Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Should Know: Part 1

Owning a home is a two-sided coin. There’s joy in having your own yard, being able to remodel every room to your liking and taking pride in cared-for landscaping. 

Your house isn’t just drywall and wood. It’s where your daughter lost her first tooth, and your cousin surprised everyone by proposing to his fiancée at halftime. It’s where your dad quietly repaired the front porch because he saw you trip on a step. Your home is your sanctuary. 

On the flip side, it takes elbow-grease to keep your domicile ordered and functioning. Roof shingles need repair. Paint cries out to be touched up. Windows always need washing. 

Over the years, we’ve seen it all in the plumbing sphere. We’d like to pass on the benefits of that experience. So, get settled, grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s go through plumbing tips that will keep your domestic kingdom royally ready for creating happy moments.

Test anxiety, not!

First, a pop quiz! Take a sip of your beverage. Now, answer the following questions. It’s ok to speak out loud. Nobody is watching. Except, maybe your cat. Cats are always judge-y; so, ignore the stare.

  1. Where is your main water shut off valve?
  2. Where is your toilet shut off valve?
  3. Do you know how to check your water heater?
  4. Where is your water meter and how do you access it?
  5. Do you know how to reset your garbage disposal?
  6. Where is your sewer clean-out or riser?

Did you know all the answers? 

Did you run and check so that you could answer smugly, “I know that!” That’s good. Knowledge is awesome.

If you didn’t know the answers, or a few were sketchy, read on! 

And, if you knew all, peruse the rest of the blog anyway. You might find some helpful info that will help you win Jeopardy someday.

How to shut it all off

Savvy homeowners schedule maintenance and pay attention to details to prevent bigger issues down the road. Despite best efforts, emergencies happen! 

There may come a time when you need to shut off the water to your house, or shut off water closer to the source because of a backup, pipe breakage or a leak. Let’s go over how. Better to be prepared than scared.

Getting to know your main shutoff valve

If you don’t know where that main water shut off to your house is, let’s find it! If you do, excellent; pat yourself on the back.

You can usually find the valve on the side of your house facing the street, likely in the corner of the basement near the pipes to your sprinkler or outside hose system. If you don’t have a basement, the main valve may be next to your water heater in a utility or laundry room. 

Many main water shut off valves have what is called a ball, or “knife valve.” While this name may conjure up horror-flick images in the more imaginative, it just means the handle is long and can be flipped either vertical (up or down) or horizontal (sideways). If you have this type, remember that vertical lets the water flow through, horizontal shuts the water off.

If your home is older, you may have a gate valve with a circular knob. If yours is this type, you will have to turn the knob clockwise several turns to shut off your water.

If you’ve never had to shut off your water, familiarize yourself with your valve now. While you are at it, inspect the area around the valve for any signs of dripping water or leaks.

Yes, put down the beverage and go look. We’ll wait…. Did you find it? Do you know what you have to do to shut off the water now? Woot! Gold star.

If you can’t find your main shutoff, or discovered evidence of leaky pipes in that area, call Garvin’s. We are here to help with all your plumbing leak repairs.

Going down to toilet town

Moving on, let’s say your plumbing problems aren’t big enough to shut the water to your entire house. Maybe you’ll have a fine day when you walk into the second-most frequented room in the house (after the kitchen, of course) and find the toilet leaking all over your costly ceramic tile.

You’ll want to locate your toilet flush handle, then look behind the toilet and down. You should see the pipes leading to your toilet and the shutoff valve to that pipe. 

For most toilets, you will need to turn the round knob on the shutoff valve a few turns clockwise to shut off the water. If it doesn’t budge, try squirting the valve with a WD40. Need help? 

While you’re down on the floor getting familiar with the toilet, notice if there’s any corrosion around your valve. Is there any water on the floor that didn’t come from your shower? You may need to replace the valve and/or repair your plumbing. Call Garvin’s for help.

While we are in toilet town, it’s a good idea to test your porcelain throne for tank leaks. To do this, perform the blue dye test. Blue dye tablets are available at any hardware store. We’ve written a nifty blog about how to perform the test, check it out.

And… we’d be remiss if we didn’t include our Toilet Health PSA: Please, flush ONLY toilet paper and human waste down your toilet. Nothing else. Nope: Whatever “but” you are thinking, it’s a, “nope.” No “flushable” wipes, no goldfish funerals, no leftover aspirin or cigarette ash. 

If you are still tempted, remember: if it’s something weird you’re flushing, what goes down will probably come back up. Do you really want to see it again, just older and way more disgusting?

Cozy up to your water heater

Next, we are going to visit the hardworking device that keeps everyone in your house super happy: The hot water heater. Hot showers, clean laundry, sparkling dishes: Your hot water heater toils away and you barely notice it’s there.

Well… maybe that should change. Pay your hot water heater a visit once-in-a-while to ensure all is well. 

First, there should be a valve at the top of your heater, similar to your main water shutoff valve. You can turn it off in an emergency. Locate the valve and ensure you are familiar with it (you’re good at this now). See our video for visual help.

Second, know the signs that your water heater may need to be replaced. Notice if the water heater is leaking. Are you getting off-colored water from your faucets? Do you hear noises from your water heater? Is your water heater over 10 years old? All of these factors may indicate replacement is in your near future.

Third, if you have a gas water heater, you should be able to check your pilot light if you run out of hot water and don’t know why. See our video: How to check your pilot light

Quiz an expert

Still have questions about your shutoff valves or water heater? We have quite a few answers! Let us help. Contact Garvin’s online or by phone.

We’ll continue next time with “Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Should Know: Part 2.”  We’ll cover finding your water meter, improving the mood of a grouchy garbage disposal and different types of sewer pipe access. Join us!

Sources

How to Identify a Faulty Water Shut off Valve — Stop Water Damage Before It Destroys Your Home | Peril Protect

3 Ways to Turn Off the Water Supply to a Toilet – wikiHow

Why spring is the perfect time for sewer line maintenance

Why spring is the perfect time for sewer line maintenance

Trees look so gorgeous covered with snow in the winter, don’t they? In the autumn they appear to bed down and take nice, long naps. In the spring, they shelter smaller plants. They host birds in their branches.

Trees: Our peaceful manufacturers of oxygen.

Not so fast. Trees also have a less heroic side. 

Deep under the soil, roots grow expansively to help the trees survive. In the spring, some of those roots reach hungrily for water and nutrients like sightless, pale worms. The sneaky tendrils scavenge into cracks everywhere to ferret out liquid survival.

Roots are creeping towards your clay or concrete sewer pipes as you read this. Whispering through the dirt. Maybe some are already in your pipes spanning them and feeding on your household waste, just waiting to cause clogs in your sewer line.

That’s a bit dramatic. And… we do need trees! However, it’s a proven fact that roots can be destructive little buggers. We know this, yet so many of us just ignore them. We go about making pancakes or fitting our Labradoodles with red sweaters like the horror underground is not happening.

Why then are we so very surprised when our sewer lines back up into our showers or basements with tides of smelly yuck? 

An ounce of prevention…

Is worth… well, you know the old saying. Preventative sewer maintenance is worth its weight in platinum. Getting your sewer line routinely inspected and cleared of roots with a bladed cable just makes sense. 

Every spring, plumbing and sewer services in the Denver area get tons of calls about root problems and maintenance. So, now is the time to get ahead of the curve and get your main line cleared of those roots before they precipitate your own personal, foul-smelling drama. 

It won’t hurt the trees…

We promise. But getting your sewer line cleaned will most certainly help your household. Using a bladed cable to “roto-rooter” or cut through the roots in your main line and push the plant matter into your city sewer will get rid of not only the roots, but anything else that might have gotten tangled up in the roots over time. 

This method is more thorough and effective than “jetting” your sewer line with water.

Of course, you still won’t want to flush the following down your toilet:

  • Huge wads of TP
  • “Flushable” wipes
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Paper towel

Getting your pipes bladed out isn’t a license to abuse your pipes. Take care of them by being prudent about what you flush and pour down the drain. Then, root maintenance will help keep your line clear and prevent standing ankle deep in who-knows-what one day. 

It’s best to schedule maintenance every 12 months or more often if you have a large family or a ton of trees. 

It seems like an endless cycle…

If you call Garvin’s we can help you determine what your best long-term preventative maintenance solutions might be. 

Most times, removing trees is costly, unsightly and mean to birds and squirrels.

Another option in reducing invasive root problems is using a non-toxic product like Root-X which foams into your main line to kill roots between main-line cleanings. Root-X is non-caustic and will not harm pipes, septic systems or vegetation above the ground. Other root eaters only sit on the bottom of the pipe, not reaching the top where the roots are growing in.

Confused or unsure about your options? Just ask. Our knowledgeable staff is here to help.

Our video shows we have a problem…

Perhaps another company came to examine or “scope” your sewer line recently and they’re recommending extensive repairs or pipe replacement. They may claim your pipes are broken and need to be excavated. Is replacing your entire sewer line or large portions of it necessary?

We would be happy to view your video and give you a second opinion. Many sewer and drain companies in the Denver Metro area are honest, but some are not. Some simply lack expertise.

We will tell you the truth. We will view your video, explain what we see and brainstorm solutions to your current sewer line issues. Sometimes we can even save you money. Read how we saved one family thousands of dollars in potential repairs by reviewing their scoping video.

Scope, blade, review and repair

At Garvin’s, we are truly sewer line specialists. We know our stuff and we’ll help you steer away from excrement in many forms. We’re here for you all year long to offer preventative maintenance or the right repairs at the right time. We’ll clean your drain, not your bank account. Call for an appointment today.

The Dangers of Drain Cleaning

The Dangers of Drain Cleaning

Every once in a while we have customers call us complaining that the drain cleaning service we provided broke their drain line. Because of this, I wanted to give more information about the dangers of drain cleaning to help homeowners, property managers and the like, better understand the process and impacts of drain cleaning.

How is Drain Cleaning Performed?

At Garvin’s Sewer Service, we use a Roto-Rooter(r) machine. This machine consists of a cable with blades on the end. When the machine is plugged into a power source, the technician uses a pedal to control the power as he guides the cable through the pipe.

A Little History of the Drain Cleaning Machine

The Roto-Rooter Franchise developed the machine used for drain-cleaning and it has been used for over 80 years. Garvin’s started as a franchisee of this organization and uses this type of machine still today. On average, we clean 40 drains per day, 365 days a year, and have for over 80 years. We aren’t the only one. Hundreds of thousands of drains are cleaned every year by thousands of drain-cleaning companies across the country.

In addition to this machine, often referred to as a snake or roto-rooter, there is something called a jetter or hyrdojet. This type of drain cleaning machine uses high powered water pressure to blast through clogs.

We believe blades and knives on a cable are the most effective against root intrusion in the sewer line. We also believe these snakes are best at clearing clogs – whether hair, food, scale or toilet paper. We use a jetter for jobs we think it is best for. In our experience, that is grease, core, mud, and sand.

How Does a Drain Line Break During Cleaning?

The blades on the end of the machine have a slight inward bend to them. They are sharp, and are often referred to as knives or blades and do exactly what you’d expect – they cut debris out of the line. These blades spin the circumference of the pipe, and should scrape the edges of the pipe clean.

On a main sewer line, a heavy duty machine is used with 4” blades, which matches the circumference of the sewer line. On inside lines, again the blades match the circumference of the line and range from 1 ½” to 3”. Typically, a smaller machine is used for these lines.

Because the knives spin through the circumference of a pipe, the only way they are able to break a line is:

  • The line is damaged already and the machine catches that bad spot and makes it worse
  • The line is damaged already and the machine scrapes off the buildup that is holding things together
  • The line is improperly plumbed causing the machine to turn back on itself or go the wrong direction

Can a Plumber Break a Drain Line?

Yes, a plumber can break a drain line, but it is not caused by the use of a drain cleaning machine. A sewer snake can get “stuck in a line”, and this can be due to an error by the drain technician.

Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes and even the most experienced drain techs can get a cable stuck. This could happen if they give too much slack, have a old or weak cable, or misgauge the feel on the cable while running it. Remember, when a drain cleaner is running your line, he is doing it blind. He can’t see, he can only feel, smell, and look for clues based on how the water is draining and what he is pulling back.

Why Do Drain Lines Break?

Water is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. It built the Grand Canyon! Of course, the plumbing in your house isn’t thousands of years old, but that doesn’t mean water hasn’t caused corrosion on your pipes. Plus, water isn’t the only substance flowing through your drain lines.

Typically, we see drain lines fail when:

  • They have corroded from age
  • They have corroded from chemicals (use of chemical drain cleaners, water pH, etc.)
  • They have been impacted by root growth
  • They have been impacted by earth settling
  • They have been damaged by equipment such as from boring or trenching

Video sewer scope services from Garvin's Sewer Service

Who is Responsible for Broken Lines?

While there are times that a contractor is responsible for broken lines, you will find most have a Hold Harmless Clause for pre-existing conditions. Many homeowners simply don’t understand how drain cleaning or plumbing works, and therefore don’t understand the importance of preventive maintenance to reduce the chances of broken lines, either exposed through the drain cleaning process, or those that reveal themselves and require an emergency plumber.

Our Hold Harmless Clause states exclusions for our responsibility for damages caused because of pre-existing conditions and these include:

  • Leaking water pipes
  • Broken or damaged drain pipes
  • Plumbing code violations/outdated plumbing
  • Lead piping
  • Cast iron pipes
  • Galvanized pipes
  • Fixture damage such as cracks in toilets, tanks, supply lines or sinks
  • Hidden pipes such as bathtub p-traps and drum traps
  • Electrical lines and outlets – seen or unseen near plumbing

Other Dangers of Drain Cleaning

When a drain is cleaned, there is a chance that pre-existing conditions can be exposed, causing leaking and water damage. If a chemical drain cleaning product is used, such as those sold over the counter, like Drain-o or Liquid Plmbr, those can sit in the line and cause corrosion. High pressure water jetting can cause flooding if the lines are in poor condition.

However, the benefits of cleaning drains are significant. Left untreated, uncleaned drains can:

  • Cause sewage backups that negatively impact property and the health of the home’s occupants
  • The inability to use the plumbing including not having running water
  • Sewage and sanitary issues
  • Complete blockage of the sewer or drain line which requires emergency repairs – failure to do so can make the home uninhabitable

Preventative maintenance is the key!

Preventative maintenance not only keeps roots at bay to prevent bigger problems, but also allows a review of your current plumbing systems to support repairs rather than replacement.

Cleaning is ALWAYS less expensive than replacing the line and can be done in almost all cases of blockages/ clogs. How often preventative maintenance is performed will depend on your unique situation. How often roots get in your line, how many people live in your home, the length of your line, the material your sewer line is made of, the age of your home and plumbing… these all play a part in determining the frequency of cleaning.

For most people, an annual cleaning, or cleaning every other year is sufficient. Our drain techs are experienced in making a recommendation after cleaning your line about the frequency to consider.

Why clay sewer pipes may cause issues in some homes

Why clay sewer pipes may cause issues in some homes

Grab your swimming suit

We’re going to take a trip in the hot tub time machine! 

What? Ok, we’re referencing the 2010 sci-fi flick where four friends wind up in the past after time travelling in a damaged Jacuzzi. Not an Academy Award-winning flick, but it is fitting for a plumbing company to travel in a hot tub.

We’ll use our own tub to cruise through some famous cities to understand the history of clay pipe before we talk about why these pipes may cause issues in your home.

It will be interesting, we promise. And you’ll get to relax in a hot tub!

A quick trip through time

Stop one, Babylonia: Let’s look over the shoulders of tired archaeologists as they discover the first clay pipe in a small city in what is now the region of Iraq and Syria. They have been laboring to unearth baked clay pipe that snaked through a truly ancient temple constructed in 4000 BCE. Hard to believe pieces of the hardy pipe survived to the early 1900’s to be catalogued and photographed by this team!

Next, let’s blast to the year 2000 BCE to Ephesus (it’s now Turkey). Here, if we take a peek beneath the houses in the rich section of town, we can see hand-formed clay pipes that carry cold and hot running water and sewage. Posh, no hauling from the river! 

Turn up the jets, we’re going to Rome! (Are your fingers wrinkled yet?) Ancient Romans used clay pipe to carry water short distances. In fact, you could fill your water bottle from any modern public water fountain in Rome today and your thirst-quenching quaff likely is being carried by aqueducts constructed in 19 BCE! That’s some infrastructure.

We’re almost done. Let’s take the bubbling tub to the U.S. where savvy engineers in Ohio first made clay pipes by hand in 1849 and then started to mechanize production by the late 1800s. Pipes were made locally because they were very heavy. Eventually, enough railroad systems were built to carry regionally made pipes efficiently throughout the U.S. One such clay pipe was in use for over 150 years in Oceanside, California.

Why so much devotion to clay?

As you can see, clay pipes have been used for a long time around the world. Clay has always been available to be mixed with water, formed into pipes and fired in a wood- or coal-fired kiln to become vitreous or glasslike and impermeable. This process makes the clay pipe sturdy and resistant to chemicals. They can also handle a lot of fluid pressure and the pipes are environmentally friendly. 

The downside of historical pipe

As wonderful as clay pipes might be, they present issues. As we’ve already mentioned, they’re heavy to move. They can crack under pressure. They have to be put together with joints. Tree roots love to grow between those joints, making the pipes break and crumble. Clay pipe can also snap when the ground shifts—especially in Colorado where our soils are laden with ever-expanding bentonite. Material can corrode inside the pipes and cause the area inside to become smaller—the result can be a troublesome backup.

When should clay pipes be replaced?

Sometimes when you call for sewer line cleaning in Denver or Englewood, your Garvin’s technician will discover clay pipe leading into your home. These pipes are most common in homes built before 1980. They can be serviceable or badly damaged. When should you replace your old, clay pipe?

  • Constant backups into a tub or sink
  • Strange smells from your front yard or basement
  • Inspection reveals a sewer pipe is compacted, sagging, or broken beyond repair

How can we help?

Garvin’s provides honest sewer cleaning service and emergency drain cleaning. We’ll thoroughly inspect your line with a video camera snake and provide you with a DVD. We can discuss any issues while viewing the video. If you have a DVD from another company, we can give you an opinion on that too. 

Bottom line: If your line doesn’t need to be replaced, but just needs a good cleaning, we won’t try to sell you a new line. We clean drains, not bank accounts.

If you do need a new line or line repairs, we’ll talk you through it. You can trust our 80 plus years of experience. We most commonly install seamless PVC pipe, or plastic liners so that you won’t have to worry about your sewer line for years to come. 

  • PVC pipes can last up to 100 years and are impervious to sneaky tree roots breaking them apart. 
  • In the right situation, plastic liners can eliminate the need for costly digging and unearthing of pipe. 

Reach out to Garvin’s at 303-571-5114 or contact us online for all your plumbing and drain cleaning needs. Just don’t ask us to fix your hot tub.

A Guide To Sewer Line Preventive Maintenance in Englewood, Colorado

A Guide To Sewer Line Preventive Maintenance in Englewood

Not all plumbing problems are quite the same. A slow drip from your bathroom faucet, or a water heater that’s not quite as hot as it once was, amount to slight inconveniences. Other problems don’t just cause mild headaches; they can cause catastrophic damage. A sewer line backup falls squarely into the latter category. But Garvin’s Sewer Service, the same company you trust for sewer replacement in Denver, and sewer drain cleaning in Englewood, offers a preventative sewer line maintenance program that can combine with a bit of due diligence to protect your home or business.

What Causes Sewer Backups?

Sewer clogs and backups come from two broad categories: man-made, and natural. Homes and commercial sewer systems alike are susceptible to man-made clogs. Oil and grease builds up from the food we cook or the materials with which we work. Things go down the drain or are flushed down the toilet, that shouldn’t be. The dirt that’s washed off of everything from our hands to our pets and cars also collects in drains, then in sewers.

But Mother Nature isn’t exactly lending us a helping hand either. You can be exceedingly careful about what goes down the drain only to find that root incursions are slowly choking sewer lines to a trickle. Neglected long enough, those root incursions will lead to clogs and backups.

Preventing Sewer Clogs and Backups

What can you do to prevent sewer clogs? More than you think—especially since we’re here to help when you need us.

Preventing Sewer Clogs Starts Indoors

Clog prevention starts with you. Be mindful of what goes down drains and toilets, taking special care to minimize things like oils and grease, and never flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed (including “flushable” wipes and kitty litter). Watch growth near sewer lines. Check for cracks and leaks in indoor pipes. But, just as importantly, call us for regular Denver drain cleaning, since clogs can happen despite your best intentions and efforts.

Preventing Root-Based Sewer Clogs

Nature is relentless. Absent drastic measures that remove or actively kill vegetation, you will end up with root incursions in your sewer lines. So while our sewer cleaning methods are capable of dealing with man-made clogs, they’re specifically designed to clear out root growth. How often you have this done is determined by several factors, from usage patterns to climate and weather, plus what’s growing on your property and how fast it grows. Many homeowners in the Denver area call us every six to twelve months.

Wondering what you can do between visits? Keep your drains clean (trees can “feed” on all kinds of waste runoff, promoting growth). Use a product like RootX, which inhibits root growth without using toxins. And in extreme cases, it may be worth your while to consider sewer line replacement.

Sewer Service in the Denver Area

From sewer scopes that pinpoint the source of chronic problems, to drain cleaning and sewer repair services, home and business owners in the Denver area have relied on the professionals at Garvin’s Sewer Service for fast, reliable responses to a wide variety of plumbing and sewer problems. We’re at your service any time of the day or night—just as we’ve been for more than seven decades—so reach out to us today!

A Guide to Sewer Line Preventative Maintenance

A Guide to Sewer Line Preventative Maintenance

Your sewer lines may be hidden, but they are about as important as any individual aspect of a home. Imagine what life would be like if you couldn’t drain a sink or flush a toilet or run a shower without it backing up. It sounds awful, but these things happen all the time, and sometimes they get so bad that the homeowner can incur major repairs, including but not limited to a full sewer replacement.

How does one prevent having to undertake massive sewer line repairs? By taking care of a little preventative maintenance. Here at Garvin’s Sewer Service, we want to help homeowners do the necessary things to prevent their pipes from clogging, hopefully in a way that keeps a complete sewer replacement from ever becoming necessary. The following is a look at ways we can help with drain and sewer line preventative maintenance:

#1 Clean Slow Drains

Many people attack a slow-moving drain with a bottle of liquid drain cleaner, but there are so many reasons why that just isn’t the best course of action. A sewer drain cleaning in Englewood often is the best way to clear a drain of any grease, hair, or other items that could be causing the backup. It is better for the environment and the integrity of your pipes to have this done by a professional.

#2 Check for Cracks

Professional plumbers also can check your sewer for cracks using tools that most homeowners don’t have on-hand. Bendable snake cameras allow plumbers with a trained eye to locate cracks in a sewer, which helps them understand exactly where bigger problems may arise in the future had they not been checked up on early.

#3 Remove Trees Near Sewer Lines

Tree roots are among the most notorious killers of functional sewer lines, so one approach to preventing invasive and pricy sewer line replacement is just to remove those trees in the first place. If not removing trees, at least planting new ones away from sewer lines is a smart approach, and a plumber can help you know exactly where in your yard that may be.

#4 Test Water Pressure

Professionals here at Garvin’s Sewer Service have access to special gauges that can check the quality of your water pressure, and if something doesn’t appear to be working quite right, they can give homeowners a sense of what to do get things back up to snuff. 

#5 Check Under Sinks for Warning Signs

Another bit of preventative maintenance plumbers do is just to have a check under sinks for any cracks or leaks in the pipes that reside there. Think of it the same way you would a multi-point inspection for your vehicle at the car dealership. If something’s wrong, we can fix it before it becomes a much bigger problem.

Contact the Denver Sewer Replacement & Maintenance Experts

The idea behind any sort of preventative maintenance is to be sure that everything works the way it should and that molehills don’t turn into mountains. If you’d like to schedule a preventative maintenance appointment with one of our professionals, contact the professionals at Garvin’s Sewer Service so we can help ensure that your home’s plumbing continues working as it should.