When thinking about home safety, Huntsville homeowners are concerned more with preventing fires from electrical appliances or wood-burning sources than plumbing.
Plumbing? Believe it or not, plumbing provides different, but very real, threats around the home. In this post we look at plumbing safety, offering homeowners something to think about.
That Rotten Egg Smell
One of many plumbing safety issues to be aware of deals with sewer gases.
Be alert to unpleasant smells that have no obvious source. These smells may indicate a failure in your plumbing waste disposal system and household ventilation.
Normally, your home’s drain traps block gases associated with grey and black water waste coming from your bathrooms and kitchen. Grey water is the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and kitchen appliances.
Ventilation pipes exhaust gases and their unpleasant odors to the outdoors.
However, if a clog or other problem develops within the waste ventilation setup, sewer gas can emanate throughout your home. Not only does it small bad, it can pose a health hazard to occupants.
Sewer gas may consist of methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and other toxic gases. The mixture is potentially flammable as well, although that is rare.
If you detect the smell of sewer gas on a consistent basis — not just once in a while — call a Huntsville, AL plumber or plumbing contractor for an inspection.
A way to prevent the invasion of sewer gas is running water regularly through all the drains in the home and to keep drain traps filled and working properly.
Home Inspection Plumbing Checklist
Here is an unofficial plumbing safety checklist.
- Make sure drainage pipes are solid and are not showing signs of leaks at the joints or from the bottom of the P trap.
- Look for signs that water has been dripping from the supply pipe connections. These include corrosion on the supply line fittings and valves and stains on the bottom of the cabinet.
- Make sure supply line valves are not frozen or stuck and can be turned off and back on easily and that they don’t leak when in use.
- Look at the supply lines to toilets. Make sure there are no leaks, that the valves can be turned off and on easily and that they don’t leak when activated.
- Look around dishwashers, refrigerators with ice makers, sinks, bathtubs, showers and toilets for signs of cracked or warping flooring.
- Listen for sounds of dripping water or periodic running of the toilet supply water. Note if any of your sink faucets are dripping or if your tub(s) or shower(s) are dripping.
Other Areas in the Home
- Make sure the valves for the supply lines to your washing machine can be turned off and back on easily and that they don’t leak when activated.
- In rooms directly below upper-floor bathrooms, look for stains or discoloration on walls or ceilings or a musty smell. If one appears, investigate immediately. Some repairs are do-it-yourself, while others may require you to call a Huntsville, AL plumber or plumbing contractor. Replacing damaged ceilings, even matching paint and texture, is not an easy task.
- Check outdoor hose bibs to make sure that they are not dripping.
- Look for persistent signs of rust in the water.
- Older houses may have cast iron drain pipes where the joints are filled with fiber and a lead seal. Check joints to make sure there are no signs of leaks.
- If you have a basement drain and a sump pump, make sure both work properly.
- If you have a crawl space, make sure there are no indications of water leaks from first floor plumbing and no open drains where a pipe may have broken loose.
- Check your water bills against your sense of your water use. A significant increase could indicate a leak if you have not been watering a lot more or washing clothes more than usual.
Other Points of Interest
- Automatic Anti-Scald This feature at each shower fixture to keep water from getting too hot.
- Traps: Traps at each fixture to keep harmful sewer gases from leaking into the home. A trap is a curved section of plumbing pipe that seals the pipe to prevent sewer gas from getting into the home. It’s also known as a p-trap. Traps also help prevent unwanted items, like hair or debris, or things that fall down the drain, like rings, from going down the drain and getting stuck in the waste system.
- Waste Vent Pipes: Drain waste vent pipes to push out harmful sewer gases through the roof.
- Gas Lines: The plumber also installs the gas lines in the home because the materials and tools needed are similar to those traditionally used for plumbing. Gas supply lines can be black iron or flexible stainless steel or flexible copper pipe. Gas is distributed through the home by a single pipeline that has other pipes branching from it, or by a manifold, which is a pipe with several outlets for supplying multiple pipes.
- Water Heater: The plumbing system also includes the water heater. The most common types of water heaters are gas, electric, oil or propane. If you have a gas water heater, direct vented is most desirable. If that’s not an option, the second choice is power vented. Direct vented and power assisted are terms that describe how gases generated by the water heater are released from your home, which is critical for you and your family’s health. Direct and power vented gas hot water heaters are less susceptible to combustion gases flowing back into the home because they force combustion gases out of the house. The efficiency of a water heater is measured by its Energy Factor (EF). Hot water tanks with an EF greater than 0.56 for gas-fired units and 0.88 for electric units are recommended. For an upgraded price, you may be able to choose a heat pump water heater or instantaneous water heater. These are more efficient water heaters. You should discuss the features and benefits of both with your builder.
- Circulation System: If your home is very large, there may be long pipe lengths between the water heater and one or more of the bathrooms, causing a delay in the hot water getting to that bathroom. Ask your builder if this is the case in your home and what the delay might be. If it’s more than you’re willing to deal with, ask about installing a circulation system that can minimize the delay.
- Inspection: As an additional health and safety measure, a specialized building again when the home is finished — right before closing — to ensure all codes are followed and the plumbing is safe for the occupants.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer who enjoys making minor household repairs, take safety precautions when working on your plumbing.
- Always wear protective goggles when working under the sink to prevent water spray from getting in your eyes. Goggles also protect your eyes should a tool slip from above. Wearing flexible gloves helps to prevent tool slippage and associated injuries.
- Ask a family member to stand by while you are fixing a leak. He or she can hand you the tools you need so that you don’t have to move in and out of tight spaces, bumping your head. If a leak occurs, your helper can quickly shut off the water before serious damage is done.
- Also, practice safety when using power tools during a plumbing repair. Create a dry space where you can operate your tools safely without getting yourself or your power tools wet. If this is not possible, trust the repair to your plumbing technician.