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The day after the food-heavy Thanksgiving holiday is typically the busiest of the year for handymen and residential plumbers, sort of like a “Black Friday” for drains and pipes.
“People try to grind up turkey skin,” says Jerry Feiman, owner of Jerry’s Plumbing in Ventura, Calif. “They put too many veggies down the disposal all at once.”
The intensity of cooking and associated use of the kitchen sink, combined with visiting relatives using showers, toilets and washing machines can take a toll on plumbing and sewer lines this time of year.
“The week after Thanksgiving is often one of the busiest weeks of the year for us,” says Jim Bartlett of A Master’s Hands, LLC. He anticipates many calls from clients with clogs in their kitchen sinks and toilets.
“We try to work around people’s schedules,” says Bartlett. “Some people need to have us respond to their issues in the evening.”
The Thanksgiving-triggered business usually starts the evening before Turkey Day. Calls tend to slow down on Thanksgiving itself, because many people are worried about extra charges associated with calling for assistance on a holiday. Others may just want to get through the “big meal” without interruption, if possible.
Bartlett says the most common Thanksgiving problem his company gets calls about is a clogged kitchen sink, resulting from improper use of the garbage disposal.
It’s important to run lots of water when using a disposal, says Bartlett. He recommends not feeding stringy vegetables, or starchy material like potato peelings into the disposal. If you must pour grease down the drain, make sure you run a lot of hot water as you do so. That will ensure it makes its way completely through your home’s plumbing.
To avoid disposal/sink problems altogether, Bartlett recommends putting all the above mentioned “throwaways” in a separate container and tossing them in the trash, rather than putting them through the disposal. “Many people just put too much garbage down the drain,” says Bartlett. “If you limit it to just the small table scraps as you rinse off plates before putting them in the dishwasher, that will ensure you get through the holiday period without needing to call us.” Food prep waste (peels, cuttings, fat, grease, etc., should be put into the trash he says.
Bartlett also says homeowners should realize that just because a disposal turns on doesn’t mean it’s necessarily working properly. Homeowners sometimes don’t know a disposal isn’t really working properly until they overload it on the big day and everything backs up.
Toilets also can also stop up from heavy use. Some homeowners with low-flow toilets make the mistake of putting bricks in the tanks with the intent of saving water. But without sufficient water per flush to create the necessary “siphon” action, the toilet won’t fully flush. Repeated usage in this manner can lead to stopped up plumbing, and a call for professional assistance. Sometimes the culprit behind a clog is too much toilet paper being used – something that’s difficult to control (much less monitor) with visiting friends and family members with children. Of course, tampons and other feminine products always are a no-no for flushing.
If it works its way down into the main line, a bad sink or toilet clog can stop up the entire plumbing system in the home, creating indoor floods.
“While we’re happy to assist clients who have emergencies around Thanksgiving, we’d much prefer to see everyone adopt these common-sense approaches that can help avoid common problems,” says Bartlett.
Going on vacation this winter? Be sure to turn off the main water shut-off valve where it comes into the house. Also turn off the gas (or electric) for the hot water heater.