18 Apr 2013

Steve’s Spotlight: Cedar Park

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“Austin” has become a catch-all phrase for not only the city itself but for the general area, including surrounding cities. But the residents of Cedar Park are proud of their town, while still enjoying all the nearby benefits Austin has to offer.

Cedar Park is both a young city and a historic one, founded way back in 1887 but not actually incorporated until 1973. If you love the outdoors, you’ll love this place; its Hill Country atmosphere and more than 800 acres of parkland make it ideal for hiking, biking, swimming (even hockey, since it hosts the Texas Stars) and just enjoying some beautiful scenery. In fact, Family Circle included the town on its “Top Ten Places to Raise a Family” list. Cedar Park is also smart about water usage and green solutions. Just this March, the City was offering residents steep discounts on rain barrels as a means of encouraging conservation and raising awareness about the need to make better use of water resources.

A building boom in the 1990s saw a whole generation of new homes mushrooming all over Cedar Park. That means there are plenty of relatively new homes here of all sizes (and prices), giving the feel of a typical family-friendly suburb. The fact that it’s an attractive place to relocate in means lots of home inspections — and that often stirs up the need for a plumber. But if you think you need a “Cedar Park plumber” to attend to your local needs, think again! Steve’s Plumbing Repair is a Cedar Park plumber. We’re not based there, but we serve residents there, and everywhere else in the Austin area. So don’t confine your plumber choices to whoever happens to set up shop in Cedar Park — choose the best plumber for a satisfying long-term relationship!

08 Apr 2013

What’s That Water on Your Floor?

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Did you go swimming for spring break? I don’t mean a trip to Padre Island — I’m talking about that unexpected water hole in your own home. Standing water on your floor is more than just a sign of a plumbing emergency; it’s a surefire way to experience structural damage, termites and toxic mold. Here are some things to troubleshoot:

Water heater woes – If you believe that water on your floor may be coming from your water heater, shut off its electrical or gas supply immediately to avoid a potential hazard. If the leak is in the heater body, shutting off the water to it may help. If the water valve itself fails to do this, you need a plumber (and a new water heater) ASAP.

Pipe problems – A leaky pipe anywhere in your plumbing systems can allow water to drip onto the floor. A quick visual inspection of the visible pipes in your house may not tell the whole story. Our experts can trace the problem back to its source, wherever that may be. For now, shut off the water supply to the whole house if necessary to keep things from getting worse.

Washer leaks – Whether it’s for dishes or for laundry, your washing appliance can spring a leak at any point during its lifespan, though older models are more likely to fail or malfunction. Shut off the water supply to the machine in question. You can either troubleshoot the internal problems yourself or call an appliance repair tech. Solutions range from a new gasket to a new pump or even a whole new washer.

Not sure where it’s coming from? Shut off the water supply to the house, use a wet vac to get that water up, and place an emergency call to Steve’s Plumbing Repair!

03 Apr 2013

New Business Site? Get That Plumbing Inspected!

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Opening a new business site is exciting, but it can also introduce some new problems of the plumbing variety. Make sure these items get checked out:

Grease traps – Make sure your new restaurant’s grease traps, mop sinks, kitchen drains, dishwashers, and other industrial plumbing fixtures are up to the task. These items see really hard use on a daily basis, so older ones may need unclogging, replacing or repairing. We can do whatever work is needed to keep you serving your patrons.

Sewer lines – If your sewer lines are leaking water, your business will be bleeding money until you get that problem fixed. This is one of those items that may not be apparent without the use of special tools such as fiber-optic cameras, so place a call to us and find out where your sewer lines stand.

Toilets – I don’t care what industry you’re in, nothing will disgust your visitors faster than a blocked-up or overrunning toilet. Your public image can’t afford to let this kind of problem continue; you need a regular plumber standing ready to respond to emergencies quickly and efficiently.

Mold/mildew – Dark discolorations on walls, around baseboards, or wherever water likes to collect may be signs of mold and mildew. This stuff not only grosses out your employees and customers, but could indicate that you have a leak somewhere. “Black mold” is known to be extremely toxic, so let a mold remediation specialist deal with it.

Wood damage – If you see suspiciously crumbly wood anywhere in your prospective site, you could be looking at the effects of water damage and/or termite infestations. But the real danger is damage to the wooden beams that are keeping your building from falling down.

Trust Steve’s Plumbing Repair to help your building stay in business!

20 Mar 2013

Interviewing Plumbers? Make Sure You Ask These Questions!

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If you haven’t actually chosen your family plumber yet, the last thing you want to do is call a random phone book listing. Here are some critical questions you should ask any prospective plumber:

“How long have you been in business?” As with any other service you would engage for pretty much anything, you want an experienced, stable professional on your side when trouble strikes. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a company in the Austin area that can beat our three generations of plumbing know-how and service.

“What’s the catch?” Watch out for those hidden fees: “Well, we can do X for you as promised, but if you really want the work to hold up you’ll have to buy Y.” Steve’s Plumbing Repair has no use for bait and switch — we promise “absolutely no hidden fees,” and we mean it.

“Do you do fiber optic sewer line inspections?” Not everybody invests in the state-of-the-art technology necessary to bring you the best plumbing care possible. Our fiber optic camera equipment can snake deep into sewer lines so we can view even tiny cracks or blockages on our video monitor. And as the tech evolves, so do we.

“What’s your service area?” There’s no point in getting all excited about a plumber who won’t even come to your neighborhood. We cover the entire Greater Austin area, from the center of town to surrounding cities.

“Do you work on vintage systems?” Do you live in an older home or historic neighborhood? If so, you’d better make sure your plumber understands the setup, materials and special problems of antiquated plumbing systems. Here’s another instance where being a third-generation plumber really comes in handy for us!

Or skip the interview process entirely — and simply call us!

18 Mar 2013

Ring Around the Toilet: Wax Ring Leakage and Replacement

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Do you have water pooling on your bathroom floor, or mysterious water rings on the ceiling where an upstairs toilet sits? Then you may have a leaky wax ring — the protective seal that fits between the base of the toilet and the drain. And if you don’t fix it, you’ll have a lake where a floor used to be.

Before you make this diagnosis, of course, you have to rule other issues like a leaky tank connector or tank condensation. But if there’s no other culprit, and you seem to get fresh water with every flush (or the vinyl flooring caulked to the toilet base seems to be developing strange fluid-filled lumps), then you’ve found your problem. To replace a faulty wax ring, first shut off the water supply valve and undo the bolts holding the toilet to the floor. Then pull the toilet away and stuff rags into the drain hole to prevent sewer gas from filling your home. Scrape away the old wax ring with a putty knife, clean away any wax scraps or other debris, and then fit the replacement ring into place.

Can you replace your toilet’s wax ring by yourself? Well, I guess so, but you’re not going to enjoy it. It’s a messy, nasty project, it requires you to look for the correct size replacement ring, and it’s even potentially dangerous if you throw your back out trying to move the toilet. You may also find a broken flange, rot in the surrounding floor, or some other complication you weren’t prepared to deal with. That’s why we think this is most likely a job for a plumber — and Steve’s Plumbing Repair is always happy to oblige. So if the base of your toilet has turned into a geyser, contact us for fast, professional, quality service!

08 Mar 2013

Springtime, and the Tree Roots Are in Bloom!

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Everybody loves the spring, and not just because of school vacations or South By Southwest. Those few cold days we have to endure here (don’t you love living in Texas?) start to fade away, leaves start to appear on the trees, flowers bloom. New life is everywhere. But this isn’t always a good thing — at least, not where your plumbing system is concerned.

We associate springtime with renewed plant growth. That’s great news for your garden, but not for your sewer line. If you live in an older neighborhood, your sewer line may be made of old, inferior pipe material such as Orangeburg or Claytile, and tree roots will grow right through this stuff. When this happens, you not only get cracks and breaks in your pipe, causing a huge loss of water efficiency, but you might even end up with a total blockage that causes the line to burst. Fortunately, our team at Steve’s Plumbing Repair has a state-of-the-art fiber optic cable system that lets us inspect the line and catch tiny problems before they become big headaches. And if we see that your line is made of old, fragile material that’s bound to fail sooner or later, we can replace with sturdy, reliable PVC.

Do mold allergies bug you this time of year? Mold can do a lot worse than that — it can form around leaks in your pipes, often inside the walls where you’d never see it. Some kinds of mold, like the infamous black mold, are highly toxic. Meanwhile, the water damage is destroying the wooden beams. You can beat springtime to the punch, and protect your home and your family, by having us inspect your pipes for leaks. If we see mold, we’ll let you know so you can it professional removed.

Enjoy your spring — with the help of Steve’s Plumbing Repair!

28 Feb 2013

A Brief History of Home Water Heaters

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Every time you turn your tap and hot water comes out, or that first blast of shower water hits you in the face with freezing you to death, you should be grateful that you didn’t live in the Bad Old Days. For most of human history, you had two choices — accept a cold-water bath, or spend a ridiculous amount of time heating water over a fire and then pouring it into the tub. You can see why hardly anybody bathed regularly for centuries!

It wasn’t until the 1800s that modern civilization achieved some reliable methods for heating and storing water. Kerosene and other natural gases replaced coal as the primary heating fuel until Edwin Rudd finally come up en electric heating element for water tanks in 1889. And once engineers figured out how to insulate the tank, people had a way to keep hot water on hand and draw small amounts of it at a time as needed. But tankless water heaters — the kind that heat the water on demand, instead of storing pre-heated water — were coming along at around the same time. The first one we know of appeared in 1868, but early models were too dangerous or too slow-working to catch on. Modern tankless systems do a great job, and they save energy too. And believe it or not, solar water heating has been around in since 1896, when Clarence Kemp invented the first batch water heater. Solar heaters fell out of vogue after the 1920s, then picked up again as people started looking for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Is your water heater an antique? If so, don’t just put up with cold baths like our ancestors did — contact Steve’s Plumbing and let us install the latest and greatest in water heating technology!

26 Feb 2013

Steve’s Spotlight: Barton Hills

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If you want to live in a place with history, you could do a lot worse than one of Austin’s most well-known neighborhoods, Barton Hills. This stretch of town, which starts at Zilker Park and hugs Barton creek down to Gus Frith District Park, welcomed its first resident when William Barton set up house by the river in 1837. The Barton Hills neighborhood as we know it has been around since the 1940s, with a boom period in the 1950s resulting in an assortment of one-story ranch homes and condos. People here love the top-class schools, easy access to shopping facilities such as “Bubbaretum,” and of course the beautiful natural surroundings.

Living so close to one of the town’s most popular creeks is very attractive to residents — but not necessarily so great for their homes. Back in William Barton’s day, easy access to a water supply was a godsend, but these we rely on our kitchen and bathroom plumbing to handle that need. And while Barton Creek doesn’t normally pose a threat to the neighborhood except in times of really extreme weather, the creek has experienced what the National Weather Service classifies as “major flooding” on several occasions — and four out its five peak recorded crests have occurred in the last couple of decades.

The combination of aging homes and repeated floods means that if you’re looking to buy one of these places, you should get it thoroughly inspected first — and that includes the plumbing system. Old, overstressed sewer lines, pipes, and appliances can fail without warning. So if you’d prefer not to have an all-new creek running along your expensive carpeting or flooring, contact Steve’s Plumbing Repair. We’ll make sure your Barton Hills Home provides plenty of water — but through the tap, not around your feet!

13 Feb 2013

Plumbing: The Ultimate Valentine’s Day Gift

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Ah, Valentine’s Day. It’s a time for romantic feelings and loving gestures — a time when you can show your loved one just how you feel. And nothing says “I love you” better than — new plumbing?

Hang on, hear me out; I promise I haven’t lost my marbles. I’m not suggesting you forget about that expensive dinner out or that inscribed gold watchband/bracelet/whatever. But think about it for a second. Has your spouse been complaining about the low water pressure in the shower or the creaky, tarnished, hard-to-turn taps on the bathroom sink? Have both of you had your fill of hot baths that aren’t so hot, or water pipes that make enough noise to interrupt your nighttime pillow talk? Has an escalating energy bill or water bill forced you to cut back on going out and enjoying special events together? If the answer to any of these questions, or other similar ones, is “Yes,” then wouldn’t investing in repairs or upgrades to your plumbing system work wonders, not only for your everyday quality of life, but possibly for your love life as well?

Call Steve’s Plumbing Repair to arrange a wonderful surprise for that special person in your life. We can install energy-saving appliances and replace leaky pipes to help you save up for that romantic cruise you’ve always planned to take. We can make sure your hot water heater gives you the steamy results you want while keeping quiet about it in the process. And we can replace those drab old faucets and fixtures with beautiful new ones that make your home that much more of a pleasure to live in. Your romantic partner will love you for it — and we think you’ll love it too!

06 Feb 2013

Steve’s Spotlight: Forest North

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Let’s turn the old spotlight north this time — onto a nice little chunk of Northwest Austin known as Forest North.

The homes here are what we call “established” (as opposed to “brand spanking new”), and typically sell in the $150,000 to $270,000 range. One of the features that makes this area more affordable is the fact that many homes use septic systems instead of running on the city sewer lines, freeing those residents from the additional tax burden of city sewer service. Residents enjoy plentiful shopping at Round Rock Outlet Mall and Lakeline Mall, with similarly easy access to the fashionable Domain and ever-popular Arboretum. Major nearby arteries include Highways 45 and 183, helping to make the commute to work or school a breeze. And speaking of school, the kids are served by McNeil High School, Deerpark Middle School and Forest North Elementary School. All in all, a great place to settle down in a nice little house and raise a family.

Where does Steve’s Plumbing Repair enter the picture? Well, we provide service throughout the Austin area, and we’re happy to help North Forest residents as well. Many of the older homes in this neighborhood may benefit from a careful sewer line inspection or some adjustments to the water pressure. Older appliances may be consuming more water or energy than strictly necessary, in which case we can recommend and install more energy-efficient models for future savings. What about the homes that use septic tanks? Well, they obviously won’t need a sewer line inspection, since they’re not using the city sewer lines. But tank or no tank, we’re always the guys to call if you have a clogged sink, toilet or tub, or if you need any the modifications mentioned above. Don’t be shy — call us!