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Tips For Avoiding a Plumbing Disaster: Featuring Steve Warnek Plumbing

By Kristen Bosse

Injuries are a constant possibility when dealing with physical activity and those injuries can be increased when using tools doing unfamiliar work. Please think out whatever project you are about to do and let the potential hazards not be consequential because you have considered safety first.

Please describe the background of your company and the various services you offer.

Decades spent running a plumbing shop have made me into someone with an ability to see why an existing plumbing problem has occurred and what problems are likely to come in the future. I have spent a lot of time fixing these problems. Below you will see some tips that I hope will give you some of these abilities also and if you want an assist with a residential plumbing issue please contact me. I prefer to work near my Eagleville, Pa. base.

What are the most common causes of leaks in the kitchen sink?

Faucets gone awry would be my guess. "O" ring failure is common around the spout base which can show up as a drip under the sink or as standing water around the faucet. A pull out spout head can get a damaged hose. If you pull the hose out a foot and let it loop down then up and run some water, you should be able to spot a leak in the hose or in the hose-spout head connection. That water will show up as a drip off of the hose loop. If the spout base slopes down to the faucet, any leak in this connection will drip unnoticed under the sink.

If the preceding paragraph does not resonate with you, please read this one. If you have a leak, get a good light, a magnifying glass, a rag and a brown paper bag. Spend some time looking for sources of water and when you find water in an unexpected place, find out where it is coming from. Don't accept your first conclusion of where the water is coming from. The water might be shooting across the space to where you see it, indeed, it might be only shooting across the space once every day or two due to periodic high pressure problems. Dry the water with the rag and see if it shows up again. Inspect dried fittings with the magnifying glass to see if tiny bubbles of water are forming. Look for a single spider web line. It might be water shooting finely out of a pinhole in a water line. Rip off pieces of the paper bag and put some custom ripped pieces around suspect pipes. Place another dry piece of paper higher up on a pipe that has wetted one piece of paper already to see if the water is coming from above. Lay a big piece of the paper under the suspect area with one quart containers under known leaks and see if you can spot more leaks falling on to the paper. In case you have not guessed yet, porous brown paper will darken a lot in an area that a drip of water has fallen. If your paper does not darken with water on it, find paper that does. Run some water and see if the drains are leaking. Don't quit when you find one leak. There could be several leaks under a sink. Consider putting trays under leak prone areas with a water alarms in each tray and you will have a 9 volt battery handling your due diligence in the future. If you shut a shut off to stop the leak, test the shut off for leaks. It might end up leaking more than the leak that you are trying to stop. There is no advice here on how to fix a leak because it takes an average of 3 months of doing this work to just get a feel for it and any advice I would give would likely be poorly executed. The price of a dry house is eternal diligence.

What are some maintenance tips to avoid clogging or drainage problems?

Be aware of the materials of your plumbing drains. If metal, your drains need more water to flush solids down than if you have plastic drains. You might want to keep an old toilet in an old house because of the greater amount of water in each flush. Read my commentary below on garbage disposals.Learn the ways of being a proficient plungerer. Here is a primer on plungers: If you have put some chemicals down the drain, figure out some way to remove or to neutralize the chemicals before you plunge. Even better, don't use the chemicals. Get a plunger that sticks easily to a smooth surface. Get a plunger that does not have a strong odor; it will get brittle quickly and will stink up your house. Get a plunger that is easily misshaped so that it will fill in an irregular toilet drain. Do these observations in store so that you will come home with a good plunger. This plunger will probably be red and cost a few dollars. Allow water in a drain to flow to the blockage and plunge vigorously. If there is an overflow on the fixture, it would be good to block it with flimsy plastic such as a dry cleaning bag. Check for leaks in the drain after plunging.

What will the video inspection let me know about my plumbing system?

A well done video inspection can tell you the condition and location of your drain line. This can be valuable information if you are considering the replacement of the drain. If you just want a rough idea of the condition of your drains, listen to several toilet flushes from your curb trap clean out pipe in your yard. This is usually a mushroom shaped cap on top of a pipe If you can hear the flushes and the flowing water all the way to the pipe, that is a good result.

How do I make sure my pipes don't freeze this winter season?

That is a tough one. Houses can be built so that they don't freeze, but this is seldom done. Here is a simple experiment to see if you are in trouble. Get a test tube, a probe thermometer that goes down to freezing and a quart container. On a cold morning, before the sun starts to warm things up, run water slowly into the test tube and make note of temperature changes as the water flows. Catch the water in the quart container and dump it when full. Keep track of low temperatures and about how much water was drawn to get that low temperature. The volume of water used can show how far upstream the pipe is in danger of freezing. After a gallon or so you should get a steady temperature which is the temperature of the ground that the water line is going through. Check each faucet in the house, hot and colds measured separately if possible. If you get some cold results, it might be good to figure out how to put some insulation between those pipes and the outside or figure out how to shut off and drain the pipes that are in danger. If the outside water is much colder than the average ground temperature for your area, you might get a leak outside even if it does not freeze due to shrinkage of the pipe which can lead to connection failure.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have a frozen pipe, shut off the house, open your faucets, try to drain your water lines and pray for mercy or hope for the best if you are not religious. The water that is freezing in your pipes is expanding and might have enough pressure on the system to break a pipe or dislodge a connection. That connection can be anywhere in the house. If this has happened, you will get a flood; possibly not until you get a relatively warm day. Turning the water back on is tricky business, best left to someone with an analytical mind and some training.

What types of materials are okay to put in my garbage disposal?

A plate that has already been wiped off into the trash can can be cleaned out over the garbage disposal. Any more than that is probably building up residue in the pipes that will require a drain cleaning in the future.

Any other tips to avoid plumbing issues in my home?

If you have a backflow preventer or check valve (usually at your water meter), it behooves you to have a properly operating potable water expansion tank to absorb excess pressures in the water lines. See the IMPORTANT NOTE above to see what can happen with excess pressure. A hose bib placed downstream from your backflow preventer/check valve is a wonderful plumbing feature. It will allow you to measure your water pressure and drain your water system when needed. A good main shutoff upstream from this hose bib is also important and everybody in the house should know how to use it. Look for water stains on ceilings, notice changes in your plumbing and try to figure out why things are changing. If the water gushes out of a faucet, then slows down and then does not gush when you turn it on 2 seconds later, that could be a sign of occasional high pressure in your pipes. Check out your sump pump( s ) when they are running. Two sump pumps hooked into one pipe might both fail when the primary one fails due to a bad check valve (the back up pump might just pump water over to the other sump pump rather than outside; if it is a water powered sump pump it likely will fill your basement with tap water).

I do hope that these tips will help. It is a terrible thing to be unaware of what might befall you and to have no clues about how to deal with that unknown. If this rambling narrative helps someone, that would be good.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you?

Steve Warnek
Eagleville Pa.

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