Top plumbing fixes for your home

Got a leaky toilet? Pete and Rob talk with Shawn Vandenbos and Jeff McCoy from Beacon Plumbing about the top 10 plumbing fixes you can do yourself at home.

1. Summer furnace maintenance. "Now is the ultimate time to do a service and tune," says Jeff. "We're past furnace season and the furnace is done running. Now it's time to take care of it. Let's pull the filters out, let's check the air quality and make sure it's capturing all the particulates." If your filter is not getting all of the particulates, he recommends changing the micron size on your air filter, or moving to a different kind, like charcoal or HEPA. Bear in mind that the lower the micron, the less you're going to filter out, and the higher the number, the more you will filter. He also recommend hiring someone to vacuum out your ducts biannually.

2. Toilet failures. "Reactive maintenance" is a necessity that's easy to spot. If your toilet is backing up, or you're having problems with your septic tank, chances are, you will notice. But, according to Shawn, you should also have preventative maintenance performed on your toilet. Beacon Plumbing performs video inspections of your pipes and septic lines by threading a camera through your plumbing to "ensure there's no structural damage or wear," says Shawn. He recommends performing preventative maintenance every two years.

3. Floor drain maintenance. Many homes in Ballard and Fremont have emergency floor drains in their basement or stairwell. To prevent sewer gases from coming back through the drain, Shawn recommends pouring "a couple cups of vegetable oil down there." It doesn't evaporate, and will keep any gases from coming back up into your house.

4. Running toilet. Jeff recommends putting food coloring or a dye tablet in your toilet tank. Then, observe the bowl. "If the water in the bowl changes color, then you know you have a leak and it's time for a repair," he says. Or, if you're feeling like it's time for a whole new toilet, he suggests installing a water-saving toilet. These generally cost $450, and, Jeff says, pay for themselves in a few short years on your water bill.

5. Plugged bathroom sink. If you have a clogged sink, Jeff says not to use Drano. The causticity can eat through pipes, and cause a much larger problem than a clog. You can instead unscrew the nut on the pop-up assembly and remove the clog.

6. Garbage disposal. Jeff says the best way to take care of your garbage disposal is to make sure you run the water 20-30 seconds after hearing the "happy sound" of your garbage disposal. (The happy sound, in word format: clunk-clunk-clunk-clunk-znnhhhhh) This "flush[es] the food from your vertical line into your horizontal, larger line so that your laundry and toilet line can flush that out." To avoid calling a plumber to fix your garbage disposal, don't put anything stringy - like celery or onions - down your disposal, as well as starchy foods, eggshells and coffee grounds.

7. Dishwasher tips "Make sure you have a good seal around the outside door of your dishwasher so that you're not losing your heat during your heat or drying cycle through that seal," Jeff says. "You'll want to make sure that your system is plumbed into an air gap, garbage disposal, or an acceptable drain. The air gap is a way of venting that sewer gas. If it backs up, you'll know you have a problem."

Beacon Plumbing is a proud sponsor of Home Matters.

Home Matters with Pete and Rob can be heard on KIRO Radio every Saturday at 8 a.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m. or anytime at Like Home Matters on Facebook.

Cait Walsh, MyNorthwest Writer
Caitlyn Walsh is a regular lifestyles contributor for MyNorthwest. She enjoys reading and hiking, as well as perusing all the cat videos the Internet has to offer.
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from