A Hard Look at Hard Water: Ways Hard Water Affects You and Your Home

Written by Tom Elliott. Posted in Rakeman Blog

When you turn on your tap, do you ever pause to consider the water that flows out?

Although your water may look clear and taste pleasant, it could harbor minerals that affect your health and your home indicating hard water. In fact, more than 85% of the country relies on hard water, according to the US Geological Survey (http://water.usgs.gov/owq/hardness-alkalinity.html).

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water contains high mineral content, particularly calcium, manganese, and magnesium carbonate.

Experts measure water hardness based on grains per gallon or parts per million. Water with less than 3.5 grains per gallon falls into the soft water category, while water with more than 10.5 grains per gallon is very hard.

In Las Vegas Valley, the average water hardness level is about 285 parts per million, or 16.7 grains per gallon. This is because most of our water supply starts with snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains. As the water travels down the Colorado River channel, it picks up and dissolves minerals along the way.

You can’t always see these minerals, but you can see the effect they have on your day-to-day activities.

How It Affects Your Body

Don’t panic about drinking hard water. Researchers have yet to connect hard water consumption with worrisome conditions or diseases. Some minor studies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775162/) even suggest that drinking hard water can protect against cardiovascular disease, though more research is needed to validate the claim.

However, hard water can affect your body in other ways, including the feel of your skin and hair and the taste of your food.

Your Hair Feels Dry and Brittle

The minerals in hard water react with the chemicals in your shampoo, making it difficult to build up a lather and rinse away the remaining suds. As a result, you might have a sticky film on your hair, which prevents moisture from reaching the strands. This can lead to dry, dull, tangled hair.

If you dye your hair frequently, hard water can also strip the color, leaving you with faded and brittle locks.

Your Skin Feels Itchy and Irritated

The minerals in hard water also react with your typical soap, creating the same film on your skin as it does on your hair. This film clogs your pores and can leave your skin feeling dry, itchy, and easily irritated.

Some studies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9716057) show that children living in areas with hard water are more likely to experience eczema. And though switching to soft water didn’t ease eczema directly, many families in a UK trial (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21324289) reported less itchiness and needed fewer emollients when they installed water softeners in their home.

Your Tea or Coffee Tastes Bitter

If you struggle to wake up in the morning, you might want to rethink how you brew your coffee or tea. Chlorine, calcium, and magnesium bind with the compounds in your favorite drinks to form solids. This ties up flavors and aromas, so you often end up with a bitter, duller cup.

How It Affects Your Home

In addition to affecting your body, hard water can affect your plumbing and appliances. Your washing machine, dishwasher, and water heater won’t work as effectively when you have hard water running through your pipes.

Your Clothes Look Dingy

If your clothes look dingy, gray, and streaked, hard water may be the culprit. This is because much of your detergent goes toward softening the water instead of cleaning your clothing. The magnesium and calcium in the water will cling to the fabric, dulling the color and leaving the material stiff.

Some estimate that homeowners need to use nearly 30% extra detergent when washing with hard water to obtain the same results as washing with soft water.

Your Dishes Develop Spotting and Filming

Few things feel more satisfying than opening a dishwasher and pulling out a sparkling clean glass cup. However, if you wash with hard water, you might notice your dishes look cloudy rather than clean.

As with your laundry, this is because your soap has to combat extra minerals in addition to fighting grease and last night’s leftovers. And the hard water does a poor job of rinsing the dishes, so you’ll often notice a hazy film despite putting your dishes through a second rinse cycle.

Your Boiler Will Have a Shorter Lifespan

As hard water moves through your plumbing, it can leave calcium and other mineral deposits behind. This accumulates over time, clogging your pipes and increasing the likelihood of rust and bacteria buildup. As your boiler, heater, or other appliances struggle to push past the deposits, you may notice a decrease in water flow and an increase in monthly utility bills.

What Can You Do?

These are just a few of the problems hard water can cause-but fortunately, you can easily remedy these issues with a water softener. Ask your local plumber about which water softener is best for your home,and have a professional replace any pipes or parts damaged due to hard water buildup.

Answers to 6 Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions

Written by Tom Elliott. Posted in Rakeman Blog


You know your home pretty well. You know what not to cook on the stove if you want to avoid setting the fire alarm off. You know how long it takes for your air conditioner to cool each room. You know the best times to open your windows to let a cool breeze roll through.

But of all aspects of your home, you’re probably least familiar with its plumbing system. You have no idea where those drains and pipes lead, after all. To help you feel more familiar and comfortable with your home’s plumbing system, we’ve answered six common plumbing questions.

1. How Do I Shut Off My House’s Water?

You shouldn’t wait until your pipes burst or freeze to locate your water main. Learn how to shut your home’s water off now to prevent water damage should an accident occur in the future.

Locate the main shut off valve inside your home. The shut off valve is a brass valve that has a round handle or a lever. You’ll find it wherever water enters your home-generally in the garage, laundry room or in front of the house.

  • Turn the valve all the way to one direction (usually toward the right) to block water flow into your house.
  • Find your home’s main water valve, which is outside. The main valve should be near the street in the side walk.
  • Turn the handle all the way to one direction to block water flow. This should shut off your home’s water entirely.

2. Why Is My Water Pressure So Low?

Low water pressure can be attributed to the age of your pipes. Over time, rust accumulates in the pipes, causing their diameter to shrink. As a result, less water flows through your pipes, thereby leading to low water pressure.

Leaks can also cause low water pressure, so if you haven’t had your pipes inspected in the last five years, call a plumber to inspect them.

3. Is The Black Ring Around My Toilet Mold?

Have you noticed a black ring around the base of your toilet? If so, the wax seal underneath your toilet is probably leaking. The black ring you see might be mold, or it could just be bacteria buildup.

Call a plumber as soon as you notice this problem-they’ll have to completely remove the toilet to replace the seal and clean the mold or bacteria.

4. Why Does My Faucet Drip So Much?

Leaky faucets prove both annoying and expensive. They generally result from worn or broken mechanisms within the faucet. Fortunately, it’s easy to replace these mechanisms. You can buy replacement parts at your local hardware store, or you can call a plumber to do the job.

To avoid drippy faucets in the future, turn your faucets off and on gently. Too much force puts excess stress on the faucet, thereby causing leaks.

5. Why Is My Water Discolored?

Every time you turn on a faucet, you expect to see crystal clear water come through. So when any other color comes through, you’ll probably feel shocked and alarmed.

  • Yellow water most often indicates that you have rust buildup in your pipes. Rust particles can come loose from the side of your pipes and mix with the water, causing it to turn yellow or even orange.
  • You’ll need to replace your pipes if this occurs. Brown water is a sign that you have an overabundance of iron or manganese in your water. Iron occurs naturally in the soil, which could seep into your pipes. Manganese in your water heater can also contaminate your water if you haven’t flushed the tanks in several years. Contact a plumber to determine the source of your brown water.
  • Black water only occurs when mold has contaminated your water supply. Contact a plumber right away if you notice black water coming from your pipes.

6. What Should I Do If My Pipes Freeze?

Although temperatures in the Las Vegas area rarely get low enough to cause your pipes to freeze, we have had some chilly days in the last few years. You’ll need to prepare and educate yourself in the event your pipes do freeze.

First, turn off your home’s water supply using the steps outlined in the first section. Then, wrap any exposed outdoor pipes with warm towels. Next, open your utility closet doors to circulate warm air to the indoor pipes.

To speed the thawing process, use a hair dryer to warm the pipes. Start near the faucet, then work your way outside toward the cold section of the pipe. Never use an open flame to thaw your pipes, as this could ignite beams or insulation near the pipe and cause a fire.

If you have additional plumbing questions, don’t hesitate to call a plumber in your area. Or, take a look at our other blogs (https://rakeman.com/blog) to learn more about your home’s plumbing system.

Signs You Have a Gas Leak

Written by Tom Elliott. Posted in Rakeman Blog

You chose to have natural gas lines in your home for a reason. Perhaps you wanted them for energy savings. Natural gas operates more efficiently than other power sources, so you won’t have to pay as much for power to run your water heater or laundry appliances. Or maybe you wanted to go green: natural gas gives you the perfect option when you want to preserve our planet’s natural resources.

However, even though natural gas has a myriad of benefits, it doesn’t come without its dangers. Damaged gas pipes and appliances can lead to gas leaks, and gas leaks can have disastrous (even explosive) consequences.

Warning Signs of a Gas Leak

If you want to keep your home and your family safe, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these warning signs. You’ll probably never experience a gas leak, but if you do, noticing these signs could save lives.

Olfactory Signs

By itself, natural gas doesn’t have a smell. However, providers add a distinctive odor so you know when you have a leak: rotten eggs. This odor is usually the first warning sign that one of your gas lines or appliances has broken. But you may not always notice the smell if it comes on gradually or if other strong odors mask it.

Auditory Signs

When your natural gas lines or appliances begin to leak, you’ll likely hear a hissing, whistling, or even roaring around the leak. This sound occurs because the gas has found a small hole, and pressure forces the gas at high speeds through that hole. The force makes the material vibrate. Walk around your house to listen for these sounds near your pipes or appliances.

Visual Signs

Unfortunately, natural gas doesn’t give any visual signs on its own. It doesn’t have a color or a shape that will warn you of its presence. But it will cause reactions that give you other visible signs:

  • You’ll see debris, leaves, or dirt blowing away from a small hole.
  • In extreme cases, you’ll see a fire spark. Natural gas has extremely flammable properties, so even a spark from turning on a light switch could ignite it.
  • Dead or dying vegetation near pipelines. Plants need carbon dioxide to breathe, so they’ll die if they only have natural gas around them.
  • Bubbles in wet areas in your yard. This indicates a leak in a pipeline under your property. Damage on a gas line or appliance.

Bodily Signs

Your body will also tell you when you have an advanced leak. You’ll notice symptoms like the following:

  • Headaches (mild to severe, depending on exposure)
  • Abnormal breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Inability to concentrate

The first two symptoms occur after mild exposure, while the others develop the longer you stay in the affected area. If you continue to stay in an area with a gas leak, you may even lose consciousness because your body can’t get enough oxygen.

If you even suspect a leak in your area or near your home, don’t stay near the leak for long, and don’t go looking for the leak’s source after you notice signs. Instead, get as far away as you can, and take your family with you.

Ways to Respond to a Gas Leak

If you know you have a gas leak inside your home, take the following steps:

  • Gather your family members (and pets if you can scoop them up in less than a minute) and leave the area immediately. You don’t know how much the leak has progressed, and you don’t know how close it has traveled to a source of heat or an open flame, like the pilot light in your furnace, water heater, stove, or fireplace. Once it reaches these areas, it can explode. As you leave, don’t touch light switches, phones, appliances, light fixtures, outlets, or any other electrical devices. And don’t scrape your feet across the carpet. You don’t want static electricity to ignite the leak.
  • Walk, don’t drive, to a safe location. You shouldn’t start engines of any kind near the leak, as the resulting combustion could ignite the natural gas.
  • Once you’ve travelled a safe distance from your home, use your cell phone to warn your neighbors, friends, and family about the leak so they’ll stay away from your home.
  • Call 911, then call your natural gas provider.
  • Stay away from the leak until the authorities have taken care of it.

Again, don’t try to locate the leak yourself. You may spend time investigating when you should have used that time to run away. Leave the moment you notice the signs above. Don’t risk your health or your family’s health for the sake of curiosity, and don’t risk your life to turn off the gas valve. Let the authorities handle the leak instead-you can focus your attention on helping your family in the meantime.

4 Signs You Need to Treat Your Water

Written by Tom Elliott. Posted in Rakeman Blog

When you live in the middle of the desert, you value clean water. You have to drink it constantly to keep up with the dry air, and you have to bathe more often to keep up with sweat and heat. Even if you work in an air-conditioned hotel, you’ll still feel the climate’s effects.

So when your home’s water starts doing strange things, you probably feel alarmed. Whether it turns a strange color or develops a strange taste, you become concerned and maybe even scared. All you want is clean, normal water. This usually means you’ll need a water treatment solution.

However, before you can determine what kind of water treatment solution you need, you’ll need to diagnose your water’s problem. Below, we’ve given you a brief explanation of your water’s potential symptoms.

1. It has a strange color or appearance.

You probably don’t like it whenever you find an insect or a piece of food floating in your water, so you’ll likely feel worse when it tur ns a strange color. An altered hue or appearance could indicate a number of problems:

  • Grayness, cloudiness, or milky qualities. Your water contains natural contaminants, like dirt, clay, sand, organic matter, or other particles. These qualities can also indicate methane gas contamination.
  • Foaminess. This usually indicates that your water contains soaps, detergent, or diluted sewage.
  • Redness or brownness. This accompanies iron contamination.
  • Yellowness. Your water will turn yellow if tannins from your soil or plants seep into the water.

If you see any of these signs, write down where they occur and how often. Then call your plumber.

2. It has a strange smell.

Smells might make you more concerned than water. The smells will block your ability to taste the water as crisp and clear. And if you r water has a strong odor, you might not want to drink your water at all. You need hydration to stay on your feet in our desert city, so You need to identify the problem and fix it as soon as possible. Common odors include:

  • Bleach: As you might expect, this simply indicates that you have chlorine in your water. This means it will smell l ike a swimming pool.
  • Detergents: You have soap in your water.
  • Must, earth, or dirt: You have organic matter or actual dirt in your water.
  • Oil or gas: This indicates that you might have gasoline or other semivolatile compounds in your drinking water.
  • Rotten eggs: Smells like this often accompany sulfur. In this case, you probably have a hydrogen sulfide contamination.
  • Sweetness: This means that you have volatile or semivolatile compounds in your water. Avoid drinking it until You get this fixed. Stock up on bottled water in the meantime.

Again, you’ll want your plumber to double check on these odors. Only then can he or she help you find the right water treatment for your needs.

3. It has a strange flavor.

Strange tastes may also indicate a contaminant’s presence. Watch for these common flavors:

  • Metal. You’ll taste this when your pipes contain corrosion from copper, iron, lead, manganese, and other metals
    . It can also come from sodium chloride.
  • Sharp chemicals. If you didn’t smell your water before drinking it, this flavor will tell you that your water contain s volatile and semivolatile compounds. It might also contain pesticides and herbicides. Do not drink this water. Use bottled water in the meantime.
  • Chlorine. This indicates the same thing as a bleach smell. You have chlorine in your water.
  • Grit. You’ll be able to feel and taste sand or dirt in your water.

Remember that even though you may have water troubles, you still need to drink water. Stock up on bottled options, then call your plumber to get a second opinion. Plumbers have actual meters that’ll tell them exactly what you have in your water. Then you can move on to choosing a softener or filter.

4. It does strange things to what it touches.

You’ll notice these signs as visual or textural cues. These signs include:

  • Blackening or pitting on sinks, tubs, and fixtures. You have hydrogen sulfide or manganese in your pipes. You should be able to smell the hydrogen sulfide.
  • Blue-green stains on sinks, tubs, and fixtures. These stains often accompany a metallic taste and indicate metal corrosion, especially from copper and brass.
  • White deposits on sinks, tubs, fixtures, dishes, etc. These deposits are a sign of hard water. “Hard water” refers to water that contains high concentrations of calcium or manganese.
  • Dry hair or skin. Calcium affects the way soap lathers and dries, so it doesn’t clean your body properly. You’ll ha ve drier hair and skin than usual if you have hard water.
  • Soaps that won’t lather or stay soapy. Again, hard water keeps your cleaning agents from foaming properly.
  • People who drink it feel ill. This usually indicates that you have microorganisms in your water.

Each problem requires a different kind of filter. If you only have hard water, you may only need a water softener. However, if you have problems with lead or microorganisms, you’ll need something a little stronger. Once your plumber tests your water, he or she will help you find the best solution for your needs. Call your plumbing or water experts today for more information.

Clear the Air: How to De-Stink Your Drains

Written by Tom Elliott. Posted in Rakeman Blog

Have you ever turned on the tap only to be greeted with a putrid sewer stench wafting from your drain? Most homeowners will encounter smelly sink drains at one point or another. When you put all sorts of bath products and organic materials down the sink, it’s only a matter of time before you have to smell the residue.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live with stinky drains forever. Read on to learn more about why your drains smell and what you can do to fix them.

Why Your Drains Smell

Most of the time, you’ll notice stinky drains when you turn on the water in your sink, shower, or bathtub. As the water flows down the pipes, it can dislodge bits of debris and cause the smell.

To determine whether you have stinky drains or stinky water, plug the sink before you turn the water on and see if it still smells bad. If you only notice the odor when you run water down the drain, you have a smelly drain.

Most often, these smells happen because of hair, dirt, mildew, and bacteria slime coating your pipes. In the case of your garbage disposal, the smell could also come from food remnants.

What You Can Do to Fix Your Drains

No matter how smelly the drain, you can have your sink back in no time with some simple steps. Try one or a few of these remedies to clear your pipes and say goodbye to stink.

Flush the Drain with Hot Water

Sometimes hot water alone, or mixed with some common household items, can banish bad odors. Take a couple quarts of very hot water and pour them down the drain. Wait a few minutes and then follow it with a few quarts of cold water, then a few more quarts of hot water.

If hot water alone won’t cut it, you can mix one part bleach with 10 parts hot water and pour them down the drain. The bleach will kill odor-causing bacteria and the hot water will flush out sediment. You can also try half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda. Pour the baking soda into the drain first and follow it with the vinegar. Let it sit and then flush with hot water.

Grind Ice and Citrus Peels in the Garbage Disposal

To clean out your garbage disposal, dump a few handfuls of ice down the drain. Run the disposal and let the ice clean off the blades. You can also put a few orange, lemon, or lime peels down the drain and run the disposal for a fresh citrus scent. The acid in the fruit pee ls will also help clear the drain.

Clean Out Your P-Traps

The P-trap in your sink refers to the rounded pipe under the drain. This trap holds water to seal the pipe and prevent sewer gases fr om backing up through your sinks. If your P-trap has a clog or has dried out, the smell will let you know.

You can easily clean the P-trap yourself with some simple tools. You just need a bucket or container, pliers, and a wire coat hanger or bottle brush.

Put your bucket underneath the P-trap and use pliers to take off the two nuts holding it in place. Once you take off the trap, clean it out with the coat hanger or bottle brush. Reattach the trap, and you’ve finished. Don’t forget to run some water to flush the drain and refill the P-trap.

Schedule a Total Sewer Vent Line Inspection

If your P-trap looks clear and your drains still smell, call a plumber for a total sewer vent line inspection. Older houses in particular can often encounter issues with ventilation in the plumbing. When your ventilation doesn’t work, air from the pipes backs up through your drains instead of exiting outside your house.

A total sewer vent line inspection can restore your ventilation system when cleaning your P-traps doesn’t cut it.

How You Can Prevent Smelly Drains in the Future

You can limit how often you have to deal with smelly drains by watching what you put down your sink. Although things like soap an d shaving cream will always have to exit through the pipes, you can avoid putting certain kinds of foods down your garbage disposal.

To keep your pipes free and clear, never put the following items down your disposal:

  • Any kind of oil or fat, liquid or solid.
  • All starchy foods, such as potatoes and rice.
  • Any fibrous or membranous foods, such as stringy vegetable peels and eggshells.

If you don’t have a garbage disposal, put mesh strainers in your kitchen sink’s drains to catch any solid food particles and keep the m out of your pipes.

No matter how bad the stink, you don’t have to live with smelly drains. Use these tips and techniques to clear your drains and keep odors at bay.

Come Visit Us Or Give Us A Call


Company Information

  • Rakeman Plumbing
  • 4075 Losee Rd
  • North Las Vegas, NV 89030
  • Phone: 702-642-8553
  • Fax: (702) 399-1410
cash, check, credit card

Payment Options: Cash, Personal Checks with state-issued I.D., Bank Checks, Debit Cards, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Insurance Accepted

Se Habla Espanol!

We offer emergency service, and we are open on holidays!

Certified Uponer (Wirsbo) pipe installer