An Ounce of Prevention ~ by Sam

Remember how I said we are working on our “do it yourself” skills?  Remember how (I think) I also mentioned that we are NOT plumbers?  (Seriously.  We have a documentary television editor and a former drama teacher here.  We have skills…just not plumbing skills.)  Well, since we became homeowners ~ yay, us!  We’re homeowners!!  Sorry, I still get excited about that ~ we have had a number of plumbing problems.  What number, you ask?  hmmm…Well, if I had to put a monetary value on it, I think it would fall in the $5-7000 range.  I’d have to look at receipts to be sure (and those receipts frighten me with their giant numbers), but it’s somewhere in there.  We are lucky in that our Home Warranty (provided for the first year by our fabulous realtor) covered several “simple stoppages.”  However, we ended up having a few more major issues.  We had a huge part of our sewage line replaced, as well as the mainline in and the mainline out.  Those, we could not have done anything about.  We have 60 year old pipes.  Whaddaya gonna do?

However, having had some less than super attentive landlords over the years (not exclusively ~ we have had some EXCELLENT landlords, as well), we have picked up a maintenance skill or two that might help save a little wear and tear on your pipes, and save you a little money, so I thought I would share.

Here are some things we know that might help you avoid a call to your plumber:

Things that should not go in to your garbage disposal include:

potato peels (thanx, Kathy!)
rice
artichoke leaves

(trust us on this)

To keep your garbage disposal’s blades sharp and working well, run a cup of ice through the disposal once in a while.  (Also, to freshen your disposal, run an orange, lemon or lime through it.)

To clear a slow drain, and for regular monthly maintenance for your sink, shower and/or bathtub drains, pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup of white vinegar.  Let sit for 15 minutes-1 hour, then flush with hot water for 10-15 minutes.

To avoid clogs in the first place, invest in a good strainer for each of your drains.  Make sure it has small enough holes to catch all of the hair and debris, that it fits your drain well, and that you clean it regularly.

If, despite your best efforts, your still end up with hair in your drain (you may notice that it is draining slowly), try one of these tools:  http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-Products-00412BL-Zip-It-Cleaning/dp/B000BO9204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389124086&sr=8-1&keywords=zip-it+drain+cleaning+tool  It is super cheap, and, while rather disgusting to use, it works.  I keep one in each bathroom that has a shower (so a two-pack did it for our household).  When I notice that the drain seems slow, I use this tool to clear as much junk as I can, follow with baking soda/vinegar, flush with hot water, and admonish everyone to remember to make sure the strainer is in place over the drain before showering, for cryin’ in the mud!!!

Also (and this may sound silly), invest in and learn how to properly use a good plunger.  Here is a video I found that may help http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NR2JpeidOo , and you can find more information online.  I recommend watching several, to make sure it makes sense to you.  There seem to be several different variations on the basic method, so it’s worth doing a little research.

So, that’s all I’ve got.  You know, my dad repiped the house I grew up in, and, while I wish we had those skills, I know we don’t.  When that time comes (and it is on its way ~ remember, we have 60 year old pipes), we will hire a professional.  The advice I have for that kind of decision is to do lots of research online about different materials options, get many estimates, use online review sites and (in my opinion, THIS last one is the most important step) get personal recommendations from people you know.  Think about it: if your neighbours had similar repairs done and were thrilled with the company and quality of work ~ and if you can actually take a look at the work that was done and see the result for yourself ~ you can enter into a business relationship with a certain amount of confidence, IMO.

So, there you have it.  No earth-shattering new info., I guess, but a few things we didn’t know, right from the start, and thought might be helpful to others.  if you have any other great plumbing-saving (and, therefore, money-saving) tips, please pass them on in the comments here.  We would love to hear from you, and we can always use a few more tips.

EDIT
One last note, based on events of the day:
It also might be a good idea to invest in a drain snake, and learn to snake your own drain.  While I still recommend working hard on preventing clogs before they happen, it’s nice to have one more trick in your bag, before you resort to calling the plumber.  We are lucky that Shane has acquired this skill (and a drain snake).  Now, I guess I get to learn, so I can handle any clogs that crop up when he is not home.  Oh, boy.

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One thought on “An Ounce of Prevention ~ by Sam

  1. I felt I should add: every plumber I have ever known has told me that those chemical drain openers are harsh, damaging, and just don’t work very well. I’ll admit to having tried them in desperation, but, I have to say, those attempts were almost always followed by a call to plumber.

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