For plumbers, it's a Black Friday too

Nov 23 2011 - 2:32pm

Plumber Jerry Feiman's truck bears a slogan that could double as a warning to Thanksgiving cooks: A flush beats a full house.

The day after the food-heavy holiday is typically the busiest of the year for residential plumbers, like a Black Friday for drains and pipes.

"People try to grind up turkey skin," said Feiman, owner of Jerry's Plumbing in Ventura, Calif. "They put too many veggies down the disposal all at once."

The intense cooking combined with visiting relatives using showers, toilets and washing machines can take a toll on sinks and sewer lines.

"It's probably the single busiest day of the year for us, the day after Thanksgiving," said John Heard of Roto-Rooter Plumbers. He plans to have a full crew of 12 on hand.

Calls typically start about 7 a.m. In the past five or six years, his staff has accommodated people who also want to get in Black Friday shopping.

"We work around that," he said. "Some have us come in the evening."

The Thanksgiving-triggered business usually starts Wednesday evening. Calls tend to slow down on Thanksgiving itself, plumbers say, because many people are worried about holiday charges or just want to get through the meal if possible.

Plumbers say the most common Thanksgiving problem is a clogged sink from misuse of the garbage disposal.

It's important to run lots of water when using a disposal, they said. Avoid stringy vegetables, such as celery, or starchy material like potato peelings. If you pour grease down the drain, make sure you run a lot of hot water as you do so.

If you want to avoid sink problems altogether, put throwaways in a separate container and toss them into the trash. Be sure to let any hot grease cool down first.

And just because a disposal turns on doesn't mean it's working properly, they say. Homeowners sometimes don't know a unit is on the blink and overload it on the big day.

Toilets also can stop up from heavy use. Some homeowners with low-flow toilets make the mistake of putting bricks or water displacement bags in the tanks. Others use too much toilet paper, something difficult to monitor with visiting in-laws and children. Tampons always are a no-no.

A bad sink backup, if it gets into the main line, can stop up all your plumbing and create indoor floods.

While plumbers are glad to get Thanksgiving business, they say common sense can keep them away.

"We're not a cheap date," Feiman said. "When it comes to holidays, basically, you just don't want to see a plumber."


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