Tool School

A small plumbing issue may pop up from time to time. Some just want to turn every repair over to a plumber; but some may want to tackle the problem themselves. Even if you are not a DIY-er; here are a few basic tools you should have on hand…just in case.

Most tool boxes (or in some cases junk drawers) have some pretty basic tools: hammer, flat head screw driver, Philips screw driver, wrench, pliers, and maybe an Allen wrench junk drawer(especially if you shop at Ikea). Maybe you also have an old butter knife you have dedicated to the tool box for scraping or screwing things.

Here are a few new tools we suggest to add to the basics that you may need for a small plumbing repair:

  • Locking pliers. Many times you need something to hold a pipe or line in place while you work on another area.
  • Strap Wrench. If you want to change out a shower head, a strap wrench is the toolstrap wrrench you want, to prevent any scratches or damage to your fixture. Also, it’s like a tight rubberized grip to remove a fitting.
  • Needle nose pliers. Great for tight spaces.
  • Basin wrench. A must if you are working under a sink. It’s long and narrow and provides the grip you need.
  • Plumber’s putty. This pliable material will provide a water resistant seal around joints that are not under pressure. Be sure to read the instructions on the container.
  • Plumbers tape. Prevents leaks when you are replacing faucet supply lines, shower heads, etc.
  • Caulk & caulking gun – has many uses!
    box cutter
  • Of course we can’t omit a box cutter; it can help cut through old caulking, and break down your cardboard boxes. Use with care.

    These are some pretty common tools that you will be glad you have on hand.

Rolling the Dice With Older Water Lines

rusty water linePlastic or copper is generally used in home building these days. In the past, it was galvanized or metal. Newer homes usually have PEX or copper waterlines inside and out and are generally safe from breakage.  But, it is also possible to have plastic PEX or copper pipe for indoor plumbing, and have galvanized steel as the line that feeds your house from the road.  Here are some important reasons to consider replacing your old galvanized steel water line:

Rust. Rust builds up inside metal water lines. If you leave something metal outside, it gets wet and rust eventually begins to form. The same thing happens inside your water line. Believe it or not, you are drinking small amounts of this rust every time you drink a glass of water. That is pretty gross, right? It is probably not very healthy.

Decreased volume. Does the water coming out of your tap seem to be weak?  As rust and other minerals build up inside your water line, it narrows the inside diameter of your pipe. This doesn’t affect your water pressure, but it does affect your water volume. (Pressure is how fast the water comes out of your faucet; volume is how much water comes out of your faucet). One example of good pressure / bad volume is: when you are clogged water lineshowering and somebody flushes a toilet. The water volume coming out of your shower head decreases and you have to wait until the toilet fills back up. This is generally happens with galvanized steel water lines. Your pressure is great but you can’t run more than a couple faucets at once. Replacing your old rusted line with a new plastic line, increases the volume significantly. No more unexpected surprises when in the shower!

Rolling the dice with older pipes. If your water line is old, there is a greater chance of springing a leak. In the long run the cost of replacing your waterline beats repairing it; as one leak will lead to another, and so on. Lessen the inevitable by replacing the old line.

No muss, no fuss. Replacing the water line is less of a hassle than you think. That is if you use a licensed plumber! No need to dig up your lawn or break up the driveway: a good plumber knows how to use the existing hole to replace the waterline.  The only spot that could need digging is near the road, and that should be a small hole.

Just like dominoes, once rust and minerals build up (in steel lines), it will affect your faucets and other fixtures. This build up will actually corrode the fixtures. If you are on a well, this is one issue you need to consider. Most wells contain hard water and the build up can be rapid.

We hope this helps you decide if it’s time to replace that water line.  An internet search, word of mouth or yellow pages can point you in the right direction to a licensed plumber.  Be sure to ask if you are a candidate for a trench-less installation. Give yourself peace of mind and increase the value of your home with this improvement.

Does Your Business Need a Boiler or a Water Heater?

First, the size of your business will dictate what will serve you best. If you have a small office or building, one or two water heaters may be all you need. Think about how the hot water will be used; if you have a shop (such as plumbing) where most employees are out all day long, having a boiler or huge water heater would not be economical.

But if you have a hotel, school, department store, grocery store, etc., installing a boiler may very well be the option that is best. Boilers also come in various sizes. Of course a hotel, school or big building may want something quite large that can handle heavy usage.

While water heaters typically come in the 40 to 80 gallon capacity, but there are some 120 gallons (or even 20 gallons for a small space) on the market. Water heaters are actually storage tanks for hot water, distributing the hot water when tapped. The constant heating of the water to keep it warm can be quite costly, but the cost of running a boiler might be substantially more.

A boiler, in plain terms, is a box filled with copper tubing that heats water rapidly. It requires pumps and special controls, much more complicated than a water heater; but it can deliver large amounts of hot water on demand. Plus, the constant hot water from the boilers could be called for double duty as it can be used to heat your home. The hot water can also heat the air through the furnace or radiant flooring.

Modern boilers are very energy efficient.

Very high recovery water heaters can do these things, too, but they have so many flues inside to transfer heat that they begin to resemble boilers. And then there is the cost to be considered ($$$)

But back to boilers: they will deliver hot water almost instantly, or “on demand”. These require a lot of up-front costs such as adding electrical power sources and varied venting. Boilers do have another plus: they will add some humidity to the home or building. In the arid Central Oregon climate, this could be welcome.

But again, having a regular water heater might be the right fit for you. Contact your local plumber to assess your situation and advise you on what would be the best option for your business.

Little Known Oregon

weird oregon 1(Sometimes we like to spread our wings from plumbing!)

Most of us are aware that Oregon has the only flag that has two separate designs on its’ sides: a beaver on one side and the state emblem on the other.

We are also aware that along with New Jersey, we are the only state that does not have self-serve gas stations (for now) and Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S.

But there are many more interesting facts about Oregon that you may not know:

  1. Oregon has more ghost towns that any other state.
  2. Eugene was the first city to have one way streets.
  3. Pilot Butte, a cinder cone volcano is completely within the City of Bend limits.
  4. Hells Canyon, at 8,000 feet deep is the deepest river gorge in North America. (Yes, we know Hell’s Canyon is shared with Idaho & Washington)
  5. Oregon’s birthday is also Valentine’s Day, February 14th (we love it!)
  6. The state parks contain 159 yurts in 19 parks. Yurts are a circular domed tent that are quite popular for camping.
  7. The nation’s most photographed lighthouse is the Heceta Head Lighthouse located in Lane County.
  8. In 1880 a sea cave was discovered near what is now known as Florence. Sea Lion Caves is known to be the largest sea cave in the world.
  9. The Tillamook Naval Air Museum is housed in the world’s largest wooden clear-span building.
  10. A treaty between the United States and Spain established the current southern border between Oregon and California. The treaty was signed in 1819.
  11. Rainier, Oregon is home to the largest captive sloth population in the world.
  12. In Cave Junction, you can spend your vacation in a tree house. You can also learn to build a tree house while there!
  13. Oregon can boast the world’s smallest park (Mills End Park, 2 feet wide) that is home also the largest leprechaun colony west of Ireland. (That last part is probably tongue in cheek!)
  14. In Jacksonville, OR you can find a “Sasquatch Trap” (a 10’ x 10’ wooden box) that was built in 1974 on the Collins Mountain Trail. Sasquatch or Big Foot sightings have been recorded as far back as the 19th century.
  15. Portland was the home to the 24-hour Church of Elvis. Now permanently closed, it used to house a cornucopia of unusual things; most people would normally throw them out but the proprietors of the Church of Elvis could not bear to do so. It was considered an art form that can now only be found online. Only in Portland.

Getting Ready for Summer!


ready for summer1Yes, we usually talk about preparing for winter, but warmer weather also brings some concerns. You might have visitors staying with you while on their summer vacation. This means more demand from your water heater due to extra people showering, more washing machine usage and dishes.

If you have not have a water heater inspection for a while, this might be a good time to schedule one. You may be thinking about buying a larger water heater or even a tankless water heater. A knowledgeable plumber can assess your situation and advise you on how large of a tank you will need.

With additional guests staying in your home there will be more toilet usage. Make sure there are no leaks from the toilet.  (Tip: empty bathroom trash cans often to discourage debris from being put in the toilet)

It’s also time to drag out the garden hoses and attach them to the hose bibs (spigots or faucets) for garden and lawn watering. You do not want an unpleasant surprise of leaky hose bib pipes. If your home was sufficiently insulated during the winter, or pipes protected in some fashion, then you probably have nothing to fear. But older homes, especially, could have a problem. It may be a smart to have a plumber check things out.

Check your water and sewer lines for any cracks or bulges. Have your septic system inspected; are you ready to have it pumped? These issues could manifest the problem at the worst time: when you have a houseful of visitors.

Check your sprinklers. Are they aimed properly so there is no over-spray? Look for lawn bulging when sprinklers are on; there could be a leak somewhere in the system. Check and clean sprinkler heads at least once a year. Also, make sure your timer is set to regulation times and duration.

Another plumbing job that people think of doing when the weather warms up is: installing a gas line for an outdoor barbecue or fire pit. You should plan this with a licensed plumber.

You can contact us, Oregon Cascade Plumbing and Heating for all your plumbing, heating and air conditioning needs: 503.588.0355

What’s That Smell?

stinkyOther then something is rotten or died; the #1 cause of bad smells in your house come from problems with poorly vented drain lines.

Drain line vents are the vertical iron or plastic pipes that run from the drain through the roof. When functioning properly, they allow air into the plumbing so pressure inside the drains do not form an air lock that stop waste water from free movement.

The first sign that you have trouble is a noxious odor. Traps inside your sink plumbing contain a little bit of water that helps keep the sewer gas out. If the vent is clogged or obstructed, a sewer smell is produced. It may require a snake to remove the clog, or for the plumber to flush out the vent with a hose.

If you are hearing strange sounds from your drains, especially when they are not being used, it’s possible that air pressure is not escaping as it should to properly vent the pipe.

If you are finding that a single flush does not clear the toilet bowl, the vents may be blocked and not enough pressure is produced to encourage the flush.

Another indication that your venting may be clogged is: air bubbles in your toilet bowl, especially if your washing machine is located near the toilet. The force of a draining washer will force air bubbles into the toilet when the air pressure is not properly vented.

The Importance of Clogging

(No, not the dance!)filter clog & clean

Ok, now that we have your attention, we’re talking about heating and air conditioning clogs and the importance of preventing them.

Having your HVAC (heating and air conditioning) filter clogged can cause your heating/cooling bills to soar or even cause pollutants in your home or business.

Checking your filter monthly and replacing them before they get full will go a long way towards keeping everything healthy and in tip-top condition.

A filter collects the dust and debris; it cannot dispose of it. So a clog is formed when the filter is full. A clogged filter causes the appliance to “short cycle” as hot air is trapped by the filter. The furnace shuts down when it believes the required temperature is reached. A clogged filter fools it, when actually the warm air is not being disbursed to the house.

Long periods of this short cycling causes extra wear and tear on the furnace and that means you will have more service calls and possibly a replacement sooner than expected. Plus, your electrical or gas bills rise because the appliance demands more power more often.

A filter can also release back into the air some of the debris it’s collected if it’s too full. Think about that; if you find yourself sneezing or with itchy eyes or headaches, debris in the air may be the issue. This is especially true if you are having some renovations in your home or neighborhood. Construction debris is a common problem and can clog your filter much quicker.