This is the first of a 3-part series entitled “This Old House has Charm but This Old Plumbing Stinks” that explores the struggles of old house plumbing.
Cincinnati’s residential charm is a heritage of stately old brick homes that are the crown jewels in our Queen City. We have one — a 1920’s English Tudor that we love…mostly. If you are in the market for a vintage home (or already have one), below are a few laundry area thoughts to keep in mind.
In a 21st century world, the unfinished basement-with-a-coal-room has a functional appeal of zilch. Our old house laundry area is not designed to handle the load and doing laundry is a vicious cycle (see what I did there?). If our laundry area were a baseball game, it would strike out on all fronts.
Strike 1: Double bay, 4-foot concrete laundry sink. Perfect for a wringer washer, not so much for a modern Maytag. The drain connections are not up to code, and the sink consumes the space needed to arrange our washer/dryer into side-by-side setup. That’s correct – our antique plumbing prevents us from having a side-by-side washer dryer. Ugghhh.
· Foul #1: Electricity Shortfalls. Old houses are notorious for outdated wiring and few power outlets. Our old house basement has 4 walls, 8 outlets and knob-and-tube wiring. The lack of outlets and the wiring makes washer/dryer placement a real challenge. See Strike 2, below.
Strike 2: Clothes dryer hookups are an afterthought. Clothes dryers were invented in 1938, 12+ years after our house was built. As a result, the gas/electric dryer hookups are poorly positioned, at the bottom of the basement steps. Ipso facto, the dryer is poorly positioned, at the bottom of the steps. Talk about tight spaces.
· Foul #2: Old Pipes and leaky vent stacks. According to one home inspector, “Any plumbing from the ’60s or older is on its last legs.” In some cases, a whole-house re-piping may be needed to replace galvanized pipes, corroded and leaking copper vent stacks, and to address other old pipe issues.
· Foul #3: Rusted floor drains. In an older home, odors coming from basement drains are a sign that the trap has rusted away over the years, allowing sewer gas to escape into your basement.
Strike 3: Very old water heater, improperly vented. Our water heater is over 20 years old and the vent pipe runs up through a small chimney. Inside the chimney, the vent sweats and the moisture is absorbed by our brick, which then encourages some kind of crystalline growth on our brick.
So, What’s the Game Plan for Improvements?
Although our laundry area looks bad in black and white, a few “almost DIY” improvements can be made for a relatively low cost:
The DIY Activities:
• Remove the concrete sink
• Fix the rusted drain with a “floor drain trap seal” kit (we did this and it’s an awesome DIY repair)
• Buy a new water heater that vents directly outside
• Unhook the dryer (NOTE: turn off the gas valve) and move it next to the clothes washer
The Professional Activities (not DIY):
• Move the gas line/electrical connections to a better position
• Install/pressure test the water heater
• Connect the new gas line to the dryer
Water You Waiting For? The professionals at Allied Reddi-Rooter are available evaluate and advise on upgrading your old house plumbing. In cases where the upgrade is a large project, Ray and his team can help prioritize the upgrades to be easier on the wallet. For more information, call (513) 396-5300; and visit our Deals page
When it comes to fixing leaky faucets, leaky toilets, or general home plumbing repairs, the next best thing to having a plumber is having the right plumbing tools.
Below is our go-to list of essential tools for any home or small business toolkit.
1. Plunger – The icon of a plumber’s trade, and found in bathrooms all over America. Plungers are available in two styles, “cup” and “phalange.” Use the phalange style for toilet clogs – the elongated bottom creates a good seal in the toilet bowl and helps ensure a good vacuum during the plunging process. Use the “cup plunger” for use on flat surfaces, such as a basement floor drain area. It’s good to keep both on hand.
2. Small Wire Snips/Cutter – Similar to pliers, a small wire snips are indispensable for cutting copper wire and zip ties. NOTE: Large snips, a.k.a., “tin snips”, are also nice to have on hand, especially if you are tackling a large project that involved metal flashing.
3. Propane Torch – One of our favorite tools. Inexpensive and without equal for removing rusted bolts (on automobile license plates, swing sets, and practically everything in the garage), igniting gas grills, or sweating copper pipe for soldering. “Torch kits” that fit standard hand-held propane tanks are inexpensive and widely available at hardware stores.
4. Dremel tool/rotary tool (and the attachment kits and bits) – Ideal for making access holes in drywall, cutting bolts (when the propane torch just doesn’t get the j-o-b done) trimming floor and wall tiles to fit around drains or fittings, sharpening tools, or grinding down rough edges, or just drilling holes, a rotary tool is an excellent multi-purpose choice.
5. Pipe Cutter (a.k.a. tubing cutter) – Similar to a C-clamp, tubing cutters are ideal for cutting copper or aluminum tubing (useful not only for plumbing, but also for making too-long drapery rods fit small openings. Cutters come in multiple sizes, we prefer the mini-sizes for household needs.
6. Vise-Grips (and other pliers) – A good, solid set of pliers is important when it comes to home repairs. We have two sets of Vise-Grips (one large, one small) — those chunky adjustable pliers that are able to be “locked on” to bolts, pipes, and other objects that require unyielding leverage during a repair job. Vise-Grips are used in conjunction with a second set of pliers or a wrench when superior traction is needed to remove stubborn bolts.
Highly recommended: Needle nose pliers with insulated grips. We would be at a complete loss without our needle nose pliers and Vise-Grips.
7. Accessories (Teflon tape/O-rings/pipe dope/plumbers putty) – Inexpensive, yet imperative to a successful, leak-free repair. A $10 investment will like procure all three of these items and will remain in your inventory for years.
8. Screw Drivers and Allen Wrenches – Many kitchen and bath fixtures are held together with Allen screws –small screws with a hexagonal opening. An Allen wrench set is similar to a Swiss Army knife – every size you need in one handy bundle
9. Pipe Wrench – Another iconic plumbing tool – this adjustable wrench is available in multiple sizes – the large, heavy sizes can be expensive and seldom fit in the toolbox. Note that that wrench teeth can quickly damage brass fittings or finishes on fixtures; use with care. Many an amateur plumber has “laid on the wrench” and ruined the fixture before they realized it. When it doubt, wrap the fixture or fitting with a thick soft towel and proceed with caution.
Water You Waiting For? If tackling plumbing repairs is low on your to-do list, Allied Reddi-Rooter is available 24/7, and we bring our own tools. Call Ray today for a free estimate: 513-396-5300.
Plumbing Maintenance, Good Drains and Visual Inspections Make All the Difference.
With the recent wet weather, pools of standing, stagnant water can go unnoticed for weeks at a time, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Eliminating standing water takes a little effort, but pays off in spades. Below are a few pointers:
Leaking Exterior Faucets
Leaking faucets can create puddles of accumulated water that are attractive to lady mosquitoes. Additionally, leaky faucets are a real drain on your water bill (see what I did there?)
To save money and dry up wet areas, repair or replace leaky or damaged faucets. Use a broom to sweep away any small puddles that have crept into your patio, sidewalk or driveway.
Clogged Driveway Drains and Broken Drain Tiles
Driveway drains can become filled with dirt and flood during heavy rains, which may contribute to a standing water problem. It’s also common for the drain tile that runs from the house to the street to become broken, especially in older neighborhoods.
Broken tiles (a.k.a. main drain lines) can create soggy spots in the yard that are unsightly and may have a sewage odor. And very green grass.
Manage Standing Water by Walking Around…Your Yard
Although the comfort of an air-conditioned living room is delightful, it’s well worth it to stroll the perimeter of the yard and look for standing water. Typical ‘hot spots’ include:
· Gutters – Keep ‘em clean! When gutters are clogged, water builds up and attracts insects (and tiny trees take root).
· Downspouts (the flexi-plastic kind) – Ensure water flows away from the downspout and is not accumulating in any bends or curves.
· Containers (bird baths, wrinkled tarps, buckets, bottle caps, litter, cups, toys, etc) – Even the smallest amount of water can quickly become a habitat for mosquito larvae. For bird baths, replace the water weekly and keep the birdbath container free of algae.
· Old tires – The most challenging container of all- trying to remove standing water from an old tire is hard. TIP: drill water drainage holes into the tire tread or contact your local waste company to find out how to dispose of old tires.
· Window wells – Everything (water, spiders, potato chip bags, toys) collects in the window well! Window well covers are a good investment, especially if standing window water tends to seep into your basement. TIP: a portable utility pump is a handy way to quickly drain standing water.
Water You Waiting For? The professionals at Allied Reddi-Rooter can help with all your water problems, whether it’s standing water or (over)flowing water. Call Ray today for a free quote or over-the-phone consultation. (513) 396-5300.