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Reducing The Threat Of Water Damage In San Francisco

Aug 7, 2014 | Plumbing Advice, San Francisco Plumbing

People think plumbers are expensive, especially when it comes to dealing with issues associated with water damage in San Francisco. But the cost of the plumbing work is chump change when compared to the cost of damage restoration after an unwanted flood occurs.

Plumbing fixtures can be a high-ticket item, but there are other culprits that cause even more extensive water damage to a property. A leaky roof, bad waterproofing or a broken roof drain can wreak havoc on your billfold. And sewage exposure can result in the worst form of water damage.

The advantage of living in San Francisco is an abundance of quaint, unique and historic residences. The curse of living in this town is that many of these homes have quaint, unique and historic plumbing.

Add to this the fact that San Francisco’s waterworks is a combined system, meaning sewer and rainwater leave the house through the same pipe. By law in most of this nation’s municipalities, rainwater is not allowed to leave a structure via the same pipeline.

In San Francisco, you could go out for a quick bite to eat and return to a flooded basement, even though no domestic water was left running and the pipes were intact. The fact that sewage water uses the same pipe can result in disaster. Here are some tips to help avoid or at least minimize the exposure to water damage:

Domestic water pipes: Verify all of the piping in your home is copper or cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). In addition:

  • Have the water pressure tested.
  • If it’s more than 80 pounds per square inch (PSI), you need to install a pressure-reducing valve.
  • If you do install a pressure-reducing valve, you’ll also need an expansion tank if there is water being heated in this now-closed water system.

Remove all of the braided-steel supplies and install flexible copper tubing called “speedies.” Newer yet is a PEX version. Too often we see flooded homes severely damaged as a result of a cheap braided-steel supply tube. When they rupture, the damage is quick and costly. Next, take a look at your water heater installation — and its location. If the water heater breaks where will the water flow? Sanitary drains: If you’ve never had a camera inspection of your sewer pipe, now’s a good time to do so. Roots and defects within the sewer need to be identified and removed. As far as what to put in your drains, our advice here at O’Grady Plumbing is simple: If it didn’t go into your mouth or come off a toilet paper roll, it does not belong in the drain.

  • Periodically inspect the pipes under the sink.
  • Take a close look to see if water is seeping out of the drain pipe.
  • Check this out while running the faucet at capacity.
  • Look at all of the overhead pipes and make sure there are no signs of water leakage.

What many San Francisco homeowners don’t see until it’s too late is when drains are on a stack such as a sink drain. When the upper floor drain ties into the lower floor drain it becomes a common drain. After a big Thanksgiving dinner, a helpful, albeit overenthusiastic guest, might be doing the dishes — maybe jamming solids through the garbage disposer like it was a trash compactor. Water can quickly overflow from the sink below and cover the finished ground floor space.

  • Take a look at the low point in the drain system on the ground floor or the basement and determine where a backup will likely show up.
  • Try not to put any rugs close by and make sure all items are elevated from the floor.

Storm drains: One of the many things about San Francisco that it rarely rains from May through September. But come fall, we sweep the rain gutters at our warehouse — typically removing a large contractor bag full of debris that would have clogged our drain or rusted our new galvanized gutters. And if our founder, Paul O’Grady, didn’t sweep the entire backyard at his home, the solids sitting on the ground would clog the cover over the drain, leaving rainwater nowhere else to go but into his guest studio. This becomes a case of Paul choosing to control the problem rather than the problem controlling him.

Roofs and general waterproofing: After the first rain of the season, it’s always a good plan to inspect the ceiling for moisture stains. If you see a water stain forming anywhere, take action. The whole idea is to curtail waterproofing problems early. Paul’s own experience — both at his home at our warehouse — shows that delays can put off the costs temporarily, but if problems are addressed when they’re first noticed, expensive repairs could often be avoided altogether.

If you’re a property owner, water leaks come with the territory. The name of the game is preventive maintenance. Most pipe problems occur inside the wall and remain unnoticed to the homeowner until the wall is saturated and a wet spot emerges.

Carpets and drywall can be replaced, but if plumbing problems are left unattended, there are the additional costs of dealing with warped and rotted wood, loss of valuables, and worse yet, the potential discovery of mold. And that’s a nightmare no homeowner wants to confront.

The bottom line, of course, is to remain vigilant. When it comes to water, inspect your home like it’s a submarine.

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