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Basement Plumbing Maintenance Tips

Although not every home has a basement, those that do require special attention to the plumbing system. Just like the bathroom and the kitchen, the basement plumbing system requires regular maintenance in order to avoid emergency plumbing situations. Follow these basement plumbing tips to keep everything in your home running efficiently.

Understanding the Basics

First things first – when you are thinking about the plumbing system in your home, it's important to know exactly where the water shutoff valve is located. The shutoff valve is usually found right where the main supply pipe enters the house coming up through your basement floor, either next to or very close to the water meter. The main shutoff for the house will be one or two valves near the main water supply pipe that can be turned on and off by hand.

There may also be an additional shutoff outside the house, buried in a cavity that is sometimes referred to as a "buffalo box." If you have a buffalo box, it will generally be found in the ground near the street or the edge of your property. The box will often have a round metal cover. Pry open the cover and look inside with a flashlight. There will be a valve that you can turn by hand or with a long-handled "key."

If you will need to shut down the system often during the course of a project, find your external shutoff and use it to shut off the water. Don't depend entirely on the inside shutoff (particularly if you have an older home) – it can break, leak, or stop shutting off.

Other basic basement plumbing maintenance tips include the following:

  • Check your water meter during a period of time when no water is being used. Make a note of the meter reading and check it eight to 10 hours later. If the meter has moved, there is an indication that you may have an undetected water leak, which should be corrected.

  • Stop annoying water hammer noises by installing shock absorbers that absorb vibrations in water lines.

  • Septic tanks should be inspected and pumped every three to five years to help prevent costly replacement of the filter field.

Basement Clogged Drain Tips

Many basements have floor drains that will remove wastewater from washing machines, air conditioners, water heaters and other things like vehicles covered in snow. Just like other drains, these can collect scum and debris and require regular cleaning and maintenance. Here are a few basement plumbing tips when it comes to floor drains:

  • Clean your drains regularly. Clear them of visible debris and use an old toothbrush to scrub away substances and any dirt you see off the edges.

  • To further clean your drain, pour a bucket of boiling water down and wait 15 minutes. Then add a 16oz box of baking soda down the drain and make it fizzle by adding 3 cups of vinegar. Wait another 10 minutes and add 6 cups of boiling water slowly. Wash away what's left of the vinegar and baking soda.

  • If you want to attempt clearing a clogged floor drain yourself, rent a power auger with 50 ft or more of cable and follow the instructions for use.

Water Heater Maintenance Tips

  • Once a year, drain several gallons of water from the tank to flush your water heater. Flushing will remove sediment buildup that can cause corrosion and reduce heating efficiency.

  • Test the pressure relief valve by lifting up on the lever and letting it snap back. The valve should allow a burst of water into the drainpipe, if not, call a professional plumber to have a new valve installed.

  • Check the temperature setting on your water heater. It should not be above 120°F or medium setting on older models. Lowering the temperature setting lowers your energy use, reduces risk of damage to your tank caused by overheating, and prevents scalding.

  • Never store flammable liquids such as gasoline, adhesives or solvents near the water heater, furnace or other gas-fired appliance as they may ignite.

For water heater replacement service, Roto-Rooter is available to help. Simply call 1-800-768-6911 or book an appointment online to get a technician to your home in no time flat. We also offer more water heater tips for the DIY plumber.

Sump Pump Tips

  • Be sure to test your sump pump regularly by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pit. When you do this, the pump should turn on, take the water out of the pit and shut off within seconds. If it doesn't, call your local plumber to investigate.

  • Regularly remove dirt, sand, gravel and other debris to increase the pump's efficiency and prolong its life.

  • Replace parts on your sump pump when they're worn out. Your local plumber can help you decide how often that should be based on how often your sump pump runs.

  • It's a good idea to have a backup in case your primary sump pump fails due to power outages or some other reason. A battery backup pump or water-powered backup system are both good options to protect your basement from water damage.

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