Tag Archives: home repairs

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.

draincleaner

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

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 PlumbingSupply.com 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!

 

5 Easy Plumbing New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is a positive time for most of us. We’re inspired with hope by the idea of a fresh start and what the year may bring. Then there’s all the New Year’s Resolutions. So many of us resolve to save money or get our bodies in shape – but what about also getting your plumbing in shape this year? Here at PlumbingSupply.com® we’ve come up with 5 nifty plumbing-related resolutions that we think everyone should try over the course of the new year!

 

Drawing of trees 1. Go green.

Water is one of our most precious natural resources – we cannot live without it, and yet there is a very limited supply. If you’re thinking of doing a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room remodel this year, choose water-efficient faucets and low flow shower heads or place a point-of-use water heater in areas where you consistently run the taps while waiting for the water to heat up. Outdoors, you can install a drip-irrigation system instead of a new sprinkler or consider setting up your own rainwater harvesting system to collect water to use in watering plants or washing your car.

 

picture of toilet2. Fix your toilet.

It can be helpful to think of your toilet as another appliance in your home. Anything with moving parts can break or wear down – and that includes the moving parts of your toilet. Save water and avoid costly problems later with good maintenance this year.

 

image of water heater tank 3. Flush your water heater.

Ideally, your water heater should last between 10 and 15 years, but without proper maintenance many fail after 5 or 6 years, leaving you frustrated and sometimes causing significant damage to your home. An annual flush and all-around check to make sure all the parts are functioning well can help you avoid cold showers, save you money, and extend the life of your water heater.

 

image of drain4. Keep your drains clog free.

Nobody wants to deal with the hassle (and often major expense) associated with clogged drains. This year, take steps to prevent clogs before they happen by placing mesh screens or strainers in your sinks, tub or shower, etc., not putting anything down the drain or toilet that doesn’t belong (i.e. grease, baby wipes, razors, etc.), and by using non-corrosive, septic-friendly bacterial drain cleaners regularly.

 

image of sand separator5. Install a water filter.

While we’re blessed with an abundance of clean drinkable water in the United States, there are still some things we can and should filter out of our water, like sand, dirt, and unhealthy chemicals. Whether you need a whole house sand separator to keep your drains, faucets, and water heater free of sediment build-up, or just want to eliminate chlorine in your shower with a filtered shower head, purer water is always a good thing.

 

We would like to encourage you throughout the new year to follow these and other plumbing maintenance resolutions you may form, for the benefit of yourself and your family, your neighbors, and our environment. As always, PlumbingSupply.com® wishes you a safe and happy New Year!

 

Finding Kohler Replacement Toilet Parts

Want to keep it working just like the day it was installed? No problem.

Just like anything else with moving parts, toilets will wear out. Fortunately, unless the bowl or tank are cracked, you can usually just replace the guts and go on like normal.Example of a Kohler Gabrielle series toilet

Potential toilet problems vary, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to assume you already figured out what you need to fix and why, and just need to find the parts. If you’re super-organized and thought ahead, you already have your original paperwork and parts breakdown handy. If that’s the case, find the part number and give us a call and you’ll probably see your new toilet guts sooner than you think.

However, if you’re like most people, the installation instructions and parts breakdown were recycled as soon as the warranty was up, if not sooner. Now a few years have gone by and you really need to replace that flush or fill valve. You tried the generic ones at the hardware store, but they’re just not cutting it. What do you do?

If you’re tired of your toilet and don’t want to bother replacing parts, or are simply in the market for something more efficient, you’ll go shopping for a new toilet and a plumber to install it. But if you were already planning on doing that, you probably aren’t reading this, right?

Example of a painted Kohler Portrait toiletFor those of you that love your old Kohler toilet, don’t have the budget for a new toilet right now, or simply don’t want to mess up your beautiful tile floor, you’ll need to figure out what’s supposed to work for your toilet for the best replacement results. Maybe you know the name of your toilet and the year it was installed, or maybe you only know it’s a Kohler. Either way, we can help you find the parts you need.

The best way to find the parts you need is actually hidden in your toilet tank. No, not the parts themselves, though that can help too, but we really mean the tank and lid. Carefully remove your toilet tank lid and gently set it aside. Then look around the inside of your tank. You should see some letters and numbers impressed into the porcelain. Kohler toilet and tank numbers currently follow a four-digit pattern, often starting with a “K-“. Sometimes a toilet will have a five digit number preceded by a “K-“. These numbers are the toilet model number for one-piece toilets, or the tank model number for two-piece toilets. Sometimes a toilet or tank number will have two letters following the number (something like “-AA” or “-PB”). These are revision codes. These letters and numbers are the key to finding what parts you need. Use these numbers to search our site, find the appropriate model number and voilà! Your toilet’s back in business!

If you don’t see anything in your tank, you can also check the underside of the lid (the unfinished part). You will nearly always see a five digit number, often beginning with an 8, impressed into the porcelain. This is your lid number. You also might find a repeat of the number you found inside the tank. Both of these numbers can help pinpoint the original parts for your Kohler toilet.Example of a Kohler Pillowtalk series toilet

Keep in mind, Kohler, like many toilet manufacturers, continues to evolve their toilet designs. They add new toilets, start using new technology or parts, and discontinue what doesn’t sell well or is out of style. Unfortunately, this may mean that your original toilet parts may not always be available. Usually when Kohler has decided to stop making a particular part, they choose another part to take its place. Occasionally they choose to stop supporting some toilet models altogether and you’re forced to buy universal-style replacement parts to keep your terrific Kohler toilet up and running (or not running, as the case may be). Don’t worry, we offer those too!

Now that you know the secrets of finding the perfect replacement parts, you’ll have “fix the toilet” crossed off your to-do list in no time!

Your turn: what’s your best (or worst) toilet part replacement story?

Understanding Your Anode Rod

A lot of people take their water heater for granted, assuming they can install it and simply forget about it. For the most part, this is true. Tank style water heaters are fairly simple devices and do fine with a minimum of maintenance, so long as your anode rod is doing fine.

Example of a brand new anode rod

A new anode rod

What is an anode rod? The short and simple answer is “Sacrificial rod used mainly in water heaters. It helps protect the lining of and generally lengthens the life of a water heater.” Okay, but what does that mean?

Right. Time for the longer answer.

Plumbing involves metals and water. When these combine, you get this thing called galvanic corrosion. Wikipedia defines galvanic corrosion as “an electrochemical process in which one metal corrodes preferentially to another when both metals are in electrical contact and immersed in an electrolyte.” So your piping, which is one kind of metal, and your tank, which is another kind of metal, and the water, together set the stage for some fantastic galvanic corrosion. This is not good.

Example of an anode rod after one year

After one year

To prevent the tank from rusting or your element from corroding, the brilliant plumbers and/or chemists of long ago created an anode rod for the water heater tank. The idea was that the anode rod would corrode first, leaving the metal of the tank (and element if you have an electric water heater) alone, saving you from a rusted hulk randomly springing leaks.

Most anode rods that come pre-installed in water heaters are formed aluminum or magnesium around a stainless steel cable. When you check your anode rod, you’ll probably see some pitting. That’s exactly what should be happening. However, to keep protecting your tank, replace your anode rod quickly when you can see a good chunk of the cable. Waiting a long time is not a good idea. Having a depleted anode rod WILL shorten the life span of your water heater.

Another problem with waiting too long? The possibility of the old water heater anode rod breaking off and falling to the bottom of the water heater. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Unfortunately, the problem then becomes the issue of the loose anode rod bouncing around whenever water travels inside the water heater. This is bad. It will cause cracks in the glass lining of the water heater, which is another way your water heater is protected from rusting, and will radically shorten the life of your water heater.

Anode rods have a life expectancy of about five years but again, it really depends mostly on the quality of your water and how much water travels through your water heater, as well as the qualities of your water. When sodium is added to the water (such as when a water softener is used), anode rods can corrode more quickly. Water softeners can help reduce sediment, but anodes can corrode in as little as six months if the water is over-softened, so try to leave a little bit of hardness in your water, for the sake of the water heater, and definitely make sure to check your anode rod a bit more often if you have a water softener.

Now that we’ve explained how marvelous your water heater anode rod is, get out there and check your water heater! Make sure you know where your anode rod is and see how it’s doing! After all, if you take care of your anode rod, your anode rod will take care of your water heater!

Your turn: What’s your best/worst water heater or anode rod story?

Finding American Standard Toilet Parts

Example of an American Standard Roma series one piece toiletAmerican Standard Brands, as it’s known now, can trace its beginnings to 1872, when the first bit that was to become a plumbing fixture empire was purchased. Over the years, the company has expanded, eventually merging with other companies including various sanitaryware companies like Porcher, Jado, Crane (previously Universal Rundle), and Eljer. These brands are, at the time of this writing, still marketed as separate brands, though virtually all customer service functions have been consolidated under the American Standard Brands banner.

What does this mean for you? Surprisingly, not as much as you might think. Sanitaryware companies have come and gone, merged and spun off since the first toilet manufacturer produced its first toilet. This is nothing new, though it can be frustrating at times.

But eventually, like all toilets, you encounter a problem. Perhaps it’s just a little leak, but as we all know, little leaks can cause big problems. So, if you’re ready to deal with your little leak before it becomes a huge headache, read on!

Now, for the purpose of this post, we’re assuming you know you have an American Standard toilet but don’t know what replacement parts you need to get it back in perfect working order. That’s where we come in. We’re your source for information and parts – we’ll help you find what you need to know to identify the parts for your particular toilet.

First step, carefully remove the tank lid and set it aside somewhere safe. A broken tank lid will only add to your toilet issues, so let’s not go there right now. Though, should you need a replacement lid, we can certainly help you!

Second step, look inside your tank. Lots of interesting stuff, right? Some of the parts probably even look like things you’ve seen on the store shelves.

Photo of an American Standard acutating unit (flush valve) model 47086Here’s where it can get tricky. Some American Standard toilet parts are easily replaceable by “universal” or non-OEM parts as they are fairly standard styles. However, some American Standard toilet parts are unique to a particular model and won’t be so easily replaced.

So, while you’re looking in the tank, see if you can find letters or numbers impressed into the side of the porcelain tank. We’re looking for model numbers, and American Standard model numbers typically have four digits, most often starting with a 2 or a 4. This will be your tank number or your toilet model number, and will determine what toilet parts will fit properly and work the way the manufacturer intended.

Example of a hand painted American Standard toilet tank lidIf you don’t see anything on the inside of your tank, try looking on the unfinished underside of the tank lid – again, very carefully. The model numbers are often repeated on the tank lid, sometimes with additional number/letter combinations and even dates!

Once you have those numbers, you can begin the hunt for the right parts. We show parts breakdowns for many American Standard toilets on our site, and offer a wide variety of replacement toilet parts, from the old actuators to the newer flush valves. We’ll help find what works for your toilet. Even if we don’t list it, we can probably get it or recommend a good replacement for a discontinued part.

Once you have the parts you need, the fix is as good as done. Take an afternoon, call a friend, order pizza and get that toilet taken care of! Oh, and just in case you ever need the info again, make sure you keep your parts list in a safe place.

Your turn:  What’s your best/worst toilet repair story?