3 Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions and Their Answers

Here at Vanmech Heating & Plumbing, we hear a lot of questions from Vancouver homeowners regarding their pipes, drains, and more. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding water leaks and hot water woes. If you haven’t already asked these questions, there’s a good chance you will later, so why not learn about them now?

How harmful are water leaks?

A single leak in your water system is a definite danger to your home. A continuous flow of water can amount to serious corrosion in your pipes and other infrastructural components like floors and walls. To make matters worse, leaks will grow in size over time, which means that the longer they go unnoticed, the more dangerous they become. Did we mention you’ll also pay a higher water bill for the constant loss of water?

How can I check for leaks?

To check for leaks, simply locate your home’s water meter, and check the water level at two distant time periods between which you don’t use ay water. To do an effective test, you should wait for at least six hours between checks. If there are no leaks in your home, the water levels should stay the same. If the levels are different, then that could be a sign of trouble. We recommend calling a professional if that’s the case.

My hot water isn’t very hot or won’t stay hot for long. What’s behind this?

There are some common reasons as to why this might be happening. In each case, the solution will require you to enlist the help of a licensed professional.

  1. Broken Dip Tube: Water heaters function by cold water entering towards the bottom of the tank, being heated up through the heating mechanism, then exiting at the top of the tank. The dip tube is where the cold water first enters, but when this tube is broken, the
    cold water can hover near the top and middle of the tank as opposed to the bottom, which is where the heater is. As a result, the water is inefficiently heated before being drawn from the tank, making it less hot and lowering your reserves of hot water.
  2. Buildup of Sediment: The water that enters your water heater usually carries small quantities of sediment which the tank filters out. Over time, these sediments can pile up at the bottom of the tank, close to the heater. With all the debris in the tank, the heater becomes less effective at heating the water. This effect can be prevented by draining out your tank once a year.
  3. Malfunctioning System Parts: In the case of older tanks, it’s possible that mechanical parts of your tank have simply gone faulty. In particular, you might possess a broken thermal switch, thermostat, or heating device. In each case, you should enlist the help of a licensed professional to receive a proper diagnosis and advice on how to fix the problem.

Best Ways To Unclog Your Drains

When faced with a backed up drain, you might be tempted to reach for a liquid drain cleaner — but think twice before you resort to pouring chemicals down your sink! Liquid drain cleaners can damage your pipes, are hazardous to your health, and might not even work depending on the nature of the clog. Instead, here are some expert tips on effective, chemical-free ways to unblock your drains.


While you might associate plungers with toilets, the standard cup plunger is also a great tool for unclogging sinks. If the idea of using your toilet plunger on a sink or shower isn’t appealing, you can always purchase a second plunger specifically to use for non-toilet pipes. It’s a good investment.

To plunge a sink, empty out most (but not all) of the standing water to prevent splashing as you work. If you’re plunging a double-bowel kitchen sink, stuff a wet rag into one drain while you plunge the other. For bathtubs or single bowel sinks, seal the overflow hole with a wet cloth. This will help drive air pressure directly to the clog. Cover the drain opening with the plunger, making sure it seals, and rapidly pump the plunger up and down in 15-20 second intervals before quickly pulling it off of the drain opening. Repeat a couple of times. If this fails to break up the clog, move up to using a drain snake.

Drain Snake

A basic drain snake (also known as an auger) is always a good addition to your toolbox and relatively inexpensive versions are available at most department stores. To use, push the snake through the pipe until you encounter resistance then start twisting it to break up the block. If you don’t have the time to purchase a drain snake you can also fashion a rough approximation using a wire hanger. This is generally enough if the problem is a ball of hair that’s stuck close to the mouth of the sink. If possible, try to pull debris out of the pipe and dispose of it in the trash. This will help ensure that it doesn’t cause another blockage further down the line.

When to Call an Emergency Plumber

As a homeowner, you might think you have to fix plumbing problems yourself. While you might clear a simple clog or even clean out your P-trap without issue, not all plumbing concerns are this easy. Sometimes, your fix addresses the symptom but not the cause and there are times when you are much better off hiring a professional. Here are four cases you’ll want to call a professional team like the one here at Vanmech Heating & Plumbing for help.

Overflowing Toilet

When the toilet doesn’t flush, it can be tempting to keep pressing the lever. This is the last thing you want to do. Toilet problems can go from messy to disastrous in a hurry, particularly if it isn’t controlling the flow of water. Instead of plunging it yet again, shut off the water valve and call for expert assistance. This will keep the water in the bowl and not all over your floor.

Low Water Pressure

Turning on a faucet to see only a trickle (or nothing at all) could be caused by a variety of issues. There may be a blockage or even a broken or burst pipe. If the water isn’t going to the faucet, you need to discover quickly where it is going. In this case, you should turn off the home’s water supply and schedule emergency service.

Water Heater Leaks

Your water heater has many devices to help it heat water for your home. When one of these breaks down, you may encounter leaks. Finding a small pool of water surrounding your water heater is your cue to take immediate action. Leaks can be a sign of issues like tank corrosion or dangerous pressure levels inside.

Repeat Clogs

Taking care of clogs on occasion is a common task, but there’s a point when you should consult a professional. Almost anyone can buy and learn how to correctly use a plunger or auger. These tools help you keep the drains flowing naturally. If you find that you are constantly fixing clogs, it’s time to schedule a repair. Repeat clogs might mean that there is an obstruction further down the line, or other problems you need a plumber to fix.

Know Your Plumbing Pipe Types

There have been a lot of different pipe materials used in the plumbing industry over the years. Some of these materials, such as galvanized metal, have proven not to be suitable for plumbing and it’s recommended that you have them replaced. Here are three of the most popular choices used in Seattle indoor plumbing today. Keep reading to learn more!


Copper pipes are a proven standard for residential plumbing. Copper can be used with hot or cold water and are extremely durable. Even better, copper has a long lifespan but can be recycled once it eventually does need to be replaced. However, the downside of copper tubing is the price. It’s also important to know that copper pipes in older homes (built before 1980) may contain lead-based solder. It’s important that you get them tested and replaced if necessary!


PEX (Cross-link Polyethylene) is a safe, versatile, and flexible option. It’s extremely heat resistant and is suitable for hot and cold water distribution lines. Its flexibility means easy installation. Plumbers can unroll PEX tubing from long spools and thread it through walls and around tight corners without the need for fittings (a common spot for leaks to develop). Another benefit of PEX is that it’s more freeze-resistant than metal or rigid plastic pipes. However, nothing is perfect. A few weaknesses of PEX include the fact that it can’t be used in exposed areas outside (underground or indoor installations only) and it can’t be recycled. Its flexibility also makes it vulnerable to being chewed on by rodents.


CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) pipes are a common choice for residential plumbing. Made from a type of plastic, CPVC pipes are known for their durability — unlike metal pipes, there’s no fear of rust or corrosion. CPVC pipes are also more affordable than PEX or metal. CPVC can be used for residential hot and cold-water applications and is a popular choice to replace old copper tubing. A downside is that CPVC pipes are prone to splitting if they freeze. Also, old CPVC pipes can’t be recycled.