Friday, April 25, 2008

An Ounce of Prevention, helps keep the Plumber away

Plumbers are notorious for being expensive. Here’s a frugal way to keep them from draining your pocketbook.

I really enjoy the large live oak trees in my front yard. They have grown tremendously in the last several years towering over the yard, providing shade and habitat for birds and squirrels. They have also developed an equally huge root system that grows voraciously. The tender, new shoots of the roots wrap around sewer pipes and work their way into the seams of the pipes in search of water. That in itself is pretty cool – the fact that the tree can detect water in a pipe and try to get to it. Unfortunately, this also results in clogged pipes.

Last summer, I hired a plumber to augur out the sewer pipe, cleaning out a nest of fine, hair-like thin roots. The plumber told me this problem would re-occur and that I would probably need to have him come out every 6 months! Ugh. It wasn’t even the cost of the $150 visit that bothered me, it was the inconvenience of the whole process. For instance, it’s difficult to know when the sewer will start backing up again, then needing to immediately arrange for a plumber, then scheduling time to be home, etc.

There has got to be a better way. I actually know people who have taken out trees to avoid this scenario. I am not any where near trying that drastic of a measure. So, I began my search to find another way. There are lots of products on the shelves at home centers, but they are ridiculously expensive, with no guarantees. I continued my quest on-line as well as talking to co-workers. Finally I hit on something that was both cost effective and seemed reasonable that it would actually work without destroying pipes and the environment.

For the last several months, I have been pouring a 1/4 cup of ice cream salt into the toilet bowl and flushing on a weekly basis. Ideally, you should do this in the evening after all the showers and baths are over so that the salt can sit in the pipes as long as possible and not be rushed through the system. It has been 12 months and no problems. But the true test will be during the coming growing season. If this saves even one visit by the plumber, it will be worth it.

Cost of salt $1.99/lb
plumber $150
commercial products $30-100.

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