Plumbing is rarely thought of as a glorious profession. Images of plumbers’ cracks and Super Mario often come to mind when someone even speaks the word plumber. But when I caught up with Kevin at Albin’s Plumbing, he shed a very different light on the subject. Showing up at their 9th Street location early on a Friday morning, I caught everyone just as they were opening their doors for business. Already the phones were ringing, and there was a customer in line in front of me. I waited for only a few short moments before Kevin was free to meet with me. Already I had noticed that this was a career that was all about the customers.
Albin’s Plumbing, Kevin informed me, has been in business since 1978. They both sell plumbing products and items, as well as performing service calls for repairs and maintenance. They receive, on average, around 14 calls a day, which are usually just clogged drains and maintenance issues. I then, of course, started asking the fun questions, which he was very willing to answer.
For starters, what sort of strange things has he had to pull out of a toilet? I was a bit taken aback. Items like canning lids, jewelry, and matchbox cars are just a few that made the list. Another story he told left me laughing so hard my ribs hurt. It was about a call for an overflowing toilet—when they arrived on the scene, the plumbers were surprised to find a basement full of sewage, and even more shocked to find the customer barefoot, standing on the toilet with a towel, trying to subdue the flow. Even he couldn’t tell the story without chuckling a bit.
I left the office with a smile, and noticed that other customers were doing the same. Not only had I learned that the “plumber’s crack” myth is just that, myth, and that Mario is actually not like a Michael Jordan for plumbers, but I had learned other things, too. For example, he informed me that commercial drain cleaners are not good for the pipes in your house, and that they can eventually eat away at them until they fall apart. I’m all for a lack of leaks in my pipes at home, so my Draino went straight down the drain so to speak. I also learned why Kevin and his co-workers do what they do; it was simpler than one might think. “I like to help people,” he said. “I like working with my hands.”
After making my way back from Albin’s, I decided to do some research of my own. Since it is so close to the holiday season, I chose to focus on some things to do to prevent embarrassing events that would undoubtedly become immortalized as family stories, doomed to be repeated for years to come. Kevin had mentioned that during the holidays, the types of calls tended to drift more towards the clogging of drains, because people tend to throw everything from dinner right down the sink. Certain foods just cause serious problems when they are put into a garbage disposal. Rice and pasta swell with water, and so are never able to be broken down small enough. The garbage disposal is simply not strong enough to break down animal bones, and grease will eventually solidify and clog your drain.
Some other things to keep out of your drain include eggshells and any kind of stringy vegetable, such as asparagus, potato peels, and celery. Many plumbing professionals also recommend using a drain strainer over the top of your kitchen sink drain to catch all of the small bits of food that could clog up your line.
Also, to avoid that embarrassing toilet overflow or sewer line breakage, remember to not flush anything that is not toilet paper. Make sure to have a wastebasket in the bathroom, and remind your guests to dispose of paper towels, sanitary products, and wet wipes in the trash, not down the drain. If it has been a while since your last sewer inspection, you may consider having a professional come and perform one before your guests arrive. Just to be safe.
Finally, your water heater will probably be under a lot of stress during the holidays—with all of your guests vying for a hot shower, or hot water for their cocoa—so you may want to consider turning your water heater up during the time that your guests will be visiting. Just make sure that you don’t turn it past 120°F, unless of course you’d like to send your guests home with third-degree burns!
These tips are all good things to keep in mind year-round, but are even more important when your pipe system is under pressure, like during the holidays. Having regular inspections of your line, and being careful of the things that you put into it, may ensure that you will not have to have an emergency visit from the good people at Albin’s Plumbing, and maybe they will get to stay out of the ick this holiday season, too.