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Do you call a licensed plumber or DIY it? Despite the claims of popular DIY shows, not to mention YouTube videos, there are just some plumbing issues you cannot DIY. The key for the average homeowner is knowing their own limits. What might be a simple fix for a professional could run into two or three times the trouble and cost with a DIY-gone-bad.

That said, Knoxville Plumbing has put together a short list of plumbing issues that can usually be a successful DIY project along with ones that should be handled by a licensed plumber.

DIY

The most successful DIY projects will only require a minimal number of tools and will be in easy-to-access areas. They may require a trip to the hardware store, but should not take too much time out of your day.

Leaky faucets

Faucets leak from either the handles or the spout. To DIY repair the leak you have to determine where it originates. After you figure out where the leak is, turn off your water supply to the faucet. Next,  disassemble that part of the faucet, using appropriate tools. You may need to replace O rings, washers, cartridges, or an aerator. Taking the worn or damaged part with you to the hardware store will help you to figure out exactly which replacement you need.

 

Clogs

Most clogs respond well to DIY treatments. Try pouring boiling water down the clogged pipe, as long as it is not PVC. Other common and successful DIY tricks are plunging, baking soda and vinegar, or a small drain snake. You can also remove the P trap under the sink to try to find the clog. If the clog persists, or you do not want to start pulling your pipes apart, your best bet is to call a licensed plumber to get deeper into the problem.

 

Toilet “running” or “phantom flush”

If your toilet continues to run after the tank is full, it is usually an easy fix. These problems occur when there is a problem with the fill tube, the water level float, the flush handle/flapper chain, or the flapper itself. You will have to drain the tank and bowl to perform some of these repairs, so if it looks more troublesome than you have time for, just give us a call.

 

When to call a licensed plumber

We recommend every homeowner have basic plumbing tools, including a heavy pipe wrench, a water meter key,  an adjustable wrench, and a toilet auger. These jobs, however, can lead to much more complex problems and require specialized equipment and experience to correctly diagnose and repair. We recommend calling a licensed plumber for these kinds of jobs.

Pipes

Anytime you have to take pipes apart, you should have a licensed plumber doing the work. They will be able to assess multiple factors including the age of your pipes and the exact needs for your pipes when it comes to putting everything back together again.

Sump pumps

The sump pit, usually in the basement,  collects water that drains into the house from groundwater or perimeter drains. Once water has accumulated in the pit, the pump pushes the water away from the house. Your sump pump is an easy to forget — an out-of-sight, out-of-mind appliance. You do not want to forget or ignore it. The potential for serious problems if it is not working properly makes this type of installation, maintenance, and repair best for a licensed plumber rather than DIY. You do not want to deal with a broken or improperly installed sump pump.

Mainline backups

Gurgling sounds and water backing up in your drains, toilet, or bathtub indicate a major problem. Mainline backups require specialized equipment including a camera attached to a line to accurately assess the damage and plan repairs. The repairs often entail using digging equipment to access the damaged pipes. You definitely want a licensed plumber dealing with the wastewater rather than exposing yourself to this hazardous waste.

A failed DIY

If you get started with a DIY that turns into a nightmare, that is where we come in! Knoxville Plumbing has expert licensed plumbers standing by to help with any of your plumbing concerns. Here are a few of the most common DIY plumbing fails, according to Family Handyman. You can read details about each of these fails on Family Handyman.

 

10 Most Common DIY Plumbing Fails

  1. Overtightening connections
  2. Wrapping Thread Tape Backward or Using the Wrong Tape
  3. Using Drain Cleaners as a First Choice
  4. Tackling a Plumbing Job Without Spare Parts
  5. Not Turning Off the Water
  6. Using Too Much Muscle On a Stuck Shut Off Valve
  7. Sweating Copper Pipes With Water in the Line
  8. Not Having the Right Tools
  9. Mixing up Wyes, Tees, and Elbows
  10. Installing a Saddle Valve for an Ice Maker or Humidifier

Conclusion

DIY projects are a great option for many homeowners in the right circumstances. We appreciate the need to save money and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. But, if your DIY project gets out of control or if the plumbing problem is beyond your expertise, Knoxville Plumbing can help. Give us a call today!

It’s something we don’t really think about — until it stops working. When your shower gets cold, that’s when things heat up!

Amidst cries of outrage about cold water showers and cold water dish washing, we scramble to figure out what caused the water heater to stop working. But, before we talk about things that can go wrong with water heaters, let’s take a look at their simple, yet creative design and discover how it is they do what they do to make our daily lives more comfortable.

 

WATER HEATER DESIGN

The majority of residential water heaters are storage water heaters. They are basically tall cylindrical tanks–sort of like a tall metal drum. They vary in capacity from about 20 gallons to about 80 gallons of water. Even though traditional water heaters don’t present a very dramatic appearance, the principles they use to supply abundant hot water to your home are pretty interesting.

 

COMPONENTS

water heater

                  photo credit: US Department of Energy

 

Storage water heaters are comprised of the tank and a couple of tubes, a series of valves, and a mechanism for heating the water. Storage water heaters are either electrical or gas operated. Here’s how all these components work:

  • Tank: The tank is made of heavy metal and is actually the inner component of the cylinder. It serves as a shell to hold the water. Tanks are often covered with some type of insulating material, a decorative “outer shell” and sometimes an additional insulating blanket-type cover.
  • Dip Tube/Cold Water Inlet: Cold water enters the tank at the top and flows through this tube to the bottom  of the tank. Because the water is cold, it stays close to the bottom of the tank where heating occurs.
  • Hot Water Outlet: This pipe is also at the top of the tank. Heated water at the top of the tank exits through this outlet and flows to areas where it is needed.water heaters
  • Shut-Off Valve: This valves closes off the flow of cold water into the tank.
  • Drain Valve: This valve is near the bottom of the tank and is used to empty the tank when servicing is needed.
  • Pressure Relief Valve: This valve serves to regulate pressure inside the tank.
  • Anode Rod: This rod, made of steel overlaid with either magnesium or aluminum, is suspended in the water of the tank to help reduce corrosion.
  • Heating mechanism: In a gas storage water heater, the heating mechanism is a gas burner and chimney system. An electrical storage water heater uses heating elements projecting into the interior of the tank to heat the water.
  • Thermostat: This device is a thermometer and a temperature-control device. Electric water heaters may have individual thermostats for each heating element.

HOW IT WORKS

water heatersStorage water heaters rely primarily on the scientific principle that hot water rises. Cold water enters the top of the tank through the dip tube or cold water inlet, flows through the pipe to the bottom of the tank where it exits the pipe, pushing the warmer water already in the tank upward.

The thermostat setting is usually between 120 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermostat should be set nearer the lower end of this range in homes with small children to prevent potential scalding injuries. As the thermostat monitors the temperature of the water inside the tank, it regulates the function of the elements (on an electrical water heater) or the gas burner (on a gas water heater) to heat the water accordingly.

Because heat rises, the hottest water is always closest to the top of the tank. When a hot water tap is turned on somewhere inside the home, the hot water exits the tank through the hot water outlet at the top of the tank and flows to the open tap.

What’s next?

Now that we have a basic understanding of the parts of a water heater and how it works, our next post will take a look at some things that typically cause water heater problems resulting in the dreaded cold shower.

Whether you have a malfunctioning water heater or a leaking faucet or a clogged drain, Knoxville Plumbing is here for you!

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Some plumbing issues are minor nuisances that you might ignore for a while until it bothers you too much. A leaky faucet, a slow drain, a running toilet that you have to jiggle the handle to get it to stop, are examples of potentially minor plumbing issues. Some plumbing issues require attention immediately before they turn into a disaster. Keep your plumber’s number handy if you notice these potential problems:

Leaks

 

Any signs of leaks such as water spots on ceilings or walls or under your sinks should be taken care of immediately. Catching a leak early may result in just needing to dry out the wet surfaces.

Leaking Water Heater

 

You probably don’t look at your water heater often so if you do see water around it take action now. It could be a crack in the internal tank. A small puddle can turn into gallons of water damaging walls and floors. Water heaters have limited life spans. Frequent inspections and maintenance is good practice.

A big Increase In Your Water Bill

 

This could indicate a leak in your underground pipes. It could be from a constantly running toilet that you never use or a leak in a part of your house that you don’t frequent.

Sewer Gas Smell

 

You’ll need a plumber if you have cracks in your sewer lines. Some sewer gas problems are easy to solve such as keeping the water level up in your drain traps by pouring a cup of water down the drain.

Mold and Mildew

 

Look out for mold and mildew on any surfaces. Check in closets and back of cabinets. A leak can go undetected for a long time and grow mold in a widespread area.

A Wet Spongy Lawn

 

A wet lawn when the weather has been dry could indicate an exterior water main leak.

Frozen Pipes

 

Thawing your pipes as soon as possible can prevent a burst pipe resulting in flooding. Your plumber can thaw your pipes and help you to prevent it from happening again.
 A good thing to do right now is to make sure everyone in your household knows how to turn the water off to the whole house in case of an emergency. If you have an instance that you need to call a plumber, it might be a good time to get a complete plumbing inspection to prevent other instances.