Category Archives: Do it yourself

Which Drain Cleaner Should I Use?

When most people experience a clogged drain, they automatically reach for one of two things – the phone so they can call a plumber or a chemical drain cleaner. If this is their first time dealing with a clog, many people want a recommendation for which chemical drain cleaner is best and what is the best way to use it. While we always advocate calling a plumber for any plumbing issue you don’t feel you can handle yourself (and some that you think you can handle and shouldn’t), we NEVER recommend using any kind of chemical drain cleaner for a number of reasons.

1. They are harmful to your and your family’s health. If some of the drain cleaner were to splash on your skin or in your eyes, or if you inhaled too much of it, you could potentially experience serious injury – not to mention the potential for young children or pets to accidentally imbibe them with fatal consequences.


2. Everything you put down the drain eventually ends up in our environment somehow, whether that be in our groundwater, oceans and rivers, atmosphere or soil. Chemical drain cleaners aren’t any safer for our
environment than they are for our bodies.

3. Chemical drain cleaners work by eating away at
whatever is causing the clog. It just makes sense that anything that caustic is also eating away at your plumbing system. While certain pipe materials like PVC or galvanized steel might hold up a little longer than copper, all pipes exposed to caustic chemicals will eventually start to wear down and you’ll experience leaks from holes in your pipes that could require extensive, costly repairs or a complete re-plumbing of your home.

So what are the alternatives? Well, before you decide to call a plumber, we recommend grabbing a good sturdy plunger or a drain snake and trying to remove the clog yourself. If neither of those methods work, try a half and half mixture of baking soda and vinegar and let it sit overnight. If that STILL doesn’t work, we suggest calling a plumber. They are experienced in removing all kinds of clogs – and have the expertise and equipment to do it without damaging your fixtures or pipes.

Once your drain is clear (or before you get a clog!), there are several things you can do to help prevent future clogs. Regular drain cleaning should become part of your home maintenance routine, and the best part is that it’s easy and inexpensive. For a brief tutorial on how you can clean your drains and tips for preventing clogs, check out our Guide to Easy Drain Maintenance and do your part to protect your plumbing system, your family’s health, and the environment!

Read more:
How to Unclog Your Toilet
Public Service Announcement: Save Our Sewers!
10 Tips for Preventing Toilet Troubles

The Pros and Cons of Outdoor Misting Systems

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Can I Use a Brick In My Toilet to Reduce Water Waste?

A lot of people are finally starting to realize the impact humans have on our clean water supply and have become more conscientious about how they use water and how much water they use. One question we see frequently asked online is – can I put a brick in my toilet tank to help conserve water?

This is a valid question for anyone wanting to save water, as the toilet uses nearly 1/3 of our indoor water consumption, and technically, yes you could…but we really don’t like to recommend that. While we here at truly care about water conservation and try to do our part to save water and help others to save water, putting a brick in your toilet isn’t the way to do it.

All toilets manufactured after the early 90’s use only 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) or less, with many of the newest models using 1.28gpf. Older toilets do use significantly more water, with most being 3.5gpf, but some using up to 6gpf – that’s a lot of clean water being flushed – but it’s important to understand that these toilets were specifically designed to use that much water and they typically won’t flush properly with less. And yes, we completely understand that your toilet LOOKS just like the low flow toilets…from the outside…and that this can be confusing for many people. Trust us, the inner workings can be significantly different. An extra bend or an extra inch of height in the toilet trap can mean a lot when you’re moving waste with only water and gravity.

Same model, made in different years. Can you tell the difference?

Old Toilet

Old Toilet

New Toilet

New Toilet

For sanitary reasons, you really want all that waste to be disposed of properly and not stuck in your toilet trap or your home’s sewage line. So, it’s important that the correct amount of water is used to help that waste move along the sewage lines and help prevent clogging – which means you really shouldn’t use a brick, or anything else for that matter, to reduce the amount of water in your tank.

We’re aware that there are plenty of articles out there telling you otherwise – that it’s perfectly fine to displace the water in your toilet tank to help conserve and that your toilet will flush either way. Which is true, in most cases. Your toilet WILL flush, but it won’t be doing so effectively. And that opens up the potential for serious problems in your home or community sewage system down the road.

If you’re concerned about water conservation and have an older toilet with a higher flush rate, we strongly recommend you replace the toilet with a newer, water-saving model. That is the most effective method of saving water when it comes to toilets. Also, regardless of whether your toilet is new or old, making sure you check periodically for leaks and repair them quickly can also save significant amounts of water.

However, IF you choose not to replace your older toilet and you choose to use the “brick method”, it is a better idea to take a plastic water bottle and fill it up with sand or small pebbles and place that in the tank instead of a brick. Even a brick wrapped in plastic can break down in the tank, especially if you get a hole or loose seal in the plastic wrap.

Want more water-saving ideas? Check out our Guide to Water-Saving Plumbing Products for tips to help you conserve!


10 Tips for Preventing Toilet Troubles

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How To Install a Kitchen Faucet – Video

Plumbing is intimidating for most people, especially when it comes to the kitchen. Think about it – you may have your main kitchen sink with a faucet, a prep sink with its own faucet, a pot filler faucet near the stove, a dishwasher, a refrigerator ice maker, drinking water filters, and more going on in there – and many of these things could be connected to one another. However, plenty of the typical things homeowners want to do with the plumbing in their kitchens are easy enough for a proficient DIY’er to handle.

One of the easiest kitchen upgrades you can do yourself is installing a new faucet. While certain situations may be trickier than others, faucet installation isn’t rocket science. Join our go-to guy, Mike, as he walks you through everything you need to know to make your kitchen faucet installation go smoothly.


5 Easy Plumbing New Year’s Resolutions

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Finding Eljer Toilet Parts

If you’ve ever had to look for parts for your Eljer toilet, you know it can sometimes be a challenge.

Eljer Coventry one piece toiletThe easiest way to find the right repair parts for any Eljer toilet is, of course, to break out your original paperwork, see what model you have and order the right parts from our website. Super easy and the parts deliver right to your door!

But what if the dog ate your paperwork, it got lost in the great paper shuffle of ’89, or you simply tossed all that stuff when the warranty ran out? Read on and we’ll walk you through it.

With most brands of toilets, you can usually find the toilet and/or tank model number actually impressed into the porcelain inside the tank. This is the number you need so Eljer or your favorite plumbing supply house can find your toilet’s repair parts. Eljer tank numbers are seven digits long and typically begin with a 141, 151, or 131 (example: 141-1234). Sometimes the number will be repeated on the underside of the tank lid. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a good number of older Eljer toilets where no number was visible.

Okay, so if you don’t have your paperwork, can’t find a model number and all you know is that you have an Eljer toilet, how do you find parts?

By the way, this post isn’t discussing pressure assisted toilets. We do not offer or sell parts for them (with the possible exception of trip levers). This article is discussing “normal” gravity fed Eljer toilets only.

If your toilet is unique-looking, take a look at our photo gallery of Eljer toilets. If you find one that looks just like yours, compare the parts shown on the page to the parts in your tank. If everything matches up, you’re well on your way to fixing your commode!

Eljer 495-0260 fill valveNow, if none of the photos look exactly right, your next step is to take a look at the guts of your toilet (if you haven’t already). While a lot of Eljer toilet parts look the same, Eljer does have a couple of unique fill valves. Just check out the photo to the right! If you see a really weird-looking valve, you’re halfway to identifying the right replacement parts.

If, however, you have “average” looking parts, don’t despair. Armed with a few measurements, you can actually figure out what the OEM parts are if you talk to someone at a knowledgeable supply house (oh, a 5-1/2″ Eljer flush valve, yeah, that’s probably the 495-5514-00).

An example of a "standard" Eljer  fill valveIn other words, finding the right parts without your paperwork is certainly a bit more work, but you can still usually fix your Eljer toilet.

Remember when we mentioned measurements? If you have your old parts, you can just measure them and call your favorite plumbing supply house.

If you don’t have your old parts, you’ll need two main measurements to figure out what will fit in your tank – your overall tank depth and the maximum water depth for your tank. Why? Because the height of your tank determines the maximum height your fill valve can be and the maximum water depth determines how tall your flush valve can be. Makes sense when you think about it, right?

Example of a "standard" style Eljer flush valveTake a ruler or measuring tape and see how tall the inside of your tank is from the bottom of your tank to the top of the porcelain. This is your tank depth and part of how to figure out your fill valve height.

Now measure from the bottom of the tank to the first place water can escape. In many cases, the first place water can escape from is the trip lever. Your replacement flush valve should be about an inch shorter than that measurement. Your replacement fill valve should be at least an inch taller than your flush valve’s overflow tube and shorter than the overall tank depth.

Illustration of measurements needed to find Eljer toilet parts

Oh yeah, you’ll also want to measure the diameter of the holes the fill and flush valves fit into, since you’re there anyway. These are usually the same from toilet to toilet (but not always), so just to be on the safe side, go ahead and record them too. Then call your trusty plumbing supply house for help finding the right toilet guts for your Eljer toilet.

Unfortunately, there are times when all the measurements and information in the world just won’t help. Eljer (like most toilet manufacturers) had a couple of models with guts like nothing else. In fact, we remember the Eljer Silette which used an Indiana Brass fill valve (a 79E, if memory serves) that had the gasket at the top and the tank had a shroud built into the tank that the valve fit right into – that’s right, a built-in, non-replaceable, porcelain toilet part… Unfortunately, that valve was discontinued years ago, and because of the design of the tank, a universal third-party valve simply won’t work. To the best of our knowledge no replacement was ever specified. So if you have one of those and your entire fill valve ever needs to be replaced, you’ll most likely get to throw up your hands and go new toilet shopping.

Your turn: what’s the most difficult toilet to find parts for?