Author: Oregon Cascade

Oops, I Did It Again!


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


Why Do You Get Toilet Leaks?

toilet2Sometimes you just can’t figure out why your toilet is leaking, you just know it is. This is one of the most common problems a homeowner has. It’s an inconvenience, to say the least. There is one test you can perform to see if the leak is bleeding into your toilet bowl.

Take a few drops of blue or green food coloring (a bright color) and drop them into your tank (not the bowl). If the water in the bowl begins to turn the color without flushing, then it’s possible the flapper is leaking. That’s an easy fix.

You may find a puddle of water nearby the toilet; that could be the result of a cracked tank, bowl or a rusty pipe. If you have plastic water lines to the toilet, one of them may have sprung a leak.

You could repair all of the above yourself, but having a licensed reputable plumber fix your toilet ills could save you time and money in the long run.  Remember you can contact Firkus Plumbing anytime for a repair or inspection! 541-382-7710.


Something to Think About

Death, taxes and…plumbing! These three things everyone will experience in their lifetime. It’s hard to realize that plumbing plays such an important part in your life, but think:  without proper plumbing, you could not have the convenience of fresh water at your fingertips; could not flush your toilet, could not have a warm bath or shower, could not water your garden or lawn; and so on.

Most people do not realize the value of plumbing until they have to live without it, even for a day! We take for granted the plastic (PEX), copper and iron pipes and don’t give them another thought when we are going through our daily routines.

One of today’s endangered species is the experienced, licensed plumber. While today’s youth seem to be attracted to technology, they don’t see the rewards the plumbing service industry offers.

Think about it: if you have ever had something go wrong where you live or work, you want the problem fixed quickly! Imagine your toilet is clogged; you can’t flush, or it overflows onto the floor with debris. Yuck! Your kitchen faucet continually drips or under the sink you discover a puddle – what a mess! Have you tried to take a warm shower when you were shocked with nothing but cold water? You don’t want to wait too long to get it fixed. When a plumber comes to the rescue, you quickly find out how much you appreciate them!

Plumbing 101plumbing license guide

As in almost all trades, there is an apprenticeship program that requires plenty of classroom time (144-216 hours a year) as well as on-the-job training with a licensed professional plumber. This program can take several years to complete. Counselors with the program will be with each candidate every step of the way, from entry level through license testing. Plumbing has historically been looked at as a man’s profession, but there are much more women entering the trade every year!

While age-old plumbing practices are still used in many instances today, there is plenty of advancement in plumbing equipment and fixtures that require knowledge of computer programs and intricate platforms to install those new plumbing features and systems.

The State of Oregon has information regarding requirements to become a licensed plumber. Classes begin in the fall. You can find out more  by clicking here.

If you know someone who is looking for an exciting profession – plumbing may be the right fit! Feel free to contact us at 541-382-7710 with questions about becoming a plumber.

Fun Plumbing Facts

  • einsteinAlbert Einstein was named an honorary member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union after saying publicly that he would become a plumber if he had to do it all over again.
  • The world’s most famous plumbers are probably video game superstars Mario and Luigi of Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers series.
  • Copper piping, which is the #1 material used for plumbing work in today’s world, is the same material that the Egyptians used to lay their own pipe – some 3000 years ago!
  • pyramidArchaeologists have recovered a portion of a water plumbing system from the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. The evidence of indoor plumbing in palaces dates back to 2500 B.C.E.
  • Since 1963, more than 28 billion feet or about 5.3 million miles of copper plumbing tube has been installed in U.S. buildings. That’s equivalent to a coil wrapping around wrap-around-the-earththe Earth more than 200 times. The current installation rate now exceeds a billion feet per year.
  • In a typical home, more than 9,000 gallons of water are wasted while running the faucet waiting for hot water. As much as 15% of your annual water heating costs can be wasted heating this extra 9,000 gallons.
  • Although his name is commonly used to describe this popular household item, the truth is… there is no hard evidence anywhere that English plumber Thomas Crapper crapperwas the inventor of the modern-day toilet. It’s believed Crapper may have bought the patent rights from another man, Albert Giblin, and marketed the concept as his own.
  • If a drip from your faucet fills an eight ounce glass in 15 minutes, it will waste 180 gallons per month and 2,160 gallons per year.
  • In the tomb of a king of the Western Han Dynasty in China (206 BC to 24 AD), archaeologists discovered a 2,000-year-old “toilet” – complete with running water, a stone seat and even a comfortable armrest! The finding marked the earliest known water closet, which is quite like what we are using today.
  • The Earth has somewhere in the neighborhood of 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 earth-water-2gallons (326 million trillion gallons) of water on the planet. Roughly 98% of our water is in the oceans of the world and therefore is unusable for drinking because of the salt content. That means only around 2% of the planet’s water is fresh, but 1.6% of that water is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. Another 0.36% is found in very deep, underground sources; meaning only about 0.036% of the planet’s total water supply is found in lakes and rivers (our main supplies of drinking water!)
  • Keeping your home or business plumbing in tip-top shape will keep your repairs bills down, increase the value of your home or business and minimize headaches!

You can depend on Firkus Plumbing for all of your plumbing needs and renovations. Firkus is one of Central Oregon’s oldest family owned plumbing companies. Contact us at: 541-382-7710.

Should You Switch to High Efficiency Fixtures?   

water-conserveThe cost of living life is going to continue to rise – trust us! We are always looking for ways to cut costs and one way to save money and help the environment as well is to switch out your plumbing fixtures to high efficiency fixtures.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says if all U.S. households installed water efficient fixtures and appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year!

Low-flow fixtures are not new; they’ve been around for a long time, but now there are many ultra-low flow fixtures that can save you money while being very efficient.


Toilets are the biggest water user and waster in a home. If your toilet was installed before 1994, it probably uses over 1 ½ gallons per flush. Readily available on the market today is an ultra-low flush toilet that uses no more than about 1 ¼ gallons per flush.  Also, a dual-flush toilet uses a lower flush button for liquid waste and a high-flush button for solid waste.   dual-flush

If you’re not ready to swap out the throne yet, you can save water by placing a small water bottle, (filled with water, the cap on) in the toilet tank for water displacement. *Note: do not use a brick or any material that can break down sitting in water as it could easily clog up the works!

For the utmost in conservation, consider a composting toilet, which uses little
or no water for flushing.


Inefficient faucets (those that use more than 2 ½ gallons per minute) can be replaced with highaerator efficiency faucets that have a flow rate of no more than 1 ½ gallons per minute.  Another way to save water (& money) is to install a simple aerator or flow restrictor to your existing faucet.

Shower Heads:

20% of the average indoor household water use comes from the shower, especially if you love those long hot ones.  Many households have opted to upgrade to those drive-through car wash style showers or the big rain forest “plate” sized shower heads for a luxury shower; those can use as much as 20 gallons of water per minute! Not only are you using a lot of water, you are taxing your water heater and burning up electricity or gas! An energy saving option is to install an ultra-low-flow shower head, available when you schedule service from Firkus Plumbing or any plumbing supplier.

Washing Machines: 

The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry a year.  (The average washing machine uses 23 gallons of water per load.) Soap manufacturers have improved their product, making better use with less soap, and washing machines have also become more efficient with options for less water use. (The newer machines use 15 gallons per high-efficeincy-washerload.)  If your washing machine was manufactured before 1998, you probably have an energy wasting machine. If you are not in a position to buy a new washer one tip to help you conserve is to make sure your load setting is appropriate for the amount of laundry you are washing. Many soaps can clean clothes with cold water as well as hot, thus saving on water heating costs. If you are purchasing a new washer, be sure to look for models carrying the Energy Star® logo.


Older dishwashers (made before 1994) will use between 10-15 gallons of water with every use.  Newer makes of dishwashers can come equipped with: soil sensors to adjust the water usage; improved water filtration systems allowing for efficient use of water to clean debris off dishes and provide an ultra-clean rinse and innovative dish rack designs, helping get the most advantage of the water spray.

To find out about getting cash or other incentives for switching to energy saving appliances or products, click here.

New Year’s Resolutions – For Your Home’s Plumbing Health


When midnight of December 31st rolls around, after the hoopla has died down, you may be one of the millions of people who make and attempt to keep New Year’s Resolutions. They usually involve some personal growth or improvement issues, but why not think about trying to do something that will help prevent expensive or pesky problems in the future?

We’ve made a short list of a few common practices you can incorporate into your everyday life that will help protect your home’s plumbing.

  1. The most common complaint a plumber gets is clogged drains or toilets. Some simple things to remember will help prevent clogs. For your kitchen sink, a basket strainer will help catch large debris from going down the pipes. Got grease to dispose of? Not down the drain, thank you very much! After cooling, it should be thrown in the trash in a safe container. (Tip: you can refrigerate/freeze the grease for easy handling). In the bathroom: once again a basket strainer works wonders for catching hair, rings, earrings, etc.

Toilet clog: Mostly, we see too much wadded up paper clogging the pipes. That, along             with the collection of Q-tips, washcloths, toys & medication containers are items
that just don’t move along the pipes well and do not dissipate quickly.

  1. Fix that annoying running toilet before it gets bigger. And we mean your water bill will get bigger. Leaking flappers and seals, even just a little, can “grow” your water bill several times over by letting it go. Think water conservation! (And it’s a very inexpensive fix!)
  2. Check the age of your water heater. Most water heaters’ best years are the first 10; they deteriorate rapidly after that. Have a plumber give your water heater a thorough check-up so you won’t wake up one morning to a cold shower (unless you want one!) Also, an inefficient water heater can use up as much as 25% of your monthly utility budget!
  3. The garbage disposal myth: Your garbage disposal really doesn’t like all garbage! If you need to get rid of a lot of starchy foods like rice, potatoes or pasta, it’s best they do not go down the drain. That starch is sticky & will begin to form a clog. Please – no bones about it! Really – no bones: splinters & shards. Enough said. Fibrous foods like celery, onion peels, corn husks, asparagus, etc., are stringy and wreak havoc on the spinning grinders. Toss ‘em in the trash or compost.

Simple things you can make of habit of doing (or not doing) in the new year will save you money in the long run!