Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Plumbing system needs routine maintenance

Kohler's Cimarron "comfort-height" toilet uses 1.28 gallons of water per flush, but try to limit what you flush to toilet paper.

Kohler's Cimarron "comfort-height" toilet uses 1.28 gallons of water per flush, but try to limit what you flush to toilet paper.

You work on your car – or get a mechanic to do it – so it won’t break down. You greet our first 100-degree day every spring after you have a technician verify that your air conditioning system will keep you cool and comfy all summer.

So when was the last time you did any routine maintenance on your home’s plumbing system?

Like many problems in life, plumbing disasters usually happen because of neglect. Most homeowners don’t think about their pipes until they’ve got a clogged drain or a chronic leak – and that always seems to happen when company’s on the way.

Think ahead, and those hassles could be history. Here are five easy, inexpensive ways to prevent your home’s plumbing from causing a predicament.

1. Treat your drains once a month to prevent clogs, whether they seem to need it or not. But stay away from harsh chemical drain cleaners. I like a natural, nonpoisonous product called Bio-Clean, which uses a blend of bacteria and enzymes to attack organic wastes such as grease, hair, food particles and sewage. You can use it on drains, grease traps, sump pumps and garbage disposals. Regular use will prevent buildup throughout your plumbing and septic system. Dilute the product with warm water according to package directions.

2. Be kind to your kitchen sink. Its drain is the busiest one in the house, so it can cause the most problems. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, be fastidious about keeping out food scraps and grease, which can emulsify once you turn on the cold water, and build up in layers in your pipes until they’re blocked. If you have a garbage disposal, run plenty of cold water every time you turn it on. If it chops up waste without water, particles will not flush through and you can wind up with a clogged drain.

3. Don’t flush anything down the toilet except for toilet paper. That includes facial tissue, Q-tips and even products labeled “flushable.” A tip: switch from two-ply to single-ply toilet paper. The less you flush, the fewer visits you’ll need from the plumber. Your old toilet, which flushed 5 to 7 gallons of water every time you used it, could handle more debris. Newer, low-flush models use only 1.6 gallons per flush, and are more easily clogged with paper and “flushable” products.

4. Know how to shut off the water supply. If a pipe bursts and an unending flow of water pours out, your home could flood and require expensive repairs. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the main shut-off valve is located, and which direction to turn the valve to stop the water. Look for yours on the same side of the house as the water meter. Look for an on/off valve where the water main line enters the house, usually just below the hose bib. Can’t find it? Ask a plumber. Then fix a bright tag to it so family members know it when they need it.

5. Invest in a water softener. Arizona’s “hard” water can cause lime scale to build up inside your plumbing pipes, faucets, drains, appliances and even your water heater. That buildup can clog pipes, prevent soap from dissolving and create an ugly white mess on kitchen and bathroom faucets. A whole-house water softener will replace the harmful minerals in hard water with sodium, which does not create those problems.

Care for your home’s plumbing system as conscientiously as you do for your car, and you’ll have the same results: fewer problems, more efficient operation and less headache and inconvenience.

Rosie Romero has been in the Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM 790. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. For more do-it-yourself tips or to contact Romero, go to rosieonthehouse.com or call 888-767-5348 during the show.

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