Bathroom Appliances & Water Consumption

The bathroom is an area of extreme water consumption, a large amount of which is not used in the most efficient manner possible. The EPA estimates that the average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water per day, most of which results from the use of bathroom appliances. Even for those households that make an effort to limit shower time and sink usage, there is only so much that can be done with common appliances and techniques. An unnecessarily high amount of water usage is not only harmful for the environment, but it can cost a fortune in water and electricity bills. It’s becoming more common for people to seek a different approach to household water usage, especially as new conservation-minded appliances are becoming available.

Low-Flow Toilets

It’s estimated that toilets alone account for 30 percent of a household’s water usage. The average toilet uses 1.6 gallons per flush; however, low-flow toilets use less than 1.3 gallons per flush. There is also the option of the dual-flush toilet, which offers two different flush settings, one for liquid waste, and the other for solid. These are both great alternatives to the common toilet, as well as some other new designs that use smaller tanks, bowls, and make use of gravity to conserve water. Since the average toilet uses the same amount of water for each flush, regardless of its use, this appliance can become a major source of wasted water in your household. These more water-friendly alternatives can make a tremendous difference in your household water usage over time.


Similarly, you can find low-flow showerheads that will use less water with each use. The shower accounts for up to 20 percent of water use in the average household, but you can cut that in half by installing a low-flow showerhead that won’t compromise your water pressure. There are plenty of low-flow showerhead options available today that use air to provide water pressure, rather than simply using more water. You can also buy a showerhead with adjustable settings, so that you get to decide how much water you use with each shower.

Others rely on the “bucket system” to cut down on overall water consumption. If you have a shower that also functions as a bathtub, use a ten-gallon bucket to gather the water underneath the bath spout while you wait for it to heat up. When it’s hot enough, simply remove the bucket, switch it to shower mode, and begin your shower. Then, you can use the water in the bucket for your garden or other irrigation purposes, rather than letting it go down the drain. Since the shower is a major source of wasted water, consider these appliances and methods as a means of saving a significant amount of water in your household.


Sink faucets account for around 15-18 percent of household water usage. This appliance can easily be replaced with a more water-efficient option that will save up to 40 percent of water consumed by your faucets. You can simply install a low-flow aerator for around $5 and cut down your faucet’s water usage significantly. This is an easy, inexpensive, and painless improvement to cut back on the amount of water used by the common faucet, which won’t limit water pressure to an ineffective minimum. Low-flow faucet upgrades are quite possibly the most reasonable and affordable water-efficient solutions you can add to your home, and you’ll cut down your household’s water consumption drastically with this alternative.

These days, there’s no need to be wasting water in your home. With the availability of these eco-friendly alternatives, you can cut down your water usage dramatically and save yourself a great deal of money over time. So, if you’re tired of excessively high water bills or are concerned about the environment, consider these water-efficient appliances and start making a difference in your home today.

How to Find the Perfect Plumber

Finding the right plumber might not seem like a top priority, but it’s something you’ll be glad to have in case of an emergency. Although it’s common to neglect this necessity until it’s too late, finding a plumber ahead of time will give you plenty of time to conduct proper research and find the plumber that’s right for you. It’s important to have a trustworthy plumber who can solve any problems with your toilet, shower, or sinks, whenever you need him or her to do so, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re receiving top-of-the-line assistance without being overcharged. These are a few basic guidelines you can follow when searching for a plumber, so that if a problem does arise, you can count on a professional to deliver the best possible service.


These days, you can find online reviews for almost anything. This holds true for plumbing services, so if you’re searching online for a plumber, it’s wise to look into the reviews people have written about them. As with anything, you’ll want to look for services that have a decent amount of detailed reviews that are mostly positive. Of course there will be the occasional negative review, but look into the nature of that review and evaluate the severity of the complaint. Also, in the case of a negative review, look into how that plumbing service responded to the complaint. A company that responds to a negative review with an apology is demonstrating that they value their reputation, and a company that feels this way will be less likely to send out a careless plumber.


If you’re unconvinced by a plumbing company’s advertising or online presentation, then you can ask around to see if any neighbors or friends have used this same plumbing service. If the area in which you live offers an online forum intended to keep neighbors in the loop, ask if anyone knows of a dependable plumber. This way, you’re not taking a shot in the dark at finding someone you can count on. Similar to the “reputation” section, you can also look into some online postings about certain plumbing services and see if anyone has had a similar job done by them. This will provide you with some background on a plumber before hiring them. Word of mouth can be a very effective means of confirming the reliability of this type of service, so look for people who can attest to the quality of service delivered by a plumber before hiring one.


Finally, you should check to see that the work the plumber does is guaranteed. This implies that if something should happen, the job you paid for will be finished. For example, if the original plumber is unable to finish the job, a guarantee will ensure that they will send somebody else to complete the task. This can also mean that they’ll guarantee an effective job, so that you don’t pay for a plumbing service without actually getting a solution. In many cases, a plumbing company or an individual plumber will belong to a larger organization that implements a code of service and can ensure quality service. Also, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t overpaying. In order to avoid this, do some research to see how much the job you’re requesting ordinarily costs. Then, when you go to get a quote, see if the price matches or comes close. A trustworthy plumber won’t try to make a profit by charging you thousands for what should have been an inexpensive job. When you find a plumber you can rely on, both for quality service and reasonable pricing, you have found your go-to plumber.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful in guiding you in the direction of the perfect plumber. While you may not have the opportunity to do extensive research before hiring a plumber, ideally you’ll have a little time to look into some of these details in the case of a plumbing emergency. However, it’s best to not wait until you’re in a panic, so if you have some spare time, get to searching and track down a dependable professional today!

How to Remove a Vanity in Preparation of a Remodel

Remodeling a room in your home can be a challenging and complicated process. Usually, you’ll have to perform a significant amount of demolition before you can rebuild, and it’s important to know how to do this effectively so you won’t cause any unwanted damage. In regards to the bathroom, one of the most puzzling parts of the remolding process is how to remove a vanity. Typically, a bathroom vanity is sealed and secured to the actual structure of the bathroom, including the plumbing, which can make removal especially tricky. With these basic tips, you’ll be on the right track towards properly removing your vanity.

Water Supply

First and foremost, you’ll need to shut off the water supply before you can remove the vanity. In order to do this, you’ll need to reach underneath the sink and turn the hot and cold-water shut-off valves. Next, you’ll want to disconnect the water supply lines by using a wrench to remove the nut that holds the water supply line to the shutoff valve. This process can get somewhat messy, so it’ll help to have a bucket close by. Finally, you’re going to need to disconnect the waste drain. This can be done either by hand or by using a wrench or pliers, depending on the material of the waste drain, which will typically be either PVC pipe or chrome.

Remove From Wall

Now that you’ve taken care of the water supply, it’s time to remove the vanity from the wall. In some cases, you’ll need to start with the mirror. If the mirror rests on the vanity counter top, then removing the mirror first will be necessary, as it can crack when the vanity is removed from the wall. Once this has been addressed, you’ll want to detach the vanity counter top and cabinet by using a utility knife to cut through the caulk joint adhesive that holds the vanity to the wall. It’s important to be both cautious and patient during this process, as you’ll want to avoid cutting into the drywall. The goal here is to carefully undo the attachment between the vanity itself and the wall of your bathroom, as well as between the vanity top and cabinet.

Take Apart

At this point, all that’s left is the removal of the main components of the vanity from the room. First, you’ll remove the vanity top from the sink base. Usually, this will be a fairly easy process and the top will be removed smoothly with the adhesive cut. However, in some cases, the vanity top will be attached to the bottom by clips, which you’ll need to loosen before removal. Once the vanity top has been disconnected from the base, it’s time to remove the sink base cabinet. Check to see where the cabinet is attached to the wall, which is generally done with screws or nails, and carefully remove them. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to remove the sink base cabinet from the wall with ease.

Once you’ve hauled out the vanity top and bottom pieces, just plug up the drain pipes, scrape off any excess caulk, and you’ll be all set. With these tips, you can be well on your way to properly removing your bathroom vanity in time to begin your remodeling process. Good luck!

How to Drain a Water Heater

Most people never give their water heater a second thought – until it stops working. Experts recommend draining your water heater every year, no matter what type of storage tank water heater is currently installed in your home. Regular maintenance helps remove sediment which, over time, can compromise the energy efficiency of your water heater and can cause fixtures throughout your home to clog. Just because clean-looking water comes out of your tank, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in tip-top shape. To remove sediment, you must completely drain your water heater using these steps.

Check the Pressure-Relief Valve

Before you start draining your water heater, it’s important to check the pressure-relief valve. This valve helps prevent the tank from bursting due to excess pressure. To check this valve, switch off the power to the water heater and trip the lever on the valve in the cold water supply line. Once you have opened the valve, listen for air and look for water. If you hear air and see water, the valve is working as designed and you can move onto the next step. If nothing happens, you’ll have to replace the pressure-relief valve before moving forward.

Run the Drain Line

Once you’ve ensured the pressure-relief valve is in working order, it’s time to run the drain line. To do this, run a garden hose from the water heater drain to the exterior of your home. If the tank sits in a basement, you’ll likely need to hoses: one that runs from the rank to a portable pump, and another that runs from the pump outside. To be on the safe side and protect yourself from burns, give the water in the switched-off water heater a few hours to cool off before beginning this process. Note: taking a long, hot shower is an effective way to speed up this part of the draining process.

Flush Your Tank

Once the water stops flowing out of the hose, open all the hot water faucets in your home and turn the water supply back on. This will flush out any of the remaining sediment left behind in the water heater. Let the water run through the hose until it comes out clear – once the water runs clear, close the drain valve. At this point, it’s safe to turn the hot-water faucets inside your home back off. The heating element could possibly blow if there is no water in the tank. Some tanks may need to be completely full in order to prevent damage, while others don’t. When in doubt, always read the warnings and instructions on the tank label carefully, as water tanks vary.

Finish Up

If the water coming out of the tank appears to be running clear, turn the supply off before closing the water heater drain valve and turning on the cold water supply. At this point, it’s safe to turn the pressure-relief valve back to its original position. Once you’ve done so, restore the power to your water heater and move on with your day, as you’ve successfully removed drained and removed the sediment from your water heater.

Hard Water vs. Soft Water

Most people assume that water is just water but, in reality, not all water is “created” equal. Typically, water falls into one of two categories: hard and soft. The difference has nothing to do with how it feels, and everything to do with the mineral content. Although both are safe for human consumption, some homeowners prefer soft water over hard water and vice versa. Knowing the difference between the two can save you money while improving your health.

As rainwater falls, it’s naturally soft. However, as water makes its way into our waterways, it picks up minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. Since hard water contains essential minerals, it is sometimes the preferred drinking water. Although hard water tastes slightly better, soft water is preferred in most households for one reason: hard water is harsh. Hard water is to blame for dingy clothes, dishes with spots, soap scum accumulation, higher energy use, weak lather, and dried out skin.

Identifying Hard/Soft Water

The most common way to determine the hardness of water is by investigating the formation of suds when you use soap. There is less lather formation with hard water; instead, soap scum is produced. Additionally, hard water forms deposits through calcification that can clog plumbing. In swimming pools, a cloudy or milky appearance is a sign of hard water. While hard and soft water test kits are sold at most home improvement stores, the identification of soap suds is the easiest way to evaluate the hardness of your home’s water.

When it comes to hard water, it’s often classified into either permanent or temporary hardness. Hardness that can’t be “removed” via boiling is called permanent hardness. Since water hardness is caused by the presence of bicarbonate materials, boiling hard water can actually remove these materials – with the end result being soft water. If the water hardness can be “boiled out”, the water is classified as being temporarily hard. Note: permanent hardness can still be softened, just not through boiling.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Although soft water may be preferred for household chores, both types of water have their own advantages and disadvantages. Hard water typically has a more pleasant taste, and some people believe it’s better for your health because it provides the body with essential minerals. However, it can leave deposits and corrode pipes over time. Hard water tends to leave behind spots on dishes and in showers and bathtubs, and doesn’t produce much soap lather. In some cases, hard water can prevent water heaters and washing machines from working properly.

While soft water is better for the skin, better for cleaning clothing and dishes, and helps household appliances work more efficiently, the biggest drawback is that it does not taste as good as hard water. If you use tap water for drinking and cooking, expect a salty, flat taste.

How is Hard Water Softened?

There are several ways to reduce the hardness of water, including distillation, reverse osmosis, or, most commonly, the addition of a chemical softener. A high quality water softener system will give you well balanced water for your home. If you think you may have hard water, contact a commercial water filtration and treatment company for more information.

How to Prevent Bathroom Pipes from Freezing

Winter is here and, depending on where you live, you’re probably wearing extra layers to keep warm. But did you know your pipes need protection from the cold, too? If you live in an area where the temperatures drop into the 20s, even for only a few days, you’ll need to do several things to protect your plumbing. Each year, thousands of households deal with the messy and expensive inconvenience of frozen pipes. So, if you’re warm and cozy in front of the fireplace, don’t forget about your pipes!

At-Risk Pipes

Although all pipes are at-risk in extreme temperatures, some pipes are more prone to freezing because of their location in the home. Pipes most at risk for freezing include exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home, pipes located in exterior walls, and any plumbing that’s located outside the home. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls are especially vulnerable to freezing, particularly if there are cracks or openings that allow the cold air from the outside to come in contact with the pipes.

Preventative Measures: Exterior

If you incorporate the following tasks into your regular seasonal maintenance, you can prevent frozen garden hoses, costly pool repairs, and post-winter faucet replacements:

  • Drain water from the swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines;
  • Remove, drain, and store any hoses used outdoors;
  • Check around the home for areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas;
  • Wrap insulation around any exposed pipes; and
  • Turn off the water supply to exterior faucets and drain them.

Preventative Measures: Interior

Although exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they’re in a heated portion of the home, there are plenty of pipes in unheated areas that require attention. Here are some preventative measures you can take to keep the pipes in the interior of your home from freezing:

  • Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen so the air in the room can keep the pipes warm;
  • Place a lamp with a 60-watt bulb in potential problem areas;
  • In moderately cold climates, cover exposed pipe in inexpensive foam pipe insulation or newspaper. In severe climates, wrap pipes in thermostatically controlled heat tape, which will automatically turn on at certain minimum temperatures;
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage;
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night; and
  • When the weather is very cold, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you forgot to prepare your pipes for winter and are suffering the consequences, you can still thaw out your pipes in a few steps. First, locate the water main cut-off valve and cut-off the water before attempting to thaw out frozen pipes. Once the water is shut off, open the faucet the pipe runs to so the thawed out water in the pipe has somewhere to go. By using a hair dryer, heat lamp, or portable space heater you can manually thaw the frozen water in the pipe, just be sure to avoid using blowtorches, kerosene, charcoal stoves, or other open flame devices. If you cannot locate the pipe or cannot thaw the pipe yourself, call a licensed plumber.

Five Budgeting Tips for Your Bathroom Remodel

So, you want to remodel your bathroom but don’t want to break the bank? Join the club. Although the cost of a bathroom remodel varies depending on location, materials, age of the house, and what kind of renovations have already been done, a typical bathroom remodel can set homeowners back by an average of $15,000+. With that type of investment, it’s important to stick to a budget the best you can. Here are some budgeting tips to help you minimize the costs associated with a bathroom renovation.

Purchase Items Yourself

When it comes to bathroom fixtures, like bathtubs and vanities, you can save some cash by purchasing these items on your own. While it might be easier to hire someone to purchase these items for you, you can save thousands of dollars on your bathroom renovation by finding your own deals. Online retailers are a great place to start – in many cases, purchasing directly from the factory can save you up to 70 percent and includes free shipping. If you’re going for a vintage look, try estate sales, auctions, and Craigslist – you never know what treasure you’ll be able to find until you take the time to look.

Ditch the Professional Painter

Whether you’re a DIYer or not, performing some of the work yourself is a great way to save on labor. When it comes to painting, it’s a time-consuming (and expensive!) act that most people can do themselves. Once you’re in DIY mode, think about what other parts of the renovation you can do on your own: demolition, removal of popcorn ceiling, and installation of smaller fixtures often top the list of bathroom renovation projects that are suitable for even the least-experienced individuals.

Don’t Relocate Fixtures

One of the major costs in a remodel is moving fixtures. Not only does repositioning fixtures require a lot of extra materials and plumbing expertise, but it’s a time-consuming act and you’ll be shelling out extra on labor costs as a result. If you keep the same floor plan, you’ll save up to $2,000 on plumbing costs alone. Then, there’s the cost of the fixtures themselves: if that exquisite glass vessel sink is a must-have, then pick a standard no-frills toilet or tub to make up the difference. While it’s certainly acceptable to splurge, don’t splurge on everything- especially if you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Donate Your Trash

While this won’t save you money right off the bat, donating your “trash” will give you a little bit extra come tax season. Before you begin a remodeling job, invite the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to remove materials and fixtures for later resale. About 85 percent of a home is reusable, so you’ll save space in the landfill, collect a charitable tax credit for the donation, and help a good cause. The average cost of trashing bathroom fixtures is about $100, and the cost to donate is nothing and includes a tax deduction – so why wouldn’t you donate?

Make Decisions Early

Start walking the aisles at the hardware store or home improvement center months before you call a contractor for an estimate. This way, you’ll get a good feeling for what you want in terms of fixtures, design, and appliances. Additionally, you’ll know their cost and have an idea of what number the contractor will throw your way. If the number seems too high or low, let the contractor know. If you’re absolutely clear about what you want from the get-go, your contractor will be able to give you a better estimate and, once the demolition and remodel gets started, you’ll be able to better stay within budget.

The Deadly Sins of Bathroom Renovations

When it comes to home improvement projects, renovating your bathroom can add significant value to your home – but only if done correctly. While renovating any part of your house is no easy task, kitchen and bathroom renovations tend to be the most difficult - water and electricity, when combined, are forces to be reckoned with. The main causes of botched bathroom renovations are the unwillingness to spend the time and money necessary to construct a bathroom properly, and inexperienced individuals handling the work. Here’s a list of the deadly sins of bathroom renovations you should look out for.

Improper Installation

Even if everything is installed perfectly, the bathroom is still one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. When you combine water, electricity, slippery surfaces, and breakables together in one room, it’s no wonder that the majority of home accidents happen in the bathroom. Now add an improperly installed electrical outlet or a poorly mounted mirror to the mix and you can put your safety (and life!) at risk. From putting your family at risk for electrical shocks and exposing them to mold, improperly installed bathroom fixtures can cost you. If you aren’t an accomplished DIYer, get professional assistance from an experienced contractor who can help make your bathroom beautiful and safe.

Inadequate Waterproofing

When it comes to bathroom renovations, every aspect of the planning and construction of a bathroom should take water exposure into consideration – after all, bathrooms are functional spaces first and design showcases second. If the waterproofing aspect of your bathroom renovation doesn’t account for at least 5 to 10 percent of the total cost, then someone is cutting crucial corners. Inexpensive building materials and poorly constructed shower pans can lead to major water damage down the line. Additionally, carpeting in the bathroom should be avoided at all costs – while it may have once been trendy, it’s now an easy way to invite dirt and bacteria into your bathroom.

Avoid Open Storage

While open storage might seem trendy, do you really want to put your prescriptions, ointments, acne medication, and fungal cream on open display for your guests? In a day and age where 70 percent of house guests admit to snooping through other people’s bathroom cabinets and drawers, do you really need to make it easier for guests to look through your personal toiletries? If your heart is set on open storage, consider mixing it with closed storage solutions – put hand towels, tissues, and other innocuous bathroom essentials on display and hide anything that might embarrass you in closed storage.

Bad Math

Math is important in bathroom renovations, especially since space is usually at a premium. Errors in math and projections can lead to tile-layout problems, shower stalls and toilets that don’t meet code minimums, faucet handles that collide with backsplashes, and large gaps between the toilet tank and wall, to name a few issues. If you’re renovating the bathroom yourself, check and double check your measurements; if you’d like to be extra careful, ask your spouse, roommate, or a friend to look over your measurements before using them to order bathroom renovation materials.

Bathroom Demolition: How to Remove Old Vanities

Before you can remodel your bathroom, you’ll have to demolish it – this includes removing existing vanities and fixtures so your bathroom is prepared for the facelift you’ve always dreamed of. Whether you’re a total novice or somewhat of an expert, it’s important to take the time to demolition the right way – after all, a successful demolition isn’t about who can swing the hammer the hardest. There is a process to the demolition phase and it requires a plan and lots and lots of patience. Here are some tips for demolishing your existing bathroom without creating extra dust.

Have a Plan

Before beginning a demolition, you should either rent an industrial-sized dumpster or a truck to haul the debris to the landfill. Be prepared for tons of dust and grit, as removing plaster and tile will cause quite a mess. If your vanities and other bathroom fixtures are still in good condition and you feel guilty tossing them in a landfill, you may wish to consider donating them to organizations like Habitat for Humanity – they’ll get a second life in someone else’s home. If you’re working with a hired team, let them know about your donation plans ahead of time so they won’t damage or trash them upon removal.

Collect Tools & Supplies

Whether you plan on performing the demolition yourself or with a hired crew, you’ll need the following tools and equipment in order to perform the demolition properly: sledge hammer, utility knife, wheel barrel, large shovel, shop vacuum, heavy duty gloves, face gargles, face aspirators, duct tape or construction tape, screw drivers and wrenches, old towels, a large bucket, and high intensity light.

Although you’ll have to buy most of the above items, some of the larger tools, like wheel barrows and sledge hammers, are available for rent. Before renting, compare the purchase price and the rental price. In some cases, it may be cheaper to buy the tools and either sell them in a yard sale or save them for later use.

Turn Off the Water Supply

Before beginning any demolition job, think about what household elements you’ll be dealing with. Water? Gas? Electricity? All of the above? In the case of bathroom demolition, it’s important to turn off the water supply. Before removing a bathroom vanity, turn off the water supply below the sink by twisting the hot and cold nozzles. Turn the handles the opposite of their current position, and test both faucets to ensure the water is turned completely off before you move forward with removing the vanity.

Next, you’ll want to unscrew the supply lines that flow from the piping in your wall to the faucets. You can do so by wrapping a wrench around the nut that connects the line to the faucet and turn it until it becomes loose enough to unscrew by hand. If your home has copper pipes that have corroded over time, spray a plumbing liquid lubricant into the joint before beginning the process.

Remove Drain Pipes

Disconnecting the plastic piping that connects your drain to the hole in the wall is one of the easiest parts of a bathroom demolition and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. If you’re having trouble with turning the pipe connectors, try using a dry rag to get a better grip. If you’re dealing with a double vanity, the job is still simple but you’ll have to disconnect both before trying to pull apart the sink. Once the drain pipes have been removed, you’re ready to remove the vanity and cabinets.

Vanity Countertops & Cabinets

If the countertop is attached with silicone caulk, you’ll have to use a utility knife to loosen the countertop where it attaches to the cabinets. In some cases there are clamps securing the bathroom countertop, which can be removed with the appropriate tool. Once the bathroom countertop has been lifted, discard of it in an appropriate area. Now that the countertop is off, it’s time to remove the cabinet. Using a screwdriver or screw gun, remove the screws. Once the screws are removed, you should be able to remove the bathroom vanity.

After removing the vanity, cap off the drain pipe to prevent sewage gases from escaping into your home. Either push a large rag into the drain pipe or use plastic and tape to cover the opening. Now that your old bathroom vanity is removed, you’re ready to install your brand new bathroom vanity.

Common Plumbing Questions: Answered

As a homeowner, it’s only natural to have plumbing questions. While some plumbing problems are quite complicated and may require the expertise of a professional, many issues are minor and can be fixed with a bit of time and elbow grease. Not only will homeowners who understand the complexities of plumbing be better prepared to make the best decisions when a plumbing problem arises, but they may be able to take care of the problem themselves.

Q: What are the most important plumbing tools to keep at home?

A: The most well-known tool is the plunger – an essential tool that should be found in every household due to its usability and effectiveness. It can be used for unclogging toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs. Next on the list is a hand auger, which should be used for difficult clogs. With over 25-feet of steel cable, the hand auger is capable of handling clogs a plunger can’t. Finally, a wet-dry shop vacuum, though not strictly a plumbing tool, can be a lifesaver in the case of a flood. If a broken pipe or appliance has flooded a room, getting the water up as quickly as possible with the vacuum can mean the difference between saving a floor and having to completely replace one.

Q: How can I increase my water pressure?

A: Typically, issues with water pressure can be attributed to a volume or flow issue. A restriction in a line, or having a line that’s too long or under sized, could be the problem. If a pressure gauge is installed, you can check the pressure yourself. Water pressure in most households should be around 50 PSI. Look at the gauge with all the water off, and then once again when the water is on full. If the pressure is okay until you turn the water on, then it’s a flow problem. If the pressure problem only happens to a particular faucet, it might be possible to improve the pressure by cleaning the faucet or installing a new aerator on the end of the spout. Over time, faucets can clog and reduce the flow.

Q: How can I avoid frozen pipes?

A: If the pipes in question are exposed to an unheated area (garage, basement) or are outside, the pipes should be wrapped with foam or some type of insulation material and bound with electrical tape. If you can get your hands on electrical wire heating wrap, this will keep the pipes above freezing even in very cold weather. If you’re concerned about pipes within a wall, you can poke small holes through the wall and cover the pipes with insulating foam. If the pipes are totally inaccessible, leave a trickle of water running– this will warm the pipe slightly and slow down the freezing process.

Q: Is there a difference between hard and soft water?

A: Yes, and the difference can be damaging to both your home and your body. Hard water is water that contains a noticeable amount of dissolved materials, like calcium and magnesium. Soft water is treated in such a way that the only ion present is sodium. If you’re experiencing damaged clothing after laundry, excessive soap consumption, pipe scaling, deterioration of faucets and fixtures, or undesirable odors or tastes in your water, you may have a water problem. In addition to improving soap lather and removing soap scum, using a water softener can have financial benefits as well. In homes with water softeners, energy bills are noticeably lower and, since appliances don’t have to work so hard, the lives of washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters can be prolonged.