Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Tempe?
- 2 How Does the Water in Tempe Affect Your Plumbing?
- 3 How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Tempe?
- 4 Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Tempe?
- 5 When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Tempe vs Hire a Plumber?
- 6 When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Tempe?
What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Tempe?
Tempe is a wonderful place to live, from the shores of our refreshing Tempe Town Lake and beautiful ASU campus to our popular golf courses and diverse neighborhoods. Living in our corner of the Grand Canyon State, we are in the middle of all that Phoenix has to offer, and locally we have such treasures as Mill Avenue, historic Maple-Ash, and our active live music scene, making us one of the most popular places among young professionals and millennials. Another draw is our reasonable real estate prices, with nearly half of the houses in Tempe, having been built between 1970 and 1990. While this can make home prices more affordable, it can also mean that many homes are old enough to have some plumbing issues, but often not so old that they’ve been fully upgraded. Some common plumbing issues Tempe residents run into include:
Lead In Your Water
In the Tempe area, federally mandated testing of our water supply has not indicated lead content. Some household water supplies have tested positive for lead, however, with the majority of those homes having been built between 1982 and 1988. The lead detected is generally absorbed by water from contact with either the metal pipes they are made of, or in the solder used to join pipes, connectors, and fixtures. Because there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, particularly for homes with infants and small children who are most vulnerable to its harmful effects, any discovery of lead in your water should be taken care of immediately.
For homes built in the 1960s and 1970s (all north of Baseline Road), a common problem is sewer lines made with so-called Orangeburg pipe. This type of pipe was made of a tar paper-like material and was used to connect homes to the sewer main. Cost-effective at the time, in the intervening years, it has often flattened out, causing frequent sewer backups. Orangeburg pipe is also vulnerable to tree roots growing into it, compromising it even more. Attempts to clean out the roots or repair the pipe are usually unsuccessful and may cause even more damage to it. If your home is determined to have an Orangeburg pipe sewer line, the question is “when” it will fail, not “if”, so prompt replacement is recommended.
When mid-summer brings the monsoon season, it offers some relief from the heat, supplies much-needed rain, but it can play havoc with underground pipes. This sudden addition of water in the ground puts hydrostatic pressure on pipes and can cause them to shift in the ground as the soil itself expands and contracts like a sponge. Both can trigger small cracks which can easily expand, and which can allow for leaks, and for sand and tree roots to infiltrate pipes. Septic system backups are also common when the ground becomes quickly saturated.
Universal Plumbing Issues
Tempe homes are also, of course, vulnerable to the very common kinds of plumbing problems that make up the majority of plumbing service calls here in Tempe and across the country. These range from leaky pipes and clogged toilets, to water heater problems and dripping faucets. While these problems may be more common in older neighborhoods, such as Maple-Ash, they can occur in even the newest of homes.
How Does the Water in Tempe Affect Your Plumbing?
Tempe’s water primarily arrives at our water treatment plants from the Salt River, the Verde River, and from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project. The water that flows into our home is of good quality, though it may occasionally have an earthy or musty smell and taste as a result of some algae in the water supply. While this algae is perfectly safe for people and plumbing, and the water is treated to remove contaminants, some odor or taste may linger. A more noticeable and annoying problem can result from Tempe’s “hard” water.
About Water “Hardness”
When water is labeled as being “hard” or “soft”, it is actually a description of the volume of dissolved mineral content in the water. These minerals, usually calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, are measured in grains per gallon (gpg), with ratings of 3 gpg and under reflecting soft water and 7 gpg and above indicating hard water. In Tempe, our water’s average hardness measures about 14.2 gpg, meaning it falls into the “very hard” category.
Effects of Hard Water
The harder your water, the more mineral content it has. That mineral content remains after the liquid part of the water dries out, and can be found in spots on your dishes and glassware, and mineral buildup inside your pipes, faucet aerators, and showerheads. That buildup can also form in appliances that use water such as dishwashers, washing machines, and coffee makers, shortening their working lives. Hard water can also mean more stubborn soap scum in sinks, bathtubs, and showers, and sediment buildup in your water heater. From a comfort standpoint, it can make your skin dry out more, can make soaps and detergents less effective (so you’ll need to use more), and your towels may not feel as soft after laundering.
How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Tempe?
Homeowners often delay repairs or put up with many plumbing annoyances because they fear the work will be too expensive. In reality, the average cost of plumbing repairs in Tempe is about $425, with simple jobs costing only about $150 and more complex work averaging about $700. Of course, so much of your plumbing is hidden inside your walls and under the ground, any number of unforeseen issues and unexpected situations may affect prices. Some common aspects of plumbing work that can affect its cost include:
Cost Factor: Type and Complexity of Work
In general, without a lot of unexpected plumbing surprises, smaller jobs such as fixing a leaky faucet or unclogging a toilet will hit the low end of average costs, while more extensive work, such as repairing a sewer line or replacing a tub with a new shower unit will be more costly. Of course, some seemingly simple jobs will turn out to be major issues, such as a clogged sink that turns out to be a blocked sewer main. Others will be pleasantly uncomplicated, such as expecting a broken water supply line when the problem is a partially-closed pressure regulator valve.
Cost Factor: Materials and Supplies
Some costs are out of our control, including the prices of some necessary materials. Logistics and the available supply can vary wildly, too. For example, copper prices have seen dramatic changes in recent years, even from week to week, affecting the cost of obtaining needed materials.
Cost Factor: Permits and Additional Expenses
Because most plumbing work in Tempe requires a permit, that expense will affect your total bill. Emergency plumbing service or extensive work requiring additional workers or specialized equipment may also cost more. Your personal preferences about any materials, parts, or fixtures we use can influence prices as well.
Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Tempe?
Improving your plumbing system can save you money by reducing the amount of water you use, resulting in lower water bills. Better plumbing can also help you limit wasted water and can help prevent damage to your home and belongings due to damaged pipes, fixtures, or other unresolved plumbing issues. Several ways to save include:
Eliminate Leaks and Wasted Water
Estimates indicate that the average US household wastes nearly 10,000 gallons of water each year. That’s enough for around 2 years of laundry or nearly 200 extra showers. Wasted water can come from dripping faucets, toilets that keep running, and leaks in pipes and connections. Those small leaks can also grow unexpectedly, possibly causing devastating (and expensive) water damage to your home.
Replacing some of your fixtures, such as dishwashers, toilets, and washing machines, with newer, more efficient models can dramatically reduce your water bill. In addition, the Tempe water department offers rebates for some plumbing upgrades, resulting in even more savings for you.
Just as oil changes can make your car run more efficiently and last longer, plumbing maintenance can do the same thing — especially with our very hard water. A few regular maintenance tasks you can do yourself, or in conjunction with our plumbers, include:
- Flush your water heater to remove sediment buildup
- Check your water heater’s sacrificial anode and replace it if needed
- Fix slow drains and clogs promptly, before they turn into larger problems or require excavation work
- Repair dripping faucets and failing toilet flappers
- Have your septic tank pumped out regularly
When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Tempe vs Hire a Plumber?
Most of the time, our plumbers are likely to be your best bet for a plumbing issue, but sometimes a problem is the responsibility of the Water Department. Tempe has some suggestions to help you determine if a water problem is a municipal responsibility or your own responsibility. In general, if you and your neighbors are all having a similar issue, the problem is likely on the city side of the water meter or sewer line. If it’s just your house, the problem is most likely on your side, and you’re on the hook for the repairs. Tempe also offers an online reporting system, Tempe 311, where you can check for known issues and report any water problems you’re having.
When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Tempe?
In general, Tempe requires permits for most plumbing work except for “the repair of leaks in drains, soil, wastes, and vents piping unless the defective piping is replaced, or the clearing of stoppages, or the repairing of leaks in water or gas piping, valves or fixtures unless such repairs involve or require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes or fixtures”. Making this determination can be complicated, so our plumbers can examine your situation and determine what, if any, permits are needed in addressing your plumbing issues.