These articles are compiled for your general information only. Use them as a guide when working on your home or business. When the project gets to be too big or gets past you, then please contact RAPS and we will be happy to help you.
“Buying Your Own Plumbing Parts”
Q: Aren't the faucets sold in hardware stores the same faucets plumbers supply?
A: That depends. Some of the faucets sold at warehouse stores are not the same grade. Even the better known name brands make lower grade products with plastic internal parts that some plumbers would never use. There is a difference between a $59 faucet and one that costs $89, even if they look the same. The old adage, "you get what you pay for" is still as true as ever.
Q: How can I determine the quality of products I buy myself in hardware stores?
A: You probably can't because you haven't had a professional plumber's experience from working on hundreds of homes a year, finding which products work best, last longest, and give homeowners the least problems. When you hire a professional to do a job, you are paying for this expertise. This is true with other trades as well; electricians can't warranty fans and fixtures you buy in the hardware store, tile setters know from experience that they can waste a lot of time struggling to set tile the homeowner bought on sale from a discount store because they often are "seconds" which cannot be set straight, a carpenter can't properly hang an odd-ball door. It usually takes more time to try to make an inferior product fit or work properly than to do it right the first time.
Q: Don't manufacturer guarantee their products? Why would I need a plumber to warranty them?
A: Generally, if a part is defective, you call the manufacturer. With a faucet, for example, the manufacturer will tell you to remove the faucet and ship it back to them and they will either send you another faucet or a refund to reimburse you to buy a new one. Either way, you'll still need to pay a plumber to remove it and reinstall the new one. If the manufacturer elects to send you a replacement, you will have to go without a faucet while waiting for them to send you the new one, then pay for a second trip from the plumber. Buying their own water heater, for example, presents an even more expensive risk to homeowners. If that is defective, the manufacturer will send out a representative, usually a local contractor on contract to them, and some people have had to wait for two days to a week without hot water, for this specific contractor to arrive.
“Pipeline to Warmth - Repairing Frozen Pipes”
Everyone knows that water freezes at 32 degrees--and that includes the water in your pipes. So if you find yourself with a frozen pipe, here's the plan. Open the faucet at the end of the pipe and close the valve that runs into it. Then check for holes, cracks or breaks. A pinhole can be repaired just by wrapping with electrical or duct tape; a hairline crack can be sealed by covering with a pipe clamp (aka pipe sleeve); for a really big crack you'll need to replace that section of pipe. If you've been able to repair the pipe without replacing it, then apply heat to the frozen section, using one of several methods: use a hairdryer, wrap the pipe in heat tape or an electric blanket or, in a pinch, you can even wrap rags around the pipe and pour hot water over them (this might take a while). Once water starts dripping out the faucet again, it's time to let the water start flowing again. Then make sure this problem doesn't happen again. Get some pipe insulation, electric pipe-heating wire or pipe tape to keep your pipes warm and safe all winter long.
If you keep having a problem with frozen pipes, please contact RAPS today and we can use our special equipment to get them unfrozen and working great again.
“How to Replace a Shower Head”
There are various styles of shower heads, both regular and pulsating, all of which normally connect to a 1/2 inch threaded shower pipe. Many years ago there were pipes with a built in ball end. Those pipes must be replaced with a threaded end. Sometimes they are difficult to remove. Most balls you see when removing the original head have been screwed on, even if they are very tight, to the shower pipe. If you see even one thread, the head is normal.
Step 1. Use masking tape on the chrome pipe to protect the finish from being scratched when using wrenches or pliers. Use either vise grips and a pair of pliers, or a pipe wrench and pliers to remove the old shower head.
Step 2. Replace the Teflon tape on the end of shower pipe to prevent leaking.
Step 3. Put on the new head according to the manufacturers instructions. Remove the masking tape and you are ready for a shower.
If the shower head is leaking even a little, you will eventually have problems with water pressure and corrosion. It also will needlessly increase your electric bill with your hot water or water bill if you have city water. If you need us to check it out, please feel free to contact us and we would be happy to check it over for you.
“Protect Home Plumbing Now to Prevent Problems Later”
Homeowners should be aware of troubles that come with frigid temperatures, especially when it comes to pipes. There are several things you can do to make sure your pipes are in line and working fine:
- Make sure outside faucets aren't dripping or leaking and disconnect outside water hoses. In the colder months, water left in the hoses can freeze and expand, causing faucets and connecting pipes inside your home to freeze and break. During the warmer months it can cost you a lot of money on your water bill.
- When pipes freeze, water pressure builds causing cracks-no matter if the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash more than 250 gallons of water in a single day!
- If your home has interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from lines.
- Cover outside faucets using a faucet insulation kit available at home centers.
- Insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as garages or crawl spaces with heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables.
- Seal door and window leaks to reduce air drafts.
- Your water heater works harder during cold weather. Flush it out and remove sediment buildup, which causes corrosion, shortens life span and reduces heating efficiency. Drain several gallons from the faucet near the bottom of the tank through a hose directed into a nearby drain.
- Carefully test the water heater's pressure relief valve (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, contact RAPS to have a new valve installed.
- Set the water heater's thermostat at 120°F for optimum performance.
- Clear leaves and debris from downspouts to ensure easy drainage when water freezes and thaws.
- Inspect and clean sump pump and pit. Pumps exposed to extreme cold can freeze preventing the pump from operating.
- When leaving home for extended periods, shut off the main water valve and drain the system by opening faucets at the highest and lowest points of the house. Keep the heat on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
Follow these tips if you stay in the home throughout the year. Many additional steps should be taken for vacation properties that will be abandoned or left unattended for weeks or months at a time. We offer a plan where your vacation property can be closed or opened during the year whenever you go or leave. Contact RAPS to learn more.
“Plumbing Addition Ideas”
Here are some common (and not so common) types of bathroom fixtures for basic plumbing fixtures:
- A lavatory sink is a bathroom sink that sits within a cabinet fixture.
- A pedestal sink is a free-standing sink without a cabinet base.
- A utility sink is a large, deep sink typically found in laundry or utility rooms.
- A shower/bath is a tub or small enclosure used for bathing. Can either be free-standing or built-in.
- A whirlpool is a popular option for tubs. Built-in jets force water around tub. Great for relaxing.
- A steam shower is a nice luxury feature similar to a shower, except jets emit steam instead of water.
- Bidets aren't common in the U.S, but are usually found next to toilets in Europe.
When considering any plumbing projects, you may want to consider other services as part of your installation. Here are some choices to think about:
- Freeze protection is a mechanical feature on exterior garden faucets. Instead of the shut-off valve being on the outside of the house, it's set several inches inside the house. This protects the pipes from freezing. You can also add Styrofoam faucet covers, which will cut the wind and insulate the faucet from cold air.
- Insulating pipes is a nice option for colder climates because ice can cause pipes to burst. Often it can be a simple do-it-yourself job. Look for thermal foam pipe protectors at your local hardware store. Simply cut to size and fit around the pipes.
- Another option is an insulating water heater, which looks like a jacket for your hot water heater and keeps heat loss to a minimum.
- A circulating hot water pump is a nice option for larger homes where faucets are a long distance from the heater. It gives a boost to the hot water flow, allowing hot water to arrive at the tap faster. If you would like a little help with these projects or a consultation on a more ambitious project - Contact RAPS today.
“Ever thought of adding a Bidet to your Bathroom?”
Mention the word bidet, and you're likely to get a giggle or two. Widely accepted and used in Europe as a regular and integral part of everyday hygiene, the bidet is still something of a stranger in American homes. In fact, after that initial giggle you'll often find that many people are not at all familiar with what they do, how they work, or why anyone would want one. It's a strange thing indeed, given the high level of personal hygiene in this country.
So, giggle away here. Bidets are basically like big sit-down sinks with a little fountain in the middle. They are used for washing after a person is done using the toilet. Bidets are used by both men and women, as well as children. In addition to their cleansing benefits, bidets are very useful in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions, such as hemorrhoids.
A bidet consists of a bowl, hot and cold water controls, a stopper that allows water to be held in the bowl if desired, a vertical sprayer and sometimes a horizontal sprayer as well. You sit on a bidet facing "backward" – that is, in the opposite direction from how you would sit on a toilet. The seating gives you convenient access to the rear-mounted hot and cold-water valves and the drain stopper mechanism. The faucets control the temperature and volume of the water coming out of the spray head. In units with an additional horizontal sprayer, the controls for switching between the spray heads are typically located alongside the faucets.
For convenience in both plumbing installation and actual usage, bidets are most commonly installed directly adjacent to the toilet. They are roughly the same size as the lower (bowl) portion of a toilet, and require as little as nine square feet of floor space.
When selecting a bidet, you'll find a wide range of colors and styles. Virtually every manufacturer designs and markets their bidets to match their line of toilets, allowing for a coordinated look in the bathroom.
Besides choosing the general style of the unit itself, there are typically a couple of different options for the type of sprayers. All bidets are equipped with a vertical sprayer located in the bottom of the bowl and designed to spray directly upward. Horizontal sprayers – either fixed or movable – are available in different configurations, and are typically located at the rear of the bowl. As with sink faucets, you will also find a wide array of handle styles, materials and finishes to suit any taste and compliment any style of bathroom décor.
Bidets are roughed-in in much the same way as a pedestal sink, utilizing a drainpipe, a trap and hot and cold water supplies. The drain line can come out horizontally through the wall, which simplifies installation but leaves the line and the attached trap exposed, or both the drain and the trap can be installed below the floor. With either installation, the vertical portion of the drain, which extends up from the trap is concealed by the bidet itself. Complete rough-in instructions are provided with the unit, and since rough-in dimensions can vary between manufacturers, it's important to get this information prior to beginning any rough plumbing.
After completion of the finished wall and flooring surfaces, the bidet itself is installed by attaching the faucet to the bowl, connecting the drain line and water lines, and then bolting the unit to the floor.
We can help you with the installation of a new bidet into your home’s bathroom or if you just like to learn more – Contact RAPStoday.
“Spotting Water Damage Before It's Too Late”
Water is one of those seemingly innocent things around the house that gets underestimated in its potential to do damage. A trap that's not tight, a toilet seal that's lost its grip, a water line with a tiny drip - it's not much water and it's hard to see or hear, but every day it continues it has the potential to wear away structural members, cause mold growth and create a number of problems for you and your home. For the most part, though, water leaks leave their warning signs, so you need to be aware if your home is using any of the following visual clues to try and warn you.
The most obvious water leak indicator, other than standing water, is a water stain. Stains may appear:
- Around windows or the bottom of exterior doors, indicating that water is entering from the outside;
- At the joint between the ceiling and an exterior wall. This could be an indication of a roof leak, but in this location it probably indicates an ice-damming problem.
- Anywhere else along the ceiling. Unless you have water lines that run in the attic, which is pretty uncommon, a ceiling stain almost certainly indicates a roof leak. Remember, that the location of the stain does not necessarily mean the roof leak is right above it – it usually originates higher up and drips down.
- In cabinets: If you see a water stain or a whitish ring on the floor of a cabinet that houses a sink, it's probably a sign of water leaking from the trap, or from somewhere else in the sink's drain system.
- Mold and mildew stains: If you see mold or mildew growing, it's an obvious indicator of a moisture problem, but not necessarily an actual water leak. In a bathroom, it usually means there's inadequate ventilation to rid the room of moisture. At the bottom of an exterior wall, it might mean ground water from sprinklers or other sources is coming in. In a closet, behind a bed, or in other areas with little or no air circulation it could mean a variety of things, most likely an overly damp crawl space.
One common indicator of the presence of water is a floor that begins to buckle slightly, with hills and valleys. Vinyl floors are typically laid over particle board underlayment, which absorbs water like a sponge and then swells up. Hardwood floors will show water by cupping up around the tongue-and-groove joints.
Common floor areas to keep an eye on for potential water problems are in the kitchen around the dishwasher, where there is both a water supply and a drain line that can leak, and around refrigerators equipped with ice-maker lines. In the bathroom, pay close attention to the floor around the toilet. If the wax ring deteriorates over time, water can leak out around the base of the toilet onto the floor.
The worst area in the bathroom is in front of the tub or shower, where water damage can occur from splashing, partially-opened shower curtains, shower or tub doors that don't seal completely, and especially from people stepping out and dripping water on the floor. This is a very typical area in a home to find water damage and dry-rot, so keep a very close eye on these areas and act quickly if you see any stains or evidence of buckling.
With repeated exposure to water, drywall will soften and break down, so here's another indicator. The drywall will usually take on a discolored and slightly swollen appearance, and will gradually soften until you can put your finger through it with just a slight amount of pressure.
Drywall indicators are usually found in the same areas as the water stains and buckled floors mentioned above. Pay particular attention to the drywall near the floor around toilets, and also down in the corners near where the bathtub or shower meet the floor.
What to Do, What to Do...
At the first indication of a water leak, make it an absolute priority to locate and deal with the water source. It may be obvious – a wet patch under a dishwasher and nowhere else in the house would make a pretty strong case for a leak in that appliance – or it may be a stain or a patch of mildew that could be coming from a variety of sources.
If you are unable to locate the source of the water leak yourself, get some help from RAPS Plumbing (not Wraps Plumbing). We specialize in water damage restoration have very sophisticated and accurate water detection meters that can locate the presence of moisture in a wide variety of materials, and in otherwise concealed areas.
We can look through your home to see where your leak might be, or if it is another problem. If you should find a leak and need further assistance, then contact RAPS today.