Roto-Rooter Blog

  • Pumpkin Carving Fun Often Leads to Clogged Drains

    Pumpkin Carving Fun Often Leads to Clogged Drains

    By Paul Abrams


    It’s a family event in late October when many American households carve a pumpkin into a Halloween jack-o-lantern. The kids delight in the whole process, especially when mom and dad let junior scoop the pumpkin pulp out of the pumpkin. But what happens next is the scary part. Often, those slimy pumpkin guts are pushed down the sink drain then the disposal is turned on to chop it into tiny bits before the water washes it away. Except, it doesn’t quite work that way because pumpkin pulp should NEVER go down the drain!


    Any plumber will tell you that pumpkin guts will do a number on your garbage disposal and your kitchen drain. Most disposals will choke on the sticky stuff and what does get through will stick to the walls of the pipes then dry like fiberglass resin mixed with glue! Trust us when we tell you this exercise is definitely more trick than treat for a homeowner. Roto-Rooter can cut the gunk out but it’s not quick, easy or cheap.


    A better idea is to carve your pumpkin on a thick bed of newspaper. And when the carving is done, toss the whole mess into your compost pile. If you don’t compost, throw it in the trash can. Oh, and in case you think you can flush those pumpkin guts down the toilet, you can…but you’ll be sorry! We’ve seen it done and the results were not pretty. Since we’ve just about seen it all, we urge you to heed our warning and listen to the experts. Check out our pumpkin carving tips video and enjoy a clog-free Halloween.

  • 10 Easy Plumbing Winterization Preps for Cold Temps | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Is Your Plumbing Winter-Ready? 10 Easy Preps for Cold Temps

    As the leaves change color and temperatures begin to cool, we’re reminded that bitter, freezing temperatures will be creeping up on us before we know it. As you begin to pull out your winter wardrobe, don’t forget that your house needs some protection against the elements, too! After all, you don’t want to deal with the damage and costly repairs caused by frozen pipes and other winter woes. Here are some Philadelphia plumbing tips that’ll help get you prepared:

    1. Clear your rain gutters and downspouts. That pile of leaves and debris can block drainage, causing water to back up into your walls, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage. Rain water can also freeze into heavy blocks of ice, which will pull the gutters away from your home, shortening their lifespan and creating an overhead ice hazard.
    2. Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected, water in the hoses can freeze and expand causing faucets and connecting pipes inside your home to freeze and break.
    3. Put a “sweater” on your outside faucets. Pick up a few Styrofoam faucet insulation kits from your local home improvement store. They’re very inexpensive, easy to install, and they protect against freezing temperatures
    4. Take care of dripping or leaky faucets. Either do it yourself or call a plumber, but make sure they’re fixed before freezing temperatures arrive. When leaky pipes freeze, water pressure can build – causing cracks in plastic, copper and even steel pipes. Just a tiny crack can unleash enough water to cause serious damage or flooding.
    5. Do you have interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets? If so, close them and drain water from the outside lines.
    6. Insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as garages or crawl spaces. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around pipes that are exposed and prone to freezing.
    7. Leaky doors and windows? Caulking and weather-stripping go a long way toward tightening them up and keeping out the cold air and moisture. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the potential energy savings from reducing drafts in your home may be as much as 30% per year.
    8. Get your water heater ready. After all, it is the workhorse of the house during winter months:
    • Flush and clean your water heater (check your user’s manual or consult the manufacturer’s website for instructions)
    • Check the temperature setting on your water heater's thermostat and make sure it’s set at 120°F for optimum performance.
    • Carefully test the water heater's pressure relief valve (Danger: water is very hot) by lifting up on the lever and letting it snap back. The valve should allow a burst of hot water into the drainpipe. If not, call a professional to have a new valve installed. Caution: if your water heater is more than five years old and the pressure relief valve has never been tested, you can actually cause a leak by testing older valves that have corroded or stuck seals. A plumber should be consulted.
    1. Make sure your sump pump is ready by inspecting and cleaning it – and the pit. Pumps exposed to extreme cold can freeze, preventing it from operating.
    2. Going away for a few days? Shut off the main water valve and drain the system by opening faucets at the highest and lowest points of the house. Don’t turn your heat off! Make sure the heat is left on and set no lower than 55°F. (These tips are for people living in their homes during the winter months. Many additional steps should be taken to winterize vacation properties that sit empty for weeks or months at a time.)

    For more plumbing tips, as well as instructional videos, visit ROTO-ROOTER Philadelphia  and our Google+ page.

  • To Flush or Not to Flush? | Roto-Rooter Blog

    To Flush or Not to Flush? That is the Question!

    From diamond rings to dentures, socks to small animals, our New Orleans plumbers have found a lot of crazy items in sewer pipes. While those items likely ended up in the toilet accidentally, other seemingly harmless items are being flushed on purpose every day—and they can cause big plumbing issues! So when it comes to flushing, which items are a no-no?

    As the company that makes more plumbing service calls than all other plumbing companies, and repairs more than 75,000 toilets per year, we can tell you that there are only two things that should be flushed down a toilet: toilet paper and human waste.

    Unfortunately, fibrous wet wipes, paper towels, feminine products, cotton balls, cotton swabs, facial scrub pads and other items are often flushed away, as well. So—what’s the big deal? Well, paper towels take more than 24 hours to dissolve, while feminine products and other items can take days, weeks, months or longer—causing sewage back-ups into your home.

    Some wet wipes can be so harmful that they’ve been known to clog not just residential systems, but industrial-grade pumps at water treatment plants—costing taxpayers a lot of money to fix! But manufacturers are working on flushablility (yes, that’s a word) and making strides. Right now, the only wet wipes that are “flush friendly” are the pulp-based kind that don’t use stringy fibers—so be sure to read the label.

    So, what if you’re only flushing toilet paper and are still experiencing clogging? There must be another culprit. Often times, tree-root intrusion in underground sewers, damaged or misaligned sewer pipe sections, or some other foreign object like a child’s toy or one of the other items mentioned above is to blame.

    For more New Orleans plumbing tips and services, as well as instructional videos, visit ROTO-ROOTER New Orleans and our Google+ page.

  • New Roto-Rooter TV Commercials for New England Feature Jason Hawes

    We are excited to talk about three new television commercials that Roto-Rooter recently shot with Jason Hawes, star of the Sy Fy Channel reality TV series, Ghost Hunters. As most fans of the show realize, Jason is a Roto-Rooter service technician by day and a ghost hunter by night. That fact is made clear in the series.

    Jason Hawes on the setAdvertising for service businesses like Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service has changed a lot over the years. Back before the Internet and rise of cable TV, there were just three TV networks in the U.S. It made sense then for Roto-Rooter to use television ads to inform the public about our services. But fast forward to 2014 and look how much Americans’ viewing habits have changed. There are well over 200 channel choices on television if you have cable –and most of us do. In other words, if you use a pizza to represent all the TV viewers in the United States then cut that pizza into 200+ slices to represent all of the channels, it’s increasingly difficult to reach lots of viewers without advertising on dozens of channels. That’s an expensive proposition and it’s simply not as effective as digital advertising.

    But there are certain markets and certain times when TV advertising can still be as effective as targeted web-based ads. The TV stations in Providence reach the entire state of Rhode Island and are also picked up throughout New England over the air. Jason Hawes is one of Rhode Island’s favorite sons and he is well recognized and respected by viewers in his hometown. The fact is that we’ve been discussing such a plan for years but the stars did not align perfectly for this project until last summer. Jason was on a brief hiatus from shooting Ghost Hunters and we had just enough time to develop scripts, find a shooting location and get it shot before Jason’s schedule got too busy to fit it in.

    Now that the three commercials have been completed, we’ve decided to make them available to Roto-Rooter franchises in other parts of the country. Some still do a fair amount of TV advertising and they’ll appreciate these fresh spots with celebrity punch. You can watch two of the commercials yourself on our YouTube channel here and here

  • Water Emergency? What to do Until Help Arrives | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Water ER? What to do until help arrives!

    Whether it’s a burst pipe or a water heater mishap, few situations are more unnerving than watching a massive amount of water pour into your home. Even a smaller leak is nothing to snort at. The plumbing and water restoration team is on the way… but what do you do until help arrives? Here are some tips from ROTO-ROOTER’s Minneapolis plumbing experts:

    • Safety first. If you don’t feel safe in the house, get out! There could be a danger of slipping and falling, not to mention electrical hazards.
    • Shut off the main water valve immediately. Obviously, it’s good to know ahead of time exactly where the shutoff valve is located.
    • If it’s safe inside, start removing excess water by mopping and blotting the floors. Be sure to wipe water from wood furniture to keep it from getting damaged – and prop up wet upholstery and cushions for drying.
    • Create a barrier between soaked carpet and furniture legs (use a margarine container or lid, aluminum foil, wood blocks, etc.). Make sure there are no books, magazines, rugs or other colored items that can “bleed” on the carpet.
    • Don't use the TV or household appliances and don’t use ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet. If a room’s ceiling is sagging, don’t go in!
    • Do NOT use your household vacuum to remove water.
    • Get the air circulating. Use ceiling fans (but not if the ceiling is wet) or A/C in the summer to begin the drying process.
    • Put family heirlooms, art and other pricey objects in a safe, dry place.
    • Hang wet fabrics and leather items out to dry.

    Of course, it’s best to research plumbers/water restoration experts ahead of time – that way, you’ll have a phone number on hand before an emergency ever strikes!

    For more Minneapolis plumbing tips, water restoration advice, or instructional videos, visit ROTO-ROOTER Minneapolis and our Google+ page.

  • 5 Simple Sump Pump Tips to Keep your Basement Flood-Free | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Keep Your Basement Flood-Free with 5 Simple Sump Pump Tips

    Here in Chicago, in old houses and in new, we’re no strangers to flooded basements thanks to our high water table. Even if you’ve done the right thing and installed a sump pump, that’s not always enough. In fact, ROTO-ROOTER’s Chicago plumbers replace more sump pumps than our plumbers in any other region of the country. To make sure your sump pump is doing its job and keeping your basement dry, here are five simple tips you can follow for extra peace of mind:

    1. Test your sump pump regularly. How? Pour a bucket of water into the sump pit. The pump should turn on, remove the water from the pit and shut itself off in a matter of seconds. Ensure that the float and the check valve move freely.
    2. Give it a once over. Clean your sump pit, remove any dirt, sand, gravel and other debris to increase the pump’s efficiency and prolong its life. Ensure that the discharge line opening is free of obstructions so that water can be pumped through the line and out of your basement or crawlspace.
    3. Back it up. If your home experiences a power outage for an extended period, frequent power outages or if your primary sump pump fails, it’s good to have a battery backup. There are a couple of different kinds. One uses a marine-grade battery that can power it for up to 12 hours. Another uses water pressure from your home's water supply lines to force flood water out of your sump pit. Ask your Chicago plumber to explain the different backup options.
    4. Realize that nothing lasts forever. Like any equipment with moving parts, sump pumps will wear out over time and will need to be replaced. There is no general rule on how often a sump pump should be replaced, since it depends on how often the pump operates. Be sure to have it checked periodically.
    5. Research plumbers ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is spend time finding a trustworthy plumber when you’re in the middle of a flooded basement.

    For more plumbing tips, as well as instructional videos, visit ROTO-ROOTER Chicago and our Google+ page.

  • Tankless vs. Conventional Water Heaters | Roto-Rooter Blog

    Tankless vs. Conventional Water Heaters

    Living here in Boston, especially through the bitter cold winters, there’s something to be said for a water heater that spouts out instant hot water on demand! Not only do tankless water heaters offer immediate warmth and comfort, they take up less space and are more efficient—reducing energy costs by about 25% annually. But before you rush out to buy one, learn the facts about both tankless and conventional water heaters from ROTO-ROOTER’s Boston plumbers, and decide which one is right for you:

    Tankless Water Heater

    • Also known as an “on-demand” or “instant” hot water heater, it provides hot water only as it is needed. Instead of storing water in a tank, it uses heat exchangers that turn on only when you use the faucet, quickly heating up water as needed.
    • If it’s the proper size, it delivers a continuous supply of water at a set temperature.
    • Hangs on exterior or interior wall and takes up less space
    • Cost: $700-$1500
    • Installation and piping can be costly
    • Gas-powered models will need good, costly venting
    • Retrofitting homes with traditional units can be expensive and complex
    • If the heater is far away, there could be a delay before the water reaches the tap.
    • Life expectancy of 20+ years

    Conventional Water Heater

    • Stores and heats cold water supply in large tank
    • When tank begins to cool, the burner kicks on and heats up the water again.
    • Water can be set to desired temperature using a thermostat
    • Some models are equipped with heat pumps and thicker walls, making them almost as efficient as tankless units.
    • Straightforward system that works well
    • Cost: $300 or less
    • Installation can be simple
    • Consumes energy whether water is needed or not
    • Large, takes up more space than tankless models
    • Life expectancy of 11-15 years

    For more Boston plumbing tips, as well as instructional videos, visit ROTO-ROOTER Boston and our Google+ page.

  • 4 Tips to Keep New Appliances Leak-Free | Roto-Rooter Blog

    New Appliances? Keep Them Leak-Free with 4 Easy Tips

    Whether it’s a shiny, stainless steel dishwasher, efficient new water heater, or that awesome washer/dryer set you so desperately needed, you likely shelled out a pretty penny for those new appliances. But all that glitters isn’t gold! While the appliances themselves may feature state-of-the-art, reliable technology, our Atlanta plumbers see lots of water damage caused by the cheap water supply lines and valves that often come with them. Here are some ways to deal with those issues, as well as a few other tips for keeping your appliances leak free for years to come:

    1. Upgrade your hoses. Head to your local home improvement store and buy braided stainless steel water supply hoses for your washing machine, your dishwasher and your refrigerator’s water supply line. They cost more but they’re well worth it, since steel hoses are less likely to spring a leak and flood your home.
    2. Swap out the cheap drain valve on the bottom of your new water heater before you hook it up. Take the valve to the hardware store and buy a high-quality brass drain valve of the same size and type. Wrap the threads with Teflon tape then thread the valve onto the water heater tank. Cheap plastic valves often break apart or go bad within just a few years.
    3. New washing machine for your upstairs laundry room? If so, be sure to place it in a drain pan. That way, if it overflows for any reason, instead of water flooding the second floor, it would go down the sides of the machine into the drain pan, which is attached to a pipe that drains the water away.
    4. Check your home’s water pressure! Sometimes, the hidden killer of appliances like water softeners is pressure that’s too high. Water pressure in your home above 60 pounds per square inch is harmful to your entire plumbing system and will cause excessive water usage and even burst pipes. Contact your local water authority to find out what the water pressure is on your street. If it exceeds 60 pounds, consider installing a pressure reducing valve (PRV), which costs about $80, to limit the water pressure within your home.

    An appliance flood could easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. But all of the tips above are easy fixes that cost a small amount of money. For more Atlanta plumbing tips, as well as instructional videos, visit ROTO-ROOTER Atlanta and our Google+ page.

  • Water Restoration Services are a Natural Fit for Roto-Rooter | Roto-Rooter

     After 79 years of providing sewer and drain services and 34 years as a full-service plumbing repair provider, we at Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service can confidently say we do these things better than anyone else. So it was not without a great deal of thought that Roto-Rooter expanded its service menu to include water restoration services. The fact is that taking care of water damage is not a big stretch beyond our core competencies. Every day in the course of our normal work, we see the damage caused by water and sewage backups.

    The way it used to go, homeowners and business managers would call in Roto-Rooter to fixRoto-Rooter at the door whatever plumbing problem caused the flood in the first place. Our expert plumbers and sewer and drain technicians responded quickly to resolve the issue. Then, they would refer the owner to a water restoration company to pump out the water and mitigate the structural damage left behind. Very often, the homeowner would say, “can’t you guys just take care of it?” The fact is that we had some of the pumping equipment necessary to do it ourselves but we weren’t fully invested in water restoration. That changed a couple of years ago when we set up a couple of our branches to do water restoration work and serve as prototypes.

    The experiment proved to be a complete success so last year we began a major investment in top-line, stat-of-the-art water restoration equipment and, at the same time, we rolled out a recruitment program to attract some of the most experienced water restoration experts to bring a first class water restoration brain trust to Roto-Rooter. They helped us establish a dedicated first class training program that is fully certified by IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification). Now our customers don’t have to worry about calling anyone else in the event of a water emergency. All it takes is one call to Roto-Rooter and home and business owners can rest assured that their water problems will be handled as quickly and efficiently, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as their sewer and drain problems have been since 1935.

    To show our customers the full range of water damage mitigation services provided by Roto-Rooter, we produced this water restoration video. We hope you’ll find this information helpful.

  • Prevent Flooding, Improve Reliability by Making Your Appliances Better Than New

    New appliances can cost lots of money. Speaking as a homeowner who recently bought a new washing machine and dryer and one who will probably have to buy a new dishwasher before the end of the year, I can tell you this from personal experience. But speaking as a representative of the world’s largest plumbing repair service, I can also tell you that you should make a few improvements on new appliances before you hook them up in your home. Our plumbers see lots of water damage and much of it is caused by cheap, unreliable water supply lines and valves.

    Water hoses on appliances are leading cause of floodingMost of today’s appliances are super reliable and technologically sophisticated. As a result, most folks can’t handle their own appliance repairs by themselves. But there are some things that the average person can do and should do at the time of installation. I can sum it all up in four words: braided stainless steel hoses. You can buy braided stainless steel water supply hoses for your washing machine, your dishwasher and your refrigerator’s water supply line. Yes, they definitely cost a little more than the plastic or rubber lines and hoses that come with your appliance but they are worth every penny. Steel hoses will outlast plastic and rubber by many years and they’re far less likely to spring a leak and flood your home. An appliance flood could easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to your home. The hoses will only cost you a few extra bucks.

    There is no substitute for reliability and if you want long-term peace of mind, disconnect the cheap water lines that the manufacturer included with the appliance and go immediately to your local home or hardware store and buy braided steel hoses of the same length with the same connection ends. Be sure they’re actually steel hoses because I’ve seen braided plastic lines that look like steel but aren’t as good aren’t as reliable.

    If you have to replace your water heater, unscrew the plastic drain valve at the bottom before you hook up the water heater. Take the drain valve to the hardware store and buy a high-quality brass drain valve of the same size and type. Wrap the threads with Teflon tape then thread the valve onto the water heater tank. I can’t tell you how many times those cheap plastic valves break apart or go bad within a few short years.

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