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The Ottawa Plumbers Guide to Preventing Plumbing Emergencies

You take your plumbing for granted until it starts working or creates a plumbing emergency. No one wants to call for emergency plumbing services, but sometimes it's necessary to get your system back in working order.

A plumbing emergency is an issue that needs immediate attention from a plumber. Maybe it's a leaking pipe that's pouring water into your home or a backed-up drain that won't budge and keeps you from using your plumbing.

Whatever the plumbing emergency is, it can lead to major damage to not only your plumbing but to your house as a whole.

Plumbing maintenance can help you avoid major issues. Keeping it in good condition prevents damage that can lead to major leaks or sewer backups.

Ottawa plumbers have some great advice about keeping your plumbing working right. Keep reading to learn several tips for preventing plumbing emergencies.

Know Where Your Shut-Off Valves Are

Your shut-off valves won't prevent damage to the system, but they can prevent serious damage to your home should you have a leak. Getting to the shut-off valve quickly limits the amount of water that can get into your home. This can prevent potentially catastrophic water damage.

Find the shut-off valves throughout your home. You should have a main shut-off valve that stops the water throughout the house. It's usually located where the water enters your home.

The main shut-off valve comes in handy if you have a burst pipe somewhere in your plumbing system.

You'll also have shut-off valves at different plumbing fixtures throughout your home. Those valves may be located under sinks and on water lines to your toilets, dishwasher, water heater, and refrigerator ice makers. Basically, any fixture or appliance that uses water could potentially have a shut-off valve on the water line leading to it.

This allows you to shut off the water to a single fixture if needed. If you have a leak in one of those areas or your toilet is overflowing, you can quickly shut off the water supply to just that area to prevent water damage.

Those supply line shut-off valves also come in handy if you need to do a quick fix or maintenance on the fixture or appliance. You can stop the flow of water locally without cutting off water to the rest of the house.

Keep Drains Clear

Drain clogs are a common plumbing problem that can lead to major issues. It makes that sink or tub non-usable until you get things flowing again, which is a major inconvenience. It can also cause things to back up and overflow into your home.

Clogs can go down further into your plumbing and cause wide-spread clogs and issues. This becomes a lot more costly to clear and repair.

Many clogs happen because the wrong things go down the drain. Sometimes things slip down the drain unintentionally. Other times you may not realize what you're putting down the drain could cause issues.

Kitchen sinks are especially susceptible to clogs if you're not careful with the food that goes down the drain. Use caution when rinsing off dishes to go in the dishwasher or when washing dishes by hand. Letting chunks of food go down the drain can cause a gradual build-up that leads to major clogging.

Even if you have a garbage disposal, there are certain things that shouldn't go in it. Too much of the wrong type of food waste can get stuck in the pipes and back up the system.

Avoid putting these items down your garbage disposal:

  • Pasta, bread, and other starchy items
  • Celery, corn husks, onion skins, and other stringy foods
  • Fruit and vegetable peels and rinds
  • Grease and fat
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Fruit pits
  • Bones

Starchy items tend to expand with water, which can make them fill up the pipes. Grease, oil, and fat can harden in the pipes, even if it's liquid when you put it down the drain. To keep the water flowing well, put things on the above list in the trash instead of in the garbage disposal.

In the bathroom, hair is a major contributor to drain clogs. Using a hair catcher over the drain can stop the strands of hair from getting in your shower drain. Clear the hair off of it regularly to keep it from slowing down the water.

If hair falls into your sink while you brush or style it, wipe it out so it doesn't get washed down into the drain.

Be careful of other items in the bathroom, such as cotton swabs and other small items that can fall into the drain. If those items get lodged in the pipe, other things can build up with them and eventually create a massive clog.

Have Your Drains Cleaned

Keeping your drains clean offers many benefits. It keeps your home smelling great, prevents clogs, and protects your plumbing.

Even when you're careful, you may end up with items in your pipes that cause slow draining or clogs. Having a professional clean the drains can restore them to good working order.

Clearing the drains yourself can be challenging. Chemical drain cleaners are strong, toxic chemicals that can damage your plumbing if you use them too often. They can also cause dangerous health problems if you ingest them or get them in your eyes, mouth, or nose.

A plumber has special tools that make the job easier. You can get your drains cleaned quickly and easily without damage.

Watch What You Flush

Your toilets can also lead to plumbing emergencies if you're not careful about what you flush. Toilet paper should be the only thing that gets flushed.

Other products can clog the plumbing. That's true even of products that say they're flushable, such as wet wipes for the bathroom.

Never flush the following items down your toilet:

  • Wet wipes
  • Diapers
  • Pads or tampons
  • Floss
  • Paper towels
  • Kitty litter
  • Food of any kind
  • Other solid items

If you have kids, toys and other large items may end up in the toilet. You can get a toilet locking mechanism that holds the lid closed when the toilet's not being used. This cuts down on the risk of unexpected items that can't be flushed making it into the toilet.

If something large gets into the toilet plumbing, it can be impossible to get it out yourself. You'll likely need to call a plumber immediately to get it out of the pipes.

Protect Your Pipes

Exposed pipes in your basement look and feel sturdy. You might be tempted to hang things from them, such as clothes on hangers.

But the weight of those items causes stress on the pipes, which aren't designed to support any weight. Wet clothes are much heavier than dry clothes, but you shouldn't hang anything on the pipes.

Hanging items on the pipes can cause weakness, or it could cause the pipes to burst. Water pouring into your house is a definite plumbing emergency you want to avoid.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

The average January low in Ottawa is -15 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, pipes can freeze quickly. Pipes along exterior walls or plumbing that runs through unheated areas, such as basements, crawl spaces, and garages, can have a greater risk of freezing, even when the rest of your home is warm.

A burst pipe is a definite plumbing emergency. As soon as the pipe breaks, water can pour into your home and cause serious damage.

Take steps to prevent frozen pipes before the cold weather hits.

Insulating your home keeps it warmer and prevents cold air from reaching your interior pipes. Sealing gaps in your home can prevent cold drafts from getting inside.

Foam insulation over pipes, especially exposed pipes that run through unheated areas, helps to keep them warmer to prevent freezing. You can also get special pipe heating cables that keep them warmer.

On cold days, open up the cabinets below sinks so warm air from your house reaches the pipes. This is especially helpful when the pipes are on outside walls where the cold temperatures are more likely to reach them. You can also put a space heater near the sink to boost warmth.

Another trick for very cold days is to turn on the tap just slightly to let a trickle of water run through the pipes. The flow can prevent the water inside the pipes from freezing. Only use this method if you are able to keep an eye on the sink to ensure everything is draining properly and there is no risk of blockage or a flood.

If you're gone for a long period during winter, don't shut off the heat in your home. The temperature will quickly drop below freezing, which can cause the pipes to freeze.

Install a Sump Pump

If your home has a basement, installing a sump pump can keep your home from flooding. The sump pump pulls water away from your home so it doesn't back up into your basement. This can prevent major water damage.

Check Your Water Heater

Water heaters can be another source of plumbing emergencies. Check the water supply connections regularly to look for leaks.

Watch for water that pools on the floor near the water heater. It can be a sign of a crack in the tank.

Other signs that your water heater needs maintenance include rust in your water supply, decreased heating, and unusual noises, such as popping or banging. Contact a plumber if you notice any issues with the water heater to diagnose the problem early.

Maintain Your Septic System

For homes with a septic tank, regular maintenance is a must to prevent overall system failure. If you don't the system won't work correctly. You could cause damage to the septic tank, which could force you to replace the system.

Regular inspections and pumping keep the septic tank in good working order. On average, you should have it inspected every 3 years and pumped every 3 to 5 years.

Some systems need to be pumped more often. It depends largely on the size of the tank and your use. If you have a large family, you'll likely need to have the system pumped more often than a single person.

Avoid putting any chemicals down your drains or toilets. When they reach the septic tank, things such as drain openers, paints, solvents, and harsh cleaners can kill the helpful living organisms that help keep the septic tank working properly.

You also need to care for the drain field by keeping trees away from it. You should never drive over the drain field.

Watch Your Sewer Lines

If you're home's connected to sewer lines, you can have plumbing issues if something happens in those pipes. The sewer line leads from your home to the edge of your property, where it connects to the main sewer line. If damage happens in the sewer line, the waste can back up and cause major issues inside your home.

Flushing certain items can cause clogs outside your home in the sewer lines. If it becomes blocked with the waste, things can start backing up into your home.

Another common problem with sewer lines is tree roots getting into them. If you have large trees in your yard, the roots could eventually become a problem.

Call a Plumber for Minor Issues

As soon as you notice a plumbing issue, even if you're not sure what it is, call a plumber to your home to check it out. Minor problems can be an early warning sign of something much bigger to come.

Some issues that may be signs of a problem include:

  • Changes in water pressure
  • Water that doesn't get hot like normal
  • Shaking or noises in the pipes
  • Rust in your water
  • Slow drains
  • Odors coming from the drains
  • Dripping from faucets
  • Minor pipe leaks

Having a plumber check out those minor problems can keep you from having a plumbing emergency. Repairing the issue while it's minor is usually much cheaper than dealing with a major issue.

Find Ottawa Plumbers

Following the advice of Ottawa plumbers can help you keep your home in good shape. Preventing plumbing emergencies protects your home from serious damage and helps you avoid costly repair bills.

Whether you have a plumbing emergency or want preventative plumbing maintenance, contact us to schedule an appointment.