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Shopping for the Modern Faucet, and Unicorns

Not that I’m into shopping or anything.  But seeing that my job does involve the faucet industry, modern, antique, and otherwise, I have some experience.  This may sound a little gruff, but hear me out, because I’m right.

Modernity is a pretty much useless term.  Just think about it.  When are we not in modernity?  As time passes, modernity does not just recede into the past.  We don’t let it.  Instead, we start to call it, traditional, or antique.

When I think of modern now I think of something trendy trying to be elegant.  Sometimes this works, and I like it.  Sometimes the result seems to come from squishing play dough through the plastic grinder.

If anyone attaches the word, modern, to a faucet you may want to buy, what they mean to say is this: I want you to think this faucet will really impress your friends.  You know, just like organic.

...How do I know?

When I thought up the idea for this entry, I looked at a number of different websites that think they know what modern is.  This kitchen and bath blog is bold enough to claim it has found 5 different styles that will “stand the test of time.”  The problem is, I don’t even like half of them (I like the side sprayer on the last entry, accounting for 2 1/3 out of 5).

Oh, did I forget to mention: if I don’t like them, they’re already traditional?  The point is: nobody has any intimate knowledge of the present.  We’re all just out here doing what we like, going after what we love, and so on.  So, when you buy a faucet, just grab one you like; it’ll make shopping more fun.

What is in handicap bathrooms - comfort height toilets, grab bars, easy-turn faucets

Converting a bathroom to fulfill handicapped specifications can seem daunting; there are county codes to consider, height requirements, and so on.  But we’re here to tell you it’s simple.  There are really just a few changes that need to take place, and this entry will take through the basics.

Comfort Height Toilets

In order to make the transition from wheelchair to the toilet easier, handicap bathrooms offer taller toilets. These allow the individual to simply slide from one surface to the other.  For more comfort, elongated bowls, rather than the normal, circular variety, may be easily found.

Other little touches can be even more accommodating.  Models come with power-assist flush valves, and these are located within easy reach.  Additionally, Comfort height toilets have special, manual flush valves that are placed within easy reach.  The cost is not too bad either, usually falling anywhere between $250 and $400.

Grab Bars

It is not necessary to bother with the details if you are planning on hiring a professional to install the necessary equipment (City code dictates very particular dimensions), but you can expect a bar to be placed within reach of the toilet.

Easy-turn faucets

Most people do not realize that any bathroom equipped for handicapped persons will have special faucets that can be turned with less than 5 pounds per square inch of force.  They think of everything, don’t they?

Non-slip showers

Need we say more?

For a more detailed description of George Salet’s handicap bathroom installation, see our faq page, or for descriptions

What to do with a broken garbage disposal, and how to buy a new model

For the last few months, you have noticed slow and terrible changes in your garbage disposal.  Rather than the pleasant hum you were used to, it has sounded gritty, clunky, like an old, rusty clock.  Perhaps you tried to take it easy by throwing away your egg shells.  And then, with a final death rattle, it stopped completely – broken -  leaving a bit of undigested roughage under the sink.

This occurrence is usually followed by a flurry of activity and panic.  You know that whatever is trapped down there will break down all too soon, leaving a foul stench that will fill the kitchen, and spread…

You look at the black hole in your sink again, remembering that you should under no circumstances reach down there.  But then again, you consider, what could be the harm?  The whole process would only take a few seconds, and with the power off, what could possibly happen?

Before you do anything, take a deep, refreshing breath and do not stick your hand down the drain.  There may still be hope; your old model may still be saved!  First, call a professional out for a free estimate on repairs.  Even if you do not live in the Bay Area, there should be a plumbing company that will perform this service for free.

After the plumber’s visit is scheduled, you can do a little shopping for new models.  The first thing you want to consider is horsepower.  If you do not know what power grade you want, check out our comprehensive guide before deciding what would be most appropriate for the household.

Then, it is important to know that there are 2 kinds of garbage disposals.  Most people use the continuous feed type, you know, the one that is activated by a switch on the wall.  The second type is called batch feed and may be a safer option with children in the house.  These come with a lid and do not function unless the lid is closed over the drain.

After you decide what to do, whether to buy new or repair old, catch up on proper garbage disposal usage so you know how not to break what you bought.

7 Ways to tell whether a Plumber can fix the kitchen sink

You do not need to settle for the stereotypical plumber anymore, and anyone who tells you otherwise is stuck in the Industrial Age (aka. thirty years ago).  There are in fact a number (small though this number may be) of individuals in the plumbing profession whose social skills and cleanliness defy the stereotype. 

I know, who would dare to ask for a man who can fix things and smile while doing so… without tripping on the rug and exposing the proverbial crack?  Well, now you don’t need to settle for anyone you would not invite to tea. 

In order to ensure that the plumber who arrives at your door will be able to wield the variety of tools in his/her belt properly (that is, without marring various surfaces of your home), be sure to use the following checklist:

1)    Did he/she greet you with a smile?
2)    Does said plumbing professional have his/her shirt tucked in?
3)    Does the plumber listen with his/her mouth politely closed?
      (Studies show that plumbers who do not know to close their mouths have difficulties operating monkey    wrenches.)
4)    Does he/she shift their weight uneasily?
5)    Does he/she avoid eye contact?
6)    Do their shoes look old, worn, or in need of cleaning?
7)    Is said plumbing professional wearing a belt?

If he/she fails in any of the following ways, send them back to the shop and demand another, or try a different company!  You deserve better

*The Soft, Sensitive Side of Garbage Disposals – Maintenance Tips

Garbage disposals are completely misunderstood. It is true that they do not deal with the most sanitary materials, nor do they utter exactly pleasant sounds as they complete their labor. OK, so perhaps it is a wise decision to keep them under the sink basin. But they still deserve some respect and TLC to live long and fruitful lives.
The Vulnerabilities of Garbage Disposals – What Not To Feed Them
Some people idealize their disposals and believe that no matter what the chore, lemon rind or chicken bone, the whirring blades will erase it, simply, effectively, thoroughly. Disposals would never admit it themselves, but they cannot handle:
Hard/sticky materials, such as bones or toffee
Vegetables containing fiber, such as celery or corn husks
Any kind of grease or oil, especially in large quantities – instead, discard with the trash, in closed receptacles
Some of these will not pass down the drain, causing harmless odors, while others can erode or jam the blades. But none of these repercussions should even be considered. Remember, your kitchen appliance wants you to care about its feelings, not just weigh the pros and cons of treating it properly.
General Maintenance Tips that Show You Care
While each garbage disposal is unique, there is a short list of dos and don'ts that every, and I do mean every, one of them will respond to:
Always run cold water when grinding
Only grind small amounts of food at once
Every month or so, process a few ice cubes (a handful or two will do)
Keep them smelling great by running a citrus peel through (whatever you would like the kitchen to smell like)
Make sure that everyone in the household knows how to operate the device, as well, and the disposal will surely enjoy a long, happy life in your kitchen.
Troubleshooting Tips
But even if you do everything right, problems can still occur. If the device stops working or becomes plugged up, for whatever reason, be sure that you do not reach your hand down the drain to unplug it or remove the debris.
If the drain has been clogged with grease, melt the grease by heating the pipes with boiling water. If too much water has already accrued in the sink, remove as much as possible before continuing. Once the clog clears, run hot water for five minutes.
If there is debris covering the opening, use thongs to pull it out, and if the problem persists, contact a professional to fix it.

*Understanding Automatic Faucets – Fad or Future?

Hunkering down in front of an automatic faucet and waiting for the thing to grace me with a slight trickle of water always throws a monkey wrench in my cogs. That is not mentioning the temperature that I never seem to agree with, regardless of whether it is luke/warm or cold.
But I think I am biased. I drive a manual transmission, after all; I turned off Word's autocorrect feature years ago, as well. Machines bug me when they presume to make my decisions for me. After reading about the benefits of automatic faucets, I have had to ask myself: am I in left field here? Please leave a comment at the bottom of this page, the more strongly you feel, the better!
In the meantime, here are all the reasons why my gut reaction could be wrong.
Pros of Automatic Faucets
We are seeing more and more of these devices, particularly in public restrooms, but also in new homes.
Automatic faucets conserve water, especially in public spaces where anyone can accidentally (or not) leave a tap on. Reports claim that, even in private residences, they conserve up to 70% of tap water use, reducing 3-5% from one's water bill, on average.
Most do not realize how hygienic tap-less fixtures are. Each person who runs the water of a standard faucet turns the knob before they wash their hands, leaving germs that will rub off on the person after them, and so on.
Using an automatic faucet for the home is quite different than using one in a public restroom. Temperature and flow strength can be regulated on most, if not all models.
Elegant design, simple execution. There is a certain technological mastery and progressiveness that automatic faucets promote. Stylistically, their sharp, mechanized, efficient, message pairs well with modern décor.
Convenient – Using the more recent models, especially on fixtures that heat water quickly, can transform the act of washing hands into a luxurious experience. It really can.
Will We See Automatic Faucets in the Home of Tomorrow?
But the question remains: will we be seeing these devices gain popularity, or fizzle out, as just another fad gone the way of 3D glasses. For these things to really catch on, people will need to see the above, objective pros over the inconvenient cons. I, for one, hope that taking off 3-5% of the water bill would be worth the adjustment for many, and that people from the Bay Area will use George Salet Plumbing to replace their faucets.

*Before You Remodel Kitchen Sinks – What to Expect

Wondering whether now is the time to refurbish your bathrooms or kitchens? Remodeling projects are infamous for the time and trouble they take to complete, despite Home Improvement companies' marketing efforts to make it look swift and easy.
I think these web sites actually harm their customers by pushing for a commitment people may not be ready for, so I thought that, instead, posting some information on the topic would help my readers be more realistic in their planning for the project budget and timeline.
When Do Most People Decide to Renovate?
Children are actually the best indicators for remodeling projects. According to a new consumer market resource, the HomeSight project, “Kitchen remodels are the province of "Empty Nester" life stage (36%) and of "Mature Families"- those with teenage and young adult children still in the household (43%).” That means that 80% of all remodels occur when the children of a residence are between the ages of 13 and 24.
So, if your last child is six years old and you are beginning to fantasize about shiny new kitchen faucets, you may want to channel that desire into the planning of a renovation to begin six or ten years down the road, rather than pushing a decision too quickly. The same resource goes on to say: “In fact, one third of all home remodel projects currently under way will be postponed for as long as five years. Of those delayed, 17% will never be completed in full.” Just imagine having a gutted kitchen/bathroom lying idle and unused, needlessly. Much better to spend more time on planning and avoid project delays.
Project Scope
Other sources of concern for families considering renovation:
Will I be able to stop with one room, or...
Will the budget explode, mid-project and bankrupt me before I can enjoy or sell the results?
Often, in the beginning stages of the project, consumers realize that changes in one room will precipitate renovations in other rooms in order to preserve a sense of balance and harmony in the residence. For instance, most who consider replacing one of their faucets, say, in the kitchen, will replace bathroom fixtures, as well. So, it is generally better to plan for renovating all of the utility rooms in the same project. This will make the budget more realistic, so you can plan for it.
Speaking of Budget Expectations
More food for thought:
No matter how much money is involved, renovators see a consistent 13% increase in budget from start to end of project
Average return on investment (ROI) for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects above $15,000 ranges from 80-93%
Who Renovates Bathrooms and Kitchens?
While men tend to renovate entertainment centers and basements, studies show that women see kitchens and bathrooms as expressions of themselves. This means that kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects, including sink and faucet replacement, are most often completed, in the end, by professionals, rather than by husbands.
More behind-the-counter information can be found at:

*New low flow toilets – How much money will I save?

The new, low-flow and high-efficiency toilets may be good for the environment, but are they good for my wallet? Many Californians are wondering whether the money saved will be worth the upfront costs. Sure, people know it's good for the environment, but is it good for them? In the following, old toilets are compared to the new, 1.28-gallon per flush (gpf) high-efficiency toilets to make heads/tails of the issue.
Performance: Do High-Efficiency Toilets Stack Up?
People still worry about the performance of high-efficiency and low-flow toilets, and it makes sense that with restrictions on water usage, toilets would necessarily sacrifice power. This was true to some extent before 2003, but innovations in flushing technology are now making high-power, water-efficient toilets the norm. If performance is important to you, look for toilets with MaP test ratings of 1000 g and higher. For more explanation, read my blog: What is the MaP test for toilets, and Why Is It Important?
Water and Money Saved By High-Efficiency Toilets
So far, convenience and luxury are the same for conventional and low-flow toilets, but still, why would anyone willingly shell out the money for new toilets?
Normal toilets use 3.5-7 gallons
New toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush, or less
on average, 4 gallons saved per flush
According to the San Francisco Examiner, by upgrading to high-efficiency toilets, the average American family will save:
87.5 gallons of water each day
$12 in water utilities each month ($360 in 3 years)
Calculating Payback Period
Eventually, the savings gained by upgrading household toilets will outstrip the upfront costs. The only question is: will that happen before the mortgage is paid off. I estimate that upgrading a household in the Bay Area with 2 toilets will pay for itself within 6 years. That is not taking into account government rebates offered through the EPA's WaterSense program, installation costs, or more expensive models.

*What is the MaP test for toilets, and Why Is It Important?

Many consumers do not trust low-flow or high-efficiency toilets to flush as well as the standard models. This infamy is leftover from toilets manufactured in the last decade of the 20th century that were as low in their flushing power as they were in their water usage. But now, technology has caught up, in part, because of the MaP test (2003).
Before 2003, new toilets could not be told apart by their flushing power, so manufacturers did not have a big reason to research technologies that would increase power, even with low amounts of water usage. The resultant negative product reviews were throwing the entire water-efficiency movement into doubt. Users would sometimes need to flush these old models two or three times, which would waste as much water as the standard toilets except with more hassle!
Fixing the Problem: the MaP Test and Its Impact on Toilets
To address the problem, Canada and the US devised the Maximum Performance Test (MaP Test), which was to rate toilets based on their flushing power. As a result, consumers could tell the difference between high-end and low-end models before purchasing. As one can imagine, the higher-end models began to sell much better, and the ineffective toilets were kicked back to the drawing board.
What the Rating System Means
Now, most toilets on the market perform up to consumer expectations. Still, check the rating on each model. The rating represents the maximum fecal size that the toilet model will reliably flush. So, because the largest fecal size for the average male is 250 g, the test does not go below that threshold. Ratings larger than that indicate superior performance, and most models being produced today boast ratings at or above 600 g. For more information, view the latest MAP test report  Here.
The WaterSense Program – How It Builds on the MaP Test
The EPA's WaterSense Program uses the MaP test to either pass or fail toilet models, as well, but the program only passes models that:
Rate at 350 g or above on the MaP test, and
Have equal to or less than a 1.28 gallon flush (called high-efficiency toilets)
The downside to this certificate is that the stamp of approval covers up the MaP rating, so it is impossible to distinguish between toilets with a 350 g rating from those with a 1000 g rating. If the difference matters, then you may need to look up the results yourself on the pdf given above.
Why the WaterSense Program Matters – Save Money
There are plenty of rebates one can claim for replacing old toilets with WaterSense-certified models. These will often take up to $40 off each replacement, which adds up to more than 10% savings on most models. These rebates can be found on the EPA's site, with applications and instructions.
Only One More Thing To Do – Installation
If you are excited about saving the environment and money by purchasing a new toilet but want more specific information regarding the amount of money and water a high-efficiency toilet will save you, check out my last blog (link “New low flow toilets – How much money will I save?”). But remember that installation costs some money on top of the purchase price. Click here for a free estimate.

The Gritty Truth - When to Consider Sewer Replacement

It usually takes a blockage or breakdown of a household's sewer system for most people to consider sewer replacement. On the other hand, most people would agree it would be better to know how to diagnose minor sewer problems before a blockage. The following is designed to teach how a sewer line backup/blockage can be avoided, first by diagnosing sewer issues, and knowing when it may be time to consider sewer replacement.
Signs of Trouble
Late warning signs, such as toilet overflow, may be effective at calling the household into immediate action, but it is certainly better to realize beforehand that a problem might occur! Here are the numerous symptoms that should send up red, septic flags:
Drain noises
Odors
Slow drains
Wet areas on property
Blockages
If you notice any of these symptoms but would rather a plumber take the problem out of your hands, I have provided a link to a free estimate in the San Francisco Peninsula. For the do-it-yourselfers, please find more info below.
Diagnose the Cause of a Blockage – When Not To Consider Sewer Replacement
Knowing how to determine whether a sewer line may need replacement or whether the problem could be as simple as a child's toy stuck in the pipes can have a large impact on your course of action. Sometimes all it takes is a little problem-solving to figure out what the problem is, and what to expect.
If any drains or toilets are running slowly or are backed up, they could either be signs that the sewer system is on the verge of collapse... or merely a message that it is time to have your drains snaked
The easiest way to tell the difference is to diagnose the extent of the problem. Look at all the drains close to the malfunctioning one. Be sure to take into account the fact that toilets closer to the main sewer line (on the ground floor) will be the most prone to backing up. If a number of toilets or drains are flushing or running slowly, then the sewer line almost definitely has a significant problem, such as tree roots getting in the pipes  Click here to read: (Sewer Cleaning – Keep Roots from Becoming Pipe Blockage), there are resources on this blog regarding how to fix the problem yourself. Alternately, you can call a plumber to take care of it.
If, however, only one toilet is having trouble flushing, then the problem is most likely a single blocked drain, which can most likely be easily fixed. Check out this online how-to unclog blocked drains guide if wanting to do it yourself. 
If all this seems like too much work  Call a Professional Plumber

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