Managing construction projects and construction sites are not easy to take on, and neither is a trades business. One of the biggest challenges in working in plumbing is distinguishing the truth from the myth. Aside from advanced construction tools, modern technology has helped a lot in busting plumbing myths. Whatever plumbing position you’re in, it’s crucial to your job and your clients that you be educated on the truth.
How do myths begin and why do they spread?
Probably the biggest reason why myths pop up and spread is because of a lapse in logic to give sense or meaning to a situation. The correlation-causation fallacy, in particular, is a significant one to consider. Essentially, two things that appear to be related implies that one is the cause for the other, but it does not necessarily mean that. For example, “Construction management created a new construction schedule last week and fewer workers came into work last week. Therefore, there are fewer workers last week because of the new schedule.”
While the two statements in the first sentence seem to be related, that does not immediately mean that the prior caused the latter. There may have been several other factors to consider before concluding.
In the past, when technology was not as advanced and plumbing was not as studied as it is today, it’s quite easy to trust these myths. With nothing and no one to prove them wrong, people would believe them and spread the word about how these truly worked.
Myth #1: “Toilets flush and drain empty counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Location does not determine the direction of toilet flushes and drains; rather, it’s only the system’s construction and water flow.
This plumbing myth stems from the phenomenon called the “Coriolis Effect.” This phenomenon is why cyclones rotate clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. But toilets do not have enough water for this force to work on them.
Myth #2: “Strong chemicals are the only thing that can clear clogs.”
Harsh chemicals do a great job at declogging a drain or toilet, but there are other ways to do so, which are even safer. In fact, these chemicals do more harm than good. While chemicals can quickly clear out the clog, they can also eat away at the pipes. The corrosion it caused means more trouble because it can be expensive to replace. Other than that, the chemicals can get mixed with the water, risking all building occupants’ health.
Even though it can get messy, plungers and plumber’s/drain snakes are the best bet.
Myth #3: “Pour hot water down the drain to melt grease clogs.”
Hot water is safer than chemicals in declogging sinks from grease. The downside is that it solidifies again when it reaches the pipes and cools down, eventually building up. From there, it will be too far down to reach with a drain snake.
Contrarily, cold water solidifies the clogged grease immediately so the disposal can break it down before it gets to the sewer line, letting it float to the city sewer. Plus, cold water can cool the disposer motor, thus prolonging its life.
Myth #4: “Old pipes are fine as long as they drain perfectly.”
Although the pipes do not have any plumbing issues, older ones are commonly made of lead. This can cause several health issues, such as anemia, brain and kidney damage, and even death if exposed to it for too long.
Upgrading to modern plumbing will ensure the occupants are safe from lead poisoning and can save them money on water bills, as it is more efficient.
Myth #5: “Toilet tabs and bleach are great for freshness.”
In commercial buildings where toilets are usually shared, it’s vital always to keep them fresh and clean. To do this, the cleaning crew will usually drop in toilet tabs with bleach. However, leaving a high concentration of bleach on for a long time can do some internal damage to the toilet and compromise the plumbing system. It’s safer to add bleach to toilet cleaner and not let it sit for more than a few minutes.
Myth #6: “A dielectric union is the only thing that can protect water heaters from Electrolysis/Galvanic Action.”
When two dissimilar metals are joined (like galvanized pipe and copper) and water is added, a flow of electrons is created that eventually destroys the galvanized pipe.
To avoid that kind of damage from happening, plumbers have been using an insulated dielectric union for decades. While it does provide some protection, it’s not enough to stop the galvanized pipe from completely failing.
Dielectric nipples do a better job at stopping galvanic corrosion than dielectric unions alone. Studies show that a 3-inch nipple reduces the current flow by about 85% compared to just using a union. So, when installing a water heater, adding a dielectric nipple with a dielectric union will prove to be better.
Myth #7: “Tightly turned handles can stop a leaky faucet.”
Turning the handle clockwise turns the faucet off, so it’s logical to think that turning it tighter will stop leaks. On the contrary, doing so can lead to serious issues, like damage to the faucet and a break in the pipes. If the leak does not stop, even if the faucet is firmly and safely closed, it may be time to look deeper and possibly replace some parts.
Myth #8: “It’s normal for faucets to leak. Small and slow leaks are nothing to worry about.”
It’s normal for faucets to experience some wear and tear over time, but that is not an excuse to ignore faucet leaks. Small and slow leaks could be a sign of a bigger underlying problem, like a loose faucet. If it’s not dealt with immediately, it could lead to bigger and more serious structural issues, such as water pressure running incorrectly. This is mainly a bigger concern for commercial buildings.
More than system damage, faucet leaks can also cost the client plenty of money, from having the serious issue fixed to the increase to their water bill from wasted water.
The best advice to tell your clients to prevent leaky faucets is to keep the water pressure just right.
Myth #9: “Rumbling means the water heater’s life is about to end.”
Hearing a rumbling from a water heater is concerning, but that doesn’t mean its end is near. More often than not, it just needs cleaning from the excessive sediments built up in the tank.
Loose minerals from hard water, which has a high mineral content, accumulates at the tank’s bottom, near the heating element. When the hot water is on, the sediment keeps the heat from warming/heating the water. The rumbling sound comes from steam bubbles coming up from the sediment.
So, when a customer comes to for a water heater replacement, encourage them to have their tank checked and cleaned first. It might save them money and add your credibility.
Myth #10: “Building maintenance can solve everything.”
Building maintenance is the reason my commercial buildings can keep running smoothly. While they may be considered a “jack of all trades” and can instantly identify a plumbing problem, they cannot fix them in most cases.
Instill in building managers and building maintenance that it’s always best to call on professionals to handle plumbing problems, no matter how small it is. Most, if not all, building maintenance personnel have a basic and working understanding of plumbing. Be that as it may that might not be enough to deal with issues more severe than clogs. Because they are not as skilled as professional plumbers, there is a chance that they could make the problem bigger and matters worse.
Myth #11: “All plumbers can solve all plumbing problems.”
To the average person, all plumbers are the same. But while all plumbers are trained to hone plumbing skills, there are specialties, which is true for any trade. They specialize in certain things like some specialize in commercial plumbing, others residential.
To ensure that you provide the best services and customer satisfaction is guaranteed, clearly advertise what you specialize in. It could be bad for business when you walk into a job and have no clue what to do. You can also tell your clients to research the best people for the job thoroughly.
Why it’s crucial to debunk these myths.
Plumbing is a serious and complex trade that cannot afford any mistakes. Having these myths float around compromise a plumber’s work and a building’s system. If they believe any of these myths, they can wrongly perform a task and risk their job and everyone’s safety. They can even tell these as tips to their clients, possibly causing damage to their plumbing systems,
So, for the sake of the plumbing tradesmen, their clients, and the integrity of the plumbing system, these myths must be stopped.