Category Archives: Tip and Tricks

bask in snow

Heater’s Still Standing

We’ve spent the better part of this spring talking about your heating system miraculously making it through the wicked winter of 2017. Some of you realize this past winter was certainly your heater’s last stand, making now the best time to hook yourself up with a new unit. But, what about the rest of you with heating systems that still have a few good winters left in em? What about the heaters that are still standing strong? Is there anything you can do to make a decent system more efficient? The guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating have just the news for you!

Boiler Add-Ons

If you heat your home using a hot water boiler, there is an easy way to improve the efficiency of your system and save money without having to replace the boiler itself. All you need is a boiler outdoor reset control.

A what?

A boiler outdoor reset control can be installed on an existing boiler to automatically adjust the temperature of the water heated by the boiler based on the outdoor temperature. “With boiler water temperatures adjustable, you can improve the comfort of your home, the lifespan of your heating equipment, reduce standby energy loss, and lower your heating bills by an average of 10 percent,” said Grand Master Plumber Greg Sheck from G&C. All you have to do is call the guys at G&C to install it.

Boilers are traditionally designed to heat water to peak temperatures, anywhere from 160-200 ºF. This temperature range typically keeps your home comfortable even the coldest days of the year in New England. “In the spring and fall, and during some of the wacky winter days when we get in the 50’s, you don’t need peak temperatures from your boiler even though you still need heat to keep your house comfortable,” said Sheck. “Without a boiler outdoor reset control, your boiler doesn’t adjust according to the mild or wild temperatures, it heats water to peak whether you need it or not.” At peak temps, your using energy you don’t need, which is like throwing money out the window.

More Mass Save Benefits

To help more people realize the benefits of outdoor reset controls, the Sponsors of Mass Save® are offering rebates of up to $225 on controls for natural gas boilers and up to $100 on controls for oil and propane boilers. That’s free money from Mass Save that you just can’t pass up, especially if you know your boiler is good for a few more winters! For more information about Mass Save rebates, click here or call the guys at G&C and they will happily walk you through it.

Blue Bathroom

Bathroom Remodeling to Boost Your Bottom Line

Last month, the great guys from G&C Plumbing and Heating shared with you some tips about what types of bathroom remodels are recommended when you want to put your house on the market and make top dollar at closing.

“I thought of some more ideas,” said Brandon Sheck, Bathroom Remodeler Extraordinaire.

Ok, Brandon, tell us more…

Brandon actually suggests working with your real estate agent to figure out exactly how a bathroom should best serve what you’d consider a “choice buyer” (someone who falls madly in love with your house and has the means to buy) in order to decide how best to spend your budget on materials and various rooms.

Some bathrooms play different rolls (pun intended) in a person’s life and home. During your walk-through, Brandon suggests figuring out how each bathroom space should function to attract that choice buyer.

Master bath. This is often considered the second most important space in the house during a showing, next to the kitchen. This is a big selling point and can make or break a sale. If the space is outdated or difficult to navigate, Brandon suggests investing most of your remodeling budget here.

The full bath, or family bathroom. This is generally a space for everyone in the house where function trumps fashion. “This is not the place where you have to splurge with a vessel sink and granite countertop to increase your asking price,” Brandon says.

A three-quarter bath (includes a toilet, sink, and shower). These spaces are generally not a place people hang out in to enjoy some personal time. They are about utility (and maybe accommodating your mothers-in-law’s short visit). Brandon suggests focusing on clean lines in this space. A new corner cabinet, flooring, lighting, and fresh paint will do the trick.

The powder room or half bath. This is a tiny spot that can pack a serious design punch. This is your opportunity to make a big impression on a potential buyer. “Here is where you install the fancy lighting and interesting accessories,” said Brandon. “Because there is little hardware to replace, we can keep the costs down while seriously increasing your home value.”

When to Splurge

In any of the bathrooms above, there is room for impact statements you can make to reinforce the amount you are asking for your home. Consider some of the following as upgrades for your resale value. They are not necessarily super expensive, just upgrades to your bottom line:

  • Radiant flooring.
  • Stain-resistant grout.
  • Skylights
  • Heated shower mirror.
  • Framed mirrors.

So, now you have homework in deciding what functions your bathrooms should actually serve the potential buyer you are trying to attract. Go ahead, do your walk-through with your realtor, and then give the guys at G&C a call!

Next time, we’ll tell you all about the Angie’s List Super Service Award that the guys have won THREE YEARS IN A ROW and are STILL too shy to talk about.

 

gandc

Exciting Developments on the Horizon for G&C Plumbing and Heating

In the coming months, Greg and Brandon of G&C Plumbing and Heating will be introducing a ton of cool stuff for their customers! There will be set pricing and membership opportunities, so you’re never caught in a lurch if a plumbing disaster strikes. And, they will be upping their game when it comes to bathroom remodeling, too. Keep your eye out, and check in at this website from time to time to see what new and cool stuff is happening with our Plumbers without Cracks.

Of course, they will always remain the faithful and courteous plumbers you can count on and trust. Greg and Brandon pride themselves in always answering the call when you are in need. And now, Christine, Greg’s one and only (and the “C” in G&C), will be the one to answer your call and set up your appointment with they guys. No waiting around for a call back!

Because they always strive to empower customers with as much plumbing knowledge as possible, here are some tried and true tips the guys often recommend to help avoid potential disasters. We like to call them…

Expert Tips from the Trenches.

  1. Dear John – Although it is rare to have your porcelain throne spontaneously explode, it can happen. More likely, a leaky toilet is the result of the working parts inside the toilet failing. When this is the case, slowly but surely, your toilet can waste enough water to fill an Olympic-sized pool.”If you suspect a leak, you or your eight-year-old can run a fun and easy test by pouring a bit of food coloring into the toilet’s tank,” says Greg, a plumber with over 20 years of experience. “If you see coloring in the bowl the next day, you need to replace the flush valve.” A bit of preventative maintenance on your favorite lounge chair can go a long way.
  2.  Don’t Burn Your Pipes or Your Plumbers – Bathroom and kitchen sinks can quickly get clogged with hair, soap residue, and fats. This is a messy problem that can become disastrous if not attended. In the bathroom you can use a wet/dry vacuum to remove small masses, and in the kitchen, flush the drain with a bucket full of boiling water to help oil dissolve. However, please never pour flesh eating products like Drano in your sink. “I can’t tell you how many times I have been chemically burned after opening a pipe to clear a problematic drain,” said Brandon Sheck. These over the counter products run along the bottom of a pipe and burnout a small path along the way, but they don’t actually clean out the problem and often get trapped themselves creating a little corrosive chemical pool that can damage your pipes and the hands that fix them.The simplest way to keep drains running clean is to not put clogging material down there. If you do experience a slowing of your drain, just remember – don’t burn your plumbers! G&C recommends using BIO-Clean. This product is not available in stores and is a blend of bacteria and enzymes. The bacteria are natural, not genetically-engineered. The enzyme concentration is the most powerful on the market and is used by many amazing plumbers such as G&C.
  3.  Stinky Water – “If your water stinks, it’s likely your water heater is to blame,” says Greg Sheck. The internal parts that do the heating in the tank can corrode because they spend their lives in a hot water chemical bath. The by-products of the corrosion mix with your water and cause a horrible smell. If this happens, you need to call a plumber immediately. The chemical breakdown of your water heater’s components is happening too fast, and your water may pose a health risk.
  4.  Washing Machine Check-UP – Another plumbing point that can be become problematic is a set of rubber connection hoses on your washing machine. “These hoses can dry out, burst and the next thing you know, the rinse cycle is happening in your family room,” said Brandon. To avoid this plumbing problem, check the hoses twice year for cracks and blisters. If crawling behind your washer twice a year is going to be a long shot, you might want to call G&C to replace the rubber hoses with steel models and have them install a single-lever shutoff valve that is easy to reach.
frozen-pipe

Keep Your Pipes from Freezing in Wicked Cold Temps

Last week’s ‘Bomb Cyclone’ was something else. Who calls a storm that? Anyway, a big dump of snow in January has become the norm here in New England, but these subzero temperatures are a bit disturbing. Greg and Brandon from G&C Plumbing and Heating had their hands full after the storm helping customers with frozen pipe issues.

Frozen pipes are a problem because they prevent water flow, but even worse, frozen pipes can eventually burst, causing damage and potential flooding. A lot of people don’t even know they have burst or split pipes until it gets warmer and the ice blockages melt – making a mess. “The biggest problem we typically see is improper insulation,” said Grand Master Plumber Greg who suggests stopping by your local hardware to pick up some rubber foam pipe insulation. “The sleeves are easy to pop on and can save you a ton of headache when temps dip. Additional insulation can also be added to walls and ceilings to keep the pipes warm.”

But, what if you can’t get to the pipes, can’t see them, don’t have that kind of time or money to add insulation this month, or have already done this and are still worried about pipes freezing? No worries. The guys have three plumber-grade tips to help keep your home safe and comfortable during this deep freeze.

  1. Keep interior doors and access panels open. Pipes are often located in cabinets. When the temperatures drop, it is a good idea to keep cabinet doors open so that the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm as well. You should also keep all interior doors open so that the heat can flow throughout the home. This leads us to…
  2. Keep the heat on. Even if you’re skipping out of town to warmer weather, make sure that the heat is kept on. “The heat does not have to be kept as high as you normally would keep it if you were actually home, but keeping it set above 60 degrees is a good idea especially when it’s really cold out,” said Greg. This should provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm and to prevent any water inside from freezing. And, your grandfather was right –
  3. Allow faucets to drip. Say you have an area of the house where it gets particularly cold, allow the faucets in that area to drip slightly. “Allowing the faucet to be open will relieve pressure in the system. If a pipe freezes, it is actually the pressure that is created between the blockage and the faucet that will cause the pipe to burst,” said Sheck. Allowing the faucet to be open will prevent this pressure from building up and thus, keep the pipe from bursting.

Follow these tips when the temps and wind chill dip to help keep your home safe and comfortable. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating. They can help with any problems you have this season.

grout

Cleaning Between the Lines

There’s nothing worse than the kids confusing your dingy bathroom grout lines for Halloween décor this time of year. Yuck. No matter what color your grout is, use these handy tips from the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating to keep tile looking fresh and yucky free.

All you need is water, vinegar, and baking soda

“Sometimes customers go a bit over board trying to clean grout that’s still in good shape and doesn’t need to be replaced,” said Greg Sheck, Grand Master Plumber and bathroom remodeler extraordinaire from G&C. Greg tells customers that all they really need is some water, vinegar, and baking soda. “It’s better than using harsh chemicals because, in most cases, your bathroom is enclosed and harmful chemicals can become trapped in the tub and or shower area no many how many windows you have open or how powerful your fan is.”

Greg’s solution is better for your health…

“If you have an old spray bottle, mix one-part white vinegar to three parts warm water. If you don’t have a spray bottle, a bucket and sponge will do just fine with this solution,” said Greg. Spray or wipe the vinegar solution all over the grout and tile in the area you want to clean and let the mixture sit for a few minutes.

Greg’s Secret Weapon…

To make even the dingiest grout sparkle, mix up a thick paste of baking soda and water in a bowl and get a couple of cheap (or old) tooth brushes. Greg likes to use the electric kind with replaceable batteries for extra elbow grease. “Dip your toothbrushes in the paste and bang out those grout lines,” says Greg who swears this will even brighten caulk lines that are smooth and free from cracks. Once you’re satisfied with your scrubbing efforts, rinse the whole thing off with clean water and marvel in your handy work. Your lungs and grout will thank you and no one will mistake your bathroom for a room in a haunted house.

Happy Halloween

The guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating are full of handy tricks like cleaning grout and checking for toilet leaks. They believe that sharing their knowledge of plumbing and bathroom remodeling helps their customers feel empowered and comfortable, which makes the guys feel pretty darn good in return. If you are looking for some straight-up good guys to help you with plumbing or bathroom remodeling issues, give Greg and Brandon at G&C Plumbing and Heating a call. They’re here to help!

 

Halloween

Decorating for Halloween? Don’t Forget the Outside Faucets.

Really! Make the most out of Halloween décor and toss in these outdoor plumbing tweaks recommended by the great guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating. You’ll feel good about yourself!

Even though it’s been unusually warm out this fall, we all know that eventually the temps will drop – probably overnight when we all left the windows open. “No matter the weather, we always recommend customers turn off their outside faucets or sillcocks in October so it’s done and out of the way for when we’re hit with the cold,” said Brandon Sheck, Plumber Extraordinaire and all around good guy. “It’s very important to disconnect hoses as water will become trapped in the line and cause the outside faucet to freeze and split when it’s cold out,” said Brandon who didn’t go into the sort of mess this could make, but use your best Halloween inspired imagination. Yikes!

Good news is, winterizing outside faucets is as easy as hanging those annoying spider web decorations on your front bushes. Maybe easier!

  • Disconnect the hoses – Drain them and hang them up for the winter. Your hoses will last longer, be less likely to leak at the connectors, and be less likely to develop splits that leak when the hose is pressurized.
  • Close the shut-off valves – From inside your home, close the shut-off valve(s) that control the flow of water to the outdoor faucets.
  • Open the faucets to “bleed the pipe out” – Back outside, let any residual water drain out of the outdoor pipe. Creating an air space within the short segment of pipe gives residual water room to expand if it freezes. If you have a frost-damaged outdoor fixtures – replace them!

Disconnecting hoses and shutting off water to outside faucets are two of the most important things you can do to save yourself from a nightmare this Halloween season!  If you need any help, or would rather stick to the spider web hanging, call G&C and the guys will take care of your outdoor faucets and all of your plumbing needs.

 

under-the-sink

S -Traps, P-Traps, J-Traps – Oh MY!

“Little Lady, the problem is you have an outdated S-trap. That’s illegal is some states, ya know, so I’m going to have to rip that out and install a P-Trap. It’s probably going to cost you.”

Don’t be fooled by the fancy alphabetical references, sink traps are everywhere, keeping sewer gasses from coming up through your drain. It’s true that some traps work better than others because of their shape, but most are a simple fix for a licensed plumber.

In our final blog about sink traps (because who knew there was so much to say about them) Brandon and Greg Sheck from G&C Plumbing and Heating want you to be in the know when interviewing a plumber for a job, however small. So, here is the rest of everything you need to know about sink traps…

The S-Trap

Invented by Alexander Cummings in 1775, the S-Trap was crucial in the success of indoor domestic plumbing. This simple S-shaped piece of plumbing solved the problem of sewer gasses traveling back up drains and into homes by providing an internal trap. Problem was, the S-shape tended to get clogged, required an overflow, and could easily siphon dry even when well-vented. So, introducing the…

U-Trap, Turned P-Trap, Turned J-Trap

Originally coined the U-Trap by Thomas Crapper in 1880, (No, we are not making that name up) Mr. Crapper (Yes, we will use that as often as we can) found the U-shape of the drain trap to be more efficient in maintaining a water seal to prevent the escape of sewage gasses into a building. Crapper’s new U-bend also didn’t clog, so, unlike the S-bend, it did not need an overflow. The most common of these traps is referred to as a P-trap or a J-Trap because of the later addition of a 90-degree fitting on the outlet side of the U-bend that created a P or J shape – depending on which way you’re looking at it. These are the shapes of a trap most often installed under a sink. Thanks Mr. Crapper!

Sheck Tip For Turning an S-Trap into a P-Trap

“In older homes with original plumbing (AKA New England Homes) it’s not unlikely to run into an S-Trap. We can easily convert it into a P-trap by adding a four or five-inch horizontal length of pipe on the outflow side pipe and connecting a vent. Venting is the trickiest part of this conversion, but we’ve got your back.” – Grand Master Plumber Greg Sheck who means “tricky” for the average Joe, which he is not.

As Shakespeare’s Plumber liked to say…

A drain trap by any other name, is still a drain trap.

S-Trap, U-Trap, J-Trap, or P, it’s keeping the sewage gasses out of your home or business, but don’t let someone fool you into thinking one letter is any more difficult to fix or install than the other!

 

sink

Drain Catchers – Your Drain Trap’s BFF

Last time, the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating educated us about the Drain Trap – that funky U-shaped piece of plumbing that you’ll find under any drain to help keep sewage gasses from entering your home. Yuck. However gross, we all agree they’re pretty important, and keeping them clear of debris is a good way to help them work properly. So, Brandon is offering up his favorite drain catchers for your sink, tub and shower to help keep the bad stuff out of the goodness of your handy dandy drain trap.

“A simple mesh or rubber drain catcher can stop a bunch or crazy stuff from going down your drain,” said Brandon Sheck, plumber extraordinaire. “It not hard to remove items like rings and earrings, or hair and fur that slip down the drain and settle in the trap under your sink, but an inexpensive catcher can stop much of that from going down in the first place.”

Large plumbing fixtures such as showers and tub drains have traps that are not as easy to see as those under a sink because they are under floor level or behind walls. Tubs and showers have traps that are harder to get to and either require crawling under the house or cutting a hole behind the tub or shower and digging out the area where the trap is located.

So, to prevent the cutting, crawling, digging, and taking apart, nonsense, just grab one or Brandon’s favorite catchers for all of your drain traps instead:

  • “Silicone products are my favorite,” said Brandon. “They are easy to clean and last the longest.” The OXO GOOD GRIPS SILICONE DRAIN PROTECTOR stays in place to catch hair and other junk, but it doesn’t disrupt the flow of water. “It is also made from durable stainless-steel and forms a firm grip during installation so it won’t break its seal when a tub or sink is full.
  • “For people who don’t like the look of drain catchers, or the junk on top of them, something like the DANCO, INC. HAIR CATCHER is a great idea because the catcher is under the chrome finished top making it look like a regular drain,” said Brandon. “Just remember to empty it every now and then!”
  • For older tubs or sinks with stoppers, the EXCELITY DRAIN PROTECTOR HAIR CATCHER is a great idea. “This catcher remains odorless and is handy for hair dresser sinks or pet grooming that utilize different chemicals and scents,” said Brandon.
  • And Finally, for the little scientist within us who likes to see gross stuff, Brandon recommends the DRAINWIG BATHTUB DRAIN HAIR CATCHER. “It fits most drains and you only have to clean it every four months, but when you do, you can see all the debris that went down your drain,” said Brandon. Gross. “It won’t do as well at catching jewelry, but it’s perfect for keeping tub drain traps clear and this company also makes one for the shower.”

Next time, Brandon and Greg will go into more detail about the different kinds, shapes, and sizes of drain traps. “It’s handy to know the difference, especially if you’re working with a plumber who might be trying to pull a fast one on you,” said Brandon. “There is no reason to pay someone extra to pull an engagement ring out of your bathroom drain trap just because they used a fancy name for it.” Knowledge is power!

drain-trap

The Drain Trap – Yogi Guru of Your Plumbing

Under the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, utility sink, and even under drains you can’t see – the piping that connects them is most likely configured in an S or U shape called a “trap”. But, many wonder, what’s with the weird shape?

The guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating are artists in the department of shaping and caring for these little creatures that often makes it impossible to place trash bins and stuff you want instant access to under your sinks, and they hold them in very high regard. Turns out traps deserve a little space…

“When water comes into a home, it needs a way to leave,” said Grand Master Plumber, Greg Sheck. “Most homes have a main water line that usually comes in around the foundation and carries water to a water heater and then to hot and cold-water lines that run throughout the house. That is how water gets to you home. How it leaves is a different story because each fixture has its own drain line and each of the drain lines ties into a larger main line, which takes the water out of the house.”

Turns out, that little U or S shaped part under each drain is like a little Yogi guru who maintains a sense of calm over a whole slew of stuff. “They’re called traps because that’s what they do: Trap water inside, preventing sewer gases from coming back into the house,” said Sheck. – Like your yoga teacher who always seems to be trapped in some intense frustration with all that crazy breathing and pretzel positioning.

How are these little Yogis/traps configured and what calm do they keep?

“There are several connections in a trap,” said Sheck of his artistry. “A nut connects two pieces together with a threaded fitting and a ferrule forms the seal. The nut screws down over the ferrule to form a water tight seal.” – Whatever you say Maestro.

“If you encounter a strange odor in any room where there is a drain, your trap is probably dry and the sewer gas is escaping into your home,” said Sheck who swears this is usually a quick fix that can be remedied by running water down the drain and filling the trap back up with water.

If the smell continues, it might warrant a call to G&C because sewer gas is hydrogen sulfide created as organic waste decays, and although the smell is mostly an annoyance, it’s disgusting and no one will want to come to your house if it smells like you know what fumes. Not even you.

Sheck Tip for Drain Trap Maintenance

To keep the stink away, drains should be used at least once every couple of weeks to keep water in the traps. This includes showers, toilets, tubs, bathroom sinks, kitchen sinks, washing machine drains, floor drains, and any thing you can think of where water passes out of your house.  

“Keeping the traps free from clogs is also helpful,” said Brandon our other experienced G&C plumbing artist. “Any objects that go down a drain can get stuck in the dip of the trap, which is handy if you drop an engagement ring down the sink, but gross if a bunch of hair and nail clippings clog the system.”

Using a sink trap, a simple plastic or metal cap placed over your drain, can be handy at catching all the important and not so important stuff that could wind up in a trap that is already working so hard to keep the peace with life’s crap – literally. Which is why next time on Plumbers Without Cracks, Brandon will give us his top ten sink traps to help keep the Zen flowing in your drainage system!

Until next time, Namaste.

replacement

Do You Need a Piping Replacement?

Yes, it’s a real thing. See, unless you just built your home or it’s only a few years old, there’s a chance that your plumbing is outdated. Over time, pipes suffer from the elements, resulting in corrosion, rust, and sometimes Hollywood blockbuster type disrepair and despair.

Gulp

Not to fear, Greg and Brandon of G&C Plumbing and Heating are here and have devised a simple check list to help you catch a pipe problem before raw sewage is flowing under your house or into your basement. Thanks guys!

Water Discoloration

Unless you just got a call from your Town Hall that someone is flushing the water line, this is not a good sign. “Brown or dark water is the result of corrosion in your pipes, leaving rust as the water runs through,” said Greg Sheck, Grand Master Plumber who really doesn’t want you drinking brown water. “What’s worse, if left untreated, mineral deposits can clog pipes, which builds pressure, and if pipes are under continual pressure, the pipes can eventually burst.” Don’t let that happen, ok?

Pipe Material and Condition

Homes out here in New England are typically made with multiple different plumbing system materials. Most modern systems use brass, copper, or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes. “Older buildings used cast iron, lead, and galvanized steel and some of those are not good,” said Greg. “Lead is highly toxic and, if consumed, can ultimately put a person in the hospital. There are tests to reveal how much lead is in each pipe, but I suggest getting rid of them as soon as possible no matter what the level is.”

Sheck Tip: Each piping material has a different life span: Brass, cast iron, and galvanized steel can have a life span of 80 to 100 years, copper lasts about 80 years, and PVC piping only survives for around 40 years.

If your house is over 60 years old, there’s a chance you might have some exposed pipes that you can check out the condition of. “If you can see the piping running through your basement, check that for discoloration, flaking, dimpling, moisture, bumps, and anything else that looks off. This can give you an idea of what the rest of your piping looks like and if you need to replace it,” said Greg.

Low Water Pressure

It can be hard to tell why you might experience low water pressure. Some it’s from a simple clog, but the issue can quickly escalate to leaks. Leaky pipes can damage your foundation and framing, causing wood rot, ugly ceiling stains and mold (Check out our ugly ceiling stains blog for more info on that nightmare)

Tell Us Your Results

Based on the check list above, is it time to replace and upgrade your piping or are you good for a few more years? If you’re still not sure, give the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating a call – they’ll give you an honest and straightforward answer that is soooooo not Hollywood block buster material, but super helpful all the same.