Blocked Sewer Vents: An Often-Overlooked Plumbing Issue

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Uncategorized

When you think of clogged plumbing, blockages in drain pipes are probably the first issue that comes to mind. But there’s another part of your plumbing system that can become blocked: your sewer vents. Located on the roof, these vent pipes allow gases to escape from your sewer system. They regulate the air pressure in your system, allowing waste to flow freely. If they become blocked, your system won’t drain properly. Here’s a closer look at this issue.

Signs That Your Sewer Vents Are Blocked

The signs of a blocked sewer vent often mimic those of a blockage in the drain pipe. For this reason, some cases of blocked vents go undiagnosed for months or years while the homeowners try DIY fixes to clear drain lines-but to no avail. The following are common signs that your sewer vents could be blocked.

Gurgling Noises

You may hear gurgling or even see water bubbling up and out of the drains as they drain. You may also hear gurgling coming from your toilet shortly after you flush. The gurgling is caused by air escaping through the drain. The air should be flowing up and out of the sewer vents, but since they are blocked, it has nowhere else to escape but through the drains.

Note that in some cases, you may hear gurgling in drains other than the one you’re using at the moment. For example, if you flush a toilet, you may hear gurgling in the tub. This indicates that these two plumbing fixtures share a vent-and it is blocked. In some cases, gurgling noises indicate that there is no vent for that particular drain or fixture.

Slow Drains

A single slow drain usually indicates a blockage in the drain itself. And slow drains can certainly be an indication that there’s something clogging your main sewer pipe. However, if all of the drains in your home are slow and you’re also noticing the other issues described in this section, blocked sewer vents are more likely to blame.

Sewage Odors

The air emitted from your sewer lines doesn’t smell like a bed of roses! If you notice sewage odors coming from your drains and toilets, but you don’t see any overt sewage backups or spills, what you’re probably smelling is the air escaping through the drains.

Causes of Blocked Sewer Vents and Their Solutions

There are a number of possible causes of blocked sewer vents. These three are the most common.

Snow Buildup

If you started to experience the problems described above after a snowstorm, snow on the roof is probably blocking your sewer vent. This is most likely to occur on a flat roof, from which the snow does not drain properly, or after a really heavy snowstorm that results in several feet of snow on the roof.

In the short-term, your plumber can fix the issue by clearing snow away from the vent and melting any snow that has made its way down inside of the vent. However, to prevent this issue from occurring again, they’ll also want to replace your vent pipe with a longer one that extends above the level of snow on your roof.

Debris Buildup

Your plumbing vent should be angled at the end to prevent leaves and other debris from making their way into it. If your sewer vent is filled with debris, your plumber may remove it using a special grabbing tool. Then, the vent pipe may be re-angled and a new cap may be put into place to keep debris from clogging it again.

Sewage Clogs

There may be a clog in the sewer line right where it meets the vent pipe. This blockage keeps air from traveling up the vent pipe properly. Sometimes, these clogs comprise materials like wet wipes and feminine hygiene products, which homeowners commonly flush even though they are really not designed to go down the drain.

This kind of blockage is the hardest to remove. Your plumber may need to access the blockage through the vent on the roof, pushing a plumbing auger down through the system to grab onto the offending material and pull it out. In the future, sticking to flushing only human waste and toilet paper will keep you from dealing with the same problem again.

If you’re having trouble with slow drains and sewer odors, and plunging your drains has not fixed the issue, then it’s definitely time to call Jim Dhamer Plumbing. Whether the blockage truly is in your vent pipes or in your main sewer line, it’s important to deal with it promptly before it results in raw sewage or smelly air flowing into your home.

Remodeling Your Kitchen? 5 Benefits of Working With a Professional Plumber

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Uncategorized

Remodeling can help you craft your dream home, regardless of your home’s current condition. However, for the renovation to be as beautiful and functional as you imagine, it’s important the job be done correctly. In a previous blog, “Bathroom Remodeling 101: A Homeowner’s Guide to a Successful Remodel,” we provided a number of bathroom-specific tips and stressed the importance of working with a professional. In this blog, we discuss five benefits of working with a professional, licensed plumber during your kitchen remodel.

  1. Ability to Rearrange Appliances

Think about your desired kitchen design. Are any of your appliances going to change location? Are you replacing some or all of your appliances? Are you adding a new appliance? If you answered yes to any of those questions, it’s in your best interest to work with a plumber.

Plumbing systems in the kitchen are complex, especially if you’ve never worked on piping before. Even installing a new refrigerator or moving your oven to a different location may require rearranging a small amount of the pipework, including the gas line.

Additionally, if you plan to move or upgrade an appliance that is connected to a water source, like your dishwasher or sink, you’ll want the help of a plumber. In some cases, newer appliances require that you rework the plumbing where it attaches to the appliance. Professional help is particularly important if you want to place an appliance in an unconventional location, such as a kitchen island.

If you try to remodel your kitchen on your own, the changes you can make to your appliances may be limited. With the help of a plumber, you can achieve the kitchen layout you imagine.

  1. Evaluation of Current Plumbing Conditions

Before you begin the process of actually remodeling, it’s important to have your home systems inspected. These systems include your wiring and your pipework. If you fail to have your plumbing system evaluated, you may need to remove appliances or pull up your new materials to make major repairs in the near future.

A professional plumber can assess your pipework, make any necessary repairs, and provide you with recommendations to keep the system healthy and functional. This inspection serves as an opportunity to identify and resolve any existing problems or to prevent other issues from developing over time.

  1. Ideas Backed by Expertise

Unless you have a contracting or plumbing background, your vision for your kitchen may not include the most practical or efficient options. When you work with a professional, all of his or her suggestions are backed by experience.

A plumber can help you decide on the most energy efficient appliances, avoid common layout pitfalls, and reduce your daily water usage through design choices.

  1. Reduced Risk of Water Damage

Whenever you perform a DIY project involving pipework, you run the risk of serious water damage. A mistake as simple as forgetting to turn the water off can ruin your materials, cause structural problems, and delay your renovation.

Instead, have a trained team handle any tasks that require proximity to water pipes. A professional plumber’s presence can protect you from leaks, burst pipes, and other serious forms of water damage.

Not only does working with a plumber prevent these issues during the initial renovation, but correct plumbing work protects you from plumbing problems after your project is complete. If a leak or other problem should appear at a later date, having your worked backed by a warranty and professional experience is important.

  1. Simplified Permit Processes

Like your plumbing system itself, obtaining the correct building permits can be complex. While some building codes are state or county-wide, some restrictions or guidelines may apply to smaller areas such as your specific city.

If you remodel without all the appropriate permits, you do not have the correct documentation for the construction. You may be unable to sell your home without an inspection, retroactive permits, and a potential fine in the future.

A plumber who routinely serves homeowners in your area has the knowledge to advise regarding the necessary permits. Once the work is complete, you’ll have a record of these permits that legitimizes all your kitchen renovations. These records can simplify inspections related to resale or insurance claims, as well as put potential buyers at ease when deciding whether to invest in your property.

As you anticipate your kitchen remodeling work, remember that the right tools and expertise are just as important as your materials and design. Work with a professional to take advantage of the benefits listed above. Planning a renovation in the Chicagoland area? Work with Jim Dhamer Plumbing and Sewer, Inc. to ensure that the final product matches your vision.

Have a Clog? Don’t Use Chemical Drain Cleaners

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Tips, Uncategorized

You know the signs of a clogged drain all too well. Instead of flowing quietly through your plumbing, the water gurgles and glugs. Over time, the small pools that form around your drain as you wash dishes or your hands eventually turn into little lakes. In some cases, the water backs out of your drain after seeming to go down, and what comes up looks dirtier than what you originally rinsed away.

You also know that if you don’t handle the clog quickly that it could contribute to leaks and flooding. You don’t want to go through the hassle of calling a plumber, so you feel tempted to rely on a chemical drain cleaner instead. After all, the advertisements suggest that the formula will quickly scour your pipes and break down any debris. Soon you can go back to washing your clothes or bathing your children as normal.

But don’t grab that plastic jug just yet.

Despite manufacturer claims, chemical drain cleaners may do your plumbing more harm than good. Unless you use a product specifically recommended by your plumber, your cleaner may have the following problems.

1. The Fumes Are Toxic

Take a quick look at your drain cleaner’s label. You’ll likely see a lengthy list of warnings describing the negative health effects. Although these health effects vary depending on the product, you can experience skin irritation or even severe burns if you spill the cleaner on your skin.

Even if you were to exercise the utmost care when pouring the chemicals down your drain, the formula will still release fumes into the air, and these fumes can linger for days after usage. If inhaled, many drain cleaners cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, and fainting.

2. The Chemicals Erode Pipes

Different products rely on varying chemicals to unclog your pipes. Caustic drain cleaners, for example, use caustic potash or lye to dissolve clogs. Oxidizing cleaners often feature nitrates, bleach, and peroxides. Acid drain cleaners have hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.

But no matter which product you use, you can expect your chemical drain cleaner to react with the hair, scum, and debris in your plumbing and create heat. The reaction and resulting heat can soften modern PVC pipes and corrode older copper, steel, and cast-iron pipes, especially if used incorrectly.

If your pipes have already suffered minor damage or corrosion from general wear and tear, the chemicals could worsen the condition of your plumbing and increase the likelihood of leaks.

3. The Formula Upsets Bacterial Balance

If your plumbing connects to a septic tank rather than a municipal sewer system, you should avoid chemical drain cleaners as much as possible.

Septic tanks contain a delicate balance of bacteria colonies and chemicals. When you flush waste down your plumbing, the bacteria break down and consume the debris that accumulates in your tank, and the remaining water flows away into your drain field.

However, experts have found that only 12 grams of bleach (or similar drain cleaner) can effectively kill many of the bacteria colonies in your tank. Without adequate bacteria in your septic tank, the waste will accumulate, and you’ll have to pump and replace your failing system.

4. The Results Are Temporary

If you have a small, manageable clog, a mild store-bought drain cleaner might help you clear away some of the debris and allow the water to flow smoothly once more. But keep in mind that drain cleaners have limits, and they won’t compensate for undersized, outdated, or damaged plumbing.

Clogs can occur for a variety of reasons, not just the food you toss down the
disposal or the hair you shed in the bath. If you have a backed up sewer line, broken pipe, or non-dissolvable item (such as a toy or tool) lodged in your plumbing, drain cleaner will only address surface buildup rather than the underlying cause.

If you’re lucky, the product will give you enough clearance to restore minimal water flow, but your pipes might clog again and again and again, despite frequent cleanings. If you’re unlucky, the drain cleaner will sit on top of the clog and continually eat at your already compromised pipes, resulting in additional damage.

Call Your Plumber Whenever You Have a Clog

Chemical drain cleaners have a lot to offer homeowners: convenience, affordability, and speed, to name a few. But unless you know the precise nature of the clog, the overall condition of your pipes, and how the ingredients will react in your plumbing, you’ll be better off skipping the drain cleaners and talking to a reliable plumber.

When you schedule professional drain cleaning, you can rest easy knowing that the plumber will only use professional equipment. Additionally, your plumber can thoroughly inspect your pipes and pinpoint any problems that would result in repeated clogs.

Water Heaters: Tank Vs. Tankless

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Uncategorized

For every shower, clean dish, or fresh shirt, you need hot water. Without it, cleaning might not be as effective, and showers can be painfully chilly. But while a water heater benefits every house, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right water heater for your needs.

Today, tankless water heaters are available, giving the average homeowner an alternative to the traditional tank water heater. But how does this tankless option compare to a tank water heater? To learn more about the pros and cons of each water heater, keep reading. We’ll discuss how they’re different and how they’ll affect your home life and wallet.

Tank Water Heaters

With traditional water heaters, a large tank fills with water and heats it up. When you use some of the water, the tank refills and continues to heat to make up for the lost water.

Pros

Traditional water heaters are used in plenty of homes across the country, and despite being an older technology, they still have their advantages:

  • Reasonable repairs and maintenance. If something should go wrong with your tank water heater, the maintenance and repairs are fairly inexpensive compared to tankless water heaters.
  • More affordable installation. Out of the two water heaters, tank water heaters can cost less to install.
  • Easy installation. While tank water heaters are easy to install, they also have fewer limitations as to where they can be placed. They don’t always require electricity, so as long as they get enough fuel, they’ll operate smoothly just about anywhere in your utility room, basement, garage or another suitable place.

You might decide that with these benefits, a tank water heater is best for your home.

Cons

However, like any appliance, tank water heaters have their downsides too. But, depending on the size of your family and home, some of these may not be much of a nuisance as all:

  • Large in size. Tank water heaters are rather bulky, so if you don’t already have a place for one, it can be difficult to locate a suitable space. Or, even if you do have an area for it, it can take up prime space in your garage or closet.
  • Short life span. When the two water heaters are set side by side, tank water heaters may not last as long. On average, they last about 10 to 15 years, and then they’ll need to be replaced.
  • Costly utility bills. Because these water heaters constantly keep water hot, they use up quite a bit of fuel to maintain the same temperature. Compared to tankless water heaters, this option results in more expensive utility bills.
  • Limited hot water supply. Water heater tanks only hold so much water at a time, and it takes a while for it to fill up again. So, if everyone in your family takes a lengthy shower, the last person might get a spray of icy cold water.

If these downsides are too much for you, consider a tankless water heater instead.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters heat water on demand by heating the water as it flows through the heater. For instance, some tankless water heaters heat two or three gallons of water per minute at a constant rate.

Pros

The setup and operation of a tankless water heater allows a few helpful benefits, and you may find that these suit your situation better than your tank water heater.

  • Small size. Unlike tank water heaters, tankless water heaters don’t constantly hold water. As a result, these water heaters are quite a bit smaller, so they can fit in slimmer areas.
  • Requires minimal maintenance. Tankless water heaters don’t need a ton of work or repairs over the years, so you don’t have to worry too much about them breaking or slowing down. Annual flushing/descaling is recommended.
  • Long-lasting operation. Despite not needing a ton of maintenance, tankless water heaters do have a longer life span than tank systems. These can last over two decades, so you can rest assured your water heater will last for some time.
  • Constant hot water. With tankless water systems, you don’t have to worry about running out of water. Since water runs directly through the water heater and heats instantly, you can count on getting hot water whenever you need it.
  • Lower utility bills. Because tankless water systems only work on demand, you’ll use less energy on a regular basis, and you won’t have to pay as much for monthly utilities.
    If these benefits are what you’re looking for, a tankless water heater is a great option.

Cons

This newer technology also has its disadvantages in regards to your wallet. Depending on your finances, tankless water heaters may not be the best option.

  • Expensive installation. While tankless water heaters can be more inexpensive in the long run, they cost quite a bit more to install than their tank counterparts.
  • Limited installation locations. Tankless water heaters need to be in close proximity to a power source, and this can complicate the installation a bit. You may need a little bit of electrical work done to accommodate the water heater placement.
  • Costly repairs and maintenance. If something does go wrong with your water heater, it can be an expensive affair. Be sure you’re prepared for the expense just in case.

If your primary concern is the amount of money a new water heater will cost, tankless might not be a great option for you.

When you’re trying to decide between tank and tankless water heaters, use the information above. But if you’re still having trouble, speak to Jim Dhamer Plumbing and Sewer, Inc. We can help you find the best fit for your home or business, and once you make a decision, we’ll professionally install the water heater for you.

CONTACT US

Jim Dhamer
Plumbing and Sewer, Inc.

630-964-2222

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