The first step to becoming a successful homeowner or renter in DeKalb County, GA is knowing basic emergency plumbing tips. It is no longer news that the joy of owning a home vanishes when a busted water line or backed up toilet creates an inconvenient, if not disastrous mess. The frustration of an emergency plumbing problem is even more intense if house occupants are totally ignorant of how their plumbing system works or where the control valves are located. This is something you should cover with the entire family before an emergency plumbing problem occurs.

I agree that not everyone is gifted with plumbing skills and we all cannot be plumbers. However, it does not hurt to know the basics of your home plumbing system, just in case your water line chooses to burst and flood your house when you cannot get a hold of a plumber immediately.

A broken water pipe is not the only emergency plumbing problem to watch out for. Clogged drains, frozen pipes and sewer backup are some of the other common emergency plumbing issues. A clogged drain slows or stops water from flowing in the drainage system and in a worst case scenario, the whole plumbing system blocks to a halt and occupants cannot use water anywhere in the house without having an overflow situation. The key to averting the ugly situation described above is knowing the basics about your plumbing systems and ultimately having an idea of what to do in plumbing emergencies.

Water leak or broken pipe

It is important to know the location of all of the shut-off valves controlling water supply to your utilities and appliances in the kitchen, bathroom, toilet, basement and yard. Carefully inspect your kitchen sink, toilet pipes, water heaters, heating systems, tubs and other appliances to locate the shutoff valve feeding water into them.

Another very important valve you must know the location is the main shutoff valve supplying water to your entire house. If you cannot find the shut-off valve for your systems or if you are not sure where to look, ask your plumber anytime you have him working at your house. Getting this information from a professional will help boost your confidence when you have to deal with an emergency water leak and broken pipe because then you know for sure what to turn off. You will still need to call a plumber to repair a water leak or broken pipe but putting everything under control first and taking your time to find the right plumber save you the money that you would have used to hire an emergency plumber.

DIY Broken Pipe Solution

Before you call a plumber, here is what you can do to control emergency broken pipe: Stop water from getting to the point where the pipe is broken by turning off every valve feeding water to that broken or leaky pipe. If there are no independent shutoff valves to stop water flowing to the broken pipe, then you will have to turn off the main valve supplying water to the whole house. Sometimes, shutting off water supply to the broken pipe will not stop flow of water through it immediately. In which case, you will need to open all cold water faucets in order to completely let out water in the entire system. Please note that Only cold water faucets should be turned on and not hot water faucets.

If you follow the simple steps outlined above, you will be able to control any emergency plumbing problem that results from a broken or leaky pipe. When the situation is under control, you will have a better judgment in your choice of a plumber for repairs.

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A Less Expensive Way to Fix a Leaking Water Pipe

We recently were performing an alteration to a customer’s house in DeKalb County, GA. This was an old house built in 1946. The original water pipes were run in galvanized pipe. Over the years the pipes had deteriorated and had become very brittle. When we began to apply a section of wall board to the unfinished wall, we inadvertently moved one of the pipes. The movement of the pipe caused a leak at a rusted joint in the pipe.

The first thing we did was turn the water off. There is usually a “shut off valve”, at the outside wall of the house. If there is, it most likely will be located on a line feeding one of the hose bibs. Next we used an acetylene torch to dry the pipe. You might use a hand held heater gun. You should be able to buy one at your local hardware store for less than forty dollars.

If in your case, the leak is behind the wall you need to locate the leak with a leak detector. A leak detector can be purchased for about thirty dollars. If you can’t get one locally go to the link called “contractor supplies”. You will be able to purchase both or all the items you need there.

In our case the leak was exposed to view, so after turning the water off at the meter (this house did not have a shut off valve). We dried the pipe, wire brushed the leak location, then with a pair of scissors, neatly cut a strip of tin foil about ten inches long. The leak was in a one inch pipe so the tin foil was folded in half. To the tin foil, a film of PERFECTLY mixed two part epoxy was applied then wrapped around the pipe at the spot of the leak and about a half inch in both directions away from the location of the leak.

The tin foil served as a type of form or dam to hold the epoxy in place allowing it to cure without displacement, similar to wood forms used to contain wet concrete until it has had the time required to setup. The next day we turned the water back on. You should open a few faucets in the house before turning the water on.

Leak fixed, and no expensive plumbing contractor costs. This will work on copper or PVC pipe. With PVC pipe you may need to roughen the pipe with a file, wire brush, small grinder or a similar tool. With both copper and PVC you should use the appropriate pipe cleaner readily available at any hardware store. I recommend wearing rubber gloves to make a repair to any pipe with the procedures and materials as described here.

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When you need to repair your water heater and you have forgotten where you put your warranty or manual, it helps to have some tips to guide you along the way. This guide assumes that the hot water heaters were properly installed and were operating correctly before any problems developed. If you suspect that this is not the case, call a plumber in DeKalb County, GA for a complete inspection of the installation.

It will be applicable to most brands of water heater troubleshooting like Takagi, Rudd, Bosch, State Industries, Bradford-White, Rinnai or GE water heaters.

Common electric hot water heater problems and repairs

Warning: Your electric water heater is a 240 volt appliance. The shock it can produce can be fatal. Turn off the power at the service panel before beginning work. Be sure to label the service panel with tape that will alert family members you are working on the electricity.

Problem: Not enough hot water

Thermostat may be set too low, increase temperature. Or there is sediment in the tank, try draining it. The thermostat or heating element may have failed and requires replacement or the dip tube may be damaged.

Problem: No hot water

Check the circuit breaker or fuse box. High temperature limit switch (ECO – Energy Cut Off) may have tripped. Determine if a problem exists and reset the switch. Upper thermostat may have failed and requires replacement or heating element may have failed and requires replacement.

Problem: Tank is leaking

Determine if the leak is from pipes or relief valves. Many water heaters use a low quality valve which can be difficult to close tightly. Use slip joint pliers to turn the valve all the way closed.
Caution: Too much force may snap the valve off. If the valve has failed, replacement is required.

Problem: Hot Water Heater is noisy

Scale can build up on the heating elements causing all sorts of noises to occur while heating. Try removing the heating elements and either clean or replace them. Low water pressure can also results in spot boiling or voltage exceeds heating element’s rating.

Problem: Dirty water

Drain and flush the tank. Doing this regularly will extend the life of your electric water heater. If the drain valve leaks, tighten or replace.

Common gas hot water heaters problems and repairs:

Warning: If you smell a gas odour, close the gas-shutoff value that supplies water to the heater. Open your door or windows to ventilate the room and call the gas company immediately.

Problem: Not enough hot water

Thermostat may be set too low, increase temperature. Or if there is sediment in the tank, try draining it. Water heater is too small, and needed to be replaced with larger capacity model. Or it could be due to low gas pressure, so check with utility company.

Problem: Water leaks

Operate the pressure relief value. Many water heaters use a low quality valve which can be difficult to close tightly. Use slip joint pliers to turn the valve all the way closed. Caution: Too much force may snap the valve off. If leak continues and the temperature is okay, replace the value.

Problem: Pilot light will not stay lit

Check that the thermocouple is securely screwed into the thermostat assembly. The thermocouple may have failed and requires replacement. There may be air or dirt in the gas line or pilot line or clean the orifice which may be clogged. Inadequate combustion air may cause a water heater to shut down for safety reasons.

Problem: Water is too hot

Check and reset temperature control. If too high, have the thermostat professionally serviced.

Problem: Condensation on tank

Cold water entering the tank can result in external condensation. Ventilation may be inadequate. Replacement with a larger tank may help.

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