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Thanksgiving Stress On Your Plumbing: Things To Know Ahead Of The Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of Next Plumbing
A broken garbage disposal causes water to back up and fill both basins of a kitchen sink.

Thanksgiving isn’t just a busy time of the year for supermarkets—it’s also one of the busiest times of the year for the plumbing industry.

The operations manager of Next Plumbing, Patrick Garner, recently shared information about the strain people unknowingly put their plumbing through during the holiday season, along with some tips on how to prevent them.

Perdomo: Why is Thanksgiving one of the busiest days for your industry?

Garner: It’s just so much extra and added use of things that’s happening that people that don’t know that they shouldn’t be using in their house. People put things down their toilets that they shouldn’t, they put things down their garbage disposals that they shouldn’t— just a lot of extra added use that with all the amount of people doing it, it just creates huge hiccups.

Perdomo: So how does your team prepare ahead that busy day?

Garner: Typically we run a couple hundred calls a week on these two days we actually run a several hundred calls on Thanksgiving and the following day. What we started doing to prepare was just getting the word out to the local HOAs, to the condo associations. But as the calls kept coming in, it just made me realize that many people really don’t know what they can and can’t do so we’re just trying to get some information out.

Credit Photo courtesy of Next Plumbing
Garner says to avoid putting celery stalks in your garbage disposal because it cannot be shredded. The remaining fibers can wrap around the blades and bring it to a halt. He also said to not put egg shells, potato peels or poultry bones in the garbage disposal.

Perdomo: What are the top tips that you would like people to know ahead of Thanksgiving?

Garner: Make sure you know where your shut-off valve and your cleanout is in your home. If you have a flood occurring in your home, you can shut that valve off before the plumber arrives to mitigate any damage. Know that your disposal isn’t a catch all. I always tell everybody this time of year: stuff your turkey, not your disposal. Another main issue that you should be looking for is what you shouldn’t be putting in your toilet. Use only toilet paper and if you have it on hand use septic-friendly toilet paper. Never put baby wipes down the toilet even if it tells you that it’s flushable, because it’s not and it will create a problem for you.

Perdomo: What should people know before reaching for the plunger?

Garner: A plunger could always be a great tool to use, but it’s very important to use it when it’s the proper time. If your blockage is only happening in that one toilet absolutely try to plunge it, that’s not a problem. But if you notice that your toilet is bubbling up, if you notice that your sink is starting to back up or your shower is backing up, you should never use a plunger.  And the reason for that is it’s now affecting multiple fixtures in your home. They’re going to plunge it and they’re going plunge it too hard and now you’ve got raw sewage actually coming out underneath your toilet and there is no way to stop that once it’s been blown.

Perdomo: Ok, so I’m going to ask you: when should you call the plumber?

Garner: Say these issues happen and you can’t get your disposal fixed, its ground into a halt, if your done cooking and your sink is backed up, you still want to look to get somebody out there. If you see any gray water rising up into your bathtub while your toilet is bubbling you need to get a plumber out there right away. That being said, if you need a plumber out there go ahead and give somebody a call ask them for emergency service, because that’s a key word that a lot of people don’t realize.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.