What We Know That You Don’t: The Knowledge That Guides Our Sewer Drain Cleaning

 

Certain tree roots can lead to premature sewer drain cleaning.In the last blog we talked about everything that we need to learn from you when you’re in need of emergency sewer service, stuff like the history of the problem, if other sewer companies have tried to fix the problem, and if you’ve tried to fix the problem with chemical drain cleaners.

But what you might not know is what we already know when you walk up to your door. Here’s the information we’re coming to you with that you’re probably not even thinking about.

The Trees In Your Yard: If we see a willow tree in the middle of the front yard, we’d put money on what your problem is. Willow trees are notorious for getting into sewer pipes as they search for water, so seeing one in your front yard pretty much guarantees that you’re going to need rooter service. Other trees we watch out for are poplars and elms. Bushes aren’t usually a problem, but they might be hiding…

Where the external clean out line is: Many people like to hide their external clean out pipe behind a bush, and if it’s summer we’re not likely to see it. But we’ve dealt with enough PUD’s (Planned Urban Developments) to be able to close our eyes and point to exactly where it is. We’ve seen a lot of housing developments go up in Denver, and if the design of a home is the same then the plumbing and lateral sewer lines are usually in the same place as well. And speaking of neighborhoods we notice…

The Decade Your House Was Built In: When we walk up to your house, we’re scanning the area to gather as much information as possible. One thing we do is estimate when the house was built, which gives us a good idea of what kind of sewer pipe was used. If it’s a fairly new house, we’re obviously dealing with PVC or ABS. But if you’re house is from the 1950’s we’ll be dealing with something completely different. Of course, the year your house was built also tells us something about…

The Conditions Of The Sewer System In Your Neighborhood: Being so far west, Denver can’t really be considered an “old” city. We’re not exactly dealing with the ancient underground sewage systems that a city like Paris or London has to deal with. But the sewer systems have changed considerably over the years, and we know if the problems you’re having are due to your personal lines or if there have been problems with the public sewer system that might be causing you to give Garvin’s a call. We might also be able to deduce what your problem is if…

Your Neighbors Have Called: If we’ve been to three other houses on your block in the last month and they’ve all had the same problem, it might help us figure out exactly what’s going on with your sewer system. Did we have to perform rooter service because all of the trees in the neighborhood have reached the age where their roots are invading pipes? Or is it a 1950’s neighborhood where the pipes have started disintegrating?

That’s what we know before we even step one bootie-covered foot in your home! What we know can really help us deliver the best sewer cleaning available in Denver and along the front range. When you suspect problems or want to avoid them with preventive sewer cleaning, contact Garvin’s Sewer Service!

 

 

 

How To Talk To Your Sewer Drain Cleaning Expert

 

As you can imagine, we’ve gotten some pretty frantic calls over the years. People who have sewage blocking their toilet. People who have sewage flowing up out of their toilet. People who have sewage actively shooting out of their toilet. All of the people who called had a perfectly valid reason to be frantic!

When we get these calls, we suit up, grab our equipment, slide down the firepole (we don’t have a firepole, but DANG! we should get a firepole!) and race to your home as quickly as the law will allow. When we get there, we’ll dive right into the situation, but in order to help us find the cause of the problem it’s important that you tell both the person who takes your call and the technician we send as much as possible, no matter what problem you’re having. Basically, we need to know as much as you do. So we’d like to offer this advice.

Try To Be Calm: We understand that you’re in the middle of what is probably the worst experience of your year (we see a lot of people’s worst experiences). But the more calm you can be, the more information we can get out of you in a timely manner and the sooner we can get to the root of the problem.

Give Us The Background: Be sure to tell us exactly what’s been happening. Has the problem with your plumbing been going on for years, or is this the first time you’ve ever had an inkling of a problem? When was the last time you had sewer cleaning performed? Is Garvin’s the only company you’ve called to help with your sewer service, or have others had their go at it this year? Tell us everything you know, because even small details about how your sewer system has been acting can be important.

Tell Us Your Habits: It might be embarrassing, but it’s important for us to know exactly how you treat your drains and sewer lines. You might be embarrassed to tell us that you pour your bacon grease down the sink and flush your feminine hygiene products, but it’s important for us to know because it might alter the tools we use and the decisions we make. On a related note…

Be Honest: It’s important for us to know what you’ve already tried. If we’re there for drain cleaning, it’s critically important to let us know if you’ve already tried a chemical drain cleaner. We have had drain technicians scarred by drain cleaners that were sitting in the drain, even after the customer had insisted that no cleaners had been used. For our own safety and yours, please let us know about anything dangerous that might be in your drains.

Stand Back!: Once you’ve filled us in, stand back, ‘cause we’re gonna get to work! We’ll be protected from the situation with eye and face protection, rubber boots, and clothing that is specially disinfected once we leave. We don’t want you to have to deal with the stuff that can make you sick, so be sure to get some fresh air and find your insurance agent’s phone number.

When you call Garvin’s, you’ve called the sewer drain experts, so make sure that you give us all the information you can. We’ll make this terrible experience as easy as possible for you.

 

 

 

Getting To Know The Sewer Camera A Bit Better

Sewer cameras are pretty amazing pieces of equipment.

“Say cheese, Grease Monster partially made of cheese!”

Sometimes sewer cleaning goes perfectly smooth…you need rooter service, we send down the sewer snake, it chops up everything, you sigh with relief that your drains work again, and we head off to fight clogs in another neighborhood.

But sometimes there are bigger problems…clogs that just don’t want to go away or pipes that have had a major break. Of course, you can’t be sure which one it is, and you don’t want to go digging up your front lawn every time there’s a mystery blockage.

That’s where the sewer camera comes in. The sewer camera was developed so that we can figure out exactly what’s going on in your lateral pipe (it works much better than a mirror and a flashlight!). So what makes a sewer camera so special, and how is it different from a GoPro strapped to a rat’s back?

The Camera: We’re not sending just any camera down the drain. These cameras have sapphire lenses that are scratch-resistant in case they bump into anything hard. Of course it’s waterproof, and the really cool thing is that it’s self-leveling so that the images doesn’t twist and turn when it’s in your pipes.

We want to see as much as possible, as it’s important that we don’t miss anything. That’s why the sewer scope has an array of high-intensity lights surrounding the lens that light up anything the camera is pointed at. It’s a small space, so the camera lens is wide angle so that we can see from edge to edge.

The Control Box: The control box contains the controls for the lights and camera, as well as a video screen. It also houses the DVD recorder, and it’s important for the footage to be recorded so that it can be inspected later in case you want a second opinion. It also makes it much easier for you to view the footage without everyone having to be crowded around the control box as the inspection is happening!

The Cable: Unlike typical rooter service, the cable that that lens is attached to doesn’t have to punch through tree roots and clogs. The cable is often hand-fed into your line so that the process and final video footage is as smooth as possible.

The Technician: Perhaps the most important part of the sewer scope is the person who is performing the inspection. While it’s great that the camera allows us to see at such a wide angle, this image is distorted and can make small problems look huge. It’s important to have a sewer expert who can properly interpret the image that appears on screen so that no one overreacts and starts digging up the yard prematurely.

Sewer scopes are great because they can locate not only what the problem is but also the exact location of a problem. If you’re having repeated sewer problems, contact Garvin’s Sewer Service and we’ll send down the sewer camera to find out exactly what’s going wrong.

 

 

 

Roots In The Sewer Line? It’s Just The Beginning of Your Problem

 

What's happening when you have roots in the sewer line?

“I’m here to ruin your weekend!”

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a good review of exactly what’s happening when you have roots in the sewer line. Here are the steps that happen before you give Garvin’s a call for sewer cleaning.

The Cause: Why the heck are roots even in there in the first place? Well, they’re looking for water and nutrients. Trees send out roots underground in every direction, and they have absolutely no qualms of using your wastewater as a source of life. Think about it, even in a drought they will have constant water. In fact, a drought can make things even worse, as the tree will redouble its efforts of growing roots at the source of water. PVC pipe is usually pretty good at keeping tree roots out, but they will still get in at joints as glues weakens over time.

The Problem: Well, we all like trees and don’t mind if they’re stealing a little bit of water. Of course, the problem is that roots can start a clog. And often we’re not talking about big roots that our blackwater can get past; we’re talking about tiny roots that can get through tiny cracks and then turn into a mass that can resemble a spider web. And what’s the purpose of a spider web? To catch stuff. These roots will start to catch everything you send down, including grease and toilet paper and whatever else you send down the toilet.

The Solution: When you have roots in the sewer line, the solution is rooter service. We’ll send down spinning blades that will clear your pipes from edge to edge, chopping though not only the roots but also everything that the roots have collected. This sends it down into the much larger public sewer system.

The roots will eventually grow back, so now that you know your pipes are prone to root problems you might want to consider preventive drain cleaning to make sure everything keeps heading down at the right clip. Keep Garvin’s number close by so that you can call us at the first sign of trouble.

 

 

 

Clogged Kitchen Sink? Are You Sure?

Have a clogged kitchen sink?
Sometimes the reason for a clog is pretty obvious…you make some ill advised attempt to shred potato peels in your garbage disposal and then suddenly the water doesn’t go down anymore. Put two and two together…the peels caused the clog.

But it’s not always so obvious why your water sticks around like your slacker brother-in-law after the game. Sometimes it just stops working (like your brother-in-law…) So, we’re dealing with a clogged kitchen sink, which means a drain problem, right? Well, maybe not.

Yep, it could be the sink: Like we said, it’s not so obvious what clogged your sink. Was it a foreign object the kids sent down? Was it some new food you sent down that started as a liquid but then solidified? Or maybe it’s was just a slow, slow buildup of grease that finally caught that match stick that accidently fell down the drain and now won’t let anything past. Time to call Garvin’s for drain cleaning.

Nope, it’s your sewer: So the sink stops, and a simple plunger just isn’t taking care of it…or if it doesn’t, the clog’s back the next day. Then you start noticing that the toilet starts to go slower, swirling a lot more than usual. And now that you think of it, your feet were prunier than usual last night…were they in standing water in the shower last night? If all of your drains are running slow, you’ve probably got a sewer clog and it’s time to call Garvin’s for sewer cleaning.

Either way, if the basics of using a plunger aren’t taking care of our problem, it’s time for some Garvin’s in your life. Contact us when you’re in sewer trouble.

 

 

 

What Drain Cleaning Equipment Would We Put In A Sewer Museum?

A drain cleaning museum? Yes please!Okay, before you start laughing, you need to know that a sewer museum does exist…it’s the Paris Sewer Museum, and it’s been giving tours since 1889. The sewer tour takes an unused part of the old sewer system and details its evolution from the 14th century up to the modern forms of water treatment. Of course, the kind of sewers they’re talking about don’t involve modern home sewer systems, but instead focus on the storm drain and public sewer systems.

 

As drain and sewer cleaners, we’re not exactly required to make a pilgrimage, but it got us thinking about the aspects of our work lives that we’d be sure to include in a sewer museum. Here are a few of our favorites.

The Roto-Rooter: Sewers used to be huge brick structures with columns and arches. But when homes and apartments started being connected to the public sewer system, pipes got considerably smaller. That meant that sewer workers couldn’t get in there to clean the pipes out. Also, as centralized cities started having suburbs (mostly thanks to reliable automobiles), the common man could have a yard, and yards meant trees, and trees meant roots looking for nutrients. Before the invention of rooter service in the 1930 the only way to deal with a clogged drain was with harsh chemicals (which often didn’t work) or digging the pipe up. Imagine if you had to dig your sewer line up every time it got clogged! Rooter service and sewer snakes changed all that by providing a mechanical means to of sewer cleaning.

The PVC Pipe: We wrote about the history of many types of pipe, and we’d probably include examples of just about every kind that’s ever been used in sewers. But all of those so far have paled in comparison to the PVC pipe. These pipes hold up to both the environment and to the effects of time, and are certainly worthy of being in our sewer museum.

The Flush Toilet: You know, when you have a clogged kitchen sink, it’s nice to get it cleaned out and have your dirty dishwater go away. And it’s pretty awesome when you’re having a shower and everything heads smoothly down the drain. But when you add the flush toilet to the mix, there’s not doubt that it’s the one you want to work the most.

Flush toilets have been around in some form or another for centuries, with some truly unconventional designs. We’d love to have a few of the weirder ones in our sewer museum. Heck, maybe we’ll have a urinal in there too. On the wall.

The Snake Camera: The snake camera, also known as a sewer camera or sewer scope, is the last word on what’s going on in a sewer. Is it an especially bad grease clog? Did a major tree root work its way into a joint in the PVC pipe? Or maybe the pipe has collapsed completely. The sewer camera has changed the way that people deal with their clogged sewer problems, saving thousands of yards from having to be dug up.

Look, we’ve got no plans to open up a sewer museum anytime soon, but we can tell you that, if you open one, we’ll definitely come. Any museum that honors the professions of drain cleaning is one worth visiting!

 

 

 

The Oil You Don’t Realize You’re Sending Down Your Sink

 

We’re here to tell you more about why you shouldn’t put oil and grease down your drains.

Go ahead, get it out of your system…yell at us for once again telling you about the dangers to your drain and sewer system. We harp on it so much you’d think we were heath teachers telling middle-schoolers about the importance of deodorant. But we’re not going to stop, because we are very interested in keeping your pipes as clean as possible so that you don’t need emergency drain cleaning and sewer services.

Hey, maybe we’ve gotten through to a few of you. Maybe you used to send your bacon grease right down the drain instead of putting it into a can. Maybe you make beef hoagies in the crock pot and no longer pour the leftover oil and fat down the sink. And we’re guessing that both your drain and the entire public sewer system is a better place because of it (we’re going to go ahead and take full credit!)

But hey, garbage disposals and sinks are there for a reason. They’re there to pour water down, to grind the food we put in, right? So use them all you want, as long as you don’t send oil and grease down, right? Right?

Unfortunately, there are some diabolical foods out there, foods that you might be sending down your drain without a second thought because the oil is so well hidden. Who are these oil ninjas?

Pizza Crust: Mmmm, crispy and chewy at the same time. And if it is crispy, you have to know what that came from…oil! A lot of the oil stays in the pan at the pizza place (and that’s why we have pizza restaurant clients needing drain cleaning!) But there’s quite a bit of oil in your leftover pan pizza crust. And if there’s a bit of pepperoni left on it, it’s all the better to not grind it because of the grease. Toss it in the trash instead of gunking up your drains.

Margarine: If you’re a butter user, you can skip this part. But if you use margarine, you probably forget what margarine is, exactly…vegetable oil. If you’re making french toast and some drops on the stovetop, wipe it off instead of washing it down.

Mayo: Mayo, let’s see: eggs and…hey look, it’s oil again! Mayonnaise is essentially just oil with egg and a bit of flavoring. When you get some on the counter,don’t wash it off into the drain.

Salad dressings: The earliest salad dressings were basically just oil and vinegar. We’re here to tell you that not much has changed. If the first ingredient isn’t high fructose corn syrup (which is pretty common) it will probably be vegetable oil.

Peanut Butter: No, not peanut butter! We love peanut butter! While the oil in old-timey peanut butter is pretty obvious (the “stir before you use” kind), most inexpensive peanut butter hides its oily origins very well. The peanuts have their own oil, and palm oil is usually added for a richer flavor. Simply getting it onBrownies contain hidden oil, which might cause premature drain cleaning. your fingers and trying to rinse it off proves just how oily it is.

Brownies: Ghirardelli makes some of the yummiest brownies out there. And when you make them, you realize why…⅓ cup of vegetable oil. You can feel it in your mouth, but the pan you leave behind will probably have quite a bit oil. Give it a wipe before washing it.

So many tasty foods, so much hidden oil. Do you best to prevent premature sewer service by doing your best to not send oil down the drain in the first place. And when you do need drain cleaning, give Garvin’s Sewer Service a call!

 

 

 

Different Types of Pipes We Have To Know As A Drain Company

 

The pipes a drain company needs to deal with.When you were looking at buying a home, you probably spent a lot of time finding out about it and its condition; after all, that’s why you hired a home inspector. You want to know when the roof was put on, how old the furnace is, if the electricity is up to date. And we’re sure you didn’t buy until you knew exactly what type of sewer pipes came with the house.

We’re joking about that last bit, of course. There’s a good chance that you had (and still have) no idea what kind of material your lateral pipe is made from. It’s an important pipe that takes away all that stuff you have no use for and never want to see again and send it to the public sewer, and yet it’s largely ignored.

Here are Garvin’s it can be very important for us to know what type of pipes we’re dealing with so that we can use the right tools and not damage your sewer system. Here’s a quick rundown on the types of pipe that have been used over the decades.

Clay Pipe: Denver was founded in 1858, before Colorado was even a state and certainly predating modern plumbing. There aren’t many houses left from that era, but there are some houses that are still around from the era of the clay pipe, from around the 1900’s until the 1920’s. While clay might sound like a silly thing to use, it was baked and became very hard. Unfortunately, the water running inside of it and the groundwater hitting it from the outside caused it to disintegrate over the decades. Loose fittings also made it easy for tree roots to get inside.

Concrete Pipe: Concrete has an amazing history, but we don’t have the time to go into it here. Concrete was heavily used by the ancient Romans, but then the formula went all but unused for 1500 years. Today it’s the most used man-made material, and it makes sense that concrete would be used as sewer pipes. Unfortunately, like clay it also disintegrates over time and can be scraped away by sewage and rooter service. Concrete was mostly used from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.

Orangeburg Pipe: Here’s one that we probably won’t run into, because it didn’t last very long (literally). Though it was low cost and easy to cut, Orangeburg pipe, made from wood pulp and tar, tended to give out within 20-30 years. It’s pretty much all been replaced since it was installed during the 1950’s.

Transite: Here’s an interesting one that can still be found underground in some places: transite pipe. You’ve heard of reinforced concrete, where iron bars are used to make the concrete stronger. What if you could add a much smaller material to concrete so that it touched even more of it, giving it a higher tensile strength. Great idea, right? Now imagine that the added material is asbestos. Oops!

Cast Iron Pipe: You can probably guess where this is going. Iron was better at adapting to shifting earth than concrete or clay pipe, but all that wasn’t going to save it from rust. Why use it in the first place? Cast iron is a cheap and can be easily poured into molds.

PVC And ABS Pipe: It’s good for most things to be biodegradable: paper cups, plastic utensils made from corn, that pizza box. But there are some things that you want to last right-next-to-forever, and PVC sewer pipes is one of them!

Most laterals made since the 1970’s have been made from PVC or ABS pipe. It gives a little, holding up to sinking ground, and stands up to waste and chemicals. It can also hold its own against tree roots creeping in, plus it’s slick enough to allow waste to slide through better than many previous types of pipe.

What type of pipe do you have? You probably don’t know, but when you have a problem with it be sure to give Garvin’s Sewer Service a call!

 

 

 

Do People Need A Drain Company More Or Less Than They Used To?

 

Here at Garvin’s we’ve been serving Denver and the front range with drain cleaning for over 75 years, and have seen business grow ever since. One big reasons for the growth is, of course, the growth of Denver. Another reason, the one we’re most proud of, is that we gain business by word of mouth as people use our services and then tell their friends and neighbors.

But we started wondering…when you account for those two things, do people need as much sewer cleaning as the used to? Or are they using less per household Here are some arguments both ways when you ask the question “do people need a drain company more than they used to?

No: Better Pipes — Maybe people don’t need sewer cleaning as much because of better pipes. Pipes used to be made of clay or concrete (which disintegrates over time), then moved on to cast iron (which rusts). Since the 1970’s most sewer pipes have been made from PVC plastic, which holds up to the sewage from within and the dirt and water from outside. It also holds up well to the scraping from rooter service, and fewer breaks mean fewer places for tree roots to get in.

Yes: People Eat More Grease — We often think of the people of the past eating less healthy. But before World War II people actually ate considerably less meat; they just couldn’t afford it and it wasn’t being produced on such a large scale. And when they did eat bacon, they saved the grease to use later to fry food because they didn’t have vegetable oil. Since they were reusing the grease, they weren’t letting any of that precious commodity go down the drain.

Today, people are eating oily and greasy foods constantly (we’re looking at you, pepperoni pizza). Meat is included with every meal and cheese (which has a whole lot of fat) is everywhere. At the same time…

No: We Have More Information — We’ve been telling people for years to not send grease down the drain, and it seems that the word is finally getting through. Environmental agencies and cities’ public works departments have been helping us get the word out, and it does seem to be reducing the amount of grease coming through each house, though the increase in population here in Denver can still cause a lot of grease problems.

Yes: More drains — Think about a house built in the 1920’s: one bathroom with a sink and a tub, and one kitchen sink. That’s a total of three drains.

Now take a look at the houses of today: Three and a half bathrooms, a kitchen sink with garbage disposal and dishwasher, and a washing machine. There might be a second kitchen or wet bar, there might be a sink in the garage. All to say that there are more drains than ever that might need a drain company to intervene.

No: We Have Better Machines: Rooter service has been around for decades, but that doesn’t mean that the technology has stopped. We have more powerful machines that are smaller than ever before. We have roto rooters and sewer jetters to clean the pipes cleaner, leading to less frequent visits from a sewer company.

So, what’s the final verdict? Well, not mathematicians, but we do know that that’s a whole lot of variables to account for. The fact is, it doesn’t matter…because all that matters is if you need sewer cleaning right now! When that happens, give Garvin’s a call and we’ll be there to provide the best sewer drain cleaning around.

 

 

 

What’s Going On With My Dishwasher Drain?

 

A drain company can fix your dishwasher problems.Electric dishwashers have been around for nearly a century, but most didn’t make it into home until sometime between the 1950’s and 1970’s. By the 1980’s just about every new home was build with a dedicated space for the dishwasher.

We can’t deny that dishwashers are amazing. After all, they’re dealing with every kind of stuck-on food under the sun, from barbeque sauce to spaghetti to cheese. And it’s this very combination of foods that can cause a dishwasher to stop draining properly. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your dishwasher continues to run.

Scrape off your food: It used to be common practice to rinse a dish off in the sink before loading it into the dishwasher. That’s not necessary anymore, but there’s nothing wrong with scraping off the solids into the garbage before putting your plate into the dishwasher. It’s pretty obvious that you shouldn’t put t-bones in the dishwasher, but it’s also a good idea to get rid of strands of pasta…basically anything solid.

Find out if there’s a disposal: Some dishwashers come with a mini-disposal in them that will grind up the food before it heads out the drain, and this can be a great way of making sure your pipes are less likely to get clogged. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that every dishwasher has one of these disposals. If you move into a new home or apartment, make sure you know if your new dishwasher can handle larger bits of food.

Don’t Put In Pumpkin: We wrote an entire blog about it, but it bears repeating. Some gourds will wreak havoc on your drains and sewer systems. Vegetables like pumpkins have “goop” that dries like glue and can cause big problems with your drains.

Research dishwashing detergents: Not all dishwashing detergents are created equal. In fact, there’s a huge disparity in how well they work, and you don’t always have to spend the most to get the best. But some of them are going to be better at breaking down the bonds on the food particles, which is good for cleaning your dish and good at making sure they don’t stick to the inside of your dishwasher. Try this…if you’ve lived in your current location for a few years and have never cleaned your dishwasher, open it up and look at the seal behind the front door. Pretty disgusting, right? Food is getting stuck there and never washing away.

Don’t automatically blame the sink: Many people will us a dishwasher their entire lives and not really have any idea what’s going on under the sink. Most dishwashers will send their wastewater out not through their own drain but will connect with the sink drain first. If you’re having perpetual problems with your sink and just can’t figure out what’s happening, the problem might not be with our sink at all. When this happens feel free to give Garvin’s a call and we can figure out exactly where your problem lies.

Dishwasher can run trouble-free for a long time if treated right. But if your drains are giving you trouble and your dishwasher won’t drain, be sure to contact Garvin’s as soon as possible.