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Basement Floor Drain: What They Are and When to Replace Them

Often, homeowners like to leave the basement well enough alone. Whatever goes on down there is a mystery, since it’s outside your field of view, so rather than meddle you just let it do its thing. But unfortunately, basements are not self-regulating, and even though there might not be a clear and visible issue, you might still need to get your drain inspected or replaced.

 This is certainly true of the basement floor drain. Your house won’t flood, and your pipes won’t spring a massive leak when there’s an issue with the drain, but you will be greeted with a foul, sewer odour, enough to make any homeowner gag. But rather than cancel your dinner party plans out of embarrassment, just call in the pros.

Keep Your Home Up-to-Code, Or Beyond

Although not all homes have one (or the one they do have is old and non-functional), Ontario plumbing codes define mandatory floor drain installation in the basement furnace room. When we discuss the role of a floor drain a little later on, it will become clear why they have been made mandatory, but suffice it to say for now that a floor drain expels unwanted water and protects against unwanted gases.

Some houses have more than one floor drain, but that is optional. For example, some homeowners prefer to have an additional floor drain in their laundry room. When you think about it, your washing machine holds around 150 litres of water, and if the drain line from your washing machine fails, that amount of liquid can cause major damage. Rather than contend with a mess of wet drywall, and can pay to just proactively install a second floor drain.

Luckily floor drains are mostly uniform and standardized. Because the main drain is a 4” pipe, most floor drains have the same size. This means that installation isn’t all that tricky.

What Is a Floor Drain?

You might be wondering, though: what is a floor drain, exactly? A floor drain is a roughly U-shaped fitting that is connected to a drain branch, which leads to the main drainpipe. In other words, it is a P-trap (a sloped, curved pipe that collects debris and prevents back flow into the house) where water sits pretty much all the time.

What Function Does It Serve?

This water sitting in the P-trap creates a barrier, and prevents sewer gases from entering into your living space. Whereas an empty pipe would let in noxious gases from the sewer system, the floor drain’s liquid stops it. Put this way, it’s easy to see that the floor drain actually plays a crucial role in plumbing safety.

This means, unfortunately, that a problem with the floor drain opens your home up to some seriously unpleasant smells. If an old clay P-trap has a crack, water escapes from it, seeping to the lower level into the soil, which causes an awful, noxious smell to permeate.

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When Problems Arise…

In the picture above, you can see an old floor drain that is made of clay. Because of some cracks at the bottom, the water couldn’t hold inside the pipe, and leaked out. The homeowners complained about a foul smell in the basement, and sought Mister Plumber’s drain cleaning services in Toronto to help sort out the smell. The only weird thing, they noted, was that the smell was on and off – it wasn’t a lingering, always-present odour.

There’s actually a pretty simple explanation for that: if atmospheric pressure is high, the foul odours aren’t drawn into the home from the pipe. As soon as the pressure goes down, though, that distinctive sewer smell comes up from the drain. If you catch any odd whiffs coming from the basement, any sewage-y smells at all, it is best to tackle the problem immediately. You can peruse our guide to drain repair and replacement or, better yet, give us a call.

Mister Plumber is available 24/7 for emergency plumbing cases, with loads of experience working with drains.

Consider Replacing Your Old Floor Drain

Old floor drains can be replaced with newer PVC pipes, which are less likely to crack and cause problems than their clay counterparts. All the connections for the pipe and its fittings are glued, so water will never escape the P-trap, and your home will never be bombarded by sewer smells.

Over time, as strides were made (and continue to be made) in the field of plumbing, the plumbing codes have changed. The current one requires the installation of a so-called “primer tube” that supplies a small amount of water to the floor drain to make sure it doesn’t dry out. (Please note here that the tube from the furnace, which discharges condensed water, is not enough lubrication for the pipe).

In the plumbing codebook, there is a lot of information about floor drain installation and proper venting. Mister Plumber is an expert in both underground and above ground drain systems installation, so we’re uniquely suited to help you fortify your floor drains, and ensure your basement plumbing is working in tip-top, fresh-smelling order.

emergency plumber toronto

To Recap…

Although your basement is “out of sight, out of mind” sometimes, you shouldn’t neglect issues that arise from it. One such common issue is a problem with the floor drain, a drain whose installation has been made mandatory by the Ontario codebook. Floor drains prevent the backflow of noxious gases into your home using a P-trap, a curved pipe that collects standing water even when there is no flow. That water creates a barrier against the gases.

If your P-trap is clay, as many are, it is susceptible to cracks, which cause the protective barrier of water to seep out. When atmospheric pressure is low, those gases start permeating your residence, spreading stinky gas everywhere.The best defense against these gross odours is a newly installed PVC floor drain, which is far less likely to crack, and which is held together at joints by reliable glue. If you smell something, call someone! Call Mister Plumber immediately and we’ll help return your home to its fresh-smelling self.

Toilet in a powder room s

Toilet in a powder room

Toilet installation

Toilet in a powder room – Installations and repairs by Mister Plumber – plumbing, drain services by trusted, licensed Toronto Area plumbers.

How to Pick The Best Plumbing Fixtures for Your Home

As we head into a New Year, and yet another popular season for home renovation, we start seeing more and more homeowners mull over plumbing fixtures. Oftentimes, the first room to get renovated is the bathroom, and homeowners, eager to see their money in the final product, will go for trendy fixtures like hanging vanities and modern faucets.

It’s not that these trendy fixtures are always bad. Sometimes you can find the perfect mix of functionality and aesthetics. But nowadays, there are hundreds – even thousands – of plumbing fixtures brands on the market, and it takes some research to ensure that you aren’t just getting a pretty picture. That’s why you can always call us for help with your plumbing problems during renovation.

The amount of choice out there can feel pretty overwhelming, and it’s difficult for homeowners to know how to choose the right fixture. Some fixtures have a limited warranty while others have a lifetime warranty. Some brands are new to market while some have a long history. To help you cut through the noise, we at MisterPlumber have decided to share our thoughts on plumbing fixtures.

To sum up our ample plumbing experience, we have noticed that homeowners who choose well-known brands – brands with experience in manufacturing for residential functionality, and with honed lines of customer service – often feel better about their purchase than those who go with new, fad brands. To clarify this point, let’s look at a few reasons fad fixture soften come up short, and then discuss what to look for in bathroom fixtures.

The Trouble with Fad Fixtures

You have to remember that style and finish are not the most important feature when choosing bathroom fixtures.  They are a fantastic bonus feature, to be sure, but they shouldn’t be priority number one. For instance, we’ve heard many plumbers state that certain designer faucets, which admittedly do look fabulous because of the designers’ work, have significant technical drawbacks. Such taps are hard to install and they do not mix water smoothly, making for sharp spikes in the temperature of the discharging water.

Another inconvenience with new brands is that they don’t yet have the means to reliably create new parts, nor do they enjoy the economy of scale that their established competitors do, meaning that, if you need to replace anything, it is more difficult and more expensive. Even a simple replacement like a faucet cartridge can be a major headache.

So, our advice: do not choose faucets by their look and price. Here is an example to support our statement. Maybe around 15 years ago, a new line of “Eurostream” kitchen faucets burst onto the market that were not only trendy looking but pretty affordable too. Naturally, a lot of people bought them. In five years, however, the company went out of business and it was impossible to get a replacement cartridge, so homeowners had to buy anotherfaucet and hire a plumber to replace it. What was meant initially to be acost-saving measure turned out costing homeowners over double the price.

That’s not to say that this is the case with every new fixture company, and sometimes it can be good to patronize a new company that appears to make good products. It is best, however, to start looking for a plumber in Toronto to consult with before you make a big purchase. Our knowledgeable plumbers here at Mister Plumber will be able to weigh on in whether the fixture will work logistically for your bathroom, and notify you of any potential drawbacks in the design.

How to Pick the Right Fixtures

Whether it’s taps, toilets, vanities or tubs, most plumbers suggest you go with plumbing fixtures from well-known brands. You want to go with brands that have enjoyed many years on market, whose customer service is easy to work with and responds quickly to homeowners‘ requests. This way if you run into a problem, need to fix that dripping faucet or need a key feature replaced, you can do so easily and quickly.

Also, older brands often have lifetime warranties and replace worn parts for free. Again, this is likely because of economy of scale, but also because older brands tend to do whatever they can to secure brandloyalty – and there’s no better avenue to loyalty than a lifetime guarantee.

For instance, as an anecdote, our personal experience with the “Moen” brand has been very positive. Once, when a vanity tap started leaking and it was determined that the problem was non-repairable, Moen offered a complete replacement of the tap with no charge to the homeowner (our plumber was the homeowner in this case!). Conversely, we’ve had times where we’ve dealt with homeowners who struggle to replace a part with a designer fixture.

This article from the Faucet Guide (which is a real publication dedicated to the review of all things bathroom fixture!) agrees with our assessment about Moen, listing them as the top faucet on the market. This is a website that we recommend you peruse if you want unbiased, thorough reviews on bathroom fixtures from people who really know what they’re talking about. Yes, customer reviews on Amazon are helpful, but the Faucet Guide offers reviews from people who really know what they’re talking about.

The Bottom Line

With thousands of fixtures on the market, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and find the quality. While there is no hard and fast rule for finding quality, we have found that going with large, established companies is a safer bet in terms of replacement parts, functionality and customer support.

There are certainly designer fixtures that buck this trend – we understand that. That’s why, when you are serious about remodelling or renovating your bathroom, it’s in your best interest to get a free estimate from a local Toronto plumber and consult with a plumber about fixtures. We will be able to impart our years of industry knowledge and point you in the direction of well-made fixtures bolstered by supportive brands.

When it comes time to replace your bathroom fixtures, remember that it’s better to prioritize functionality over aesthetics. It’s much easier finding a reliable brand that makes trendy looking fixtures than itis finding a trendy looking brand making reliable fixtures.