Entertaining during the holiday season brings friends and family into your home. During this busy time if there’s a plumbing problem it seems like the worst possible time. But that’s not a coincidence — heavy uses brings additional stress, sometimes to the breaking point. And you want it fixed as soon as possible, before your guests arrive.
With all that extra cooking it should come as no surprise that clogged garbage disposals and kitchen sinks are the most common problem. But water heaters, showers, toilets, and more are also put to the test. Sometimes there’s a quick fix, sometimes you need emergency plumbing or same-day service for those urgent holiday problems.
Now, about those headaches and how to deal with them.
Slow drains can seem like just an annoyance, but that’s a clue you’ll soon have a backed up sink. Fats, oils, and grease building up in the drain lines are usually the cause. Add some food debris and you have an instant blockage.
Don’t panic — it may just be the drain strainer doing its job. But more likely you’ll need to deal with the drain itself. Running really hot water with a little dish-washing liquid may be enough. If not, the best next step is using a plunger. Liquid drain cleaners aren’t as effective on grease as they are on other clogs, so rather than loosing time heading off to the store you may want to try removing the U or J trap and clearing the line with a bent coat hanger.
Many people send more than they should down the garbage disposal, and it’s even more tempting to do so during the holidays. Fibrous materials such as potato peels and celery are often the culprits.
If you hear the garbage disposal trying to run but not rotating, it’s jammed. Unplug it, then loosen it up using the special tool that came with it, inserting the tool into the bottom and working back and forth. Lost that tool? A large Allen wrench may fit.
If there’s no sound at all it’s probably an electrical problem. A circuit breaker or the overheat-protection on the disposal may have tripped. Check your “fuse” box, and press the red reset button on the disposal.
Dishwasher overflow? That’s probably food debris blocking it’s internal drain. Bail it out, and find the drain basket. You may need to unscrew and remove the basket in order to clean it out.
Toilets, Tubs, and Showers
More people in the house mean more people using the bathroom.
If a toilet starts running continuously, remove the lid of the tank and have a look. The chain linking the flush-handle to the flap valve at the bottom of the tank may have caught on something. Or the flapper may be misaligned, or be simply too old to make a good seal. Toilet won’t flush? Maybe the tank is empty due to a failed float or valve. Or the flap valve may be leaking so much the tank can’t fill.
Then there’s those dreaded back-ups and overflows. They’re usually the result of some “foreign” object getting flushed. Especially if there’s curious young kids around. For these situations, sanitation is paramount. Open the bathroom window but keep the door closed. If you’re trying to remedy the situation yourself, wear rubber gloves and a face mask. If there hasn’t been an overflow, hot (but not boiling) water with a little shampoo may resolve the problem. But a plunger is more likely to work. If you’re desperate you may be able to dislodge the blockage with a bent coat hanger.
Drain problems in a tub and shower are usually caused by hair and soap scum. You may be able to simply pull out a clog if it’s right at the drain opening. Again, a plunger is your best friend although liquid drain cleaners can be pretty effective for hair clogs if you give them plenty of time to work.
Hot Water Heater
More people also means using more hot water. If you run out it’s often just a matter of allowing time for the tank to heat back up. You make this a little less likely by turning up the thermostat. But that wastes energy and anything above 140 deg. F can cause serious scalding.
Hot water heater leaking? If it’s just a little dripping you may be able to get by for a few days. But small problems can suddenly become big ones, especially with a failing temperature/pressure relief valve.
You can probably put up with a leaky faucet over the holidays. But any plumbing leak that dampens furniture or your home will soon cause water damage. So it’s time to call in a plumber. But if you have a gusher, the first step is to close the main shutoff valve, usually in front of your home near the street or sidewalk.
Holiday Emergency Plumbing Services
Whenever these do-it-yourself tips aren’t enough, we’re ready with emergency and same-day holiday plumbing services.