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3 Real Reasons Why You Shouldn't Do Your Own Plumbing

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In today's world of YouTube and Pinterest, it's getting more and more possible to do projects yourself without hiring a professional. It's called DIY (do it yourself), and it can be incredibly rewarding to see the results of your own successful work. With many DIY projects, you can roll up your sleeves, dive in, and figure things out as you go; a project like building shelves can be successfully done with online guidance and a little trial-and-error, even if you don't know much about building.

There are some projects, however, that require professional training and expertise to successfully complete, such as plumbing work. Many people believe they can save money by doing their own plumbing, but unlike other DIY projects, even the smallest mistakes are not cheap. There is no room at all for trial-and-error, and if you try to figure it out as you go, you could end up doing more harm than good. Water, while being one of the most life-giving and cleansing substances, is also one of the most destructive.

Don't just take our word for it, though. Here are 3 real-life reasons why DIY plumbing isn't such a good idea.

1. Plumbing Codes

Your home's plumbing system is largely responsible for the overall health of your home; we count on it to bring clean water into the house and to take dirty water away. Because this system is so vital, there are plumbing codes in place to ensure everything works properly and your home stays as healthy as possible. When you do your own plumbing, it can be easy to violate plumbing code without even knowing, which can lead to city fines. Simple mistakes can be made, such as improper venting which can hinder your drains from draining properly, or even worse, water contamination due to backflow issues. A professional licensed plumbing technician has a deep understanding of plumbing codes and stays up-to-date as they change, so their installations will be up to code every time.

2. The Right Pipes

There are many different types and sizes of pipes, connections, and valves, all for different places and purposes. The wrong type of pipe in the wrong place can be dangerous, as different pipe materials react differently when water and other substances flow through them. The wrong size or placement of connections or valves can cause leaks and corrosion. The wrong size pipes might cause easy clogs, water pressure issues, or even burst pipes. It's best to leave this up to the professionals, as they have extensive knowledge of all plumbing materials and how to use them properly.

3. Expertise

Plumbers have years of training and experience in the field, meaning they possess well-developed skills and knowledge that the average homeowner does not. They solve a wide range of plumbing problems on a daily basis. So when they look at a complicated problem, they are able to come up with a solution right away and perform the solution without error. They also have a variety of specialized tools, some of which aren't even sold in hardware stores, and they know exactly how to install a correctly sized pipe with the correct connections, material, and pitch to maximize flow and minimize problems.

Plumbing is tricky and difficult. While you might save a little money in the short-term by choosing to do your plumbing yourself, you might do something improperly and cause numerous problems down the road. Even the slightest error in plumbing can lead to leaks, malfunctioning fixtures, and a variety of other serious problems. The cost of repairing any amount of water damage or mold growth just isn't worth it. When you hire an experienced plumber, you can trust the job will be done quickly and correctly, greatly minimizing the risk of problems down the road and saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

Still looking for a plumber you can trust? Try Universal Plumbing the next time you have a plumbing project. We are fully licensed and insured, we stand by our work, and we will never try to sell you on an unnecessary service. We'll get the job done right the first time so you won't have to see us again for a while. :) Give us a call at 586-459-0040 today!

5 Ways to Avoid an Expensive Plumbing Repair This Summer

"An ounce of prevention prevents a pound of poop."
Katherine Lehman, Angie's List

A plumbing emergency is the worst thing to experience during a summer get-together (or anytime). Here are some tips that will help you keep your plumbing system healthy.

1. Never use an exposed pipe to hang laundry

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If your laundry room is in the basement or other unfinished space with exposed plumbing pipes in the ceiling, resist the urge to put hangers on the pipe. The extra weight on the pipe will loosen joints and fasteners, and will cause the pipe to leak much more quickly and more often than if it were left alone.

If you need a good place to hang clothes, you can build a simple rack out of plumbing pipe that you can buy at your local hardware store. Pinterest is full of great tutorials, for example.

2. Only bodily waste and toilet paper should be flushed

That means NO flushable wipes. 

Things like diapers, feminine hygiene products, floss, paper towels, tissues, and "flushable" wipes might go down the toilet when you flush them, but they are NOT biodegradable and will not disintegrate in the water like toilet paper will. They can easily cause a big clog in your main sewer line that will have to be snaked out by a professional, and they can sometimes cause buildups and other problems down the line at the water treatment plant. Just play it safe and don't flush anything besides toilet paper.

3. Avoid chemical drain cleaning products

We know that buying a bottle of liquid drain cleaner for just a few bucks is much easier than spending $100+ on hiring a plumber, but those harmful chemicals can actually eat away your pipes each time you use them. Additionally, these drain cleaners are not effective on some types of clogs, and they will only cause harm to the poor plumber who has to come out and clear the clog manually.

In fact, one of our technicians was called out to a home last summer to fix a stubborn clog right after the homeowner had used a chemical drain cleaner. Our technician left the job with chemical burns all over his body after the drain cleaner splashed back at him while he was clearing the clog. Not good!

Instead of using a store bought liquid drain cleaner, try pouring baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water into the drain to loosen the clog. A handheld drain snake or auger is another great option that you can buy at the hardware store for pretty cheap.

4. Keep hair and food out of drain pipes

Try your best to keep food scraps, hair, etc. from going down drains by using drain strainers wherever possible. Scrape food into the trash before washing dishes, even if you have a garbage disposal. Most importantly, never pour grease down the drain; grease is only liquid when it's hot, and when it solidifies in the pipes, it can create a very stubborn clog in your main drain.

For some easy ways to dispose of grease, check out this infographic we made:

5. Fix small leaks quickly

Even the smallest of leaks will start corroding pipes, and the leak will only get worse. The best thing to do when you discover a leak is to get it fixed right away. The price to repair a small leak is nothing compared to the cost of a burst pipe, water damage, or hundreds of gallons of wasted water.

We're all about prevention here at Universal Plumbing. Feel free to call us anytime at 586-459-0040 or email us at office@plumbingandsewer.com if you would like to make an appointment, would like to find out more about our services or pricing, or if you have a question. We're here to help!

Know Your Emergency Shut-Off Valves

Do you know what to do in case of a plumbing emergency? The truth is, a lot of people don’t, but malfunctions can happen even in the best plumbing systems. If something starts leaking or breaks, and you don’t know how to turn off the water, you could have a disastrous flood on your hands.

In this post, we will show you how to locate the most important emergency water shut-off valves in your home, and how to use them.

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The most important valve you need to be aware of is the main shutoff valve. This is the valve that will stop most plumbing catastrophes, like a burst pipe. It controls all water supply into the house. It is located either in the basement, or on an outside wall in a utility area. It is extremely important for you to know the location of your house’s main shut-off valve.

There are a couple different types of shutoff valves, but regardless of the type of valve you have, you’ll need to turn it clockwise to turn it off.

Here’s another thing you need to be aware of: Some valves become more and more difficult to turn when they haven’t been turned in a long time, so if you haven’t touched your house’s main shutoff valve since you moved in, try and turn it now before you get caught in an emergency situation. Finding out the valve can’t be turned with your bare hands is something you want to discover when you’re not standing in 6 inches of floodwater. 

Every fixture has its own individual water supply shut-off valves too. These valves are usually located on the wall beneath the fixture, like under sinks and near toilets. If you’re wanting to repair or install a new fixture, or the fixture starts leaking, simply turn these valves clockwise to turn off the flow of water to the fixture. Fixtures that use both cold and hot water (like sinks) have 2 of these valves, and cold-water-only fixtures (like toilets) have 1 valve.

Don’t get caught unprepared in an emergency; find your home’s shutoff valves today. If you have trouble finding the main shutoff valve, or if any of your valves or fixtures are giving you problems, call Universal Plumbing at 586-459-0040 and we will gladly help you!

Meet Our Sponsor Kids!

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If you’ve been following us on social media for a while, you may remember us posting about our Compassion International sponsor kids a handful of times. Writing letters back and forth with our sponsor kids is one of my favorite parts of my job here at Universal Plumbing, and I’d love to tell you a bit more about it.

Compassion partners with local churches in impoverished areas of the world, and they work to stop the cycle of poverty by coming alongside the children in the community. When a child is sponsored through Compassion, they receive an education, nutritious meals, medical care, security, and much more. Many kids who have completed the Compassion program have gone on to graduate college, attain salaried employment, and become leaders in their communities.

Needless to say, this is an exciting cause that we are happy to contribute to! We currently sponsor 3 children through Compassion. Let me introduce you to these amazing kids!

 
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Jose

Jose, our oldest sponsor child, is 12 years old and lives in El Salvador. His favorite subject in school is math, and he dreams of becoming a lawyer one day, which I totally believe he will do because he studies so hard. He talks often about his love for soccer and playing in tournaments with his friends. He enjoys helping his mom around the house and keeping things clean. What a sweet kid! We’re so proud of him and all he is accomplishing already.

 

Pablo

Pablo is 8 years old and also lives in El Salvador. He just recently learned how to write and has been writing his own letters to us lately; previously, he would have a third person write his letters for him. He enjoys going to the beach, playing soccer, and riding his bike. In school, he is making new friends and learning about health, math, and literature, which is his favorite subject.

Writing letters back and forth with Pablo is always fun. One of my favorite letters from him said “I like to spend time with my friends and I will help the giraffe to finds the way,” and I’m not sure how much of that was just a funny translation, but I always get a kick out of it. Another favorite was when he explained that his favorite thing to do at home is sleep. Me too, Pablo. :)

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Marvens

We just recently started sponsoring Marvens, so we haven’t had a chance to get to know him much yet. We do know that he is 5 years old and lives in Haiti, and he enjoys playing with marbles and spending time with his friends. I’m excited to receive our first letter from Marvens, whenever that may be.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading a little about these awesome kids. We love being able to contribute to their development and give them hope every day. If you'd like to hear about our sponsor kids more often, leave a comment and let us know!

If you’d like to consider sponsoring a child through Compassion, click here to visit Compassion’s website and read more about the program. I would highly recommend becoming a sponsor; it’s an easy and fulfilling way to make a real difference in someone’s life!

4 Reasons Why an INSTANT HOT is the Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

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What is an Instant Hot?

An Instant Hot is much more than just hot tap water. It is a unit under your sink that dispenses near-boiling filtered water out of a convenient faucet.

This Mother’s Day, show your mom you appreciate her by getting her a new Instant Hot! She will never expect it, and it’s one of those things that you don’t know you need until you experience it for yourself.

Here are just 4 of the many things that she’ll be able to do with an Instant Hot:

  • Instant tea! Does your mom drink tea regularly? She will LOVE the convenience of an Instant Hot. No need to wait for water to boil; she can just pick her favorite mug, grab a tea bag or infuser, and turn on the instant hot faucet to dispense pure hot water. It’s that easy!

  • Save time while cooking. Fill a pot with the instant hot water dispenser, put it on the stove, and it boils in only a minute or two. Rinse warm foods without cooling them down.

  • French press/pour over coffee made easy. If your mom is a coffee expert, the Instant Hot will save tons of time when she makes coffee with a french press, pour over, or aeropress.

  • Never wait for hot water. The Instant Hot system dispenses near-boiling water instantly, unlike tap water, which needs to run for a while to reach warmer temps. No more wasting water while waiting for it to heat up! It also has a temperature dial so you can adjust how hot the water is.

Mother's Day is coming up quick (it's Sunday, May 13th), so call us today and ask about an instant hot water dispenser! You won't be disappointed in our expert technicians and 5-star service. 586-459-0040

Right Now, Your Sump Pump is Saving Your House

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What do you have in your basement? Furniture? A TV or computer? Your vinyl record collection? As you read this, your sump pump is saving those items from getting destroyed in a flood. If the pump fails, there could be standing water in your basement within hours, or even minutes during a storm. It’s an important little machine!

Flooding is a constant risk for a basement, due to groundwater and drainage. Here is how your home defends against a flood:

  1. Your home’s underground drainage system collects groundwater that would otherwise seep into cracks in your foundation.

  2. The collected water is directed into the sump pit in your basement.

  3. The sump pump automatically pumps out the water and empties the pit. (If the sump pump or discharge line isn’t working right, the water in the pit will continue to rise until it overflows.)

 

Here are 3 things you can do to make sure your sump pump doesn’t fail this spring:

April showers bring May flowers, but April showers bring lost power, too.

Install a water-powered backup sump pump, if you don’t have one already. 

In the event of a power outage during a storm, your electricity-powered sump pump won’t be able to run, and the rain will cause groundwater to rise quickly. A water-powered backup pump will keep pumping out the groundwater, even when the power goes out. Peace of mind is worth it!

When it comes to sump pumps, age isn’t just a number.

If your sump pump is over 10 years old, replace it ASAP, even if it’s still working for now.

10 years is the typical lifespan of a sump pump. You might hesitate to replace a working pump, but your old worn-out sump pump failing during a heavy storm just isn’t worth the risk. Protect your valuable home and invest in a new sump pump right away.

For some added peace of mind, test it.

If you’re worried about whether your sump pump is working or not, here’s how you can test it: 

(1) Remove the cover from your sump pit.

(2) Using a bucket, pour water into the pit until the sump pump kicks on and pumps the water out. If the pit fills up and the pump doesn’t automatically turn on, check to make sure the float switch isn’t stuck - otherwise, there’s something wrong with the pump itself, and you should call your plumber right away.

Our technicians are sump pump experts here at Universal Plumbing, and we offer 24/7 emergency service if your pump fails in the middle of the night. Keep our number on hand: 586-459-0040

3 Reasons to Convert Your 3-Handle Shower to a Single-Handle

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Do you have a 2-handle or 3-handle shower faucet? These types of faucets are actually outdated, and you can have a professional convert them to a single-handle valve. But, why would you do that if your 2- or 3-handle faucet works perfectly fine?

Here are 3 reasons you should consider converting your old shower faucet to a single-handle.

1. 2- OR 3-HANDLE SHOWER FAUCETS ARE AGAINST CODE.

If you don’t know, “code” refers to a set of plumbing regulations that define how plumbing systems are to be installed and inspected. Plumbing codes are in place to ensure that everything works properly and safely. Single-handle shower valves are pressure-balanced and protect against scalding, which is why plumbing code now requires showers to have them.

2. A SINGLE-HANDLE VALVE IS MUCH EASIER TO USE, ESPECIALLY FOR GUESTS.

Have you ever had to explain to a houseguest how your shower works, or how to get the perfect mix of hot and cold water? With a single-handle shower valve, trying to find the right temperature is pretty self-explanatory, and your guest won’t accidentally get scalded by hot water.

3. A SINGLE-HANDLE VALVE LOOKS BETTER.

If nothing else, consider converting your shower to a single-handle simply because it looks modern, sleek, and clean. It’s a great way to instantly modernize an outdated bathroom and improve the room’s overall design. You’ll impress your houseguests for sure!

If you’re thinking about converting your shower to a single-handle valve, you’ve come to the right place! Call us at 586-459-0040 and ask about a single-handle shower conversion. Universal Plumbing & Sewer is licensed, insured, and award-winning, and our technicians are highly-trained and background-checked.

4 Tips to Help You Adjust to the Time Change

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The “spring forward” time change is this weekend. If you’re like many people, you’re dreading it -- We’re going to lose an hour, after all. Here are some things you can do to make the transition a little easier.

  1. Resist the urge to drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks in the afternoon or evening. The noticeable effects of caffeine may wear off after a few hours, but it stays in your system for much longer and affects your quality of sleep, so you’ll just wake up feeling more tired the next morning. Do your body a favor and stay away from caffeine after lunchtime! (Drink some non-caffeinated tea instead; an instant hot water dispenser, which dispenses near-boiling filtered water on demand, makes it really quick and easy! Call us at 586-459-0040 for more info.)

  2. Don’t put off changing the clock in your car. Many of us remember to set the clocks around the house and office, but the car clock gets neglected for a while after the time change happens. If you’re one of those people, isn’t it disorienting to see one time on your alarm clock and a completely different time when you glance at the clock in your car? Avoid that disorienting feeling by changing your car’s clock right away this weekend.

  3. Prioritize getting enough sleep. This really makes a difference in how you feel! Make sure you go to bed early enough, take a Melatonin supplement, get some exercise during the day, or do whatever else you need to do to improve your sleep. (Take a hot bath before bedtime if you need to relax after a stressful day. If your bathroom isn’t relaxing, though, springtime is the perfect time of year to upgrade a faucet or fixture in your bathroom - click here for some coupons you can use.)

  4. Set a reminder on your phone. Your phone’s clock and other devices most likely will change automatically in the middle of the night, but set a reminder for Saturday evening so you remember to change the clocks around your home that don’t change automatically.

The first couple days after the time change is gonna be hard, but if you follow this advice, you’ll be used to the adjusted schedule before you know it!

For more helpful articles like this, “like” us on Facebook to keep up with our blog posts and home tips! And remember, we’re always a phone call away at 586-459-0040 if you experience a plumbing emergency. Click here to read more about us.

8 Easy Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

If you’re feeling extra down this time of year, you’re not alone. 10-20% of people are affected by some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately acronymed “SAD,” every winter. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you!

We talk a lot on this blog about keeping your home healthy, but what about keeping your mind healthy? Mental health and home health can go hand-in-hand sometimes, so here are some tried-and-true things you can do in your home to help you feel happier for the rest of winter and beyond.

  1. Open the curtains/blinds, and sit near windows as much as possible.
    A lack of sunlight is a major cause of SAD. Even if it’s a cloudy day, let in as much natural light as you can, and soak it up!

  2. Buy an inexpensive daylight lamp.
    A lamp that simulates daylight can give you energy and help boost your mood on especially dreary days. Here’s a great desktop-size one you can order on Amazon.

  3. Take a vitamin D supplement.
    Signs of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, back pain, depression, and more. If you’re not constantly out in the sun, grab a vitamin D supplement from the store and start taking it every day.

  4. Stay warm!
    Here’s where home health comes in: Make sure your home is insulated and the windows aren’t drafty, and get a space heater for extra-cold rooms. Being cold will make you feel worse!

  5. Decorate your house with fake flowers.
    Flowers provide splashes of color and can give your brain a little boost of springtime joy. And unlike real flowers, fake ones last forever - so if the Michigan winter drags on forever, your flowers will too! (Pro tip: put together a little arrangement of bright flowers and give it to a friend who suffers from the winter blues. It will make their day!)

  6. Move!
    Exercise is proven to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression. And you don’t have to join a gym to stay active! Simply bundle up and go for a walk around your neighborhood, or bust out a yoga mat and look up some free yoga videos on YouTube. (I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene. Click here for “Yoga For the Winter Blues”)

  7. Spend time with family and friends.
    Socializing is good for your mental health in general. Make plans to get coffee with a friend this weekend, or plan an impromptu family vacation.

  8. Invest some time in a hobby you enjoy.
    Hobbies are great to help keep your mind occupied and give you something to look forward to on a regular basis. What do you enjoy doing? Painting? Playing a musical instrument? Reading? Building Lego sets? Pick something, and do it!

Ultimately, be kind to yourself, and remember that winter is almost over! We’re already halfway through February, and then the first day of spring is in March, which will be here before you know it. You’ve made it this far!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date!

Get Ready For the Super Bowl!

Did you know that the Super Bowl is the second-highest day of food consumption after Thanksgiving? Statistics show that Americans will drink about 50 million cases of beer and eat 14,500 tons of chips, 4,000 tons of popcorn, and 1.23 billion chicken wings on Game Day. Of course that will all eventually end up in the plumbing - in fact, sewage systems in major cities have broken due to the huge number of toilets being flushed simultaneously during Super Bowl halftime!

If you're having a Super Bowl party this year, here are a few tips to help your plumbing run smoothly all evening so you can sit back and enjoy the game with your friends.

1. Have us run a quick maintenance check on your plumbing system beforehand. Having your plumbing inspected by a professional is the best way to ensure that everything is working properly, and you have no hidden leaks or soon-to-be clogs.

2. Your toilet(s) will be used heavily during your party. If it tends to give you trouble, switch to thinner toilet paper such as 1-ply on the day of the party, and keep a plunger nearby just in case. Additionally, remove paper towels, "flushable" wipes, and other paper products from your bathroom so your guests don't flush them - these items can easily clog up your toilet and your plumbing.

3. Don't just throw anything down your garbage disposal. Delicious greasy foods like chicken wings are a Super Bowl staple, but grease will solidify in your pipes and cause big problems, and chicken bones will jam your disposal. When in doubt, toss it in the trash!

If you experience a clog, broken disposal, or some other kind of plumbing disaster during your Super Bowl party, don't panic! We're available all weekend, 24 hours a day, for emergency service. Give us a call at 586-459-0040 any time, and we'll get things running smoothly again.

Why Do Frozen Pipes Burst?

Frozen pipes are common in the Michigan winter, when temperatures are often below freezing. The danger about frozen pipes is that they can start leaking or even burst. In this post, we explain what causes them to burst and how you can prevent it.

Water expands as it freezes, which you’re probably familiar with because of the many potholes in Michigan’s roads. However, frozen pipes don’t burst just because of expanding ice; when the ice expands, it pushes water forward toward the closed faucet, which leads to a huge increase in pressure between the ice and the faucet. If that pressure becomes too much for the pipe to handle, the pipe will bulge or burst in that spot.

A burst pipe can be extremely destructive to your home and any nearby valuables. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent a burst pipe this winter:

  1. Prevent frozen pipes in the first place. Insulate any exposed pipes, especially if they are in cooler or unheated areas of your home, like a basement or crawl space. Keep under-sink cabinets open overnight to allow the warm air of the house to reach the pipes. Keep the heat on even when you leave on vacation (keep the thermostat set above 50 degrees).

  2. If a pipe is frozen, turn on the faucet to a slow trickle until you’re able to get it thawed. If you turn on a faucet and very little or no water comes out, the pipe is freezing. Opening the faucet just a little bit will stop the pressure from building up by giving it somewhere to go.

  3. Call a plumber to thaw a frozen pipe ASAP. A plumber has the proper tools and techniques to thaw pipes in a safe way that won’t lead to leaks, burst pipes, or fire. And you don’t want to put it off; not only is a frozen pipe inconvenient (little or no water coming out of your faucet), it’s a dangerous problem that can flood your house if you ignore it for too long.

We’ve been serving the cold Metro Detroit area for over 13 years, so we know what we’re dealing with when it comes to frozen pipes. Call us right away at 586-459-0040 if you suspect a pipe might be frozen in your home!

5 Tips For a Healthier Home in 2018

Happy New Year! Do you have any resolutions this year? A new year presents a clean slate and a good chance to start over, start new habits, and better yourself. Many people's new years resolutions include joining a gym, starting a new diet, or going for walks every day in order to better their physical health.

This year, we challenge you to consider your home's health as well as your own! Studies show that living in a healthy home can help you and your family stay healthy as well. And keeping your home healthy goes beyond just keeping things clean; if you don't give your plumbing any attention, you could end up with mold problems or worse. Here are some quick and easy tips to make sure your plumbing system stays healthy in 2018!

1. Insulate Exposed Pipes

If you haven't had a pipe freeze yet this winter, count yourself lucky, especially considering how cold it has been. We still have a few more winter months to go, so grab some foam pipe insulation from your local hardware store and wrap any exposed pipes! This is especially important in colder areas of your home, like in a garage or basement. If you do encounter a frozen pipe, call us immediately before it bursts! 586-459-0040

2. Avoid Chemical Drain Cleaning Products

Clogged drains are common, and it's easy to buy a bottle of drain cleaner at the store, but those harsh chemicals can eat away at your pipes over time and eventually cause leaks. Additionally, those chemicals are harmful - In fact, one of our plumbers went to a house last month after the homeowner unsuccessfully tried to unclog a drain with chemicals, and they ended up splashing back on our plumber and giving him chemical burns!
Instead, call a plumber and have them clean your drain the safe way. A professional drain cleaning will last much longer and won't be nearly as harsh on the pipes.

3. Prevent Clogs

You won't even need to use chemical drain cleaners if you follow these easy rules to avoid clogs: (1) Install drain strainers on all of your drains to catch hair, food, and other debris. (2) Be careful about what goes down your drains, toilets, and garbage disposal, and (3) never ever pour grease into any drain!

4. Clean the Sewer Regularly

Your house's main sewer line is where all your drains lead. If this sewer line gets clogged, or if tree roots grow into it, you could have a disastrous backup of sewage on your hands! Luckily, you can keep this from happening by having a plumber snake the sewer line every few years (more frequently if you have a lot of trees - ask your plumber what he recommends). You can schedule an appointment online by clicking here.

5. Fix Problems Right Away

When it comes to plumbing, even tiny problems only get worse as time goes on. A leaky faucet will cause corrosion and only get leakier, a frozen pipe can suddenly burst, and a tiny leak under a sink can cause ever-spreading mold and water damage. Save yourself hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of dollars and don't put off getting the problem repaired.

Here's to 2018 being a healthier year, for both you and your home. And remember, we're here to help! We can help you catch any problems early with a full-home plumbing inspection. Call us at 586-459-0040 and set up an appointment for a plumbing inspection today!

Universal Plumbing Volunteers at Giftmart 2017

Christmastime is a time of giving, and at Universal Plumbing, we’re taking that seriously by participating in GiftMart once again!

GiftMart is an event that allows parents who are struggling financially to provide Christmas gifts for their kids. Parents can pick out brand-new donated gifts and buy them at extremely discounted prices; they’ll spend $3 for a brand-new toy valued at $25-$35. Then, that $3 gets cycled back into the community via homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

Over the past month or so, hundreds of toys have been donated for GiftMart and collected and sorted by our friends at The Woods Church. This Friday, December 8th, the entire Universal Plumbing team will empty our plumbing trucks, head to the church, load the donated gifts onto the trucks, and transport them to the Giftmart location. We’ve done this in years past, and it’s always a fun time of volunteering together and helping the community. We’re excited to do it again!

Make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram - we’re gonna be posting all about our volunteering adventure on Friday, so you can see what we’re up to. And if you happen to see a whole caravan of Universal Plumbing trucks going down the road that day, don’t worry, there’s no plumbing disaster! :)

To find out more about GiftMart, visit their website: http://giftmartmacomb.com 

5 Thanksgiving Foods that will Destroy Your Garbage Disposal

Thanksgiving is this Thursday! We’re really excited for the chance to spend time with loved ones and for the great food we’re gonna eat. If you’re the one cooking or hosting this Thanksgiving, though, be careful about what’s going in the garbage disposal!

Contrary to popular belief, even the most high-end garbage disposals can’t grind up anything.In fact, Thanksgiving and the day after are two of the busiest days of the year for plumbers. Most of the calls we get on those days are about broken or jammed garbage disposals and clogged sinks. Don’t let that be you this year! Here’s a list of some Thanksgiving foods you should never put down the disposal:

Turkey Bones, Grease, and Fat

Turkey bones are too hard for a garbage disposal to grind up. At best, they will just bounce around in there and jam the disposal, and at worst they can fly out and injure someone or break the disposal entirely. Throw those bones in the trash.
As a general rule, grease and fat should never go down any drain. Grease hardens as it cools, building up into a clog in the pipes and even causing problems and backups in the main sewers. Instead, pour that grease in a glass jar and throw it in the trash after it cools.

Fibrous Vegetables

This includes green beans, celery, onions, potato peels, and more. The stringy fibers in these veggies wrap around the garbage disposal’s blades and can cause it to jam.

Pumpkin Pulp and Seeds

Pumpkin pulp can gum up the garbage disposal and then solidify as it dries, rendering the disposal unusable and creating a nasty clog in the pipes that even chemical drain cleaners can’t get through. If you’re not cooking with them, throw those pumpkin guts in the trash.

Starchy Foods

Yes, this includes potatoes, pasta, and rice! Starchy foods turn into a paste in the disposal, and then that paste solidifies and can clog the trap.

Eggshells

Some people say that eggshells sharpen garbage disposal blades, but this isn’t true. The hard outer layer of the shell is ground into a sand-like consistency that sticks to pipe walls and contributes to clogs, and the shell’s stringy membrane layer wraps around the disposal’s shredder ring.


If you have doubts about whether or not you should put something down the disposal, just throw it in the trash to be safe. Taking an extra moment to properly dispose of something is well worth the money you will save by avoiding emergency service plumbing costs!

Let’s face it, things can go wrong even when you’re careful, so Universal Plumbing will be on call this Thanksgiving to come to the rescue if you need us. Call us at 586-459-0040 anytime, and keep our number handy in case of an emergency! We’re always here to help you.

How Winter Will Test Your Sump Pump

Like it or not, temperatures are getting down below freezing around here. It’s time to start thinking about snow!

Sump pumps are usually associated with rainfall, but they are just as important in the snowy season, especially around here where the temperatures are never very consistent (remember last winter when it was in the 60s in February?). Melting snow will saturate the ground around your foundation and threaten to flood your basement. And there will be those few days where it warms up a little so the snow melts and it rains, creating a muddy mess that your sump pump will have to handle.

So, if you have a basement, a sump pump is extremely important in the winter. Now is the time to make sure it’s working correctly - that it turns on, the float switch works, and it effectively discharges water to somewhere away from your foundation. If any part of the system is not working as it should, the sump pump should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible in order to protect your home.

You can test your sump pump by filling a bucket or large cooking pot with water and slowly pouring that water into the sump pit, keeping an eye on the water level. The float switch should rise, and the pump should automatically turn on, pump out the water, and automatically turn off.

Additionally, consider installing a water-powered backup sump pump. In situations where there is a large amount of water coming in very fast, like during heavy rainfall and/or rapidly melting snow, a single sump pump can burn itself out trying to keep up. A backup pump will assist your main pump, as well as come to the rescue if the main pump fails due to a power outage or other causes.

Don’t leave anything to chance this winter. Be proactive and ensure your sump pump system is reliable enough to protect your basement at all times, even when water is pouring in. Universal Plumbing & Sewer can help you with anything sump-related, from installing a backup pump to ensuring the discharge pipe doesn’t freeze. Call us at 586-459-0040 and schedule an appointment today!

Last Chance to Prepare for Winter! [Resources]

Can you believe November is only a day away? October was a wonderful month with warm weather and sunshine, so hopefully you were able to get your winter preparations done while the weather was nice! If you haven't, you still have a little time, but you don't want to wait much longer. It's getting cold out! Preparing your home for winter is extremely important in order to prevent frozen pipes and costly drafts.


In this post, we've compiled a list of resources to help you get your home ready for winter. Don't wait!

10 Things You Must Do Around the House This Fall - Popular Mechanics
Here are some of the essentials for preparing your home for winter.

More Safe, Less Sorry - HouseLogic
This one covers everything from house preparation to tips on beating the winter blues.

Preparing Your Home and Car for the Blast of Winter Cold - Nationwide
No harm in being completely prepared! This article provides ways to prepare your home and car for winter, as well as safety tips in case of a winter storm emergency.

Prep Your Home for Winter With These 16 Low-Cost Tricks - MoneyTalksNews
Winter preparation doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are some inexpensive things you can do.


If you'd like a professional to handle the plumbing side of things as you prepare for the winter, call Universal Plumbing & Sewer at 586-459-0040. And just to be safe, keep our number on hand just in case your pipes freeze in the coming months. We're here to help you!

Don't Put Pumpkin Guts in the Garbage Disposal!

Jack-o-lanterns are a Halloween staple. They're great decorations, and carving them can be a fun activity for the whole family. But if you dispose of the pumpkin's pulp and seeds the wrong way, your Halloween could turn out to be much less fun.

A common misconception is that garbage disposals can grind up anything, but that simply isn't true. Pumpkin pulp gums up garbage disposals, sometimes to the point of rendering them unusable. And once the pulp gets into the pipes, it hardens and creates a nasty crust that even chemical drain cleaners like Drano can't get through. Your only option at that point would be to call a plumber and have them snake the drain to cut through it.

Instead of throwing those pumpkin guts down the disposal, carve your pumpkin on a newspaper so you can easily collect all the pulp and throw it out in the trash or compost. It doesn't require any extra work, and your plumbing (and wallet) will thank you. You can either throw the seeds away too, or you can set them aside and roast them for a delicious healthy snack! Click here for a recipe!

Universal Plumbing & Sewer's technicians are drain cleaning experts. If you find yourself with drain problems of any kind, don't hesitate to call us at 586-459-0040!

Why We Recommend Bradford White Water Heaters

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When you call us to have us supply and install a fixture or appliance, we know you're trusting us to provide only the highest quality. We believe (and have experienced) that Bradford White makes the best water heaters on the market. Here's why.

Made in Michigan

Bradford White is an American-owned company, located in Middleville, Michigan. That's pretty close to home! Purchasing their water heaters means creating American jobs and supporting the American worker.

Corrosion-Resistant Lining

Hot water is extremely corrosive and can eat through a metal tank with ease, but Bradford White tanks are lined with an exclusive enamel called Vitraglas. The unique compound expands and contracts with the metal tank so it's very durable and long-lasting. It effectively protects the tank from corrosion and extends the life of the water heater.

Hydrojet System

A buildup of sediment in water heaters is never good - the burner has to work harder to heat through the sediment layer, reducing efficiency and overheating the bottom of the tank (which damages the tank and shortens its life). Bradford White tanks have a special kind of cold water delivery tube inside that uses jets of water to prevent the accumulation of sediment in the bottom of the tank.

Defender Safety System

Bradford White's gas-powered water heaters are equipped with a safety mechanism that automatically shuts off the burner's operation if flammable vapors are detected in the incoming air. If flammable substances are spilled nearby, you can rest assured that your water heater will not ignite them.

If you need a new water heater before the winter, don't risk your home's safety or efficiency by going with a lesser-quality brand. Call Universal Plumbing & Sewer today, and we will install a top-of-the-line Bradford White water heater that will last you many years. Don't wait until it gets too cold outside! 586-459-0040

How To Prevent a Frozen Sump Discharge Line

Sure, it's only mid-October, but a month from now will be mid-November, when freezing temperatures are definitely possible. Now is the time to make sure your home is ready for the winter.

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One of the dangers of freezing temps is a frozen sump discharge line, especially if the pipe is exposed outside your home. When a sump discharge line freezes, it causes all kinds of destructive problems - the water in the sump can't escape so the basement will likely flood, the sump pump motor will burn itself out, and the pipes themselves can crack or even burst. An efficiently working sump pump system is so important in the winter, when snow seeps into the ground and threatens to flood your basement!

Luckily, there are some steps you can take now to prevent a frozen sump discharge line this winter:

1. Make sure the discharge pipe is correctly sized and pitched. If the pipe diameter is too small, it leaves very little room for water to move through and will easily freeze solid. And if the pipe is laying on the ground horizontally without any slope, water will sit in the bottom of the pipe and freeze quickly (water doesn't freeze as easily when it's moving). It's important that the water is able to move freely and quickly through the pipe.

2. If you have a flexible discharge hose, disconnect it in the winter or replace it with hard PVC piping. Flexible pipes have many areas in them where water can settle, so they are prone to freezing.

3. Wrap the discharge line in pipe insulation or outdoor heat cable (only if the line is hard PVC). These can be bought at your local hardware store, and you can install it yourself.

4. The best thing you can do is hire a professional to bury your sump discharge pipe below the frost line and tie it into the storm drain system. The pipe will be safe from the biting cold air or piles of snow, which greatly reduces any risk of freezing. A pro will further reduce the chance of freezing by making sure the pipe is correctly pitched. An added bonus is that the unsightly pipe will be hidden, which will increase your home's curb appeal and allow you to create more attractive landscaping in the warmer months.

Whatever you choose to do, Universal Plumbing is always here to help! Give us a call at 586-459-0040 if you need help with anything sump-related.

The Power of a Good Review

Reviews are our favorite. We'll tell you why.

The capability to write public online reviews is great for both businesses and consumers. Everybody wins. It promotes honesty and allows anyone to get a glimpse of what kind of work the business really does, regardless of what their advertising says. And a truly good & honest company will get mostly good reviews, which helps them get new customers. This is especially true for local contractors, like plumbers. Inviting a stranger into your home to fix or install something can be nerve-wracking, but reviews allow you to read real people's experiences with this person and gain some knowledge first. It makes the process of choosing a company so much easier.

The only issue with reviews is that it is much easier to remember to write a review when you had a terrible experience. Let's say 10 people hire a company, and 9 out of 10 people have a good experience with them. Only 1 out of those 9 will remember to write a positive review, but the 1 who did not have a good experience is sure to write a negative review. Online, that makes the company appear to have a 50/50 split of good and bad experiences, when in reality 90% of customers were happy.

This is why it's so important to write a positive review when you have a great experience with a company, especially if they're a local business and you believe in them! Local businesses thrive on word of mouth - people are generally much more likely to choose a company based on a friend's recommendation rather than an ad for the company. Not only that, writing a good review and mentioning the technician(s) by name is a great way to let them know you're happy with their hard work.

When you leave a positive review for Universal Plumbing & Sewer, you're doing much more than just recommending us to others. You're helping us grow, you're encouraging the whole staff, and you're giving your technician a pat on the back for his quality work. So next time you hire us, if you're satisfied with your experience, take a minute or two to write a review! We're on HomeAdvisorAngie's ListYelpFacebook, and Google, and you can post your review on whichever site you prefer. We read them all and appreciate every one of them!

 

Here's one of our favorite reviews that we've received:

"Hands down the best service call by a plumbing company that I have ever had. Friendly, helpful, professional, and upfront with all work details. Highly recommend them." - Divna J.