Fall is right around the corner and this is the time to take a good look at your plumbing system and get it ready for the colder months ahead. By taking the time to evaluate your indoor and outdoor plumbing system you will help extend the life of your plumbing and avoid potential plumbing emergencies due to negligence.
In this article, we will look at all the ways you can proactively maintain your plumbing system to maximize comfort and safety during the winter months. We will look at common fall plumbing issues and learn ways to circumvent these problems. A well-functioning plumbing system not only brings you peace of mind but it preserves the value of your home.
Plumbing Fixtures Need Your Attention
A plumbing system consists of miles of pipes, valves, connections, appliances, and, of course, plumbing fixtures. The changing seasons are great reminders to examine the plumbing fixtures in your home for wear and tear, leaks, blockages, or other problems.
One of the most common toilet issues is a running toilet. The water in the tank finds its way into the toilet bowl which wastes water and hikes the water bill. A toilet that runs is easy to hear and usually requires a simple fix. The flapper at the base of the toilet tank is designed to sit flat to create a water-tight seal. These flappers wear out and need replacing which is a DIY project.
Sometimes, however, a toilet leak can be so slow you cannot detect it with your ear. To perform a routine check place several drops of food coloring into the tank and, without using the toilet, wait 30 minutes. If you find that colored water from the tank has made its way into the bowl you will know you have a leak.
Toilet clogs are another common issue that needs to be addressed right away. If you cannot unclog your toilet with a plunger, then you might need to call a professional plumber to use a drain snake.
The busy summer months have possibly filled your home with guests and guests mean more activity at the sinks. It also means there’s a threat to your sink drains as uneducated visitors dispose of all types of waste in your overworked drains. Grease, fats, and starchy food bits combine to create clogged pipes. As liquid grease cools it congeals creating a sticky magnet to catch bypassing debris. If you have slow-to-empty sinks, the fall is a great time to address these clogged drain pipes.
Homemade drain cleaners of baking soda and vinegar work well and hopefully dousing of your drains periodically is already a habit you’ve developed. For more stubborn clogs a cup plunger works to clear the drain or a plumber’s snake could be used. If clogs persist it is time to call your plumber.
Although not technically a plumbing fixture, your garbage disposal is an important piece of equipment that needs to be addressed. As the fall commences the holidays are soon to follow and here is where many people find themselves with a plumbing emergency. You must educate yourself and your guests on what can and cannot go into a garbage disposal. Here is a list of items to keep at your disposal:
-fats, grease, and oil
-starchy items such as rice, potato skins, or pasta
-pits and seeds
-nuts and shells
-non-food items such as paper, or plastic wrap
Learn and apply these rules to keep your garbage disposal working properly this fall and through the holiday season.
Tubs and Showers
Fall is a good time to inspect the plumbing in your tub and shower. Look for leaking faucets, clogged shower heads, and any damaging wet areas on adjacent floors and walls. Open the access panel behind the tub and look at the plumbing pipes to see if there are any leaks that need to be repaired or aging plumbing that has seen better days.
Examine the caulking around the bathtub and shower and check for loose tiles or missing grout. These are areas that typically fail and allow moisture to seep behind walls and floors creating costly damage and potential health risks.
Showers and tubs take a lot of wear and tear over the summer months when outside activities may require a second shower each day. Look closely at the ceilings below the bathtub for water staining or peeling paint, both indicating a leaking drain pipe. Keep hair-catching drain covers in place and restrict yourself from using oily bath products that can clog tub drains leaving you showering in two inches of standing water.
Beware of These Outdoor Issues
In the fall season, your outdoor plumbing can present unforeseen problems. Be sure to check the following in order to avoid an outdoor plumbing emergency.
As the fall weather cools and the trees begin to lose their leaves many problems can develop for homeowners. Gutters that are full of debris will overflow forcing water to enter your basement or crawlspace rather than be drained away from the home’s foundation.
Sump pumps installed indoors have an outside drain pipe to carry water away from your home as well. These drainpipes can become clogged with leaves and debris and not allow water to exit your indoor sump pump pit. This can lead to serious flooding which you will want to avoid so clear the leaves away.
These collecting leaves can also gather at the mouths of outdoor drains causing them to back up and overflow. It is imperative you collect fallen leaves and dispose of them to keep drainpipes clear and free-flowing. And unwanted water far from your home’s foundation.
The fall is the perfect time to have your septic system serviced. A trained professional can evaluate the condition of your drain field, the pipe between your home and the storage tank, and the filters and screens that can be cleaned. The fall is also a good time to have the storage tank emptied and the pumps examined.
Check the Water Pressure
Time flies by. People are busy. It is easy to let common sense practices slide by but checking your water pressure should not be one of these overlooked tasks. Purchase a water pressure gauge at your local hardware store and use the fall as a reminder to check the pressure of your water. Water that has too high pressure is just as dangerous as water pressure that is too low.
Another good idea is to have a professional plumber install a smart water heater to continually monitor your pressure and receive alerts when there is something amiss.
Spigots and Hose Bibs
Hose bibs are a type of spigot that can accommodate a hose connection. As the summer winds down it may be time to tend to your hose bibs. If you have frost-free hose bibs then you need not turn the water off to these spigots. Just be certain you remove the hose and store it indoors or the pipe inside the house can freeze and split the pipe.
For non-frost-free bibs, it is important to shut off the water supply from the inside and open the spigot to allow all the water resting inside the line to drain. This will prevent the pipe connected to the hose bib from freezing and cracking. It is also a good idea to purchase a winterization kit and cover the spigot.
Fall: Time to Drain Your Water Heater
As fall weather approaches it is advisable to drain your storage tank if you have a traditional water heater. Sediment collects on the floor of the tank interfering with the heating element and making your water heater work harder than is necessary. If you are unsure about completing this task call your plumber for assistance. For tankless heaters, the fall is the time to clean the system and replace the filters.
Visually inspect the water heater and look for signs of leaking around the base of the heater. Also, inspect for signs of rust that can form inside the tank and lead to a leaking storage tank.
Unusual noises should not be ignored. Sizzling or cracking noises can be an indicator that sediment buildup is reaching dangerous levels. Again, flush the tank to remove this unwanted sediment.
Colder weather means the water entering your hot water heater will be colder than it has been during the summer months. This means you will be using more energy to heat the water and more usage equates to higher energy bills. By reducing the desired temperature of your hot water to 120 degrees or less you will help keep your electric bill under control.
Here are some of the many common plumbing pipe problems that occur in the Fall season and how you can avoid them…
Pipes that are exposed to the cold air or those that run through unheated areas of your home are susceptible to freezing. Those that feed hose bibs, swimming pools, and irrigation systems are even more vulnerable and need special attention. Preparing these pipes in the fall will guarantee their safety come winter.
All pipes in your home can benefit from insulation. Foam coverings or sleeves made for pipe coverings should be applied and then wrapped in duct tape for the best insulation. Hot water pipes should especially be covered to keep the hot water hot and not permit the heat to escape through bare pipes. Pipes that are located within exterior walls are particularly prone to problems as are pipes that travel through unheated areas such as garages or attics.
As pipes enter your home the opening they pass through is vulnerable to deterioration. Check these openings every fall and pack them with insulation and caulk to seal out cold weather and critters seeking shelter.
Drain Outdoor Pipes
Remove all hoses and drain them before putting them away for the winter. Turn off the water to hose bibs and drain any water in the line. For frost-free bibs, there is no need to turn the water off.
Have irrigation pipes and swimming pool lines professionally cleared of all water to prevent water-filled pipes from exploding.
Defrosting Frozen Pipes
This is another condition not operational in the fall but education and preparation are wise any time of the year. Once a pipe has been frozen there are steps you can take to defrost the pipe before the frozen water expands and bursts the pipe. First, keep the heat on. It is surprising how many frozen pipes occur because homeowners turn their thermostats too low. Never set a thermostat lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit or you will be asking for trouble.
Plumbing is often located inside cabinets such as under kitchen and bathroom sinks. Leave the cabinet doors wide open to allow the heat within the room to reach the plumbing.
If temperatures fall and you fear a frozen pipe may occur you can turn on the cold water faucet just enough to allow water to flow. Running water will not freeze so this method, although it wastes water, could be the solution that works for you.
Wrapping frozen pipes in warm towels or directing the air from a hairdryer onto the frozen section can help defrost the pipe. The goal when defrosting a frozen pipe is to increase the temperature of the pipe gradually as extreme temperature changes could burst the pipe.
If a plumbing pipe does burst immediately turn off the water at the main shutoff and call for help. While waiting for your plumber to arrive soak up the excess water and clear the area to be worked on to make it easier for your plumber to access the fractured pipe.
Need A Plumber In Oklahoma?
In this article, we have taken a close look at your plumbing system and have made recommendations on the best practices for maintaining the system. We have learned about common plumbing issues that arise in the fall that can spell real trouble later in the year if not addressed now. There are steps all homeowners can take to prevent plumbing disasters and those requiring professional assistance are noted.
Fall is the ideal time to review the overall condition of your plumbing system so that when the colder weather follows your home will be prepared to withstand the harsher conditions. Take time now to prepare and then settle in for the winter months feeling satisfied you took every precaution to protect your home.
Contact our team today to schedule service!