Sink or Swim: Dealing with Plumbing under the Kitchen Sink

Sink or Swim: Dealing with Plumbing under the Kitchen Sink

Being able to maintain your kitchen sink may seem like a daunting task that only a pro should worry about. However, it’s much easier to do repairs on the plumbing under kitchen sinks than you may realize. Here are a few handy how to’s so you can keep your kitchen sink in working order without having to call a plumber each time you need a repair.

How to Install a Kitchen Sink Drain

Supplies Needed:

  • Tape measure
  • Kitchen drain trap kit
  • Channel-type pliers
  • PVC tubing cutter
  • Marker
  1. Before buying a new kitchen sink or completely replacing kitchen sink plumbing, check the height of the trap arm of the old sink, measuring from the floor, or base of the cabinet to the center of the trap arm. If the drain opening isn’t low enough for your new sink, you will need to open the wall and lower the position of the sanitary tee connecting the drainpipe to the wall.

  2. The first thing you need to do to install a kitchen sink drain is to install the garbage disposal onto the desired side of the sink. Now install the basket strainer onto the opposite side of the sink basin. If you have a water filter or hot water dispenser, install those now.

  3. Now you will install the tailpiece and continuous waste pipe. Connect the tailpiece on the sink strainer with a slip nut and washer (this is just temporary). Then connect the curved end of the waste pipe to the disposal’s drain outlet with another slip nut and washer (also temporarily). Let the straight end of the pipe go past the tailpiece. While holding the tee fitting up to the waste pipe and tailpiece, mark both pipes where they will need to be cut so they can fit into the tee fitting. Cut the pipes. Now you can reinstall both pieces along with the tee, making sure to leave the connections hand-tight. Secure the slip nuts with your pliers.

  4. To connect the drain trap, assemble the U-shaped trap and J-shaped trap arm temporarily with a slip nut and washer. Gently push the trap bend into the tee fitting on the tailpiece while also sliding the trap arm into the sanitary tee. Adjust as needed to ensure a direct path from the sink to the wall tee. The trap arm should have a slight downward angle toward the wall tee. Mark and cut the trap arm as needed and then tighten all slip nuts with your pliers. Don’t over tighten. Double-check that everything is tight enough, and that the waste pipe and trap arm both slope slightly downward in the direction of the flow of water.

  5. Run water on both sides of the sink basin to check for leaks and tighten any loose connections.

How to Clear a Clogged Drain

  1. If you have a garbage disposal, check to make sure nothing is lodged in there. If there is, grab a plunger, and just as you would with your toilet, dislodge the clog by plunging the sink drain.

  2. If plunging the kitchen sink drain doesn’t work, try cleaning the P-trap.

  3. Another great method for clearing a clogged drain is to use a plumbers’ snake and snake the drain.

  4. Cleaning chemicals are also a great help for a simple clog. If you want to skip the chemicals, use a bit of baking soda and pour white vinegar over it to cause a bubbling reaction that will break up some clogs.

  5. If all else fails, it may be time to call a plumber.

How to Replace a Sink Trap

Supplies Needed:

  • Pipe putty
  • Hand saw
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Bucket
  • Sink trap
  • Lubricant or grease
  1. Place a bucket underneath the sink in case any water is still in the drain trap. Remove your old drain assembly starting from the top down, allowing any standing water to go into the bucket. Hold onto these parts to help size the new drain pieces.

  2. Place the tailpiece washer into the flared end of the tailpiece, then attach it by screwing the slip nut onto the sink strainer.

  3. If your sink has two basins, use a T-fitting to join the tailpieces, attaching the fitting with slip washers and nuts. If you need to, apply lubricant to the slip washer to make it easier to ensure a tight fit.

  4. Now, attach the trap arm to the drain stub-out using a slip washer and nut. Make sure the beveled side of the washer faces the threaded drain stub-out. Cut the trap arm to fit if needed.

  5. Finally, you can attach the trap bend to the trap arm with the slip washers and nuts. Again, the beveled side of the washers should face the trap bend. Using the slip joint pliers, tighten all of the nuts. Be sure to not over tighten the slip nuts, otherwise, they’ll crack.

How to Replace Kitchen Sink Pipes

Supplies Needed:

  • Bucket
  • Adjustable pliers
  • New pipes (PVC)
  • Tape measure
  • Hacksaw
  1. Start by turning off your water valves and placing a bucket under the sink to catch any standing water. Take a picture of the configuration to help with reinstallation and take measurements of the pipes or pull up a kitchen sink plumbing diagram so you can buy the right components and know what size to cut the pipes down to. Now, remove your old pipes by gently grasping each nut with your hand. Pull the traps away from the connections and be sure to tip them upside down so they drain into the bucket. Remove the common tee and disassemble any other pipes. If the drain tailpieces are corroded or too short, remove these too as they can cause leaks.

  2. Screw in your new tailpieces, making sure they’re long enough to extend to the same level as the top of the drainpipe in the wall. If your drainpipe is in the floor, the tailpiece should extend to about 2 feet above the bottom of the cabinet. Use a hacksaw to cut the tailpiece as needed.

  3. Cut all of your new pipes with a hacksaw to match up with the ones you’ve removed. Measure carefully to ensure correct lengths.

  4. Assemble the new pipes with the compression fittings and by tightening the nuts by hand. Now slide each trap up onto its respective tailpiece. Tighten the nut, the swivel it to meet up with the pipe going to the drain. Next, assemble that end of the trap and tighten the nut by hand.

  5. Fill up the sink to check for any leaks, and tighten any leaky connections with your adjustable pliers.
How to Find the Leak in Your Pool

How to Find the Leak in Your Pool

Whether it’s an above ground or in-ground pool with a vinyl liner, a concrete pool, or anything in between, eventually you may find yourself noticing decreasing water levels. Pool leaks can happen no matter what kind of pool you have, and knowing where your leak is happening can be half the battle for fixing it before your yard turns into a newly discovered marshland. Discover how to find a leak in a pool with these simple methods below.

Check the Pool’s Equipment

Before you do any other swimming pool leak repair, check all of the pool’s equipment first. It could be that your filtration system or heater simply has a leak, or a pipe has cracked. Pool leak detection starts with actually determining if you have a real leak or are simply losing water due to evaporation or faulty equipment. You can easily determine if it’s evaporation through the bucket method (detailed below).

Check the Vinyl Liner

Above-ground and inground pools with vinyl liners can develop leaks quite easily. Thankfully, these can be easily patched. If you notice a waterfall springing from the side of your pool or that the ground around your pool has turned swampy, you definitely have a leak in the liner.

  1. If you just found an in-ground pool leak or one in your above ground pool, quickly grab a piece of duct tape larger than the hole and stick it on the inside of your liner, under the water. This will be a temporary fix until you can properly patch the hole.
  2. You can now either choose to use a patch or completely replace your vinyl liner. Although patches are temporary, they can last for a few years. You can choose from waterproof tape, peel-and-stick patches, or a vinyl patch kit. Just note, that if the tear or hole is rather large, this quick fix may not work all too well. If your vinyl liner isn’t too old (less than a year or two), it’s definitely worth it to try a patch, instead of completely replacing the entire liner. If your liner is over 10 years old, it may be time for a new liner completely.
  3. If you need to patch your liner underwater, you’ll want to use a patch specifically made for vinyl swimming pool liners (on Amazon for about $9).

The Ink Method

For this pool leak detection method, grab a pair of leak-proof, anti-fog goggles, Leak Finder Dye, red food coloring, and a snorkel.

  1. Begin by checking the walls and ground around your pool for any wetness (not caused by rambunctious swimmers). This will help you determine the height of the leak along with the area. Be sure to check the entire pool in case you have multiple leaks.
  2. Once you’ve located the area where the leak may be, gently hop into the pool; try not to disturb the water too much. Squirt a small amount of dye in the water close to the pool wall. If you’ve located the correct spot for the leak, you will see the dye move towards the crack or source of the leak like a current. If there’s a chance the leak is at the bottom of the pool, put on the goggles and snorkel if needed and do the same thing. Again, be sure to move slowly and not disturb the water too much, otherwise, the dye will just run wild.
  3. If you do find a leak and have a concrete pool, you will need to patch the crack in the concrete with a pool plaster repair kit.

The Bucket Method

For this method, you’ll need a 5-gallon plastic bucket and either duct tape or a large black marker.

  1. Place your bucket in the water on the second step of the pool, making sure it’s not completely submerged. If it is, move it up a step. Fill up the bucket with water to match the water level of the pool. Using your duct tape or marker, make a notch or mark the level of the water inside the bucket.
  2. Turn off your pool’s recirculating pump. If you have any other auto-fill devices, turn these off too.
  3. After 24 hours, go back and compare the water level in the pool with the water level in your bucket. If the pool level is lower than the level in the bucket, you have a leak. However, if both levels have gone down but are still even, you are just losing water through evaporation.
  4. You can narrow down the source of the leak but repeating this test but with the pump on. This time, if the level in the pool is higher with the water circulating under pressure, then your leak is most likely in the plumbing.

Call a Pro

If all else fails, call in a professional. Swimming pool leak repairs are sometimes are too difficult or you may not be getting the results you want, which means it’s time to ask for some help.

Let the Sunshine In? The Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

Let the Sunshine In? The Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

Free energy directly from the sun to your home outlets? That sounds like something everyone could get behind. Solar energy offers clean, abundant power for your home at a fraction of the cost of relying on the city power grid. But before you cut your line and let the sunshine in, take a moment to make sure that solar energy is right for your property.

We’ve put together a short list of solar panel pros and cons, so you’ll have the info you need to make the right decision.

Pros

  1. Lowers electric bill
    Solar panels will cover a part of your energy needs, which will reduce your need for you to use electricity, thereby lowering your electric bill. Just how much you can save will depend on the size of your solar-panel system and your overall heat or electricity use. Some organizations even offer payments for the surplus energy you export back to the grid.

  2. Reduces carbon footprint
    Solar is a clean energy source, which means it doesn’t doesn’t cause pollution. This helps you to reduce your carbon footprint. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average house emits about 20 metric tons of carbon pollution per year. By using a solar power system, you can reduce your carbon emissions by three to four tons each year.

    As you use your solar panels to meet your energy needs, you reduce the demand for electricity from your utility provider. This way, your utility plant will emit less carbon itself as it meets customer demand.

  3. Insurance against rising power prices
    Since solar power will always be available, it provides you a way of insuring yourself against the rise of electrical and power prices. You can continue to keep your energy costs low no matter how high prices rise. According to the Energy Information Administration, utility residential electricity prices have slowly risen at a steady rate through the last decade. In fact, rates have increased by about 15 percent in the last 10 years and there’s little chance that they will lower anytime soon.

    A solar power system can help you lock in the price of energy for at least the ~25-year life of your installed solar panels.

  4. Improves the value of a home
    Studies have shown that a home with a solar panel system can be sold at a price above similar homes in the same area. Early studies show that home values increased by four percent or more when equipped with solar panels. One report showed that a solar power system could add $24,000 to a home’s resale value.

    Because of this, you could end up recouping the initial cost of installing your system if you ever sell your home. You will also receive a premium that can increase the returns on your solar power system investment.

Cons

  1. Energy storage is expensive
    Today, using your installed solar panels can be cheaper than using electricity from your utility company. However, battery storage systems for solar energy (such as the Tesla Powerwall home solar battery) can be expensive — possibly to the point of offsetting the return on your investment.

  2. Intermittent energy source
    Solar energy is dependent on a few things, such as the weather and the time of day. For instance, the sun doesn’t shine at night so your panels won’t be able to generate power at night (you’ll have ti rely either on city power or stored solar energy). Additionally, the sun’s intensity can differ during certain times of the year and certain times of the day. On top of this, cloud cover can affect the amount of energy your solar panels produce, so if you live in a constantly rainy place like Seattle, the cost of installation may not be worth it.

  3. Doesn’t work for every roof type
    Most roofing materials work just great with solar panels including:

    * Metal standing seam
    * TPO and PVC
    * EPDM rubber
    * Asphalt
    * Standard clay and Spanish tile

    However, there are some roof types that won’t work for solar panels, such as wood or slate roofs. Solar panels may not be the best choice for these kinds of roofs as they are brittle and can break. If you do install panels on these roofs, you will need to get specialized mounting equipment and components, because workers can’t walk on these kinds of roofs without possibly causing damage. Using this special equipment can require your installation to be far more expensive.

    Before installing your panels you will also need to check a few things such as which way your roof faces, how much shade covers the roof, how old your roof is, the size and shape and if it’s sloped or flat, and lastly, who actually owns your roof (if you don’t own the property, then installing solar panels isn’t a decision you’ll be allowed to make on your own).

  4. Not ideal for renters
    Among the cons for solar panels is the fact that once you install them, they’re very expensive to move if you ever sell your home or are renting and move away. Plus, if you are renting or leasing, you have to make sure the new owner will agree to take over your agreement and solar panel system.

Now that you know some of the pros and cons of solar panels, you can begin to decide if this is a smart route for you and your household.

Water, Water Everywhere: How to Waterproof Your Basement

Water, Water Everywhere: How to Waterproof Your Basement

For anyone who has experienced water damage in a basement, you know how costly and frustrating it is to make repairs. And that’s to say nothing of the heartache of ruined furniture, carpet, or special items. But basement flooding is something you can prevent. Before you have a real issue on your hand, learn how to identify the causes of water in a basement, along with ways to waterproof basement walls.

Causes of Water in a Basement

Many things can cause water or dampness to get into a basement. Here are some of the most common culprits.

  • Condensation can occur when warm, moist air hits the foundation walls, cool or cold-water pipes, rusting appliances, or carpets. If it looks like your basement walls are “sweating” you probably have condensation.
  • Runoff is rain or melted snow that is improperly routed away from the house and can seep into a basement. To determine if this is the cause of water in your basement, check to see if your basement walls and floors or crawl space is damp or wet after a snowstorm or rainfall.
  • Groundwater swelling happens when an underground water table overflows. A water table overflows when it is full to capacity and the soil is no longer able to drain the water. You can think of the ground as a sponge — it will soak up water, but only to a point. And once it’s soaked up all it can, the excess water can flood your basement. To determine if this is your problem, look for water bubbling between the floor and wall joints, or if there is water present after a rainstorm.
  • Floor cracks if you have cracks in your basement floor, water can seep into your basement from an overflowing water table. The cost of repairing floor cracks can run anywhere from $620 to $850 per 20 square feet, depending on the contractor.
  • Sewer & pipes can cause a leak in any room of your home, which is why it’s smart to fix any cracked or frozen pipes or a sewer. Sometimes identifying this problem is as easy as checking your pipes for drips, but some pipes may require a professional inspection.
  • Window wells if you have wells around your basement windows, water can collect in them causing drainage problems. If this happens, pressure can build up causing the water to seep through gaps or cracks around the window. You can install a window well drain for around $500-$2,000.

How to Waterproof a Basement

There are several options for waterproofing your basement, and they generally fall into one of two categories: interior or exterior.

Interior

For every interior waterproofing idea, it’s important to note that none of these will work unless all gaps and cracks are properly sealed. Be sure to fill any gap or crack with either polyurethane caulk or an epoxy filler. Here are several ways for sealing basement walls.

  1. Waterproofing Paint
    Basement waterproofing paint is an acrylic form of paint quite similar to any other wall paint. It can be applied to previously painted walls and can even paint over it once it’s cured. Since you have to apply it pretty thickly, one gallon may only cover about 75 square feet (or fewer). Each gallon costs around $35 and can be applied easily as a DIY project.
  2. Silicate-based Concrete Sealer
    This kind of sealer is called a densifier and only works on walls that haven’t been sealed or painted. They’re great for brick or concrete walls, as the sealer soaks into the material and chemically reacts with the ingredients within brick and concrete, forming a hard, waterproof surface. Since these sealers soak in, they won’t peel or flake off your walls, and you can paint over them (just check the label to be sure). This option is a great DIY project, costing about $40-$50 per 1-gallon can that will cover up to 200 square feet. Just note that you will need at least two coats.
  3. Concrete Waterproofing Coating
    A concrete coating is a thick coating that is almost like cement; once it dries, it will permanently adhere to masonry walls and concrete. You can apply it with a heavy brush made from Tampico bristles. The only downside to this approach is that you cannot apply it to previously painted surfaces. However, it is one of the cheapest options, costing about $30-$40 for one 5-gallon bucket that will cover 100 square feet.
  4. Plastic Sheets and Panels
    This approach to waterproofing a basement is best done when you have an interior drainage system. Water will run down the back of the plastic into a drainage system in the basement floor where a sump pump will move it out of the basement completely. The plastic sheets and panels won’t stop water from getting through the walls, but it will stop it from ruining any items in the basement. This kind of system will cost about $3,000 to $5,000 for a 20-by-20-foot basement.

Exterior

Although there are many options for waterproofing your basement by the interior, the best way to waterproof it through the exterior. In order to waterproof your basement from the exterior, you will need to excavate around the entire house to the full depth of the foundation walls (be sure to call 811 before beginning any digging project). You can then install a waterproof membrane or coating covered by drainage panels. These panels will provide an easy pathway for any water to flow down into an exterior French drain at the base of your foundation. The water can then flow away from your foundation to a storm drain or another part of the property. You can also use a sump pump to move it away from your foundation. Unfortunately, this option is far more expensive, ranging from $15,000 to $30,000; however, it will pay off in the long run.

Dos & Don’ts

There are some really important things to note before you pick an option for waterproofing basement walls.

  • DO determine the source of the water before attempting any repairs.
  • DO take steps to keep water away from your basement.
  • DO fill cracks with hydraulic cement.
  • DO apply a masonry waterproofing product to bare interior basement walls.
  • DON’T make wall repairs with standing water in the basement.
  • DON’T forget to address window well leaks.
  • DON’T apply a sealer over painted walls or efflorescence.
  • DON’T forget interior drainage solutions.

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Effective Home Protection: 5 Reasons to Invest in a Home Warranty

Effective Home Protection: 5 Reasons to Invest in a Home Warranty

With things like homeowners insurance and manufacturer warranties, it may seem like purchasing a home warranty is an unnecessary expense. After all, home warranty, insurance, and manufacturer warranty solutions are all designed to protect your home, right? 

Well yes, but they don’t all offer the same level of protection, or protect the same items from the same dangers. And the truth is that if you’re depending on insurance and manufacturer warranties for your home protection, your home isn’t actually protected — at least not as protected as it should be. 

If you’re wondering if a home warranty plan is right for you, consider these five points:

1. Home Warranties Cover What Insurance and Manufacturer Warranties Don’t

Although there are a number of similarities between home warranties, manufacturer warranties, and homeowners insurance (namely that they all provide a measure of protection for your home), the truth is that they are all very different things. Manufacturer warranties generally provide repair and replacement services for specific appliances and home systems — but usually only to the original purchaser, and usually only for 12 months from the date of the purchase. Conversely, homeowners insurance covers accidental damage to your property and possessions, but will not cover issues related to natural wear and tear.

Home warranties, on the other hand, pick up where insurance and manufacturer warranties fall short. By providing coverage against the natural wear and tear of key items, appliances, and systems in your home, a home warranty can help ensure that when something fails, you have the coverage to get the problem resolved quickly.

2. Home Warranties Shield for Your Budget

Your money is a finite resource, and planning out a budget is one of the best things you can do to make sure it stretches to fit your needs. But how can you budget for something you don’t know is coming? An unexpected home repair can set you back hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, potentially wiping out accounts that are intended for other things. 

A home warranty acts as a defense against these unanticipated costs. By purchasing a home warranty, you’ll have a set, budgetable, recurring monthly fee. And when the inevitable happens and your home systems or appliances break down, the home warranty will be there to cover any and all repair, replacement, and labor costs. Essentially, a home warranty makes unexpected repairs something you can easily prepare for.

3. Home Warranties Take Care of the Details

When your AC fails in mid August, the last thing you want is to have to shop around and compare repair services. At the same time, hiring the first service professional you see listed in the Yellow Pages may not be the right call either. For important, time-critical repairs, you need someone good, and you need them fast.

Your home warranty company doesn’t need to open the Yellow Pages; using a network of contacts with local, highly rated repair professionals, the home warranty provider quickly locates the right person for the job, who then contacts you to set up an appointment. It’s fast. It’s effective. And it’s one less thing to worry about.

4. Home Warranties Increase Your Home Value

If you’re trying to sell your home, having an appliance or system malfunction can have a significant negative impact on your property’s market value — after all, who wants to close on a home that has a faulty HVAC (or even broken garbage disposal)? A home warranty helps ensure that all of your appliances and home systems are in tip-top shape when it comes time for prospective buyers to make an offer.

And sellers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a home warranty; listing agents and buyer’s agents also benefit, by offering an additional service designed to better serve the buyers and sellers they represent.

5. Home Warranties Cost Less

An average kitchen appliance repair costs about $1000 – $2000. The average cost of replacing a broken HVAC system can run upwards of $10,000. The point here is that repairing and replacing home appliances and systems isn’t cheap. The average American home owners spends approximately $5,000 on home repairs every year. So how much do home warranty holders spend?

Well, different home warranty companies charge different amounts for coverage, but on average a home warranty will end up costing a homeowner about $450 – $650 annually (more for expanded coverage), plus a small service fee per repair job. Simply put, if you invest in a home warranty, it will end up costing you significantly less than paying out of pocket. 

Want to learn more about home warranties? Check out our In-Depth Home Warranty Guide, and contact us to request a free home warranty quote today!