Avoiding Plumbing Problems This Holiday Season

Illustration of Santa with a plungerHow to Remedy Common Holiday Plumbing Problems

Every homeowner knows that plumbing disasters often take place at the least convenient times; like when you are hosting a weekend party, cooking a holiday meal or otherwise entertaining guests in your home. Below are some helpful tips from our plumbers in Laguna Niguel for you to use when these problems occur:

Stopped-Up Sink Drain

When people are cooking for the holidays, their drains start working overtime. Since most drain clogs occur in the J-shaped pipe beneath your sink, they are often easier to clear away than toilet clogs.

One of our plumbers in Laguna Niguel warns against the dangers of chemical drain cleaners:

“Steer clear of chemical drain cleaners! They do more harm than good. Your first line of defense should be to boil a big pot of water, and then pour it down your sink drain in hopes that the hot water will break up the clog and flush it through. If that doesn’t work, go for the plunger. If you’re still having trouble, you can use a snake if you’re comfortable with it, but I would advise most people to call in a plumber at that point.”

Faulty Dishwasher Performance

If you have holiday meal dishes to wash, but your dishwasher has failed to properly drain from the last load, it may be clogged with food waste. If you remove the drain basket screws and pull out the flapper and basket, the problem may quickly become evident: if the basket is clogged with food particles, it simply needs to be washed and the dishwasher’s interior cleaned. Such clogs can be prevented by remembering to rinse dishes before they are placed in the machine.

Fixing a Broken Garbage Disposal

If you have a garbage disposal, it is highly likely that it has become clogged at least once or twice. One way to avoid this problem is to pay close attention to what you place in the disposal. For example, avoid putting coffee grounds, potato peels, egg shells or grease down the drain, as garbage disposals are not made to process such items. It is also important to keep an eye on what guests may be placing down the disposal when visiting or attending a party.

If the disposal is running sluggish, the blades may need to be sharpened or replaced. Sharpening is easy to do by running a few small ice cubes through the disposal. If the disposal is failing to run at all, press the reset button on the bottom of the unit. If these remedies prove ineffectual, it is time to call a plumber.

Water Heater Issues

If your water heater is failing to produce hot water or you notice moisture around the base, it is likely that it needs to be repaired by a plumber. If it is a particularly old unit, it may have simply reached the end of its lifespan, at which point it must be replaced. Any new or unusual sounds coming from the unit should never be ignored. Rather, when in doubt, contact a professional for an expert evaluation of any holiday plumbing problem you are experiencing.

Clogged Toilet

Even if you meticulously maintain your home, all toilets occasionally become clogged. In most cases, the proper use of a simple plunger will remedy the problem. However, if you have a major clog, you may need to use a drain snake. If you are unsure how to use these tools or you have tried them and could not resolve the problem, it is time to contact a professional plumber.

How to Effectively Communicate With Your Plumber

plumber shaking hands with home ownerMany consumers find it awkward to open their home to a plumber or other repairman. However, the better your communication is with your plumber, the more satisfied you will likely be with the outcome of the visit. Below are some simple tips from our plumbers in Laguna Niguel on how to communicate easily and pleasantly with your plumbing contractor:

Do Not Overreact

If you have just discovered a clogged pipe or a stopped up toilet, call a plumber immediately, but remain calm. If your home has other working bathrooms or you do not have to use the kitchen sink within the next few hours, do not call your plumber and demand that he or she show up immediately to deal with an “emergency.” Try to be level headed when problems occur and allow your plumber to prioritize tasks based on his or her professional judgment.

Do Not Try to Play Host or Hostess

In most places, even though the plumber is entering your home, he or she is typically there to complete a job and would rather get straight to work, rather than drink coffee or chat. Therefore, instead of offering refreshments or trying to make small talk, simply tell the plumber to feel free to ask you any questions, and otherwise make yourself scarce.

Be Realistic About Estimates

It is important to have a mutual understanding of what an estimate is, and it is just what the name implies; an estimate. All homeowners want to know exactly what to expect, but some contractors cannot give a precise quote based merely on your verbal description of an issue.

For scheduled projects, such as renovations that you planned in advance, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a flat rate, but other types of repairs may differentiate somewhat from the initial estimate.

Ask the Appropriate Questions

If you are hiring a new plumber and you want to obtain useful information about the contractor’s level of experience, the best thing you can do is avoid yes or no questions. Instead, ask things like “how do you typically handle a situation like this?” Most experienced plumbers will be pleased to offer details when asked such questions.

Another great way to communicate about your specific plumbing problem and possible outcomes is to ask the contractor for best and worst case scenarios. You should also inquire about possible complications so that if something of that nature arises, you are not caught off guard.

Discuss Payment Schedules

It is always best to ask for an installment plan if the plumbing repairs cannot be paid for in one lump sum.  Many homeowners do not have enough money on hand to pay for a large job, and some plumbers will accept monthly payments for large jobs. However, it is imperative that you communicate your wishes in advance to make sure this payment method is acceptable with your plumber.

Plumbing problems can be particularly stressful, especially if they occur on an emergency basis. However, maintaining open lines of communication with your plumber is a good way to reduce this stress.



Emergency Plumbing Tips for Homeowners

Flooded living roomVirtually all homeowners experience plumbing emergencies at some point. Frozen pipes, major pipe leaks, a leaking water heater, and sink and toilet clogs are all considered emergencies by most plumbers. However, the following tips are designed to help you head off small problems, as well as to determine when it is in your best interest to call a plumber.

Knowing How to Shut Off the Water

One plumber in Laguna Niguel mentioned: “Whenever a plumbing emergency occurs, you should shut off the closest water source as soon as possible. For commodes, this can be as easy as turning off the valve behind or at the base of the toilet. For flooding or larger emergencies in your home, it is essential to shut off the main valve.”

Knowing where this valve is located and how to shut it off is very important. The main water line is typically found in a crawlspace or basement or along the outer perimeter of your dwelling. Most plumbers recommend that you locate this shut off valve in advance to significantly reduce damage during a plumbing emergency.

Water Heater Leaks

If your water heater has developed a leak or your water has become extremely hot for no apparent reason, turn it off to avoid damaging the unit. This prevents heat from building up on the inside. The latter can lead to the destruction of the unit or the risk of bursting. If it is a gas water heater, you should shut off the gas before turning off the water heater. Call a plumber for any type of water heater leak, as this kind of repair is not a good do-it-yourself project.

Damage Control for Leaks

If you find an easily identifiable leak that is rather small, stuff towels and rags around the pipe or apply some plumber’s tape to the leak, the latter of which can be purchased in most hardware stores. Professional plumbers can then address the problem when they arrive, but in the meantime you can prevent additional damage by following the steps mentioned above.

Sink or Toilet Clogs

Using a plunger with a smooth, straight up-and-down motion can help to dislodge clogs in your toilet’s plumbing. If this activity proves ineffective, try using a chemical cleaner to remove and disintegrate the clog. Always check the label to make sure you are using the appropriate liquid for that type of drain. If a clogged drain is pouring water back into your house, call a plumber immediately, as this may be the sign of sewage backup or another type of problem that only professional plumbers are qualified to address.

Regular Plumbing Inspections

One of the best tips for homeowners is to have your plumbing inspected regularly. Plumbers in Laguna Niguel can check for abnormalities or leaks and deal with small problems before they become serious ones. Early leak detection and repair helps to protect your home from major problems and also saves you a substantial amount of money in the long run. Never hesitate to contact a licensed plumber if you think a plumbing problem may be underway.



Common Plumbing Noises and What They Mean

Leaking pipeOver the past 30 years of being a plumber in Laguna Niguel, I’ve heard every noise you can imagine come out of pipes. Most people expect to hear a certain number of noises throughout a house. However, some sounds indicate the need to contact a professional plumber, and it is important to understand those noises and what they mean. Below are some essential tips on how to differentiate normal sounds in a home from those that may indicate trouble.


When a faucet is turned off, regardless of where it is located in the home, it is never normal to hear a loud “water hammer” sound. The latter is a phrase used to describe a distinct banging noise that happens when pipes are beginning to feel the stress of use and age. This water hammer sound may also occur if a clog has formed in the air chambers of the pipe valves. If this is the case, the chambers must be cleaned and any worn out parts must be replaced. Loud banging almost always indicates the need for evaluation by plumbing professionals.

Running Water

Many homeowners are apt to hear running water noise, if it is present, after they retire and the house is quiet. A continuous stop and start pattern of running water is most likely from a commode. However, this noise may also be heard near the home’s water heater. Regardless of its source, it should be analyzed by a plumber to determine whether or not a problem is underway.

Shaking or Thumping

Pipes always shake and move to some degree when water is being run, but if this shaking is very noticeable, the pipes may have loosened over time. Items such as mounting straps and similar fixtures may need to be replaced, and therefore a shaking sound should never be ignored.


A ticking sound is usually the home’s water meter. Although it may seem as if the sound is coming from within the home, this sound is transmitted by the pipes within the dwelling. If it is indeed the meter, the ticking sound will only be heard when someone in the house is running water. Although it may be harmless, it could also be a sign that meter replacement is needed.

Gurgling or Bubbling

A loud gurgling noise coming from a kitchen or bathroom drain is typically never a good sign: this sound indicates air pockets that are situated around clogs in the pipes. If the gurgling occurs with all the home’s drains, however, the drain vents are usually the problem. If only one drain makes this noise, simply unclogging the pipe may be all that is necessary.

Screeching or Whistling

If a noise similar to a whistle or a high-pitched whirring sound is present, the bathroom plumbing is almost always to blame. If the home has baseboard hot-water heating units or radiators, however, there may also be a problem with air in the water line. A malfunctioning or worn out pressure reducing valve in the bathroom or kitchen may be the culprit as well. Additionally, the pressure reducing valve for the entire dwelling may require an adjustment, or it may have simply exceeded its lifespan and must therefore be replaced with a new unit. Whatever the issue is, further damage may occur if plumbing noises are ignored. For this reason, it is best to have this and any strange sound evaluated promptly by a plumber in Laguna Niguel. This will ensure that small, inexpensive repairs do not turn into costly and time-consuming projects.

Everyday Items That Should Not Be Put Down Drains

Woman Plunging DrainIn most cases, blocked drains are caused by throwing items that cannot be dissolved into your drain. Lots of people think that liquids are safer on plumbing because it’s in your house but you will be surprised to learn that there are many everyday products and liquids that can cause major problems in your plumbing. Here are household items that do not belong in your drain.

Paper Towels, Wet Wipes and Cotton Balls

Toilet paper is designed to be flushed down the toilet since it breaks down when it comes into contact with water; however, other paper objects are more durable, and instead of dissolving in your drain, they tend to block up the pipes, and this increases the probability of sewer backup and ultimately overflow. And if this happens, you’ll need a lot more paper towels to sort it out.

Fact, Grease and Cooking Oil

Over time, any type of cooking fat will create a build up and lead to a blocked kitchen sink as well as blocked drains. Some of these items may be composted however they may also attract animals. There are several options for better disposal such as community center recycling as they accept this compost for bio-diesel purposes.

Hair and Dental Floss

Our plumbers know that it’s not realistic to think that people can keep every strand of hair out of the bathroom sink, or shower drain. However you should avoid throwing bunches of hair down your drain to the best of your ability. The same applies to dental floss since both hair and dental floss can stick to the inside of your pipes on their way down and ultimately cause a blockage.


Although it’s common sense to most people that diapers do not belong down the drain, you may be unpleasantly surprised at how many people actually consider and actually throw diapers down the drain. The same goes for feminine hygiene products. Once these products get clogged in your drain, a  plumber will have to be called. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that a plunger can dislodge. In lots of cases, diapers and feminine hygiene products tend to get stuck deep into your pipes, and a professional may actually have to tear up your lawn to fix the problem.

Coffee and Eggshells

Lots of people are under the perception that coffee ground and eggshells belong in your garbage disposal. However, the opposite is true. These items often cause clogged drains and build up a blockage in your plumbing that could end up causing you a lot of damage and cost you a lot of money in the long run. Therefore it is advisable that these kitchen scraps are composted instead.


Believe it or not, lots of people pour paint down the sink. Under no circumstances are you supposed to pour paint down your drain. Instead, you should take it to your local community recycling center as it can negatively impact the ecosystems and the water supply in your community.

Cleaning Products

Although cleaning products are designed to clean your surfaces inside the home, many of them contain harmful chemicals and phosphates that ultimately affect the environment negatively. Some of these products combine in your drain and create a corrosive substance that eventually weakens your pipes.

So as you can see, it counts to use your discretion when it comes to what items to dispose of through your drain and what not to. Our plumbers in Ladera Ranch encounter a lot of home owners who are simply unaware that certain items can be harmful to plumbing, so we hope this article helps to prevent some future plumbing problems.

How to Detect a Slab Leak

Illustration of a plumber holding a wrenchIt’s an unfortunate reality that a lot of southern California homeowners are very familiar with what a slab leak is.

For those of you who have not had the misfortune of running into one, we’ll explain it briefly. Slab leaks are simply leaks that have developed in the copper water lines running below the steel and concrete slab foundation of your home. Slab leaks can occur both on the drainage and the pressure side of your foundation.

If the leak occurs on the pressure side, it can be detected relatively easily and quickly. On the other hand, the leaks on the drainage side are much more difficult to detect and a considerable amount of time may pass before you catch a hint of it. However, whatever is the case, slab leaks can cause a host of problems including steep hike in water bills, mold and termite infestation and most importantly, serious damage to your foundation.

In an effort to help homeowners minimize the damage that these types of leaks can cause to their home, our plumbers in Ladera Ranch have put together a list of tips for detecting a slab leak early on.

Steep Hike in Water Bills

If you find that your water bills have gotten up a good few notches all of a sudden, this is another sign of a slab leak.

Some other signs of slab leaks include faint rumbling sound of running water of undetected source; an improperly functioning toilet, showers or tubs; a strong moldy odor around the house.

All of the above issues may not always arise from a slab leak, nevertheless it is always wise to give a call to a leak detection specialist if you notice any of these signs. Slab leaks, if left untreated, can lead to serious and expensive damages to your whole house and foundation.

Water Meter Test

First, make sure that no water pipe is in use. That means all appliances using water are turned off, no faucets are running and so on. Now head outside and have a look at your water meter. If you find that the dial of the water meter is still moving, then it is highly likely that you have a slab leak somewhere in your home.

Again, make sure no water pipe is in use and check the reading on your water meter. Keep things as they are (that is, all pipes turned off) for at least half an hour and take the reading again. If there is an increase in the number, this is a sign of a water leak.

Some advanced water meters come with built-in leak detectors which makes the task easier for the homeowner. If the detector (typically, a small wheel or a triangle) is moving or spinning, you’ll know you have a leak somewhere.

Cracks in Floors or Walls & Mold infestation

Examine under your carpet and if you find too much moisture or mold, this is a sign of a potential slab leak. The same goes with cracks on your tile floors and walls or baseboards. As the leak happens, the water pressure underneath your foundation changes and this in time can cause the whole foundation to shift. And that can result in cracks in walls or floors. The best way to check for these is doing a regular inspection of your basement. If a leak occurs, the basement will get damaged first.

Check Water Pressure

Use a water pressure gauge to check the water pressure of your home from time to time. Screw the gauge onto the faucet that is in front of the house and from where the water comes into the house. While performing this test, all water faucets and water using appliances must be turned off. If at any time, you notice that the water pressure has gone too low from what is normal, you may be certain of a slab leak on your home.




5 Signs You Need to Call a Plumber Immediately

Leaky sink repairA burst water pipe is an obvious sign that you need to call an emergency plumber right away. Other signs, however, may not be so evident. By becoming familiar with warning signs of potential plumbing problems, you can reduce the risk of serious water damage to your home.

When it comes to plumbing, it’s better to err on the safe side than be sorry. If not taken care of, small plumbing issues can become major problems that cost thousands of dollars to repair. Call a plumber immediately if you notice one or more of the following warning signs in your home.

Gurgling Noise in Pipes

If you hear a gurgling noise coming from your toilet, shower or dishwasher when not in use, this could be an early warning sign of a seriously clogged drain that could cause a backup. As water gets trapped in the drain, it makes this gurgling sound. If the problem’s not rectified quickly, you risk having water back up into your home and cause a flood. When you hear gurgling sounds, turn off your main water valve and call a plumber immediately.

Although it’s normal for a drain to get clogged every now and then, drains that are constantly clogging will continue to cause problems until a permanent solution can be found. If DIY measures aren’t working, call a plumber to get to the root of the problem. You may need to reline or replace old, corroded pipes to keep them draining as they should.

Sewage or Sulfur Smell

If you notice a foul sewage or sulfur smell around your home, a sewer pipe may have broken beneath your house. This problem needs to be taken care of right away to avoid damage to your foundation. If anyone suffers from allergies, asthma or bronchial problems in your home, the smell alone can pose a risk to their health. It’s best to call a plumber immediately to investigate and rectify the source of your problem.

Warped Hardwood Flooring

Slab leaks are water leaks that occur when corroded water pipes spring leaks or burst under your home. Left unchecked, slab leaks can cause untold damage to your home’s structure. Ceiling stains, persistent wet spots on cement, damp carpeting and warped hardwood flooring are just a few telltale signs of slab leaks. If you suspect you may have water leaks in your foundation, it’s crucial to call a plumber in Ladera Ranch right away.

Low Water Pressure/Running Out of Water

Low water pressure on a consistent basis could be due to a cracked or corroded pipe where water is leaking out. Fractured pipes can also be the source of your household running out of water when you least expect it as your water tanks are emptying at a faster rate.

Loss of water pressure or running water can wreak havoc in a household, making daily activities such as cooking, bathing and clothes washing more difficult. You’ll also be paying more for water consumption and electricity to heat new water to replace the hot water that’s leaking out.


Water leaks can cause moisture buildup in your home, resulting in the growth of mold. Mold is not only unsightly but can cause any number of health problems. If you notice mold growing in damp areas of your home, call a plumber to check for water leaks and get them fixed. Even small water leaks can cause mold growth over time. A plumber can help repair water leaks to nip this problem in the bud.

Working with a qualified plumber in Ladera Ranch can save you time, money and frustration in protecting your home.

Are Flushable Wet Wipes Actually Flushable?

Flushable Wet WipeSewer systems all over the globe are fighting a new menace; disposable wet wipes. In recent years, these wipes have begun creating clogs in both house pipes and municipal sewers. Fixing these issues is costing a great deal of money, and some people have filed lawsuits to put pressure on manufacturers. Lawmakers are also in talks to introduce legislature to regulate the products and reduce local government expenses.

The Department of Environmental Protection in New York is among those pushing for regulation. It is currently spending $10 million annually just to manage the cloths trapped in the sewers. With the demand for wipes growing 7% per year, the DEP hopes that this intervention can mitigate the problem before it’s too late.

The Impact at Home

According to our plumbers in Orange County, even the disposable wet wipes that are marketed as being “flushable” should not go down your drain.

“The problem with wet wipes is that it could take them weeks or months to disintegrate, where as normal toilet paper will disintegrate in a matter of hours. The clogs that we’ve seen from wet wipes can be very expensive to repair. If you feel like you need to use them, we recommend throwing them in the trash instead of flushing them” said one emergency plumber in Ladera Ranch.

Clearing Up the Confusion

Some consumers are aware of the issues but they may not be properly equipped to handle the matter. There is much confusion over the materials that can be flushed down the drains and those that can’t. The marketing language used by manufacturers makes things even harder to distinguish.

Companies are conscious about the demand for disposable wipes so some label their products as “flushable”. They may do it to boost sales without any solid proof for their claim. Shoppers purchase these thinking that they are being responsible, but they end up contributing to the chaos, and potentially damaging their own plumbing.

Some international trade organizations have sought to clean up their own ranks by publishing a voluntary code of practice. This encourages manufacturers to mark non-flushable wipes with a clear “Do Not Flush” logo. While laudable, the vagueness of the code has allowed companies to take shortcuts.

The absence of an assigned area means that the logo can be placed anywhere. Some choose to put it at the back. Others hide it beneath the flap or in the fine print. A bill in New York aims to stop these deceptive practices. Instructions will have to be more prominent. Nonfactual claims will be fined.

Government Regulation vs Self-regulation

The lawsuits launched against manufacturers are making the industry take labelling more seriously. No one wants to have a bad reputation and pay hefty fines if these are avoidable. Legal restrictions are also being eyed in a number of states. However, the industry has strong lobbyists that frustrate the efforts.

Finley is not convinced that government regulation is the way to go given the sluggish process. Bills take time to pass and implement. They are also hard to change. These aren’t ideal when dealing with such a dynamic industry. Donovan Richards, a New York City Councilman, has a different take. He does not believe in self-regulation as companies have been sluggish in dealing with the problems. Both agree that public awareness needs to be raised in order to achieve meaningful progress.