29 Oct 2012

Understanding Faucet Fixes

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If you’ve decided to tackle your leaky faucet as a DIY job, first you must understand how that particular faucet works. A simple compression faucet, for instance, contains an internal stopper that literally literally squeezes shut when you tighten the handle. Or you might find some other kind of assembly in there. A ball-type faucet uses an internal perforated ball assembly. A cartridge faucet uses a perforated cartridge. A ceramic disc faucet uses — well, you get the idea. These latter three faucet types control water flow by aligning or misaligning holes within the active components. When the holes are lined up, water can flow through at full volume, but as you adjust the handle the holes shift out of alignment, reducing or shutting off the flow.

The standard procedure for fixing a leaky faucet is to start by turning off the water from the wall valve and opening the faucet completely to let everything drain. You’ll have to unscrew the handle to get to the innards. If the nut inside feels loose, you may be able to solve the whole problem just by tightening it. If not, you’ll have to release it to get to the innards. Since you probably won’t be able to tell which internal component — springs, washers, cartridge, etc. — has failed, it makes sense to just replace them all with new ones. The metal parts might have calcium or other gunk caked onto them, and this could be part of the problem, so scrub them off with vinegar unless you’re willing to replace them as well.

So yes, you can often fixed a messed-up faucet yourself. The question is, do you want to? If you’d rather just know the job is done right while you go on with your life, leave it to Steve’s Plumbing Repair instead!

17 Oct 2012

Don’t Make These Home Plumbing Errors!

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“Do it yourself” makes perfect sense in many plumbing situations, but only if you do it right. All too often we see people doing more harm than good in their efforts to fix or upgrade their home plumbing systems. Here are some basic tips to keep you from doing the same:

Don’t pour corrosives down your sink. If you’re not using high-quality drain cleaner of the proper strength, you’ll end up overusing whatever you do have — and the cheap stuff will hurt your pipes. If you’re having trouble unclogging your sink, don’t keep pouring those corrosive substances into it — contact us and let us unclog the sink safely.

Don’t forget to seal plumbing joints. You may find it a breeze to thread that new low-flow shower head onto the shower pipe, but did you remember to seal it properly? If you didn’t, expect to see dribbling sooner or later. Apply a layer of pipe tape over the new fixture’s threads, then cover the tape with a sealing agent like pipe compound before actually screwing the item into place.

Don’t use pipes that are too narrow. Different parts of your plumbing system have to be able to handle different loads. If your drainage system, for instance, is fitted with pipes that are too narrow, you’ll be dealing with constant clogs. The wrong diameter of pipe will also mess up the water pressure between your water supply and your fixtures or appliances.

Don’t try if you don’t know how. When in doubt, job it out. Call the professionals at Steve’s Plumbing Repair to tackle that job you’re not so sure about. You’ll save money by having the job done right the first time, by people who know what they’re doing. Best of all, you don’t have to mess with it yourself!

04 Oct 2012

Outdoor Plumbing Issues

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Here in Central Texas we have to make sure our lawns and gardens get adequate water if we want to keep them looking green all year round. Unfortunately, the faucets, pipes and hoses that feed water to our lawns are subject to some of the same issues as an indoor plumbing system — maybe more so, in fact, because they’re exposed to the elements. Here are some things you can do to make sure your outdoor plumbing is getting the job done (and not doing a job on your water bill):

Check faucets for leakage. You’re a lot more likely to notice a dripping or leaking indoor faucet than the one you only see when you’re in your yard. Test your outdoor faucets from time to time to make sure they’re shutting off completely — otherwise you’re just leaking money.

Get the pipes inspected. Do you have outdoor pipes feeding your sprinkler system or pool? It might be time to get them looked at. Metal pipes can corrode, and when they do, they may leak or even break the next time you turn the water on full blast. Copper pipes make an excellent, long-lasting upgrade to older outdoor pipe materials, because they resist both UV rays and corrosion.

Know how to winterize your faucets. I know we rarely see anything that resembles winter around these parts, but those few freezing nights can damage your plumbing unless you frost-proof your outdoor faucets. To do this, first turn off the water from the indoor shutoff valve long enough to undo the drain valve and get rid of any remaining water inside the faucet. Then wrap the faucet in some newspaper and tie a garbage bag around the whole thing.

Got any other issues with your outdoor plumbing? Contact us!

02 Oct 2012

Steve’s Spotlight: Lake Travis

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If you love the water, Lake Travis is the place for you. This area includes such sought-after communities as Lakeway, Flintrock Falls, Angle Bay, the Coves on Lake Travis, Spicewood, Saddletree Ranch, Westcave Preserve, the homestead and others. There are more marinas out here than you can shake a stick at, so you’ll see plenty of boats, jet skis, fishing poles and swimmers. And if that’s not enough H20 for you, you can always head over Krause Springs or Hamilton Pool Preserve. It really is a case of water, water everywhere!

But this isn’t exactly what you’d call an “old” community. Lake Travis itself didn’t even exist until 1942, when the Lower Colorado River Authority erected Mansfield Dam. It and the six other highland Lakes came into being as reservoirs, and Lake Travis, the largest of these reservoirs, was actually created for flood prevention, not fun and games. While in recent years we’ve seen some pretty low water levels, if it ever gets above 681 feet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will open flood gates to bring things under control. So if you live at Lake Travis, you don’t have to worry about the lake flooding your home. Worry about your plumbing instead!

Imagine the irony of having an out-of-control flooding situation inside your beautiful Lake Travis home while an entire flood prevention system sits peacefully nearby. You have ready access to all the water you want without having it damage your living room furniture, kitchen floor or structural beams. Why not have Steve’s Plumbing Repair come over and check out your plumbing system to make sure interior of your home continues to match the beauty of your lakeside scenery? We can help you keep your household water where it belongs — inside your pipes!

25 May 2012

A Quick Plumbing Troubleshooting Checklist

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Sometimes you just need to do some quick troubleshooting so you can at least know when to contact us and when to do a quick fix yourself. So here are a few common symptoms and solutions for quick reference:

Standing water in sink: If your disposal is gunked up, try running ice through it to clean the blades. If the blockage is in the P-trap underneath the sink, you’re better off having us deal with the mess of fixing it. Don’t pour corrosive cleaners down the sink!

Toilet won’t flush properly or runs forever: Make sure the flapper is closing so the tank can refill, and that the chain connects the flapper to the ballcock. You might have clogged flush holes (under the toilet rim). If you have a broken flange or leaky wax ring at the base of the toilet, you’ll probably want to let us fix that.

Toilet overflows: You can fix a one-time blockage with your trusty plunger or toilet snake, but it your toilet overflows regularly, get a plumber to inspect the pipes.

Low water pressure: You may have a broken water line. If the problem affects one room, the leak is probably in that part of the system; if it’s house-wide, you should get the water line feeding the whole house checked.

Noisy water pipes: Pressure from your water heater could be causing your pipes to knock together if they’ve gotten un-fastened from the wall. We can attach new fasteners to brace them so they’ll shut up.

“Rotten egg” smell: This could mean that a cracked vent pipe or drain is leaking sewer gas into your home. This is a job best left to the pros, some get out of that stinky house and contact us immediately.

Hope this is helpful!

23 May 2012

Is Your Toilet Supply Line About to Supply You with a Flood?

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Okay, most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to our toilet supply line — that metal pipe running from the wall to the toilet. Until it actually starts to leak, we just assume that it’ll just keep doing its job forever. But there’s a hidden problem lurking in many of these gadgets that could be a broken line in the making — and your own toilet might be getting ready to betray you.

What’s the problem? The nut at the end of the supply line that screws on to provide a sealed connection to the toilet. Once upon a time, manufacturers always made these things out of brass or some other sturdy metal, and you could generally count on them providing years of trouble-free service as long as they were attached correctly. Well, today’s toilet supply lines usually have a cheap plastic nut on them. This is just asking for trouble, because there’s no way to tighten a cheap plastic nut sufficiently without stressing it to the point where cracks or breaks become inevitable. Lately we’ve been on call after call where a busted toilet supply line flooded the entire home and caused thousands of dollars in damages, all because of one cheap little part. Let me repeat — a plastic toilet supply line will fail.

Luckily, it’s really easy to prevent this disaster — just contact Steve’s Plumbing Repair. We can take a look at your toilet supply line, and if we see a plastic nut there we’ll swap it out for a strong, reliable, long-lasting metal one. For the price of a single part and a simple procedure, you could save yourself hours of restoration or repairs, not to mention the treasured items lost to water damage. Letting it go is just plain nuts!

23 May 2012

June Is the Month for Weddings — and Plumbing Problems

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Are you planning a June wedding? Just about everybody does, it seems. Whether you’re the bride-to-be or the proud parents, you obviously have a ton of things to think about, from the reception menu to the music. And if you’re hosting the wedding, wedding party, wedding guests and/or wedding reception in your home, you’ve got even more to worry about — including the state of your plumbing system.

We may sound a little like a broken record on the subject, but anytime you plan to have a number of overnight visitors for a special occasion, you should get your pipes, sewer lines and fixtures checked well in advance. The last thing you need when you have a houseful of people all scrambling to get ready for a wedding is a sudden drought or flood due to faulty plumbing. And when the wedding takes place in your home, the stress on your plumbing is considerably worse. If you’re doing any kind of food preparation for the event, you’d better have kitchen faucets, drains and garbage disposal working like a charm. And keep in mind that wedding nerves plus beverages can equal plenty of visits to your bathrooms, so you’d better have perfectly functioning facilities, not just on the wedding day but for the rehearsal and reception as well.

Want to make sure your special day is special in the right sense of the word? Don’t let plumbing issues go unnoticed in all the excitement of your wedding preparations. Let Steve’s Plumbing Repair give your system the once-over, just to make sure everything is ship-shape. We can keep little problems from turning into big ones at the worst possible moment. You’ll enjoy smooth plumbing operation long after the rice has been thrown — just don’t throw it down your garbage disposal!

21 May 2012

The Summer Solstice: What does It Mean for Your Home?

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Don’t you love the longer summer days? You can have that much more fun and pack your day with all kinds of outdoor activities. And the Big Daddy of all summer days, the summer solstice, arrives on the first official day of summer, June 20th. On this day the sun will be at its most northern point in the Northern Hemisphere’s sky at noon, giving us the most daylight we’ll receive on any day this year. But not everything about the summer solstice is fun and games — at least not when it comes to your water bill.

While the days start to shrink again after June 20th is past, they’ll continue to offer extended daylight for quite a while. More often than not, you can count on longer, sunnier days translating into more water usage. More hours of sun beating down on your lawn and garden means more sprinkler system operation and more water for your flowers or vegetables. Pets’ water bowls may need refilling more often from this point on, especially when the long days start to sizzle. As a result, your water bill will start going up. (Remember Summer 2011? Of course you do.) And unless you can afford to simply dump a lot of extra water into the ground, you’d better get your outdoor lines inspected — springtime root growth can cause cracks and leaks.

All that extra fun you’re having puts its own strain on your plumbing system. When you cook out, for instance, those leftovers can challenge your garbage disposal, and the extra dishes may have your dishwasher working overtime. Dirty clothes from outdoor excursions will give you more laundry to do. Contact Steve’s Plumbing Repair and let us make sure all systems are go for a more fun and affordable summer solstice!

14 May 2012

Save Money with "Green" Plumbing Options

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Everybody uses more water when the temperature starts to rise. You may not have a pool, but you sure will take more showers or baths (we hope) after running around outdoors in the heat of the day. Lawns, people and pets all need plenty of water — but water costs money, and we have a limited supply here in Austin. So this might be the perfect time for you to “go green” and reduce both your utility bills and your environmental footprint.

Low-flow toilets make a great starting point. Depending on how old your toilet is, you may be using up to five gallons with each flush, which can easily come to 28 or more gallons per family member every day. Even a modern 1.6-gallon toilet can be improved on — a HET (High Efficiency Toilet) used only 1.28 gallons. That’s a lot of water saved!

Low-flow faucets and showers can help you save water (and money) every time you wash yourself off, clean the sink or prepare a meal. These specially-designed units can help you use up to 60 percent less water. Even a simple  flow reducer attached to your kitchen faucet can help you use 40 percent less water at that tap.

Energy-efficient appliances can wash your clothes or dishes effectively with considerably less water than older, more wasteful devices. Depending on what model you purchase, you could even cut your wash-water usage in half.

Even with the fanciest new low-flow gadgetry, however, you could still be wasting money if your pipes or fixtures are letting valuable water get away. That’s one of the reasons we urge you to get your plumbing lines, pipes and attachments checked out on a regular basis. Trust Steve’s Plumbing Repair to help you with your “green plumbing” questions and needs!

07 May 2012

Steve's Spotlight: Pemberton Heights

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Continuing our look at Historic West Austin, this time we’re throwing our spotlight on a neighborhood named as one of the American Planning Association’s “great places” neighborhoods. That occurred in 2007, but Pemberton Heights has been recognized as a great place to live ever since this subdivision first started taking shape in 1927. Home to many well-known artists, politicians and businessmen over the years, today you’ll see a safe, pedestrian-friendly area populated by families.

Pemberton Heights lies between MoPac and North Lamar, stretching from Windsor Road up to Westover. Before this centrally-located chunk of Austin was a residential subdivision, Attorney General John Woods Harris ran it as a farm. After the farmland passed into the hands of the Fisher family, the Austin Land Company transformed it into a neighborhood by breaking it up into 12 different sections and running a bridge over Shoal Creek. Today Pemberton Heights remains a beautiful place to live, full of big historic trees and lush lawns. Because of its central location, new construction would probably overwhelm the area if not for the ongoing efforts of its neighborhood association to preserve  its charm and even some of its original historic homes dating from the 1920s and 1930s.

Well, you can see where this is going. Older neighborhoods with older homes naturally rely on older plumbing pipes and older sewer lines. The key word here is “older.” Imagine moving into a gorgeous old home only to have it flooded out by a broken pipe! (Pemberton Castle, a 1926 construction, supposedly has ghosts, but I can’t help but wonder whether it’s the plumbing system that’s actually haunted.) If you’re looking to purchase one of Pemberton Heights’ many upscale homes, protect your investment by having the plumbing inspected by the pros at Steve’s Plumbing Repair.