Buyer Beware -- Original PVC Pipes Can Be Trouble

We have a 20-something friend who believes she's found the perfect starter home in an early 1980's neighborhood. The home seller is a "flipper" (red flag #1). The home inspection revealed that all the plumbing low-grade PVC (red flag #2). The home inspector broke the sad news that all the piping must be brought up to current code in order to obtain homeowner's insurance (red flag #3). To re-pipe t...
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What's the easiest way to lower my water bill?

Customer: I am on City water and sewer. Is there a way to lower my rising utility bill? Ray: First, understand how water charges are calculated. The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) bills sewage for single family and duplex homes according to the volume of water used during the winter billing period (the billing period that ends with the meter reading in February, March, or April). During the res...
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ThreadBanger Battle: Copper vs. Plastic Pipe. Who Wins?

Every home or business owner with a plumbing problem eventually arrives at the age-old question: Which is best...copper or one of the plastics (PVC or CPVC)? According to, both copper and plastic water pipes have advantages: Both types of materials are: • Relatively non-toxic and, most importantly, NOT made of lead • Corrosion-resistant • Easy to work with, although copper inst...
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Winter Sump Pump Maintenance Tips

Now that we're well into wet winter weather, it's a good time to revisit a few sump pump maintenance tips. A happy sump will pump and pump, keeping your basement dry and fresh. Watch this 3-minute sump maintenance video from Central Insurance Company: .Insurance companies have real interest in preventing flood prevention/water damage. Locate the Pump's O...
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'Tis the Season for Wet Basements

When fall and winter dampness creeps into our basement area, I'm reminded of a scent forever etched in my childhood memories -- the cool, mildew-y smell of my grandmother's basement. To 10-year-old me, that smell meant a treasure trove of 1930's Americana; an old, unlockable antique safe large enough to hold a small child; a cement floor that was crumbling under years of constant dampness, and a w...
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Plumbing + Holiday Parties…Look Out, She’s Gonna Blow!

Holiday Nightmares
I learned last week that it's our turn to host Thanksgiving for the in-laws, all 35-50 of them. My first vision: that scene in The Shawshank Redemption when Andy busts open the sewer pipe and sewage explodes into his face. When the family arrives, it's hard to tell what might get flushed down the toilet. Some years, it's worse than others. Kids + Vintage Plumbing +Toilet Paper = Bad News  In ...
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