Angie's List: Toilet repair

A working toilet is a necessity. When toilets clog, they can cause a bit of panic. A plumbing disaster is one of the worst things that can happen, especially during the holidays when your home is filled with friends and family.

It's probably the worst time of year to hire a plumber, if you don't already have one.

Angie Hicks, Angie's List, explains how to find a plumber, "Many times when you need to hire a plumber, let's face it, it's in an emergency situation - there's usually water going somewhere. The key here is to build a relationship with a plumber ahead of time so that you can check them out and feel like you have a good relationship and you can trust their advice. That way you are not picking in an emergency situation."

The average hourly service charge ranges from $70-$160. For weekend or after hour calls, expect to pay time and a half.

Hicks explains how to know when you get a good price, "When you're having plumbing repair work done don't be afraid to get multiple estimates, especially if you feel like the estimate is pretty high. One Angie's List member got an estimate for repairing a leaky toilet that was going to be $800. She then decided to call another plumber who she worked with before and that estimate came in at $100. It's important to push back if you feel like the quote you are getting is too high."

Some of the most common problems: running toilet, overflowing toilet and clogged toilet. Many of these issues can be solved without the help of a plumber.

Learning to use a plunger properly will help with a clogged toilet. And a common kitchen item can help you determine if your toilet is leaking.

Russell Hertaus, Plumber, describes some easy tips, "A great way to find out if your toilet is leaking and you are wasting water as well as money is to take a small amount of food coloring put a couple drops in the tank. Leave it over night and in the morning when you wake up without anyone using the toilet over night see if that color has appeared in the bowl of the toilet if that is the case that means that your flapper is leaking."

If make sure you know where your shut-off valve is.

Hertaus explains some helpful information when you have a problem, "On the lower left hand of the toilet you are going to find a shut off valve. In the event that you do have a catastrophe and your toilet is beginning to over flow you immediately want to shut that water off to that fixture. That will contain the water and keep anything from additionally coming out of the toilet. These valves should be checked periodically and exercised once a year other wise they will seize up due to water conditions and what not." >

And remember, prevention is the best medicine. That means not flushing items down the toilet that are likely to cause a blockage. The most common toilet-clogging culprits include excess toilet paper, baby wipes, feminine products and toys.

If you'll have extra family and friends in your home this holiday season your toilet will be working overtime.

The plumbing category on Angie's List, the nation's premier provider of consumer reviews , is typically one of the most requested categories year-round, nationwide. We asked highly rated plumbers about the most common toilet issues and how to fix them.

Toilet clogs:
• Plunge the toilet: Use a plunger as your first line of defense with a clogged toilet. Turn off the water valve first. There must be some water in the toilet for the plunging to work. If there isn't enough water, add some until it comes up about halfway on the rubber cup of the toilet plunger once it's placed over the drain hole.
• Prevention is the best medicine: That means not flushing items down the toilet that are likely to cause blockage. The most common toilet-clogging culprits include excess toilet paper, baby wipes, feminine products and toys.

Overflowing toilet:
• Locate the shut off valve: Turn the valve until the water shuts off to prevent additional overflow. If your toilet does not have one, open the tank and rig the float to stay in its position and not let any more water fill the tank. If a clog is the culprit of the overflow, grab a plunger and try plunging it free.
• Regular checkups: These valves should be inspected to ensure they are working properly.

Leaky toilet:
• Grab some food coloring: Here's an easy test to determine if your toilet has a leak: add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet tank and leave overnight. If the color shows up in the bowl after about a half hour, you have a leak. Be sure to clean the bowl afterwards so it doesn't stain.

When a homeowner needs a plumber, it's often in an emergency situation, which can lead to disaster if the homeowner hasn't checked the plumber out before hiring.
Choosing the right professional for the job can be the difference between quality work and flushing your money down the toilet.

Angie's List tips for hiring a plumber:• Word of mouth: You want to choose a plumber who's reliable and has a great reputation - and there's nobody better to give you a recommendation than a friend or family member. If none of your friends or family knows anyone you can use, do a little research online. Angie's List offers the best of both.
• Experience: Choosing a less experienced plumber can result in a lower cost, but saving money doesn't always mean saving money. If the job isn't done properly the first time you could end up paying someone to come back and fix the problem again later and have an even bigger mess on your hands. Choose a plumber that's been in business at least five to 10 years.
• Ask about rates: Plumbers will either charge by the hour or job. Plumbers tell Angie's List that the average hourly service charge ranges from $70-$160. For weekend or after hour calls, expect to pay time and a half. Obtain two to three estimates before hiring.
• Licensed and Insured? All states with the exception of Kansas, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Wyoming require plumbers to be licensed. Check that the license is current and look to see if there are any complaints against the license. Any plumber you hire should have liability insurance and a current workers' compensation policy.
• Once you find a good plumber, keep him/her: Understand that not all plumbers accept emergency, weekend or holiday calls. It may be wise to know which do before an emergency. Once you find a plumber you are satisfied with, keep his/her number handy in your cell phone.

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