I vividly remember one Christmas Eve when toilet water backed up into my shower and flooded the entire bathroom floor and laundry room. Our many houseguests were taking showers every day and both toilets were being flushed more than usual. What we didn’t know (until it was too late) was that our main sewer line was clogged with tree roots. With extra stress on an already compromised drainage system, it was a recipe for disaster. Since that expensive and embarrassing emergency, I’ve had a professional clean my drains every year to make sure the roots are cut and the water has an easy path to the main line. I haven’t had this problem since.
Many plumbing emergencies can be avoided if you pay attention to and maintain all your drains, toilets, garbage disposals, sinks, and water heaters leading up to the holidays.Matthew Hechim, owner of Water Heaters Masters, Inc., a Diamond Certified company, recommends a simple inspection that will offer clues as to whether your water heater is about to fail or needs maintenance. “Just look around the bottom and top of the tank. If you see any leaking water or rust, you probably need a service call. Also, make sure you’re not storing stuff up against it, near the flue.”
Another common problem this time of year is hot water running out too quickly. After all, you’re washing more dishes and visitors might be taking extra-long showers. “If your water heater doesn’t have any obvious signs of wear and tear, simply crank up the temperature 10 to 15 degrees so you have some extra hot water for the holidays,” advises Mr. Hechim. “Don’t forget to turn it back down when the guests are gone, though.”
To avoid a mess in the kitchen, keep an eye on what’s going down the drain and garbage disposal. Guests trying to help with dishes may pour grease into the sink and scrape things like bones, turkey skin, lemon peels, mashed potatoes, and coffee grounds into the disposal. Garbage disposals are effective devices, but they shouldn’t be treated as replacements for garbage cans or compost heaps.
Here are some additional suggestions: Place plungers next to toilets in all your bathrooms for guests to use. Post a small sign encouraging them to hold down the handle when flushing to add more water to the toilet so waste flushes away more easily. Ask guests to take shorter showers. Keep eco-friendly drain cleaning products under the kitchen sink (or mix vinegar and baking soda in equal parts) to clear minor clogs. And of course, make sure you have a top rated plumber you can contact for any unforeseen emergencies, and give the company’s name and number to your house sitters if you’re going to be out of town over the holidays.