All About PEX Plumbing!

We’ve all been hearing about PEX plumbing and how it’s modernizing the way that we pipe homes and other structures, but what exactly is it, and is it the best option for you?

PEX plumbing has been in use since the 70’s in European countries. While it has many advantages, it may not be the right option for every project.

Here are some things to consider.

There are three main options that are used as best practices when considering piping for any sort of plumbing need.
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PEX Plumbing

If the price point is an issue, you should certainly consider using PEX or CPVC which both tend to run about the same price, and both are far cheaper than using copper.

PEX piping is ideal for many remodel projects. It comes in long, easily pliable tubes that can be easily fished through walls which is particularly useful if you are a DIY-er.

It is also easily bendable which means that it can be maneuvered around objects and walls without the use of connecters and glues that would often be a hassle when dealing with copper or CPVC.

A benefit of using PEX over PVC is that it is a soft material and, as such, will not burst when it freezes as it easily contracts and expands as the water freezes and melts.

Another benefit of PEX is that, like PVC, it will not corrode or be affected by acidic substances in a way that causes it to deteriorate.

pex pipes

CPVC

This is by far the least expensive option when it comes to piping.

CPVC has been safely used in homes since the fifties with very few issues or errors.

It’s durability, ease of installation, and affordability makes it an easy choice for most homeowners and DIYers when it comes to plumbing.

However, it does not tend to fare well with extended periods of exposure to sunlight or certain chemicals being sprayed on it or flowing through it, but it can sustain extreme temperatures with ease which make it a great option especially for hot water plumbing.

plumbing CPVC pipes

Copper in Plumbing

Copper piping has been around almost as long as people have used plumbing.

With a lifespan of up to one hundred years, it is certainly the option with the most longevity.

Another thing to consider is placement. Copper is very aesthetically pleasing and is a great option for something that will be visible and frequently seen as it is not an eye sore like CPVC or PEX can be.

However, being that it is the nicest looking and the longest-lasting of the options, it is also the most expensive.
Another down side about using copper is that its metallic properties do not allow it to expand and contract and may not be a good option for an area with severe weather.

plumber with wrench fixing pex pipe 
The Benefits of PEX Plumbing

Aside from price, PEX tubing does not require the use of any glue. This makes it particularly useful when working in small confined areas as you don’t have to worry about the inhalation of potentially harmful chemicals.

It is also more flexible than PVC which allows for easy fishing through walls in situations where one is remodeling and not wanting to significantly damage walls in order to redo plumbing or to fix a problem area.

Using PEX does not require any special tools. The tubes are connected using either stab in or compression fittings.

PEX can be easily spliced into existing plumbing which also makes for easy fixes as it does not require the use of any soldering, which can save significant amounts of time on repairs.

Manifolds are not necessary when working with PEX either. You can install it just like any other pipe and connect main lines and branches to each tube.

It also comes in multiple colors which make distinguishing hot and cold lines quite simple. They offer to tube in red, blue and white. People often use red for hot water and blue for cold water. Some prefer even to use white for all of the plumbing to keep it consistent.

It is extremely reliable and has been used for more than thirty years all over the world. There are homes that have had the same PEX piping for more than thirty years. Often any leaks that are found with PEX are not from the piping itself, but rather from faulty fittings.

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When to Use PEX Plumbing

PEX is often the best option for smaller projects and quick repairs. Being that the piping does not have the regular kinds of connectors that CPVC uses, the connectors that it does use can often be pricey when using multiple at a time for a larger project.

It is best for small areas like under a sink as the piping can be easily bent and maneuvered and can be run with hot and cold water.

Being that the lines are long, there aren’t as many connectors involved, which also reduces the chance of leaks that could potentially result from connectors that are faulty or over time as they wear.

Smaller areas that keep PEX confined to an easy to reach spot allow leaks to be detected from any connectors that are used, as well as allow for easy repair.

DIYers considering redoing all of the plumbing for a building should consider CPVC, but for smaller projects and repairs PEX is affordable, durable, and quite often, the best option.

Conserve Water and Save Money With a Tankless Water Heater

Did you know that nearly 20% of the average utility bills are spent on your water heating system?

This makes heating water the second highest energy expense in the home, and certainly and easy place to save some money.

With the cost of water on the rise as talk of conservation continues, the rates for water are going up steadily.  It’s important to save water when and where we can.

hotwatersteamSome Perspective:

Did you know that every time you wash a load of clothing in the washing machine, it consumes 7 gallons of water on average?
Your average shower consumes, even more, coming in at 10 gallons of water used for one shower!

Dishwashers use almost as much as the washing machine averaging six gallons per load.

If you think that is a lot, did you know that two gallons per minute are used when you have the hot water running from a kitchen faucet?  Just think about how long it takes to do the dishes by hand.

The bathroom faucet averages only a ½ gallon of water per minute, but even that is a lot.

The statistics show every household consumes an average of 64 gallons of water every day.

That is a lot of water!

 

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Going Tankless

Going tankless might seem like a tedious thing to do.  Many people share the mindset that if it isn’t broken, let’s not fix it.

However, it is important to look at the bigger picture, and the ways that are going switching to a tankless water heater might save you significant amounts of money in the long run.

Conventional water heater

A conventional water heater has a lifespan of about 8-10 years.  This means that on average you will be purchasing a new water heater every 8-10 years, assuming that nothing goes awry during that time.

Conventional water heaters also recommend that they are regularly serviced by a plumber at least once every six months.  So this means over the lifetime of the water heater, it is recommended that you call a plumber nearly twenty times for service.

 

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Tankless water heater

A tankless water heater has an average lifespan of about 25-30 years, which is close to three times that of the regular water heater.

They also don’t require the regular servicing that the conventional water heater does as there is no “tank” to maintain on a daily basis.

Speed:

The biggest difference between a tankless water heater and a conventional water heater is the way and the speed of heating up the water.

Essentially, with a tankless water heater, you have hot water on demand whenever you need it.  When you turn the faucet or the shower on, there is no waiting period for the water to warm up before you start using it.

Conversely, the conventional water heater may take several minutes to heat up to the desired temperature once the water starts running which is wasting valuable water and also increasing the overall bill and usage.

Supply:

Another thing to consider is that with a conventional water heater your hot water supply is usually limited to the number of gallons that the tank will hold.

Once the hot water has been used or “runs out,” it may take several minutes for another tank of water to be heated.

Conversely, with the tankless water heater, the supply of hot water is unlimited.

As there is no tank size to be concerned with, there is also not a limit on the amount of water that can be heated and then distributed during any certain period.

 

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Efficiency:

Did you know that the water in your hot water tank is always hot?

That means that your hot water tank is constantly using energy to keep water hot regardless of if you are using it or not.  This is a huge contributing factor to the above mentioned 20% of the utility bill.

With a tankless water heater, water is only heated as needed, and as such it saves valuable energy and reduces utility costs.

Homeowners using tankless water heaters have experienced significant reductions in their utility bill, up to 34%, as a result of switching the more efficient tankless option.

 

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Cost:

So it is true that the tankless water heater is significantly more expensive to purchase as it comes to upfront costs.  And often, this is the factor that dissuades people from switching.

As aforementioned, it is the bigger picture savings that we are looking at for this to be an efficient upgrade to your home.

When you consider that you will have to replace the water heater three times in the same timeframe that one tankless system will last, it doesn’t seem so pricey.

Additionally, when you factor in the money that you will spend to maintain the conventional system by calling out a plumber 15-20 times during the lifespan of each of those three water heaters, you should factor in the cost of just calling a plumber 50-60 times.

Savings will be immediate on the utility bills once the system is installed, but the upfront costs are slightly higher for the system itself.

Conclusion:

Overall, the tankless system is a great solution for someone who plans to keep their home for a significant period because they will be there twenty or thirty years down the line to feel the effects of the overall savings by investing upfront in a slightly more expensive system.

A homeowner who is merely looking to flip the property and make upgrades or improvements with as little upfront costs as possible, because they won’t be around or own the property down the line to feel the effects of the long-term savings. It may be better off by investing in the conventional system, though the tankless water heater does add value to the home.

Detecting Leaks Early: Why It’s So Important

It might seem like common sense to say that it is important that leaks in your plumbing are detected as early as possible.  Obviously, nobody wants to deal with the mess that comes when pipes break and the costly repairs of fixing things that have been damaged, but let’s look at the overall impact that it can have to detect leaks early.

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Signs of a plumbing leak:

There are a few key indicators that you might have a water leak in your home.  Some are quite common and others you may not know to look or look out for.

  • Often when you have a leak you might experience a subtle or even a drastic increase in your water bill.
  • You might smell or even be able to see signs of mold or mildew forming in areas that are hard to reach or that provide an optimal environment for these types of things to start growing.
  • Bubbles in paint or wallpaper are a good indicator that something wet is seeping through or trying to on the other side.
  • Ceilings may start to sag or warp when water has been pooling in a particular area for any length of time. This is especially common for homes that have a flat roof.
  • Flooring might start to sag or crack too, which is also a good indicator. Often, there is a musty or an earthy smell that might be hard to get rid of. You may even find that there are muddy or damp patches in the yard or around the home that appear to be wet.

Where to look: The most common areas that you’ll find leaky pipes

Leaks are going to be found most often in the areas that have the most frequent and largest amounts of water.  The likely suspects are going to be in the kitchen or the bathroom.  However, just as common are the leaks that happen beneath the surface under the foundation of a home, or even in basements and crawlspaces.

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Leaks Can Be Dangerous

Leaks can bring about a wide range of troubles that are problematic for homeowners, some that are seen, and some that are unseen.  Also, they affect more than just the home that is being damaged.

Health Risks:

Leaks pose a significant number of health risks that increase in both frequency and severity the longer the leak remains untreated and undetected.

Mold is one of the leading causes of allergies and can onset new allergic reactions as well as exacerbate existing allergies.

Inhaling certain kinds of mold can be dangerous, and even deadly. It can cause anything from common headaches and dizziness all the way to respiratory issues that can lead to death.

Bacteria is a huge factor to consider with leaks. Bacteria grow optimally in most places and thus having a leak will often provide the perfect host site for bacteria to grow and enter the home through your pipes and into the water supply, again leading to multiple health conditions and concerns.
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Damage to the Home:

Drywall can be severely damaged by leaks and mold.  Once the mold has begun growing on drywall, it almost always will need to be entirely replaced. Additionally, it can cause the need for major renovations to an affected area, which is often costly, especially when there is structural damage.
Flooding

It is safe to say that the larger the amount of water associated with a leak, the more important the necessary repair will need to be.  The unfortunate part about flooding is that sometimes, the mess is too big to clean up, and you simply have to start over.

Flooding can cause damage to both the home itself as well as to everything inside of it, structurally and personal possessions.  It can also cause such severe damage that the home can sometimes be deemed unsuitable for habitation, in which case it will need to be entirely rebuilt and or renovated.

So how do I prevent plumbing leaks from happening?

Leak detection can often be done with the naked eye, but there are several other ways that professionals use to determine the source of the leak when it can’t be easily identified.  Technology has advanced such so that certain techniques use technology that would have in the past required a plumber to make an educated guess and take the approach of trial and error.

Radar: Radar waves that penetrate through the ground can be used to identify the location of a leak. Gas is also used to detect leaks. By pumping hydrogen or another gas into a pipe, plumbers use a special device that tracks the movement and shows the location of the leak.

Cameras can also be used by inserting them into a pipe and identifying them with the naked eye.
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A geophone is a tool that amplifies sound and captures it which then allows someone to detect the water leak simply by the noise that it is producing.

There are many different reasons that one might consider routinely checking for water leaks, both for health reasons personally, and the health of the home.

The best thing is to stop it as soon as it starts.

The longer a leak goes undetected, the more potential therein lies for larger damages, which often will result in costly repairs.

It is equally as important to know what to look for as well as what to look out for and to perform routine checks on your home in the areas with the highest water traffic.

Another key to prevention is to make sure that systems bringing water in or removing water from your home are routinely serviced and that you are keeping an eye out for anything unusual.

As soon as you see any of the aforementioned indicators, it is a good idea to take a look around and see if you can identify any potential problems, and if you can’t, call someone in to help.

What Plumbers Actually Do and When to Call One?

When it comes to maintenance and homeownership, there are a few numbers that one should always keep on hand to call in case something goes wrong.

Among these few you should keep is the number of a good plumber.

However, just as important as having the number of a trusted plumber, is knowing what they are capable of doing for you and when you should reach out to them for help.

Though plumbers are most known for solving the world’s clogged up drains and leaking faucets, they actually are able to do a lot of things. If you own a home, or any property, you will likely need a plumber at some point, if not on multiple occasions.

Where: Inside and outside of the home

So mostly plumbers are known for their work on things inside the house, primarily in the bathrooms and kitchens.

Many of us think of the stereotypical photos of the plumber with their top half entirely under the sink with the bottom half of their body laid out on the floor while they solve leaks and clogs.

But they actually do a lot of work both inside and outside of the house.

 

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In The Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most common places we think of when we think of plumbers, but here are some things you may not have thought of that a plumber can do for you in the kitchen.

Plumbers can install and run water lines to and from the refrigerator for both water dispensers and ice makers.
Garbage disposals are extremely helpful in getting rid of unwanted waste. Plumbers can both install and perform maintenance and repairs on garbage disposals.

Most modern homes have dishwashers. Plumbers can install dishwashers and run the water lines to them as well, and in some cases perform maintenance and repairs on them as well, depending on the issue.

Water conservation has been talked about more and more lately. Plumbers can also install water-saving faucets that will help save money and conserve water.

And of course, they can make sure to fix the leaky faucets and clogged drains as well.

Shutoffs in the kitchen are very helpful in the event of a leak in that they allow the water to be shut off to a particular area without having to shut off the main. For older homes that may not have these, plumbers can install these in the areas of higher traffic such as the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.

 

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In The Bathroom

Generally, in the bathroom, we think of plumbers as the people we call to fix things. However, much like the kitchen, there are actually, many things that we call the plumber for to install as well.

Plumbers are needed to install new toilets, water-saving or otherwise.

Replacing a sink is another good time to call a plumber as you will want to ensure that the lines are properly installed and run to it.

When replacing faucets for tubs, sinks, and showers, it is always best to call in a professional, because you are dealing with water lines and it can be vital to avoiding a potential plumbing catastrophe that the lines are installed and run properly to avoid leaks or even floods. The same is true for shower heads.

Plumbers are also good at fixing things.

Toilets can sometimes “run” constantly, which means it sounds like they are constantly filling themselves back up. This is something a plumber can certainly help with.

Dripping faucets and clogged sinks are probably some of the most common reasons that plumbers are called, but they can also help with tubs that don’t drain or that drain very slowly.

 

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Outdoors

Most people don’t think of calling a plumber for things outdoors, unless something big happens such as a flood in the yard or something like that. But, plumbers actually do a lot of work outdoors too.

All of the plumbing that is needed to run a pool or a spa has to be installed, and usually maintained by a plumber. They are also who you should call if something ever goes wrong with any of these systems.

Barbeques sometimes require that a gas line be run to them, especially if they are built in barbeques. Installing and maintaining gas lines is also something that they specialize in.

Preventing large floods with the installation and maintenance of proper drains and connections to sewage is very important to the safety of a home. Without proper drainage in place, you run the risk of water entering into the home and causing damage.

They also help with frozen pipes. Sometimes, the outside temperatures get so cold that it causes the pipes to freeze and thus stopping water from being directed both to and from a home. This requires expertise to come and defrost the pipe, as well as to ensure that there is no damage to the pipe that could cause them to leak or potentially burst, which could result in serious damage to the home.

Irrigation systems are another big reason that plumbers do work outdoors. Setting up, maintaining, and repairing sprinkler systems are one of the primary functions that keep plumbers busy.
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Other Reasons to Call a Plumber

There are other reasons to call a plumber that you might not think of too, that don’t really fall under any particular category, but are certainly worth mentioning so you know who to call when the issue arises.

Sump Pumps: Sump pumps pump excess water out of a basement or garage usually, or some other area that sits below the home that has the potential to flood. Plumbers help both install and maintain these systems.

Laundry: When your washer is having issues and needs to have a tub replaced, you can call your plumber for this too. They age and tend to need to be replaced every so often rather than buying an entire new machine.

Water Heaters: When water heaters need to be repaired or replaced this is certainly the time to call a plumber for their expertise.

 

In Conclusion
There are many reasons to call a plumber that come up both inside and outside of the house. It is important to keep the phone number of a good plumber that you trust close by as it is better to have and not need one than to need and not have one.

Uncle Bill’s HillCrest Plumbing and Heating service is always on call 24/7 to save homes in Metro Vancouver area!

Save our number as your emergency backup : 604 879 1415

Water Heaters: What kind is right for you?

With so many different options for water heaters these days, it is hard to know which is the best option for your needs.  On average, a household spends $400-$600 per year heating water for the home.  Making the right decision could help save a lot of money as well as be more environmentally friendly.

Storage Water Heaters: If one is merely going for cost efficiency on the front end, the storage water heater is by far the cheapest purchase.  However, they don’t have nearly as long of a life as some of the other options at 10-15 years, and often times energy is wasted because heat is lost due to the fact that the water in it is always being heated regardless of it is being used or not.  A possible solution for this problem would be to additionally insulate the tank to make it more effective.

Tankless Water Heater: While these options are more expensive than the storage water heaters, they have a lifespan of 20 or more years.  They keep water constantly hot so as not to have to waste water.  These are great for those looking to conserve their usage of water.  One thing about the tankless option to note is that they are limited in the flow rates, so a household that is using multiple sources of hot water simultaneously might consider having multiple in order to supply enough hot water and to ensure that they maintain an adequate flow as well.

Heat Pump Water Heaters:  Heat pump water heaters are kind of a middle ground.  They have a life expectancy of 10-15 years.  They are much more energy efficient than the storage water heaters, sometimes even two or three times more.  However, they do expel cold air.  This can sometimes cause a problem depending on where the water heater is being stored.  A possible solution would be to store this kind of water heater outdoors or in a garage where it wouldn’t make a difference to the internal climate during the heating months.

Solar Water Heaters: While these are by far the most expensive of the water heater options, they have been found to be up to fifty percent more efficient than the standard gas or electric water heater.  They also have a longer lifespan of 20 or more years.  Something to consider when looking at this purchase is definitely the need for a sunny environment in order to ensure optimal performance.  One looking to install this kind of system may also consider a backup system for days when they will not be able to access solar energy due to the weather.

Tankless Coil and Indirect Water Heaters: Tankless coil and indirect water heaters tend to run about the same price range as a tankless water heater or a heat pump water heater.  They often have very minimal installation costs and will last about 10-11 years.  However, they tend to not always be the best option, especially for those in warmer climates.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Plumbing Fixes

The top ten plumbing fixes that you can save time and money by DIY with tools you already have on hand.

  1. The leaky faucet:  Most dripping faucets you can repair yourself in about an hour.  First, you will need to determine where the leak is coming from.  Is it at the base or at the tip of the spout?  Next, you’ll want to turn off the water, or at least the shut off valve to that faucet and then lift the lever on the faucet to drain out the excess water.  Once this is done you will take the faucet apart and examine the parts for any signs of wear or damage.  Take the old parts to the store and buy replacement parts.  Put it all back together and you should be good to go.
  2. Leaks in the joints of plumbing: Threaded connections are often the source for leaks in the joints of plumbing.  It is important that they are wrapped with Teflon tape or Teflon joint pipe compound in order to create a water tight seal that won’t leak.
  3. A Running Toilet: Running toilets are a common problem with an easy fix that will cost you less than $10 and shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to repair.  Remove the back of the toilet and flush.  You will usually find that the cause of a running toilet is due to a faulty flapper which can be purchased at the hardware store for $5-$8 and you just remove one and connect the new one.  There aren’t even any tools needed for this fix.
  4. Clogged Bathtub Drains:  Bath tub drains tend to get clogged often.  This is another one that can be fixed without using any tools.  By simply removing the stopper and fishing out any visible debris and hair, most clogs will often be eliminated.
  5. Fixing a Clogged Toilet:  Using a plunger, you will be able to fix 90% of all toilet clogs.  Simply put the plunger into the base of the toilet and compress it and pull back softly.  Repeat this several times as needed until the clog loosens and the water circles down the drain.
  6. Hidden Plumbing Leaks:  Most leaks can be stopped and prevented from causing serious damage if they’re repaired quickly enough.  The hidden leaks are often around bathtubs, showers, toilets, and sinks.  Generally, identifying the source of the leak and then re-caulking the area will do the trick to fix these problems.
  7. A Leaky Water Heater: Water heaters undergo a large amount of pressure most of the time which can often lead to leaks that originate from the pressure valve or the drain valve.  By checking for mineral deposits and cleaning them out, one is more likely to avoid such situations.  They can also be easily fixed by applying a simple cap.
  8. Fix A Water Softener:  Most problems with water softeners can be resolved by checking the brine tank for problems that are caused by salt and by clearing the resin bed.
  9. Replace a Shut Off Valve: Though valves can be removed and rebuilt, it is often best to remove and replace old valves with updated quarter turn valves.  To replace the valve remove it and identify what kind of valve it is, then replace it with an updated version of the same type.
  10. Removing a Stuck Cleanout Plug:  Sometimes tough clogs will cause for the removal of the cleanout plug, which is there as a failsafe for the pipes so as to allow easier access to unclog them if necessary.  They can be pried open using a pipe wrench, heat, and if needed, a hacksaw.
Plumbing Inspection

A Homebuyer’s Plumbing Checklist

A Homebuyer’s Plumbing Checklist

Buying a home is usually the biggest purchase that most people make throughout their lifetime.  While you may not be a jack of all trades, here are few things to arm yourself with knowledge against unexpected plumbing mishaps that could potentially break the bank when purchasing a home.

What questions should you ask?

There are a lot of things that you won’t be able to see or know unless you ask the current owner.  Asking a list of basic questions should give you as the prospective buyer a good idea of what, if any, current plumbing issues there are as well as possible problems.  This also will give you a good idea of what the upcoming maintenance schedule will look like as well as how regularly things have been serviced before you buy the home.

  • What is the age of the current plumbing system?  Purchasing an older home may mean that the plumbing is old too.  If it has never been replaced, the age of the plumbing will help predict when it is due to be updated.
  • When was the last time the sewer was inspected?  Sewer lines can cause serious and expensive trouble when they are in need of repair.  Knowing when the last sewer inspection was completed will give you either a sense of comfort knowing that all is well, or could be an indication that this is something you may want to look at having done to ensure that everything is in working order.
  • What kind of water heater does the home have and when was it last replaced, serviced, or inspected?  Water heaters should be serviced every six months to keep them in proper working order.  There are also many different kinds of water heaters, and the new ones being more energy efficient, will give you a good idea of what kind of costs to expect here as well.  It might also be something worth looking into if it needs to be updated.

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  • Is there a sump pump, and not, does one need to be installed?  Certain homes are located in areas that require a pump to be installed under the home or in the basement to pump excess water away from the home in case of flooding.  It is very important to inquire about the sump pump, it’s age and condition.
  • Have any pipes broken or burst in the past?  Knowing if there have been any major plumbing emergencies is important as this can be a strong indicator of the kinds of repairs that may be needed in the near future to prevent another plumbing emergency from happening.  Often if one of the pipes broke, it’s a good indicator that the others are at risk for the same thing happening to them.

What things should you look for?

Often times plumbing issues can be identified even by the untrained eye if you know what to look for.  Most people will walk through the home that they plan on buying multiple times before they actually purchase it.  Here are a few things that you can do and look for as you inspect a home that could indicate potential plumbing problems so as to have them repaired prior to purchase or to plan for repairs that you’ll need to make.

  • Flush the toilets: Make sure that as you inspect each restroom that you take the time to flush all of the toilets.  As you flush them open the lid to the bowl and see how the water drains and refills to ensure that everything appears to be in proper working condition.  Then remove the backing of the toilet to ensure that the inner workings appear to also be in good condition.  Finally, stay in the bathroom until the toilet has completely finished flushing to ensure that it doesn’t run.

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  • Check the water heater: Make sure to inspect the water heater.  You’ll want to notice the age of the water heater, whether or not it appears to be well insulated, look for any sort of corrosion on the connections, and also check for mineral build-up which is a good indicator of the water heater not being regularly serviced.
  • Run the showers: Nothing is more annoying than when you step into a shower only to find that there is very little water pressure.  As troublesome as this can be, it is also a good indicator of a larger issue that could be resulting from a leak or a clog that is not in a place that is easily seen.  Take the time to turn on the showers and check the water pressure to ensure that everything is in proper working condition.
  • Look in the crawl space under the home: While this may sound like a dirty job, it is worth taking a look under the home to see if there are any signs of leaks or water damage that may not have been visible throughout the inspection.  Often times, this is where the plumber will be making any repairs and things if they are required.  Even taking a couple of minutes to shine a flash light if you prefer not to get under the home, could reveal a leak or signs of water damage that you wouldn’t catch otherwise, and could warrant further inspection.
  • Size does matter: Taking the time to check the size of the plumbing that is currently in use could save a lot of money in costly future repairs in the long run.  If pipes aren’t large enough to hold the capacity of water that you’re using, it will result in less water pressure as well as the increased potential for damage in the future.  Ideally, homeowners want pipes to be at least ¾” from the source of water to the home, and ½” or bigger from sinks and faucets.

While it is always recommended to get an expert opinion to be sure about plumbing issues and potential problems, these are a few questions to ask and things to look for to give you some direction on whether or not further inspection might be warranted.

Plumbing Emergency

Preventing Plumbing Emergencies

Preventing Plumbing Emergencies

Sometimes plumbing emergencies just happen. They happen to the best of us. They even happen to people with plumbing expertise.  Yes, even plumbers have plumbing problems.  The good news is that there are little things that you can do to help prevent plumbing problems from turning into plumbing disasters.

Toilets

Of all the different things in your home that use plumbing regularly, research shows that toilets are the most likely to have a plumbing emergency and cause some serious damage to your home. Here are some things that you can do to ensure that your toilet works properly and hopefully prevent any major malfunctions:

  • Make sure that when you flush the toilet. Flush it regularly and make sure that there isn’t anything out of the norm.
  • Be sure that if there is ever a plumbing emergency related to or caused by the toilet that you know where and how to shut off the valve.
  • Check the parts of your toilet that make it work properly on a regular basis.  When you remove the back of the toilet there are four parts, the fill valve, the flapper, the handle and the chain.  If you have never observed them before, remove the back of the toilet and flush it to see how they work.  Check them periodically to ensure that they are in proper working order.
  • Sometimes the toilet will run continuously.  It will sound as though it is constantly filling itself up.  This is usually because the flapper is in need of replacement.  When this happens, if it is not a repair you’re comfortable doing on your own, make sure you get our guys at Hillcrest Plumbing to fix it right away.

inside-toilet-tank-parts

Sinks

Another source of expensive plumbing repairs can be the water supply connections to a sink.  There are a few things to look for to ensure that your sink’s connections are in proper working order.

  • Look for leaks!  Check under the sink at the connectors and look for signs of leaks periodically.  You might notice things like a slow drip or even just corrosion on the pipes that might have been caused by water.
  • Check the lines to ensure that there aren’t any kinks in them if the lines are copper or plastic.
  • Locate and check the functionality of your shut off valve.  It is important to know where the shut off valve is located and also to test it periodically to ensure that it moves freely and is easily operated in the event of a plumbing mishap.

Water Heaters

Did you know that most water heaters will burst or leak before the expected life of the product has expired?  With these containers holding often forty-sixty gallons of water, they can certainly to a lot of damage.  The following are some preventative measures that will help prolong the life of your water heater and prevent major damage from being caused by a leak or burst.

  • Sediment will start to build up in the tank of your water heater, especially if you live in an area where the mineral content is especially high.  The best way to ensure that these things don’t become a problem is to drain the sediment at least twice per year to keep the build up at minimal levels.
  • Also it is a good idea to have the water heater professionally inspected regularly at least once every two to three years.
  • Your water heater has a pressure release valve that should be activated twice a year as well to ensure that should the need for it arise, that it is in proper working condition.

typical_installation_chronomite_tankless_water_heater

Washing Machines

Water connects from the source to your washing machine through the use of flexible water hoses that are often the source of leaks when it comes to washing machines.  This is one thing that insurance companies are particularly aware of and, as such, they provide a list of guidelines and recommendations as to how these hoses can be properly wrapped so as to prevent significant damage that can be caused by these things leaking.

  • Turning off the water supply valve when the washing machine is not in use is a great way to prevent large leaks, especially when you’re going to be away from the home for extended periods of time.  There is a lever type of valve that can be installed to allow for easier operation turning it on and off.
  • Another way to prevent plumbing emergencies is to make sure that the machine is only on when you’re home.  That way if something were to malfunction, there is someone there to find it and shut the water off.
  • Ensure that there is enough space between the wall and the machine to make sure that there aren’t kinks in any of the hoses.
  • Periodically examine behind the washing machine for leaking water on the floor.
  • Examine the hoses periodically and check for leaks or cracks in the hoses.
  • Make sure that the connectors to the hoses and the faucet are tight, but not too tight.
  • Hoses should be replaced every six months to ensure that they are not being affected by wear and tear of age that could potentially lead to a larger problem.

Sump Pumps

Basements, being the lowest point in the home, are the most susceptible to the damage that can be caused by a flood.  Sump pumps serve as the best defense against the damage that can be caused by flooding.  These easy steps can help to keep your sump pump in excellent operating condition.

  • Regularly remove the lid to the sump pump and check for debris and things that could cause clogging in your system.
  • Periodically inspect the discharge pipe to ensure that it is clear from debris and things that can cause clogging.
  • Test the sump pump regularly by pouring a significant amount of water into it and making sure that it is functioning properly.

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Plumbing Head

18 Beginner Plumbing Tips That Everyone Should Know

Here are few tips and tricks that every do-it-yourselfer needs to know.

Our guys at Hillcrest Plumbing want you to know some things that they don’t teach in high school but they can save you hours of time, hundreds of dollars, and certainly insurmountable amounts of frustration as you go about your plumbing projects as a beginner.

1. PVC and CPVC pipes are two entirely different things. If you go to the store and do not know which one to ask for, you risk buying a pipe that will not be able to do the job that you need. Even the way we measure these pipes are different, so not only will the pipe likely not fit, they both do different things.

2. CPVC pipe is much more preferable for hot water.Typically professional plumbers will use PVC pipe for cold water and regular water lines and CPVC pipe for hot water lines or things like a dishwasher or a washing machine that often have hot water running through them.

3. They are measured differently. For PVC pipe, one would measure the diameter of the inside of the pipe.  Whereas with CPVC pipe the measurement is taken based on the diameter of the outside of the pipe.  A simple solution to make sure that you get exactly what you are looking for without having to go the store over and over again purchasing the wrong product, is to take a small piece of the pipe that you are looking to fit and replace.  The people at the hardware store will be able to tell you what type of pipe it is and the correct measurement.

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4. Another fun fact: When dealing with PVC, you may find that there are two of everything!  If you look a little bit closer at the fine print on the packaging there will be a little indicator to tell the two apart.  One will have the indicator schedule 40 which is meant only for the use of pressurized hot water lines.  The other indicator will read DWV.  DVW indicates that these pipes are meant for drains, valves, and waterlines.

5. Though there are many different types of pipes, they do make universal cutters for all of types that may be worth investing in.

6. It doesn’t stop with different types of piping.  There are also different types of products for each kind of piping as well. So if you need glue, you need to make sure that the glue coordinates with the kind of pipe you intend on gluing, which of course means that you have to know that there are different kinds of pipes and the kind of pipe that you are trying to glue.

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7. Another thing to note before you glue.  You have to first apply a primer. The primer is something that home inspectors check for to ensure that the job was done right.  Primers will also have to correlate with the type of piping that you are priming.

8. Whatever you are working with whether it be the kitchen, the bathroom, or some other area of your home, you might consider adding a shut-off valve.  Though it may seem like an unnecessary step, it certainly adds convenience in that you can shut off the water to a certain area of your home that you’re working on without having to shut the water off to the entire house.  So if you are changing the drain in the sink, you can still take a shower from the dirty job while the glue dries on your pipes in the kitchen.

9. Plumbing is very specific when it comes to home inspections.  Local codes may have variances, but inspectors do check to make sure that things are done right.

10. The diameter of a shower drain must measure exactly 2” in diameter and maintain this diameter all the way to the main line in order for it to be in regulatory compliance.

11. There is more flexibility for toilet drains.  They can vary in diameter from 3”-4,” but the larger one is always preferable and is less likely to have problems with clogs and back-ups.

12. Vent pipes are required along the exterior of your home for all toilets.  Each toilet must have one unless there are toilets that are close enough together that they are able to connect to the same vent pipe.

13. Toilets must also each have a clean out, which allows for easy accessibility for a plumber to access and unclog back-ups and build-ups.  The same rule applies here for multiple toilets.  They must each have one, but can share a clean out if they are close enough to be connected to the same one.

14. Most sinks have what is called a P trap which is a removable pipe that is often the source of build-ups and clogs.  Most drains can be unclogged by simply removing the P trap and taking out any debris and things that are caught inside.

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15. Lower water pressure is often related to one of three things: a leaky faucet, clogged aerators, or a blockage in your pipes.  All of which are very basic problems that can be tackled by most DIY’s.

16. A water bill that jumps suddenly is often due to a leaky toilet or a toilet that is running constantly.  While this isn’t always the case, the majority of water expenses are due to the frequent use of water in bathrooms, thus indicating that if there is a significant increase there is a high likelihood that this is the source.

17. Constantly running toilets are toilets that seem to run all the time.  This issue is usually caused by a flapper that has gone bad.  The flapper is a rubber part inside the back of the toilet that can often be found at the hardware store for under $10 and it only takes about ten minutes to replace.

18. Quite possibly the most common plumbing problem is that of a leaky faucet.  These can also be caused by the wearing of an aerator, but could also indicate the need for replacement of a washer, rubber seal, or an o ring.  These are all products that can be found at the hardware store for next to nothing and easily replaced by a beginning do-it-yourselfer with little hassle.

Water leak

Leak Detection Can Mean Lots of Work

Has your water bill steadily gone up without any explainable reason due to a lifestyle or occupancy change?

You may have a water leak!

Have you noticed that your water meter is steadily moving, even though you know that no water is supposed to be running when you look at it? 

You may have a water leak!

Is there a foul sewage or mildew buildup in your building or house, but you’re not sure of where it is coming from or why? 

You may have a water leak!

Do you hear a steady flow of water under your foundation, but you’re not sure of exactly where it is flowing? 

You may have a water leak!

Water Leak True Story #1

Here’s a true story from the trenches! A friend of mine had two catastrophic experiences with major water leaks when he was an investor and manager for two apartment complexes, so I trust that this story will be instructive.

The first leak showed up and made itself known after we had replaced the carpet in one of the bottom units. The building was built on top of a slab, and the leak was a sewer leak three feet below the concrete. The two upper units also backed up from the toilets. This had managed to create a small pool. The water rose to the surface in one unit, soaking the carpet. Deteriorated sewer water pipes have broken into small pieces under the grade. The result: all sewage was pooling under the floor and not to the sewer. In this case, since this was a small, 12-unit building, it was easy to find but not repair. The fix was to completely tear out the carpet and cut out a channel of concrete through the kitchen and into the main hall to get to the plumbing water sewage pipes. So, we had to move the tenant as well. All of the plumbing below the grade was replaced; the concrete and the kitchen floor had to be repaired, as well as all the counters had to be replaced.

Water Leak True Story #2

The second experience was in a slab foundation of a 36-unit apartment building. My friend was alerted to the fact that there was a gurgling sound below a stairwell. Upon further investigation, his main water meter was spinning out of control even during the day when most tenants were working. Apparently, it had started between billing cycles and was going on for about three weeks before it was noticed. Now, since there was not supposed to be any water pipes directly under the stairwell, why was the gurgling sound coming from there? Of course, flowing water will follow to the lowest, least resistive place. He had a pool of water growing under his building that could soon turn into an underground lake! Through turning off several splitter valves, he was able to determine that the leak was coming from one of six units within the building. That was all he knew. Now what was he supposed to do? He had to call in a professional plumbing company (Uncle Bill’s Hillcrest Plumbing), who had on contract a professional leak detection specialist.

What was needed was some specialized equipment to determine the location of the actual leak before they started to tear out walls and floors. Well, as it turned out, the actual leak itself was about 30 to 40 feet away from where a person could hear the actual flow of water. It was, of course, a subterranean leak. Again, tearing out the kitchen and concrete floor and repairing the offending pipe was a huge cost. Also, one had to prove to the city that the water used did not go through the sewer system, so we needed a sewage rebate. That was not an easy case to prove! What was the cost? Between the two buildings, it was over $30,000. That certainly cut into profits, even with insurance coverage with a deductible of $5,000 per incident.

Cold, Leaky Reality

These stories from the trenches are to bring to reality the difficulty it is in dealing with water leaks and knowing about them before they occur. They can occur anywhere, not just below the surface. When they do, be prepared for the worst! Better yet, get yourself educated here and learn about some prevention! Water Leak Detection What does it take actually to detect a water leak? How can you know for sure where the leak is if it is not readily viewable to the obvious, like a faucet rupturing? If you know that there is a leak, but do not know the source, call in a professional. Everything else is a waste of time and money.

Obviously, if water leak occurs above ground, it may be a little easier to find. You will see the water collecting on the floor, under a sink or in a wall. For those with basements, some of the piping will be exposed in the basement ceiling. Getting the water shut off and getting the obvious offending pipe repaired will be a little more challenging and costly. So, honey, what did you say you wanted to do this weekend? However, it is the underground piping that can go undetected for a very long time. This is where you are going to have to employ the services of a professional, who will use acoustic leak detection. This is also where knowing your house or building blueprints will come in handy. Depending on the water pressure and the pipe material, you may hear different sounds. Pipe vibration will be different than water already flowing in and around the pipe. Water under pressure leaking from a pipe will sound different than water flow causing the surrounding rocks and pebbles to be moving and hitting the surrounding cavity. Besides, these sounds are affected by many other factors such as the type of pipe used – copper or PVC or concrete pipes. The diameter of the pipes, the soil and rock composition around the pipe, and the depth of the pipe are all variables in the sound of running water. Another variable is how sound travels through soil or concrete. Soil can absorb this sound which attenuates it quickly. Again, the diameter of the pipe, the water pressure, the surrounding soil, and the depth all come into consideration when trying to detect the source of the leak.

Ease of Mind

This is where the services of a professional leak detection company, which spared no expense in obtaining the proper and well-designed acoustic detector, will be worth the expense. These professionals will have the training, the experience, and the know-how to find the leak location. It is only then that the real work of getting to and repairing that leak is where all the major expense is. Why waste more time, water, and money looking for the leak? Find it and get it fixed! Acoustic Detectors Acoustic detectors to work the best for most leak problems to date. They are especially suited for identifying the location of loud leaks and shallow leaks. However, the other types of detectors are correlators, correlating loggers, and leak-no leak loggers. Various manufacturers have their makes, models, and applications. The reason these other types of detectors are mentioned is to confirm that getting the right equipment is paramount. It confirms that knowing where you hear the gurgling sound is not necessarily where the leak is, as in my true life story.

Whether you are a homeowner or a commercial property owner, knowledge of acoustic detection is valuable. There is a nice report entitled “Leak Detection: Buy the Right Equipment for your System.” It was one of the handouts at the American Water Works 2014 Conference in Eugene, Oregon. Whether you are Canadian or American, you will find the information very useful and educational.

Water Leak Prevention – Better than Water Leak Detection So, if you have taken the time to get this far, then you probably can surmise that preventing water leaks is a better choice than having to detect them. Although water leaks are never 100% preventable, simply due to the aging of pipes and fixtures, some very important prevention can minimize the possibility. We have compiled a list of things you can do to prevent a water leak, or to quickly stop one in progress. Some of these are intuitively obvious, but they still need to be mentioned due to human nature. Let’s cover some of them:

  • Read your water meter weekly. Keep a simple record of the usage. Also, notice the water flow needle. Is it moving when it should not be moving? Compare your monthly water bills. Aside from seasonal usage, does one bill have a huge difference in usage compared to previous bills? Maybe once a month, performing a quick visual inspection of all of your water valves would be recommended. Turn them off and back on. This includes your toilet inlet valve. Do you notice water leakage or water stains? It’s time to replace the valve.
  • Check the pipe fixture connections to your appliances.
  • Replace washing machine hoses about every five years.
  • Listen for running water in your bathroom. This is most likely a toilet problem. A slow-running toilet can cause a huge water bill from wasted usage. Do not just jiggle the handle; get it fixed!
  • Inspect all of your cabinets under your sinks. Are there water drips or stains?
  • Inspect your dishwasher hoses when you inspect your washing machine hoses.
  • Check for condensation, stains, and corrosion around pipe fittings.
  • Is the floor cracked, warped, or buckled? If so, that’s a good indication that you have a leak.
  • Have your HVAC serviced annually!
  • Consider having an automatic water shut-off valve installed
    • Whole house
    • Appliance only
      • Using an automatic water shut-off valve will immediately stop the water flow if a leak causes an increase in a predetermined per-minute water flow setting. This will allow you to turn the flow back on manually in search of your leak, as described above. It will also prevent the unnecessary and wasteful use of water.

Water leak prevention will go a long way until you have to do water leak detection. At Hillcrest Plumbing, we want to educate you in prevention first. In case of a water leak, please contact us immediately. We will get it resolved for you quickly, professionally, and in the timeliest manner.