Roto-Rooter Blog

  • 5 Ways To Prevent Basement Flooding | Roto-Rooter

    Flooded basementA flooded basement is a homeowner's worst nightmare. When it happens, your old pictures, the spare chest of drawers, your children's clothes – it could all be in jeopardy. It's especially important to watch out for basement floods if you live in certain flood-prone areas of the U.S., like the upper Midwest, but it can't hurt to make sure you're prepared no matter where you live.

    Check out these five tips for preventing basement flooding:

    1. Clean the floor drains

    Floor drains, which help prevent flooding and other forms of water damage, can become clogged with dirt and other detritus. This can obstruct the pipes for when water does get into your basement, leading to buildup that can cause flooding. Keep the drains free of debris and there's a better chance your basement won't flood.

    2. Check your gutters

    This may sound like a strange suggestion – but it's important to make sure your gutters are unobstructed so that any water that comes in doesn't collect. If your gutters are full of leaves or dirt, water has to go somewhere – usually down. If the rain dumps in buckets around your house instead of being diverted via the gutters, too much water could filter into the foundation of your home.

    3. Divert rainwater

    Along the same lines as checking your gutters, you should find ways to divert rainwater away from your home wherever possible. Extend your rain gutter downspouts and make sure your yard doesn't slope toward the house.

    4. Install a sump pump

    This is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your basement stays clean and dry throughout the rainy season. These devices – as their name suggests – help pump out water that might accumulate, and there are quite a few options to choose from. Your local plumbing professional can come to your house to survey and help you determine what kind you need.

    5. Have a backup power source

    When it's storming, you want to make sure that your sump pump is connected to a backup generator in case the electricity in your home goes out. You don't want your sump to fail, especially in those circumstances!

    For more information about how to keep your basement clean, with help installing your sump pump and to consult a professional in case of the unthinkable, call Roto-Rooter today.

  • Why is Thanksgiving the Cause of So Many Plumbing & Drain Problems?

    ThanksgivingIt happens like clockwork every year, the week of Thanksgiving rolls around and the phone starts ringing at Roto-Rooter. Early in the week, a significant number of homeowners expecting guests have the foresight to call a plumber to deal with their slow drains because they can sense trouble waiting to happen. These are the wisest homeowners who’ve possibly experienced ill-timed sewer clogs in the past and don’t want to chance another clog when they have a house full of holiday guests.

    Thanksgiving Day tends to be fairly quiet at Roto-Rooter. The number of calls is below normal but we keep enough plumbers on standby to handle the few service calls that do come in. We know from experience that most of the clogs actually occur on Thanksgiving but most homeowners dread the thought of calling a plumber on a holiday because they fear having to pay outrageous holiday service charges. So instead of dealing with the issue, they suffer through it and call us on Friday. In fact, many, if not most Roto-Rooter locations do not charge extra for service calls at night, on weekends or holidays. So if you’re experiencing a clog, why not call us for help? If extra charges are a concern, simply ask the local office if they charge extra for a Thanksgiving service call. They’ll tell you upfront so you can decide whether to delay service until Friday.

    The Friday after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday” in retail circles but it is “Brown Friday” for plumbers. It really is the busiest day of the year for Roto-Rooter, whose 7000 service technicians and plumbers across the country will be on the job and battling America’s clogs.

    To help you learn how to avoid Thanksgiving clogs, we created this entertaining and informative dramatic video. And if you want even more detailed tips and information, watch this video.

    The major types of clogs we see at Roto-Rooter around Thanksgiving are (in ranking order):

    1. Kitchen sink clogs / jammed garbage disposals

    2. Main sewer clogs

    3. Toilet clogs

    Learn what not to put down a garbage disposal. And to learn how to manage most kitchen sink and garbage disposal clogs, click here. And if you’ve tried everything and it’s time to call in a professional to resolve your sewer and drain problems, schedule service online or call 1-800-GET-ROTO.

  • Six Common Mistakes You Make When Operating Your Garbage Disposal

    Garbage disposalGarbage disposals are not all created equal. Some are loud, undependable and barely do an adequate job. Others are quiet, reliable and built to pulverize bones and seeds. So for a plumbing repair company like Roto-Rooter, it can be challenging to create a set of do’s and don’ts for garbage disposals when their capabilities vary so greatly from model to model.

    But when The Washington Post approached me recently for some garbage disposal tips for their helpful pre-Thanksgiving article titled “Six common mistakes you make when operating your garbage disposal,” I gave them solid advice based on the lowest common denominator, which is to say the least capable, builder-grade model since that’s the most common type of garbage disposal equipping American homes.

    As the Post article points out, “your garbage disposal is headed into crunchtime” because of Thanksgiving. The heavy meal preparation associated with Thanksgiving celebrations will run most disposals through their paces. Some of these appliances will rise to the challenge but many cannot. Worse, an underperforming disposal often leads to clogged kitchen sink drains and sewers that a homeowner may not be able to fix with plunger and drain chemicals.

    The day after Thanksgiving is Roto-Rooter’s busiest day of the year and clogged kitchen sinks and jammed garbage disposals are a big reason why. We encourage you to follow the tips in the Post’s article. And if you need a simple reminder, why not print off our What Goes Down the Drain infographic and tape it to the inside of your kitchen sink cabinet door to serve as a reminder of what can and should not go into a garbage disposal.

    Furthermore, if your disposal does jam on Thanksgiving, watch this how-to video to see if you can clear the jams and clogs on your own before calling us for help. But if you need Roto-Rooter service, we’ll be ready to help when you need us. Just call 1-800-GET-ROTO or schedule service online.

  • Why Water Heater Replacement is Best Left to the Professionals

    Water heater repairIt's never a good sign when the hot water goes out. In general, a tank-type water heater will last somewhere between eight and 10 years, but it's a good idea to perform routine maintenance and make sure you check for signs that it's not working properly – you can nip a hot water emergency in the bud. Some signs that your water heater is about to bite the dust include:

    • Corroded tank: Most hot water tanks are steel, so they will eventually rust. If your tank is rusted, you may notice that your water has a brownish tinge.

    • Clogged drain valve: Sediment collects at the bottom of the tank over the years, which can block the drain valve and cause issues.

    • Leaking tank: Leaks are usually an indication that there is an internal problem with your tank, which can rarely be fixed.

    No matter what the diagnosis is, it's important that you leave replacing your water heater to the professionals, and here's why:

    Regulatory requirements

    In 2015, the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act mandated that water heaters manufactured after April 16 had to meet updated requirements for energy consumption. While this move will no doubt save homeowners and the government a lot of money on their energy bills, homeowners now have to be doubly careful when selecting their hot water heaters – you'll need to specify that you want a unit compliant with the new energy-efficient standards. A plumbing professional can help you find the right one – whether it's a tankless water heater, a hybrid heat fixture or one that works via solar power.

    Expertise on hand

    Water heaters are bulky, and there is a protocol for disposal of these fixtures. A certified plumbing expert like the ones at Roto-Rooter can help you make sure you're following all the proper guidelines for disposing of your unit and provides handy assistance for carrying it out of your home. In addition, plumbers have access to all the tools you'll need for extraction of the old unit and installation of the new.

    When it's time to replace your water heater, give the professionals at Roto-Rooter a call. We'll be able to help you choose the right tank, replace the unit and dispose of your old one properly – so you don't have to. Get in touch today.

  • Simple Plumbing Jobs Any New Homeowner Can Tackle

    RefrigeratorBuying a home gives you a lot of freedom to remodel, decorate and add on to the building as you please. At the same time, homeownership carries a lot of responsibilities with it that will be probably new to you if you have only ever rented or lived in someone else's domicile. Having to take care of your plumbing system is probably one of the biggest changes.

    Sometimes, you'll run into an issue - like a broken sewer line or damaged pipes - that will require prompt assistance from a licensed plumber. However, there are many situations in which you can likely fix things up yourself. Let's look at one of them - fridge water supply hookup - in more detail.

    1) Begin connecting fridge to water supply

    If you need to set up a refrigerator that has an ice maker and/or drink dispenser, you'll have to tap into the nearest cold water supply. Usually this is a pipe under the sink, behind the wall or under the floor. Once you've found it, be mindful of any nearby electrical wiring or air ducts if you must clear a path to it by drilling.

    2) Install copper tubing

    Calculate how much 0.25-inch outside diameter flexible copper tubing you'll need for the connection. Keep a few feet extra so you can coil it behind the refrigerator so that it can be pulled out during service and repair. Avoid running it near cabinets or drawers so that it doesn't get crushed.

    3) Settle on a connection type

    Most of the time, the best approach here is to solder in a 0.5-inch tee in a removed section of the cold water supply pipe. This tee could be made of copper, PVC or steel, depending on what the original pipe consists of. Alternatives are to do a solder-free compression tee or to purchase a kit that contains a saddle valve for connecting the fridge and cold water supply.

    4) Check for leaks

    Once you have everything hooked up, look for leaks in the fridge and pipes. Unsecured pipes can result in a clogged or broken ice maker, or in water backups around the house. If you hit an impasse in this process, call a professional plumber to get further assistance in connecting your water supply to your refrigerator.

  • Halloween Can Be Tough on Your Home’s Plumbing | Roto-Rooter

    Roto-Rooter pumpkinYou wouldn’t think Halloween and your plumbing system would have anything in common. But if you ask any plumber, you’ll learn that traditional preparations for Halloween are responsible for a great number of drain clogs. Especially in the kitchen where many homeowners like to carve their pumpkins into Halloween jack-O-lanterns then push all of the sticky pulp and seeds down into the garbage disposal.

    If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, you know how slimy pumpkin guts are. But what you may not know is what happens to the goop when it’s allowed to harden and dry. It has a glue-like quality so it sticks to any surface and dries as hard as fiberglass. It has to be scraped off of whatever it’s stuck to, so you can imagine what happens to a garbage disposal and sink drain full of pumpkin pulp.  The only cure is a Roto-Rooter machine, which “twists and turns and shaves lines clean.”

    The Best Way to Carve a Pumpkin

    • Spread out a thick bed of newspaper

    • Scoop out the pumpkin pulp and pile it onto the newspaper

    • Wrap up the mess inside the newspaper and throw in garbage can or compost pile

    • Don’t wash your hands in the sink. Use the outside faucet or wipe hands with paper towels until clean

    • Even a small amount of pumpkin pulp can damage your disposal and pipes

    Your Roto-Rooter sewer and drain technician is well equipped to clean your pipes if you suffer a clog from pumpkin pulp. He carries a professional grade drain cleaning machine that is specially designed for sink clogs. It has a sharp blade on the end of the rotating cable that scrapes away any clog right down to the pipe walls so your drains will be as good as new.

    For more Halloween plumbing tips, check out the Halloween section of our plumbing videos.

  • The Right Way to Thaw a Frozen Pipe | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Frozen pipesOne of the most common issues that people experience during the winter comes in the form of a frozen pipe. If not taken care of immediately, a frozen water supply pipe can burst and cause extensive and expensive water damage to your home. How do you know if a pipe is frozen? The biggest indicator is if you turn on your faucet and nothing comes out. If this is the case, it's time to get to work. Here's how to thaw a frozen pipe - the right way:

    Finding the pipe

    Finding a frozen pipe isn't as easy as you might think it is, especially if you have a big house. Check in the most obvious areas, like beneath pier and beam homes in drafty unfinished basements or attics and uninsulated walls - where pipes are exposed to cold air. Once you find the frozen pipe, take action. Open the faucet that is connected to the frozen pipe, and identify the area where it's blocked sometimes it will have frost on the outside but more often than not, it looks like any other water pipe.

    Thaw it

    Next, you need to put heat on the pipe – but no open flames! The fire risk is too great to risk using propane torches candles or other open flames on a copper pipe. Some people turn up their thermostat, but this isn't recommended as the only solution because it will take too long to get results. Do turn up your heat, and open your sink cabinets with pipes beneath them so the warm air circulates around pipes. However, also use handheld hair dryer to run back and forth along the pipe. Make sure you're doing this evenly: Otherwise, the pipe could rupture. You can also place a space heater nearby but keep it at least three feet away from wall materials to prevent a fire.

    You could also purchase some heat tape, sometimes called heat cable, from your local hardware store. Simply wrap it around the pipe evenly and plug it in. The cable will warm up the pipe and thaw the frozen ice. Apply heat until the water flow is restored. Be careful with heat tape. Some homeowners make the mistake of leaving on their pipes year round, which increases the chances of a fire.

    If you run into any problems thawing a frozen pipe, be sure to give your Roto-Rooter plumber a call. Roto-Rooter is equipped with professional grade pipe thawing equipment that can be employed before a pipe bursts and causes water damage.

    What if the pipe bursts?

    If your water supply pipe does burst, turn off the building’s water valve immediately to limit water damage. Call Roto-Rooter to fix the pipe and provide professional water cleanup services to fix water damage.

  • 3 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Licensed Plumber | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Roto-Rooter technicianIf you have a minor toilet clog or leaky shower head, you could always give your neighbor a quick call, but will he or she fix the problem properly? What if the showerhead is screwed on too tightly and a pipe bends? All you're left with is a busted pipe and a sorry neighbor. Although taking measures into your own hands is one way to keep money in the bank, you may end up spending more if your DIY method goes wrong.

    Here are three important reasons why you should hire a licensed plumber:

    1. Passed a background check

    When you welcome a licensed plumber into your home, you know you are safe. Plumbers must pass a criminal background check before they become qualified and receive their license. Before you let your plumber into your home, be sure to ask to see his or her license. You can even call the company and ask for a confirmation of the plumber's identity.

    2. Received proper training

    Licensed plumbers go through extensive rounds of training before being deemed professional. They study piping materials, handy tools and a range of systems including drain, water, sewer and gas lines. In order to be an efficient plumber, one must be well-trained to understand where all the parts go and which pieces fit together. Some states require basic coursework on top of passing a licensing test, while others require continuous education courses to remain updated on the latest billing codes, equipment upgrades and safety concerns.

    3. Won't cause further damage

    To prevent further damage to your pipes and drainage systems, avoid the DIY method. A licensed plumber knows the ins and outs of every system - he or she is able to locate the problem right away without fiddling around. This will save you both time and money in the long run.

    Call your local Roto-Rooter for all of your plumbing needs.

  • Is Your Toilet Running? Here's What to Do | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Running toiletAfter flushing the toilet, there's the familiar sound of water running to refill the tank and bowl. However, if this sound goes on for longer than usual, it could mean you have a leak that could be wasting a considerable amount of water.

    A leaky toilet that's constantly running can waste as much as 200 gallons of water in a single day. That could rack up to more than 6,000 gallons a month, which can also result in an incredibly high water bill.

    Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to check for leaks and repair them:

    1) Check the water level

    In order to determine if you have a leak, you can mark the water level in the toilet tank, turn off the main water supply and wait. Then, check to see where the water level has fallen. If it's any lower than your initial mark, you have a leak.

    2) Check the flapper

    The flapper mechanism inside the tank could be improperly sealed, causing the leak. They suggest pushing the flapper down when the water is running. If it stops, this means the flapper isn't sealing correctly, and that it needs to be replaced.

    3) Check the fill valve

    There could also be a leak in the fill valve, which could cause the water to run. To check for this, lift up the float arm inside the toilet tank while the water is running and the tank is filling. Adjust this arm so that the water stops filling the tank 6 to 12 inches below the top of the overflow pipe. If you notice a leak in the fill valve, it's time for a replacement.

    While toilets aren't complicated mechanisms, it's important that all repairs and replacements are done right. If you're not the DIY type, or just want expert help, contact your local Roto-Rooter today.

  • Remove Doubt About Sewer Line Issues with a Camera Inspection

    Tree root intrusion can be uncovered by a camera inspectionDo you sometimes think that there might be something wrong with your home's plumbing, but you're not sure? There are plenty of warning signs that a problem could be lurking beneath the surface, including:

    • Mold and mildew on non-shower walls

    • Musty smells around the house

    • Sudden problems with rodents and insects

    • Unusually high water bills

    • Water backups on the ground floor or in the basement

    Still, sometimes a broken sewer line (just to pick an example) that is leaking water into your home might be hard for even a professional plumber to diagnose. You might think that the recent backups it caused were just the product of a heavy rainstorm that happened around the same time.

    The only way to remove all doubt is to have a professional plumber come over and do a video camera line inspection. Specially made, waterproof video cameras can be inserted into the sewer line and moved around inside the pipe to inspect its condition. Let's look at a few issues a camera inspection could bring to light:

    1) Root intrusion

    Trees such as maples have extensive root systems that naturally grow toward sewer lines, which are rich in both nutrients and of course water. These roots can get inside pipes and clump up as thick hair-like masses. The pipes then become congested and highly pressurized, leading to possible backups. Cameraing can find roots so that they can be removed in an appropriate manner, like with a snake/auger. Paring cameraing with a chemical root control formula creates a killer combination.

    2) Grease buildups

    Long-chain fatty acids (aka fats and grease) are one of the leading culprits of clogged pipes. Many homes do not have the grease traps or interceptors in place to stop these long-term buildups. So homeowners often have to rely on homemade tips and tricks. Sometimes, though, the clog is so serious that it has to be addressed by a team of licensed plumbers. Cameras can pinpoint the exact location of these buildups.

    3) Off-grade or otherwise damaged pipe

    Some homes are outfitted with old pipes that may be made out substandard materials, especially when compared to what is now available. Damaged cast iron or clay tile might be replaceable with newer PVC, for example. A camera inspection is useful for finding these issues as well as others such as bellied pipes that are collecting paper and waste, corroded pipes, leaking joints, etc.

    4) Blockages

    Depending on the location of a house, it's possible that foreign objects such as large rocks might have found their way into the sewer line. Needless to say, you might not suspect that this had happened unless you had a licensed plumber run a camera line into the pipe.

    A broken or backed up sewer line is a plumbing emergency. If you notice something different about how quickly your water is draining or how your walls look, be sure to contact a professional plumber to help with a camera line inspection to diagnose the issue, a cleaning to remove any obstructions and possibly a sewer line repair.

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