Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in San Mateo?
- 2 How Does the Water in San Mateo Affect Your Plumbing?
- 3 How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in San Mateo?
- 4 Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in San Mateo?
- 5 When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in San Mateo Vs. Hire a Plumber?
- 6 When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in San Mateo?
What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in San Mateo?
Since the earliest days of San Mateo and the influx of new residents with the Gold Rush, San Mateo has been a desirable place to live. Decades of investment in our area from businesses, government, and private citizens have maintained our quality of life. From the historic William Sands house and the bungalows of North Central to the innovative X-100 house in the Highlands, our population continues to grow and our infrastructure with it. While San Mateo is a lovely place to live, enjoying it with plumbing problems can be unpleasant, especially if you have one of these common issues.
Leaky Pipes and Fixtures
Whether it’s a faucet with a slow drip or a leak under the sink, water where it shouldn’t be can be an annoyance as well as something that can easily grow into a larger, more damaging problem if leaks grow or connections fail. Plumbing in many of our older homes, such as in North Central or Baywood-Aragon, has survived the passage of time as well as multiple earthquakes, making it more vulnerable to leaks and failures. In addition, even a slowly dripping faucet can send thousands of gallons of water down the drain over the course of a year, wasting a precious resource and adding to your water bill.
Slow and Clogged Drains
One of the most frequent calls for our plumbers is to fix slow or clogged drains and toilets. If a plunger hasn’t done the trick for you, call us for professional help before you put caustic chemicals down your drain or attempt other potentially damaging remedies. Clogs and slowdowns can be a one-time issue, but they can also be an indication of bigger problems further down your drain lines, from buildup in your pipes to tree roots or broken pipes.
Turning on the shower to find there’s no hot water is a disappointing start to anyone’s day. Water heater service and replacement is another of our most common plumbing services. In some cases, a non-working water heater can be repaired, for example, if a thermostat is faulty or a heating element isn’t performing well. More often, though, we are called out to replace a failed or failing water heater. Performing some annual maintenance can help your water heater last longer, but more often, it will need to be replaced, and you will need a permit and inspection from the San Mateo Planning & Building Department to accompany the work.
Unfortunately, the Bay area is vulnerable to seismic activity, and that affects how your plumbing is installed and how it works. Plumbing work, such as strapping down water heaters and ensuring you have working gas and water shut-off valves, are an important part of earthquake preparedness. After a temblor has struck, a common issue is broken or weakened pipes and connections, especially in underground piping.
How Does the Water in San Mateo Affect Your Plumbing?
California Water Service (CalWater) has brought high-quality water to San Mateo residents in the Bayshore district since 1931, with much of our water being supplied by the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Our district’s water continually meets state and federal requirements for water quality with few complaints.
Water “Hardness” in San Mateo
If there is one concern about local water, it’s that San Mateo’s water is naturally “soft”. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg) of dissolved minerals (usually calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate). The higher the percentage of dissolved minerals, the higher the hardness measurement. Hardness measurements of 3 gpg and under indicate soft water, while 7 gpg and above represent hard water. Water in the Bayshore district measures, on average, about 2.7 gpg. The benefits of naturally softer water include reduced mineral buildup in pipes and fixtures, and needing less soap, shampoo, and detergent to achieve the same results. The main drawback of softer water is that it can absorb more metal and other contaminants from pipes as it travels through them. Luckily, state-mandated testing shows no evidence of lead service lines on supply or sewer lines in San Mateo in recent examinations.
How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in San Mateo?
Many homeowners dread making a plumbing service call, expecting the work to be very expensive. While some plumbing jobs can, of course, be quite costly, the range of costs is as varied as the homes and fixtures we work on. In reality, the average plumbing job in the San Mateo area costs between $500 and $600. As you’d expect, a number of aspects of each situation can greatly influence whether costs fall into that range or not.
Type and Scope of Work
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a simpler, smaller plumbing job, such as a clogged toilet or water heater flushing will almost always cost less than extensive or complex work, such as replacing a shower unit or adding new plumbing for a wet bar. Because so much of your plumbing system is hidden inside walls and under the ground, the true scope of plumbing work may not be immediately obvious, so your costs can change as we investigate and work on your issue.
Materials and Supplies
Logistics and supply concerns can have a great effect on the cost of plumbing work and are largely out of our control. For example, the cost of copper used for piping has fluctuated dramatically over the last twenty years. We may also discover unexpected problems or elements of your plumbing that may require additional or specialized materials to repair properly and/or to ensure the work is in compliance with relevant plumbing regulations and ordinances.
Permits, Inspections, and Other Expenses
Because San Mateo requires permits and inspections for many types of plumbing installations and repairs, those costs will add to your total bill. Your preferences about the work we do may also affect costs. For example, if we are replacing a water heater for you, the model and capacity you choose will affect the price of work done. If we are installing or replacing additional fixtures, those costs can vary wildly, as well, depending on your specific situation and preferences.
Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in San Mateo?
Any improvements you make for your home’s efficiency and reliability are likely to save you money, and plumbing is no exception. Better plumbing can reduce your water usage, ensure you are in compliance with local regulations, and can help prevent major (and costly) damage from burst pipes and other plumbing catastrophes.
A dripping faucet or a toilet that keeps running are both wasteful and annoying. The average home in the United States wastes up to 10,000 gallons of water each year due to these kinds of minor leaks and drips. Small leaks can also turn into big problems, especially if an earthquake or other physical damage causes them to become worse. When those little plumbing issues grow, they can rapidly turn into devastating water damage.
Conservation and Fixture Upgrade
From adding rain barrels to replacing your old appliances and fixtures with high-efficiency versions, there are countless ways that upgrades can reduce your water usage, and therefore, your water bill. Many of these upgrades also come with rebates from CalWater, making them even more appealing ways to protect a valuable resource.
We make annual trips to the dentist and have the car’s oil changed regularly, but how many people bother with regular plumbing maintenance? Most of our plumbing is out of sight (and out of mind), only gaining our attention when there’s a problem. Performing some regular maintenance, whether you do it yourself or arrange for a plumber to help, can allow it to work more efficiently, last longer, and can prevent some service calls, too. Some common plumbing maintenance tasks can include:
- Flushing your water heater — best done at least once each year to remove any sediment.
- Checking the water heater’s “sacrificial anode” (a metal rod that corrodes to prevent the actual water tank from rusting), especially with our softer water which corrodes metal more quickly.
- Fixing slow drains rather than waiting for a drain to be completely clogged. You should tend to slow drains promptly, preventing further damage and generally making for easier, faster work.
- Sewer Line Inspection – Having your sewer lines inspected on a regular basis (every couple of years on average) can help catch small clogs and leaks while they are manageable, in many cases before excavation is needed.
When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in San Mateo Vs. Hire a Plumber?
You are generally responsible for your side of the pipes from your water meter or sewer main connection (and should call a plumber about issues there), but not for problems on the city side of both of those (in which case you should contact CalWater). A quick rule of thumb to figure this out is to check if your close neighbors are experiencing the same issues you are. If they are, the problem is probably on the municipal side, but if it’s just your house, you’re probably on the hook for it. Types of issues that may have you wondering about this question are often related to low water pressure, lack of water, or unexpectedly high water bills. CalWater has a guide to help you figure out what might be causing a high water bill and where the problem may lie. They also offer an optional insurance program to cover interior and exterior emergency plumbing repairs on your own side of the water lines.
When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in San Mateo?
In our seismically active area, the safety and quality of plumbing, both for water and especially for gas lines, is critically important. Permits and inspections help to ensure plumbing installations, replacements, and repairs are done in compliance with local, state, and federal standards. San Mateo requires a plumbing permit for any substantial plumbing work being done, including “installation, removal, alteration, or replacement of any plumbing, gas or drainage piping work, or any fixture or water heating equipment in a building or premises”. Inspections are also required after most plumbing work, too.