Sump Pump Maintenance

There are two types of sump pumps: a pedestal and submersible. The pedestal is sump pump1mounted above the sump, making it easy to service. The submersible is located entirely within the sump. As far as costs go, the pedestal is usually cheaper, but can easily collect debris. Submersible pumps are sealed in such a way that debris collection is not a problem.

Sump pumps are used to rid basements or rooms below grade or water level of water that has amassed due to flooding or substantial rains. But if you don’t maintain your sump pump, you could find that it is not removing the water effectively, if at all.

Usually the culprit is debris.  Small rocks, paper, leaves or anything else could be blocking the filter screen, causing the pump to malfunction or quit entirely. It might be a good idea to note on your calendar times to check your sump pump BEFORE you actually need it. (Several times a year)

The easiest way is to slowly pour a bucket of water into the sump pit. If it automatically fires up, your good to go. When visually inspecting the pump, take some time to clean out the sump pit, removing any muck or debris that has collected.

You may be so ambitious and want to attempt to clean the entire pump. A word of caution before trying this: turn off your electricity before disconnecting the pump. Once the pump is disconnected, take it along with the drain line outside & give it a thorough hosing down. Keep hosing it down until the drain line rinses clear. Make sure the sump pit is clear of all debris before re-installing the pump. Only then re-establish the electricity, slowly pour in a bucket of water and see if the pump engages.

If the pump shows signs of stress, or does not fire up, you will probably need to call a plumber to attend to the problem. Firkus Plumbing will be happy to help you maintain or repair your sump pump. Give us a call today! 541-382-7710

Is It Time To Replace Your Water Line?

tree roots in pipe 1We take for granted access to our water supply. The truth is, water lines don’t last forever. If you are living in a newly constructed home, you should not be experiencing any water flow issues. But if you live in a house that is older (say, 25+ years) or have a lot of old tree growth, you may be experiencing some water line issues.

Some water line problems arise when tree roots wrap themselves around or invade the water lines. There are several ways to remove tree roots from the water line including cutting them out to employing toxic chemicals that destroy the roots. If you choose the latter, you need to contact a licensed plumber with training to use the chemicals.

Note that if tree root problems occur over and over, a new water line may be needed.

If your home is very old, the pipes may have just worn out. They do not last forever. Consult your licensed plumber to discuss the options and cost of replacing your water line.

You can prolong the life of your water line with attention to its maintenance and care. Although it may not need to be done annually, having a water line inspection is a good thing. A technician with a specialized camera can survey the inside of the water line to find root invasion, cracks or other problems. The cost of this service is usually reasonable and could be cheaper than having to deal with problems when they become a big headache.

Whatever your plumbing needs, remember that Firkus Plumbing is there for you. We’re one the of oldest family run plumbing services in Central Oregon. Call us today! 541-382-7710.

Is Your Water Soft or Hard?

hard water 2Depending on where you live, your water will be considered either hard or soft.

In definition: hard water contains higher than ordinary levels of dissolved minerals. An example is magnesium and calcium. When they come into contact with carbon monoxide, the result is water that is deemed hard. Evidence of hard water include: white to greenish residue around pipe joints and openings; soap that does not suds up well and a sticky residue when hard water and soap come together.

Soft water contains low concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions. Rainwater is naturally soft because it has not been filtered through the ground, picking up minerals and other natural compounds that transform it into hard water.

If you live in a location where these minerals are not filtering into the water, then your water will be soft.

Both are safe to drink.

Many people will introduce water softeners into their water system to improve the uses of water, such as making laundry soap clean more efficiently and cleaning tubs and sinks. Hard water can leave laundry dingy and a “ring” or scale around the bathtub after bathing. Some people don’t feel they are clean after taking a bath or shower, because the soap does not rinse well.

Softening your water means you have added material containing high amounts of sodium. Water softens as it passes through these sulfonated beads, exchanging the ions. The hardness minerals attach themselves to the beads, while the beads release the sodium into the water.

In the Central Oregon area, we are fortunate to have plenty of lava beds underground that act as an excellent water filter.


Cleaning Your Faucet Aerator

aeratorIf the water doesn’t seem to flow from your faucet as freely as before, it’s possible you need to either clean or replace the faucet aerator. This is something that is fairly simple to do. If you are unfamiliar with the aerator, it’s the little mesh insert in the faucet that helps curb the water usage by mixing air with the water stream. You save up to 30% of the water usage with an aerator.

As with all maintenance or repair projects, always assemble the tools and supplies you think you will need to get the job done. (In fact, it might be a good idea to be over-prepared.)

For this simple repair, you will need the following:


A couple of rags

A rubber wrench

A cup of vinegar, teaspoon of backing soda & some water (not mixed together yet!)

Old toothbrush

WD-40 or similar lubricant

First check to see if you can loosen the aerator by hand. If not, then gently try using the pliers to loosen the aerator from the faucet mouth. You may want to wrap the pliers head in a rag to prevent scratching. You may choose to use a rubber wrench if you have one.

You might have to wiggle the pliers or wrench back and forth a bit to loosen the sediment that has settled in crevices. If it is still stubborn, try using a mixture of vinegar and baking soda on it to dissolve some of the sediment. If you are still struggling, spray a little WD-40 on it to loosen. Once the aerator is loose, it’s easily cleaned with the vinegar mixture, old toothbrush and water.

Once the aerator is cleaned and dried, it can be put back into the faucet. Make sure all parts are completely dry before reassembling (that will prevent sediment or rust from getting a leg up).

Viola! You should have ample water streaming from your faucet now.

It’s A Tankless Job

Common problems with tankless water heaters:

-No hot water

First, check the electric power, gas line and water line
Check the shut off valves to see if they are closed
Is the burner working?
Check for an error code
If in the winter, check to see if the unit or water lines are frozen

-Low water pressure

First check with the utility company to see if there is a low water pressure
problem on their end.

The plumber will:

Check your gas pressure. The gas pressure can effect of water flow to
your appliance and make it work harder to meet the requested
temperature you desire.
Check the water filter for obstructions and other fixtures or plumbing for

-Hot Water Fluctuation

Check the cold water intake to see if there is any debris before calling the

The plumber will:

Check to make sure your vent pipe is the appropriate length
Check the flow sensor to see if it’s damaged
Check the gas line for the correct size and (max.) BTU
Check the plumbing network for any fluctuations

-If the water is too hot:

Check the thermostat to verify where it is set
Check shower heads, faucets for clogs or other blockages that will affect
the temperature.

The plumber will:

Flush and descale the unit, if needed
Check the output temperature sensor. It could be misaligned or broken

-Water not hot enough

Water temp set too low?
Check the venting system; is it clean of debris & does it provide enough fresh air
for proper combustion?

The plumber will:

Check for a crossover where cold water is mixing with hot. Possibly the
single lever mixing valve was improperly installed, or it has failed.

-Burner not igniting/no flame.

Make sure gas, electricity & water are turned on.

The plumber will:

Bleed all air from gas line

-Unit is too noisy

Check fan for debris
Make sure the burner is throwing a light blue flame
 Preventing Problems:

Regular annual inspections will go a long way to prevent a costly repair.

-Make sure all vents, motors and passageways are clear of debris

-Look at the flame to be sure it is burning clear blue and evenly across the surface of the burner

– Flush the heat exchanger and descale if you see a mineral build up

-Keep the area around the vent clear of snow & ice

If you notice the fan continuing to run after you use the hot water, this is normal. The appliance is programmed to make sure any combustibles are vented out. Also, you might notice a white “smoke” being vented out. This too is normal, especially if it is cold and the exhaust is warmer than the air temperature, thus causing the visible vapor.

Preventing Washing Machine Blues

washing machineWhile in college, you didn’t give much thought to a washing machine. You just hoped you would find one open at the laundromat.  Fast forward: now you’re a homeowner, or live in a house and you have your very own washing machine.

Like many appliances, you take them for granted until something breaks. Having the floor flood with suds is a funny scene on a TV show, but a dreaded problem when it happens to you. Let’s go over a few things that will help you keep that washing machine in tip-top shape and save you money!

Just as you are supposed to clean the lint trap in the dryer after each load, the washing machine should also be attended to after each day’s use.

After the last load of the day, wipe out the washer and gaskets. That residual water could invite mold or mildew. Try to be prompt about taking clothes out of the washer when the cycle is done. Damp clothes sitting in there begins to smell musty pretty quick. It might be a good idea to leave the washer door open for a while for air to dry it out.

Make sure your washing machine is level. A machine that is out of kilter will put extra stress on the drum that could also affect other parts of the machine. Most washing machines have adjustable feet that can be raised or lowered to make the machine level.

Newer washing machine models come with a preferred type of detergent for use, such as low sudsing. They are designed with these detergents in mind and using the wrong detergent can harm your washer.

Several times a year inspect your hoses and cords. A weakened hose can disconnect and cause flooding. Those rubber hoses really only last about 5 years; so keep an eye on them.

If your washing machine is a newer model, it may have several filters that periodically need to be cleaned. Review the operating manual that came with your machine. It shows you where the filters are and their recommendation for cleaning. If you don’t have a manual, you can usually find them online.

We hope this information is helpful to you. While we do not repair washing machines, if you are finding a problem with getting water to the machine, we can help! Give us a call: Firkus Plumbing 541.382.7710.

Stinky Sewer Smells Drifting Out of Your Drains?

There are not many of us who can boast we can remember what life was like before stinky1indoor plumbing. While indoor plumbing is very convenient, when something doesn’t seem right a whole can of worms can be opened.

If you have ever noticed a funky smell coming from your kitchen or bathroom drains, it could be a sign of trouble. But, we’re happy to report, it might be an easy fix.

Looking at the plumbing under your sink, you know that “U” shaped pipe? Well, that is there to hold water (as well as collect things you accidentally drop down there). The water acts as a smell barrier from sewer pipes further down in the plumbing.

If the water has dried up in that pipe, the smells can waft up into the room. Fixing it is as easy as running water in the sink for a few seconds.

But what if the smell remains?

You can try a solution of bleach and water along with a long flexible pipe brush. Remove the drain cover to scrub away the filmy residue that has coated the walls of your pipe. Then rinse with plenty of water.

If the smell persists, it’s time to “go deep” and call a plumber. Firkus Plumbing will be happy to come out and give your drains a thorough cleaning. Call us today: 541-382-7710