Sludge, Gunk, and Grime in the Tub: What You Need to Know About Sewage Backup

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

Your home’s plumbing system is made up of an effectively designed combination of pipes. Each pipe fits perfectly into a set order so your home can receive fresh water when you turn on the tap and remove wastewater with the flick of a handle.

For your home to work properly and efficiently, all of these pipes must function as they were designed to. The pipes that bring water into your home should only ever provide clear, clean water from the spout. And the pipes that remove wastewater should never let water come back into your home.

Sometimes, though, the pipes that lead from your sink to the sewage system don’t work as they should. Sometimes, sewage and water back up through the pipes and reenter your home.

Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about sewage backup and why you should take immediate action if you notice it in your tub, shower, or sinks.

Causes of Sewage Backup

More often than not, you’ll experience a backup for one or more of the following reasons:

Sanitary Main Issues

If the sanitary main for your neighborhood has a block or stops working, you could experience sewage backups in your home. Your city public works office monitors and clears the mains frequently to prevent backups. But when a blockage isn’t detected in time, pressure will build in the main, causing the sewage to backflow. The sewage will then enter your home through the plumbing as the built-up pressure pushes it back.

Tree Root Growth

As trees grow, their roots descend deep into the ground looking for water and nutrients. If the roots come into contact with your pipes, they’ll find a way to break through these fixtures to access the water inside. The roots continue to grow, absorbing water and nutrients from your pipes. Eventually, the roots will become so thick and tangled that they can block your pipes entirely.

Heavy Rainfall

Sometimes, heavy rainfall can cause sewage to back up into your home. If they city’s draining systems can’t withstand the sudden onset of water, the water will find any available drain and use it as an escape hatch.

Additionally, if your home’s drainage system and landscaping don’t drain water away from your home properly, you are more likely to experience backups during a storm.

Signs of Sewage Backup

Even if you know what causes a sewage backup, identifying one can be difficult. Take the following steps to determine if you have a backup in your home:

  • Look for sludge or sediment in your tub, shower, or sinks.
  • Pay attention to foul odors. You’ll typically smell sewage from the pipes in your tub, shower, or sinks.
  • Run your plumbing fixtures. Watch out for water that backs up after you flush your toilet or run water down your sinks.

If you notice any of these signs, contact a plumber as soon as possible. He or she can work with your city’s public works department to determine if the main is blocked or if your sewer line needs rodding from your home to the street.

Effects of Sewage Backup

Because sewage backup contains human waste, exposure to raw sewage can have adverse side effects. If you’re exposed to the bacteria for too long, you could develop health issues.

If you’ve been exposed to sewage backup and you experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, or abdominal pain, visit a health care professional immediately.

Backup Classification

When wastewater backs up into your home, it can be classified into one of two categories. The type of sewage backup that flows into your home determines the kind of action you should take to get rid of it.

Greywater

Greywater is a form of unsanitary, contaminated water that can make humans sick if they consume it. You’ll experience greywater backups if your sink, dishwasher, or washing machine overflows. The water doesn’t contain feces or pathogens, but if left alone for 48 hours, greywater degrades into blackwater as bacteria and pathogens grow in the stagnant water.

Blackwater

Blackwater, on the other hand, is much more toxic to humans. This kind of backup contains feces, urine, and other pathogens that could cause a human to become ill. Blackwater usually backs up from the toilet, but it can also back-flow through your other drain pipes. Additionally, any water in your home that sits stagnant for more than five days is considered blackwater.

Ways to Remedy Sewage Backup

If you ever experience a sewage backup in your home, contact a plumber immediately. Once your plumber arrives, he or she will inspect your home’s drainage system to find the source of the problem. Then, he or she will make the necessary repairs and provide you with tips to prevent a backup in the future.

How to Identify 5 Common Drain Problems

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Tips

Think of the different plumbing features in your home. Drains are used daily to flush all kinds of contaminants and waste products into the sewer system. 

Below, you’ll find a list of common drain problems you may encounter. Keep in mind that if you don’t have any experience with plumbing, you should leave the repairs to someone with the proper knowledge and tools.  Your licensed plumber can do a thorough job.

The Drain Slows or Backs Up Due to Fat, Oil, and Grease Buildup

You might think that when oils and liquid fats from meats go down the drain, they flush all the way out with running water and end up at the treatment plant with everything else. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. When fats and oils go down the drain, the cool pipes around them turn them back into a solid, and they then line the sides of the pipe.

As more grease goes down the drain, the more the buildup coats the inside of the pipe until eventually it forms a total blockage. Even if you pour boiling water down the drain, it might not do enough to defeat the grease plug.

The Drain Slows or Backs Up Due to Hair Buildup

Hair gets stuck around tiny imperfections in the pipe’s interior. It also sticks in shampoo, scented oils, and any other products that may go down the drain.

Tree Roots Grow Into Your Drainage System Down the Line

Tree roots follow moisture through the soil. So it should come as little surprise that they would grow towards your pipes, especially if your plumbing has tiny flaws that let little droplets leak out. The tree roots will grow towards the moisture and then insert themselves into the pipe’s flaws. As the roots grow, they can cause a rupture in the pipe as well as block the water that passes through it.

Additionally, these roots can catch toilet paper, food waste, hair, and anything else that goes down your drain and create a formidable clog. If that’s the case, you will not be able to solve this drainage problem on your own.  Call your plumber to power rod and/or hydro jet your main sewer drain.

A Sentimental or Monetarily Valuable Item Goes Down the Drain

You don’t want toys, wedding rings, money, or anything else with sentimental or fiscal value going down the drain. But accidents happen.  Your plumber can help you safely take apart your drain pipes to search for your lost valuable, and will reconnect your plumbing system properly and to code.

The Drain Slows or Backs Up Due to Frozen Pipes

When pipes freeze, they don’t burst right away. The water simply sits in the pipe and turns to ice. Any water that comes up behind it exerts pressure. So if you have frozen contents in your home’s drainage system, don’t run any water or put anything in the drain until you’ve had a professional plumber come and help. You may not be able to solve this problem on your own as thawing pipes often reveal many leaks.  Your plumber can repair any leaks or replace the affected pipes.

Keep in mind you can always have our plumber perform regular drain maintenance and we’re here to assist in case of your emergency

Can Toilet Paper Clog Your Toilet?

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Tips

Does your toilet get clogged frequently? It’s a messy, unpleasant, inconvenient experience, and you probably would be glad if it never happened again. In order to prevent clogs, you make sure to never flush anything that could be damaging, like food, feminine hygiene products, or trash. But what if the clogs keep forming?

As strange as it sounds, toilet paper may cause your constant clogs. Not all toilet paper is made the same, and some kinds may get stuck in your plumbing. This blog can help you figure out why toilet paper might clog your toilet and what to do about it.

Why Does Toilet Paper Form Clogs?

You would think that since toilet paper is designed to go into the toilet, it wouldn’t cause any problems.  However, that isn’t always the case – there are a few reasons why toilet paper clogs form:

  • Low-flow toilets. You may have chosen a low-flow toilet for its efficiency. After all, you care about the environment, and you don’t want to waste water. You also want your water bill to remain low. However, because low-flow toilets use less water, the water pressure isn’t as high. Therefore, thickness of the toilet paper used is something to be aware of.
  • Rough pipes. New pipes are smooth and clean, which means that waste goes through them easily. However, the pipes get coated in grease and waste over time, and the edges may get rougher. All of these factors can cause toilet paper to become stuck more easily. Older cast iron pipes can be more at risk for clogs.
  • Too much toilet paper. As you have doubtless observed, too much toilet paper can clog your toilet. Generally, adults tend to know how much toilet paper is too much, so this probably isn’t an issue for you. However, if you have a child who is still learning, you may have to deal with clogs frequently.
  • Toilet paper that doesn’t dissolve well. You may love getting ultra-plush toilet paper-you want a product that is soft, absorbent, and strong. However, if you get a toilet paper that is too thick, it may not dissolve very well, which means that it can get stuck in your pipes and cause clogs. If you eliminate other reasons why your toilet is clogging, your toilet paper itself might be to blame.

Your clogging problem may be caused by one issue or a combination of problems. You may have to do some experimenting to get rid of the problem.

How Can I Stop Clogs?

In order to stop frequent clogs, start by taking easy steps. For example, if your children are using too much toilet paper, try teaching them to count the squares so they don’t take too much. Alternatively, some parents draw a line on the wall under the toilet paper dispenser. The child can pull the toilet paper down, and when it hits the line, they know they have enough.

If you’re worried that your toilet paper is too thick, there is an easy test. All you have to do is put a square of your toilet paper into a toilet. Wait a few minutes, and then go check on it. If the toilet paper is at least partially dissolved, the toilet paper is probably not an issue. However, if it still looks the same as when you put it in, the toilet paper is too thick. Try to get a product that is thinner next time you shop.

If you’re worried about low-flow toilets or about rough pipes, hopefully switching your toilet paper and limiting the amount of paper will be enough to prevent clogs. However, if it isn’t, you’ll need to contact a plumber. A professional will be able to help you decide if your toilet and pipes are doing their jobs correctly and can repair or clean them if they aren’t working.

What About When I’m Away From Home?

Did you know that in many countries, you aren’t supposed to flush the toilet paper? Generally, Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and the US all flush toilet paper, but much of the rest of the world doesn’t-and if you try to do so in those areas, you might clog the pipes. You probably don’t want to cause or deal with a plumbing emergency while on vacation.

If you plan on traveling in an unfamiliar country, make sure to look up how they handle toilet paper before you leave. However, if you are traveling now and you aren’t sure, just check the bathroom. If there is a wastebasket that has toilet paper in it already, you should probably throw the paper away instead of flushing it.

If your toilet keeps clogging just from waste and toilet paper, make sure you are using a small amount of the right kind of toilet paper. However, if you have further problems, contact Jim Dhamer Plumbing & Sewer. Inc. We can help you address the problem and discuss your options, including replacing the toilet fixture.

The Beginner’s Guide to Sump Pumps

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Systems

If you own a home in the Chicago area, you’re no stranger to humidity, rainstorms and snowstorms.

Chicago’s location and weather conditions can make the area susceptible to floods. For instance, in June of 2015, a storm set off tornado sirens across the city and it rained hard enough that the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning.

If you live in the top half of an apartment complex, you don’t need to worry about floods ruining your property. But if you live in a suburban home, complete with one or two stories and a basement, you need some way to deal with potential floods.

Because of this flood risk, most homes in the area come equipped with sump pumps, which keep floodwater out of your basement. Of course, sump pumps only protect your property if they’re well maintained, so read on to learn more about how these units function, how a plumber can help you maintain them, and how often they need to be replaced.

What Are Sump Pumps, and How Do They Work?

Sump pumps are small pieces of equipment that a plumber installs at the deepest part of your home’s basement or in your crawlspace. This miniature pump has one job: to move water that pools beneath your house away from the home’s foundation. When the pump functions correctly, it should prevent water damage to your basement, foundation, and crawlspaces.

Plumbers usually position sump pumps in a sump pit. The water that pools beneath your house runs into the sump pit, and the pump then funnels this water away through a discharge pipe. Usually, the pump directs the water into a dry well or storm drain.

Sump pumps should not funnel into sewage systems as per most municipal codes. The pipes from old homes might still channel into the local sewer system, so if you recently purchased an older home, contact a plumber. He or she can figure out where you sump pump runs and install a new run-off system as needed.

Most homeowners have one of two types of sump pumps:

  • Submersible pumps are self-contained pumps with a waterproof seal around the motor.
  • Pedestal pumps sit on pedestals that elevate them above the water.

Most modern homes already have sump pumps if needed, but a plumber can retrofit your home to fit one if you live in an older house. A plumber can also talk to you about the right type of pump for your home based on factors like its layout and location.

What Are the Most Common Problems My Sump Pump Experiences?

If you experience a problem with your sump pump, one of the following culprits might be to blame:

  • Your sump pump can’t cope with its current load because it’s too old or hasn’t been well maintained.
  • Your sump pump was installed incorrectly.
  • Your sump pump is backed up or clogged.
  • Your sump pump’s operating switch is stuck. If you have this problem, some force has shifted the pump so the switch is jammed, or a piece of debris has jammed the switch.
  • Your sump pump’s pipes have frozen.

The length of time your pump lasts can vary. You want to consider having your plumber check your pump every spring, just in time for the rainy season.  A reliable working pump brings peace of mind.

How Do I Know If My Sump Pump Works?

Because your sump pump shouldn’t have to work as often as your other appliances, you might not know if it’s experiencing any of the problems listed above.

Of course, you don’t want to wait until the middle of a storm to find out if your sump pump works or not. Fortunately, you can identify a few key signs that indicate if it might be failing:

  • You notice mold and mildew around your house, especially in the basement or crawlspaces.
  • You can see mud and debris around your sump pump.
  • You can hear your sump pump’s motor running constantly.
  • Your basement feels unusually humid.

If you can see water pooling in the basement, contact a plumber to fix your sump pump as soon as possible.

Get in Touch With a Plumber

If you think you have a problem with your sump pump, call a plumber who can diagnose the issue and replace or repair the pump as needed.

With a little maintenance and the occasional repair, your sump pump can effectively keep you and your property safe from floods all year long.

 

Scrub-a-Dub-Dub: Comparing Showers and Baths

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Tips

Every day, there’s one task you can’t skip: your daily cleanse. Your bathroom may have a tub-shower combo, just a shower, or both fixtures independent of each other. Which method do you use to freshen up? In this blog, we’ll compare bathing to showering and offer tips for helping you enhance the time you spend washing up.

The Big Question: Water Usage

When comparing showering and bathing, you face one unavoidable question in today’s eco-conscious world: which method uses more water? If you guessed showering, you’re right-most of the time.

In general, people will use less water during a 10-minute shower than they would taking a bath. Obviously, large whirlpool or freestanding tubs require quite a bit of water-70 gallons or more with a person inside. Average-sized five-foot tubs hold closer to 45 gallons when someone bathes in them. By contrast, a 10-minute shower under a regular showerhead will release about 25 gallons of water.

Of course, the length of your shower can hugely affect how much water you use. If you indulge in a shower that lasts 20 minutes or more, you’ll use a minimum of 50 gallons of water. Based on those numbers, you may want to choose a bubble bath instead if the point of your activity is extended relaxation.

Now that we’ve addressed the most intriguing question, let’s talk about the pros of each cleaning method. Each has its own vocal supporters.

Reasons People Love Showers

Showers are far and away the most popular cleaning method. People prefer this method for several reasons, including the following three.

1. Showers Take Less Time

Many people can get their daily scrub finished faster when they shower. Some individuals even have it down to a system. They can shampoo and condition their hair, shave, and wash off grime and sweat in under 10 minutes.

2. Showers Help People Feel Alert

Those who love to shower often choose to perform this task as soon as they roll out of bed. The warm water helps them wake up and start the process of preparing for the day.

3. People Feel Cleaner After Showering

Many people who prefer showering over bathing feel that they get cleaner when they shower. They dislike the idea of sitting in water that gets dirty quickly, and they like knowing that most of the grime they wash off goes down the drain immediately.

Reasons People Love Baths

While baths are less popular than showers, they have some very big fans. A few reasons people relish bath time include these advantages.

1. A Bath Can Be More Relaxing

Some people enjoy taking regular baths so they can spend time relaxing in private. They can turn their bathroom into a mini spa by lighting candles and putting bubbles, bath salts, or essential oils in the bathwater.

2. Baths Give People More Thinking Time

Many people choose to bathe when they want to give their mind a rest or think through a nagging problem. People also use their bath time for reading or other multi-tasking activities that can’t be done while they shower.

3. Your Shower Curtain Doesn’t Accumulate Mildew When You Bathe

When you shower, the water hits your shower curtain, and much of that water remains when you step out of the shower. Over time, that water creates mildew on the plastic liner, and the mildew can be hard to clean off. On the other hand, when you bathe, you don’t need to use a shower curtain, and you can prevent further mildew accumulation.

Ways to Enhance Your Shower or Bath

Whether you stick to either bathing or showering or use each cleaning method for specific reasons, you can take a few steps to make your daily scrub more beneficial and enjoyable. Try the tricks below.

  • Invest in a low-flow showerhead. You’ll use even less water when you shower, so you’ll feel less guilty about indulging in a long shower or an extra-full bath from time to time. An expert plumber can recommend and install a suitable showerhead in your bathroom.
  • Take a cold shower. Scientists have linked many benefits to an occasional cold shower, such as healthier skin and hair, reduced stress and depression, and improved immunity.
  • Soothe your skin. If you have dry skin, a bath in water that’s not too hot can help you moisturize. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil to the water to enjoy this effect.
  • Lower your blood pressure. According to research, a soak in a hot bath improves your circulation and can help lower your blood pressure. Remember to consult your doctor before you take baths for this reason if you have any heart conditions.

Use these tips to enhance your next shower or bath. For a truly enjoyable experience, remodel your bathroom and put in a state-of-the-art shower or tub-or both. Talk to our expert plumbers about your options.

CONTACT US

Jim Dhamer
Plumbing and Sewer, Inc.

630-964-2222

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