Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Germantown?
- 2 How Does the Water in Germantown Affect Your Plumbing?
- 3 How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Germantown?
- 4 Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Germantown?
- 5 When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Germantown Vs Hire a Plumber?
- 6 When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Germantown?
What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Germantown?
Since World War II, as government agencies, businesses, and industries began relocating to Germantown and Montgomery County, our population has grown exponentially. Every part of our area has appealing things to enjoy, from the Amish Market and the BlackRock Center for the Arts to the SoccerPlex and the ziplines, trails, and waterfalls of our many parks. Comfortably close to all that the District has to offer, but safely removed from the hustle-bustle of the city, housing has boomed here since the 1950s. Unfortunately, even the most well-maintained homes in our area can suffer from plumbing issues. Some of the most common calls we answer include:
Slow Drains and Clogs
Bathtubs that take forever to empty and toilets that tend to clog are common causes for a call to the plumber. In some cases, these are isolated problems that are relatively easy to resolve and do not trouble you again. Regrettably, if you experience repeated instances of the same slow drain or clog, those can be symptoms pointing to a more serious (and more expensive) repair. Recurring problems with drains usually indicate a buildup of hair, grease, soap, food, and other non-liquids that go down your drains which, given enough time, can turn into a full blockage which can be more challenging to remove. To make things worse, the hard water in the area leaves mineral deposits inside your pipes that can contribute to clogs and slow drains. Sluggish drains can also be a sign of tree roots have invaded your sewer line, gathering any other solids that pass through to build an increasingly large clog.
Leaks and Dripping Faucets
Most homes have a faucet or two that drip regularly, or a pipe connection that leaks a little. The hard water in Germantown makes this issue worse as well, as the minerals corrode the o-rings and gaskets on your fixtures more rapidly, causing them to leak. These may seem like minor issues that don’t warrant a call to the plumber, but they are problems that can turn into disasters if not attended to promptly. Small leaks usually grow over time, building up to massive failures. Taking care of them while they are easily (and inexpensively) managed is the best approach.
Water Heater Issues
With the harder water around Germantown, water heaters must work harder to heat a tank of water as sediment builds up at the bottom of the tank over the heating element. Over time, the extra work will cause the water heater to fail at the shorter end of their usual lifespans, which are about 10 to 15 years. In addition, the tank’s “sacrificial anode”, a rod that rusts instead of allowing the tank itself to rust, will eventually be used up, requiring replacement before the tank fails.
Winter’s arrival signals frozen pipe season for plumbers. Pipes in exterior walls, crawl spaces, and anywhere with less insulation are the most vulnerable to freezing. Some people expect that if their pipes freeze but don’t burst, they are in the clear. Unfortunately, as pipes thaw, the force of water trying to find a way past the remaining ice can put added pressure on weaker parts of your pipes, causing them to burst, as well. Using pipe wraps approved for frozen pipe prevention and allowing a faucet connected to more vulnerable piping to drip when frozen pipes are a concern, can help prevent this common winter damage.
How Does the Water in Germantown Affect Your Plumbing?
Water in Germantown comes from the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers and is supplied by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) with no water quality violations reported since its founding in 1918. Our water is of high quality and perfect for drinking, bathing, cooking, and laundry. In general, it causes no problems, except, perhaps, with “hardness”.
About Water Hardness in Germantown
Describing water as “hard” or “soft” is shorthand for indicating the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. These measurements are taken in grains per gallon (gpg). Measurements of 3 gpg and lower indicate soft water, while 7 gpg and higher represent harder water. In the Germantown area, our water has a hardness measurement of around 9 gpg, making it fairly hard water. The harder the water, the more mineral buildup it can cause on faucets and showerheads, and inside pipes, causing reduced water flow. It can also build up inside appliances that use water, such as dishwashers, washing machines, and coffee makers. The good news is that harder water is also less likely to absorb lead from your household pipes and the solder connecting them. Rest assured, lead has not been detected in any municipal water lines in Germantown.
How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Germantown?
Plumbing work can range from unclogging a stopped drain or installing a new kitchen faucet to replacing a bathtub with a new shower unit or re-plumbing your bathroom. The wide range of work that plumbing can encompass means the price of doing that work can vary just as widely. In general, plumbing work in Germantown runs from a low of about $100 to a high of about $750 for typical jobs, making the average around $425. Naturally, some aspects of plumbing work are ones that most commonly influence its cost. Some of these include:
Cost Factor: Scope and Type of Service
Most of the time, small plumbing jobs tend to have smaller costs as less labor and fewer supplies are generally needed. As a plumbing job becomes more complex, takes longer, or requires more supplies, the price is likely to go up. Since plumbing problems so often require investigation of pipes that are inside walls or hidden underground, the true extent of a plumbing issue may be difficult to determine until we are examining it.
Cost Factor: Materials and Supplies
The supplies needed for a plumbing job can range from inexpensive Teflon tape, plumber’s putty, and washers to high-end fixtures, elegant faucets, and many feet of copper pipe, with prices to match. The supplies we need to do your plumbing work will depend on your existing plumbing system and your personal preferences about the style and type of new or replacement parts that are installed. Some supplies, such as copper and brass pipes and fittings, have prices that vary widely depending on the prices their manufacturers must pay for raw materials to make them. Copper in particular has varied quite widely over recent years. Logistical and supply issues may also affect the cost of materials for your work.
Cost Factor: Permits, Inspections, and Added Costs
Germantown (and Montgomery County) require permits for many types of plumbing work. Inspections may also be required, and both will add to the cost of your plumbing work. Sometimes we need to use specialized equipment or need to have additional workers to complete a job, both of which can make plumbing more expensive. Finally, emergency service, outside of normal business hours, may also affect your bottom line.
Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Germantown?
Changing the oil in your car, and getting an annual checkup with your doctor are two ways you keep things running smoothly with a little regular examination and maintenance. Your plumbing system is no different. Fixing minor problems, and making some improvements to them can help your plumbing run more efficiently and last longer, saving you money on two fronts. Here are some of our suggestions for tasks to add to your chore list.
Repair Small Leaks
Nearly every house has a faucet that drips or a small, annoying leak. While these may be minor annoyances, they can also grow into big problems that can threaten your entire house with flooding damage when that small issue becomes a major disaster. Not only can repairing these small leaks and drips save you by preventing damage, but they can also save you a bundle on your water bill, too. The EPA calculates that the average US household wastes about 10,000 gallons of water each year, which is enough to do about two years’ worth of laundry loads, or running the dishwasher about 1,000 times (over 3,000 times if you have an efficient model!). Not only can you help save the planet, but you also put that money back in your wallet instead of down the drain. WSSC offers a helpful guide to checking for leaks around your home.
Fix Clogs and Slow Drains
Drains that are often slow or completely clogged may be symptomatic of a bigger problem in your sewer system, such as a blockage in your sewer main that may require excavation to repair. Occasionally slow drains should be tended to promptly to help prevent bigger, more expensive problems.
Replacing older, less efficient fixtures with newer, more efficient ones is a sure way to reduce your household water consumption and with it, your bill. Products that receive the EPA’s WaterSense rating are approved as some of the most efficient and effective at conserving water.
When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Germantown Vs Hire a Plumber?
Homeowners are normally responsible for the water lines on their side of the water meter and sewer lines on their side of the sewer main, while WSSC is responsible for the municipal side. It can be difficult, however, to determine precisely where a water problem lies. A rule of thumb is that if your neighbors are having the same problem, it is likely to be on the municipal side, while problems isolated to your own home are probably your responsibility and a call to our plumbers is a good next move. If you feel a problem is WSSC’s responsibility, or you see an obvious water or sewer main problem, you should report such emergencies to the WSSC.
When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Germantown?
Some plumbing work in Germantown will require a permit, though small repairs which do not involve replacing pipes or other substantial work may be exempt from the permitting requirement. Much plumbing work may also require one or more inspections to ensure the work has been done safely and in compliance with plumbing codes and regulations. Because it can be complicated to determine if a permit is required, and if so, what permit is needed and whether you must apply for it, contacting either the permitting office or our knowledgable plumbers is a smart approach. Inspections may also be needed after some plumbing work.