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(619) 667-0234
TLC Plumbing Inc.
24 Hour Emergency Service
Serving All of San Diego
California State License Board (CSLB)
Contractor License #717308
License Class (C-36)

California State Certified Woman Owned Business

In Business Since 1995

We Serve the Communities:
  • Mira Mesa
  • Rancho Penasquitos
  • Spring Valley
  • Oceanside
  • Ramona
  • Chula Vista
  • San Ysidro
  • Bonita
  • Santee
  • Alpine
  • Lakeside
  • San Marcos
  • Lemon Grove
  • National City
  • Leucadia
  • Del Mar
  • Encinitas
  • La Jolla
  • Coronado
  • Carlsbad
  • Pacific Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • Point Loma
  • Ocean Beach

Senior and Military Discounts Available

When to Fix and When to Replace?

Common Household Repairs

Questions to ask a Repair Contractor

"Can't you just fix it?" is a common cry of the homeowner when they learn that the cost of major repair for many home fixtures and appliances is close to the cost of replacement.

Here are some things to consider in deciding whether repair or replacement might be the better option.

Furnace/Heat Pump/Boiler
These are the most costly systems to replace, so naturally you want to get as many years of use out of this equipment as you possibly can. The best way to do this is to make sure you have your system professionally serviced at least once a year. Many heating and cooling contractors offer service agreements that assure routine inspection and cleaning at least. Prices usually are a real bargain considering that a new home heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) system will cost many thousands.

Myriad repairs can be made on HVAC systems to keep them running for decades. Yet when a boiler section cracks, there's little that can be done except replace the entire unit. Likewise, central air conditioners and heat pumps have two major components - the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor condensing unit (compressor) - that when they fail, cannot readily be fixed.

When one needs to be replaced, it is best to replace the other with a compatible unit. Unmatched evaporator coils and condensers usually will operate together for a time, but with a steep penalty in performance, energy usage and premature system failure. So although it entails higher initial cost, replacing both components at once is the smart thing to do in the long run.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that about half the time, people opt for the cheaper but shortsighted single unit replacement.

While HVAC systems ought to last for decades, it's not necessarily a bargain to keep them running that long. Tremendous strides have been made in energy efficiency in recent years, leading to quick cost paybacks from lower energy bills. The United Homeowners Association (UHA) is a Washington-based consumer organization that offers the following advice:

"If your furnace is over 15 years of age, it's probably time to boot it out the door... If your furnace's efficiency comes in somewhere in between 50-75%, you ought to begin investigating rebate offers for buying a high-efficiency new furnace."

This is not a contractor talking. This advice comes from an organization dedicated to protecting consumer interests. UHA can be reached at 1511 K Street NW, Suite 345, Washington, DC 20005. Membership costs $18 a year.

Water Heater
Industry statistics show that the average water heater lasts 12 years. With regular maintenance and routine repairs, some keep operating two or three times as long. As with HVAC systems, however, it's not always to your advantage to hang on to older units. Modern high-efficiency water heaters often can pay for themselves in energy savings within 3-5 years.

Almost all components on a water heater can be fixed or replaced except for the tank. Once the tank rusts through, there is no way to rescue the water heater. Replacement is the only solution.

Water heaters come with internal sacrificial anode rods to protect against rusting. An anode's sole purpose is to corrode away so the steel of the tank can't. Replacing the anodes every 3-4 years (more frequently if water is softened) will add considerably to the life of a water heater.

Another main cause of failure is overheating from sediment buildup inside the tank. Ask your plumber to inspect the anodes and sediment periodically. Sometimes this can be done as part of an annual service agreement.

Some plumbing firms also offer extended water heater warranties lasting 10 years or even a lifetime. If you plan to live in your home for quite some time, these warranties may be worth looking into.

Automatic dishwashers are another appliance that should last a decade or more - though here, too, you often can save money by buying a newer energy-efficient unit.

Brand new units can be bought for $400-$600, while repairs of various operating mechanisms typically run $150 and up. If your dishwasher is getting near the 10-year mark, a major repair may be a signal that other components are also on their last legs. It won't take many service calls to pay for a brand new unit.

Stoppages and minor malfunctions are worth repairing. But if the motor goes out, or the blades break, you are better off replacing the entire unit. Especially so if you deal with a plumbing company that warrants the product for 5-10 years or even longer.

Unless you crack the porcelain, a toilet can easily last a lifetime. What will wear out are the flushing mechanisms comprised of moving parts. Leakage may occur from the wax ring seal by the floor, but that can be fixed short of replacement.

Toilets commonly get replaced for reasons other than malfunction. Water conservation is one. Modern toilets operate with 1.6 gallons per flush or less, compared with 3.5 gallons for older standard models. (A few 5-gal. and 7.5 gal. flush versions from many decades ago also are still in operation here and there.) Depending on water rates, sometimes you can save money by replacing a toilet.

Styling and quieter flushing are two other reasons to replace. This is a matter of homeowner choice more than necessity.

Replacing a cartridge, washer or other internal component can repair leaking faucets. Tarnishes and nicks are harder to fix.

Good faucets will give at least 5 and often 10 or more years of trouble-free operation. Plumbers can keep them operating almost indefinitely, but here too most people would rather pay a few more bucks for a replacement that offers better styling and convenience.

Decades ago plumbers repaired more faucets than they replaced. For most companies, the opposite now holds true.

Regular care and maintenance can forestall most of these breakdowns at a fraction of the cost of repairs. Have your plumbing, heating and air conditioning inspected, cleaned and checked at least once a year.

Clogged drains
Many of these calls could be avoided by taking greater care in what you put down drains - especially the kitchen sink drain, the most used and most clogged drain in the house. I also recommend regular treatment with Bio-Clean, a biological drain cleaner sold only through plumbing contractors.

Dripping faucets
This is an annoyance that most homeowners have to deal with from time to time, as the washers in the faucets wear out with use. You can extend the life of your faucet washers by not turning them off with too much force.

You may also consider replacing your older faucets with those that feature washerless valve cartridges instead of rubber washers. Since the valve mechanism is contained in one cartridge, these faucets are easier to repair and replace. In addition, cartridges are generally more durable and do not leak because they do not deteriorate with friction or age as washers do.

Leaking pipes
In extreme cases, these can cause expensive damage to floors and belongings. To stop a small leak from turning into a big one, look at your pipes periodically to check for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting.

Leaking water heaters
Most often when you have a leaker, it's time to get rid of the water heater. Usually leaks indicate rusting through at the bottom of the storage tank, for which there is no good repair. By the time this happens, the water heater is usually so old you'd benefit from replacing it with a more energy-efficient model anyway.

No heat
When your furnace or boiler stops operating, it can make for a long, cold winter night. An ounce of prevention here is worth a ton of cure. It's important to make sure your heating system is functioning properly before the first cold snap hits. Have a competent contractor do a thorough examination and cleaning in late summer or early fall every year.

Running and leaking toilets
This is not only an annoyance, but also a waste of water and money. Leaky toilets can cost you upwards of $100 a year on your water bills. If you hear a low humming noise, or if the toilet continues to run into the bowl after the toilet is flushed, it indicates that some part of the mechanism is out of order. Sometimes a little jiggling of the ballcock or flush valve mechanism solves the problem with cost. Otherwise, you may need to replace the entire mechanism.

New faucet installation
Many homeowners replace faucets not only when they break down, but for decorative reasons as well. This is the ninth most common reason for a service call, according to the PHCIB.

A few people buy a faucet from a home center and then call a plumbing firm to do the installation. This is okay, but be forewarned that in doing so, the plumbing firm will warrant only its workmanship, not the faucet itself.

Malfunctioning food waste disposal
This can be a messy headache for homeowners. Here are several tips to keep your unit in good working order.

First, always run cold water when grinding to move the waste all the way down the drain lines. Fats and grease congeal and harden in cold water and can be flushed through the system. Hot water should not be used because it can dissolve fats and grease, which may then accumulate in the drain line.

Almost all biodegradable food waste can be fed into disposals. However, they should not be used to grind clam or oyster shells, cornhusks or other material with a high fiber content. Under no circumstances should you put glass, plastic or metal nonfood materials though a disposal. This includes bottle caps, tin covers or aluminum foil, which are some of the items service technicians commonly find in clogged or broken disposals.

Maintenance is easy. Grinding small bones and eggshells actually helps clean the disposal by scraping away stubborn deposits or citric acid and pulp. Grinding a little ice is another way to clean deposits and get rid of odors. For the most part, though, disposals are self-cleaning.

Most service firms will quote an hourly rate over the phone, but does that really tell you anything? What any homeowner really wants to know is, "How much will it cost me to fix my problem?"

Quoting an hourly rate might seem to provide a rough estimate. Yet how often have you seen home repair jobs drag on for hour after hour with "the meter running"? Too many variables come into play, including the exact nature of the problem and the skill of the service technician dispatched to your home.

Here are a few questions homeowners should ask of the people you call for home repairs and service who quote you hourly charges over the phone.

Can you guarantee a maximum price to do the job?

Expect to hear a lot of stuttering and stammering with this one. Some contractors will laugh out loud. However, there are a few progressive contractors out there who do quote exact prices, guaranteed, once they perform a diagnosis. Usually they charge a modest up front fee for the diagnosis, though many waive the charge if they get the job. Nonetheless, it does remove the guesswork.

Do you charge for time driving to and from a supply house?

Some jobs might require only 15 minutes of labor to perform, but you'll see the service technician disappear for an hour or more to go pick up parts not stocked in the truck. Supply houses are some of the favorite hangouts of many service techs. Many serve free coffee and snacks to their customers, and it's a great place to catch up on the latest industry gossip.

Who will be doing the work?

Sometimes it will be a master mechanic with many years of experience. At other times, though, it could be a youngster with less than a year under his belt - maybe even an apprentice filling in during an absence. Who does the work has a lot to do with how much you end up paying when rates are quoted on an hourly basis.

If the problem persists or reappears after your mechanic leaves, will you come back to fix it at no extra charge - immediately?

Most companies will answer yes to this question, but watch out. Most labor guarantees extend only a month, which is not very long when you think about it. Also, callbacks tend to be the lowest priority when service firms get busy.

Can you show me proof of a license and insurance, both general liability and worker compensation?

This is a big one. Most people don't realize that if an uninsured worker gets injured while working in a home, the homeowner can be held financially responsible.

On the flip side, in some states where licensing is required, a homeowner is not obligated to pay for any work done by an unlicensed contractor.

What time will you show up?

Most service companies can't pinpoint their time of arrival closer than "morning or afternoon." This can get expensive if the homeowner has to take off a full or half-day of work.

Progressive service companies can many times pinpoint within an hour or two when their service technician will be at the door. If he or she does get delayed, these companies will call with an updated time of arrival.

Another useful gauge of a service firm's value is if there is even anybody available to answer these questions. Many contractors try to do business using answering machines, promising to return calls at some undetermined time. This isn't much help to someone who needs an emergency repair right now.
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