Plumbing 101 Part 2


Ed. note: This story is the second in a two-part series looking at ways that homeowners can save big money on their plumbing appliances with timely upkeep. Part I looked at how to prevent wear and tear from regular, daily water usage; Part II takes a look at maintaining the appliances that keeps the water in your home flowing.

Like we discussed in Part I, many expensive repairs to home appliances can be avoided with regular maintenance, according to Kirk Stinson, owner of Plumbing by Kirk in Saugus.

But homeowners should also know that the maintenance is so vital, the expensive repairs are almost inevitable without at least an occasional checkup. Without it, they can expect to replace their appliances more often, which are almost always costly purchases.


Garbage disposals

Stinson said most people are unaware of the correct operation of garbage disposals.

“One of my favorite things to teach people is how to run their garbage disposal,” he said. “Most people don’t know that you can keep your lines cleared by running your garbage disposal frequently. Most people turn on the garbage disposal, grind up the food and then turn it off. That’s not how you should use it.”

Stinson said you should run your garbage disposal frequently to push water through the system.

“One of the best things you can do for your drains is to run the garbage disposal when you’re pouring a big pot of hot water down the drain after cooking pasta or potatoes,” he said. “Your garbage disposal will work like a ‘hydro-jetter,’ forcing the water through system and keeping the lines clear.”

Stinson said it is important to use your garbage disposal often.

“In the kitchen, two things will break if you don’t use them much: the dishwasher and the garbage disposal,” he said.

Water heaters

A water heater is not a system you can simply install and forget. Stinson said the lifespan of a water heater can significantly be lengthened, especially in the SCV, by regular maintenance.

“Standard water heaters should be drained a minimum of once a year,” he said. “Tankless water heaters needed to be descaled a minimum of once a year and sometimes more often.”

Stinson said water heaters need more attention them most homeowners realize, especially in the SCV where the hard water can cause premature water heater failure.

Area drains

Stinson said area drains are the most commonly neglected drains by homeowners.

“You should snake out the drains yearly from the first day you buy your house,” said Stinson. “Typically, I’ll get a call when it rains and the homeowner will tell me that the drains are backing up and flooding the backyard then I’ll find out they’ve owned the house for 15 years and never had the drains snaked, or looked at.”

Stinson said long neglected area drains are almost impossible to easily clear.

“By that time, the drains are filled with dirt and roots,” he said. “A few years back when we had big rains we pulled out 37 feet of roots that were three inches around at a house that was all concrete from the backyard to the front. We were fortunate we didn’t have to tear up the concrete. It took us about 16 hours to get all the roots out.”

Stinson said regular drain maintenance will cost from $150 to $350 a year depending on the home, but an emergency like the one he described cost the homeowner $3,200.

“And if you have to tear up concrete it becomes enormously expensive,” he said.

More tips

Stinson offered these plumbing tips to SCV homeowners:

  • Every homeowner should have a “meter key” to turn off the water to your home at the water main.
  • Every homeowner should know where the water main is located and how to use the meter key to turn off the water.
  • Homeowners should open and close the values under the sinks and toilets on a regular basis. “I highly recommend you exercise the valves in your house regularly. Just turn them on and off a couple of times,” Stinson said.
  • Exercising your valves will prevent the valves from “freezing” up and becoming useless when you need them. “My goal is to educate as many people as I can. I hate to see people who are targeted by unscrupulous people looking for a payday,” he said. “I always recommend homeowners get a second opinion before embarking on an expensive plumbing job.”


Copper pipes used to be the standard for replacement pipes. Stinson said the industry has now moved on to PEX pipes. “The re-pipes are easier and faster and the pipe itself will never go bad,” said Stinson. “It doesn’t have a lifetime guarantee, but it doesn’t get eaten away.”

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