17 Apr 2011

Spring Cleaning: Smart Ways to Spend that Tax Refund

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April means tax time, as I’m sure you know all too well. If you’re expecting a refund this year, you may already have that money earmarked toward home improvement needs. Why not consider putting it toward some smart “spring cleaning” — important maintenance work on your home’s water systems that can help prevent expensive emergencies down the road? Here are a few possible items for your “to-do” list:

Watch that water heater. The faithful companion that works so hard to provide you with hot water day after day and year after year will inevitably shows signs of age after a while. Water heaters can corrode and built up sediment over time, requiring occasional flushing. After 15 years or so, in fact, it may be smart to replace the entire unit. Steve’s Plumbing Repair can inspect your system to make sure it’s still got some good years to go — and if it doesn’t, we can install a shiny new heater in its place.

Look out for leaks. Leaky pipes can not only reduce your water pressure and cause to spend more on water, but it can also cause expensive property damage. We can spot and fix any leaks that threaten your home with potential rot, staining or mold.

Unblock those blockages. Springtime means plant growth, including the formation of tree roots that can get into clay water lines and block the water supply to your home. We get to the root of that problem by using our advanced camera technology to inspect the lines, replacing root-clogged pipes with clean new “root-proof” piping.

If you’re ready to spring into action to protect your home and make it more water-efficient, we’re ready to help — just call us!

17 Apr 2011

A Brief History of Plumbing

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As you know, I’m proud to be a third-generation Austin plumber. Our family has been installing, repairing and maintaining water systems for decades — but the plumbing industry itself has been around a lot longer. Here are some highlights from plumbing history, courtesy of the University of Steve:

Crete, 1700 B.C:
In one of the first known sewage facilities, the Palace of Knossos dumps its wastewater through one but four independent drainage systems into a massive stone sewer complex, no doubt leading to a new concept known as the blocked drain. Enter a new type of hero in the ancient world — the plumber! Crete also develops the world’s first flush toilet, but that technology will go lost until the Renaissance. We plumbers refer to this setback as the Really Dark Ages.

Ancient Greece: The Greeks develop hot and cold water systems for their citizens, but the Spartans refuse to turn on the hot tap because warm water is for wimps. Their insistence on bathing in cold water ensures that the words “bath” and “pleasant” never occur in the same sentence.

Roman Republic:
The Romans give us our modern word “plumber” from the Latin “plumbus,” their word for lead. Early plumbers were lead workers who did everything from drains and sewers to roof gutters. We don’t do roofs anymore. We don’t do lead either!

Imperial Rome: The Roman Emperor Caracalla builds a 28-acre, 1,600-seat public bath facility, instantly making himself the most popular Roman leader in the history of the plumbing industry.

Medieval Times: Don’t ask.

18thth-Century England: After Europe rediscovers the joys of bathing and waste disposal, Alexander Cumming patents the S-trap, making modern toilet technology, and problems, possible. Plumbers get back to work — and we’re still working  today!

17 Apr 2011

Water Tank Heaters: Sometimes Old Tech Is the Best Tech

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Previously we looked at tankless water heaters, a relatively new, high-tech, energy-efficient alternative to traditional tank-based water heaters for the home.  I think tankless heaters are great for saving on gas bills, especially in smaller homes. In some cases, however, you might be better off choosing to install a good old-fashioned water heater. Those cases may include:

Large homes. A single tankless water heater will have trouble supplying an endless stream of hot water over the area of a smaller home, but a hot water tank can supply more sheer volume of heated water at a time for larger homes. A large home can still go tankless, but more than one unit may have to be installed to cover “zones” of the house, driving installation costs up.

Modification issues. Some homes may not have gas lines large enough to comfortably accommodate the larger volume of gas a tankless unit needs, meaning that we’d have to install a new gas line to feed the unit. This isn’t necessarily a big deal, but in some cases it could require extra work. And there might be other issues involving adding a new electrical outlet, roof vent pipe, et cetera.

Water heaters have their good points. They last for many years with proper repair and maintenance, and as I mentioned they can supply a large volume of heated water for large homes. But they do force you to keep your burner going continuously, and gas isn’t cheap. Ultimately you must choose the most cost-efficient solution for your specific needs.

The good news is that Steve’s Plumbing can help you make that decision. We also know everything there is to know about installing, repairing and maintaining your heater to ensure reliable year-round operation.  Just contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

17 Apr 2011

Tankless Water Heaters: What They Are and How to Get One

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I’m happy to say that working at Steve’s Plumbing Service can be a tankless job.

No, that’s not a typo. We install, repair and maintain tankless water heaters for Austin residences just like yours. And if you’re interested in having a continuous supply of hot water throughout the home from a high-efficiency, cost-efficient system, maybe you should join the list of tankless homes in the Austin area.

What is a tankless water heater? If you’d assumed that all water heaters rely on a gas-heated tank to get the job done, think again. Tank-based systems have certainly been a fixture in homes for decades, and yes, they do the job — as long as you’re willing to devote a closet-sized area of your home to the tank. And that water only stays hot as long as you keep burning that gas – not an activity that any of us really enjoy these days. By comparison, a tankless heater saves both space and energy by replacing the tank with a heat exchanger. As cold water enters the exchanger, an onboard computer tells gas to flow to burners. When the hot water faucet is turned off, so is the heater – saving you big bucks on your utlity bills.

How do I get one? Glad you asked! We’ll come out to your home to install a brand-new tankless water heater for your home. We also can also repair these units and make annual maintenance calls to flush out any hard water residue that might reduce your tankless heater’s efficiency over time.

Tankless water heaters aren’t for everyone, but owners of smaller homes in particular will love paying less for a hot water system that keeps the heat coming no matter how much water the occupants run. Contact us for more info!

08 Mar 2011

Sewer Pipe Inspection: An Inspection Today Keeps the Roots Away

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Admit it, you don’t like to think about your sewer lines – not even when they’re behaving themselves. “Out of sight, out of mind” goes the saying. That’s fine for the dust bunnies under your bed, but it’s not a great way to ward off potential plumbing disasters.

When do I need one? If you have older sewer lines, the answer is — yesterday! Do you live in an older Austin neighborhood such as Tarrytown, Allandale, or Hyde Park? If you do, then your sewer lines may date back to the 1930s. Unless they’ve been replaced already, these sewer lines are still relying on the original Orangeburg, Claytile or simple cement pipes installed in my grandfather’s time as a plumber. These materials enjoyed a lot of popularity as sewer piping up through the 1960s – and that’s a problem, because they don’t last. These materials start to disintegrate over time, allowing tree roots to grow right into the pipe and block it up. And then your sewer service fails.

How does it work? A sewer line inspection can spot any blockages inside pipes. We use the latest technologies to make this process fast and simple. We snake a fiber optic cable equipped with a video camera down into the pipe and run it through the entire length of the sewer line. If we see that the pipes are blocked up or falling apart, we can install new PVC pipes into your sewer line. PVC doesn’t disintegrate, meaning that roots can’t poke their way into your line.

What does it cost? Not much – if you act now. We’re running a special $150 sewer line inspection for a limited time. No matter how old your neighborhood, a quick inspection now can save you a lot of headaches later. Call for details!

08 Mar 2011

Honesty in Plumbing: Who Earns Your Trust?

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Buyer beware! Roofers, painters, plumbers and other service providers come and go, sometimes without any intention of sticking around after they’ve been paid, or throwing little “surprises” into the final price tag. Some don’t really have professional training, legitimate credentials or an established business history. It makes things tougher for us legitimate Austin plumbers and other professionals, and it really makes things tough for you. But how can you tell an honest plumbing service from a less-honest one?

First, look for straightforward pricing. Any plumbing service that won’t commit to a solid price may pull a bait and switch on you later. At Steve’s Plumbing Service, we make it simple: $100 per hour plus parts, period. No hidden fees, no bait and switch. If we offer a limited-time special with a fixed price, such as our current $100 sewer line inspection, you can expect to pay that price for that service. Whatever we say it’ll cost, that’s what it’ll cost.

Second, find out what people are saying. Anyone can make claims, but in the end nothing matters but results. We love to hear from our happy plumbing customers throughout Austin. Check out the Facebook feed on our website and you’ll see real testimonials about the quality of our work and our customer care.

Third, look for the track record. How long has the company served its community as an Austin plumber? How much proven experience and expertise do the owner and employees have? At Steve’s Plumbing Service, we’re proud to represent over 50 years of Austin plumbing experience. As a third-generation plumber, my company has become a part of the local landscape. And we don’t claim to be anything we’re not — no heating, AC service, etc. We focus on what we know. Contact us and see for yourself!

08 Mar 2011

Plumbing 911: Dealing with Emergencies

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It can happen anytime. A sewer line can collapse, toilets can go on strike, or pipes can burst after a freeze. (Sure, we don’t get a lot of freezes in Austin, but when it happens and people haven’t prepared, look out!) When a plumbing emergency happens, you have to know who to call – and fast.

Are you ready? Do you have an Austin plumbing service on hand that specializes in emergency response for both residential and commercial situations? If you don’t currently have an emergency plumber, how do you identify one that you can rely on when it all goes down? Some important things to look for include:

Emergency-ready skills. A good emergency plumber has the expertise and experience needed to see the problem quickly and move fast to solve it. While a new or amateur plumber might poke around until he eventually figures out whether he can actually fix things, a real emergency plumber KNOWS what to do and how to do it.

Availability. Emergencies don’t wait for a convenient time. That’s why any plumber offering emergency services must be ready, willing and able to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That sounds like a given, but you’d better make sure before selecting your regular go-to guy for plumbing services. At Steve’s we promise – and deliver – ‘round the clock emergency service.

Here’s a suggestion: Go to our website and look up our contact information. Print the page or copy the info to a sticky note, and attach it to your fridge door. Don’t wait, because you’ll forget. Do it now. That way you’ll always have a go-to Austin emergency plumbing service on hand in case something serious happens to your sewer line, drainpipes or other plumbing components.

08 Mar 2011

Experience Matters

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You may be thinking, “Steve, how’d you ever get into the plumbing business?” Or you might not be thinking that at all, but it’s good excuse for me to tell you, so let’s pretend you were. I imagine it’s not the first career that most kids think about going into. But I wasn’t most kids – I was a “plumbing legacy.”

What does that mean? It means I’m a third-generation Austin plumber. My father was a plumber before me, and his father was a plumber before him. It’s the family profession. I grew up knowing my way around a plumbing pipe, understanding how and why leaks happen, what to do in a plumbing emergency, and the basics of sewer line service and replacement.

And I keep learning. Time marches on, technology changes (even if the pipes themselves last for decades), and newer, most advanced methods come along to repair pipes and diagnose sewer problems. We’ve kept up with the times ever since I opened Steve’s Plumbing Service back in 1995. I’ve made sure we had cutting-edge tools such as fiber optic video that let us see blockages and other problems inside sewer lines. We stay on top of all the latest designs, parts and materials – but without years of training and experience, all those new toys wouldn’t mean much.

There are plenty of new guys out there in the Austin plumbing industry, and that’s understandable – everybody has to start somewhere. But that doesn’t mean they have to start with you. Letting an inexperienced plumber fix your pipes is like letting a student driver borrow your car – your property might survive, but for how long? Go with a plumbing company that can claim a lifetime’s experience of plumbing in Austin. Call Steve’s!

24 Jan 2011

Bob Cole from KVET endorses Steve

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In 2010, Austin’s popular DJ on KVET Radio began endorsing Steve’s Plumbing Repair, Inc.  Bob Cole is also the owner of Hill’s Cafe, a historic Austin venue.

Steve’s Plumbing Repair

Steve’s Plumbing Repair 1

23 Nov 2010

Replacing Old Sewer Lines

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Sewer Line Inspection using Fiber Optic Video – only $175.00/hour  — For a limited time only.

If you live in these Austin neighborhoods: Tarrytown, Hydepark, and Allandale you probably need to replace your sewer lines.  Most of the lines we replace were originally laid in the 30’s, 40’s, and on up into the 60’s.  Some of them are made out of Orangeburg, Claytile, or Cement sewer pipes  and in such a poor condition that tree roots start growing inside them.

Schedule Service Today!  Click Here or Call 276-7476

Watch our Fiber Optic Video showing poor conditions of an Orangeburg and Claytile sewer line.  At the end of the video, you will see the new PVC pipe used to replace these outdated sewer lines.