Who doesn’t want to have a beautifully landscaped yard for their home? Lovely flowers and grand trees really bring out the curb appeal of our homes. But we have to be careful of some of the bad side effects that can come with our quest for shade. We’re talking about those pesky tree roots that can cause damage to your sewer pipes.
Thirsty tree roots naturally grow toward any leaks in your water and sewer pipes, as they provide not only water, but nutrients and oxygen plants crave. And once tree roots find a leak, they can creep into your pipes. This can cause water flow blockage or pipe damage that can lead to costly repair bills. So how do we prevent this catastrophe?
If you are planning on planting trees, think about where you are going to plant them. First call your local public works department or the “Call before you Dig” number, and they can give you the location of your underground utilities. It's always a good idea to know where cables, lines, and pipes are buried before doing any landscaping or planting. Then plan out where your trees and plants will go. Limit the amount that you place close to the sewer lines and plant larger trees farther away so the tree roots cannot reach the pipes. If you want to plant closer to the sewer pipes for aesthetic purposes, then consider trees that are slow growing with small root balls.
Create a barrier between your sewer lines and tree roots. You can choose a few different options to create a barrier to help deter tree roots from getting into your sewer lines, like spreading slow release chemicals of potassium hydroxide or copper sulfate. Or you can bury metal or wood barriers 6 to 12 inches deeper than the pipe, running them vertical next to sewer lines.
If you already have trees in the vicinity of your sewer pipes, you can avoid major sewer repairs by cleaning sewer lines regularly. You can buy a root killer or flush a cup of rock salt down your toilet. Regular maintenance can prevent root growth inside the pipes. A few warning signs that roots are invading the pipes are frequent clogged drains or slow drainage. Sometimes there can be gurgling noises from your toilet. If this is occurring, call a plumber to come inspect your sewer and drain pipes. They can run a camera through your pipes to see if tree roots are the culprit, leading to possible drain line replacement.
So if you are designing a new landscaped lawn, think about doing a thoughtfully planned out design so you can avoid the chance of dealing with a potential costly problem down the road.
Uh oh… You’ve opened your dishwasher to discover there’s standing water just sitting in the bottom. Before you panic and call a plumber, try these steps to fix it yourself.
The simplest thing to do first, is run the dishwasher again. The dishwasher may have inadvertently shut off during its last cycle and that’s why there is undrained water. So give it another go, and if the bottom is still filled with water, then try these next steps.
Turn on your garbage disposal. Sometimes it’s that easy. Running the garbage disposal will clear up any food or sludge that may be blocking the drain pipe. Since the drain hose from the dishwasher empties into the garbage disposal drain, this step can easily clear up this issue.
Still didn’t drain? It’s time to remove the standing water to find the culprit. Remove the bottom dish tray by sliding it out and lifting it off the dishwasher door. Use a cup to scoop the dirty water into a bucket. When you are unable to scoop the remaining water, use towels to dry up the last of it.
Now that the water is removed, you can clean your drain basket. You can find it at the bottom of your dishwasher’s interior, it looks like an upside-down basket. If it doesn’t look like a basket, then consult your dishwasher manual. Remove the cover to check for buildup in the basket beneath. Remove the food gunk, replace the cover, then run the dishwashing cycle again. Pre-rinse your dishes before you load them into the dishwasher to keep your drain basket from getting clogged.
Check the drain hose for kinks or clogs. The drain hose is the plastic hose that connects the dishwasher’s drain pump to the garbage disposal or to an air cap. Something may have been shoved under the sink that is now impeding the hose. If you see that the hose has been bent, try straightening it out using your hands. If it won’t quite straighten out properly, then you may need to replace the drain hose. If your investigation of the drain hose reveals it isn’t kinked, then check for a clog. To do this, unplug the dishwasher, then remove the lower front panel to find where the hose attaches to the drain pump. The front panel may require you to remove some screws, but it should just pop off. Check the dishwasher’s manual if you need assistance on how to remove the panel. Then disconnect the hose from the pump, and blow through the hose. If air won’t flow through it, then it’s clogged. Try using a thin tool to get the gunk out of the ends of the hose, you can try a straightened out coat hanger to go deeper into the hose. If it’s unreachable, you’ll probably have to replace the hose.
If you need to replace the hose, you can try and tackle the job yourself by removing the entire dishwasher unit to de-attach the hose and replace it. Consult your manual for the correct hose to purchase. If you’d like to save yourself the hassle, then it’s time to call a plumber. They will do the complicated dirty work for you.
Call Tony’s Plumbing today for your dishwasher needs!
If your home happens to have a sump pump, then you know that they can tend to get stinky from time to time. Here are some ways to clean it and get that funky smell out of your basement!
Determining where the smell is coming from is the first step. A garbage-like smell coming from your sump pit means that there is probably a build up in your pipes that needs to be cleaned. If it smells more like rotten eggs, then it is usually because your pit has dried out and sulfur dioxide smells are coming up from the sewer.
To clean your sump pump, first turn the water off for fixtures that lead into your sump pump, like your washing machine. Disconnect your power to the sump pump, usually by just unplugging it or turning that circuit breaker off. Carefully remove your sump pump using a garbage bag or plastic sheeting, so as not to drip any sludge or water on your floor as you carry it outside for cleaning. Use your garden hose to rinse off the first layer of sludge, then use a scraping tool to clean off any caked on grime. Then rinse it again with the garden hose.
You can then drain the check valve in the sump pit. Place a bucket underneath the valve, and open it and let any existing water drain into a bucket. If there is any water left in the sump pit, vacuum it up with a shop vac.
To clean your sump pit, mix one cup of bleach into a gallon of water and pour it down into the sump pit. Make sure the drains and pipes within the pit are covered with water. Add a little more if necessary to bring water back up to the proper level.
Be careful if you try using vinegar to clean your sump pump, as if not done properly, it can damage your sump pump.
After you are all finished cleaning, reconnect your pump to the discharge pipe and check the valve. Turn the water back on and plug in your pump or turn your breaker back on, and you’re good to go.
As for frequency of cleaning your sump pump, typically you should think about cleaning it once a year for removal of the sump pump to clean both the pump and the pit. If your sump pump doesn’t dispose of washing machine water, the pump screen or inlet opening should be cleaned every three to four months.
If you find you might need more service after cleaning the system, call us for additional help!
Sometimes our homes are not designed or decorated exactly as we’d like them to be. Things can sometimes be put in an area of the home that, for one reason or another, is in plain view. This can be quite deterring for those who may want to make a beautiful space for their family.
So what do you do with an aesthetically out-of-place water heater? One option is to replace it with a tankless water heater that takes up a lot less space, and can be slightly more attractive. And if you want to go one further, you can find some tankless water heater pipe covers on the market to help hide those unsightly pipes.
But if you’d like a little less costly solution, there are lots of DIY options to consider. Things like building cabinets or closets with new or recycled materials of old shutters or scrap wood, hanging curtains from curved track or curtain rods, or setting up a basic room divider.
If you want to try your hand at this DIY divider made out of old shutter doors, check out this tutorial on how to make it: https://oldhighwaycottage.com/solution-hiding-ugly-water-heater/
You can also consider making your design less of a feature to the room, by concealing the covering of your choice. You can paint the covering the same color of the rest of the room, blending it into the room. There are some tutorials online on how to construct electric water heater covers like this one that makes it feel like part of the constructed room: https://www.woodshopdiaries.com/hide-ugly-water-heater/
There are some things to consider when choosing a covering. Make sure that there is room around the tank, and that there is an easy way to access it. You don’t want to wall it up with drywall or seal it in another way. Water heaters need to be accessible if an issue happens to arise, like water leakage, if the pilot light goes out, or other general maintenance issues. If you have to call a plumber for an issue, you want to make sure they can get to your water heater and have space to do their work. Also, consider when placing these things around a gas water heater to be cautious of proximity and the materials you use, as it can be a fire hazard. First and foremost, you want to have a safe home!
Now get to it. It can be satisfying to create a more beautiful space, no matter what style you choose to conceal your water heater.
There’s always a distinct feeling of dread when you notice a chip or crack in the porcelain at home. Commercial epoxy fillers, chip repair kits and refinishing products are available for easy and simple repairs to small dings and damage. These products are handy ways to keep the costs down as long as there are only minor issues. But, how do you know when it’s time to replace the toilet, or simply repair it?
Toilets last a long time, and especially when cared for properly, you can’t look at a toilet and know how old it is. So, if you’ve started to have issues with your toilet there are a few signs to look out for that will show you whether you should replace or repair it. The first thing to contemplate when considering replacing a toilet, is the actual number of issues. Write them out, and then think about the time you’ll need to invest in the toilet to repair it. If there are a couple of chips and the toilet set needs to be replaced, that’s one thing. But if there is a crack, the flip valve is busted and it’s leaking...maybe it’s time to consider giving Tony’s a call.
Does your toilet shift when you sit on it? This is a clear sign the toilet needs to be replaced. Toilets should never shift if sat on, it could be a sign that the toilet is improperly sealed. You can attempt to tighten the bolts on either side of the toilet, but if this does not fix the issue contact a plumber immediately.
If your water consumption is incredibly high, your toilet could be the cause. If you’ve noticed that your water use is high at home, it could be beneficial to invest in a low-flush toilet. Low-flush toilets use an average of 2 gallons per flush, while typical toilets can use somewhere between 3-5 gallons. Frequent clogs are also a sign that your toilet is getting on in age, which can be common in older or low-flush toilets. If you have to plunge the toilet weekly or more, it could mean that it’s no longer working efficiently.
Being a homeowner comes with a laundry list of responsibilities. You need to think about things like energy efficiency, when the bathroom was last caulked and whether that eerie thud in the pipes is a problem worth fixing. Minor damages are bound to happen in any well lived space due to typical wear and tear, but sometimes minor damage crosses over to major fairly quickly, and almost always when we are least expecting it. Not everything requires a professional to replace, however, this laundry list can become expensive fast. If you’ve got questions about an ill functioning toilet not answered in this list, call us, your favorite local Minnesota plumbers Tony’s!
Have you ever looked around your home and wondered about the quality of your plumbing? Plumbing is an important and intricate part of any building design, and can be incredibly frustrating when problems arise. The various types of pipes all exist for different reasons, and come with their own list of pros and cons. There are loads of rules and regulations that stand in the way of shabby jobs and can prevent costly mistakes, but old homes often come with old plumbing. So, how does one know what kind of pipe is the best for plumbing?
For more than a century, copper pipes were used for indoor plumbing, and were the best option available. These natural pipes create a biostatic atmosphere which limits the growth of bacteria, but they are expensive and require extensive labor to install. In cold weather climates, these pipes freeze and in worse cases burst. The durable quality is a benefit but these pipes do still corrode with certain pH levels, making them unappealing in our Minnesota weather.
ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, pipe was developed in the 1950’s in Arizona. These pipes were created for use in the chemical industry, and oil fields. ABS pipes were discovered to be easier to work with and cheaper than their metal alternatives such as copper, cast iron and galvanized steel. There is one crucial difference between ABS and PVC pipes, though, and that is how they are formulated. ABS pipes contain BPA to harden them, making these pipes poor candidates for most plumbing projects.
Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC pipes were generated using copolymer clay and date back to 1912 Germany, though due to poor quality and lack of success with production, they were not used as plumbing until 1936. In the years following, there was a gradual uptick in the properties built and plumbing replaced using the PVC pipes, as they were found to be more durable and suitable for waste relocation. PVC pipes were used in much of Germany and Japan’s rebuilds after WWII, where they became a building standard and are still used today.
PVC was the standard for a long time, but was shown up by PEX pipes in the 1980’s. PEX is a polyurethane pipe with cross-links. It is cost effective, flexible and doesn’t require the use of joints which can promote weak spots in the plumbing. PEX pipes are seen in most new homes being built today, and are an easy industry standard.
It’s important to do your research before starting any big project, and to always check the local building codes. These regulate the types of piping you can use in your home projects so your decision may have been made for you. If you’re looking around considering if your plumbing is the next big upgrade at home, you could be right! That being said, we don’t recommend you taking on that project, or even that consideration, alone. If you’ve had a long and tiresome history with your pipes, either freezing, creaking or leaking, we are here for all your plumbing questions.
Few people do this, but have you ever read the instructions on your cleaning products? If you’re using disinfectants, they need to sit on the dirty surface and soak to be effective. This means any time you have sprayed and swiped; you’ve actually just pushed the germs around! Cleaning high trafficked areas has never been more important than it is in today’s world. The busiest place in any given household? The bathroom.
Cleaning your bathroom is an important part of a healthy home. The toilet is something every person in your home will touch at one point or another, so it needs to be cleaned regularly, and properly. Using a strong disinfectant will ensure you are getting rid of any bacteria that might be hanging around. You need to make sure that your toilet is clear and free of any debris before you spray any disinfectants on and allow them to then soak. Lysol cleaning spray instructions state they need to soak for ten minutes to be effective!
You need some important items to clean a toilet properly:
The first step to thoroughly cleaning a toilet is going to be clearing away any items surrounding the toilet. Remove all rugs and items that may be sitting behind it and clean them, as flushing the toilet will cause bacteria to spray outside of the bowl. It is unsanitary to keep items too close to the toilet. In small and large bathrooms alike, it is always a good idea to flush the toilet with the seat down, and make sure you clean any items that are spending time in the area.
After removing extra items surrounding the toilet, use a rag or paper towels to do a cursory wipe down and remove any dust around the toilet. Spray the toilet, and surrounding area with your disinfectant and turn your attention elsewhere while your product does its job. Lift the toilet seat and pour in your cleaning solution allowing it time to soak as well.
Once you have allowed the product to fully saturate the toilet, use the bristled brush to scrub the inside of the toilet. It is important to make sure you scrub under the rim inside the toilet bowl, as debris can build up keeping your toilet filthy no matter how clean the rest of it becomes. Sponges, old toothbrushes, and bristled brushes are great tools for getting into the cracks and grooves of any tile grout or crevices near the toilet. After you’ve scrubbed every inch, wipe the toilet down with a wet towel or some paper towels.
Cleaning the bathroom is not a glamorous chore, no matter how you spin it. We all know how nice it is to have a thoroughly cleaned bathroom. This is one of the most used places in the home, so it is important to clean all areas that are frequently touched. The toilet is a place everyone uses, and if you live in a home with multiple people it’s important to keep up on how often you clean both that toilet and bowl.
It’s fairly typical to sit and daydream about what your space could be, right? If you could repaint this, or afford the fancy copper vanity with matching tile work in the bathroom, things would feel perfect at home. Most winters, we find people daydreaming of warm days on sunny beaches, so we like to suggest to all our Minnesota inhabitants; radiant flooring should be your next daydream. It’s not the same as dipping your toes in the sand, but it does sweeten the brutal weather we experience for six months out of the year ever so slightly.
Radiant heating is great for any room in the house that needs to be evenly heated. One of the best perks of in floor heating is one won’t experience cold spots like with a traditional ventilated heating method. While Minnesota weather doesn’t allow anyone to rely solely on radiant heating, it does supplement the heating vents, and actually requires less work out of the furnace to stay warm. Since heat would rise up from the floors, the room will feel warmer but be able to be kept at a cooler temperature.
Like with most things, there are pros and cons. The list of pros for radiant heating seems, at least in our minds at Tony’s, to greatly outweigh the cons. The three biggest cons to radiant flooring are really to be expected:
The best space in the home to have radiant heating these days, in our opinions, is the garage. Obviously the bathroom is pretty high up on the list too. No one likes stepping out of the shower and getting covered in goose pimples from the chilly tile on the floor, but a heated garage floor is a coveted garage floor. Installing radiant heating in the garage extends the space in the home, turning the garage from just a place to store a vehicle to a place for hobbies and to function during the coldest months of the year. At Tony’s, we can install radiant heated flooring anywhere in the home, even sidewalks! What room in your home is the setting of your next daydream?
How often during the week do you start your day by showering? It’s the go-to cool down when stuck in the muggy Minnesota heat, or like 65% of Americans, could be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Either way, showering is an essential part of living, and of the home. When is the last time you replaced your shower head? If you can’t remember that, try and think… When was the last time you cleaned it?
The shower head is one of the most underappreciated and overworked fixtures in the home! Most people don’t realize it, but your shower head can build up all kinds of nasty bacteria and leave you less clean than when you started. It is important to understand that where water lives, mold can grow. A typical shower head can experience build up due to hard water, sediments, and mold. So, how do you know when the right time to change your shower head is?
The answer depends on a few different factors. Some shower heads last longer than others, for instance plastic shower heads will typically have shorter lifespans than a metal one, because metal is less likely to stimulate mold growth. The longevity of your shower head also depends on how hard the water in your home is, and if you have a water softener. Over time, no matter what shower head you decide on, you will likely notice a hard white calcium build up which will prevent water from passing through. This build up is due to the minerals and sediment in the city water and can be cleared out up to a point.
A change in water pressure, leaks, funky smells or sediment build up are all signs that it’s time for a new fixture. Luckily for you, there are literally thousands of options out there. Shower heads come in many different shapes, sizes, and are broken down into specific categories based on what you’re looking to achieve with your showering experience. You can get ones that replicate the experience of being in the rain, or one that comes with a handheld to avoid moving around in a cramped shower space. There are other options such as a sliding bar for adjustable heights, ceiling over head installs, or multiple heads for additional coverage. The options are essentially endless.
A new shower head is a simple decision in the long run, but can be agonizing in the moment. The fancier you’re aiming, the more expensive they get. It’s a good idea to try and match the other fixtures in your bathroom, because you don’t want a glaring difference every time you enter one of the most trafficked areas of your home. Once you know what kind of fixture you want, if you have any questions or need help with an install, you know you can rely on Tony’s Plumbing to take care of any of your plumbing needs.
One of the worst misnomers in the plumbing world is the concept of the garbage disposal. The name would suggest that you can dispose of garbage in the sink, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. A garbage disposal allows you to avoid a stinky rotting waste bin, and eliminates some of the worry about food waste washing down your drain. Garbage obviously doesn’t belong down the disposal, but neither do a lot of other items! Most garbage disposals are finicky machines that will go on strike at a moment's notice if you try to feed them something they don’t like.
There are numerous food waste items that seem like they wouldn’t be an issue to put down the drain, but actually do a lot of damage if done too often. Another thing to consider before putting something down the garbage disposal is beyond the machine itself. It’s important to think about what you are sending down the drain into your pipes and plumbing. The better you treat your garbage disposal, the fewer times you’ll have to call Tony’s in for repairs!
We’ll say it again for anybody who needs to hear this; do not put coffee grounds, egg shells, or bones down your disposal! Most people are aware of these big issue items, but it’s always good to refresh your memory. All three of these items are solid examples of the mushy clog, fibrous build up, or just too tough on the machinery reasons you should think before you grind!
As a general rule, starchy scraps and mushy items are going to wreak havoc on your system, no matter what they are. You’ve likely put small vegetable or fruit scraps in your disposal, sure. But if you put potato skins in the disposal, you’ll end up with a soupy mess and a nasty clog. The same goes for items like banana peel, onion skins, and other fibrous vegetables.
Oatmeal, nuts, rice or pasta belong nowhere near the disposal either. For similar reasons to above, they break down and cling to each other, binding the gears and coating the drain pipes. These items along with fruit pits and any kind of shell, oyster or otherwise, should be tossed in the trash where they can be disposed of without damaging your kitchen.
You should also avoid putting oil, grease or cooking fats down the drain. Anything that coagulates as it gets cold shouldn’t go down the drain, because it will cause a clog. Even things like paint aren’t a good idea, as it can coat the walls of the pipes to create a slow clog over time.
Biodegradable items can go down the drain safely, and aren’t something to worry about. Your disposal can handle small amounts of food waste, but it’s a great idea to throw out what is waste, or try a compost if that option is available to you. Garbage disposals are a great and helpful part of the kitchen, but they do their best work when you pay mind to what you give them. As your favorite local Oakdale plumber, we are always around to help if you have an issue or even just a question! Give Tony’s a call today!
At Tony's Plumbing & Heating, we offer outstanding residential and commercial plumbing and heating services in the East Twin Cities metro. With our blog, we hope to bring you useful tips and tricks for ever day life!