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Is a pressure-assisted toilet right for your home?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

When you want the best for your home’s bathroom, choosing the right toilet is an important part of the process. A pressure-assisted toilet may appeal to homeowners for its professional-grade flush. However, these systems can be pricey and have other negatives associated with them.

Here are some details to consider when researching the pressure-assisted toilet options on the market.

Pressure-assist pros

Among toilets, pressure-assisted models are unique in their use of pressurized air to drive water into the bowl and force the bowl’s contents down the drain simultaneously. The higher water level used in this system means the toilet doesn’t need to be cleaned as frequently — and this has made them popular in restaurants and other high-traffic commercial businesses.

Clogs are also rare with a pressure-assisted toilet, making them a favorite of anyone who likes low-maintenance bathroom fixtures. Another positive is the tank design, which reduces condensation in hotter months. Moisture doesn’t accumulate on the outside of pressure-assisted models, either.

Pressure-assist cons 

With the burst of air that accompanies each flush, pressure-assisted toilets require a higher level of technology — and are much more expensive than standard gravity-flush toilets as a result. That intense flushing system also generates a great deal of noise; this makes some homeowners wary of their practicality in everyday use. Some may prefer a quieter model.

Since pressure-assisted toilets tend to be used in businesses, it can be difficult to find the parts to service them. You might have to go through a plumber to get access to replacement parts. Gravity-flush toilet parts, on the other hand, are readily available in any hardware store.

Do-it-yourself limitations 

Installing these units can be difficult, as well. Because of the new standards in toilets with low water usage, finding the right toilet requires a careful examination of the qualifying options.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently outlined its recommendations for greater water efficiency in toilets. Homeowners, take note: The EPA says toilets account for 30 percent of a home’s water usage. The good news is that pressure-assisted models come in 1.28 gallons-per-flush models, in keeping with Georgia’s state standards. 

A qualified plumber can advise you on the right option for your home, making sure you don’t pay for the same work twice. A plumber can also install the toilet properly. It’s not a DIY job, that’s for sure.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


As a polar vortex sweeps through Georgia, frozen pipes raise concern

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Considering that Greater Atlanta winter temperatures average between 34° F and 37° F, recent single-digit temperatures have put residents into deep-freeze mode. But it’s not just your fingers and toes that sense the frigid conditions. Freezing temperatures also could lead to frozen pipes.

Cause for concern

Water freezing inside the plumbing pipes is a problem for one specific reason: Water expands when it freezes, so it puts the pipes in a precarious position. As the water begins expanding, the pipes will succumb to the pressure and burst, sending gallons of water into your basement or crawl space.

In places like Atlanta, where many homes have pipes running through crawl spaces or attics that either don’t have enough insulation or any insulation at all, the risk for frozen pipes increases.

When pipes burst

If you find yourself in the unenviable position of dealing with a burst pipe, it’s best to call a plumber right away. Figure out where your home’s main water-supply shutoff valve is. Then get there quickly and shut it off. This should cause the water to stop flowing out of the broken pipe. Once the plumber arrives, he or she will identify the problematic portion of pipe, assess the condition of the entire plumbing system and replace the pipes that have burst.

Before the problem gets worse

If you’re lucky enough to notice the problem before it gets so bad that the pipes burst, you can take steps to thaw frozen pipes. Here’s what you can do:

  • Open the faucet. Doing so relieves pressure within the pipe and will perhaps prevent the pipes from cracking or splitting. As the frozen water begins to melt, water running through the pipes will help to slow the blockage.
  • Use heat to melt the section of pipe. With a heating pad, hair dryer or portable heater, apply heat to the pipes. You can also moisten towels with hot water and wrap them around the pipes. Avoid using any type of heating component with an open flame, which can be hazardous.
  • Stop when full pressure returns. You can tell that any blockages of ice have melted when the water running out of the faucets is normal and pressure isn’t minimized.
  • Check every faucet. If pressure isn’t normal for other faucets in the home, repeat the steps here, following the plumbing pipes down to the basement or other area where they’re accessible.

Even if you avoid having to deal with a burst pipe, it’s best to have a plumber evaluate the entire system to ensure that the pipes are in good condition, and that the water didn’t expand enough to cause damage. For expert plumbing advice or help dealing with plumbing problems, contact RooterPLUS! today.

 Image source: Wikimedia Commons


How to unclog a bathtub drain — and when to call a pro

Monday, January 6th, 2014

There’s nothing more unpleasant than discovering a gob of residue-filled hair in the depths of your bathtub drain. So you don’t have to stand in ankle-deep water while you shower, let’s take a look at how to unclog a bathtub drain, and how to decide it’s time to call a pro.

How to unclog a bathtub drain

Bathtub and shower-stall drains are susceptible to blockages because soap residue, shampoo and conditioner accumulate in them over time. The problem is compounded when these elements get tangled in hair making its way down the pipes.

In general, homeowners shouldn’t take on the task of clearing a badly clogged drain; however, because this problem happens so frequently, you can safely try to remove blockages with these few steps:

  1. Shape the end of a wire hanger into a hook. Slowly and gently move the wire down the drain a few inches and try catching the hair.
  2. Plunge the drain. Stop the overflow drain first, then plunge it. The vacuum that plunging creates should dislodge a small clog.

Enlist an expert

Without the necessary experience and tools, using drain cleaners with harsh chemicals or improperly using a snake can damage your plumbing system. This is especially true if the problem originates deep within your plumbing system, as it may be due to a leak or tree-root infiltration. Do-it-yourself techniques like plunging the drain won’t improve the situation at all. Rather than wracking your brain about how to unclog a bathtub drain in particularly bad shape, get expert help to properly resolve the issue and ensure the health of your home’s plumbing system.

If these measures don’t do the job and you suspect the problem is more complicated, it’s wise to call in a professional Atlanta-area plumber to avoid making matters worse. A licensed plumber has the know-how and equipment to deal with clogged drains, which can be caused by any number of scenarios and may be more complicated than they look. Plumbers will quickly diagnose the problem and proceed with an effective solution, using diagnostic tools like a drain camera to inspect the entire plumbing system.

DIYers, beware: A drain that repeatedly clogs and system-wide slowness may be signs that widespread problems exist further down the pipes.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


How to manage a water shut-off and avoid a home disaster

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Whether you are performing basic plumbing work or safeguarding against a potential disaster in your home, it’s essential to know the location of your home’s water source so that you can react efficiently if and when the time comes. You won’t have time to think when water is gushing into your home and you have to stop the flow immediately. Here are the risks you face, as well as some tips for finding the water shut-off valve in your home.

The risks every homeowner faces 

There are certain jobs you may be able to handle without the help of a qualified plumber. In the case of turning off your home’s water supply when an emergency arises, you’ll have no choice.

A common theme in water damage horror stories is that the homeowners didn’t know where the water shut-off valve was. While they search for the spot where water enters the home, water continues gushing inside and a small problem becomes a disaster.

But these situations can easily be avoided.

Locating the water supply valve 

A home’s main water valve is usually located where the water line from the street meets the property. It could be in your basement, garage, utility closet or a water source outside your home near the meter.

You will notice a brass valve with a round handle for turning off the water supply. Once you’ve turned it off, check the faucets to confirm the water supply has indeed stopped. Some excess water will run into the sink before a total shutdown takes place.

Complications with water shut-off 

In some homes, it may be difficult to locate the main water valve. After searching in the places outlined above, you may need to contact your water utility provider or a licensed plumber to find the shut-off.

It’s possible that the shut-off for your home’s water supply requires more than simply turning a knob. If this is the case, you’ll need a pipe wrench to turn off the valve and stop the water flow.

In any event, you’re much better off finding and practicing a shut-off before you have to avert disaster.

Atlanta homeowners can get help managing their home’s water supply from the professionals at RooterPLUS! Learning this simple practice can help you avoid a great deal of trouble down the road.

Image source: morgueFile


Why a licensed Atlanta plumber is your best choice

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Even though untrained plumbing technicians botch jobs every day, the possibility of a discount is too tempting for some Atlanta homeowners to ignore. The problem with getting discounted service is that you’ll usually need extra work to fix or undo the job an unlicensed plumber bungled.

When you are dealing with your bathrooms and your home’s water supply, there’s no reason to take that gamble. Choosing a licensed Atlanta plumber will save you time, money and worry for a number of reasons.

Decades of experience 

When you decide to give an unlicensed plumber a shot, you are paying someone with little professional experience to take control of the inner workings of your home. There are countless ways this decision could backfire. Most significantly, you are taking the chance that an amateur has never come across your problem before. Master plumbers who are licensed in Georgia have at least five years of experience, and licensed journeyman plumbers must have three years on the job.

As with any profession, the accumulated experience of a team ensures quality service. Look for plumbers who have at least a decade’s experience on the job to make sure they’ve covered every type of emergency involving pipes and water lines.

Knowledge of the entire home’s plumbing 

Amateur, unlicensed plumbers may be good at unclogging drains and toilets, but they are just as likely to miss a bigger problem that may be brewing in your home. A licensed Atlanta plumber who knows when drain problems are building can help you pinpoint areas of concern and show you how to avoid trouble.

Licensed professionals serve as more than a Band-Aid. They protect you from future headaches.

Efficient work policies 

Licensed plumbers typically offer the service you expect from a competent business. You’ll get confirmation from receptionists, clear billing policies and emergency coverage in case disaster occurs outside regular hours.

Finding your unlicensed plumber during a holiday or in the middle of the night will be difficult or even impossible. Professional service providers with plumbers on call 24/7 won’t hesitate when you call after hours. They’re in business to provide Atlanta homeowners with the services they need.


You might wonder why a plumber wouldn’t have a state license. It’s usually because he or she doesn’t know the material and is afraid to fail the exam. It may even mean the plumber has tried and failed. Either way, it represents a lack of skills and an overall deficit in accountability. A licensed Atlanta plumber has taken the time to obtain and renew licenses. This establishes a level of professionalism that you should consider the basic standard.

Before you mess with an amateur, call a licensed professional who will fix the problem the first time.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


Take care of your washing machine hose to avoid flood damage

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

It may be hard to believe, but something as simple as a washing machine hose can cause a whole lot of expensive damage to a home. That’s why it’s important to check regularly that the hose is in good working order and replace it when necessary.

About half of flood damage insurance claims from washing machines are the result of a broken or nonfunctioning hose, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IIBHS). The average cost of a claim is about $5,300 once the deductible is paid.

When reviewing the claims in which the age of the washing machine was known, 25 percent were no more than five years old. About half occurred within the first eight years, and 75 percent met with disaster in the first decade, according to the IIBHS.

Practice preventive maintenance

To prevent a busted washing machine hose from flooding and damaging your house, there are a few simple things you can do:

  • Replace rubber hoses every three years. Sometimes you can’t see any damage or wear because it happens from the inside out. A plumber can help you determine whether it’s time to change out the hose.
  • Make it a point to inspect the hoses on your washing machine regularly. Make sure they’re not loose and check them carefully for blisters and stress cracks.
  • Allow enough space behind the washing machine for the hoses; they shouldn’t bunch or kink up. At least four inches of room is best.
  • When you go on vacation or will be gone for more than one day, turn off the hot and cold water supply valves. This will reduce failure risks.
  • When you do a load of laundry, don’t overload the machine. While it’s tempting to shove it all in there, don’t make the machine work too hard. This could damage the machine, leading to potential flooding.
  • Only do laundry when you plan on being home. Don’t throw in a load and then leave the house to run errands. It only takes a few minutes of flooding to cause major damage. IIBHS found that 6 percent of flooding due to a malfunctioning hose occurred when nobody was home. While the percentage is on the low side, that percentage experienced damage that was about two and a half times more severe. In dollars, that’s about $12,000, versus almost $5,000.

To give yourself peace of mind, the best thing to do is contact a Gainesville-area plumber who will examine your washing machine and hoses. Don’t end up with flooded floors, a costly insurance claim and a huge headache.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


Pipe winterization: Practical preparation for cold weather

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Most homeowners know how much damage exploding pipes can cause, but they don’t often know how to prevent this situation. Winters in Georgia can bring temperatures below the freezing mark, whether you are in the mountains or in the metro Atlanta area.

To help you prepare properly for the cold season, here are practical winterization tips to make sure you don’t find yourself on the wrong end of a deep freeze.

Settle drainage problems early 

Going into the winter with a known problem in your home’s drainage system is a terrible idea. Once a drain clog becomes more pronounced, you’ll have to contend with backed-up lines that could cause a great deal of discomfort for your family.

Drain cleaning services performed by a licensed plumber can prevent this mess in the first place. Full services include clearing out clogs and using a pipe camera to identify causes of a backup. Once you know you won’t have to contend with clogged drains in wintertime, you can start on winterization practices.

Prepping pipes for the cold 

Exterior pipes that send water to outdoor faucets should be turned off. Gardening is never a priority in the winter, so use the shutoff valve to stop the water supply before draining the water inside exterior pipes. While you’re at it, take note of the location and system for shutting off the water supply to your home’s interior. If your pipes do freeze, you’ll need to turn off the water supply at the main until the problem is fixed. Utility companies will charge you to perform this task.

To protect the pipes you know will be in use throughout the winter, insulate the connections that are exposed to cold air. Common areas of need are pipes running outside of bathrooms and above or around your garage. Make sure you aren’t wasting heat, and keep the garage door closed throughout the winter months. Basement pipes also require insulation.

By practicing simple preparations for winter, you can avoid the majority of cold-weather headaches a home might face.  Remember, the coldest months are still ahead of us.

Image source: morgueFile


The case for immediate polybutylene pipe replacement

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Between 1978 and 1994, builders used piping made of polybutylene (PB) plastic because of its apparent advantages in cold weather and flexibility in tight-fitting areas, not to mention the low cost of polybutylene pipe material. Unfortunately, polybutylene turned out to be unreliable. Polybutylene pipe failures in millions of homes in communities like Roswell have sparked a huge number of class-action lawsuits. If your home has PB pipes, you may want to consider immediate pipe replacement.

PB pipe failure is common 

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, defective polybutylene piping is among the biggest warning signs for home shoppers.

A quick look at two of the class-action lawsuits against manufacturers of polybutylene material gives an eye-opening idea of the extent of PB piping failures. Somewhere between 6 and 10 million homes had PB pipes installed during the period it was in use, the Baltimore Sun reports.

PB pipe replacement may save you money 

As with any home improvement, the cost of the project must be weighed against the potential damage if it’s ignored. Pipes that burst or cause water to leak inside your home could end up costing you far more than the price of new piping, which is comparable to the cost of roofing improvements or new carpeting.

Pipe failure doesn’t give warnings 

Many homeowners who have PB piping report no problems, but it may just be a matter of time. PB plastic was manufactured for more than 15 years, which suggests that it may take a decade or more before trouble arises. Even if you don’t see a problem, you may be rolling the dice by leaving these pipes installed.

If you are shopping for a new home, find out if the property has PB pipes. Home inspectors are not required to note the presence of polybutylene in reports, so take it upon yourself to ask. The presence of these plastic pipes would reduce a home’s value.

Identifying PB pipes 

If you are wondering whether you have PB pipes in your home, check around the basement and attic and near the water heater. The plastic piping is usually gray, but it may be blue or black, as well. The initials PB often precede serial numbers on the actual piping.

Homeowners who experience damage from these pipes may qualify for part of the lawsuit settlement funds. Otherwise, contact an experienced plumber to discuss your options for inspecting a home or beginning a repiping project.

Image source: morgueFile


The ins and outs of hydro jetting your drains

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Slow or sluggish drains are a common problem that homeowners face. It’s especially true in older homes with sewer lines that may be antiquated. Sand, sediment, roots and grease can slow down your drains. They may even cause filthy sewage water to back up into your sinks, clothes washer, dishwasher and tub. This exposes you and your home to a multitude of bacteria and pathogens found in sewage water that can be harmful to your family’s health — not to mention just plain unpleasant.

When to consider hydro jetting

Although hydro jetting is a regular practice in commercial plumbing, it wasn’t always the method of choice for residential plumbers — but this is changing rapidly. It eliminates snaking and reduces the likelihood of having to dig up your drain lines. Annual jetting of your sewer lines helps maintain a clear path for drain water, and can reduce damage to sewer lines caused by recurring root invasion.

How it works

The process uses the power of extreme water pressure — between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds per minute — to clean the interiors of your pipes. The pressurized water removes the sand, sediment and grease built up in your drains over the years. By removing these types of blockages, drain water has a clear and quick path from your home, and backups should be a thing of the past.

The jetting tool incorporates both forward and rear high-pressure jet streams that use a spinning action to clean the drain. The forward stream blasts through blockages as the rear streams propel it down your pipes. As the hydro jet is pulled in reverse; the six to eight rear streams scour and clean the pipe interior to remove any remaining debris and blockages.

Consult a professional plumber

It is recommended that only highly trained professionals use the hydro jetting method to clean your drains. The high-pressure system could damage sewer and drain lines if they are not inspected beforehand. Hiring only licensed plumbing professionals with the training, knowledge, equipment and experience to perform this service protects both you and your home.

Image source: Flickr


Common causes of water heater leaks

Friday, November 15th, 2013

A water heater provides your home with a continuous supply of hot water. As with any plumbing fixture, it can develop leaks that you must address to minimize potential damage. Before you can fix any water heater leaks, you must first determine where the leak is coming from. Common culprits include the temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve, the water heater tank, the drain valve and areas around fittings and connections.

T&P valve

This is a safety valve designed to alleviate excess temperature and pressure in the water heater tank. If the pressure and temperature exceed preset levels, the valve opens to discharge water and to relieve the pressure. Faulty or corroded T&P valves often fail to close after a discharge or test. When this happens, the valve must be cleaned or replaced.

Water heater tank

As a water heater ages, the tank can develop leaks from excessive pressure and/or rust and corrosion. If water appears to be seeping from the seams of the outer casing (usually near the bottom), there is a good chance that the tank is beginning to fail. Unfortunately, a leaking water heater tank means the entire appliance must be replaced.

Fittings and connections

Water heater leaks can develop in the supply lines attached to the appliance. A water heater includes both an incoming cold-water supply line and an outgoing hot-water line. The water lines connect to the water heater in several arrays, depending on how it was originally installed. Today’s water heater installations incorporate braided supply lines that connect to both the appliance itself and the shut-off valves attached to the water lines. Older installations might be connected with soldered copper, PVC or even galvanized pipe. If you notice pools of water on top of the water heater, examine the supply lines for possible leaks.

Drain valve leak

The drain valve, located near the bottom of the tank, is used to flush sediment or drain the water heater tank. It is not uncommon for a leak to develop in the valve. Depending on the type of valve — brass or plastic — you must replace the rubber washer or the entire valve to stop the leak.

Now that you know where to look annoying water heater leaks, the next step is to repair it. Although some repairs are easy, others require experience and extensive plumbing knowledge to ensure a safe and correct repair, and to avoid damaging the appliance or home. Best to leave the repairs to the professionals and call a licensed plumber.

Image source: Flickr


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