Spring Plumbing Check

Beat the Rush and Schedule a Spring Plumbing Check

The long cold winter can be hard on plumbing systems. As winter winds down it is a good time to have a spring plumbing check to make sure plumbing systems have come through without damage.

Preventative maintenance is the best way to prevent plumbing problems from becoming costly big problems. A good check up on plumbing systems should only take about an hour. If plumbing problems are present it’s best to take care of them before they develop into a serious plumbing emergency.

  • Check all faucets in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry. If a slow drip is present most likely all that is required are the O-rings, or similar type gasket material needs replacing. Check the strainers and aerators on faucets. They catch mineral deposits from the water. Just unscrew them, clean and replace.
  • Check under all sinks and inspect the water lines and connections for any signs of leaks and corrosion. This is a good time to turn shut-off valves off and back on to ensure they are working and to help keep them functional. Observe for any leaking when they are turned. Visually inspect for any sign of drain lines leaking.
  • Inspect showerheads. Mineral deposits build up on showerheads and can impede the flow of water. Most simply unscrew, remove them and soak in vinegar for a few hours or overnight if necessary. An old toothbrush works great to scrub any remaining deposits off using a little of the vinegar solution. Use some plumbers tape on the pipe screw when replacing the showerhead to prevent leaks.
  • Toilets are a frequent source of leaks. To ensure your toilet tank isn’t allowing water to run constantly in the bowl place a little food coloring such as blue or red into the tank. If there is a leak the colored water will appear in the bowl. This is usually due to a faulty flush valve or floater.
  • Check the hot water heater for leaks. A leaking hot water heater not only wastes water, wastes energy and can damage floors and walls. Generally, a hot water heater will last 10-12 years. Newer hot water heaters are more energy efficient and will save you money in the long run. It is recommended that hot water heaters are flushed twice per year by attaching a hose pipe to the flush valve and opening it to allow several gallons to drain. This drains sediment and allows you to check for corrosion in the water. This also extends the heaters life.
  • Inspect washing machine, dishwasher and ice maker supply lines for leaks, cracks or bulges. Replace them if present, or if they show signs of aging.
  • If the home has a sump pump pour a few gallons of water into the pit to ensure it is working properly. The pump should turn on automatically, pump the water out and then shut off.  If it fails to perform in this manner have it checked by a professional.
  • Outside faucets and exposed pipes are especially vulnerable to winter cold. Inspect outside faucets for leaks and turn them on. There may be leaks in the pipes supplying the faucets that won’t leak until the water is turned on. Next check the pipes in the basement or crawl space. There are newer faucets available that are better able to withstand winter weather.

Catching plumbing problems early can prevent small problems from becoming major repairs. When the need for professional help arises, we are ready to help. For all your plumbing needs call Southern Home Services.

Tips for Frozen Pipes

Tips for Frozen Pipes

When severe cold occurs, a faucet that fails to provide water is a sign of frozen pipes. Your best approach is to prevent frozen pipes in the first place. For severe cold temperatures the following will prevent frozen pipes:
• Provide a trickle of water running from the faucets.
• Open cabinet door where water lines are present.
• Open doors between heated and unheated rooms where water lines are present. If your pipes are in an uninsulated wall this is key to preventing frozen pipes.
• Wrap uninsulated pipes with foam sleeves, insulation or even newspaper.
• Use heat tape, foam sleeves or insulation on pipes outside of your home or business. This includes the water supply line that provides the water to your home where it comes out of the ground.
• Use a small heater or heat lamp at exposed pipes.
Thawing Frozen Pipes
When a pipe freezes use the following tips for safe effective thawing:
• Shut off water at shutoff valve and open the faucet nearest the frozen pipe to allow it to drain as it thaws.
• Work from the faucet towards the frozen section. Starting at the frozen section itself can result in a burst pipe. Always start at the furthest area and work toward the frozen section.
• Do not use a torch, this can burst a pipe as well as start fires!
• Use a hair dryer to gently thaw working your way from the faucet back to the frozen area as instructed above.
• If the frozen pipe is in a wall provide heat to the room and beam a heat lamp no closer than 8 inches to the surface. The amount of heat produced by your appliance may necessitate placing it even further away as wattage varies with different appliances. Keep a check on it until you know how much it will heat up the wall. Heat can damage paint or even start a fire. Monitor it and place it further back if necessary. Do not use in the presence of fuel sources or flammable liquids or materials.

Sump Pump Tips

Stop Water in Basements with a Sump Pump

Basements that leak water can be one of the most challenging problems facing homeowners. The consequences of water in the basement can be mold and structural damage. A simple solution at a reasonable price is to have a sump pump installed.
A sump pump will keep your basement and the area under it dry during heavy rain. A small pit is dug under the basement constructed to fill when water invades your basement or the area under it. A floater in the pit triggers the sump pump to start up when water is present and pump the water away from your home through a drain pipe terminating at least 20 feet from your home.
Sump pumps are either submersible or pedestal style. The submersible pump has a waterproof motor and is located within the pit. The pedestal style has a pump located within the pit with the motor elevated above it. Either pump is attached to a drain line that carries water away from your home.
Horsepower and the size of the outlet pipe vary allowing for just the right pump you need to keep your home safe and dry.
Most sump pumps are electric but models are available with backup batteries for when power outages occur.
The factors to consider determining your need for a sump pump are as follows:
• Exterior drainage system.
• Frequently clogging gutters that don’t terminate a least 4 feet from your home
• Soil that doesn’t slope away from your foundation can cause water to enter into a basement.
Observe exterior drainage during a steady rain. If correcting these type drainage problems doesn’t end water in the basement it is a good indication that you need a sump pump installed.
Hills sloping toward your home and utility ditches may be draining water into your basement. A sump pump will correct these problems.
Give our experienced professional plumbers a call at Southern Home Services and we will install just the right sump pump to protect your home and health in the years to come.

Best Winter Plumbing Tips

Before we begin I would like to give a shout out to some plumbers in Houston. We’ve been friends with these guys for years so if you are in the Houston, Katy, Sugar Land or Rosenberg area and in need of professional plumbers make sure to give the guys over at Ben Franklin Plumbing in Houston a call.

Frozen pipes are more than just annoying they can result in damage to your home. Use the following tips to avert frozen pipes from ever happening.

  • Watch your water pressure. During freezing weather falling water pressure may mean a frozen pipe is restricting the water.
  • Running water doesn’t freeze. Leave faucets on allowing them to trickle at about the width of straw.
  • Before cold weather sets in disconnect and drain garden hose. Left connected it can lead to a busted pipe inside your home due to pressure. So disconnected, drain and store those hoses for the winter.
  • Insulate those exterior faucets. If your home has shut off valves going to outdoor faucets utilize them by cutting the valves off. While you are insulating, use the foam sleeves on exposed pipes in the attic, crawl space and basement where pipes will be exposed to cold.
  • Don’t forget to cut off the shut off valves going to sprinklers.
  • Keep your home temperature above 55 degrees to prevent frozen pipes. Open cabinet doors under sinks and faucets and near exterior walls to help keep pipes warmer.
  • Close crawl space vents and garage doors especially if your hot water heater is located in the garage.
  • Insulate exposed pipes. Check your main water supply. This is the water line that comes from the ground up into your home. Insulate it or attach a heat tape. Remember though, if the power goes off the pipe may freeze if not insulated.
  • Never pour fats or cooking oil down the drain. Liquid fats will congeal within the pipes and clog the drain. Remove solidified fats from pans into the trash can. Pour liquid oil into a jar or other container once cooled and dispose of in the trash. Use paper towels to absorb and wipe remaining oil from the pan before washing. Don’t put coffee grounds down a drain. The old tale that grounds clean the drain is exactly that-a tale.
  • Never put string food into the garbage disposer. This includes skin, celery, carrots, pumpkin or banana peels. Also, do not put cherry pits, peach seeds, bone or similar objects down the drain. These items will clog your drain and can damage the disposal itself as well as field lines if you have a septic system.
  • Always run cold water before and after using the disposal for about 15-20 seconds to flush debris down the line.  Turn the disposal on before you begin putting food down it.
  • Check pipes for exposure to cold drafts. It only takes a tiny crack to freeze a pipe. Check basement and foundation walls for cracks or failed caulking that allows cold air to enter. Check around ducts and pipe that go through the basement or foundation walls. Seal cracks with caulk or expanding foam. Hot flu pipes must be sealed with metal collars or special sealant only. Have licensed professional seal flues.
  • If pipes freeze or burst cut off the water at the main shut off valve. Leave the faucets on to relieve pressure. Use a blow dryer to heat frozen pipes, starting at the furthest point from the frozen section. Move the hair dryer around, do not hold it in one spot as this can result in a burst pipe. Do not use any open flame on frozen pipes as this can result in burst pipes and fire to your home.
  • Install water alarms next to water heater, washing machine or dishwasher. Relatively inexpensive at about $20 each.
  • Install a flow stop valve on your main water line to sense a leak and automatically shut water off. While very expensive (about $700) your home owners may provide a discount if present. Check with your agent.
  • Replace washing machine hoses every five years, especially if your home has a water pressure >70 psi.

Call Southern Home Plumbing Services today to schedule an appointment to have your plumbing readied for winter. Our experienced and reliable plumbers will be glad to inspect your plumbing for worn, cracked or leaky plumbing, provide repairs and winterize your plumbing. We also provide service contracts that enable us to automatically provide you with an annual inspection preventing many breakdowns that typically occur in plumbing due to wear and tear.

Burst pipes are the emergency that can’t wait. For over 18 years our Birmingham plumbers have been serving the surrounding areas with exemplary service. For prompt reliable repairs give us a call. Our plumbers are on call 24/7 to serve you when you need us night or day. Call (205) 202-8797 for service today.

The History of Birmingham Plumbers

Southern Home Service has been providing exemplary plumbing and drain service to the Birmingham area for more than 18 years. Our experienced Birmingham Plumbers provide prompt, reliable service that includes the following:

Birmingham is the county seat of Jefferson County and is the largest city in the state of Alabama.

Founded in 1871 by the Elyton Land Company during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, it grew into an industrial center focused on mining, the iron and steel industry and railroad transportation. It was notable that Birmingham possessed deposits of iron ore, limestone and coal- the three major raw materials necessary for the manufacture of steel. Birmingham is the only place worldwide where significant amounts of all three minerals can be found in such close proximity.

It was named for a major industrial city in the United Kingdom. From its founding until the late 1960′s Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the south.

Its growth through 1920 earned it the nickname of ‘The Magic City’ and the ‘Pittsburgh of the South’. Birmingham’s largest industry was iron and steel production with rails and railroad cars being manufactured in Birmingham. Atlanta and Birmingham were the two primary railroad hubs in the south from 1860 and continue to be so to the present day.

Though manufacturing remains a strong influence in Birmingham today, other industries such as college education, medical care and telecommunications and much more have grown in stature among an area known to be the fastest growing area of Alabama.

The past 18 years have seen Southern Home Services growing and adapting to the plumbing needs of this unique area of beautiful rivers and hard water sources.

No job is too large or small for our Birmingham plumbers who dedicate themselves to providing prompt professional and reliable service to the Birmingham area.

Using state of the art equipment and maintaining steady continuing education for all our plumbers ensure that our employees are always up to date and proficient in new technologies.

Our Birmingham Plumbers can provide you with reliable repair or new plumbing installation and are always available.

At Southern Home Service we know you can’t plan for plumbing breakdowns. That’s why our prompt and efficient Birmingham plumbers are available 24/7 to provide for all your plumbing needs.

Furthermore, we would like to provide you with worry free plumbing. Ask us about a service contract to clean and protect your hot water heater, and drains. In addition, it provides for inspection of fixtures and other plumbing equipment for leaks, cracks and wear. After all, preventative maintenance is the best defense against plumbing problems which can lead to devastating damage to your home or business.

Give Southern Home Service a call and let our Birmingham plumbers start helping you today. Call (205) 202-8797 for service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How to Extend The Life of Electric Hot Water Heater

Homeowners can extend the life of their electric hot water heater and improve its efficiency by routinely draining the tank to remove sediment. Hard water sediment can adhere to heating elements and corrode tanks lined with only metal. A leaky water heater can lead to structure damage in your home so it is in your best interest to take care of your water heater. The following instructions will enable you to drain potentially damaging sediment from your hot water heater and maintain its performance.

  1. Turn off the power supply in the main power box by turning off the circuit breaker supporting the water heater.
  2. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located near the base of the hot water heater. Place a thick towel under the connection in the event the hose pipe leaks. Run the other end of the garden hose outside to drain. Keep the draining hot water away from people, pets, plants, electric sources or anything hot water can damage.
  3. Turn off the cold water inlet valve located at the top of the water heater.
  4. Slowly open the pressure relief valve located at or near the top of the heater and leave the valve open.
  5. Open the drain valve on the bottom of the water heater and allow water to drain through the garden hose into a large bucket. Note the quantity of the sediment. If the drain is blocked by sediment clear it by closing the pressure relief valve and turning the cold water inlet valve on. This seldom occurs unless the heater hasn’t been cleaned of bottom sediment for a long time.
  6. Continue to flush and drain the tank until sediment no longer drains from the tank.
  7. Close the drain valve, remove the hose (it will be hot), close the pressure release valve and turn the cold water inlet valve on. Hold the disconnected end of the garden hose up to avoid hot water flowing back and scalding you.
  8. Turn on the hot water at a faucet to remove air from the line.
  9. Turn the circuit breaker back on.
  10. With a new tank, or once your tank is clean repeat this procedure preferably every 3 months but only 2 quarts need be released if you stick to this schedule. Otherwise, repeat the full procedure above every year minimum.

A routine inspection of the hot water heater is advised to prevent costly problems. Check for leaks that can damage floors, walls and basements. Feel of the pressure release valve. If it is hot it is leaking hot water out usually under your house. It will require replacement. A higher than usual power bill may be an indication that this has occurred.

At Southern Home Service in the Birmingham area we realize the damage water can do to the structure of your home. Our professionals are available 24/7 to assist you with all your plumbing needs. Give us a call today at (205) 202-8797.

Recovering After Water Damage to Your Home

Water damage can be among the worst repairs a homeowner can face. The extent of water damage repair is just as varied as the causes can be. You may have a leaking basement, a broken sump pump, a water heater maybe leaking, you may have a burst water supply line in your home or under a slab causing a slab leak, or perhaps you live in a flood prone area and have experienced water rising into your home.
First, you need to remove everything the water has affected or damaged such as furniture, linens and clothing, wall decorations, and toys to name a few. If water has touched it, remove it for cleaning and drying.
Next, remove the water. You may do this by mopping, using a wet/dry shop vacuum or even calling a professional service to remove the water. You may be able to rent a commercial vacuum which has more suction power and can do a better job of removing water from your carpet than your own shop/vacuum will. You can rent or buy a sump pump which you hook to your garden hose. It will then pump water out of your home. There are submersible and non-submersible models available.
Once you have removed all the water you can you need to begin drying the area. Bring in several high velocity fans to dry carpet, baseboards and walls. These will need to run on high for several days and you will have to use them in conjunction with a high capacity dehumidifier. Failure to use fans and a dehumidifier can result in mold growth. Use of a humidity meter will allow you to test surfaces such as drywall. The meter will indicate if drying is occurring as it should or if you need to add more fans or another dehumidifier.
Any furniture affected by the water will also need drying and like carpet, once dry it will need a professional cleaning with the application of an antimicrobial and odor removal.
The source of the water damage will require repair of course. If your basement is leaking and you do not have a sump pump you should consider one. The source of the basement leakage may be repairable as in a cracked foundation or one that needs waterproofing. A burst pipe will need to be replaced. If the water is due to flooding from a stream of nearby water or a drainage ditch perhaps a landscaper can suggest a hardscape or planting solution to reduce the threat of flooding to your home.
Following is a list of tips that you may have a slow leak occurring:

  • Check all water connections on a regular basis. Look for corrosion on copper pipes. Stains and mineral deposits may occur in the bottom of cupboards where water has leaked.
  • Look out for mold and mildew. Watch for it on bottom storage boxes, on walls, around tubs and sinks. Check around areas where pipes and vents enter and exit your home.
  •  Check your roof annually and seal around vents or any other extruding items through the roof. These leaks can do serious damage to the roof, attic insulation, joists, walls, ceilings and eventually to the floors and any other structures that water reaches.

Prevention is the best choice against leaks and flooding that can necessitate water damage repair. Call Southern Home Services’ experienced and professional plumbers to see how we can help you protect your home from costly water damage.

What is Septic Fields and How Important it is

Septic drain fields, also called septic fields leach fields, leach drains or drain fields are used to remove impurities from the liquid that is discharged from the septic tank. A septic system is composed of the septic tank, the septic field and the pipes from the house to the septic tank as well as from the tank to the septic field

The septic field effectively disposes of the discharged organic materials broken down by microbial action. The septic field is a number of trenches containing perforated pipes and usually gravel covered by a layer of soil. The size and design is in consideration of the volume of wastewater to be disposed.

Most health departments require a percolation test to determine the ability of the field soil to receive the septic tank wastewater. An engineer or licensed designer is required to design a septic field system that conforms to the criteria of the local governing agency.

The effluent from toilets contains potential disease causing bacteria and possibly viruses. Disinfection used with municipal sewage can be utilized with septic tanks as it would prevent wastewater treatment by killing the beneficial bacteria that breaks it down in the septic tank. The septic field holds and deactivates dangerous pathogens before leaving the septic field soil.

The goal of the percolation test is to ensure that the soil is permeable enough to allow the waste water discharge to filter out bacteria and viruses before they can reach the water table, water well, or a surface water supply. Sand and gravel can allow waste water to drain away from the septic field before pathogens are destroyed. Silt and clay are very effective in filtering pathogens out but slow waste water flow rates considerably. With percolation tests a trench or hole is dug and clean water poured into it. The rate at which it disperses into the soil is measured to test its suitability.

The following factors can reduce the ability of the septic field to properly percolate the waste water affluent:

Microbial colonies during the process of breaking down the solid, organic matter can create a bio-film of slime reducing the ability of the septic field to drain.
Insoluble materials such as mineral soil from laundry or washing of vegetables, or bone and eggshell fragments will collect in the septic field reducing the ability of the trenches to perform their job.
Cooking fats and oils, petroleum products can congeal in the trenches creating blockages and eventually failure of the system.
Excessive water as in times of heavy rain or flooding of a nearby water source like a creek can prevent proper drainage as the septic field fills will water.
Frozen ground may reduce the system ability to evaporate part of the water.

Septic tank and septic field microorganism have a very limited ability to break down petroleum products and chlorinated solvents and is unable to remove dissolved metals. Furthermore, cleaning products may reduce septic field efficiency. Detergents, solvents and drain cleaners can transport fats into the septic field before they are broken down creating clogged field lines eventually.

Septic tanks should be completely cleaned out every 3-5 years depending upon the amount of material put down the drain. The following should reduce damage to the septic tank, drains, and the septic field.

Never pour grease or oil down the drain. Dispose of it properly in the trash can to prevent it from clogging the septic field.
Do not rake food into the drain if you don’t have a garbage disposal. Your best bet is to rake scraps into the trash even if you do. In addition, do not rake bone, egg shells or stringy foods like celery down into your disposal. Damage to the disposer blades can occur and clogs in your drain or septic field. Flush drain with water before and after using the disposal.
Use natural cleaning products and washing powders that won’t harm your septic system or cause clogging of septic field lines.
Don’t use drain cleaner unless it says it is safe for septic tank systems. Even then, they may damage your drain lines.
Don’t wash the week’s laundry in one day. Too much water can cause materials to be forced out of your septic tank and into the septic field before it is ready leading to a clogged up septic field line.

Adhering to these guidelines will extend the amount of time between required cleanings of the septic tank, and help to keep it functional from one cleaning to the next.

How to Clean A Shower Head With Vinegar

If your shower head has unsightly hard water buildup on it, or if it  is not providing a consistent and smooth stream of water or jetting sprays out sideways when you shower, it may be in need of a good cleaning. The use of distilled white vinegar is environmentally friendly, cheap and is extremely effective in removing limescale buildup on shower heads. It may be a good idea to test a small unseen area as some people report vinegar damages their certain brass finishes.

There are two ways to use vinegar to remove limescale buildup, with heat or without. Following we will look at both methods:

Fill a saucepan with enough of the vinegar to completely cover the shower head turn the stove eye temperature to simmer. Remove the shower head, it should simply unscrew. If you use a wrench or other tool use a thick cloth or rubber sheet to prevent the tool from damaging your shower head. Place the shower head in the saucepan and allow to simmer. How badly the limescale is built up on your shower head will determine how long it needs to simmer in the saucepan. Do not turn the heat higher than simmer, a higher heat can damage the shower head, especially if it is plastic, or if it contains plastic parts. Keep a close eye on it. A plastic or rubber shower head should float in the vinegar, it must not sit on the pans bottom as this can melt it or components of it. If it does not float read below for alternate methods of cleaning.

When the limescale has been loosened remove it from the saucepan and rinse it in water to remove the loose limescale. Use tongs or a similar tool as it may be hot to touch. A toothbrush may be needed to gently rub loosened limescale off. Reattach the shower head to the pipe and turn the water on to flush out loose limescale. If the holes in the shower head are not empty of limescale you may need to use a small object such as a straightened  paper clip to clear the holes. When you reattach the shower head remember to use a few layers of Teflon Tape and to apply it clockwise to prevent leaks.

If your shower head is plastic and will not float in the vinegar, or if you prefer not to use heat you can simply soak your shower head in the warmed up or room temperature vinegar without heat. It will take from 1 hour to overnight depending upon the extent of limescale build up. Brush off any remaining limescale then rinse the vinegar off.

An alternate way to clean your shower head without removing it is to use a leak free plastic bag with vinegar in it, use rubber bands to attach the bag containing the vinegar to the shower head and let it soak overnight. Rinse and gently brush off any loose limescale remaining on the surface with a soft toothbrush.

Any remaining stubborn deposits may require additional cleaning or soaking in vinegar.