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!)
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:  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 , 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.

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.


Brief Update ~ by Sam

Hello, my fellow lowlifes.  Hmmm….maybe not the nicest way to greet people.  Let’s try again.


Hello, lovely readers!  We are so happy to have you.  We hope you are all enjoying our blog, and we want you to know that we welcome your comments.

That said, I will give a very brief update (hee-hee…or so she says), as the title implies.

It has been a helluva week.  At the end of last week, we got the  very sad news that our oldest cat, Muggles, has cancer of the lungs.  The vet says there is not a lot we can do at this point, other than help him enjoy his life as long as he can.  He still likes to play with his jingly ball, snuggling up on the kids’ beds, and kitty treats, so we are making sure he gets lots and lots of all that.

A few days later, we had a plumber in to unstop a toilet, and learned that we have a broken sewage line under our house.  Not really any cheap (or stress-free) way to deal with that, so, instead, we are just dealing with it.  One kid is bunking with her sister, and we cannot use the powder room or the laundry room until it is fixed.  Gotta do what you gotta do.  Yes, yes, welcome us to home-ownership!  We totally knew this stuff was coming.

Today, we awoke to find that one of our fish seems to be not long for this world.  At this time, he is still hanging on, but we really think it is just a matter of time.  Kaia is having a very hard time with this, as well as the news about Mugsy.  Too much sadness all at once for a tender-hearted little girl.

Somehow, we are managing to keep the stress at a manageable level.  Kaia was able to spend Friday and Saturday with friends (Girl Scout meeting, sleepover with very best friend, and then a park clean-up with the GS troop on Saturday morning), which kept her mind occupied.  Hallie made a short film with friends on Saturday morning, while Justice and I visited an import market that is only open to the public 6 times/year, so she could practice her French (more about that later ~ remember, this is the brief update), and we could buy lots of delicious treats.  Saturday afternoon, we all went to the laundromat and did every last bit of our laundry, in about 2 hours.  That might sound stressful, but, actually, it was pretty awesome.  We walked across the street and bought Slurpees, then played old arcade games while we waited for our laundry to be done.  Everyone pitched in to fold and put things back in to baskets, and we headed home with every stitch of clothing (and the towels) clean.  Tonight’s dinner was vegetarian sliders (I made a huge batch a few weeks ago and froze a bunch for future use), and we will have enough left over to send in kids’ lunchboxes tomorrow.

So that’s it, really.  Sorry, not much info. about how we spent our money in this post.  I will say we got a good deal on the the sewage line replacement, I think, and we have been sticking close to home, which always saves us money.  Oh, and we have been working out carpooling arrangements for various activities ~ saves time, money and stress, is good for the environment, and lightens up traffic on the freeways…you know, all good stuff, and not just good for us.

The weather is mild and lovely, and the finches love to hang out in our herb garden, so it is quite nice here, lately.  Hope you are enjoying these first days of Fall with the people you love best of all.