Maintenance DIY: Kitchen Sink Leaks, Patio Drains, and Preventative Maintenance
Maintenance DIY

3 minute read

Q: Why does the “upside down cup” on the edge of my kitchen sink leak and squirt water every time the dishwasher is used? 

A:  A quick primer: The “upside down cup” is the dishwasher’s air gap. Its job is to keep the dirty water the dishwasher discharges from returning back into the dishwasher through the siphon process. The way the dishwasher air gap works is that water is pumped up to the air gap at the rim of the sink and the water then falls through an open-air cavity and drops by gravity into a larger diameter hose. The larger hose is typically connected to the garbage disposal, which will allow the dishwasher to drain into the sewer system. The reason the air gap squirts or leaks at the sink rim level is because the drain line leading from the air gap to the disposal is clogged. The hose may be kinked or food particles from the garbage disposal have blocked off the hose end. The easiest solution is to remove the section of hose from between the air gap and the garbage disposal. Clean the hose and remove all debris. Be sure to clean out the connection at the garbage disposal. A small screwdriver is perfect for removing any blockage. Reassemble the hose and test. If the problem persists, the air gap may need to be replaced. 


Q:  A building inspector once made me correct a sump pump plumbing line that discharged rainwater into a municipal sewer line. Can you clarify for me the “dos and don’ts” of patio drains? 

A: Great question and one that many people might not think is important. To many, a drain is a drain is a drain, and most individuals don’t know where the water drains to and what environmental impact wastewater can cause. In urban areas and most municipalities, wastewaters are directed to their proper destinations via a sewer drain or a storm drain. As an example: A sewer drain often carries wastewater from toilets, kitchens and laundry area directly to a wastewater treatment facility. On the other hand, a storm drain will direct rainwater from roof, driveways and streets including patio drains into streams, aquifers or the ocean. The reason for the two different systems is so rain or runoff water does not overwhelm the sewer waste treatment facilities and force the release of untreated raw sewage into the storm systems, which of course leads to streams, aquifers and the ocean. Because the storm and sewer drains eventually empty into the environment, contaminants such as oil, paint and other hazardous material must be disposed of properly and not into the drains. Check with your city or county as some municipalities have very specific rules about runoff water. 


Q: I am trying to be on top of my preventive maintenance this year. It is spring, so what do you suggest I look at first? 

A: Summer is just around the corner, and it may be a hot one. Prior to summer, it is essential to properly inspect and troubleshoot your HVAC (A/C) units whether they are window, wall or central. Most A/C units fail or work improperly due to nonexistent or improper maintenance and not age.

Cleaning your A/C is the most inexpensive and critical maintenance procedure you 
can perform.

Here is our four-point checklist:
  1. Turn on the A/C and listen for unusual noises.

  2. Inspect/clean or replace filters. Filters should be cleaned or replaced at the beginning of each major season, such as before summer and before winter.

  3. Clean and repair damaged or bent fins. They can constrict proper air flow and decrease the cooling capacity of the A/C unit.

  4. Clean out all dust and debris inside of the A/C pan or coils.

  5. On a central HVAC unit, cleaning or replacing the main and return filters may be the limit on a DIY cleaning. A qualified technician should do any other work on a central heating and air unit.


Do you have DIY maintenance questions? Send them to [email protected]