A major plumbing problem, such as a water heater tank burst or a sewer backup, is every homeowner’s nightmare—and for good reason. These major plumbing issues can cost thousands to repair and clean up after. The good news is that not all of these issues are inevitable. In fact, some of them can be avoided by being proactive with home maintenance and small changes in behavior. In this article, we’ll review three of the most common plumbing issues—water heater trouble, frozen pipes, and sewer line clogs and cracks—as well as how you can potentially avoid them in your home.
Water heater issues
Without a working water heater, you’re in for some cold showers. In a standard water heater, water is heated and stored in the tank, which is slightly pressurized. This combination of heat, metal, water, and pressure can eventually lead to problems such as corrosion and tank failure. Nothing lasts forever, after all, and the day will eventually come when your water heater needs to be replaced. You’ll want to do so before the tank shows signs of failure or the water heater stops working altogether.
Avoid this by:
If your water heater is more than 8-10 years old, start making plans to replace it, as it could be nearing the end of its operational lifespan. If you’ve been performing regular maintenance—including an annual drain-and-flush, checking the pressure-relief valve, or replacing the anode rod—you might be able to get several more years out of the system.
Watch out for the early warning signs of tank failure. This can include visible hairline cracks in the tank shell, water pooling at the bottom of the unit, or a pressure-relief valve that is constantly opening and releasing water and air. If you’re seeing any of this, you need to call in a plumber for emergency service.
On the coldest nights of the year, frozen pipes represent a major threat to your home. If you’ve ever accidentally left a can of soda in the freezer, you’ll understand what happens: liquids physically expand as they freeze, putting pressure on their container. As the water in your home’s pipes freezes, it puts incredible stress on the pipe itself. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to the pipe bursting open—just like that can of soda in the freezer.
For your home’s pipes to freeze, several conditions are needed. First, the temperature outside needs to be below-freezing—certainly possible on some of the coldest nights of the year. Second, the heat in your home needs to be not functioning, which can happen if your furnace stops working.
Avoid this by:
While not directly related to your pipes and plumbing, make sure your furnace gets looked at before winter arrives to ensure that it’s running right. Most frozen pipe incidents occur when a home’s heating malfunctions and shuts down overnight.
For exterior pipes or pipes in exterior walls, talk to your plumber about the potential for adding pipe insulation. In the event of heat loss on the coldest nights of the year, pipe insulation can slow down the temperature exchange process, buying you and your pipes valuable hours.
Finally, on particularly cold nights, let your sink faucets drip. Moving water freezes more slowly, so this slight movement in the pipes will help stave off frozen pipe issues.
Sewer line cracks and clogs
Your home’s sewer line runs under your front or side yard to the municipal sewer under the street. Sewer lines tend to encounter one of two critical issues: cracks or clogs. Cracks occur when the earth shifts around the line, the line material deteriorates, or thirsty tree roots grow around the line. Clogs can be caused by either tree roots growing into the sewer line or are the result of certain food waste or non-organic trash getting stuck in the line and eventually forming a clog inside of it.
By the way, if your home has a septic system, many of these same principles apply. Septic lines can also be at risk of fractures, tree root instruction, or clogging.
Avoid this by:
Watch what you put down the drain of your kitchen sink. Just because you have a garbage disposal doesn’t mean everything is safe to go through it. Cooking grease and oil is particularly dangerous: it can enter the drain as a liquid, cool, and then solidify inside the line. Other common food products that adhere to the inside of sewer lines include uncooked rice and pasta, flour, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Just dispose of these in the trash, and tell your family to do the same.
This same principle applies to what you put down the toilet. Never flush non-organic waste—including plastics, sanitary items, or so-called “flushable” wipes.
When faced with a plumbing emergency, take fast action
As a homeowner, you’re not going to be able to prevent absolutely every problem in your home. That’s just not possible. However, what you can do is take quick action when a plumbing emergency does happen. When you notice a pipe leak, a sewer line issue, or water pooled at the bottom of your water heater, immediately call in a plumber. When it comes to preventing water damage, every hour counts.
For a comprehensive overview of some of the most common plumbing problems that homeowners face, as well as what they can do to prevent them, be sure to take a look at this infographic:
Fantastic customer service. We were out of town when tenants needed help with a plumbing issue. They let us know who was being dispatched to our house then followed up with a very detailed message post work. I would definitely use these guys again.
I can’t say enough good things about this company. Had a sewer repair needed and had a very short amount of time due to closing on a house sale. Every single person I encountered from Marquita doing logistics for my job to every member of the work crew. Friendly, communicated well, totally responsive and really cared to help me through this very stressful job. All of the people I encountered were role models for what a well run service business should be. Much thanks and appreciation. You’re great.
We had a leak and no hot water. Apollo came out same day and not only fixed the problem but made it better and gave us some good advice on our system. Very reasonable and great communication. Would definitely recommend.
Don is always so helpful and knowledgeable. I really appreciate all the crew members on the Apollo team. I'm a Property Manager so typically I will have several projects for Apollo to address during a single visit. They are easy to interact with and EXCELLENT plumbers. I highly recommend Apollo.
Scott, I would like to personally thank you for expediting our plumbing crisis we recently had. If the situation was not resolved immediately we would have had to close for a couple of days. This occured on a Friday for for us a pizza restaurant this would of been devastating. Thank you so much.
STARK STREET PIZZA COMPANY
It's my absolute pleasure to recommend Karen Johnson at Apollo Plumbing Service. I have had the pleasure of taking a class taught by Karen. Her knowledge and expertise is a huge advantage to my entire office. I know if I am in a pinch I can call the office and talk to someone! Their customer service is truly amazing, and I have had compliments from customers in the past.
NEXTHOME NW REALTY
We are a Wendy's Restaurant franchisee in Vancouver, Washington and I want to personally thank Scott and his crew at Apollo for invaluable and excellent service to our restaurants over the last several years. We have used Scott's company after failing miserably with Apollo's many competitors. We tried every one before discovering the extraordinary service we enjoy from Scott and his techs.