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Plumbing Maintenance Tips

April 24, 2017

New Construction - Shower #2Spot and resolve small plumbing problems before they become major issues at home.

From: DK Books – Houseworks

Plumbing. It’s been with us since Roman times, but today’s homes have a lavish supply of hot and cold water on demand, thanks to modern plumbing systems. The principles are simple — pressure and valves — but if they fail, the household may be faced with a soggy mess. When this happens, act quickly to avert major problems.
Smart homeowners know how to spot and resolve small plumbing problems before they become major issues. Help your plumbing stay dry and happy with these tips:
Keep an eye out for trouble. When it comes to plumbing, little leaks can lead to big problems. Be alert to signs of impending plumbing failures: Leaking faucets, damp cabinets, rocking toilets or dripping refrigerators all signal problems that need prompt attention.
Repair problems early. A leaking faucet isn’t just annoying; the moisture it releases puts wear on sink fixtures and can encourage the growth of mold and mildew. Stay on top of problems to keep the household clean and dry.
Know where to go when trouble happens. Should plumbing fail, will you know how to stop the flood? Locate the main shut-off valve for the home water supply. If it’s in a dark, hidden, or hard-to-reach place, gather any tools you’ll need for a quick shut-off, and store them nearby. There’s nothing like the frustration of a missing flashlight or a misplaced shut-off key when water’s pouring down the stairs from a broken pipe.
Shutting off appliances. Similarly, know how to shut off water to sinks, toilets, washing machines and water-using appliances like the refrigerator’s icemaker. Should they misbehave, knowing the location of the shut-off valve will save the day and a lot of wet cleanup.
Spot the sewer valve. Finally, hunt down the location of the household’s main sewer valve. It’s there to provide access to correct a clogged sewer line; don’t make the Roto-Rooter man spend pricey labor time looking for it when the toilets overflow.
Learn how to tackle small problems. With a few tools and a little knowledge, most of us can handle small plumbing emergencies. With a plunger, a pipe wrench and a sewer snake in your tool kit, you’ll be able to take care of small problems like clogged drains, blocked toilets, stuck valves and dripping faucets. How-to books, home improvement stores and adult education classes can pay for themselves when it’s time to call the plumber.
Cold snap: Keep plumbing safe in cold weather
In hard-winter climates, freezing pipes can create a sudden household emergency. Frozen water expands, cracking pipes; when the area thaws, the cracks vent a flood. Plumbing help can be hard to find in a weather crisis, so try these tips:
Prevent frozen pipes before they start. Best defense: insulation. Insulate exposed pipes in a crawl space or in the garage with easy-to-install plastic insulation. It’s a peel-and-stick solution. Before winter comes, remove exterior hoses, and apply insulating caps to outdoor fixtures, as a frozen exterior spigot can damage interior pipes. Households with automatic sprinkler systems can clear standing water with compressed air.
When cold weather strikes, go into action. Open the cabinets beneath sinks and bathroom fixtures; warmer household air will help prevent the pipes inside from freezing. Opening taps to a bare trickle keeps water flowing and avoids a frozen blockage.
If pipes do freeze, don’t panic. First, shut off the water supply to the house, then open a faucet near the blocked area to vent vapors from the frozen water. If you suspect that pipes in the hot water system are frozen, turn off the hot water heater. Use a hair dryer to warm the frozen pipe (never use an open flame to thaw a pipe), starting at the end of the pipe nearest to the tap. (Don’t use a hair dryer in areas of standing water.) You’ll know the pipe has begun to thaw when water begins to trickle from the open faucet. When the flow is restored, check the plumbing carefully for cracks or leaks.Call a licensed plumber if your efforts are unsuccessful.

Maintaining water conditioning systems

In hard-water areas, water softeners condition water to remove unwanted minerals. Softened water uses less soap, prevents mineral buildup in pipes and extends the life of appliances and hot water heaters.
Keep them on the job with proper maintenance. Most models use a salt-exchange method that depends on a supply of salt pellets or nuggets. Use the type of salt recommended by your manufacturer for best results. Check the brine tank regularly to be sure salt levels are adequate. The salt should sit above the water line. “Salt bridging” occurs when a crust of salt forms over the top of the water in the brine tank; break it up by adding hot water to the tank or by poking the crust with a broomstick if it occurs.
After a period of use, water softeners will need to regenerate or recharge: The unit will flush collection areas of accumulated mineral particles pulled from hard water. If your unit offers an automatic regeneration scheduling, use it — you’ll have soft water automatically. If your unit requires manual recharging, stick carefully to the manufacturer’s recommended time intervals.

Reduce household water usage

A more sustainable and cost-efficient household means conserving water, but green living doesn’t have to be dusty and dry. Try these strategies to cut water use at home:Load up the dishwasher. Hand-washing dishes may feel authentic, but it’s wasteful; automatic dishwashers use less hot water and energy than washing by hand. No need to rinse, either; most modern dishwashers are designed to remove food without need for pre-rinsing.

Go with the (low) flow. Household toilets can be water hogs; replace older models with low-flow alternatives.Save in the shower. Keep showers short and sweet to stay sustainable. You can also save water — and money — by installing a low-flow showerhead, which use up to 50 percent less water than older models.

Houseworks © 2006, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited
Text copyright © 2006, 2010 Cynthia Townley Ewer

Maximum Value Mechanical Projects: Plumbing

April 19, 2017

Although plumbing projects are not always the most fun thing on your Saturday to-do list, they are crucial to the functionality of your home and the standard of livability that all potential homebuyers are sure to look for.

The plumbing in your home is comprised of two separate subsystems. One subsystem — known as the supply system — brings freshwater in while the other — the drainage system — takes wastewater out. Because there are many different pipes, drains, fixtures and valves that are all a part of the plumbing in your home, it is important to understand their importance when it comes to the big picture.
  • Tankless water heater. Not only do they provide endless hot water, but tankless water heaters provide water only when it is needed. Without the use of a storage tank, you avoid standby heat loss — saving money in the end. Most tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of more than 20 years with easy-to-replace parts — making them a wise investment at purchase and in the long haul.
  • Recirculating hot water systems. Thanks to this system that constantly recirculates hot water, any spigot in the home can immediately have hot water available. A recirculating hot water system is a pump and valve combination that delivers hot water wherever you need it — in an instant. Water and money can be saved by installing this system because you don’t have to wait for the water to heat up.
According to appraisal expert Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute, the biggest plumbing mistake you can make is putting in a system when it’s not necessarily needed. Features like a recirculating hot water system are mostly found in higher-end markets, so instead of spending a lot of money and seeing less of a return, Sellers recommends sticking with the basic repairs and making sure everything is in proper working order.
  • On a Budget: In order to stick to a budget, it’s most practical to replace old technology with newer, more functioning systems. Sellers notes that just by taking an “old, clanky hot water heater” and putting in a new one will help tremendously. Nowadays, energy efficient models come in all price ranges, so even if you are on strict budget, you can still keep up to date with current trends.
  • Mid-Range: Along with replacing old technology with more efficient systems, other features — such as a tankless hot water system — can be purchased at a mid-range price point. Recirculating hot water systems can also be a nice option, but it is important to remember that these types of “extra” systems will all depend on what market you find yourself in.
  • High-End: Commercial quality fixtures and systems are the new trend in the high-end housing market. All kinds of technology fall into this category — from recirculating hot water systems and drainwater heat recovery to low-flow fixtures and tankless water heaters. The more on-trend you can be, the more attractive the features are to potential homebuyers.

We are here for you –  Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Prevent Water Problems with These Spring Plumbing Tips

April 12, 2017

New Construction - Front Of HomeContributed by Patricia Bonacorda

Spring is a time for many people to get organized around the house. Yet, it’s easy to ignore your plumbing when taking care of other household responsibilities. Here are some easy tips to help make sure your plumbing continues to work reliably throughout the coming months:

Water Heaters

This will be a good opportunity to make sure your water heater is working properly so that you don’t run the risk of having to take cold showers. First, make sure the temperature setting is correct — most experts recommend it stay no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only will this reduce the amount of energy the appliance uses, it will also reduce the chances that scalding will occur.

One of the biggest enemies of a water heater is corrosion, which will not only make the unit inefficient, but also reduce its lifespan. Drain a few gallons from the tank to flush out the sediment that leads to corrosion.

If your unit is 15 years or older, consider having it replaced. A newer model will be much more efficient, helping you save money on your energy bill each month.

Other Appliances

Take a close look at the supply hoses that run to your icemaker, washing machine and dishwasher. If you see any signs of leaks or bulges, have them replaced as soon as you can. This is especially important if the hoses are more than 10 years old. Make sure to use stainless steel replacement hoses, because they are more durable and will pose less of a risk of bursting.

In addition, don’t forget to clean the lint trap of your washing machine, which is typically located along the internal recess of the unit and helps keep lint from blocking the drain. You may even want to consider having a plumber install a wire trap filter at the end of the drain hose to help improve drainage.

If you have a home with a basement, you more than likely have a sump pump installed. Check the pump so that you know it will be ready to do its job if flooding should occur. Pour a few buckets of water into the sump pit to make sure the pump will activate. It should turn on automatically, discharge the water and then shut off. Consider installing a flood alarm if you haven’t already, not only in the basement but your bathrooms as well.


Speaking of the bathroom, look at your toilet and check for any kinds of leaks. You can easily spot an issue by adding some food coloring to the tank. If you see the water in your bowl changing colors after about 20 or 30 minutes, that means there is a problem with one of the components in the tank. Most people can replace these components on their own, but call a plumber if you’re not comfortable trying to perform this type of job.

Pay attention to the valves that supply water to your sinks and toilets as well. Over time, mineral deposits, rust, caulk and other materials can clog those valves and reduce the efficiency of your plumbing. Check to make sure you can turn the valves on and off easily so they work properly.


Just like the bathroom, you will also want to do a once-over of your kitchen plumbing as well. In addition to appliances, look at all fixtures to make sure there are no drips or leaks. Look at your faucet’s aerator (the screen located where the water comes out) and check for mineral deposits. Unscrew the aerator and soak it in vinegar overnight to clear any accumulation of minerals.

Outside the Home

Don’t ignore areas surrounding your home while making your spring plumbing checks. For instance, make sure your gutters, downspouts and yard drains are all clean and clear of debris such as leaves, grass clippings and more. Look at all your vent pipes and make sure there are no bird nests. Also, check all of your outdoor faucets — as well as your hose bibs — to confirm water can freely flow through them. If you have a leak in an outdoor faucet, or you notice any sort of leaking inside the home when you turn that faucet on, that could be a sign a winter freeze cracked the pipe and it will need to be replaced by a professional.

In the midst of your spring-cleaning, consider having a plumber you trust perform a walk-through to make sure everything is working properly and efficiently; that way you can help to ensure your home will remain comfortable and functional all season. by Housecall

Need help? We are here for you –  Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

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