Category Archives: Pipes

How to shut-off the main water supply to your home!

“Do you know how, or more importantly where to shut-off the main water supply to your home?”

After 20 years it still surprises me that many (in fact most) clients don’t know how to go about turning-off the main water supply to their homes!

Every home should have a readily accessible, functional main water shut-off valve. The fact is, many times the valve is concealed, not easily accessible, non-functional, all of the above or missing altogether!  Regardless, here’s a pretty sure-fire way and backup plan to get your water shut-off quickly in the event of an emergency:

1) Locate and know where your water meter is located, typically you can find it near the curb or sidewalk in front of your house.Shut-off valve closed2) Open the lid to look inside.  Not all lids are the same.  Sometimes it’s necessary to remove the entire cover to see the meter or to access the shut off valve inside.Shut-off valve open3) There are a couple of ways to turn the valve.  Ultimately you’re trying to line up the two circles, about a 1/2 turn clockwise. There’s a tool made that goes by a few different names, the most common of which is “Meter Key” sold at just about every home center and hardware store.  Expect to pay somewhere between $10.00 – $30.00Meter Key4) You might have some hand tools laying around that may work in a pinch.  Namely a crescent wrench and something long, narrow & ridged like a screwdriver. See the illustration below on how to use these common hand tools to do the job in place of a “Meter Key.”Hand ToolsIt would do you well to familiarize yourself with the “how to” described here.

I can usually tell if a client has lived through a plumbing emergency or catastrophe by their knowledge of where & how to turn-off the main water supply.  One family I met recently had a bright red meter key conspicuously hanging on two nails in the garage.  My client told me about a nightmare experience they had in the past, wherein a toilet supply line had ruptured and nobody knew the first thing about getting the water shut-off!  The water line leaked several hundred, maybe thousands of gallons of water into the house before the water was shut-off by a responding emergency plumber.  Besides the expense of the emergency service call, they now faced not only the repair of the broken toilet line (the least of their worries), but thousands of dollars in restoration repairs and a hefty insurance claim.  The client went on to say that now everyone who lives in the house (including their 7 year-old) knows what the meter key is and how & when to use it!

Ti Sutherland – Master Plumber, Sutherland Plumbing.

Ti’s Tips Reminder – Oh no, Clogged Drains!

Hi Everyone!

I’m Ti Sutherland, Co-Owner & Master Plumber for Sutherland Plumbing in Portland, Oregon.  Here at Sutherland Plumbing, we strive to be the Portland Metro area’s #1 family-owned plumbing service.  But that’s not all – at Sutherland Plumbing we understand the importance for our customers to keep their plumbing systems running smoothly and efficiently all year-round.

So it’s in the spirit of “shared knowledge” that I present a reminder from my column, “Ti’s Tips” :

Ti’s Tips Reminder – Oh no, Clogged Drains!

The use of so-called “liquid drain cleaners” or openers is discouraged! There is NO marvel of design in these products. Most are made of highly caustic acids that only serve to dissolve, eat and destroy anything in their path including your plumbing pipes. Some even go as far as to claim “safe for all pipes” even if the results from using these products are temporary at best. You be the judge.

Drains clog for the most part as a result of grease, fats, oils and other matter accumulating inside the pipe.  In order to CLEAN the drain one must scour the inside with proper equipment and knowledge.  This is commonly referred to as snaking or “rootering” the drain.  There is a big difference between “CLEANING” the drain as opposed to “OPENING” the drain.  Baking soda and vinegar?  Use at your own risk.  Those items work best when baking or cooking food and are wasted when poured down the drain!  Don’t say we didn’t warn you!Image

Plumbing FAQ – Strange sounds inside your walls?

Question: I often hear a sound like dripping water, clicking or tapping inside my walls when the water is on but I never see anything wet or evidence that there’s a leak. Should I be concerned about these noises – is there something that should be done?

Answer: These sounds are more common than you might think!  It’s likely what you’re hearing are the water pipes expanding & contracting as the water flowing through them fluctuates in temperature. These sounds are most prevalent when a water pipe is rapidly heated.

When you turn on a hot water faucet, the hot water travels from the water heater, via pipes to the faucet that was just turned on. The rapidly heated pipe expands.  That pipe is routed through a series of holes drilled in the wood framing and rubs or “scoots” by these wall studs & floor joists etc., as the pipes expand.  Generally speaking, the lower temperatures cause matter to constrict or shrink in size, while higher temperatures result in the opposite effect.

Here’s the good news & the bad news: The good news is that these sounds are more of an annoyance than a serious problem. The bad news is that fixing it permanently can be tricky, labor intensive & expensive. We could get lucky and find the exact place where it’s happening but that probably means tearing out sections of drywall, searching for the culprit and strapping, anchoring, and/or isolating sections of pipe. An unlucky scenario would be that we keep tearing more & more drywall out until we find the exact location of the problem.

I feel it’s worth mentioning as well, there’s a practice used by plumbers when installing water pipes that prevents this from happening.  It’s called “isolating,” wherein a hole is drilled for a pipe to route through and then isolated from the wood and/or other material used for framing. The part used is suitably named a “pipe isolator” (see image below).  This way, when the pipe expands & contracts it’s never touching the framing or structure, resulting in a much quieter system all together!

Pipe Isolator

Water pipes can generate sound and vibrations just by the water rushing through them as well. These sounds can reverberate through the framing and wallboards.

Unfortunately, these days it’s more & more common for high production expected at lower price points to force plumbing systems to be installed with speed & low-cost, over quality plumbing work. It’s kind of disappointing when you figure it would take around two hours and $50 extra to ensure that all of the water pipes are installed with pipe isolators, in a typical residential new construction home build.

If we wanted to – Sutherland Plumbing could comprise on a very long list of our own installation standards that far exceed today’s “minimum code” requirements. The difference you ask?  Quite simply, we don’t like coming back to say sorry!  Once again – that’s the Sutherland Plumbing “difference!”

Increased Water Usage Notice – Now What?

See the picture below. If you came home to find a notice like this on your door you’ve got questions and understandably some concerns.

Water Usage Notice

If you receive one of these notices at your home and are not sure why – Call (503) 719-4015 and schedule an appointment with the experts at Sutherland Plumbing, LLC.

Relax, this is routine and quite simply the water company attempting to notify you that compared to your average usage, it’s gone up exponentially. Although there are many reasons that can factor into this, we’ll share with you here the top three reasons that most likely exist (Based on 20+ years of field experience). 

1) Your main underground water service pipe leading from the water meter to the home has sprung a leak and is leaking into the earth. Your options are to repair or replace. There are pros & cons to both options and the solution will vary depending on your budget & expectations. Generally speaking: repairs can end up as expensive temporary band aids while a proper replacement will ensure decades of trouble-free service. Contributing factors include, but are not limited to: the age & material of the existing pipe and the location & depth of the leak. 

2) The irrigation (sprinkler) system is leaking. If connected properly, your sprinkler system “T’s” into or off of your main underground water service pipe. The sprinkler system then runs through an approved back-flow preventer and then goes off to serve the various zones or sprinkler heads. 

3) A malfunctioning or “running” toilet is draining excessive amounts of water down the main sewer drain. Second to this is a faucet that is continuously dripping or leaking. This cause of excessive water usage is the least likely prompting a notice of increased water usage. (Again, this based on our experience.)  It’s our contention that if a faucet was dripping and/or a toilet was running enough to prompt the notice – you’d probably know about it! Generally when a faucet or toilet is broken to that extent, people are aware & set-out to get it fixed before a whole billing cycle comes and goes!

You have options and choices either way. Dozens of times we have visited a homeowner expecting to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars only to find that simply turning off the sprinkler system will stop the leak and buy some time to get control of the situation rather than the situation being in control of you!

If you receive one of these notices at your home and are not sure why, Call (503) 719-4015 and schedule an appointment with the experts at Sutherland Plumbing, LLC.

How to Locate & Read Your Water Meter!

You will gain giant leaps ahead of the average homeowner in preparedness to avoid or deal with plumbing emergencies by simply familiarizing yourself and understanding the information contained in the following link.

Click below to view a publication distributed by the Portland Water Bureau:

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/article/278747

This is a photo of the actual water meter. In most homes the meter is usually located in the ground near the curb. You should see a metal top marked "Water Meter." If in doubt - call a licensed, qualified plumber to come take a look.

This is a photo of the actual water meter. In most homes the meter is usually located in the ground near the curb. You should see a metal top marked “Water Meter.” If in doubt – call a licensed, qualified plumber to come & take a look.

 

This is a close-up photo of the Water Meter Register. If you have any questions about how to read the register – call Sutherland Plumbing at (503) 719-4015.

 

Water Pressure vs. Water Volume – Ti’s Tips!

Water Pressure or “PSI” (pounds per square inch) is exactly that – a measurement of force. While water volume or “GPM” (gallons per minute) is a measurement of flow.

In most cases, plumbing systems that deliver unsatisfactory performance have a volume problem not a pressure problem. The pressure is most often adequate – it is the pipes that are either undersized, corroded & restricted – or both. In many cases there is excessive water pressure and still symptoms of poor water volume delivery is present.

Too much water pressure can cause a host of problems. Similarly, high blood pressure can go undetected or undiagnosed for years while the negative effects and irreversible damage occurs.

A simple water pressure measuring device can be purchased at most hardware stores for under $15! Eighty (80) “PSI” is considered high – anything over and you’re asking for trouble!

Think you may have a problem with water pressure in your home or business? The pressure may be just fine, it could be a volume issue or another undiagnosed plumbing problem. Call Sutherland Plumbing at (503) 719-4015 to get an expert opinion!

Do you think you may have a problem with water pressure in your home or business? The pressure may be just fine, it could be a volume issue or another undiagnosed plumbing problem. Call Sutherland Plumbing at (503) 719-4015 to get an expert opinion!

Reminder – Can I flush wipes & “flushable” products down the drain?

Q: I’ve recently read some articles which say that utility companies, municipal water companies and the treatment plants etc., are “freakin’-out” because folks have started to flush all kinds of pre-moistened towelettes down the toilet.  This wasn’t so much of a problem in the past.  Apparently these can cause havoc all the way down the plumbing system at the treatment plants.  What’s the deal with this?  Is it really that bad?  Can it affect my plumbing lines or only the municipal systems? Is toilet paper the only thing I should ever flush down the toilet?

A: The short answer is YES the treatment plants are “freaking out!”  Unfortunately, this translates into higher rates for everyone because they have to structure & modify their equipment to deal with all of these so-called “flushable” over-the-counter products like wipes, cat litter, female sanitary products etc. The main issue is this stuff does not macerate well like human waste and toilet paper. (Sorry for the visual!)

Eventually everything makes it to a pump system or means of mechanically moving, sorting & filtering (the raw sewer). Some of these “wipes” are just short of a cloth rag. “Flushable” in that it will flush and go down but it’s no good for any part of the system down the line. Plumbers joke around the water cooler about how great these products are for keeping us very busy!

The flushable cat litter is just as bad or worse because it absorbs a ton of water & swells up.  This can cause havoc in the plumbing system!

When I walk down the aisle at the supermarket and see a new “flushable” product, I pause to thank the manufacturer for their patronage. This used to bother me more when I lived in a neighborhood forced to pay sewer rates, but now I have a private septic system!

The Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code addresses this issue: (Oregon plumbing specialty code chapter 3 - 306.1)

The Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code addresses this issue: (Oregon plumbing specialty code chapter 3 – 306.1)

Ti’s Tips Reminder – “The cheap comes out expensive…”

Ever heard it said: “The cheap comes out expensive in the end?” 

This especially applies in the plumbing trade! 

The image below is of two 1.5″ tubular slip nuts, I haven’t found a house yet without one.  They make the seal under your sinks to the drain pipes. 

(Right) is a cheap plastic one, notice the huge crack. 

This resulted in a damaged wood cabinet, damaged wood floors, stinky, gross drain water all over the place & an unexpected service call from the plumber.

(Left) is a solid metal one.

Note: Sutherland Plumbing only uses the higher quality metal ones!

Had the original plumber invested about .50 cents more – all of this would have been avoided!Tubular Seals

Quality Workmanship – Sutherland Plumbing’s Difference! (Part 4)

Part 4 – Treating Your Property as if it Were our Own!

Quality Workmanship – The Result of Hard, Tireless Work – No Matter What It Takes to Get the Job Done!

Sutherland Plumbing’s John Benton. Detail Oriented & Focused, Treating Your Home or Business as if it Were His Own.

Old, Worn Plumbing Should be Replaced in Your Home or Business ASAP!

Brand New, High Quality Plumbing Installed by Sutherland Plumbing’s Sean Anderson!

Once Again – Sutherland Plumbing’s John Benton Shows that Quality Workmanship Only Comes with Knowledge, Dedication & Hard Work!

Quality Workmanship – Sutherland Plumbing’s Difference! (Part 3)

Part 3 – “Your Whole Home Solution.”

Whether It’s Your kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry Room, Basement or Outdoor Plumbing – Sutherland Plumbing’s the One for the job!

Brand New Clean Kitchen Sink Installed by Sutherland Plumbing’s Ti Sutherland!

Toilet Replacement in Hillsboro, OR. Quality Workmanship by Sutherland Plumbing’s Ti Sutherland.

New Laundry Sink & Plumbing – High Quality Parts & Workmanship by Sutherland Plumbing!

No Matter How Old Your Home or Plumbing, Sutherland Plumbing is Always Your First Call!

Old, Dangerous Sewer Pipes Replaced with Brand New, High Quality Pipes by Sutherland Plumbing’s Ti Sutherland!

At Sutherland Plumbing We Only Get One Chance to Make a Good First Impression!