Upgrade To Quarter-Turn Valves

Quarter-Turn Ball Valves Best

Install a quarter-turn valve on appliances to simplify service, eliminate problems

Installing a quarter-turn valve on appliances simplifies service, eliminate problems.

Dependable, Reliable, Long Lasting

Quarter-turn faucets are quickly becoming the default control valve used throughout the home, and for good reason. Performance, ease of use, and longevity make quarter-turn valves much more reliable than old style gate and gasket valves that are especially susceptible to failure when used infrequently.

From bathroom fixtures to shut-off valves to outdoor hose bibs to lawn irrigation, the quarter-turn design lends itself to reliable, maintenance free operation, particularly in situations that don’t see that much use over time, like a toilet shut-off that’s always been subject to corrosion and handle breakage.

Simple And Efficient

No gaskets means nothing to rot or wear down. No bushings means nothing to corrode, jam, or otherwise fail just when you need your valve to work. And instead of cranking endlessly to shut off the water supply – particularly awkward in undersink situations – just a quick flip of the lever guarantees no surprises when you break the connection downstream.

Replacing your old style valves with a new, convenient quarter-turn at the time of service could save you headaches down the road. In the case of the water heater shown above, a new valve had to be installed when the old gate valve failed after it was closed in one direction and couldn’t be reopened after the tank had been drained and flushed. The remaining gate valve controls the cold water supply to the refrigerator icemaker, and should be replaced as well.

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Austin Greywater Project Takes Off

Wilson Plumbing Greywater Project

Our First Greywater Installation Begins

Last month we got started on our first greywater project, one of Austin’s few whole house residential water conservation efforts to date. This is part one of our coverage on this environmental trendsetter.

While greywater recycling that simply diverts laundry room washing machine outflow from the indoor sewer drain to outdoor distribution has been in use for a long time, whole house efforts that collect and reuse everything but toilet, kitchen sink, and dishwasher output require a carefully engineered approach in order to effectively treat waste that contains concentrated amounts of nutrients, particularly phosphates and nitrogen.

Planning Needed To Avoid Problems Later

Simply collecting greywater without any further action simply turns an experiment into a nightmare, as the oxygen needed for aerobic breakdown is quickly used up while the resulting congealed mess turns into a greasy, smelly scum.

The best way to treat greywater is also the simplest: introduce it as soon as possible into a biologically active layer of topsoil, where naturally occurring microbial activity can begin the process of decomposing the unwanted contents.

Greywater stub out is obvious sign of recycling.

The rough-in’s finished. It’s critical that stub outs for hookup are clearly labeled as grey or blackwater – these definitely can’t be mixed!

Our project home will collect all the discharge except for toilet (blackwater) and kitchen/dishwasher waste in a 70-gallon underground tank. From there it’s automatically pumped through an above ground sand filter before being distributed through a drip irrigation system of low pressure emitters.

The end result is an overall reduction in downstream sewage treatment of up to 90%, as water that’s not considered hazardous is recycled rather than adding to the demand of Austin’s rapidly growing population on local plant facilities.

According to Wilson Plumbing General Manager Chris Siebenthaler, “We expect the average amount of reduction from the municipal waste water treatment stream to be between 85 and 90-percent of water use. At the same time, that recycled water will fulfill the owner’s irrigation needs, further reducing demand on our potable water resources.”

The Cost-Benefit Analysis

In addition to reusing greywater for irrigation, the homeowner is also installing a rainwater collection system in the form of seven, 900-gallon tanks, for a total of 6,300 gallons that would otherwise end up as runoff. Together, the two systems – greywater recycling and runoff capture – will significantly lessen the environmental impact of the home’s footprint in terms of water consumption, disposal, and treatment.

In the most basic terms, the home’s owner will significantly reduce both his use of municipal water use and his contribution to the wastewater stream by recycling a big percentage of what otherwise would flow down the sewer and storm drain, and by capturing rainwater runoff to be used in place of treated tap water for irrigation and pool filling.

As for the cost, plumbing during rough-in on new construction doesn’t add that much to the overall budget. The collection, filtration, and irrigation systems, all of which are added after construction’s finished, represent the biggest portion of the overall cost. The good news is that when completed, inspected, and approved, there’s a $5,000 rebate available as further incentive.

In states like California, which are under extreme pressure to reduce consumption because of dwindling resources and growing demand, some municipalities are now requiring that greywater – and even blackwater – recycling be included in new construction. We expect that at some time in the not too distant future Austin will also consider how current and developing technology can be utilized to further help conserve water resources.

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Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Taking Care of Your Water Heater

A Simple Flush Can Extend the Appliance’s Life

Getting the most out of our household appliances involves following a regular schedule of maintenance items that are usually not that difficult for the average homeowner to perform.

When it comes to water heaters, we recommend flushing the appliance periodically to make sure the electric elements or gas flame are heating water – not dirt, debris, or the mineral buildup that occurs in areas served by hard water.

How Often Should You Drain Your Water Heater?

If you have a water softener, flushing can be done less frequently. If your water is hard, you’ll want to flush more often to prevent damage from buildup that can ruin the liner and elements long before they wear out from normal wear and tear.

If you do have a water softener, one thing that can really affect water heater performance as well as water pressure throughout the house is the inevitable breakdown of the resin bed that treats the incoming water. If the resins have broken down, they’ll migrate to the hot water tank and settle to the bottom in a thick tea colored sludge.

If this is the case, you’ll probably have already noticed the water is harder than and the pressure is lower than it should be, and you’ll probably need professional help to correct the problem.

Drain Regularly For Performance And Reliability

Depending on how comfortable you are in maintaining your appliances, regularly flushing the water heater can add significantly to the appliance’s lifetime.

This YouTube video from Sears covers the basics of how to go about draining an electric water heater. Whether you have gas or electric, it’s very important that the heat source be cut before attempting service. Here’s a more detailed video at what’s required to successfully flush a gas water heater.

About Quarter-Turn Faucets

Install a quarter-turn valve on appliances to simplify service, eliminate problems

Install a quarter-turn valve on appliances to simplify service, eliminate problems

Quarter-turn faucets are quickly becoming the default control valve used throughout the home, and for good reason. Performance, ease of use, and longevity make quarter-turn valves much more reliable than old style gate and gasket valves that are especially susceptible to failure when used infrequently.

Replacing your old style valves with a new, convenient quarter-turn at the time of service could save you headaches down the road. In this case, a new valve had to be installed when the old gate valve failed after it was closed and couldn’t be reopened.

Here’s a tip: after a thorough flushing, clean the filters in the lavatory and kitchen fixture spouts. Do this by simply unscrewing to remove, then using an old toothbrush to dislodge sediment and debris that may have built up over time or that may have been stirred up in the draining process.

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Greywater – Once Banned, Now Encouraged

water-down-the-drain

Maybe If They Called It Something Else

(First in an occasional series.) Greywater recycling in various forms has been around for decades, mostly involving catch buckets in showers and kitchen dishpans emptied onto sidedoor flowerbeds. Both activities make a statement, but really aren’t that effective in reducing demand.

Here in Austin we’re getting ready to plumb our first whole house greywater installation, which will connect shower, bath, bathroom sink, and laundry into one collection point for on-demand reuse.

In many parts of the world replenishment of the aquifers has not kept up with drawdown.

California, much in the headlines lately because of their continuing record drought, enormous wildfires, and severe water shortages, has taken a 180-degree turn from originally prohibiting greywater recycling. West Coast cities and towns like Encinitas have moved from simply encouraging the reuse of clothes washer byproduct, to requiring whole house hookups in new residential construction. Continue reading

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A Glass Half Full

After you read the caption you’ll understand how crucial safe and sanitary water is in our daily lives.

 

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It Cost How Much?

toilet repair chargesIf Your Toilet’s Running It’s Not Trying To Get Away

It isn’t news to discover that not all plumbers are on the up and up when it comes time to pay the bill. Case in point – this Fairfax, Virginia repairman who did some very creative bookkeeping when it came time to total his charges for what is usually one of the simplest toilet repairs to make. In this case, he presented a bill for a whopping $900 for a repair worth far, far less.

After a pretty common leaky flapper valve, diagnosing and fixing a fill valve is the most common toilet repair we, and probably every other plumber, get calls for. For many homeowners it’s a fairly simple do it yourself project that can be completed without too much trouble, assuming no unforeseen problems are encountered in the process. Problems like?

Additional Problems That Might Pop Up

Due to a builder’s lack of foresight or a messed up remodel, access to the fill valve could be so restricted that the toilet might actually have to be removed in order to get to the valve.

Older plumbing shut-off valves, especially in areas with a lot of hard water, might have deteriorated to the point where the valve breaks while trying to shut off the water supply, leading to an unanticipated expense for replacement before any other work can be done.

Because of access, wall hung toilets can be very expensive to service regardless of the problem.

Outside of these usually rare problems, replacing a broken or leaky fill valve is a pretty straightforward toilet repair that starts with draining the tank and ends with testing for any leaks and a new flapper.

toilet-repair-parts

These two receipts are for a typical replacement toilet fill valve and a recommended new water supply clik-seal hose connection to repair a leaking toilet. Total: $14.20.

Yes, There Are Cheaters And Crooks Out There

The customer in the example above was, purely and simply, taken to the cleaners. She did the right thing by calling local media to complain, and shining a bright light on very deceptive business practices by an unscrupulous tradesman who in the end gives every professional in the plumbing industry a bad name.

Usually, not always, our profession charges based on knowledge, skill, and expertise. The items required to service a leaking fill valve are inexpensive, very reliable, and can be expected to last a long time, but that’s just a small part of the total cost to fix and repair.

Getting to and from the job site, diagnosing the problem, making sure the necessary repair items are available, removing and disposing of the old parts, installing new ones without damage to any of the surrounding area, clean up, and testing are all part of the final bill, before adding in the cost of the actual parts.

In a way, plumbing is like baking a birthday or wedding cake. Flour, sugar, eggs, and milk aren’t the basis for the cost of a cake. It’s the skill of the baker in combining the ingredients in just the right proportions, understanding the recipe, and making everything look and taste delicious with a final artistic touch of icing that makes it worthwhile.

The best advice is to only use a plumber with a reputation you can trust. Wilson Plumbing in Austin, Texas, is a five-time Angie’s List Super Service Award winner, with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

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Plumbers, Price, and Performance

what-could-go-wrong

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Facebook recently tweaked their page tabs to include “price,” which is a handy feature if you’re looking for a restaurant where you’d like to celebrate an anniversary, or a Little League team’s Saturday win. But if you’re looking for professional services from a skilled craftsman in a critical trade, definitely not.

Screen shot 2015 04 24 at 4 20 23 PM

As a result we’ve had several requests to indicate our pricing on our page. The four choices Facebook offers are $, $$, $$$, and $$$$ dollar signs. In other words we’re expected to indicate one badge representing a range from $1 to $9,999 dollars. Well, that simply doesn’t work for the trades.

By The Hour Or By The Job?

We could, in theory, display an hourly price that we might charge for our newest apprentice hire to change out a toilet flapper valve. Or we could advertise a dollar $ign that would indicate one of our senior tech’s bill for isolating and fixing a water heater gas leak.

Generally speaking, each job we do is unique.

Of course that wouldn’t indicate what we might bid on any commercial or residential job that requires coordinated interaction with other trades and a general contractor.

Neither would it be useful to the person who thinks they can predict performance based on price. Simply put, a tradecraft like plumbing doesn’t translate to a menu of product selections with a set price for each. Generally speaking, each job we do is unique.

Price Is No Object – Unless It Is.

A recent article in Contractor magazine talks about a person on Facebook looking for a “good” and “inexpensive” plumber. I’m willing to bet that at the time of the Facebook post that person’s toilets weren’t overflowing due to a backed up sewer line!

Other things to consider before you decide price is the only benchmark include the inevitable outcomes of a job done wrong, not to code, or by a fly-by-night who is impossible to reach when a problem comes up.

Justin Timberlake learned a hard lesson about hiring unqualified plumbers. He had to shut down his high end New York City restaurant after repeated sewer line ruptures spilled into the dining room.

Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner

For the past five years Wilson Plumbing has received Angie’s List Super Service award for outstanding service as voted by our customers. We think this is the first thing a consumer should look for when choosing a tradesman — what do their customers think about the work they perform?

Is paying a fair and reasonable price any guarantee that there won’t be any problems? No. But because any reputable plumber will more than likely charge a fair and reasonable price, you know that if a problem arises there’s always someone to call who will stand by their work.

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Too Many Americans Still Lack Indoor Plumbing

Sometimes there's no alternative.

Seat warmer is not an option but a necessity.

Tracking Indoor Plumbing

Drinking. Cooking. Bathing. Flushing. Washing. These are what we expect to satisfy when we open the tap.

The Washington Post recently ran a story on the plight of Americans living without indoor plumbing. In it, they discussed the Census Bureau’s use of the American Community Survey that among other things measures the number of households that have, and use, indoor plumbing, especially toilets.

While discussion of indoor plumbing might be viewed as a great topic for the local comedy improv, and the target of ridicule by headline grabbing politicians who seem confused over the role hygiene plays in disease prevention, the concept that flush toilets are a good thing is overwhelmingly accepted by advanced cultures and societies. Continue reading

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Working With Austin’s Best

This gorgeous bath is the product of Wilkes Builders talented imagination.

When it comes to successfully defining an environment, few do it better than David Wilkes Builders. This residential bath we installed is an elegant reflection of his design talent and impeccable selection of finish materials and fixtures.

An Elegant Dream Come To Life

They say you’re known by the company you keep. If that’s true, we’re extremely privileged to be in some very good company.

David Wilkes Builders is known throughout Austin as one of the finest design-build contractors in Texas and beyond. The residential work shown here showcases the unique talent David and his team of craftsman wield in expressing the client’s goals in a stunning and thoroughly satisfying manner. We’re proud to be able to work with such exceptional talent as David Wilkes Builders. It’s the same approach we take to every job we tackle.

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Asian Style Bathroom Design Trend

Asian Inspiration by International Custom Designs, Irvine, CA

New Use for Bath: Include Spa Experience

Asian is a hot new style trend that blends centuries of Eastern tradition with modern floor plans and building materials.

The functional side of this approach is a resurgence in bathing as a means to relax, unwind and destress – just as its been done in Japanese homes for hundreds of years.

Typical of Asian style is a focus on simple wood elements throughout the bath. Clean lines, and a minimum of adornment are what distinguish Asian style from European influences.

If you’re thinking of a remodel or new construction that can incorporate a spa experience, Asian style is definitely an approach that can yield dividends. The style is relaxing, and the experience is invigorating.

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