Does It Seem Your Water Heater Is Getting Temperamental?

water heater problemYour old reliable water heater may be aging a bit, giving inconsistent hot-warm-cold water. Why is it doing this?

Sediment

Especially in places where the water is hard, sediment buildup is a common issue. If there is thick sediment build up in the bottom of the water heater, it will affect its performance. This buildup may be covering the heating assembly, preventing it from heating the water adequately. To keep it in check, it’s recommended to flush out your water heater annually.

Heating Element or Burners

As mentioned above, sediment may be the problem; and for electric water heaters, the coils may be wearing down. Replacing the coil is an easy fix. For tankless water heaters, the burner assembly may have become clogged and should be cleared. In fact it is probably a good idea to have everything checked out annually.

Dip Tube

The dip tube is the part inside the water heater that delivers the cold water into the tank to be heated. If your hot water is suddenly warm, the dip tube may have a crack in it (mixing cold water with the warm near the top) and needs replacement.

Circulator Pumps

Commonly known as “circ pumps” in the plumbers world; this pump may be broken. A circ pump boosts the heated water to the various outlets in your home. Again, it is an easy and fairly inexpensive fix.

For all of your plumbing needs, you can count on us; we’re Firkus Plumbing, one of Central Oregon’s oldest family owned plumbing service. Call us today for a water heater checkup or any plumbing issue: 541-382-7710.

Hydro Jetting – It’s Exactly What It Sounds Like

hydro jetHydro jetting is a process where a high pressure jet-spray of water (up to 4000 psi) is used to clean out blockages in pipes (not toilets). Usually restaurants schedule a regular drain cleaning to get rid of grease and other food build up.

In a residence a big clog might be more than something flushed down the drain, i.e. hair, toys, clothing, paper, etc.  It may be tree roots that have invaded the pipe. Hydro jetting can cut through some of them, but you probably should get a snake involved to break up the larger roots.

One caution about tree roots; most likely they got in there through a small crack in the pipes and hydro jetting and snaking may make the problem worse. So we recommend having the sewer line inspected with a camera. This can be arranged through a licensed plumber.

Since hydro jetting uses only water, it is environmentally friendly. It cleans out all the residue on the pipe walls, where snaking just removes the clog.

Hydro jetting should be done by a professional. The high-pressure could damage lines if not properly monitored and performed.  If you would like to have your pipes hydro jetted, give a call! Firkus Plumbing 541.382.7710

Thinking of Replacing Your Toilet?

There comes a time in life when you think about replacing the most used fixture in your home: your toilet.toilet2

If you’ve had the toilet for a number of years, you probably don’t give it a second thought until you need a repair or the “flapper” changed. But maybe you’re thinking of replacing that porcelain throne with something a little different.

Before we get to the new stuff, let’s review the old stuff.  As hardy as porcelain is, it can develop hairline fractures that will widen over time. Because the toilet bowl & tank are holding water, the fracture can become a leaky crack quickly.

Another common complaint is a wiggly toilet. This could be a simple fix; the bolts may have become loose and need tightening. Or, it’s possible that water has leaked under the toilet and now the flooring has weakened and it could be rotting, causing the toilet to wobble.

There are any number of reasons why you want to replace your toilet.

toilet futureYou can get overwhelmed with all the choices available today. You may want a toilet that is higher, especially if you have a bad back or knees. Also, there is an elongated seat, which many find much more comfortable to sit on. There are toilets that have bidets built in; (some with a seat warmer) the list seems to stretch as far as your imagination.

Most contemporary toilets have been engineered for efficient flushing. Older models can use 1 ½ gallons or more to flush. Today’s newer models cap it off at 1.25 gallons or less. Some models even have a choice of flush: one of solids and another for liquid waste.

If you are considering a bathroom remodel or just want to change out your toilet, Firkus Plumbing would be glad to help! Give us a call today at 541-382-7710.

Drain Clearing Errors!

Most of us are not exactly excited to call a plumber to clear a drain clog. Having a long history in the plumbing profession, we’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to DIY drain cleaning.

Drain auger (a.k.a. snake): Unless you really know what you’re doing, using a drain drain snakeauger means you may be risking the health of your pipes by placing extra stress on them from the power of the auger and the coil at the end. An auger can damage the pipes, and if you do not have the correct size, will be ineffective.

Coat Hanger: Do you see how skinny they are? They will be the most ineffective “tool” you can use, plus there is a chance that it will get stuck.

Chemical Drain Cleaners: As convincing as the advertising is, by and large they won’t drain cleanerdestroy the clog. Add to that the abrasive and corrosive chemical ingredient; you’ve got a recipe for a dangerous situation should it splash back or break something.

The Garden Hose: There are very few circumstances where the water pressure from a garden hose can dislodge a clog and 99% of the time, it won’t work for garden hoseyou. The most likely result will be a big wet mess. It’s best to have a plumber dislodge a clog with a garden hose as they have been trained on how to do it correctly.

Mr. Fix-It Yourself: Unless you have experience or knowledge in plumbing, the possibility that you will over tighten something or damage a pipe when you remove or replace it is just too probable. Leave it to a plumber.

The best fix it is: clog prevention! Don’t flush anything down the toilet that could cause the clog. Diapers, feminine products, toys, etc., all are the usual suspects when clogs occur. For sink or tubs: hair is the #1 culprit. In the kitchen, grease & food particles, including vegetable peels, are excellent sources of clogging. As Ben Franklin says: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

How To Use A Plunger

There are 2 types of plungers: a “cup” or flat bottomed type that is used for sinks or a plungers“flanged” or tapered plunger for toilets.

Make sure you are using the right plunger for the job.  Knowing how to use a plunger correctly means you won’t end up with an injury. Also, the suction could be ineffective to remove a clog.

For a toilet clog make sure the tapered end of the plunger is placed completely over the opening at the bottom on the bowl to create the suction needed.  When you compress the plunger, it should be evident that it has made a good contact with the drain at the bottom. There will be some resistance when you pull it back.

Use short, quick straight in and out motions with the plunger. Don’t let your hands slip on the plunger arm, as it could cause an injury.  After several tries, if you are not able to clear the toilet, you should call a licensed professional. They have the expertise to clear the toilet without causing any damage to the porcelain.

If you wish to try to unclog a sink, use the flat bottomed plunger. You will also need to plug up the overflow drain opening in the sink or tub. This will help create the suction needed to loosen a clog.  Again, make sure the bell of the plunger is completely covering the drain and with short, rapid up and down movements, try to loosen the clog. If the clog is not released after a few tries, you will probably need the services of a plumber.

Note: If you have put chemical drain cleaner in the sink, be sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your skin from any splash back.

Oops, I Did It Again!

oops

Things that you tried to do, but it just didn’t work out that way.

  1. When fixing a sink, faucet or water line, you used incompatible parts; now there’s a leak or that square peg won’t fit into the round hole. Plumbing parts might look simple, but they can be very intricate and while things LOOK like they should go together, for some reason, they won’t fit. A licensed plumber knows how to join parts correctly and secures them so there won’t be any leaking or breaking.

  2. You had a DIY project for your home and after cleaning up, you find the drains are plugged. Construction materials (paints, drywall debris, etc.) can harden & clog a drain faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Your project might look magnificent, except for that standing water in the sink. When you cleaned up after your project, you flushed some debris down the drain and now it’s stuck to the walls of the drain pipes. Time for a thorough drain cleaning, and not with some corrosive chemical in a bottle! A trained drain cleaning technician can get those drains running smoothly again.

  3. Your shower head is drip-drip-dripping away and it’s driving you nuts! Could you have a shower caddy on the shower head that has too many things stored in it? That extra weight is putting stress on the fixture & allowing for a leak to form. Shower heads are generally not designed to hold much of anything, so you may need to invest in something with suction cups and attach it to a wall or tub rim.

  4. Let’s see; your kitchen or bathroom faucet won’t shut off all the way and there is an annoying little drip or stream of water. So you use all your might to crank it tighter to stop the water. Not a good idea! The handle could break off outright; or the insides could loosen and not grab as it should. A licensed plumber knows what needs to be done to stop that leak. It might be just a matter of installing a new cartridge inside the faucet, but getting the proper part is important. Or, it might be time for a whole new faucet.

  5. And speaking of #4; thread stripping is one of the most common problems that arise stripped threadsfrom DIY’ers. If you tighten a connection too much, you could (and many time do) strip the threads at the connection or bend it so there are tiny gaps that leak. A licensed plumber has experience and he knows just the right amount of pressure needed to get the job done properly.

 

Mold & Mildew: The Silent Enemy

moldFirst things first:

How can you tell the difference between mold & mildew?

Mold and mildew are closely related fungi. You can see mold as a black, brown or green fuzz that is found on rotting food or other plant material. But you may also find it on tile, plastic, in your homes’ insulation or even sheet rock. If you’ve got a powdery pattern of black or dark grey spots on your clothing, leather, ceilings, books, papers, plants, floors, furniture, etc., that most likely is mildew. Plus it smells swampy or musty.

Even in dry climates, mold can develop in some unusual (or usual places) in your home. Generally, the bathroom tends to be a common breeding ground for most mold. Hot baths and showers leave a mist on walls and floors that doesn’t dry up very fast and can seep in. Compound that with poor ventilation and you’ve got prime real estate for mold.

A basement is also a favorite spot that mold likes to hide. It’s dark, it’s damp and most people won’t discover it for a long time.  The cause is usually a water leak from an exposed pipe or in the wall/foundation.  That means it’s party time in the basement.

So let’s talk about how to deal with mold & mold outbreaks prevention.

vinegarThere is something in your kitchen, right under your nose that is a natural mold fighter. White vinegar. Pour it straight into a spray bottle & spray a healthy amount on the moldy surfaces*. Let it sit for at least an hour. If you have an exhaust fan (like in the bathroom) or a regular fan, let it circulate the air during that hour. Open a window to help mute the vinegar smell.

After at least an hour, wipe up the moldy surfaces with hot water- make sure you get every speck.  The area must be thoroughly dry or you’ll be back at it again before too long! (Of course by now, you might have a desire for a nice salad with Italian dressing….)

Get in the habit of cleaning or lightly spraying those vulnerable surfaces with the vinegar spray to ward off mold growth.

  • Try to get fresh air into the bathroom after bathing; if you have an outside window, vent fanopen it for a bit to let the steam out.
  • Dry your tub/sinks after using them; water is water and left on surfaces, it will contribute to the humidity in the room.
  • If you live in a damp area, you might want to think about investing in a dehumidifier or some other product designed to dry up the air a bit.

*If you have antique copper or oil rubbed bronze fixtures, consult with a plumbing supply professional, as vinegar may be too strong and discolor surfaces. If you have concerns; a reputable plumbing supplier is happy to give you cleaning suggestions.  

Where does it start?

High humidity plus the cooler temperatures in the basement produces a lot of condensation. Condensation collects on cold metal pipes, cold concrete basement floors (even if there is carpet over the top) and on walls. 

One of the biggest causes of mold in the basement is flooding. If a house is flooded, water runs down to the basement and stays there long after the other rooms have dried.

If your basement gets flooded, unless you have a professional disaster restoration company take care of the damage, there is a high probability for mold growth.

mold blackDangerous molds like toxic black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) can start to grow after a flood. These molds need materials to be very wet for several days to begin growing.

If your house does get flooded, immediately clean & dry everything as soon as possible. Get rid of any standing water. Use fans, dehumidifiers, air conditioner, or anything that will get air circulating through the house to remove any moisture in floors & walls. Furniture, carpeting and drapes will have to be removed and cleaned professionally with chemicals to kill mold.

It’s strongly recommended that any drywall that gets wet be cut out and replaced, even when other parts of the home are completely dry.

Any item that cannot be readily cleaned & dried should be thrown out.

A final thought: Mold & mildew has been known to compromise the structural integrity of a home.mold 3