Take the Fright Out of These Ghastly Plumbing Problems
It’s that eerie time of year, a kind of “Twilight Zone” period when animals begin to act strange, objects seem to come to life, and people are easily spooked. Perhaps you’ve noticed that certain elements of your home have been off or out of the ordinary. Or, even worse, you’ve been hearing strange noises that seem to come from within the walls themselves. Fortunately, most of these terrifying troubles are made worse by our wild imaginations.
A little ingenuity and some elbow grease will fix these four scary plumbing problems before you can unwrap that first miniature candy bar…
Pipes That Go Bump in the Night
Do you ever hear creaky, groaning noises coming from your walls in the middle of the night, followed by what sounds like the slam of a hammer? What you’re hearing is a phenomenon known as “water hammer,” which occurs when pipes are not properly braced or are set up at incorrect angles inside the walls. When water flow in your home slows and then stops, a sudden shockwave causes the pipes to shake and slam into the walls.
To try to fix the issue yourself, switch off your water supply and then turn the lowest and highest faucets in your home to a light drip. Next, turn the faucets off and switch your water supply back on—this will introduce an air cushion that should help alleviate the water hammer. If the weird noises persist, contact a professional before the problem leads to busted pipes, damaged fittings, and broken appliances.
A “fatberg” is a coagulation of fat, oil, grease, and other nasty stuff that forms when you flush things that you shouldn’t down your drains. Once this yucky waste gets into your pipes, it cools down and turns into a solid, causing it to stick to pipe walls and form clogs instead of moving through your home. The longer these blobs remain in your pipes, the more they congeal and grow like some sort of gruesome creature.
If you have a clogged drain in your home and you suspect a fatberg is the culprit, here’s a quick and easy DIY solution you can try to flush it out: Stir two tablespoons of dishwasher detergent into a pan of boiling water, and then slowly pour the hot, soapy mixture into the drain. This trick is often effective in breaking up fatty grease clogs because the mixture returns the blob to a liquid state so that it can be rinsed from your pipes. If you still experience clogging issues, dial up a pro and have them come take a look.
The Gurgling Toilet Monster
A toilet that emits a gurgling or bubbling noise is definitely not normal and should be investigated ASAP. The sound is an indication that negative pressure is building up in the drain line and creating an airlock. This abnormal suction eventually releases, resulting in the gurgling you hear coming from your toilet bowl. The negative air pressure can be caused by one of three things: a clog in your bathroom pipes, a blocked sewer line, or an issue with your home’s ventilation stack.
For a simple method that can dislodge mild to moderately severe clogs, try sealing off all of your other bathroom drains (sink, shower, tub, etc.) with duct tape and then give the toilet 10-15 firm plunges. This may create enough pressure to suck out whatever is causing the blockage, but if it doesn’t, you could be dealing with a more serious problem such as a broken sewer line or a collapsed vent stack. In that case, it’s time to call up a plumbing expert to take care of it.
An Underground Ticking Time Bomb
When the heating element inside a water heater is activated, it quickly boils the water stored inside. As the water gets hotter, it begins to expand, straining against the sides of the big metal tank and generating a fair amount of pressure. After this process has occurred thousands of times, it can start to produce leaks, ruptures, or, in extreme cases, an explosion.
Most modern water heaters have a built-in temperature-pressure-relief (TPR) valve designed to keep water from getting too hot and to release excess pressure. You can test your TPR valve by flipping the attached lever—it should release a bit of water or steam and then automatically switch the lever back into place. If you suspect your TPR valve is broken, or you hear your water heater making a “popping” noise similar to a popcorn machine, immediately contact a professional.
Have a plumbing problem that’s too frightening to handle on your own? We’re happy to help! Maplewood Plumbing has been serving St. Louis-area homeowners for more than 30 years, and we’ve earned an A+ BBB rating and multiple industry awards. Give us a call at 314-207-2503 or fill out the contact form here to get in touch.
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