Posts Tagged ‘drains’
Before the weather grows colder it’s important to prepare for the winter months to prevent costly damage. Below are the fall preventative home maintenance steps that every homeowner should follow.
Gutters and Downspouts
- Clean gutters and downspouts frequently throughout fall to prevent build up of leaves and other debris. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems and pest infestations, not to mention ruined gutters.
- Be sure water is not coming down behind gutters and that all support brackets are securely in place.
- Ensure that water drains properly and doesn’t pool. Pooling can cause damage to foundations, driveways, and walkways.
Windows and Doors
- Change summer screens to cool weather storm windows and doors.
- Inspect and repair any loose or damaged window or door frames.
- Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to prevent drafts and to lower heating bills.
- Replace the filter in your furnace.
- Consider having a heating professional check your heating system to ensure optimal performance and discover minor problems before they turn into costly major repairs.
- Clean your ducts to better your heating system’s efficiency as well as to reduce household dust and to provide relief to those with respiratory problems.
- To prevent pipes freezing and bursting, ensure that the pipes are well insulated.
- Know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze.
Chimney and Fireplace
- Call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney. Fireplaces that are regularly used during the season should have an annual cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires.
- Test your fireplace flue for a tight seal when closed.
- Be sure attic insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.
- Be sure ridge vents and vents at eaves are free of plants and debris.
- Check bird and rodent screens for attic vents to prevent any unwanted guests.
Landscape and Yardwork
- Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn.
- Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to encourage healthy growth.
- Trim any tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your house. Heavy snow and ice can cause damage in the winter.
Know how to shut off the water. Every inhabitant should know where the main water valve is located. This controls the flow of water as it comes into the house. By turning off the water at the main valve, you can avoid a burst pipe, overflowing tub or other emergency.
Avoid frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can cause flooding and significant structural damage to your house. Avoid disaster by making sure the temperature inside your house never drops below 55º. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to seal them. Insulating the pipes in your crawl spaces and attic can also help prevent them from freezing.
Keep grease out. Grease and oil can build up in pipes and cause backups in your home. Instead of pouring it down the drain, let cooking oil or grease cool and then throw it in the trash—or better yet, see if your municipality recycles it.
Stop hair from going down the drain. When hair escapes down the drain, it often becomes tangled and stuck together. It then acts as a barrier, keeping water from traveling smoothly down the pipes. Screened drain covers are an inexpensive way to avoid this. Buy one and clean it off regularly.
Avoid drain cleaners. They often contain corrosive chemicals that are harmful to pipes—and people. They also can kill the “good bacteria” your septic system needs to operate effectively. If you have a clogged drain, don’t risk damaging your plumbing system by using a drain cleaner; instead, arrange for an AHS service contractor to take a look at it.
Proper home maintenance can alleviate the need for major and costly repairs. Generally, homeowners do not think about home maintenance as much during the winter months as they do in the spring and fall; however, there are some basic maintenance tasks that can be performed indoors. The following maintenance tasks can usually be performed by a homeowner for less than $25 each, but can help save far more than that amount down the road.
- Caulk and regrout the bathroom/bathtub tile. Keeping the tiled surfaces well sealed prevents water seepage to the underlying surface, which can result in wall damage and loosening of the tile. Use the appropriate caulk between the tile and showers and tubs or walls and floors, paying particular attention to horizontal joints. Also re-grout between tiles if needed.
- Regularly clean or change your furnace and air conditioning system filters. Clogged filters reduce heating and cooling efficiency and can reduce the useful life of a furnace or air conditioner. At the very least, they should be checked monthly to determine if cleaning or replacement is needed.
- Clean the kitchen exhaust fan and filter. A grease buildup will tax the fan and increases the potential for a fire.
- Clean out your clothes dryer vent. The lint screen on the dryer should be cleaned after each use, but it’s also important to periodically check the vent ducts and exterior cover for a buildup of lint or any blockage. A vent or dryer clogged with lint reduces drying efficiency and presents a fire hazard.
- Clean sink and tub drains as soon as any signs of reduced flow occurs. Waiting until a drain becomes fully blocked increases the potential for overflow of a fixture, pipe leakage or damage, as well as the loss of use of the fixture.
- Test Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI). These special safety devices are designed to reduce the potential for electrical shock but they can malfunction. Push in the test button on the device; it should pop out to indicate that the GFCI is providing the shock protection it is designed to provide. Remember to push the reset button, to reactivate the unit. Also check to make sure any appliances on the same electric circuit as the GFCI are back on after your test.
- Test your garage door operator. Regularly test the auto retract feature of your garage door operator to ensure it stops and reverses immediately if something blocks the door’s path. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the door operator.
Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available online by clicking any of the categories on the right.
Eliminating all possible causes for a sluggish or blocked drain may not be possible, but there are certain things that can
be done to reduce potential problems. The buildup of soap scum, grease and hair in drains occurs with normal life activities and is almost inevitable; but preventing the introduction of other objects that can contribute to blockage will go a long way toward ensuring your drains flow freely.
Aside from the inconvenience or downright horrors of a blocked or overflowing drain, there is a monetary consideration. Many drain and sewer cleaning companies now have flat minimum rates for cleaning drains regardless of the cause; so whether a blockage is due to a clump of toilet paper or an errant tennis ball, it could cost you a surprising sum.
Some tips and suggestions:
- Keep the strainer or drain stopper in place at all sink, bathtub and shower drains.
- Keep all small objects away from the toilet; toothbrushes, and jewelry can quickly disappear forever – or get stuck in a drain.
- Keep your eye out for small children – a toilet bowl full of water is just one more play object to them. Anything and everything touched can end up in a toilet. And the excitement of seeing it flush away only adds to the danger. The bathroom should be off limits to young children. If the door can’t be locked, at least install a toilet seat lock to prevent toilet access.
- Only flush toilet paper; even if paper towels or baby wipes make their way down the drain, they can potentially get hung up on tree roots or other protrusions further along the drain or sewer. Beware, commercially available wipes may be advertised as flushable, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get stuck somewhere else in the system. It is often best to dispose of these wipes in another manner.
- Personal feminine hygiene products should not be flushed. Once again, while they may be advertised as flushable, they often get hung up downstream and are a major contributing factor in drain blockage.
- If you live in an older neighborhood, chances are many of the buried sewer lines have settled or shifted over the years or have been infiltrated by tree roots. Check with the local authorities on any problems known to exist in your neighborhood.
- Fine roots can infiltrate through even small cracks or gaps in a sewer line, creating an almost impenetrable obstruction. During dry or drought periods, root infiltration only increases as they seek out any source of water.
- If root infiltration or other sewer line problems are known to exist or are suspected, consider pro-active sewer cleaning every few years. It may be costly, but will be a lot less than having to clean up after a sewer backup.
- Video equipment is now available to inspect drain and sewer lines that otherwise are inaccessible without excavation or other invasive work. When problems occur and the cause is unknown and/or a recommendation is made to replace a line or section of a line, consider video imaging before attempting more expensive work.
- Clean out strainers and drains periodically. Remove mechanical drain stoppers to clean out down below. If using commercially available cleaners, carefully read all package instructions and warnings. Many of these products can be harmful to your fixtures or plumbing system, or you. Consider environmentally safer alternatives. Even a plunger can produce good results when there is a minor drain blockage.
Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue.