probably shutting off as a safety measure. Increase the flow out of your faucet and wait to see if the water heats up.
Is something plugged up? Check your vents and air intake channels for blockages. Lucky for you, most tankless water heaters have notification systems that tell you if you have a blocked exhaust vent somewhere. Make sure everything—inside and outside—is free of blockages, dust bunnies, or other debris. Dirty burners are also a source of blockage. Make sure they’re clean!
What about my power source? If you’re running on electricity, check your main electrical panel. Something may have caused the breaker to trip, requiring a reset before your tankless water heater will work again. If you’re burning gas, make sure you paid your bill, there’s propane in your tank, or the gas valve is fully in the ON position.
Is it cold outside? In the winter, frozen water pipes can prevent hot water from reaching you and your appliances. Safely and naturally thaw your pipes before trying again for some hot water.
Scenario 2: My water is too hot.
So what if you’re experiencing the opposite problem? Here are the things to fix if your water is getting too hot:
- Stop overloading the system by using too many taps at once.
- Reset your water heater thermostat to around 120 F.
- Reposition your temperature sensor to get a more accurate reading.
- Again, clear any blockages. Reduced water flow can cause any heated water to get too hot.
Scenario 3: Water runs hot, then cold, then hot again.
It’s the dreaded cold water sandwich, which most often occurs in the shower. (What a great start to your day, eh?) Here’s what’s probably happening: Someone showered just before you. The hot water you’re feeling in the beginning is the leftovers from the previous person. Then, the water gets cold again while the tankless water heater is re-heating the water for your shower. Then, once the heater does its job, you get your hot water again.
If this happens a lot or really gets on your nerves, ask your Columbus plumber if a mini tank water heater could help. A small tank will give hot water while the tankless unit heats up, preventing this cold water sandwich in the future.
Scenario 4: My water is… different.
Your water should always be clean and clear. If it’s discolored or smells funky, you might have something growing in your unit. That sounds gross, but it’s really common and generally harmless with the right maintenance.
The minerals in our water tend to build up in our units over time. When enough builds up, you get cloudy, yellow, brown, nasty water. Flushing your tankless water heater with a pre-made descaling solution or regular distilled white vinegar should solve your problem.
It’s good to be in the habit of cleaning your tankless water heater at least every six months. If you know you have hard water problems, ask us about water softeners to help keep your unit in top condition.
Scenario 5: I think it’s time to call in the pros!
If you’ve tried these DIY fixes or you have a totally separate issue, we’re here to help. Our licensed Columbus plumbers can assist you with all your tankless water heater needs. Call us!Read More