Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cast Your Vote Correctly

We seem to be living in a world of "undecideds." No one is able to make a decision on the big issues that matter. Just take a look at the number of people who couldn’t make up their minds in some recent elections.

So if you can’t choose who should be your President, Governor, Prime Minister or Premier then how will you ever be able to make up your mind on the truly major questions in your life such as; what plumbing fixtures, kind and colour of paint, type of tile, or variety of flooring do you buy when renovating?

These are not weighty issues you say? Not true! Being undecided about such issues has broken up many a relationship (both between spouses and contractors) and some people might find it easier to settle the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Here’s a news flash. I’m not about to solve your problems on this one. I’m only here to make your decision easier by giving you the right questions to ask the pros in order to make your choice.

Step 1: Think About Longevity
Are you the kind of person who has happy feet, moving from place to place, or are you the type who expects to be carried out feet first from your property? How long you intend to stay in your current home should factor into your budget.

Step 2: Think About Durability
Is your home more functional or museum like? (Hint: if your living room is roped off and the sofa is covered in plastic, it’s the latter). How often the fixtures or material will be in use is important to know to determine quality of product.

Step 3: Think About Colour
There are certain colours of products you might tire of after a period of time; or colours that might not be pleasing to buyers (yes, I’m talking to you folks who still have harvest gold or avocado green kitchen appliances!)

There is a test. And you are going to have to live with the answers to that test, in some cases, for years to come. So study up before you give your final answers.

Plumbing Fixtures:

  • Choose a faucet with parts that are readily and speedily available. Call distributors to find out how long that particular faucet and or parts have been in existence.


  • Choose a toilet that answers to your needs. Do you want a showcase or a workhorse? Your choice depends on balancing your need for pretty or functional.
  • Choose a toilet that fits to the existing area.
  • Choose a toilet that uses conventional parts so you may repair it easily with generic pieces.


  • Make sure the type of paint is right for the specific purpose. For instance you will need epoxy paint for concrete, or exterior paint for exterior weather conditions. Not all paints are created equal.


  • The type of paint finish is important to know. A more glossy finish will be easier to wash off junior’s creative crayoning, but more gloss also shows more wall imperfections.


  • Certain tiles are textured or grooved and might collect dirt more easily.
  • Certain types of tiles are more porous than others and might stain easier.

On Site Condition:

  • What type of material is the tile being laid on?
  • Does this tile need a membrane installed beforehand?


  • Heavy traffic areas sometimes not only require specific flooring but might need a special rough base preparation.

On Site Condition:

  • Think of what type of finished flooring best suits your needs. Do you want something that keeps your toes warm and toasty? Do you have members of your family that are allergic to certain fibers?

There are many questions to ask and answers may differ between pros. It is fine to double or triple check responses. You’ve always been told to get a second opinion when it comes to your health. It’s no different here with your house. You have to live with the work that is done long after the hired professionals are gone.

One good place to start asking questions is not only to representatives but manufacturers as well. It's also good to find out the pros and cons to materials. Then you can figure which material gives you less problems than others.

Take your time to decide. Only then, just like in an election, you can vote your conscience knowing you’ve debated all sides of the issue. If your thoughts get blocked and you’re still undecided, feel free to ask a professional. We’re usually easy to find. In my case, I’m just around the drain.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bowled Over

There is currently a television commercial for a popular bathroom tissue that is trying to entice people to use their product in combination with another one of their products . . . flushable wet wipes. They’ve even come up with a contest to name the act of using the combination. Some people have been calling it “the freshy-fresh” others have tried, as the commercial says “the smooth ride” and regionally some think of it as “Southern hospitality.” Whatever name you’ve come up with among the myriad of names, here’s what I call it . . . “money in my pocket!”

One can debate whether wet wipes by any company are really flushable. Yes, you can put them in the toilet and yes, you can flush them, but at what cost? It has been my experience as a plumber that the only thing you should flush down your toilet is toilet paper. Not paper towels, not baby wipes, not any other kind of cloth or paper. Your toilet should never be confused for a Garburator.

I have seen all manner of items that I’ve been called to snake out of a toilet; combs, marbles, kids’ toys, cellular phones, pens, plaster, paint and more. About the only place where you would find more junk is the garage sale from Hell! Here’s a basic rule of thumb. With the exception of actual toilet paper, if a substance didn’t come out of you, from either end, than it shouldn’t be in the toilet. (If on the other hand, you have managed to ingest combs, marbles, kids’ toys, cellular phones or pens; then you need to call a professional with a far different set of skills than mine!)

Why am I so adamant about this? Well, let’s discuss what happens to the items you toss down the loo. If a plumber is called to unblock something stuck in the bowl, there is a possibility the item in question might not be retrieved but instead will continue down the drain like Alice sliding down the rabbit hole. Depending on the type of building, retrieval might require the use of camera or even worse, the ceiling or flooring might have to be opened. Usually a homeowner uses a plunger to clear a clogged toilet. If the toilet is blocked with anything but toilet paper, a homeowner can actually create more harm than good by attempting to remedy the situation themselves.

To many people, I may be talking to deaf ears. I’m certainly not making any friends in the baby wipe industry. But just remember. I see the end result of their product more than they do. And a flushed baby wipe doesn’t always make a clean getaway. It can just often end up with me . . . around your drain.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Fifth Season

Anyone who owns a home knows that there are really five seasons; winter, spring, summer, fall and renovation. And while there are a variety of enthusiasts who wish the four primary seasons would last forever, when it comes to renovation season, it could never end soon enough!

And the one thing that scares folks about renovation season is that it can contain the worst climatic conditions of the other four seasons combined. If you don’t do it correctly, you can find yourself in a tsunami of sawdust, snowed in by unforeseen bills or under an avalanche of construction debris. What you really want is the seeding period of renovation to go quickly and smoothly so that you can enjoy the fruitful sunny days to come when the work is done. And the best way to prepare for any season is to properly plan ahead.

That’s right, planning. Let’s repeat that slowly. PLAAAANNNNINNNNGGGGGG. Who should be doing the planning for your renovation? Ideally you need someone who can adeptly coordinate a battle plan. Since both General Eisenhower and Field Marshall Rommel are not available, you’ll have to come up with Plan B.

Whether or not you commission a general contractor or designer (notice the term decorator was not used) to oversee your project, special concern should be taken in getting involved wholeheartedly towards each part of the “reno” (don’t you just love builder-speak?)

If you feel brave enough to tackle the administrative duties of self-contracting, a great trust must be established between you and your sub contractors, the folks who whistle while they work, such as plumbers, electricians, drywall installers, jointers, painters, etc. If you’ve never done this before, prepare to count the additional grey hairs you’ll have from whatever few hair follicles remain when the job is done.

This is one of the most crucial tasks during a renovation. Many factors can determine whether or not the job will be completed upon deadline. Finishing items, such as windows, bathtubs, shower faucets and recessed lighting should be chosen and purchased well in advance of the project’s commencement. Another thing to consider when dealing with a general contractor (and I use THAT term loosely) is to make sure that a daily to weekly schedule is available at your disposal, otherwise a brief daily meeting or phone call is sufficient for updates of the project. Nothing frustrates a homeowner more than when they get the feeling that somewhere during the middle of the job the contractor has suddenly gone into the witness protection program.

That dirty, dirty, dirty word EXTRA. Folks don’t like hearing the word “extra” because that only means more money coming out of your pocket. A good tradesperson will not only describe possible extras that might spring up during renovations, but possibly assume certain extras that might occur when walls are opened. Theoretically speaking, the real worry of a disastrous extra would occur only if a structural problem would be detected. Sometimes a visual inspection of the attic could determine if a load bearing wall or support is missing; or if vents are properly connected.

Licenced Sub Contractors And/Or General Contractors:
Trades people that work in your house or place of business should be licenced. Holding a valid licence is step one. But, just because someone holds a licence to work does not merit their ability to work correctly (you’ve seen how some licenced people drive on the roads, haven’t you?)

Referrals are important as well as asking a battery of questions to that individual. What type of questions do you ask? Just about anything short of blood type or political affiliation. Topics such as preparation:

  • Will they be cleaning the premises after each work day?
  • Will all the garbage be disposed of by the general contractor?
  • Will the general contractor be providing their own cleaning supplies?
  • Would any furniture need to be moved or stored during the project?
  • Will there be any prep done to ensure minimal amounts of dust accumulation?

You should also question them on technical expertise. Queries like:

  • What type of plumbing material would you suggest on using (water and drain piping)?
  • What installation pattern of tiles would best suit the size of room to be worked in?
  • Is it necessary to re insulate the exterior walls of the project area if any?

And the killer topic that has wrecked many people’s sanity and perhaps a marriage or two - deadline and work hours

  • When will the project commence and end?
  • Will you work weekends?
  • What time do you start and finish your day?

These are just some of the things you need to know, however, as they say in all those late night infomercials, “But wait . . . there’s more!” In future blogs we’ll be more detailed in examples of renovation practices. By preparing a plan of action and hiring the right people, no one needs to wear a T-shirt that says, “I survived a home renovation.” The idea is to not merely survive, but to thrive. Remember, the more detailed planning the smoother the project should be.

I’m tapping out for now, but I’ll see you soon...Around The Drain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cleanliness: It's Next To Godliness

Someone once said that "cleanliness is next to Godliness." Whoever said that clearly didn’t have a dictionary. Open up a dictionary to “G” and you will find “Godliness” is much closer to “goggles.” On the other hand a trip through the “C” section will show that “cleanliness” is dangerously close to “cleavage.”

But this is all semantics. For the purpose of this discussion, “cleanliness” is right next to “professionalism.”

Have you ever had a service person working in your home who leaves a complete mess for YOU to clean up? That’s the sign of unprofessionalism, disrespect, lack of consideration for the client, or all of the above.

When a service person enters your house, shoes should be removed under normal circumstances, and then brought to the work area if needed. The work area should have a drop sheet or some form of protection for the floor (in some cases, protection of the floor from entrance door to work area should be installed).

Once a service is rendered, the work area should be cleaned properly. One of my mottos has always been “leave a place as clean as or cleaner than you found it.” Cleanliness is a part of the service that is rendered. You shouldn’t accept any less from a professional who walks through your door. Providing a clean service shows at the very least, compassion for you.

Cleanliness also comes in a written form. Understanding the service call that was executed is very important. Make sure you spend a couple of moments to question any aspect of the service call and read the DETAILED charges made for the job.

Since I introduced a somewhat biblical term in the beginning, here’s another thought to ponder. “Homeowner, help thyself.” It is important to know of any maintenance that you can do to avoid any service calls in the future. As a client you should not be used as a cash cow for the service person to rely on future business. Remember, a good service person is there not only to solve your problem and improve your quality of life, but also to help you save money. As a service professional, THAT IS WHERE I COME IN!!!

Speak to your service person about what you can do to maintain your structure and don’t be shy about asking the proper way you should do it (perhaps maybe this is where goggles actually comes in, but that’s a story for another day).

Your home is your castle. If you treat it that way, so should any service professional who walks through your door. Their job is to make your home a better place and solve the problems that need to be solved professionally, cleanly and promptly. In other words, less time with me . . . around your drain.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Welcome To Dave's World!

Welcome to the world of Access Plumbing. My name is David Soroka. This new blog will be an opportunity to share some of my plumbing expertise with you.

There are many things you can do yourself to help maintain the life of your plumbing. It’s informative, efficient, and it will keep people like me away from your door and out of your pocket a little longer.

But should you need to have someone like me at your home, I’ll give you the tips to find that professional plumber you require.

There will be more information in the future, so watch this space as we visit you . . . around the drain.