Archive for October, 2012

Common Plumbing Tools

Oct. 25th 2012

Plumbing Tools You’ll Want for DIY Plumbing Repairs

The Do-it-yourselfer is the adventurous sort, who always wants to take a crack at a problem before having to call in the pros. Well, that’s a great spirit; why not try to find out if the issue is manageable and save what might be a hefty fee? You can gain a ton of knowledge in the process to equip you for the future. Among other things, one thing you often learn is that you’d be better able to handle the problem if you only had the tool you needed!

Since there is a wide variety of materials in use, depending mainly on when your home was built, and also on the care that has been put into the home over the years, whether you’ve owned it from the start or purchased a used home.

The materials used in your home (and the specific tools designed for use with each) will vary depending on a few factors. What is the climate? Is it a mobile home? Is there a basement level? If so, does it rest on a foundation, or on soil shelves? All of these questions play a part in determining what you are up against when you tackle the problems that will arise in your plumbing system.

Let’s run down the most common tools you will find yourself needing over the course of many of the projects you undertake, and maybe a few of the “would be nice” ones, as well:

Screwdrivers, both cross-tip and straight. Most faucets and drains are held on with a screw. Fixing a leaky faucet will require removing the handle. Some handles, however, may be held on with a small set screw, which may require a small straight screwdriver, or perhaps a hex wrench (commonly referred to as an Allen Wrench). All of these are staples of the home owner’s tool box.

An adjustable wrench will come in handy for nearly every plumbing project you get involved in. In fact, it is good to have 2 sizes – a 6-inch and a 12-inch wrench will be a complete set. These are better known in the vernacular, as “Crescent” wrenches.

And before we get too far away from the basics, let’s talk about the plumber’s helper – the plunger. There are two different types of plungers that will be the most helpful for clearing clogs in drains. The “sink” type plunger is a shallow rubber cup, which forms a seal around the sink or tub drain. If plunging a sink, seal the overflow hole with a piece of duct tape first, in order to enable the creation of a vacuum. A toilet, however, requires a differently shaped plunger, A shallow cup, suitable for a flat sink, could not seal as well on a toilet. This requires a ball type plunger with a flange, that can fit into the drain hole in the toilet.

Looking under the sink and tub brings to mind the next commonly used tools. To easily reach the nuts which hold the water hoses to the underside of the faucet, a basin wrench is an essential. This is a long handle with a set of jaws sticking out to the side such that they will only turn in one direction. To turn the other direction, simply flip the jaws over to the other side of the handle.

A drain snake is a very handy tool for unclogging a drain. A 2-foot snake can reach all the most common clog areas once the drain is uncovered. One of these costs just a few dollars. It might be nice to have a longer one for snaking some areas; a 25-foot snake is fairly inexpensive as well.

Moving into the basement, or the crawl space, whichever applies, we see the supply pipes that will lead upstairs. If your pipes are primarily galvanized steel, you will need a pair of pipe wrenches to deal with them properly. These are a little pricey, so keep an eye out at rummage sales and flea markets if your budget is tight. Probably a pair of 10-inch wrenches would serve well enough, but they come in various sizes. On a really tough joint, slip a steel pipe over the handle to greatly increase your force.

You may find copper pipes in your home, or, more commonly, PVC plastic, both of which are far easier to work with than steel. These must be cut and spliced together again to fix them when they leak. A hacksaw is useful for cutting these pipes. When it comes time to put them back together, though, all that is needed for the PVC is a can of PVC cement and a couple of fittings. For the copper, however, in addition to the coupling fittings, the “glue” that is necessary is solder, (pronounced “sodder”), along with flux. Both of these, when kissed by a propane torch, will form a water-tight seal.

You will discover as you embark on do-it-yourself plumbing projects, that the tools you will need will present themselves, and you may have, from time to time, to go and get one in order to proceed. But stocking up on these basics in advance will equip you – and embolden you – to begin many repairs that you might not have thought yourself capable of before.

Posted by plumber | in Clogs, DIY, Leaks, Pipes, Tools | No Comments »

Questions to Ask Your Plumber

Oct. 10th 2012

What should you ask your plumber before you hire someone for the job?

When trying to choose a plumber to help maintain your plumbing system, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of options available. If you have not employed the services of a plumber before, it is difficult to know how to winnow the field, and narrow it down to a small number. After all, hiring a plumber is entrusting someone else with an important possession. You will want to be certain that the person in whom you place your trust will honor it with his actions.

The time for choosing a plumber is long before you have an emergency need. If you wait until you are in the throes of an emergency, you will likely open the phone book and pick any plumber, based primarily on the effectiveness of the advertisement. This could be disastrous. Take the time to carefully consider the right plumber for your needs right away. Emergencies don’t wait for you to schedule them. When a problem occurs, you should have a trusted relationship in place.

So, how can a homeowner learn enough about a prospective service provider to become comfortable hiring one? There are several question that you can ask that, if answered correctly, can help to put you at ease in making this important decision. Additionally, it may be possible to find reviews of the contenders on the Internet. The Better Business Bureau is often a good source of customer reviews as well.

But there are important questions that should be asked of the plumbing contractor in the process of choosing a service provider:

Does the company hold a plumbing license (not required in all locations)? Verify the license number with the issuer of the license, to ensure it is valid.

Where licenses or certifications are required by law, this is an essential trait. Any contractor who hesitates to give you his license number should not be trusted.

Is the company insured for liability? Workmen’s Compensation insurance?

Liability insurance covers damage that is caused by the contractor. Without insurance, trouble may arise if the contractor has difficulty paying for the repair for his damage. Workmen’s Compensation insurance shows that the company cares for its employees. This is a good trait in a prospective partner.

Does the company have a website?

A company website lends credibility to a company. The lack of a website may mean that the company is not well established.

How long has this company been in business?

A plumber who has not been in business very long is not automatically a warning sign, but a lack of history makes it more difficult to find information – positive or negative – about the company.

Another thing which adds credibility to a plumbing contractor is a physical office. Ask for the address of the shop.

A contractor with no physical shop is more likely to be a fly-by-night operation.

Will the plumber supply a written estimate before beginning work, and whether he expects the costs to change without notice? Does the estimate cover all work, or is there an hourly labor fee?

If the contractor charges an hourly fee, costs can go up dramatically with unexpected delays.

If you are able, arrange a visit to the shop, to look at the inside of the company’s work vans.

The condition of their work vans is a preview of how they will likely leave the work area in your home. Choose a plumbing contractor that keeps its vans clean and organized.

When making your initial call to check out plumbers, the initial contact can speak volumes about their customer service ethic. Does the owner speak to you him/herself? Do you get a return call if you had to leave a message? How long did it take before you finally spoke to the owner? Decide upon a plumber who counts your needs important enough for a prompt reply.

Ask about the rates for service, and if they include travel time to get parts, or only the time spent addressing the problem in your home. Ask also about “overtime” rates, and how they are computed.

Since they will be installing parts occasionally, find out if they are using quality parts that come with manufacturer’s warranties. If not, they may be saddling you with low quality parts, which will only add to your maintenance costs in the long run.

Will the plumber supply a written guarantee?

A plumber who will not stand by his or her work can not be trusted to take pride in a job well done. Make sure any changes to planned work are documented in writing prior to completion. This will avoid the ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic that unscrupulous contractors sometimes resort to.

Lastly, ask for a list of five references who have employed the plumber recently, and follow up with them. Word of mouth is a valuable testimony

. If a plumber cannot provide references, it is probably best to avoid hiring him or her.

In this process, it is possible to alienate a plumber who might otherwise have been a good choice. While these things are important to know about your prospective partner, balance your need to know with sensitivity for the plumber’s feelings and respect for his or her time. Rather than a barrage of questions, try to get the questions answered over the course of a comfortable conversation about your needs and the plumber’s services.

Posted by plumber | in Plumbers | No Comments »

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