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Roto-Rooter Blog

  • 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.


  • Clean Drinking Water Wake-Up Call – Are We Paying Attention?

    As North America’s largest plumbing repair company, we take seriously the old line that “plumbers protect the health of the nation.” So here’s our lecture about protecting clean water. Two incidents this year have reminded us how easily we can lose access to clean drinking water. Toledo, Ohio residents watched helplessly in early August as a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie made their normally reliable supply of potable water rendered unusable and unsafe. Without warning,
    some 40,000 residents were suddenly urged not to drink it, cook with it or even bathe in it for several days. Back in January, 300,000 people in and around of Charleston, West Virginia lost their water supply for the better part of a week after a chemical spill in the Elk River rendered their drinking water unsafe for any kind of use.

    Water Warning SignIt is time to get serious about protecting our water supply from contamination of all types. Fresh, drinkable water is in short supply. Even though two thirds of the planet is covered in water, less than 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable. And it seems we humans are gambling with that 1% instead of taking the necessary steps to protect it at all costs. We have to get serious about restricting chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers that run off of farm fields into watersheds and finally into the reservoirs and rivers that are the sources of most of our water treatment plants. Additionally, it’s time again to invest in American infrastructure. We must upgrade our water treatment plants to a more sophisticated level so they can filter out even the most serious contaminants and keep the taps flowing. This isn’t over-the-top crazy talk by tree hugging environmentalists. This is deadly serious and it’s going to get worse if we don’t all stand up for what is left of the nation’s clean water supply.

    What can you do? For one thing, you can get serious about conserving water. The best way to do this is by fixing plumbing leaks and drips around your home or business. Next, use less. Replace old toilets and shower heads with modern units that require a lot less water. You won’t notice the difference except for a less costly water bill. Currently, we’re losing as much as 10,000 gallons per year per household to leaks. That’s more than 1 trillion gallons of water lost each year across the country! That is an astounding figure but it is true and the only way to reverse the trend is for every American to take responsibility for fixing leaks in his or her home and business. If you’re ready to get serious, check out our ROTOGreen page for guidance.


  • How to Turn Off the Main Water Shut-Off Valve

    Main Water Shut Off ValveWould you know how to turn off the water to your house in the event of an emergency? Many people don’t have a clue. Trust me, waiting until a plumbing catastrophe strikes is not the time to figure it out. At some point every homeowner (or house renter) will find themselves in a situation that requires turning off the main water supply valve to the house. It could be a broken water pipe or a toilet or sink may malfunction sending water cascading across your floors. Sinks and toilets have their own shutoff valves but if the shutoff valves are stuck or they fail, you’ll have to fall back to the main water shutoff valve and turn off the water before serious damage occurs.

    The first step is shutting off the main water valve is to locate it. In colder climates, you can usually find the main water shut-off valve in the basement or inside a closet in a front room of the house. Sometimes, builders will hide it behind a removable panel. In southern states, the main water shut-off valve is often located outside the house, usually along the front outside wall and often near an outside hose bib (faucet).  In the small Texas town where I grew up, the main water shut-off valves were inside the meter box near the curb. If that’s the case where you live, make sure you have a meter box key so you can get into the meter vault if you have to. Some shut-off valves inside meter vaults even require a special “key” or wrench to turn them off but most can be turned off with a crescent wrench.  Fortunately, most shut-off valves inside the house just require a firm grip of the hand to turn off. Remember, turn the valve to the right to turn it off.

    Have a plan! Not only should YOU know how to turn off the main water shutoff valve, you should make sure that every member of the family knows where the shutoff valve is located and how to use it. This includes young children who may be home alone someday when catastrophe strikes. Additionally, it’s a good idea to put the plumber’s name and phone number near the shut-off valve. Tape his business card to the wall or place a tag on the valve. You may need to reach a plumber quickly if plumbing repairs are required. There are many scenarios where this could prove helpful. For instance, let’s say you’ve gone on vacation and your in-laws are house sitting when the water heater rusts out and starts flooding the floor. You’ll want that water turned off ASAP.  To help you learn how to locate and turn off your water supply valve, Roto-Rooter created a helpful video that you should watch then share with family and friends. You can thank us later.


  • 3 Tips for Home Buyers Considering a Previously Owned Home

    If your family is house shopping this summer, you already know the anxiety associated with buying a home. You’ll wonder what mysteries lurk behind the walls and whether you’ll inherit a bunch of new problems that the current owner might be hiding. Water heaters and sewer lines can prove costly. As plumbers, we hear from lots of customers who experience plumbing problems within the first year at a new (older) home. So here are some tips for you to remember before you buy.

    Home buyers should beware of plumbing problems1.       Buyers do not have to disclose information about plumbing problems so ask questions! Ask when the home was built. If it is more than 12 years old and still has the original water heater, expect to replace the unit within the next year or two. If the house is 25 years old or older, it may not have plastic/PVC sewer pipes. And that’s not good. When it comes to reliable sewers, plastic is good, clay, iron and concrete are bad because these materials do not wear well underground as well as plastic does. Root intrusion is common in every type of sewer line except for PVC. Ask the owner if they’ve ever had trouble with the sewer clogging.

    2.       A sewer line inspection is not included in a standard home inspection. It’s true because sewer inspection video camera snakes are expensive. Good ones can cost more than $5000 each so most home inspectors don’t make the investment. Sewer repairs are expensive and sewer replacement costs can easily exceed ten thousand dollars. When you think about it that way, paying a company like Roto-Rooter to video inspect the sewer line is a good investment. You can expect to pay between $200 and $550 for a complete sewer line camera inspection and that will include a DVD or thumb drive copy for your records.

    3.       If it happened once, it will happen again. While you’re asking questions, ask if the basement has ever flooded. Ask why it flooded. Find out if the basement or crawl space is equipped with a sump pump. Then ask the owner when it was last replaced. Rest assured, if the homeowner confesses that the basement flooded once many years ago during some super storm but it has never happened since, Murphy’s Law dictates that it will probably flood again during your first year in the house – if the previous owners did nothing to mitigate the cause of the first flood. Personally, I would never buy a basement home that doesn’t have a sump system and a backflow preventer in the sewer. These plumbing fixtures are a must and if you have them, you’ll never know how many catastrophes they prevented over the years. But if you don’t have them, you’ll find out the hard way how difficult and expensive homeownership can be.


  • Floor Drain Maintenance Provides Flood Protection and Prevents Sewer Odor

    You probably notice floor drains most often in public restrooms but floor drains are also found in commercial kitchens, garages, on patios and driveways, in basements, warehouses and even some residential bathrooms and laundry rooms. The humble floor drain captures overflow from sinks, toilets, tubs, rain, etc. then directs it safely to a sewer or municipal storm drain so that the floor stays dry and rooms don't flood.

    A floor drain with a hinged coverIf you have floor drains in your home or business and you smell foul odors coming from them, it’s because the traps have dried out. You see, floor drains have one of those U-shaped P-trap pipes just like your bathroom sink drain. That U-shaped pipe is designed to hold water, which stands in the pipe and prevents sewer gases from coming up through the drain. If you smell sewer gas, grab a bucket of water and start pouring it into the floor drain. Go ahead a dump a gallon or two or preferably a whole five gallon bucket of water into the drain. This will not only seal off sewer gases, it will also let you see if the drain is working properly. If it’s clogged it won’t be able to do its job when called upon.

    Floor drains can become clogged just like any other drain. In fact, they become clogged more oftenWater in the trap blocks sewer gases from rising up out of the floor drain
     than many types of drains because they’re on the floor where dirt and debris collect. That debris often finds its way inside the drain. In fact, lots of people sweep their floors and sweep the dirt right into the floor drain. Please don’t do that!

    So, if sewer gas is a problem and your floor drains don’t get much water flowing into them, be sure to refill the traps about once a month. And at least twice a year, you should really give that drain a workout. If it appears to be clogged or slow, take steps to remove the clog. Use a crank snake and see if you can reach the clog. But because floor drains are often connected by long pipes, the hand auger may not reach all the way through the pipe. It’s a good idea to call a sewer and drain cleaning company like Roto-Rooter to clean it out professionally.


  • 3 Signs a Sewer Backup is Coming


    It is the heart of the summer and aren’t most people determined not to let anything ruin the last full month of the season? With summer storms, added excessive hot temperatures, and Mother Nature’s indecisiveness, it is repeatedly a recipe for disaster that could put a damper on the end of the season. These conditions can strain main sewer lines.

    A Roto-Rooter technician inspects a sewer pipe with a video camera snakeSummer storms regularly backup main sewer lines, and in addition to excessively high temperatures during summer months, weather conditions promptly lead to clogged main sewer lines and damage to homes. It is not the weather by itself that causes the problems. It’s the aggressive growth of tree roots inside sewer pipes that causes the sewer to clog and household drains to backup.  

    But how can you tell whether or not your main sewer line is truly backed up? Three major signs of this problem are 1. A foul stench coming from drains 2. Slow draining bathtubs or laundry lines, or 3. If the use of other fixtures associated with your main line lead to water backup in places such as toilets or showers. Find your local Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service location at rotorooter.com and have them send one of our expert service technicians as soon as possible if you’re seeing these symptoms in your home.

    Though backups and damage to a main sewer line may seem like a problem that is able to be put off onto the backburner, it absolutely is not. If sewer lines get choked off and are not promptly cleared of roots, raw sewage can backup into your bathtubs and sinks, causing significant collateral property damage. Since the main sewer line is the pipeline that carries waste away from all of your household drains to the sewage treatment plant, sewer maintenance and upkeep is especially important. Fortunately, sewer backup and damage to main sewer lines is something that can be fixed by an experienced sewer solutions specialist from Roto-Rooter. So, lookout for early signs of a sewer backup during these last weeks of summer and make it the best, most stress-free month yet!


  • Water Conservation Efforts Help Businesses See Green

    Water Conservation FaucetWater conservation is finally becoming good business for companies that are engaging in it. Plumbers like Roto-Rooter who service a long list of large A-List commercial customers have been demonstrating the financial benefits of going green for a long time. Water and sewer costs are on an upward trajectory so it really makes sense for businesses to control costs by making modest investments in low-flow faucets, more efficient toilets, sprinkler systems and water heaters.

    “Going green” has long been a favorite buzz term for businesses. It gets them good press and makes most prospective customers feel good about doing business with socially responsible green companies. But let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to go green if businesses can also enjoy a financial reward for their green efforts. Such is definitely the case today with “green plumbing.” The cost of smart, miserly plumbing fixtures has come down and their reliability is better than ever. Commercial grade plumbing faucets that automatically turn on a perfect spray for washing hands and then turn themselves off again have become the norm in commercial restrooms. When we witness the lasting effects of the drought in some of the Western states, we get a better understanding of just how scarce fresh water is becoming.

    Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service is calling on all businesses to get serious about water conservation. Make an appointment with your plumber to talk about ways your business can use less water. Get up to speed on water conservation fixtures by visiting our ROTOGreen pages and by checking out the EPA’s WaterSense website. Green plumbing fixtures will pay for themselves in a very short period of time via lower water and sewer bills. But it’s not just smart, green fixtures that will cut down on water costs. Have your plumber check your system for plumbing leaks. Fixing leaks and tuning up old toilets and urinals will make a huge difference in utility costs.

    Have you ever visited a public restroom and noticed a toilet or urinal running continuously? Roto-Rooter put together a video to demonstrate how much water a running urinal can waste and how much it costs the business owner with each passing minute (based on the average cost of water in the U.S.). We think it’s an eye-opening video and we urge business owners and managers to see it for themselves on our YouTube channel. Go here to see the video now. Then get busy fixing leaking plumbing fixtures at your business. Your bottom line will thank you and so will your customers.


  • Drain Care Products that are Environmentally Friendly and Effective for Summer Celebrations

    It’s summertime and the preferred season for many people has finally arrived! The season of good weather, great memories and even better festivities is here. For many people, summer celebrations consist of gatherings with lots of food that eventually gets dumped down the drains.  Many of us find joy in making use of new grills or outdoor equipment, as well as cooking out to celebrate the changing of seasons. However, a main concern is always, how am I supposed to keep my drains from clogging when the leftover scraps of food are accidentally dumped down the drain, or not so accidentally crammed into the disposal instead of into the trash can? You could invite your plumber to your cookout but there is a better way to keep your drains flowing.

    Pipe Shield Product

    Why not solve the clogged drain problem before it happens? Petty drain issues should not have the power to clog your summer celebrations. Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield helps people do just that. Pipe Shield is an environmentally friendly monthly enzyme treatment product that keeps drains unclogged from the first concentrated treatment until the very last, 64th, treatment. This way, there is no distress about what if my drains clog? Pipe Shield not only keeps drains clog-free longer, it also treats the entire piping system before it has a chance to become stopped up.

                Emerging products are becoming more and more centered around the sort of green movement currently taking place nationwide, but Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield has been a green product since its introduction in 1981. It is tempting to use readily available harsh caustic chemical products but those could potentially harm drains and certain kinds of pipes. However, Roto-Rooter’s Pipe Shield carries the certified “green” EcoLogo seal and is safe to everyone and everything that comes in contact with it. So, help save your drains, the environment and even your summer celebrations, and let us know what you think! Have a happy clog-free summer! Pipe Shield is available through your Roto-Rooter service technician or you may order it here


  • Sump Pumps are the Last Line of Defense for Spring Flooding

    If yours is one of the millions of American homes with a basement, you’ve probably experienced the stress and worry associated with basement flooding. I myself always listen for the sump pump when I lay my head on the pillow at night. The reassuring sound of the sump pump turning on and off gives me a sense of well being and I can sleep with the confidence that my sump pump is doing its job and keeping my basement dry.

     

    Now that spring has finally arrived, heavy and unpredictable storms are the norm. For many, the risk of spring flooding brings on a sense of unease. Savvy homeowners begin checking the sump pump more often, put a plumber on speed dial and start thinking about backup systems because at any time, that sump pump could fail. The float switch could wear out or the impeller could suck up rocks and debris or (in my case) a piece of a plastic grocery bag (don’t ask!) and be rendered useless. So in that sense, your sump pump, your home’s protector and guardian is also your home’s Achilles heel. If the pump is inactivated, ground water will gradually flow into your basement via floor cracks and an overflowing sump crock.

     

    The good news is that there are two backup systems available for your sump pump. Your Roto-Rooter plumber is familiar with both and can handle the installation in an hour and a half or less. The most common remedy is a battery backup sump pump that uses a marine grade battery that looks like the one in your minivan. If the primary sump pump fails or a storm knocks out electrical power, the battery will engage and power a backup pump for up to 12 hours, depending upon how often it has to turn itself on to handle the flow of water into the sump pit. The second backup option is called a Venturi backup pump. I’ll describe the advantages and disadvantages of the Venturi system in next week’s Roto-Rooter blog.


  • New Prototype Rolls Out in 2014

    Roto-Rooter’s corporate office has been working hard to develop a new prototype design for it service branch locations. The design takes into account all of the unique needs of a large scale plumbing company that provides a high level of both residential and commercial plumbing services. For instance, the location will have a huge warehouse large enough to allow for indoor storage of trucks and equipment. The warehouse also incorporates multiple with drive thru doors that allow trucks to pull into one side of the building and right out the other side. This system eliminates the need to use the reverse gear to back large trailers through bay doors.

    Additionally, the new branch design has more than adequate office space, a large classroom for the Roto-Rooter plumbing school that can seat dozens of student plumbers at a time. The adjacent hands-on plumbing school is described as “huge” with working plumbing fixtures of all kinds that allow students to work on piping behind the walls and on every major type of plumbing fixture.

    Rick Arquilla, Roto-Rooter President and COO is leading the project’s development. “We want to encourage innovation and a dedication to continuing education. It is important to Roto-Rooter to bring expertise and cutting-edge technology to customers, as well as, foster the professional development of future generations of tradesmen,” Arquilla said.

    The first updated service location built from the ground up is located outside of Dayton, Ohio. It will be the first of the new branch facilities with a scheduled completion date in April 2014. It will easily be the largest plumbing shop in the nation. The newly designed branch will also incorporate a wash bay with a heavy duty drainage system so all Roto-Rooter vehicles can be washed in-house. This is especially important for excavation equipment, which frequently get covered with caked on mud.


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