Here at O’Grady Plumbing, we often get questions from San Francisco plumbing customers, potential customers and people just calling to ask about an issue they’re having with their pipes or faucets.
So what we’ve done in this blog post is compose a short list of do’s and don’ts that we hope will help simplify what is to many folks a complex issue. The answers to some of these queries might seem obvious, but believe us when we say when it comes to plumbing issues, there are no dumb questions.
Let’s get started:
What materials are safe to put down the drain?
Do keep it simple by specifying that, “if it comes from your body or off a toilet paper roll it’s OK to put down the drain.”
Don’t put items such as grease, paper towels, hand wipes, nose tissues, dental floss, sanitary products such as tampons, or anything foreign down the drain.
Can I safely use drain-opening acid when clearing a clogged drain?
Do use a long wire brush, a plunger, or an inexpensive hand snake from the local hardware store. For instance, if your toilet is not running and there is hair tied up in the stopper rod within the pop up assembly, a long wire brush will always successfully snag the gobs of hair without acid.
A wire brush accomplishes the same task with far less risk. A plunger can clear a kitchen sink drain, and if your kitchen sink has two tubs, use two plungers. A plunger works quite well on toilet clogs and shower stall clogs.
Not so much on bathtub drains because water is sent back up the overflow when you plunge. Removing the overflow plate and the internal stopper linkage — followed by a hand snake through the overflow — is a surefire way to clear a bathtub drain.
Don’t use drain-opening acid as a last result because — and we’ve preached this over and over again — such products almost never work and can cause serious damage to the drain pipe in which it is marinating.
The acid will sit in the pipe until you can clear the drain, all the while eating away at the pipe. Pipes are usually old and won’t withstand prolonged exposure to acid. And even when you use a plunger first and follow up with a dose of acid, you risk getting this caustic liquid in your eyes, which can spell instant blindness. Clean pipes aren’t worth that risk.
How do I assess a plumbing problem before calling in the experts?
Do make sure to systematically connect the dots, which enables you to see the problem from the beginning to the end. Take, for instance, a bathtub on the ground floor that is backing up. You wouldn’t start taking the tub waste apart and cabling the drain line without initially testing other nearby drains to verify that the problem is isolated to that tub.
Don’t start working on a problem without a clear plan of action in mind. Hunches and guesses only work in Las Vegas, and not so often there either. If you head off half-cocked on a project, chances are you’ll end up with more plumbing issues than you began with.
How important is it to have the right tools for a minor plumbing task?
Do show up with the right tools. When attempting to work on any plumbing task, the key to your success depends on whether or not you have the right tools and parts at hand to get the job done. A good plumber can’t do the job any better than the weekend warrior if he doesn’t have access to the right tools and parts.
Don’t do it yourself if you’re really “not handy around the house,” because professional tools are not going to be the deciding factor in the success of a plumbing project. Call the professionals. We have the right tools.
Check your work, Check your work, Check your work…
We tell our crews to assume they’ve made a mistake and then have them check everything to ensure the problem doesn’t get worse later on down the line. Do have good lighting and when you test your work — whether it is a tub you snaked or a pipe you soldered — do take a close look and test the repair to capacity to verify the repair is done and will last for years to come.
Don’t assume your work is perfect and there’s no way you made a mistake. A quick perusal doesn’t take much time and the pay off, especially when you come across an extra faucet washer laying in the tub, is worth avoiding a return trip.
What do I need to know before hiring a professional plumber?
Do make sure the plumber you hire can support a prognosis of your plumbing problem with clear, concise answers that you understand. Only an experienced plumber can offer a good remedy for any plumbing issue.
Just like in medicine and other professions, many plumbers have their area of expertise. A heart surgeon might not be the best one to operate on a hernia, and the same goes for plumbers and their particular specialties.
Some are experts at resolving flooding issues, others work on new construction and still others professionally handle issues that arise in older structures. An honest master plumber will almost always refer you to a specialist for specific issues.
For example, we have burned out too many pumps while messing with hydronic heating systems to know that it’s in everybody’s best interest for us to refer the problem out to a competitor. We both provide the same day to day service but we stay away from niche services that are not our specialty because we prefer to stick to what we do well.
Don’t turn your house into a classroom for the reckless optimist who swears he can complete the task, but ends up costing you a bundle because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And again, don’t move on a repair unless it makes sense.