Blog - Wisler Plumbing

10 Low-cost Ways to Spruce up a Kitchen or Bathroom

Here are 10 things that you can do to spruce up your kitchen or bathroom without breaking the bank. Of course, breaking the bank is different for each family. When I think of low-cost items, they are priced at around $500 and under. Compared to a full blown bathroom remodel which will probably run you about $8,000 plus, that’s quite a bit less.

 

1. Faucets

Replacing a bathroom or kitchen faucet can really spice up the area. When it comes to the bathroom, you can replace a polished chrome faucet with a brushed nickel faucet, which is much more common today than it was ten years ago. In the kitchen, a nice pull-out spray really adds a nice look.

2. Toilets

Most people think that a toilet is just a toilet. But a lot of times you don’t realize how dingy and grungy a toilet can get until you put a new one in its place. It really makes a big difference. Some larger toilets start to look faded, and putting in a brighter toilet can really spice up a bathroom quickly.

3. Accessories

Accessories could be items like a toilet paper holder, a hand towel ring, or a hand towel bar. Those types of things can be installed very easily into most homes. You might also want to get them with a finish that matches the decor that you have in the bathroom (e.g., brushed nickel).

4. Framed Mirror

In some bathrooms, there’s a plain mirror that’s stuck to the wall. If that mirror was removed and a framed mirror was put in its place, it could add another item that complements the decor in the room.

5. Cabinets

Cabinets don’t always have to be removed or replaced. Sometimes (if you take your time and really work through the process) you can paint the cabinets along with the rest of the bathroom.

6. Countertops

Kitchen countertops do get a little bit more expensive, but bathroom countertops really aren’t that costly. You can get a cultured marble countertop that already has a sink in it with many different finishes and colors to choose from. They aren’t only available in the marbly look that was very common around ten to fifteen years ago. In my house, for example, we have a brownish speckled honed cultured marble countertop that isn’t shiny. It looks really nice and it’s actually way more economical that most people would think.

7. Kitchen Drains

People often use the kitchen sink more than two or three times a day. As a result, the drains get worn and they just don’t look very nice after a while. Replacing those drains can be an economical way to spice up that kitchen sink area.

8. Tile Backsplash

In the kitchen or bathroom, you could put in a tile backsplash. It would only be four or six inches tall in the bathroom, but you could use decorative tile there. In the kitchen, the backsplash would take up the distance between the countertop and the upper cabinets. It can really set off the kitchen, especially with a little bit of painting. The cost will depend on how large your area is or what kind of material you use for the backsplash.

9. Appliances

Some appliances, like a refrigerator or stove, are really expensive. Dishwashers sometimes aren’t as expensive and might be a somewhat economical choice to improve the look of the kitchen. If the dishwasher is old and grungy from being used often, putting in a new one might be a great option.

10. Lights

Lights can set off any area, whether it’s a kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom. One of the neat things about lighting is that you can really brighten up the room by shining light into a darker corner. You could also put recessed can lighting in a bathroom or kitchen and light up areas around the cabinets. Adding new lights can drastically improve the overall look of the room.

If you want help with your bathroom or kitchen remodel, we have a designer here that can come up with a great design and give you a quote. From there, we have a full crew that does nothing but bathroom and kitchen remodeling. If you have any questions, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

The Pros/Cons of Plastic and Metal Pipes

Many of our piping materials are made from plastic now. Water lines are mostly CPVC pipes and PEX pipes. Although there are several other types, those are the most common. We usually use PVC for the drainpipes in our area. It hasn’t always been this way, though. Years ago, copper was more common. Before that it was galvanized pipes and cast iron drainpipes, and even before that it was clay and concrete drainpipes. The products and materials have evolved to become much better (for the most part). However, not every innovation is sound, and sometimes a product is created or manufactured that doesn’t ultimately stand the test of time.

 

PEX and PVC have held up over the years, and one good thing about using plastic pipes is the fact that they don’t corrode like metal pipes do. Not all water is non-corrosive; water quality called acidic water can actually eat away at metals. If you have copper, brass, or other kinds of metal pipes, the water will eventually eat them away until there are pinholes in the pipe. Plastic doesn’t have this kind of problem. Acidic water will not eat away at plastic pipes. All the products that we use (and from a broader perspective, most of the products on the market today) are safe for drinking water. In other words, you don’t have to worry about the plastic degrading to the point that you’ll end up drinking it along with your water.

 

As far as drain lines go, PVC has been around for quite a few years and it has really proven itself to have very few downsides as long as it’s installed properly. Metal and cast iron pipes that were used in the drains from years past were the most durable kind of pipe that you could have. However, the joints were its weak spot because they were put together by melting lead (welding). Over time, those joints lose their integrity and become leaky, causing sewage to leak into the home, under the house, etc. which is unclean and unsafe. Plastic is a very good option for drain lines as long as they’re installed properly and you’re using good quality plastic products.

 

How can you tell when it’s time to think about replacing your plumbing pipes? The water lines are always under pressure, so if there’s a pinhole in a copper pipe, more than likely there will be more leaks to follow. I would say that if you get one leak, you might want to seriously consider replacing the piping entirely. After all, the whole piping system is around the same age and has been used under the same circumstances. You might want to seriously consider replacing the piping simply to prevent a leak that could cause damage to your home.

 

If you’re thinking about replacing the pipes in your home and want more information about your options, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382. Different layouts and situations may warrant a different recommendation, so it’s definitely something that we can review and help homeowners to understand.

4 Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids

 

Never is a major word. The older that I get, the more I realize that if you use the word ‘never’, you’ll probably eat crow later on. There were a few things that people told me when I was growing up that I thought were annoying, and I thought I’d never say those things to my own kids. But now I realize that they just come naturally when you have children of your own. Here are 4 things that I never thought I’d say.

 

#1: “When I was your age…”

 

People used to tell me dramatic stories about how things were back in their day. They usually led to an explanation about how good that I had it as a child. I put a slightly different spin on ‘When I was your age’: I don’t use it to make my kids feel bad because they have it so good. Instead, I tell them about how I used to do things when I was little.

 

#2: “Dry it up.”

 

My children are young, so sometimes they cry about things that don’t really matter. Because I’m a fairly direct person, I’ll tell them to dry their eyes. (I have a harder time saying that to my daughter than to my son.) It only happens if they are tired or hungry, and I think it’s human nature.

 

#3: “Wake up!”

 

When we were growing up, my mom used to always yell to us upstairs, “Wake up!” To me, it sounded like she was practically screaming at the top of her lungs. Just last month I caught myself doing the same thing. I was hollering up the steps to wake my son up on a Sunday morning before we went to church. I immediately remembered how much I didn’t like that when I was little.

 

#4: “Don’t go out alone.”

 

Nowadays it’s well known that most parents are a little more protective of their children. There are a few situations where you warn your children so they don’t hurt themselves. On the other hand, sometimes there are situations where they have to learn something for themselves. When I was growing up, I’d go outside for hours. I remember being four or five years old and walking out of the house at any given minute because that’s just how things were back then. Things are very different nowadays—if any of my children were gone for hours, there would probably be a major panic. We just have to accompany our kids outside of the house. I don’t know exactly what has changed, but saying, “You can’t go out by yourself,” is something that I didn’t ever think I’d have to say. I guess it’s just the reality of the time that we live in.

 

In terms of plumbing, I haven’t yet found myself telling my son the same things that my father told me when I was little. My son is only five years old, so it really hasn’t started yet. He kind of goes back and forth thinking about what he might like to do when he grows up. I don’t think plumbing is on his list. Last time the conversation came up, he said he would like to just stay home and relax, since it was the easiest thing to do. We ended up discussing how responsibility comes with adulthood and how you have to go out and work. You can’t really blame him for thinking that, though, can you?

 

If you have any questions about plumbing maintenance in your home, reach out to the team by contacting us online or giving us a call at 540-483-9382.

How to Extend the Life of a Garbage Disposal

Is it a good idea to have a garbage disposal in your home, especially if you have a septic system? It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but just like everything else, garbage disposals should be used in moderation. They serve a specific purpose and they aren’t an appliance that’s meant for you to use by disposing anything and everything. If you use it indiscriminately, you’ll probably end up with problems.

 

What should you use garbage disposals for? They were designed and built to deal with small amounts of vegetables, food from plates, and scraps that are left in the bottom of the sink. It wouldn’t be a good idea to peel a whole bag of potatoes and shove all the peels down the garbage disposal at once. It’s also not good to put celery or eggshells down the garbage disposal. Attempting to dispose of any type of splintery bones from meat (like chicken bones) can potentially cause problems with the system’s blades.

 

You can also do a little bit of maintenance to keep your garbage disposal clean and fresh. If you put down some ice cubes, it can actually knock the rust or residue off of the blades that grind the food. If you notice a smell, you can sometimes try putting a lemon peel down the disposal to freshen it up. We also have a bacterial agent product called BioSmart. It would be a good idea to use it about once a month to get rid of smells, scum, and grease that tends to build up gradually.

 

You should also try to protect your garbage disposal if you think you might have dropped a knife or other metal object down there by accident. Just be careful before turning it on, because those objects could damage the blades. If the blades of the garbage disposal become dull, they won’t be able to chop up the food as finely and send it down the drain. (The larger chunks of food going down the drain could cause issues.) If you think your garbage disposal isn’t chopping up food finely enough to go down the drain, that’s usually a sign that it’s time to get it replaced.

 

If you have any questions about how to take care of your garbage disposal, or if you notice that it’s time to get a new one, reach out to the team at Wisler Plumbing by contacting us online or giving us a call at 540-483-9382.

Be Wary of Bad Plumbing Advice

Most people minimize plumbing and ignore an issue thinking that it’s no big deal. Electrical issues sometimes get ignored, too, and the worst case scenario with an electrical failure is a fire (which is very damaging to a home). The worst case scenario with plumbing is sewage backing up into the home or water pouring into an area and causing damage that leads to mold and extremely expensive repairs. One of my newer employees said, “I can ruin the whole house in five minutes.” What he meant is that if he was putting together a pipe and he didn’t get the joint done properly, it could blow apart and flood the whole house. Plumbing is definitely serious business, and it’s something that shouldn’t be minimized or pushed to the side.

 

We also often hear people say that plumbing is easy and you can do it yourself. While it’s true that some people are technically capable, there are also some people who aren’t. Knowing your limits is very important, and just getting advice from the store attendant might not be the best strategy. They might be a very competent person, but it’s not good to assume that because they’re at the hardware store that they know how to do a specific plumbing project. Even though they might have done a job on their own doesn’t mean that it’s the best idea for you to give it a try too.

 

The other issue is centered around dealing with things proactively, and maintenance is definitely a proactive behavior. It definitely isn’t a smart idea to push plumbing aside and say that it doesn’t need to be maintained, especially when the manufacturer recommends regular maintenance. (Who’s more knowledgeable than the people who make the products?)

 

Drain cleaning is not a maintenance item, but it’s important to pay attention to. Sewage is very unclean and it transports bacteria like E. coli, which can cause serious diseases. You definitely wouldn’t want sewage to back up into your home. It’s not a pretty sight, and it’s very unsafe. Don’t take the risk of waiting until the line backs up and then using a snake to clear it out. This isn’t a very good strategy. If you know that you have a problem in your sewer line, the best time to fix the issue is right when you become aware of it. Don’t put it off, because that’s just asking for serious trouble.

 

If you need the help of a qualified professional, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382. We’ll take out the guesswork and make sure that your plumbing works safely and properly.

How to Prevent and Fix Kid-Related Plumbing Issues

We love our kids, but their shenanigans in the home are usually water-related. For some reason, kids have a fascination about putting things into the toilet and watching them disappear. (The movie Finding Nemo wasn’t very good for the plumbing trade.) Even though a goldfish probably won’t be very harmful, there are certain things that just aren’t supposed to be flushed down the toilet. If they get lodged in, the toilet could start overflowing.

 

Water isn’t supposed to overflow from a toilet sink or shower tub onto the floor. Whenever your children are using the bathtub, shower, toilet, or sink, make sure they are taking care not to make a mess. If you can teach them or keep them supervised, you can prevent water from soaking into the floor and getting into the wood, which could lead to mold, water damage on ceilings, and damage to various different components throughout your home.

 

It’s pretty common for us to run into floors that have begun to rot to the point that they have become weak. Kids go crazy in the bathtub day after day, and if a little bit of water gets on the floor every single time they take a bath, it causes the rotting over time. If kids are going to play in the tub, it might be a good idea not to fill it quite so full. That way, there won’t be as much of a tendency for water to splash out. If you’re going to allow children to take a shower, be conscious of the curtains. Make sure they aren’t positioned so that water will pour right onto the floor or walls.

 

Most tubs have an overflow, and if it isn’t used very frequently or if it’s very old, the overflow can leak and cause water to run down behind the tub and onto the ceiling. There’s a gasket behind the overflow and if it gets old, cracked, or worn out, it’s going to leak and cause water to end up on the actual ceiling below the tub. Make sure that everyone understands that the chrome/metal looking plate right above the drain is an overflow and it’s not meant to continuously receive water all the time. It’s really only for emergency situations to prevent water from running out onto the floor.

 

Kids also tend to use toilets, sinks, faucets, and tubs for climbing up to hard-to-reach places. Standing on a toilet to climb onto the sink isn’t a very good idea. The toilet tanks aren’t made to withstand that kind of force, and it could end up breaking and pouring a large amount of water onto the floor. We’ve seen it before where a child would climb on the back of the toilet tank so they could get to the sink and wash their hands. Not only is that unsafe, but it can cause a mess in no time.

 

If you know that your kid has flushed something that they weren’t supposed to, you might want to try removing it. You could use a shop vac to suck the water out of the toilet and maybe also retrieve the object. That might save you from a service call. Otherwise, you’ll need to contact a plumber. If you do get water on the floor, try to prevent more water from spilling and mop it up as quickly as possible. If you notice that someone has been climbing on a toilet or other fixture, pay close attention to it and make sure there’s no water around the floor. If there is, you should call a plumber to come and take a look at it. If you have problems with a shower curtain continually putting water on the floor, consider installing a shower door.

 

If you need us to remove an object from your toilet, take a look at a fixture that kids have been climbing, or install a shower door, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Are ‘Flushable’ Wipes Good For Plumbing Systems?

You’ve probably seen wipes and hygiene products that say they are flushable right on the package. It might not actually be a good idea to flush these products, depending on what they are made of. It helps if you have an idea of how septic tanks and sewage treatment plants work.

 

With a septic tank, the water and solid materials (paper, particles, etc.) go into a holding tank. The heavy sludge will fall to the bottom of the tank, while the lighter paper and floatable items will flake to the top of the tank. The water will be in the center, and it will then exit the tank and go into a leech field. (A leech field is basically pipes with holes and gravel around them.) Whenever you use flushable wipes that aren’t biodegradable, they float to the top of the septic tank and gradually accumulate. They aren’t able to decompose or break down.

 

I had a client with a cancer patient in the home who was using flushable wipes to clean up as they were going through treatment. It completely stopped up the whole home and backed up into the house, causing a huge mess. When we took the top off the septic tank, we saw thousands of wipes sitting there. Because they couldn’t go anywhere, they had built up and eventually stopped up the system. If they cannot decompose, break down, and sink to the bottom of the tank, they shouldn’t go in there.

 

If you’re not sure, look on the package of flushable wipes. If they say ‘100% biodegradable’, they are fine to put down the septic tank. Otherwise, if it’s more of a fiber wipe that isn’t biodegradable, I wouldn’t recommend it. I also wouldn’t recommend putting down applicators or hygiene products that aren’t biodegradable simply because they will also gradually build up and stop up the septic tank and inlet.

 

With a municipal sewage treatment plant, all of the solids, paper, and other materials that cannot break down end up at the plant where they get strained out and hauled away to the garbage. Sometimes they burn them or sanitize them so they are just left with a liquid. Imagine larger areas that have hundreds of thousands of homes. If every home flushes five wipes, it compounds into a very large amount of material that the treatment plant must deal with. Their facilities aren’t designed to deal with these things, so it’s becoming a very big problem in municipalities right now. Toilet paper, on the other hand, breaks down into really small pieces that are nearly invisible. They are able to degrade wherever the liquid ends up.

 

You should definitely be conscious of how septic tank systems and sewage treatment plants work. If you keep that in mind, you’ll know why it’s not a good idea to flush or put items down the drain if they aren’t completely biodegradable. If you have any questions, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Finding the Right Water Softener

If you have a decent amount of calcium in your water, it can be referred to as ‘hard water’. Water softeners are installed to remove the calcium from the water. Here’s how you can choose the right water softener for your home.

 

Sizing

 

One of the first steps is figuring out what level of calcium you have in the water. Different areas, wells, and subdivisions all have different levels of calcium in the water. It would definitely be a good starting point to have the water tested by a professional who knows how to size a water softener properly. Knowing the amount of calcium in the water is important because the water softener removes calcium and holds it until it regenerates or backwashes to dump the hardness/calcium down the drain. If you undersize your water softener, you’ll experience very frequent regeneration or backwash cycles, which will use excessive water and salt. A properly sized system will prevent excessive cycles, saving both water and salt.

 

Capabilities

 

It isn’t a good idea to jump to a decision and install a water softener without addressing other potential materials in the water. If you also have chlorine in your water, we have a product that removes both hardness and chlorine. Municipal water typically has a high amount of chlorine, so it would be a better and more efficient choice to use one unit that resolves both of these issues. I always encourage people to speak with a professional that knows water softener and water treatment equipment before installing a water softener in the home.

 

Efficiency

 

Not all water softeners are created equal. Although most of the concept of how they work is the same, the differences lie in the brains of the water softener, which consists of the computers and control mechanisms. A water softener might be very efficient or inefficient, and its efficiency is largely assessed by how much salt it uses. I think anyone would prefer to buy and transport less salt. A water softener that has smart technology for managing regeneration and backwash cycles will use less salt and be more efficient overall. It will probably end up saving you money in the future.

 

Should Homeowners Self-Install?

 

When we’ve seen homeowners try to install water softeners themselves, most of the time they purchased the unit from a hardware store or big-box store. These units simply don’t have very much longevity. Just like everything else, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, these shouldn’t be throw-away appliances. It’s best to have a system that will service you well for many years to come.

 

If you want to get the right water softener for your home, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Plumbing Tips for Kids/Teens

There are a few simple tips that I think every person should know about a home’s plumbing in order to prevent serious issues from arising. It’s a good idea for us to teach our kids these smart plumbing practices. That way they’ll know what they should do in these situations, especially when they become teenagers and start staying home by themselves more often.

 

Using the Main Water Valve

 

First, mostly everyone in the home should know how to shut off the water using the main water valve. It’s typically located in the basement (if you have one). Otherwise, it could be in a few different areas. It’s a good idea to find out where the main water shutoff is located so you’ll be prepared just in case. You can show people 5-8 years or older how to turn it off, unless it’s really old and hard to operate. If water started spraying or pouring through the ceiling, or if there was ever a flood in the home, the best thing to do would be to turn the water off using this valve.

 

What Should/Shouldn’t Go Down the Kitchen Drain

 

Everyone should also know what you should and shouldn’t put down the kitchen sink drain and garbage disposal. A garbage disposal is not necessarily for leftovers and cleaning out the refrigerator. It’s really for scraping small things off of a plate and grinding them into smaller particles. It’s definitely not a good idea to dump any kind of grease or very hot items down the kitchen sink drain. If you cover this information with everyone in the family, it will save you from a very nasty stopped up pipe in the kitchen.

 

What to Do When a Toilet Backs Up

 

If you flush a toilet and the water starts rising up, it could be bad enough to lead to the toilet overflowing. If that ever happens, the best thing to do is locate the shutoff valve on the left hand side towards the back of the toilet. Use it to shut off the water to the toilet, which will prevent it from continuing to fill.

 

How to Turn Off the Water Heater

 

This is especially important if your home has a gas water heater. You should know how to shut off the gas supply, which is a potential safety concern. If you have an electric water heater, there’s a breaker in the panel box that you can just flip to the off position. You don’t have to be very mechanically inclined to know how to locate the main power breaker or main shutoff for the gas. You would want to do this if something was to happen with the water system or if the water was to stop working.

 

What Not to Flush Down the Toilet

 

It’s surprising to me how many teenagers aren’t aware of which items aren’t suitable to be flushed. You shouldn’t flush anything that isn’t biodegradable. That means any type of hygiene products, baby wipes, or household objects. If a toothbrush, comb, or other bathroom item falls into the toilet, don’t flush it! Take it back out, because if it’s flushed it will cause problems further down the pipe that will need to be resolved. Be careful not to flush things that you’re not supposed to.

 

If you need some assistance from a qualified professional plumber, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Determining if Your Home’s Drinking Water is Safe and Healthy

When it comes to what’s in our water, how can homeowners figure out what’s safe and healthy to consume? This is a very interesting topic to talk about, especially because of events like the Flint water crisis that are going on around the country. The reality is, we take it for granted that our water is suitable to drink. That may or may not be true, and it’s important that homeowners are educated about the different things that should (or shouldn’t) be in the water, especially if they rely on a community to provide water or they use a municipal water system. Drinking water regulation does exist, and the standards apply to any public water source. A public water source is defined as a system that provides potable water to five or more homes.

 

First, let’s cover a few things that are in the primary regulated standards. (There are lots of other things that technically cannot be in the water, but we’ll go over the main ones for the sake of simplicity.) There are no bacteria or microorganisms allowed in a regulated drinking water system. These are things that would be harmful to someone if ingested, potentially resulting in stomach issues and/or sickness. If you have a private water system, you should get a lab test for verification. It’s the responsibility of the system’s owner to take a sample to a lab and have it tested for bacteria.

 

Lead is another thing that’s regulated, which can be harmful to infants or pregnant women. In rural areas where fertilizer is spread, nitrates from the fertilizers can get into the water source. Chlorine is put into water to remove bacteria and make it safe to consume. Four parts per million is the limit allowable in a public water source. To put that into perspective, the recommended level of chlorine in a swimming pool is half that amount, at two parts per million. If you’re drinking water that falls well within the accepted level, you’re practically drinking swimming pool water. That’s a tremendous amount of chlorine.

 

Next, let’s take a look at the secondary standards. These are things that aren’t necessarily harmful to you, but they can potentially be harmful to your plumbing system, fixtures, or appliances. Hardness in the form of calcium can cause scale buildup, and it’s a non-regulated item. PH is a regulated item, and it should be 6.5 or higher (7 is perfect). Iron is a regulated item. It isn’t harmful, but it will stain and clog up fixtures. Knowing the differences between primary vs. secondary standards goes a long way towards understanding your water.

 

All municipal systems are required to either send out a letter or at least publish a public letter annually, which shows what’s in the water. If you haven’t received a letter, you’ll have to go online to find the published version that shows the content that was tested for in the municipal system. As far as what we can do at Wisler Plumbing, right now we’re running a special where we perform a comprehensive water test for things like lead, chlorine, nitrates, hardness, pH, and iron for $21.95. It doesn’t test for bacteria, however. This comprehensive test will allow you to find out if these things are in your water and whether or not it meets the national primary drinking water standards.

 

Great water is water in its purest form, with very little contaminants or materials in it. If you have a lot of stuff in your water, it’s probably not great water. Your best bet is to drink water that hasn’t picked up any contaminants or other things during the hydrologic cycle. If you have any questions about our comprehensive test for $21.95, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.