FAQ

From odors to water temperature, if you have a question about plumbing, you may find the answer here.

Freezing Pipes

Q: We live in northern Wisconsin. Winters are cold and we were told to turn off the outside faucets in the fall before the freezing weather arrives. We did this, however the pipes leading to our outside faucet still froze and broke. What did we do wrong?

Turning off the water is not enough. You must also disconnect the garden hose connected to the faucet to allow the water in the pipe to drain out. This will allow the piping to withstand the cold weather.

General

Q: I am getting a foul odor from a bathroom in the basement. We hardly ever use this bathroom except when we have company. This is embarrassing. What can we do?

Plumbing systems are designed to prevent foul odors from entering the house by means of the trap attached to fixtures. Traps contain water to seal out foul odors; if the water seal evaporates, the odors enter the house. To solve this problem, pour a bucket of water in each trap, sink, shower and floor drain. This will prevent the odors from entering the house.  If this drain it not used very often you can also pour a cup of vegetable oil in the drain, instead of water, this will not evaporate.

Root Growth

Q: How can I control roots in my pipes?

If roots have entered your pipes, our plumber can remove the roots using powerful cutting blades.

Q: How do roots grow?

Tree and shrub roots require oxygen and water to grow. Growth rate is variable and is affected by the soil depth, water supply, aeration, mineral supply and temperature.

Root systems are made up of large, permanent roots for support and stabilization, and many small, temporary feeder root and root hairs. These small roots are the primary water and nutrient absorbers. Most roots can be found in the top 6 to 18 inches of soil, where water, nutrients and oxygen are found.

Roots generally extend up to two or three times the height of the tree, but can extend as far as seven times the height of the tree. Large, mature trees may have thousands of feet of root system searching for nutrients. Roots will be less extensive in clay soils than in sandy or well-drained soils.

Q: How does weather impact root growth?

During drought conditions and in the winter, roots will travel long distances in search of moisture. When trees and shrubs get thirsty, they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes, or poorly sealed joints in the water and sewer lines. The roots penetrate the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipes.

Q: What happens when roots get inside lines?

If not disturbed, the roots will completely fill the pipe with multiple hair-like root masses at each point of entry. The root masses quickly become clogged with toilet tissue, grease and other debris flowing from homes and businesses to the main sewer, resulting in reduced flow and slowed drains. A complete blockage may occur if the roots are not removed and root growth impeded.

Once roots have entered the pipe, they continue to grow and expand, exerting considerable pressure at the crack or joint. The increased pressure often breaks the pipe and may result in total collapse, which requires repair or replacement.

Some pipe materials are more susceptible to root intrusion than others. Clay tile pipe is easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. Concrete pipe and PVC pipe may also allow root intrusion, but to a lesser extent than clay pipe. PVC pipe usually has fewer joints and the tightly fitted joints are less likely to leak as a result of settlement around the pipe.

Septic Tanks

Q: How often should I have my septic system inspected/pumped?

Septic systems should be inspected and pumped a minimum of once every three years. You may not be experiencing any problem now, but a full septic tank may allow unwanted solids to flow into the drain field. The drain field is the final and most important step of the effluent treatment and disposal. Each pipe allows water to flow into a bed of stone that drains into the ground. If paper and other solids flow into the drain field it becomes blocked and ineffective. A blocked drain field is costly to repair or replace.

Slow Shower Heads & Aerators

Q: My shower head and faucet aerators have a buildup of a white substance around the area where the water comes out. Is there anything I can do other than replace them?

The unsightly buildup is mineral deposits. To remove these deposits from the showerhead, take a plastic bag and pour a cup of vinegar in it. Place the bag over the showerhead and use a twist tie to hold it in place overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub off the deposits. You might be able to remove the aerators from the faucets and allow them to soak in the vinegar overnight.

Strange Noises

Q: I am hearing a whistle sound that seems to be connected to the plumbing system. It comes and goes at times, but I can’t find the cause of it. What could cause this?

The sound you are describing is usually caused by a toilet fill valve that is slowly leaking. To locate the leaking toilet, remove the lid of each toilet tank and adjust the fill valve mechanism until it stops. Once you have found the toilet causing the problem, repair or replace the fill valve.

Q: When I am in the laundry room and the water heater is operating, I hear a rumbling sound coming from the water heater. What could cause this?

Rumbling sounds coming from a water heater are an indication that sediment has built up on the bottom of the water heater. What you are hearing is water that is trapped in the sediment and is boiling. This is an indication that the water heater is not operating efficiently. Sediment will not allow the heat to transfer to the water in the tank, which sends the heat up the flue.

You may try draining a few gallons of water off the bottom of the water heater tank. This is done by attaching a drain hose to the valve at the bottom of the tank. Allow it to drain for about five minutes.

WARNING: HOT WATER IS DANGEROUS. DISCHARGE THE WATER INTO A FLOOR DRAIN, LAUNDRY TUB OR BATHTUB. HOT WATER WILL KILL YOUR GRASS IF DISCHARGED ONTO THE LAWN. HOT WATER WILL CRACK A TOILET BOWL IF DISCHARGED INTO THE TOILET.

Many newer models of water heaters have a new feature that prohibits the buildup of sediment in the tank. If your heater is an older model, it may be cost effective to replace the water heater if the buildup is severe.

Toilet Replacement

Q: We need to replace a toilet in our home. We have heard coworkers and friends complain that the new toilets do not flush properly, and that they require multiple flushes. What is the recommendation for toilet replacement?

When the federal government mandated that new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, manufacturers had to develop a toilet that would achieve this but that would also flush properly (clear the bowl) and carry the waste to the city sewer or septic system. Some of the early models did not do this properly. Since then, the complaints have forced the manufacturers to develop new ways of flushing toilets. One new way is the use of a toilet that has a larger flush valve and trap.

When considering a toilet, we recommend that you choose Gerber Viper.

Well Work

Q: What do I do after I have had well work done at my home?

Here are some of the things you may incur due to the fact that your well and water table have been disturbed.  Your water in your home will/may smell like chlorine, because we are regulated by the DNR to add chlorine to your well when we work on it.  The water could be cloudy and may have some sediment in it.  You should hook up a garden hose to an outside faucet and let the water run continuously for 8 hours or so.  Some wells will take longer and some may take less time to clear up.  Make sure that the garden hose is placed away from your septic tank(s) and drain field.  It would also be wise to place the hose in an area that will not kill plants, flowers or grass due to the chlorine in the water.  By running the outside faucet it will pump the chlorine, cloudiness and sediment (if any) out of the system.  If you have a sediment filter you will want to clean it, probably more than once.  If you have a treatment system you will need to bypass it until the water clears.  If you notice lower water pressure at any fixture in the home, you should check the screens and clean them as needed.  These fixtures are all the faucets, the wash machine, shower heads, toilets and etc.  It is not wise to do laundry until the chlorine smell is gone.  The information specified above are all normal conditions that can occur.