Every drain is different. For a toilet obstruction most people can clear that on their own. We even have a helpful video on our website to give you a little advice on how to do it. For obstructions in showers or sinks the first thing I would say is DON’T use harsh chemicals. Drain cleaning chemicals are acids and are very dangerous. They are dangerous not only to people but also you property. They can take the finish off of the fixture that you are using it on and they can also eat through the pipes. If you want a home remedy we recommend more of a preventative measure such as enzymes. Enzymes are harmless to you plumbing and harmless to people. They only break down the organic matter in your drains. As always, if you have a question on what you can do with your particular concern just give me a call. Just last week one of our good customers called with a clogged garbage disposer and wanted to set up a service call. I was able to walk him through a little trick and he saved the cost of a service call and possible rodding by getting the drain cleared himself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Drain Chemicals Nearly Blind a Chicago Plumber

Drain chemicals almost blind a Chicago Plumber

We were called out to a customer’s home recently for a clogged laundry sink drain. While my plumber was rodding the drain, this old bottle of drain cleaning chemical dropped from the shelf, hit the sink and splashed onto my plumbers face. I am so thankful that my plumber was quick in his actions and he immediately stood up, turned on the faucet and started to flush his eyes and wash his face. My plumber very luckily avoided losing his sight and scaring his face but what scares me most is this: What if my customer’s child had this happen to them? It is possible that a child could have been the recipient of the falling bottle of drain chemicals. If that had been the case it is not likely that they would have known what to do so quickly. The reason why I am writing this post is that drain chemicals are first, not good for your pipes. Second, they are dangerous. Essentially, drain cleaning chemicals are acid. They ruin your pipes and if anyone gets the chemicals on them it can seriously hurt them. Any time I am in a customer’s home and I see any of these products I plead with the homeowner to dispose of them. It scares me to think someone might get hurt or scared should they come in contact with the chemicsl. If you want to be proactive and keep your drains open, then talk to your plumbing professional and find a product that is safe for your plumbing and safe for the residence.

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Every pump can get clogged!

Every pump can get clogged!

Often times plumbers out there believe that “one pump fits all”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When trying to decide on the sump or ejector pump that will make the most sense for you, you have to answer several questions?

  • What are you going to be pumping?
  • Do you directly control what will be pumped?
  • What caused the last pump to fail?
  • How long do you plan on being responsible for this pump?
  • What is your budget?

The first question, “What are you going to be pumping?”, is the most important question. If the liquid is just clear ground water you can install a pump as small as 1-1/2″ and it can be submersible or pedestal. The only trick is to make sure the size is sufficient to remove the incoming water at its highest volume. If the liquid you are pumping will have any waste then that will require you to install a 2″ pump. The 2″ pump can be either submersible or pedestal as well.

The second questions is, “Do you have direct control over what is being pumped?” A good example is if this is in a rental unit. That is totally out of your control. If it is in your own house and you are the only one living there and you never have guests over that is the only time you have total control. If you have a partner and kids there is the possibility someone else may put something down the drain that should not be there. What should and shouldn’t go down the drain? Only toilet paper and human waste should go down the drain, NOTHING else. No paper towels. No flush-able wipes, no Kleenex, no sanitary napkins or tampons, no cleaning products.

“What caused the last pump to fail?” If it failed due to age, submersibles only last an average of 7 years, then you might want to consider a pedestal pump. Pedestal pumps last an average of 30 to 40 years. If the pump failed because it got clogged then depending what clogged it, tampon, rags, or other fibrous materials, you might want to consider a grinder pump. Grinder pumps will literally shred anything that it has to pump. The only downside to a grinder pump is that it is more expensive than a regular submersible but has the same life expectancy.

“How long will you be responsible for this pump?” Any submersible pump will only have a life expectancy of 7 years on average. If you plan on being in your home for only a short period of time, then a submersible might make sense. If, however, you plan on being in your home for over 7 years, then a pedestal pump is the way to go. The pedestal pump will cost more but it will last from between 30 and 40 years. Far longer than most people are in a home. A pedestal pump should be the last pump that you will ever install.

“What is your budget?” This is the last way that you should want to choose your pump. The reasons listed above are good ways to base a decision for your next pump purchase. BUT, as far as cost goes the submersible is always the least expensive for the initial purchase. The grinder is next, and the pedestal pump is always going to be your most premium choice for a pump.

Image | Posted on by | 1 Comment

Breaking Bad and Tankless Water heaters

Wow, I was sitting back, relaxing and I saw the actors in Breaking Bad fixing his own tankless water heater. What does that mean? Not too much, it is only a TV show but…….Every day we service all brands of tankless water heaters. In this particular episode the star of the show was adjusting his own atmospheric Bosch tankless water heater. He made it seem quite simple. Every day we are responding to calls where the tankless was either installed incorrectly or serviced improperly. This is a TV show and he seemed like he knew what he was doing but he was clueless. Trying to fix your own tankless or worse off hiring a non professional is the worst thing you can do. The plumbers at John Baethke & Son Plumbing have had hundred of hours in training in this kind of service. Don’t risk you or your families safety, hire the professionals to keep you safe and to keep your hot water flowing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do you get what you pay for?

Do you get what you pay for? That is a great question and the answer is usually yes.

Let’s now ask another question: How often do you get the best quality product, the best service and the friendliest service provider for the cheapest price? That is an easy one to answer as well…”Never!” When I started John Baethke & Son Plumbing over 20 years ago I did a lot of new construction. That is an aspect of work I enjoy very much. I’ve always loved the satisfaction of building things. We did incredible projects and to me every job we did was a work of art. Our only dilemma was that the general contractors were constantly trying to find a way to “cheapen up” the jobs. Before too long I finally had to say enough is enough. The things the contractors were asking for were having a detrimental effect on the quality of the homes being built, so I had to make a very difficult decision and we stopped working for those contractors. To this day we still do several projects each year for homeowners and contractors that are not looking to sacrifice the quality for the price.

We made the transition into service because we found so many more people that valued a quality job for a fair price. It’s funny, but over 50% of our service calls are performed on homes that are 10 years old or newer. All of those cost-cutting general contractors have actually done me a favor by cutting corners – they have given us a constant supply of plumbing problems to fix.

How do we explain or show the difference between John Baethke & Son Plumbing and the lower cost competitors? It isn’t always easy, but everyone that I work with knows the quality of our work and the integrity of our service. We have also learned to explain things about the products we install and how we install them. It is not unusual for a homeowner to ask what brand we intend to install. When asked that question we need to find out right away why they would ask that, so we know what is of value to our customers. A lot of people are brainwashed into believing that the best job is only dependent on the equipment installed. That is so far from the truth that it’s scary. Think about this: If someone was to install the highest quality fixture available but lacked the training to do a proper or safe installation, is that fixture going to perform like the best quality fixture? No, of course not. It may even fail, cause damage to the home, or even injure or make sick the residents of the home. Far more important than the materials are the installation, service and support of that installation. We explain that when you buy a new water heater, toilet, faucet, etc. from John Baethke & Son Plumbing, you are buying John Baethke & Son Plumbing. We stand behind our installations with the best, most highly trained professionals in the Chicagoland area. We also support that incredible team with a warehouse support staff and a full office staff. One example of our service is the “Can’t Write a Check Warranty” that we offer. This warranty means you can’t spend a dime on labor or material on that installation service for the life of the warranty. Most other companies may honor the manufacturers’ parts warranty, but then charge you their labor to install the parts. We make sure that our installations are done so well that we have no problem honoring both labor and material.

The above is just a glimpse of the world class service that John Baethke & Son provides. The proof of our service is the fact that over 80% of our business is repeat business. Sure we advertise, but the majority of our work is helping people we have helped in the past. That says a lot when the average in our industry is less than 50% repeat business.

Remember: You nearly always pay for what you get.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lead in Our Drinking Water

CBS 2 Chicago: 2 Investigators: New Study Casts Doubt on Lead Testing in Tap Water

Watch CBS 2 Chicago’s Video Report – click here.

As you can see by the headlines, lead in our drinking water is a major concern. What are acceptable levels? The EPA sets the limit at 15PPB (parts per billion), however most health professionals agree that no lead in our water is best. So what can YOU do? The first thing you can do is read your municipality water report. If you are in an older city, like us in Chicago, you are more than likely at risk for having lead in your water. Most of our older homes have lead supply pipes bringing water into our homes. Lead water pipes were used as recently as the 1960’s. So, are you safe if your home was built after 1960? Not necessarily. It was not until 1986 when President Reagan passed a law outlawing lead in plumbing solder and flux. There are hundreds of thousands of homes in the Chicagoland area that have lead services or lead solder in their pipes.

What can you do? If you do not want to filter the water you drink, one thing you can do to minimize lead exposure is to run your water for several minutes prior to drinking it. It is proven that the longer the water sets in lead contaminated pipes the more lead that will leach into it, so running the water will drain out all of the water that was sitting in the pipes absorbing the lead. Also, never use the water off the hot water tap for drinking or cooking. It is also proven that heated water accelerates the lead leaching into our water.

You are probably wondering what else you can do. There are water filters available that remove the lead from your water.  Unfortunately, because of their design, whole house versions are not yet available. Two methods of removing lead from your drinking water are both point of use. The first is reverse osmosis. It is effective but it unfortunately wastes a great deal of water in the process of filtering. It also makes the water very acidic so you cannot have any copper piping on the outgoing side of the filter or it will rapidly corrode the piping. The other method of filtration that is very effective is block carbon filtration. The only drawback is that you cannot put the filter on an existing faucet. It needs to be installed on its own faucet that will allow for less restriction in flow. This is needed because the block carbon slows down the water flow in its filtering process. Another great benefit to the carbon filter is that it removes chlorine and Chloramines and the bad taste and odor associated with them.

Every home is different. If you are concerned about YOUR water quality, call the professional water quality experts at John Baethke & Son Plumbing. We will customize a solution that best address’ your health and safety concerns.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Side Jobber Nearly Kills Skokie Family

The Risks of Hiring a Side Jobber

As a professionally run business, I naturally don’t think much of employees doing side jobs. The first concern for me as the business owner is that the side jobber is taking away work from my company and our employees. The other concern is that because he does not have the costs that I have, he is out there setting an unrealistic expectation of cost for the consumer. That’s all fine and good but those are my selfish reasons. The biggest concern is that if you hire a tradesman on the side you are not getting everything that you think you are. This side jobber does not have a formal business so he is not insured for your protection. If a side jobber were to get hurt in your home he has every legal right to sue you. When he sues you it is not just for his hospital bills either. When he sues you he is going to get money for any time he has to be off work and even for long term issues that may result from the injury. Claims like this can easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you hire a legitimate contractor he is required to have an insurance called “Workers Compensation Insurance”, which  protects the customer from any liability.

The next customer concern is if the side jobber damages your property. The side jobber does not have General Liability Insurance, so if he starts even a small fire or has a small leak you can decide not to pay him but that is likely to be only a fraction of the cost of the damage he will have done. As a contractor we have General Liability Insurance to protect your investment and to make sure that, in the unlikely event there is an accident, you will not have to incur any cost.

The last and largest concern is safety. I think even side jobbers have your best interest at hand but they will be thinking of themselves first. They don’t have a company reputation to worry about. They can shut off their cell phone if you try to get them to come back and fix a problem. Worst of all, they may be over-worked and the mistake they make might hurt you.

Earlier this winter an apartment building owner in Skokie hired a side jobber to look at a furnace in one of their units. That same evening 6 people got very sick, 3 people ended up in the hospital and a 2 year old baby almost died from a carbon monoxide leak. It was only luck that saved the family and certainly prevented several fatalities. One of the family members just happened to be awake much later than he normally would be and heard his wife pass out and fall to the floor so he called 911.

I am very happy that no one died, but this story is not even close to over for this apartment building owner. What is she going to do now? Do you think this family might sue her? Can she blame the side jobber? She can blame the side jobber but he has no insurance so she is in a pickle. There is a good chance that even her insurance company will not cover a lawsuit because she failed to hire a legitimate business. The insurance company will not hesitate to point that out and decline coverage. I hope this goes well but in reality this apartment building owner may very well lose her building in this lawsuit. Was it worth it? Innocent people almost died. She is surely to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in the aftermath. She probably only saved a couple hundred dollars by hiring a side jobber rather than a licensed and insured contractor. The penny you save today might cost you a dollar tomorrow and your not even getting the best job done.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment