Tips & Tricks for Plumbers by Plumbers

Plumbing tips for everyone from novice to expert.

  1. Use Caulk Instead of Putty
    Lots of plumbers never use plumber's putty. It can damage some plastics and it stains natural stone, all while drying out, cracking, and allowing leaks. Silicone caulk has less negative effects and lasts longer.
  2. Use Pipe Dope for Everything
    Even though pipe dope is made for sealing threads, it can be used almost anywhere. From sealing compression fittings to ground fittings and rubber seals. The paste is slippery which allows connections to slide together and form a good seal.
  3. Use String to Cut Pipe
    String is almost as fast as a saw and it fits places where saws do not. Just cut a shallow notch with a hacksaw blade where you want to cut and move the string back and forth to slice through the PVC or ABS pipe.
  4. Cut PVC Pipe on a Specialized 5-Gallon Bucket
    A few notches cut into the top of a 5-gallon bucket can make an excellent holder for cutting PVC pipe on the fly and on the cheap.
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Updated Journeyman Exam Prep – Online in HD Video

New Plumber Course: Updated 2018 Michigan Journeyman Plumber Exam Prep in HD Video

This course will review plumbing laws and regulations, general concepts of venting and drainage, and some specific code items. There will also be valuable hands-on exercises and a review of construction math. Not only will you be prepared to take the state exam, but you will also leave with tools to use in the field, helping you to be more efficient in what you do. Specifically, this course will cover the 2015 Michigan Plumbing Code, Skilled Trades Act PA 407, and Public Act 230 of 1972. The course will provide test-taking tricks on how to navigate the code book quickly and efficiently.

Steps to Obtaining a Michigan Journeyman Plumber License

  1. Have at least 6,000 hours of experience gained over no less than 3 years as a registered apprentice in the practical installation of plumbing.
  2. Complete a $100 Application for Journey Plumber Examination – More information found here.
    Once your application is approved a third party testing agency (PSI) will contact you with instructions to schedule your exam. Exam fees must be paid to PSI when scheduling the exam.
  3. Pass the $100 exam
  4. Pay the $40 Journeyman plumber license fee
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B.C. Plumbing Systems

Humans have been trying to figure out efficient and hygienic ways to use plumbing since the dawn of time. Here are a few examples of early plumbing systems.

  • 4,000 to 3,000 B.C. Copper pipes dating are found in Indus River Valley India.
  • 2,500 B.C. A sophisticated system of pipes was found on a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. The pipes were found beneath the lower portion of a pyramid, suggesting they were a part of building plans from the start.
  • 2,500 B.C. Egyptians use copper pipes to build bathrooms inside pyramids and to irrigate fields.
  • 1,000 B.C. An ancient plumbing system is discovered on the island of Crete. The system included a bathtub made of hard pottery and a water closet with a crude flushing device
  • 500 B.C. to 455 A.D. The Roman Empire creates aqueducts, underground sewer systems, private and public baths, bronze and lead piping, and marble fixtures.
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Proposed Rule Will Require the Removal of All Lead Service Lines

The state of Michigan is making plans to ensure the state's lead-in-water is resolved. On January 23rd the Office of Regulatory Reinvention approved draft rules proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality to start the process of removing every lead service line in the state. These rule changes would be even stricter than the 10-year-old federal Lead and Copper Rule.

This rule change would mean Michigan would allow no more than 10 parts per billion of lead in water rather than the 15ppb allowed by the federal rule. Changes will not be made immediately because several steps stand between the proposed rules and adaptation and it will take over a year to replace lead service lines if the rule is implemented.

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How Common is the Deadly Legionella Bacteria in U.S. Plumbing?

The short answer is: very. A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease, is commonly found in cooling towers that connect to heating and air conditioning systems in hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, apartments, and other large buildings. Every year Legionnaires disease makes thousands of people sick and kills hundreds in the United States alone. Because the cooling towers where the disease is found disperse contaminated water over miles of territory, one tower can be implicated in numerous outbreaks of the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study tested 196 cooling towers in eight of the U.S.'s nine climate regions; with the northern Great Plains being the only region not tested. After testing samples for Legionella DNA, they found that 6 in 7 cooling towers tested positive for the bacteria. Next, they tested whether or not the DNA was active, in other words, could the Legionella do harm, or had it been killed by the cleaning agents present in the water towers? Nearly half of the samples were alive. These results mean a Legionnaires outbreak is possible anywhere. 

A February 7th meeting among experts will begin evaluating strategies to deal with the nationwide Legionnaires issue.

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What’s the Weirdest thing You’ve Pulled Out of a Drain?

Photo by: Walter Siegmund

Every plumber has a story about the inappropriate things they've found in a homeowner's drain. Here are a few of the strangest we've found.

  1. A head of lettuce clogging a washing machine pump. Turns out the homeowner thought they could use their washer as a salad spinner.
  2. An entire bedspread was found while doing a drain cleaning. The plumbers have no idea how that happened.
  3. One plumbing company received a call to the college student housing facility because feces was coming out of the shower. When they cleared the drain they found an intact beer bottle in the shower pipe. Again, how did this happen?
  4. Finally, a plumber in California found a set of upper and lower dentures while trying to fix a toilet clog. They discovered the homeowner had lost them after drinking a bit too much and getting sick the day before.
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Help Your Customers Avoid Frozen Pipes

With a week of below temperatures behind us and no break in sight, many plumbers are facing an increasing number of calls about frozen pipes. This often occurs as homeowners turn down the heat in under-insulated rooms when they go out of town. Here are a few tips plumbers can give their customers to avoid a burst pipe.

  1. Open cabinet doors where sink pipes are located before going out of town. This keeps the pipes at room temperature and prohibits them from freezing while you're away.
  2. Allow faucets to drip slightly. Allowing a small drip of water to run through pipes alleviates the pressure that can build up in cold pipes which often causes them to burst.
  3. Wrap pipes in insulation or heat tape.
  4. Shut off and drain outside faucets.
  5. Use a hand-held hair dryer or heat tape to thaw frozen pipes.
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Interested in Marketing Your Plumbing Business Online?

Most plumbers don't want to spend a lot of money but they do want to see results. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you begin marketing to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck.

  1. Who are you marketing to?
    Make sure you understand your customer base. This will help you avoid spending money on marketing that doesn't reach your customers. For example, do your customers visit sites like facebook? What time of day are they generally online? What types of content interests them?  If you don't know the answers to these questions there's a good chance you'll waste money when you start marketing. Consider doing some research on your area or taking a poll of current customers or social media.
  2. How do you find additional customer information?
    Free sites like Google Analytics can help you determine where your customers are coming from. This information can help you determine where to aim your marketing efforts and who is visiting your site.
  3. Do you have time to dedicate to marketing?
    Marketing takes time. You may wish to learn new programs such as Google AdWords or Analytics. You'll need to decipher the results of any research you conduct to form a plan of action. If you don't spend the time and effort to ensure your marketing efforts are working, you'll lose out on your investment and potential sales.
  4. Have you explored all of your free options?
    There are a lot of free marketing options out there from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to local directory sites (Yelp, Google Local).  A word of caution, while setting up a social media page or getting listed on directory sites is generally free it will take time and diligence. Do not set up an account that you are not ready to maintain, visiting a company Facebook page that hasn't been updated in months gives customers the impression 
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What do the Symbols Mean in the New 2015 Code?

The State of Michigan released new code for plumbers on April 20, 2017, meaning all plumbers must complete a 5-hour Code Update course before April 20, 2018.  Below are some of the common symbols used in the new code and how to read them.  Please note, Michigan skipped the ICC 2009 code changes so the single vertical lines will designate changes between the 2009 and 2015 code books rather than changes between your two most recent codes.

 

II

Double Vertical Lines - Designate a Michigan Rule. The rule number is listed at the bottom of the code section. An example being page 2, section 104.1 General. Michigan Rule R408.30717

I

Single Vertical Lines - Designates an ICC change for the 2015 code. An example can be found in Definitions "Drinking Fountain", Section 403.4 Signage.

Single Bullet - Marks code that has been relocated in the code.

••

Double Bullet - Marks the new location of codes.

*

Asterisks - Appear near sections of the code that Michigan has decided not to adopt.


 

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Tips for Working in Small Spaces

One of the biggest problems for many plumbers is how to get the necessary work done in a confined space. We've all found ourselves trying to maneuver in confined spaces which prohibit quick or efficient work. Here are a few tips gathered from contractors to help in even the tiniest of spaces.

  1. Plan  - Identify the best piping routes, if possible, remote locate manifolds, pumps, and zone valves. There's no need to stuff everything in the mechanical room plus this method will save you time and exasperation in the long run.
  2. Sketch the mechanical room on paper before attempting to install anything.
  3. If possible, be the first person in. Even if everyone on site tries their best to avoid inhibiting others, a small mechanical room leaves little room (literally) for everyone. Get in first and avoid having to work around others.
  4. Stay organized! One would think a small space would make it hard to lose anything but on the contrary, the smaller the space the harder it can be to locate the correct tool if you have allowed your tools to become disorganized.
  5. Look for multi-function products. A combination heating and hot water unit can save you a lot of time and space in a tiny mechanical room.

 

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