Monthly Archives: November 2010

Sometimes a plumbing problem just gets out of hand

Solving a plumbing problem is not always easy – especially when you are not sure exactly what the problem is.

The problem reported here took two weeks to fix, involved the fire department, the council’s health department, a plumbing inspector, a heating and ventilation contractor and several council officials as well as a plumber. It caused a public library to be closed for several days.

The cause of all this? Probably (but no-one seems quite sure) a faulty seal on a toilet in the library’s mens room.

Sometimes plumbing is not as simple as it seems. Do you have stories of plumbing detective work or complex problems like the one described here? Let’s hear about them!

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Toilet Twinning survey highlights top three toilet activities

Following yesterday’s post about sewer flooding we have come across another piece of World Toilet Day related research.

According to a survey carried out by TNS Omnibus on behalf of charity partnership Toilet Twinning, the smallest room in the house is a hive of activity. In addition to the obvious people tend to do three different activities whilst on the loo. 

A quarter of us (8.9 million) take our phones in with us – to chat, text, email or update Facebook and Twitter. People in England are twice as likely as the Scots or Welsh to update their Facebook status or to post a toilet tweet. 

Toilet going is seemingly a social experience as 5.5 million people (14 per cent) confess to chatting on the loo. Women are more likely to chat in person, while men tend to chat on the phone. 

It seems we’re partial to toilet playtime too, as one in ten (3.6 million) reach for a personal games console, crossword or Sudoku. 

But reading is the nation’s top toilet habit – with 12 million people (32 per cent) reaching for a newspaper, book or magazine. 

Toilet Twinning’s survey was commissioned with a serious message in mind. One in three people worldwide lack a clean and safe toilet to use. 

Toilet Twinning is a partnership between development charities Tearfund and Cord to improve access to decent sanitation, clean water and prevent the spread of disease in some of the world’s poorest communities.

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World Toilet Day highlights sewer flooding issues

Pink toilet paper

Image via Wikipedia

Last week marked World Toilet Day. This has prompted Drain Doctor to remind people to use their loos responsibly by not sending inappropriate items down the drain.

On average we visit the toilet 2,500 times a year and spend roughly three years of our life on the loo. Often, though, the humble WC (and sometimes the items we put down it) aren’t given a second thought.

Toilet cleansing cloths, face wipes, baby wipes, cotton wool, tampons, sanitary towels, condoms, nappies, razor blades and plasters, along with fats, oils and grease frequently find their way into the sewer system, even though they would be better off in the bin.

Research by the Consumer Council for Water showed that the majority of consumers are unaware that these items can get caught in pipes, building up a blockage over time because, unlike toilet paper, they don’t break down. Blocked drains can either lead to expensive maintenance bills, or worse, sewer flooding.

Three quarters of sewer blockages are caused by people putting items they shouldn’t down the loo or the sink and half of sewer flooding is caused by these blockages.

Any drains or private sewers that carry waste away from the home are the responsibility of the homeowner or the landlord, both inside and outside the property boundary until the point where they connect with the public sewers.

The sewerage company is only responsible for public sewers.

Tony Smith, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Having your home flooded with sewage is very unpleasant and companies should provide the best customer service possible to prevent it from happening in the first place.

“But consumers have a role to play too by ensuring that household rubbish, including fats, oils and grease stay out of toilets and drains, and instead are put in the bin where they belong.”

Flooding facts

  • Drains from the home are no wider than four inches (100 mm) and are only built to carry water, toilet paper and human waste.
  • If you find it difficult to flush your toilet or notice that water drains away slowly or bubbles in the bottom of your toilet, contact Drain Doctor and clearly explain the symptoms. Do not try to flush the toilet again as this could cause internal flooding.
    If the problem is due to a blockage or fault in your private drain, Drain Doctor can repair it.
  • If sewage has entered your property from a public sewer, the sewerage company will send someone to visit you as soon as possible and help clean your property.

Toilet titbits

  • The first toilet paper was developed in England in 1880, although it wasn’t until 1935 that toilet paper was advertised as ‘splinter free’!
  • Each person uses an average of 57 sheets of toilet paper a day.
  • Most toilets flush in the key of E flat.

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A heart-warming story of prosecutions and fines

Topography of New Zealand.

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a heart warming story (for plumbers) from New Zealand where a court has fined someone claiming to be a plumber but operating without a licence.

In the UK, anyone can call themselves a plumber and there is no requirement to be licensed, trained or even competent (unless you are installing gas or electrical systems, in which case there are legal requirements for training and registration).

However, as this New Zealand court judgement points out, poor plumbing can be dangerous. The defects highlighted in this case included a lack of ventilation on waste pipes, potentially creating a risk of poisonous gases and pathogens entering the building.

It pays to use a competent plumber. In the UK, you cannot demand to see the plumber’s licence before letting him or her into your home – but if you call Drain Doctor on 0800 70 71 72 you know that not only does the plumber have the necessary training but all the work is fully guaranteed.

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Drain Doctor issues winter flood warning

A CCTV inspection of the drain will show the nature and location of the problem.

Following flooding in Cornwall – which saw severe local flooding, caused by ten day’s rain falling in just one hour – Drain Doctor is warning businesses and homeowners in other parts of the country that they too could face massive disruption over the winter months if they don’t take steps to prevent flooding. 

Drain Doctor Plumbing is urging people to ensure that drains are free of blockages. This will help to minimise the risk of flooding as we head into the winter which the Meteorological Office says combines the highest rainfall of the year with the lowest temperatures. A thaw after heavy snowfall, if combined with rain which helps to melt the ice, can lead to huge amounts of water being released into drains. 

According to figures from the Association of British Insurers, there are more than two million homes at risk from coastal or inland flooding – 10 per cent of all homes in the UK – and around 400,000 homes at very high risk of flooding. However, a simple CCTV drain survey can help to identify any blockages or potential problems. 

Drain Doctor Plumbing chairman Freddie Mitman said: “Many people think flooding is something that won’t happen to them but the risk is there. Being unprepared simply means the chance of an incident increases. 

“Although insurance policies can cover damage to property, damage to businesses in terms of lost working hours and even lost clients is often not covered. This is why it is vitally important for businesses to take the time now to make sure their drains are clear of any blockages and are in good working order.” 

As well as a CCTV drain survey, there are a number of other measures businesses can take to protect their property. This includes taking advice from a specialist flood surveyor, fitting water resistant doors and window frames or speaking with specialist organisations such as the Environment Agency or the Flood Protection Association. 

Drain Doctor Plumbing can be contacted on 0800 70 71 72.

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Thanksgiving turkeys cause American plumbing problems

Garbage, or food waste disposal from above

Image via Wikipedia

Thanksgiving Day in the USA, the fourth Thursday in November, is a holiday for most Americans – but one of the busiest days of the year for Mr Rooter, Drain Doctor’s equivalent plumbing and drainage company in the USA.

The reason? Too much food and turkey fat going down the drain and the garbage disposal systems of American kitchens.

The  Mrs Rooter blog gives some good advice to avoid Thanksgiving plumbing problems. Although USA-style garbage disposal units are rare in the UK, the advice about not putting fat and grease down the drain is good advice on either side of the Atlantic.

Of course, over here it is Christmas rather than Thanksgiving that is the big holiday – and the big day for eating turkey. Mrs Rooter’s Thanksgiving advice is just as valid on 25 December, however.

Drain Doctor does not charge extra for turning out on Christmas Day (or at any other time) but your Christmas will surely be more enjoyable if you do not need to ring us!

If you do need us, though, just call 0800 70 71 72.

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Going psycho about toilets

Psycho turns 50!

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the movie ‘Psycho’.

We’re all familiar with the famous ‘shower scene’. But did you know that Hitchcock’s 1960 chiller is the first American movie to show a flushing toilet on-screen?

Marion Crane – played by Janet Leigh – has arrived at the Bates Motel after embezzling cash from her employer and fleeing. Marion is seen counting the remaining cash she has, calculating how much she needs to repay her employer on a note, then flushing it down the toilet before getting into the shower. We all know what happens next.

The flushing toilet with its contents visible on-screen was cause for concern for the censors. Reputedly, Hitchcock didn’t want the toilet to be seen, just the sound of flushing off-screen, but screen writer Joseph Stefano was able to script the film to show Marion throwing the note paper into the toilet, making it integral to the plot, so impossible to remove from the film.

Following best advice from Drain Doctor, Marion wouldn’t have thrown the paper in the toilet because it could have caused a blockage in the drains.

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