How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home During COVID-19

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home During COVID-19

Spring cleaning is typically the perfect time to sweep out the garage, reorganize the linen closet and wipe down the windows. But in Spring 2020, our cleaning goals are slightly different.

While shelter-in-place orders around the country may be giving families plenty of time to tackle those Marie Kondo-inspired tidying-up projects, these guidelines are essential to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Here are some helpful cleaning strategies that may help you keep germs at bay, even if your family is in good health:

Protect Yourself

Remember to wear disposable gloves when you’re cleaning, and wash your hands before and after to help minimize the spread of germs. It’s also best to work in a well-ventilated space, as disinfecting chemicals can be very strong. Also, never mix cleaning chemicals as this can create toxic off gassing.

Clean First, Then Disinfect

The CDC explains that cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. Cleaning helps remove dirt, debris and other residue, whereas disinfecting helps kill bacteria and pathogens.

First, wipe down surfaces with a cleaning towel or soap and water to remove dirt. Then follow up by using an EPA-approved disinfectant or a diluted household bleach solution containing 4 teaspoons of unexpired bleach for each quart of water.

Your disinfectant will need to remain on the surface for a certain amount of time, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For a household solution, wait at least 1 minute.

Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

The CDC also recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces in high-traffic areas. These include bathroom and kitchen surfaces, faucets, doorknobs, hard-backed chairs, lightswitches, game controllers, computer keyboards and mobile devices.

Explore Cleaning Guides from HomeServe

If you’re like me and have become somewhat obsessive about keeping your house clean and wanting to try to keep the coronavirus at bay, check out the following HomeServe blogs for general cleaning tips and tricks that may help with hard-to-clean spots and surfaces.

Don’t forget to bookmark this post so you can come back to these helpful hints when next year’s Spring cleaning season comes around.

Cleaning Products to Use Around the House

Bathroom Cleaning Guides

Kitchen Cleaning Guides

Living Space Cleaning Guides

Prepare for the Unexpected With a Home Repair Plans

As you and your family follow shelter-in-place orders and spend more time at home, you’re counting on your essential home systems to stay in working order. Now, more than ever, your home is playing a major role as your living space, office, schoolhouse, play zone, fitness center and more. An unexpected home system breakdown could have consequences for all of these aspects of your life.

Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy.

What Is the Cost to Install a Water Heater?

What Is the Cost to Install a Water Heater?

A few months ago, I wrote about my water heater mishap. (I know I’ll never forget that feeling of a freezing cold shower). I’m glad to report that my new water heater is still providing our family with hot showers and clean laundry – but I’m always on the lookout for the signs it might need maintenance.

During the frigid winter months, it’s more important than ever to check in on your water heater. If you do catch a problem early on, or realize you need an entirely new system, you can be proactive in receiving repairs (and won’t be caught in a mid-shower frozen surprise).

From my experience, I learned that installing a water heater is half the battle – and the majority of the cost – of purchasing this essential system. Don’t settle for lukewarm showers and half-washed dishes. Here’s everything you need to know about the cost to install a water heater.

The tank vs. tankless debate

The fact of the matter is, installation costs depend on the type of water heater you need or already have. Home Depot breaks down two of the most popular choices for homeowners:

  • Traditional water heaters: Typically store between 20 and 80 gallons of water heated by gas or electric power. The average total cost for a new traditional water heater and installation is $1,308.

  • Tankless water heaters: Gaining popularity in recent years, these units are also fueled by gas or electricity but only heat water as needed. They’re accepted as being more environmentally friendly, though they come with higher upfront costs. The average total cost for a tankless water heater is around $3,000.

Total costs include everything from the unit itself, permits, materials, installation, labor costs and removal of the old unit. Thumbtack.com estimates the national average cost of installing a water heater ranges from $500 to $1,000.

What’s your fuel source?

Water heater installation costs aren’t just affected by the type of water heater chosen, but also by the fuel sources available. Both traditional and tankless heaters can use gas or electricity to warm up water. A gas water heater may cost $50-100 more to install than an electric tank water heater. Likewise, you can expect to pay $500 more for a gas tankless water heater than an electric water heater.

If you need – or want – to switch fuel sources, you’ll most likely need to add some room to your budget. Going from an electric to gas water heater may require the addition of a gas line, that usually costs $500 to install, reports Homewyse.com.

Other factors to consider

The size, model, home layout and any additional – necessary – work can all contribute to the costs associated with installing a water heater. Traditional water heaters may require expansion tanks to minimize the risk of pressure damage to the plumbing system. TheSpruce.com explains this is mostly needed in closed water supply systems, so always factor that into your water heater costs.

While tankless heaters come with higher upfront costs, they can require less maintenance in the long run and families can see energy costs decrease because water is heated on a need-only basis. Both kinds of water heaters have energy-efficient models available for more cost savings.

Though each system comes with its own unique costs, installation can also vary based on your needs and wants. Always make sure to do your research before deciding on the best water heater for your home and have a licensed professional install it.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Better Than the Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Better Than the Holiday Meal

Remember that episode from Season 5 of “Friends” entitled “The One With Ross’ Sandwich” where Ross has an actual breakdown after someone steals his Thanksgiving leftovers? (One of my all time faves!)

Apparently, Ross had been looking forward to that Thanksgiving sandwich all year long – ‘cause it’s just that good.

While you binge on Netflix after the parade and pumpkin pie, wondering what to do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers, why not bookmark a few of my favorite post-Thanksgiving recipes?

My kids say these are better than Thursday’s turkey and stuffing — but I’ll leave it to you and yours to decide.

Breakfast

Try these low-carb stuffing waffles with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Or start your morning with Thanks Benedict, featuring stuffing cakes smothered in a sage hollandaise sauce, by one of my favorite chefs, Giada de Laurentiis.

For a weekend brunch with friends (and mimosas), I love making a sweet potato and kale frittata with creamy goat cheese, or this stuffing and turkey quiche.

The kids will adore breakfast sausage and stuffing bites — they’re so good you’ll want to pop a few before heading out for the Black Friday doorbusters.

Get a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America today

Soups and sandwiches

My favorite turkey soup is a creamy, one-pot recipe for turkey and dumplings. It’s a great way to use up whatever turkey meat and veggies you have left.

I also recommend this hearty leftover turkey chili recipe. With a bowl filled with leftover goodness plus edamame and a homemade spice mix, it’s a great way to help your taste buds (and waist line) transition out of the holiday weekend.

And, while you can easily throw together a turkey sandwich to relive the flavors of Thanksgiving Day, why not take it up a notch with a gooey brie, apple and cranberry grilled cheese sandwich? Simple but oh-so indulgent.

Savory pies

If you’re in the mood for comfort food, don’t miss this Thanksgiving shepherd’s pie. Or, remix the same festive flavors into a turkey pie with a cornbread stuffing crust.

I also can’t speak highly enough of Paul Hollywood’s ham and turkey pot pie. As seen on the Great British Baking Show holiday masterclass, it features a creamy sauce with leeks simmering beneath rough-puff pastry and looks as impressive as it tastes.

Get a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America today

For something quicker, pop these easy Thanksgiving leftover hand pies into the oven. They’re made with store-bought pie crust and the kids will enjoy crafting their own homemade hot pockets.

Pizza

Leftover pizzas are a serious crowd-pleaser! Layer up turkey and sides into a Thanksgiving pizza baked in puff pastry. This version is topped with fried onions for an extra crunch.

My kids always request this yummy mashed potato pizza with leeks and bacon crumbles, but I also like to make up another pizza with turkey, cranberries and barbeque sauce for the grown-ups.

Before you get busy using all your appliances in the kitchen, it’s a good idea to have an appliance home warranty plan in place – just in case there’s a breakdown. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

DIY Shower Pressure Fixes

Low or declining shower pressure may be a frustrating situation. Fortunately, most of the causes of low shower pressure can be fixed quickly, easily and without a lot of personal expertise.

To determine the culprit behind this issue, there are a number of places to look. The best place to start is in the shower itself.

Here are some DIY shower pressure fixes you can complete without the assistance of a plumber:

Remove shower head sediment

Older homes may experience water pressure problems due to years of sediment build-up in the shower head.

You may be able to clean out an older shower head with a simple life hack: An eight-hour soak in vinegar. Inspect the shower head afterward to see if that fix solved the problem and clear any remaining debris manually. If you’re still experiencing low shower pressure, it’s probably time to buy a new shower head.

Adjust necessary valves

If you just moved into a new home, you might find the pressure isn’t to your liking because the builder or previous owner installed a low-flow shower head. Try removing the flow regulator to improve the water stream.

If the problem persists, the low shower pressure may be the result of a water-restrictive shower valve instead of the shower head itself. Adjusting the central shut-off valve may increase the pressure.

Check with your water provider

For homes that get their water from municipal sources, there may be a problem with the amount of water flowing into the property as a whole.

You can increase the flow of water into your home either from the curb-side main or via the one coming into the house. This should be done carefully, however, and may require a call to your water provider.

Look for leak

In some cases, valves themselves could be the source of the problem. If decades-old pipes start to leak, you’ll encounter reduced water pressure in not only the shower, but also throughout the whole home. However, those issues may only present themselves in the shower. If you have low water pressure in your home overall, you may have bigger issues to deal with, like an issue with your water service line.

If you discover any leaks in your home plumbing system, you can attempt to patch them up – if the pipes are relatively new – with little fuss. All you’ll need to do is shut off the water to that pipe, make sure it’s dry and apply either a tape- or epoxy-based sealant, available at most hardware stores, to the affected area of the pipe. Some patches may not be advisable for lines that supply drinking or shower water, so check the packaging to make sure you get the right one.

When You Might Need to Call a Professional

As we have discussed, many low shower-pressure issues can be fixed on your own with a quick trip to the local hardware store to buy a replacement shower head or valve, and a few DIY how-to videos.

Once you have completed these repairs by yourself, it’s a good idea to plan for the future. Should you have any future problems, having a home warranty for your interior plumbing and draining system is a good idea.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

Reasons to call a professional plumber

Not sure if you need the help of a professional plumber? If the issue falls under one of these scenarios, you should definitely call a professional for expert help.

When the water pressure is low

If the water in your home isn’t flowing at its normal pressure, there could be a blockage or leak in the system, fractured pipe or eroded waterline. It can be difficult for the typical homeowner to pinpoint an issue like this. A plumbing professional can identify the source of low water pressure and advise on appropriate solutions.

When there’s no hot water

If your water isn’t heating up efficiently, it’s likely a water heater problem. As these units run on electric or gas systems, it can be dangerous to do repair work on your own. Similarly, if there is no water at all, call a professional to determine the cause.

When you notice severe pipe issues

If you think you have blocked, burst or frozen pipes, call a plumber immediately. Look out for signs, such as strange noises when the tap runs, sewage smells coming from faucets, lack of water or frost on exposed pipes.

Blockages are typically caused by sediment buildup or large debris in the sewer line. DIY attempts to fix these issues can cause more damage, resulting in a much larger repair bill. Even worse, a failed repair to a broken sewer line can cause issues for an entire neighborhood.

When you hear concerning noises

If you hear an extremely loud noise coming from the pipes, it may be a sign that something in the system is broken or about to break. If you hear a gurgling sound coming from the drains or pipes, it can be a sign of a clogged or compromised plumbing system. The sounds will likely appear when you’re using the toilet, shower, washing machine or dishwasher. If you hear these sounds, turn off the water immediately. This step will prevent the system from backing up into the house until the plumber arrives to inspect the issue.

When you’re doing a home renovation project

If you’re renovating the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or other areas of the house that involve plumbing, make sure you get professional advice before starting the project. Relocating or installing plumbing-related items, such as sinks or dishwashers, requires the correct placement of supply lines and drains. A plumber can tell you if your renovation plans are feasible and ensure you have the proper permits. With that advice, you could save money on a potential repair or re-installation.

When you notice water damage

Look out for signs of water damage, such as leaks, water stains and mold growth. It’s ideal to catch water damage before the mold growth gets too severe, as the fungus is a health and safety hazard. A plumber can determine the source of the moisture and perform appropriate repairs to prevent further mold growth.

When DIY solutions aren’t enough

There are easy DIY fixes to many common plumbing issues, such as leaky faucets or clogged drains. Keep these plumbing do’s and don’ts in mind if you are attempting to repair the issue on your own. However, if the problem persists even after you’ve tried to fix it, a more serious problem may require expert plumbing knowledge to repair.

If you’re uncomfortable performing DIY plumbing, never hesitate to call a professional – even if it’s for a simple fix. A mistake could lead to a more severe issue, so it’s better to save yourself the hassle and get it fixed properly the first time around.Being prepared before home maintenance issues arise is always a good strategy. 

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

DIY plumbing: How to install a toilet

If you’re ready to put your handyman skills and toolbox to use, a toilet installation is a relatively simple job to start stretching your DIY muscles. Here are some tips you need to know about installing a toilet on your own.

Reasons to take on the project:

  • Replace or upgrade an old toilet
  • Remove and replace during remodeling
  • Save water and energy

If your toilet troubles are persistent, such as excessive clogging or cracking porcelain, the best option is to replace it. You can save money on your water bills by upgrading your unit to a low-flushing, energy-efficient model. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets are responsible for 30 percent of a home’s average indoor water consumption. Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label for high-performing, water-efficient models. Be sure to measure your bathroom before purchasing so the new toilet will fit in your space.

How to remove the old toilet:

Keep your safety in mind, and try to avoid breaking the toilet as a way to remove it. Plus, if it isn’t in terrible condition, you can sell or donate the unit.

Here’s how to dismantle the toilet without breaking it:

  1. Turn off the water supply. The valve is on wall or floor behind the toilet.
  2. Drain all the water from the bowl. Start by flushing the toilet, then use a plunger, small cup or sponge to remove any excess water.
  3. Disconnect the supply line. Use a wrench to carefully release it.
  4. Remove the tank. Start with the lid, and then use a wrench to loosen the bolts at the bottom of the tank. Lift it straight up, but gently twist it side to side if you feel resistance.
  5. Remove the bowl.Take off the bolt caps at the base of the toilet, then use pliers or a wrench to remove the bolts. Gently rock the bowl back and forth until you can pick it up entirely.
  6. Clean the floor. Use a putty knife to remove any gunk from the floor and around the mounting flange. Wipe down the surface before installing the new toilet.

 How to install a new toilet:

Just like removing the old one, you’ll install the new one in pieces. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific guidelines.

  1. Place the wax ring on the flange. Pro tip: Lowe’s recommended making sure the ring is warm before placing it, as it will be softer and easier to work with.
  2. Set and secure the bowl. Place the toilet bowl onto the flange, aligning it with the bolt holes. Place a washer and nut on each bolt, and tighten into place. Alternate from side to side to make sure you tighten them evenly. Be cautious of over-tightening, as this can crack the porcelain. Place the bolt caps, and use a sealant around the base of the toilet to secure its position.
  3. Install the tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placing the rubber gasket (if it’s not already installed.) Insert the mounting bolts through the inside of the tank, and then place it into position. Alternate tightening the bolts, like you did on the base.
  4. Secure the toilet seat. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Reconnect the water supply line. Turn the water back on, and then flush the toilet to test your work.

Not everyone is a DIY type, but if you are, it’s definitely worth a shot. If during the task you find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated, don’t hesitate to call in a professional. Serious plumbing issues can become a huge inconvenience, so it’s never a bad idea to have a certified plumber check out the problem.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Mold Removal

As a homeowner, you’re bound to deal with troublesome maintenance troubles. However, spotting problems early can help minimize the severity of the issues and protect your wallet from the burden of significant home repairs.

To catch and help avoid mold-related issues, here’s what you need to know about removing this common fungus from your home:

What is mold?

While it can be a nuisance inside your home, this fungus is a natural part of the environment. Mold can grow almost anywhere – on plants, food, wood, paper, carpet and tile grout – as long as there is moisture in the area. You’ve probably seen it darken the grout lines in your shower or build up on damp outdoor decks. The most common type of mold is mildew, which starts as little black spots and grows into a larger infestation. Black mold can be furry and possibly toxic, so homeowners should take extra precautions when trying to remove it. There’s also hidden mold, which you can usually smell even if you can’t see it.

Mold can occur at any time throughout the year, so, unfortunately, you and your home are always vulnerable. The fungus can cause health issues for you and your family, including allergic reactions, asthma and skin irritations, so it’s important to remove mold before it gets to be severe.

Can you clean mold?

With the right tools and precautionary measures, you can usually clean the surfaces where mold develops. Always wear a mask, goggles and gloves while cleaning to limit your exposure to the mold.

The first step for DIY mold removal is to dry the surface and vacuum any dust or debris. Then, scrub the mold off the surface with a bristle brush and mold cleaner, rinse and dry the area completely. For light surfaces, such as tile grout, you can use diluted chlorine bleach to remove the mold. According to The Maids, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda are effective natural, non-toxic cleaners. However, if there is black mold, you may need to purchase a specific cleaner to disinfect the area. While these methods work for hard surfaces, keep in mind that absorbent materials with mold, such as ceiling tiles or outdoor seating cushions, should ideally be discarded and replaced.

How can you avoid mold?

Your cleaning efforts will go to waste if you don’t control the moisture in the area. To prevent mold from growing, start by identifying the source of the moisture, which could be leaks, condensation, humidity or poor ventilation. Once you know where the water is coming from, the key is to act quickly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible, and dry materials within a day or two of leaks or spills.

The EPA further recommends reducing the humidity levels in your home by 30 to 60 percent in order to decrease mold growth. To do so, make sure there is proper ventilation in all bathrooms, and take action by completing small steps like running the fan during and after your shower. Adding insulation to windows, doors, piping and floors can reduce condensation and improve the airflow inside your home. Dust also causes mold to grow, so make sure to clean your home regularly, focusing on baseboards, floorboards and air vents where dust is prone to build up quickly.

When should you call a professional?

When it’s ignored, mold can become excessive and cause health risks, so it’s never a bad idea to have your home inspected by a trained professional. Plus, while cleaning can be an effective temporary home mold removal solution, the mold may persist or you may experience plumbing or HVAC problems that only a professional can completely and safely repair.

Preparing for the future is the best line of defense when dealing with issues in and around your home. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

8 Ways To Conserve Water At Home

Long showers feel great, but with every minute you spend pampering yourself, your wallet and the environment struggle. Along with saving money on your monthly bills, water conservation is critical for your community. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s likely that at least 40 states will experience water shortages by 2024.

Follow these tips for how to save water at home:

1. Be mindful of running water.

Don’t keep the faucet running the entire time you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands. You may have heard this one before, but it’s easy to lazily run the faucet instead of turning it off while scrubbing and then turning the tap back on when you’re ready to rinse. Similarly, avoid luxuriously long showers. Try to limit shower time to 10 to 15 minutes maximum to prevent wasting excess gallons of water.

2. Fix leaks as soon as possible.

Look out for leaky faucets, dripping water from shower heads, rusting pipes and signs of water damage.Locate the source of the leak, and fix it immediately to avoid wasting more water.

3. Don’t let the toilet run.

If you notice that your toilet is constantly running, try replacing the flapper. Simply shut off the water to the toilet, and flush to drain the tank. Unhook the old flapper from the base of the tank and chain, and then replace it with the new one. Turn the water back on, and you’re all set. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to buy a new toilet. Look for an energy-efficient model, and follow these steps to remove the old unit and install the new one.

4. Wash full loads only.

Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before you run them. If you have a unit with energy-saving settings for light washes and smaller loads, take advantage of them. When it’s time to invest in a new machine, look for water-saving models with the settings that allow you to adjust to load size.

5. Use a compost bin.

An in-sink garbage disposal needs a lot of water to work efficiently, so opt for a compost bin instead. It’s healthier for the environment while reducing water waste and increasing the energy efficiency of your home.

6. Insulate pipes.

Be sure to insulate exposed pipes around the house, especially in the attic and basement. When they’re not insulated, it takes longer for water to heat up, meaning it’s running for longer periods of time. You can also cover the water heater with insulating blanket to further speed up the process.

7. Run the sprinklers in the morning.

The optimal time to water your lawn is early morning. This strategy prevents rapid evaporation from midday heat, which means less water is required to sufficiently cover the grass. Avoid rogue sprinklers wasting water by spraying the sidewalk or side of the house, instead positioning them to face the grass and landscaping appropriately.

8. Perform routine appliance maintenance.

Proper appliance care and upkeep can prevent potential leaks and wasted energy. This preventative maintenance includes regular cleaning and seeking professional advice when necessary. Plus, if it’s time for an upgrade, buy energy-saving products and appliances. According to the EPA, the average household can use about 20 percent less water with water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Complement your water conservation at home with these ways to increase energy efficiency. With mindful changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money each month.

If you notice spikes in your water bill, serious leaks or other maintenance issues during your water conservation efforts, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

How to Fix a Screen Door

I grew up in a house with an outside deck. So I have many fond memories of sitting outside on warm, sunny days, reading and enjoying the view of my neighborhood. I would often open the sliding deck door to the adjacent living room while keeping the screen door shut so I could hear music from the living-room stereo without worrying about insects sneaking to the indoors.

So when that screen door started showing signs of wear and tear, my mom would complain how my brother and I were to blame (“too much rough housing” she would say) and “how in the world am I going to fix it?” What mom didn’t know is that while trying to patch a ripped screen door can seem difficult, it’s actually not so hard to fix.

We’ve compiled a list of common issues and helpful DIY remedies to make screen-door repairs a breeze:

Screen replacement 101

Because the screens in most screen doors consist of lightweight fiberglass, tears in the material are hardly unheard of, according to Popular Mechanics. Fortunately, they’re also easy and fairly inexpensive to replace. Your local hardware store will almost definitely have a replacement screen that fits your door. They’ll also have the specialized tool for dealing with spline – the rubber tubing that surrounds the perimeter of a screen and keeps it affixed to the door frame.

Let’s go step by step:

  1. Remove the old screen by lifting it away from the track-mounted rollers. Pull the bottom of the material out and then lower the door until the screen clears the top edge of the frame.
  2. From there, you can cut your own portion of screen material from a large roll, as HGTV noted, or purchase an a la carte pre-cut screen from your local hardware store.
  3. Next, unscrew the door’s handle, then remove the segments of spline surrounding the door frame with an awl. (Don’t get rid of your spline if it doesn’t show signs of damage, as intact spline can be reused.
  4. Use a screwdriver to remove the rollers and reattach either new or existing spline.
  5. Align the replacement screen with the frame, using the spline tool’s convex and concave rollers to press the rubber tubing into the frame grooves.
  6. Fit the screen snugly into the splined frame.
  7. Finally, trim any excess fiberglass and reattach any parts of the door (latch, rollers, panel and so on) you might’ve removed.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

Dragging wheels and other irritations

If opening your sliding screen door is a chore – it moves slowly, creaks or doesn’t close all the way – it’s time to remedy that situation. (Especially if you want to avoid insect intruders.)

The culprit behind the dragging screen is frequently worn-down or broken wheels along either the top or bottom edge of the door’s frame, according to The Family Handyman. But just like a torn screen, this problem isn’t too hard to remedy – and neither are some other issues that may be at play.

  • Make sure the wheel track is clean and unobstructed.
  • Addressing a jammed track is even easier than a wheel replacement: just clear any debris or dirt from it. If the track is bent, straighten it with a pair of pliers.
  • Check the screws holding the wheels in place – if they’re too loose or too tight, adjust as necessary.
  • Don’t forget to check the sliding screen’s top row of wheels. Because of their location, they don’t experience as much wear and tear, but better to be safe than sorry.

If these steps don’t address the issue, you probably need to change the wheels. As with replacement screens, you can easily find spare screen-door wheels at most hardware stores. To start, remove the screen door from its tracks. From there, you can unscrew the old wheels, affix your replacements to the door and put the adjusted door back in place. Ideally, it should move smoothly from then on.

Worst-case scenario

A screen door that is damaged beyond repair will need to be completely replaced. You can call your local hardware store, handyman, or big box retailer to find a new screen door that works for you.

Being prepared for home repairs before they arise is always a good strategy. See how plans from Service Lines of America can help with the costs of covered repairs.

Ever Wonder What A Dishwasher Air Gap Is?

I’ll admit it, I never thought about the inner workings of my dishwasher until it started giving me issues, and I had to figure out why the dishes weren’t coming out clean. When someone asked me if I’d checked the “dishwasher air gap”, I had no idea what they were talking about. So, that prompted me to Google how dishwashers work. (I’m somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert now.)

What I learned is: Your dishwasher is connected to the same plumbing infrastructure as the rest of your kitchen, meaning it’s eerily close to the dirty drain water that flows down your sink. If there’s a clog in your drains, that dirty water could flow back up into your dishwasher, contaminating your kitchen’s sanitation haven. Lucky for you, the dishwasher air gap is there to prevent such an unfortunate event from plaguing your appliance.

So what is a dishwasher air gap anyway?

Usually fitted to an existing hole on the sink or countertop and covered with a decorative cap, a dishwasher air gap connects to hoses below the sink or countertop. One is the dishwasher drain hose and the other typically connects to the sink’s drain pipe or garbage disposal.

As the unit runs, the dishwasher pump pushes wastewater to the air gap so it can exit through the drain hoses. If there is a backup or build up in pressure, the air gap also pushes fresh air into the hoses to prevent dirty water to flow back into the dishwasher. The process is essential for preventing cross-contamination between pipes and backflow into the dishwasher.

Does your dishwasher have an air gap?

I know, after all this talk about dirty sink water, why wouldn’t you want to have a dishwasher air gap? Well, some building codes only require minimal ventilation systems, so if you can’t find an air gap in your kitchen, odds are your area doesn’t consider it a compulsory component. However, if you’re planning on installing a new dishwasher any time soon, be sure to check local building and plumbing codes to determine if you should be including an air gap.

Do you need to do anything with the air gap?

Your dishwasher air gap will generally get on with its business with little necessary maintenance. However, cleaning it regularly can prevent blockage issues. To do so, simply remove the cover and unscrew the plastic cap. DoItYourself.com recommended removing the air gap entirely so you can flush it with water and wipe away debris. While you have visibility to the hoses, check it for clogs. If you see any signs of trouble, you can remove them to rinse and dry. Once you get everything back in place, be sure to check for leaks during the next dishwasher cycle.

If you want to install an air gap for your existing dishwasher, you can purchase a kit and follow this step-by-step guide from SFGate Home Guides. Alternatively, a licensed plumber can easily handle the project.

Maintaining the air gap goes hand in hand with overall dishwasher upkeep. For instance, loading your dishwasher correctly and cutting down on excessive water use can boost the appliance’s efficiency. And while it may feel a tad counterintuitive, you should clean your entire dishwasher about once a month.

Being prepared for home repairs is always a good strategy. See how plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of water sewer line repairs and replacements.

What’s a Wet Room?

What’s a Wet Room?

A wet room is a bathroom, except the whole thing’s designed to get wet. Think floor-to-ceiling tile, waterproof décor and a shower that’s out in the open. Wet rooms are certainly trendy as of late, and it’s no wonder why: They’re functional, accessible and may even raise the value of your home.

This May Also Interest You: How Much Does a Shower Remodel Cost?

Wet rooms are a popular bathroom style in some European countries. The minimalist concept crams everything a bathroom needs — a toilet, shower and sink — into as little space as possible. In particularly cramped spaces, you might see a showerhead above the toilet and the drain in the center of the room.

The floor is slightly sloped toward the drain so you’re not left with any standing water. Often, the sink and toilet are “floating” models anchored to the wall so there are no extra spaces for water to collect and form mildew or mold. If there’s room, you might also have a waterproof cabinet to store the things you’d rather keep dry.

American iterations of the wet room are usually larger, with multiple showerheads, spa-like tile and perhaps a bathtub. You may also see semi-wet rooms where the shower is tucked behind a small half wall or glass divider.

Benefits of a Wet Room

Here are four reasons why you’d want a wet room:

1. Accessibility

In a traditional wet room, there are no barriers. That makes the space accessible for household members who may have mobility issues or use mobility aids. Depending on the placement of your fixtures, you can use the closed toilet as a shower seat. It’s also a great setup for pet parents: You don’t have to worry about the inevitable splash-over when you’re trying to give your dog a bath.

2. Easy to Clean

Everything is made to get wet, so it’s easy enough just to spray down the whole room when it comes time to clean. There’s no need for a shower curtain or a bathmat, so the only textiles that need to be laundered are the towels.

3. Makes the Most of Your Space

Not all bathrooms are created equal, space-wise. When you’re remodeling, you may find yourself having to choose between the walk-in shower and a big, luxurious bathtub. A wet room allows you to combine those features in one space. Wet rooms don’t need to be large, either. They can often fit all the fixtures of a full bathroom in the same space as a half-bath.

4. Resale Value

According to data from Remodeling Magazine, you could recoup up to 64% of the cost of a midrange bathroom remodel when you sell your home. A wet room is considered a “high-end addition,” so depending on the quality of the materials, you may see a higher return on your investment.

However, a lot of buyers aren’t looking to go all in on wet rooms. And most buyers are looking for a house with a bathtub. Fixr recommends homeowners keep at least one American-style bathroom. Converting a small half-bath, the kids’ bathroom or the guest bathroom into a wet room may be a lucrative investment.

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Can You Turn an Existing Bathroom Into a Wet Room?

Yes, but it’s going to require a serious remodel — and almost certainly not a DIY one. The drain sits at a lower level than everything else, so the floor will have to be reconstructed with a grade that will allow the water to flow toward it. The walls and floor will need to be waterproofed.

You’ll also run into a lot of limitations with the materials you can put in a wet room. Usually, the only options are tile, porcelain, metal and plastic. Say goodbye to wood accents or cabinetry. You’ll probably have to cover your walls in tile, too.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Wet Room?

Due to the aforementioned extras, it costs a bit more to install a wet room than it does to remodel a traditional, American-style bathroom. Remodeling a traditional bathroom costs about $18,000 on average, where a wet room costs over $21,000. The difference comes down to the price of waterproofing materials. If you choose to install something like radiant floor heating, that’ll cost you extra, too.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from Service Line Warranties of America is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.

How to Tighten a Faucet Handle

Tightening a Faucet Handle at a Glance

  • Tools & Materials: Allen wrench, screwdriver, wrench, flashlight, plumber’s tape, thread sealant
  • Tightening a Set Screw:
    • Step 1: Remove covers
    • Step 2: Tighten screw
    • Optional: Add thread sealant
  • Tightening a Retainer Nut
    • Step 1: Clear space under sink
    • Step 2: Locate retaining nut
    • Step 3: Tighten nut
    • Optional: Wrap with plumber’s tape

A loose faucet handle is no doubt annoying. But did you know that a loose faucet handle can also damage your sink’s plumbing lines over time? That being said, tightening a loose faucet handle is something you should address sooner rather than later.

This May Also Interest You: How to Replace or Install a Bathroom Faucet

The good news is that it’s easy to fix, and there’s no need to dish out any of your hard-earned cash for a professional plumber. Read on to learn how to easily tighten a faucet handle.

Tools and Materials

  • Allen (Hex) wrench
  • Screwdriver: Phillips- or flat-head, depending on the faucet
  • Wrench: Adjustable, combination or basin
  • Flashlight
  • Optional: Teflon thread (plumber’s) tape
  • Optional: Non-permanent thread sealant

Why Is My Faucet Handle Loose?

Faucet handles can naturally become loose over time, but they may also be loose because of a sloppy or improper faucet replacement. Regardless of the reason, there are two main causes of loose faucet handles:

The Set or Handle Screw Is Loose

On most faucets, the handle will be secured to the faucet by a small Allen screw (set screw) that’s screwed horizontally into the outside perimeter of the handle’s base plate cover, or with a Phillips- or flat-head screw (handle screw) that’s screwed vertically into the handle’s base. Single-handle faucets will likely only use a single-set screw. Two-handled faucets may use a retaining nut, handle screw or both, depending on the model.

The Retaining Nut Is Loose

A sink’s faucet or handles are sometimes secured to the sink with a retaining nut located underneath the sink. If this nut becomes loose, the handle will become loose.

How to Tighten a Faucet Handle

Before performing any of these steps, you should turn off the water supply to your faucet. While this step isn’t a mandatory step, doing so will eliminate the possibility of flooding if you damage any plumbing components during the repair.

There are two shut-off valves (angle valves or angle stops) underneath the sink and coming out of the wall. Turn each of the valves clockwise (“righty-tighty”) until they’re fully closed. Fully open the faucet handles to relieve the residual water pressure and to verify that your water supply is turned off.

step-by-step instructional guide on how to tighten the temperature handles on a sink  In this case, we are looking at an oil rubbed faucet on a utility sink

Tightening the Set Screw or Handle Screw

Locate the set screw or handle screw. If your faucet handle is secured to the baseplate with a set screw, there will be a small hole somewhere around the perimeter of the cover. Inside this hole will be a small Allen screw. Select the appropriate Allen wrench, then gently turn the set screw clockwise until the screw is firmly seated.

step-by-step instructional guide on how to tighten the temperature handles on a sink  In this case, we are looking at an oil rubbed faucet on a utility sink

If your handle uses a handle screw, begin by removing the decorative caps on the top of the handles. These will often be labeled or colored — “H” or red for hot and “C” or blue for cold. You can either use a knife or flat-head screwdriver to gently pry these covers off. Inside, you should see a Philips- or flat-head screw. Turn this screw clockwise until the screw is firmly seated.

Physically inspect the faucet handle to verify your repair was successful. For a stronger and longer-lasting repair, you can fully remove the screws and add a non-permanent thread sealant compound to the screw’s threads. This will help to prevent the screw from coming loose in the future.

step-by-step instructional guide on how to tighten the temperature handles on a sink  In this case, we are looking at an oil rubbed faucet on a utility sink

Tightening a Retainer Nut

Clear the space under your sink. Remove any cleaning or kitchen supplies you have stored under your sink to make room for you to work.

Slide under your sink, resting on your back and facing the underside of your sink. Using a flashlight to increase visibility, locate the retaining nut holding the faucet handle in place.

Select the right wrench and tighten the nut. You can use an adjustable wrench, combination wrench (with one open wrench end and one box wrench end) or basin wrench to tighten the nut. Either set the adjustable wrench to the appropriate size or select a wrench that fits the retaining nut. A basin wrench might be required if the retaining nut is too difficult to access with a conventional wrench.

Turn the nut in a clockwise direction until snug. You can also fully remove the nut and wrap the female threads the nut screws onto with plumber’s tape for a stronger and longer-lasting hold. Come out from under the sink and physically verify that the handle is tight.

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How Do You Fix a Faucet Handle That Keeps Turning?

Most faucet handles are designed with internal “stops” that only let the handle turn in a limited range of motion. For example, a half-turn in the clockwise direction will turn the faucet fully on, and a half-turn in the counter-clockwise direction will turn the faucet off. The component responsible for this limited range of motion is the faucet cartridge.

When the faucet cartridge becomes stripped (either over time or due to the wear-and-tear from a loose handle), the handle will turn continuously without stopping, resulting in leaks and other plumbing issues. Take the following steps to replace the cartridge:

1. Shut off the water supply to your faucet.

2. Remove the handle using the steps in previous sections to expose the cartridge. The cartridge’s appearance will vary between faucet models, but it will always be directly underneath the faucet handle.

3. Locate the nut holding the cartridge in place. The nut will be at the base of the cartridge, resting on top of the sink.

4. Remove the nut. Select the appropriately sized wrench for the nut, then turn counter-clockwise to remove it from the threaded stem it’s seated on. Slip the nut over the cartridge to free the cartridge.

5. Remove the old cartridge and replace it with a new one.

6. Place the nut back onto the threaded stem and tighten it clockwise with your wrench until snug. You can also wrap the threads with plumber’s tape before reinstalling the nut for a stronger connection.

7. Reinstall the faucet handle and physically inspect it to verify the success of your repair.

8. Turn the faucet’s water supply back on.

How to Install or Replace a Shower Drain

How to Install or Replace a Shower Drain

A shower drain is an important plumbing fixture that captures water and directs it towards your home’s sewage system. You can install a shower drain as part of a home renovation project or replace an existing one when you notice a leak.

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Doing this project DIY-style — whether you’re installing or replacing — shouldn’t take you more than an afternoon. Keep on reading to find out how.

How Do You Install a Shower Drain?

The type of shower drain you install depends on several factors, including the flooring material and your particular scenario. Below are two popular options when it comes to installing a shower drain.

How to Install a Shower Drain on a Prefabricated Shower Pan

When renovating a bathroom, a new shower drain should always be part of the process. A drain assembly — which consists of a drain body, strainer, compression gasket, compression nut, compression wrench, drain nut, fiber gasket and rubber gasket — will cost you between $7 and $60 at your nearest hardware store. This is the piece you will attach to a preformed shower pan, a one-piece base that is usually made from acrylic and reinforced with fiberglass.

You’ll need some plumber’s putty to act as a sealant between the shower pan and the drain assembly. Roll the putty into a half-inch bead and wrap it around the underside of the drain body flange. Insert the drain body through the hole of the shower pan from the top and press down firmly (do not twist) to form an even seal.

At the bottom of the shower pan, place the rubber gasket and fiber gasket (in that order) onto the drain body. Insert the drain nut and tighten it with your hand. When it gets too hard to turn, use a set of adjustable pliers or a wrench to tighten it all the way through. Use your index finger to remove any excess putty from the top of the drain.

For this part, get a buddy to help you lower the shower pan onto the shower base. The shower base, in this scenario, is the substructure of the shower’s subfloor. It will have a drain hole with a 2-inch drain pipe located in the middle. The drainpipe should be positioned in the center of the drain body as you’re lowering the shower pan onto the shower base.

Once this is done, grab the compression gasket and insert it from the top of the hole, bevel side up, making sure that it fits in the space between the drain body and pipe. Push it down until it sets at the bottom.

Next, thread the compression nut over the drain pipe. Insert the compression wrench into the compression nut and tighten with a screwdriver. Finish the shower drain install by snapping strainer or drain cover onto the drain body.

How to Install a Shower Drain for a Tile Floor

Since tiles are square (in most cases), you will need a drain assembly with a square strainer. There are essentially three parts to a tile floor assembly: the drain barrel (where the strainer is attached), drain body and clamping ring.

Begin installing the shower drain after you’ve finished installing the subfloor and drain pipe. Fit the drain body over the drainpipe, ensuring that the flange is resting on the subfloor. Use solvent cement to bond them together.

Next comes the bottom mortar bed. Be sure to cover the drain body with a clean rag before you apply it so the drainpipe remains clean. Lay down the layer of mortar starting from the wall. Make sure there is a slope every ¼ inch per foot, all the way to the drain’s opening. The mortar bed should be flush with the drain body’s flange.

Wait for the mortar bed to dry. Afterward, install a pan liner on top of it. This is a waterproof membrane that catches any water that seeps through the mortar bed and directs it towards the drain. Cut a hole in the membrane around the drain hole and around the inner and outer mounting holes of the drain body. Screw some bolts into the outer mounting holes to secure the pan liner and drain body to the subfloor.

Place the clamping ring above the membrane. Align its mounting holes with the ones on the drain body and screw it in. This will sandwich the membrane between the drain body and the clamping ring. Fill the shower floor with 2 to 3 inches of water to check if the membrane has any leaks.

If there are no leaks, screw the drain barrel into the clamping ring; stop when it reaches the height you want. Leave at least 1 inch of space between the drain body and the top of the drain barrel. Apply another mortar bed layer on top of the pan membrane and finish installing the tile floor once it’s dry.

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Replacing a Shower Drain

Is the floor underneath your shower showing signs of water damage? If so, there may be a leak that requires the shower drain to be replaced. If you do this yourself, you won’t have to call a plumber for a costly replacement. Here’s how.

How to Replace a Shower Drain from Underneath

If the shower drain replacement is on a prefabricated shower pan, you have to go at it from the bottom. This will allow you to effectively take the drain assembly apart. Be sure to turn off the electricity in the area you’ll be working in before you begin. Then, use a flat screwdriver to pop the strainer out of the drain body to expose the compression nut. Insert your compression wrench into the compression nut and turn it counterclockwise with a screwdriver to unscrew it.

Using a combination of a utility knife and drywall saw, cut a rectangular hole in the ceiling beneath the drain. Make sure the hole is big enough to fit adjustable pliers and is along the joist so you have something to support the new drywall when patching it up. Use the adjustable pliers to loosen the drain until you can remove the rest of it with your hand. Follow that up by removing the rubber and fiber gaskets as well.

If you see that the drainpipe is welded or glued to a U-shaped pipe (also called the P-trap), you’ll need to cut it. This will make it easier to push out the drain pipe and cut out the drain body. However, you’ll need to know how to replace a shower drain trap as well once you cut it. Without the P-trap, sewer gases can travel into your home through the drain line. In addition to the unpleasant smell, long-term exposure to this gas can be harmful.

Install a new drainpipe in the shower base and repeat the steps on how to install a shower drain on a prefabricated shower pan. Repeat the above steps for installation — from inserting the drain body, to tightening the drain nut, to snapping the drain cover on top of the drain. However, since the shower pan is already on the floor, you don’t have to struggle with lowering and positioning it.

Assemble a new P-trap by gluing its pieces together and gluing the assembly to the drainpipe. Turn on the water and dash back downstairs to see if there are any leaks. If there are no leaks, patch up the drywall.

How to Replace a Shower Drain from the Top

When performing a shower drain replacement on tile flooring, you don’t need to go underneath. Start by unscrewing the drain barrel, cleaning the drainpipe and covering the hole to prevent debris from falling in it. Then, carefully pry out the tiles around the shower drain and chisel that area until the subfloor and mounting bolts are exposed. Unscrew the bolts and remove the clamping ring and drain body.

Install the new tile floor assembly while patching up the membrane and mortar bed. Don’t forget to check for leaks when you’re done. To patch the membrane, cut a new piece of membrane to fit the area you destroyed. Make holes for the drain and the mounting holes of the drain body. Apply caulk along the chiseled area and apply the patch. Leave the caulk to dry and patch the mortar bed with deck mud.

Down the Drain

By following the steps outlined above, you should be able to confidently install or replace a shower drain on your own. You’ve even learned how to plumb a shower drain by installing a brand-new P-trap. Not only is doing this by yourself cost-effective, but it is oh-so-satisfying when you watch the water — and not the hard-earned cash you could have spent on a plumber — go down the drain.

How to Replace a Shower Handle

How to Replace a Shower Handle

Replacing a Shower Handle at a Glance

  • Step 1: Turn off water supply
  • Step 2: Unscrew set screw
  • Step 3: Remove handle from valve
  • If handle is corroded: Add plumber’s lubricant
  • Step 4: Remove trim plate
  • Step 5: Wrap faucet stem with Teflon tape
  • Step 6: Screw handle in place
  • Step 7: Replace trim plate

As wonderful as your shower might be, there are certain things that can always improve your experience — a nice showerhead, a superior sponge, the perfect arsenal of soaps and shampoos and, of course, a nice, functional handle that doesn’t leak.

This May Also Interest You: Showerhead Stuck? Here’s How to Remove It

The good news is that replacing this essential shower control and its accompanying trim is an extremely simple task that you can knock out quickly without eating into your precious shower time.

Can You Replace Just the Shower Handle?

Yes. In fact, sometimes, just changing the shower handle without replacing the valve makes the most sense. A shower handle gets the brunt of the whole “taking a shower” business — getting twisted and turned, pushed and pulled. It’s no wonder they age quickly. Perhaps the style or finish isn’t to your liking, and you’re left wondering how easily you can upgrade without having to call in a plumber.

For this particular project, ye should fret not. In most cases, replacing the shower knob or handle is a pretty straightforward task. Consider the following guide to help you remove a shower faucet handle, install a new one and get on with your day.

How Do You Replace a Single-Handle Shower Faucet?

Shower handles come in a variety of styles, including single-, double- and even triple-handle styles. If you’re working with a shower-tub combo, you might have any one of these setups. A stand-alone shower is more likely to have a single handle, but double handles are also sometimes used. Regardless of what kind of handle you have, the removal and installation process for a replacement is essentially the same.

That said, unless you are committed to replacing your entire shower valve assembly, you should only try to replace a handle of the same style. In other words, if you currently have a single-handle style, then you’ll need to look for another single-handle one to replace it.

Also, keep in mind that if you only plan to replace the shower handle (or handles), you obviously want to make the replacement as close to a match in style and color finish as possible to the rest of the fixtures in your shower or tub. Replacing a tub spout, for example, is a slightly trickier process than handle replacement, as spout lengths and their water pipe counterparts vary. So, if you can get away with just replacing the handles, it’ll save you some time.

If you’d like to try to buy from the same manufacturer, one trick is to look behind the trim plate for a brand name or manufacturer symbol if the name isn’t listed on the handles themselves. Take a look around for a model number while you’re at it, as model numbers are also sometimes listed behind trim plates or even under the tub spout.

Before you begin, use a drain stopper or drop cloth to block the drain opening to keep any small screws or other components from falling down the drain. Dropping small screws happens often and having them promptly vanish into the depths of your plumbing means halting your shower handle replacement project and heading up to your local hardware store to find the right screw.

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Do I Need to Turn Off the Water to Replace a Shower Handle?

The first step in a shower knob replacement is to turn off the water supply. Many showers have supply shut-off valves on the back or sides of the shower unit, but they’re usually hidden behind the wall. If you’re not in the middle of a larger shower remodel and you don’t have access to those supply lines, you’ll need to shut the water off to your entire home at the main shut-off valve. Once the water is shut off, place the valve in the on position to remove any excess pressure that might still be in the water pipe.

Removing the Handle

Next, find the shower knob handle’s screw. Depending on the style of shower handle, it could be under the decorative cap, or there could be a set screw underneath the handle. Unscrew the set screw using a hex-head wrench or a small Phillips screwdriver. When the set screw has been unscrewed, remove the handle from the valve.

Keep in mind that older handles can be pretty difficult to remove, especially if they’re corroded. If you find yourself in this situation, you can apply some plumber’s lubricant to the handle or use a special tool called a handle puller.

After the handle has been pulled off the valve, remove the escutcheon plate from the wall. Also called a trim plate, this is the panel that covers the hole in the shower wall leading to the valve body.

Installing the New Handle

Once you’ve removed the trim plate, you can begin the process of installing the new handle. For this step, wrap Teflon tape around the base of your faucet stem. Slide the new handle onto the faucet stem and screw it in place using the supplied set screw. For double- or triple-handle systems, the method is the same: Wrap Teflon tape around each stem and screw the handles into place using the supplied screws.

After the handles have been secured, place your trim plate over the top of your new handle and snap or screw it into place, depending on the brand of your trim kit. Once your trim plate has been installed, turn back your water supply back on and enjoy your new faucet.

Small Project, Big Reward

One of the easiest ways to upgrade a shower is changing out the hardware for a more updated look or greater functionality. It’s the kind of quick and painless project that will make you question why you didn’t tackle it sooner.

Got a Stopped-up Sink With a Sink Stopper? Pull Out All the Stops

Got a Stopped-up Sink With a Sink Stopper? Pull Out All the Stops

photo is looking down on a residential bathroom sink that is clogged and slowing draining water

Slow drains can be a hassle. You’re brushing your teeth or washing your face and notice the water isn’t draining from the sink as fast as it’s flowing in. You don’t want to stand there and wait for the sink to empty just so you can wash your hands. And if you’re not careful, a slow drain could lead to leaks and overflows in the future. It’d be easy enough if you could just look down the drain to locate the obstruction, but many bathroom sinks have stoppers that make them more difficult to unclog.

This May Also Interest You: Snake’s in a Drain! How to Unclog Your Sink With a Drain Snake

Got a stopped-up sink with a sink stopper? Here’s how to remove both the drain stopper and the clog.

Common Reasons for Bathroom Sink Clogs

What’s causing your bathroom sink to clog in the first place? One of the most common culprits is hair. If you shave or cut your hair at the bathroom sink, hair can be washed down the drain. There, it clumps together and, eventually, causes clogs. Even if you don’t intentionally rinse hair down the sink, hair that falls out or breaks naturally during the process of brushing or styling can eventually collect in the plumbing below the sink.

Other common reasons for bathroom clogs include:

  • Soap and soap scum buildup
  • Dried or clumped product, including toothpaste
  • Small items stuck in the P-trap

pulling bathroom sink stopper

First, Remove the Stopper…

To unclog your sink, you’ll need to remove the bathroom sink stopper. Sometimes, the stopper is helping to form the clog, and by removing it, you may pull up or release some of the gunk that’s causing the slow drain.

Start by pulling by hand or turning the stopper. Some are made to be easily removed. If that’s not the case, you may need to use some tools and unfasten or unscrew the part holding the stopper in place under the sink. Here’s what to do:

  1. Locate a horizontal rod and stopper strap under the sink. The vertical strap is a metal strip with holes in it.
  2. Find the clip that holds these two pieces together. Take off the clip, but keep it close by. You’ll need it to put everything back together.
  3. Look for the nut attached to the rod and unscrew it. Water may come out when you do this, so put a container underneath the sink to catch it. At this point, you should be able to remove the stopper.

…Then Tackle the Clog

Some of these methods to unclog the bathroom sink will require that you remove the stopper. Others can be tried without going through that step.

Boiling Water

Boiling water can clear some clogs, especially those created by buildup or soap. Hot water dissolves grease and other solids so they can be pushed out of your pipes. Make sure the sink is empty and pour boiling water from a pot or kettle slowly down the drain. You can try this without removing the stopper. This can also work on some clogs in your kitchen sink.

Before you try this method, double check that your pipes are made of metal and not PVC; the boiling water may melt PVC pipes. Also, try not to pour the hot water directly onto the surface of your sink. Porcelain sinks may crack due to the abrupt temperature change.woman plunging sink

Use a Plunger

The plunger is something you can try when you’re working to unclog any drain. You can attempt this fix with the stopper in place, but it’s going to work best without the stopper in the way. Simply place the plunger over the drain and create a seal. Then, push the plunger up and down quickly a few times. This creates a force in the pipe that can push or pull a clog loose.

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Natural Products

Pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down the sink can help dissolve some clogs. You may also be able to purchase drain cleaning products at the store for this purpose. As long as you can get some of these products down your drain to begin with — i.e., there’s no physical obstruction or standing water — you don’t need to remove the stopper.man rotating a drain snake into a kitchen sink to unclog the pipe

Snake the Pipe

Remove the P-trap from below your sink and look for any visible clogs. Then, you can use a drain snake or even a straightened wire coat hanger to push the clog out from above. Usually, you have to remove the stopper to do this, but you might be able to get a thin pipe snake down the drain without doing so. Put a large bowl or bucket under the sink to catch any water.

When Should You Call a Professional About Your Clog?

Many clogs can be handled with these and other DIY measures, especially if you have a little bit of plumbing knowledge. The above tips, for example, can also be used to unclog bathroom drains or deal with similar issues in the kitchen.

But not all issues can be attacked with a pot of boiling water or a plunger. If you’re dealing with something like a clogged sewer line or a clog your drain snake can’t reach, you may need to call in a professional. Ignoring the clog could lead to even more expensive repairs later on. Standing water may cause moisture damage, mold or even nastier problems.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from Service Line Warranties of America is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.

Pipe Burst? Here’s What to Do Next

Pipe Burst? Here’s What to Do Next

burst pipe with water coming out

There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling that sets in when you notice water dripping from your ceiling or — worse — gushing from a broken pipe. Many homeowners find themselves panicking as they start to tally up the water damage repair costs. Fortunately, a bit of forward planning can help you avert a total plumbing disaster.

This May Also Interest You: Prevent Frozen-Pipe Problems by Knowing These Things Down Cold

If a water pipe bursts in your home, it’s important to act quickly to prevent serious water damage to your house and belongings. Knowing what to do when you have a broken water pipe can save you a lot of money on costly plumbing and building repairs.

What Happens When a Pipe Bursts?

There are several reasons that your pipes could burst, though one of the leading culprits is ice. When the temperature outside dips below freezing, the water in your pipes can freeze, too. When water freezes, it expands, putting significant pressure on your pipework.

When your pipes freeze for the first time, they may withstand the added pressure without any adverse effects. However, allowing your pipes to freeze repeatedly will gradually weaken them as they expand and contract, eventually causing them to burst or crack.

Other potential causes of burst pipes include:

  • Corrosion
  • High water pressure
  • Blockages
  • Invading tree roots

Whatever the reason for a burst pipe, spotting it early is crucial for protecting your home.

How Do You Know If Your Pipes Have Burst?

When you mention broken pipes, most people imagine water gushing dramatically from the wall or ceiling. However, the first signs are often subtler. It’s a good idea to look out for the less obvious symptoms of a major leak.

When a water pipe bursts, moisture starts seeping into your floors, ceilings and insulation, causing significant damage. Eventually, mold and mildew start to flourish, creating a potentially hazardous living environment. If you find yourself wading through puddles of water on the floor or can hear water bubbling inside the walls, you won’t be left in any doubt as to whether you have a burst pipe.

Other, less obvious signs include:water meter wrapped with dollar bills

Unexplained Hike in Water Bills

If your water bill suddenly shoots up for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of a burst water main. As water seeps out of the pipe, it sends your water usage sky high. Any unexpected increase in your water bills warrants further investigation.dripping faucet

Reduced Water Pressure

A broken water main or burst pipe means your system must work harder to maintain a supply to your faucets and other fixtures. Therefore, reduced or uneven water pressure could be a sign that you’ve got a leak. While there are a few potential causes of dodgy water pressure, it’s important to find the reason quickly to prevent water damage.

No Flow

Reduced water pressure is inconvenient enough, but you may suddenly find that you have no water flow at all. One of the most likely reasons for a complete lack of running water is a frozen pipe. You should defrost your pipes as quickly as possible to stop them from bursting.

If you can access the frozen pipe, you could try defrosting it yourself. Turn on the central heating to around 70 degrees and use a gentle heat source like a hairdryer or infrared lamp to warm the pipe up gradually — never use a blowtorch or other open flame. If the pipe is inaccessible or your efforts aren’t fruitful, call a plumber to defrost the pipes for you.

Damp Patches in Your Home or Yard

As water flows out of a burst pipe, you may notice damp or discolored patches on your walls, floors or ceilings. If the leak happens under a tiled floor, it could make the tiles feel wobbly or unstable.

Don’t forget to look for exterior signs of a burst pipe. Depending on the location, you may also see puddles, depressions or wobbly pavement in your yard.

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turning hot water valve

What Do You Do If Your Pipes Burst?

As soon as you see the signs of a pipe burst in your house, you should immediately turn the water supply off at the main. If you have a minute, locate your stopcock now so you’re able to find it fast in an emergency. Turning the water off stops the flow to your pipes and prevents more water from seeping into your home.

Next, call an emergency plumber to locate and fix the burst pipe. While you can often repair minor leaks yourself, a burst pipe requires urgent diagnosis and replacement by a professional.

While you wait for the plumber, there are steps you can take to reduce the damage. Start by moving furniture and any valuable items as far away from the burst pipe as possible. Doing this will also make it quicker and easier for the plumber to access the problem area when they arrive.

If you can see and access the leak, plugging it with rags can staunch the flow and protect your walls and insulation. You can reduce damage to your floor by placing buckets to catch any flowing or dripping water. Use towels to dry any puddles.

water service line

Protect Your Home Long-Term

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to frozen pipes and broken water mains. Fortunately, there are some simple and cost-effective ways to prevent major leaks and protect your home:

  • Use insulation to prevent freezing pipes
  • Keep your central heating on when outside temperatures drop below freezing
  • Repair small leaks quickly
  • Resolve clogs and corrosion as soon as you notice them

Being prepared with a plumbing plan from Service Line Warranties of America can help you handle unexpected plumbing emergencies. When you have a plan in place, simply call our 24/7 hotline to get connected with pros who can get your system up and running again. See what plans are available in your area.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bathroom Sink?

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bathroom Sink?

Bathroom Sink Replacement Costs at a Glance

  • Average total cost: $470-$700
  • Sink: $100-$250
  • Faucet: $50-$800
  • Tile countertop: $2-$75 per tile
  • Solid surface countertop: $75-$150 per square foot
  • Granite countertop: $75-$300 per square foot
  • Quartz countertop: $110-$250 per square foot
  • Labor cost: $20-$150 per hour

The bathroom sink is a high-traffic, functional fixture your family uses several times a day. Whether you’ve got kids regularly putting the porcelain through its paces or the sink in your master bath just doesn’t give the spa vibes you desire, replacing a bathroom sink might be a home improvement task for you.

This May Also Interest You: How to Replace or Install a Bathroom Faucet

Is bathroom sink installation something you want to tackle on your own, or should you hire a professional? Discover more about the cost to replace a bathroom sink below.

Reasons to Replace Your Bathroom Sink

People replace bathroom sinks for many reasons, but the “why” behind this small bathroom reno task can actually impact the cost of installation. Here are a few common reasons you might decide to replace a bathroom sink:

Damage

Perhaps the kids smashed it one too many times with hard toys and there’s a crack, or maybe time has worn away the protective glaze. Replacing the sink in this case can help reduce functionality issues or leaks.

Mold or Mildew

An ill-fitting sink or one that’s damaged could support mold or mildew growth. Tiny leaks, seeps or problems draining, for example, can spur such problems on. You’ll likely have to fix this problem before you can install a new sink, which may add to the total cost.

Upgrade Time

If you want a more functional faucet or bathroom vanity, you may wish to replace the bathroom sink. Or maybe you just think the existing sink is ugly. You’re tired of looking at an eyesore every time you brush your teeth, or you’ve redecorated the rest of the bathroom and it’s time for the sink to catch up.

Average Cost to Replace a Bathroom Sink

According to Porch.com, the average cost for replacing a sink runs from $470 to $700, including materials and labor. The Home Depot, for example, charges $200 to $350 to install a sink, though that doesn’t include the cost of the sink, faucet or any related plumbing work that might need to be done. The sink itself costs between $100 and $250 on average.

Can I Replace a Bathroom Sink Myself?

Replacing a bathroom sink isn’t a small home improvement task, but it can be a DIY job if you have the right tools and skills. You’ll need to be comfortable with detailed measuring and basic plumbing. If you want to replace the sink and vanity at the same time, you can get all-in-one kits cut for you to make the job easier.

If a plumbing issue is the reason why you want to replace the sink, you may want to consult a professional for assistance. They may need to make more changes than just the sink to resolve the issue. They can also let you know if sink repair is a good alternative to replacement.

How Long Does It Take to Change a Bathroom Sink?

If you’re just swapping out a sink for another or dropping a vanity and sink into place, the job usually takes less than four or five hours. Bigger sink replacement jobs can take a bit longer. It all comes down to how skilled you are, whether you run into unplanned issues and what you need modify to fit your needs. Need to cut out more space on a countertop? That’s going to add some time.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bathroom Countertop?

Obviously, if you want to replace the vanity top as well as the sink, that will cost you more money. According to HGTV, the type of countertop you choose can drastically change the cost.

Tile is often the cheapest, costing $2 to $75 per tile, depending on the material. Solid surface materials that look like stone can cost between $75 and $150 per square foot. Granite costs $75 to $300 per square foot. Manufactured quartz costs between $110 and $250 per square foot.

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clean bathroom sink and faucet

How Much Does a New Faucet Cost?

If you want to add a new faucet to your bathroom sink installation project, that will increase the total price. Faucets come in a wide range of styles and finishes, so you could be looking at an expense between $50 and $800 or more.

The cost of the faucet depends on the functionality, design, materials and designer. Many bathroom faucets come with common hardware for installation, but you may need to buy additional items to complete the process. This is especially true if you’re switching from a one-hole to a three-hole faucet or vice versa, as you may need to cut out or hide counter holes and run some different lines.

technicians

How Much Does a Plumber Charge to Replace a Bathroom Sink?

Plumbers usually charge by the hour, though some may have flat fees for specific types of work. Plumber costs can range from $20 to $150 per hour. You’ll also have to pay for any materials, like the sink and faucet.

If a sink installation job does take several hours, you may have to pay hundreds of dollars in addition to the cost of materials. If you require sink work on a weekend or holiday, the cost may be higher.

When You Should Call a Plumber

Dropping in a new sink is a DIY job many people are comfortable with. But if you need to rerun or adjust pipes, it might be time to call a plumber to avoid issues down the road. And if you do have a problem where water is rushing into areas where it’s not supposed to be, you will definitely want to call for professional help.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.

Can You Pour Cooking Grease Down the Drain? No. Here’s Why

Your kitchen sink drain is where unwanted liquids go — dirty dishwater, expired milk and that cup of coffee you made but forgot to drink. Cooking oils and liquid grease seem to fit into this category. However, dumping that stuff down the drain is a great way to get a greasy blockage in your pipes.

This May Also Interest You: Snake’s in a Drain! How to Unclog Your Sink With a Drain Snake

So, no. You really shouldn’t pour grease, oil or animal fat down any kind of drain, including your toilet. The reason why is a little gross, but you need to hear it …

What Happens If You Pour Grease Down the Drain?

When you finish cooking bacon, the grease in the pan is a liquid. Let it sit for a few hours at room temperature and it’ll harden. That’s exactly what happens in your pipes if you pour liquid grease down the drain or garbage disposal. But when it congeals in your pipes, it gums up the works.

At first, you may notice water drains from your sink slower than before. Soon, you may experience full backups. If you have a septic system, grease can cause all sorts of problems. All-Clear Septic & Wastewater Services of Massachusetts warns that, if you ignore fat buildup, eventually, your pipes may have to be dug up and replaced.

What If the Oil Is Liquid at Room Temperature?

Cooking oils will stay liquid no matter how long you let them sit out — but oil and water still don’t mix. According to Mike Wilson Plumbing of Virginia, liquid oils coat the inside of your pipes, creating a sticky trap for food scraps and an ideal environment for clogs.

What Else Shouldn’t Go Down the Drain?

A good rule of thumb is never to pour cooking oils or grease from cooked meat down the drain. But to avoid buildup, Hunker says you should avoid dumping these, too:

  • Salad dressing
  • Coconut oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cosmetic oils
  • Petroleum jelly

Can I Pour Grease Down the Drain With Dish Soap?

Dish soap is designed to break down the grease on your pots, pans and plates, but it’s not powerful enough to dissolve large amounts of oil. While it may help flush fatty deposits out of your own pipes, the grease is just pushed farther into the sewer system or your septic tank.

‘Fatbergs’

If your pipes are connected to a city sewer system, pouring grease down the drain can cause problems on a much larger scale. In the sewer, your hardened grease mixes with everyone else’s, forming an ever-growing, solid mass of fat. Indiscriminate flushing of non-flushable items — Q-tips, floss and even “flushable” wipes — clogs the sewers with materials that can’t be broken down. These catch on the globs of fat and combine to create “fatbergs” that can weigh several tons.

This has happened in several major cities around the world, including London and Detroit. (Before you click, be warned: These are pretty gross.) In Baltimore, a massive fatberg caused a million-gallon sewer overflow.

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How to Properly Dispose of Grease

Hopefully, the idea of a bus-size fat mass is enough to convince you that you shouldn’t pour grease down the drain. But you’ll still need to dispose of it somehow.

A little oil in the bottom of a pan can be wiped out with a paper towel. Let larger amounts of grease and butter cool off, then pour them into a disposable container to solidify. Pour cooled cooking oil back into the container it came in or another large jug. Make sure the lid is on tight before you throw it away.

What Can I Do If I Poured Grease Down the Drain?

Any oil, fat or grease you dump down the drain may contribute to these large accumulations in your city’s sewer system or deposits in your septic system — but there are a few things you can do to keep fat from building up in your pipes.

According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, hot water will turn the grease back into a liquid so it can continue down your pipes. Pour a gallon of boiling water down the drain along with some dish soap. You may also want to run hot water from the faucet. Before you pour any boiling water, check whether your pipes are metal or PVC; PVC pipes could melt under extreme heat.

Some drain cleaners claim to break down greasy clogs, but using them too often isn’t good for your plumbing. Discover Plumbing and Rooter of California recommends a baking-soda-and-vinegar approach. Shake half a cup of baking soda into the drain, then pour an equal amount of white vinegar after it. The fizzing reaction will help dissolve the fat. After 10 minutes, flush it out with boiling water.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from HomeServe is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.

Never Flush These 11 Things Down Your Toilet

Never Flush These 11 Things Down Your Toilet

We all put things down our toilet that aren’t exactly supposed to be there — whether out of convenience or ignorance. But you should know that your habit of flushing cat litter or Q-tips might be harmful to both your house’s septic system and your city’s sewer system.

This May Also Interest You: How to Fix a Clogged Toilet

When you flush your toilet, the wastewater drains into your pipes, then into the city sewer system or your septic tank. Items that don’t belong in your pipes can create massive clogs, which could result in your septic system backing up into your home. In severe cases, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection says trash can clog citywide sewer pipes and damage the equipment at wastewater treatment facilities.

Say it with us: “My septic system is not designed to handle anything other than human waste and toilet paper.”

In theory, that makes sense. But there are still so many things that seem flushable. These are some of the most commonly flushed items — and the reasons why you should keep them out of the toilet:

1. ‘Flushable’ Products

This one’s kind of a paradox: Almost everything labeled “flushable” shouldn’t be flushed. According to Templeton, Calif.’s Water Conservation Department, “flushable” only means that an item can be flushed without clogging the toilet. But that’s not a good metric by which to judge whether something will be harmful to your septic system or your city’s sewer system. Most so-called flushable items — wipes, diapers, seat covers and cleaning products — don’t break down completely, which can cause clogs later on.

2. Bathroom Trash

Bathroom waste often gets chucked into the toilet just because of proximity. After all, the toilet also transports waste from one place to another, right? Avoid the temptation and throw these items in the trash instead:

  • Dental floss
  • Q-tips and cotton balls
  • Menstrual products
  • Band-Aids
  • Contact lenses
  • Condoms
  • Disposable masks and gloves

3. Food

Tell your kids to stop flushing their bread crusts. According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, your toilet is not the place for food scraps. Food doesn’t break down the same way as human waste, which means it might end up sitting in your pipes for a while. Scraps like bones or fruit pits will take a long time to break down, and oils and fats will solidify in the pipes.

4. Non-Toilet Paper

Have you ever seen a paper towel commercial? You know how the advertiser will show off the strength of the product by using a few paper towels to carry a watermelon (or another heavy object)? Toilet paper commercials rarely feature such a segment because toilet paper is designed to break down as soon as it hits the water. Other paper products — like tissues, wipes and paper towels  are supposed to hold up under the same circumstances. For that reason, they can build up in sewer systems and cause blockages.

While we’re at it, don’t flush newspaper, documents, photos, paper packaging or the cardboard toilet paper roll, either.

5. Medicine and Prescriptions

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, flushing pharmaceuticals can harm waterways because wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to remove these substances from the water. The chemicals in over-the-counter and prescription medications can harm fish and contaminate drinking water.

That said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a “Flush List” of commonly abused prescription medications that have been deemed OK to flush if you can’t locate a drug take-back location.

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6. Diapers

Flushing a diaper is a one-way ticket to a clogged toilet. Wastewater Treatment Services of Texas says diapers won’t break down in the water. So, even if you can flush one without clogging the system initially, you may have some expensive repairs waiting for you down the line. Baby wipes — though they may pass without a clog — shouldn’t be flushed, either.

7. Fish

Pet fish have long been dignified with water burials — but it turns out that flushing your fish is harmful to more than just your septic system. Sometimes your little finned friend that’s gone belly up hasn’t actually expired, and contrary to what you may believe, your toilet isn’t a direct line to the ocean. This means that your fish may wind up dying in a wastewater treatment plant. Or — as Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper explains — your pet goldfish might accidentally end up in a local waterway after an overflow, where it’s an invasive species that may harm other wildlife.

8. Cat Litter

If you prefer furry friends, you may have considered throwing their waste in the toilet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s usually fine to flush doggy doo, as long as it’s not in a plastic bag. It’ll be treated just like human waste.

The same does not apply if you have a cat who uses a litter box. Just take this warning from Supeck Septic Services of Medina, Ohio: “Flushing kitty litter — even ‘flushable’ kitty litter — wreaks havoc on your septic system and can quickly lead to catastrophic, whole-system failure.”

9. Hair

Long hair likes to stick to the inside of pipes. According to American Water, flushing a clump of hair can create a net-like structure that traps other objects, leading to clogs.

10. Nail Clippings

Like hair, fingernail and toenail clippings are technically organic matter, but that doesn’t mean they’ll break down in your septic tank. Avoid problems by clipping your nails into the trash can, instead.

11. Chemicals or Poisons

Automotive chemicals, fuels, solvents and poisons should stay far away from your toilet, as they can harm your drain lines. According to the National Agricultural Safety Database, these toxic substances can leach into the soil or contaminate groundwater and waterways. To be safe, never pour these things down any household drain, including your toilet:

  • Paint or paint thinner
  • Gasoline, kerosene or lighter fluid
  • Antifreeze, motor oil or brake fluid
  • Pesticides or fertilizers
  • Pest poisons

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from HomeServe is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.

Got a Clogged Sewer Line? Here’s What to Do

sewer

When you have a clogged drain in your house, your first instinct is probably to grab a plunger. Little do you know, there are some cases where standard plunging is almost useless — like when the main sewer line in your home gets clogged. When this happens, you can end up with widespread flooding and plumbing problems all over your home.

This May Also Interest You: Water Sewer Line Repair: DIY or Plumbing Pro

To prevent serious damage, you need to be able to identify clogged sewer lines and know how to handle them.

Are Your Main Sewer Lines Clogged?

Throughout your home, you have drain lines carrying wastewater away from sinks, toilets, tubs and more. All of these lines lead to the main sewer line. This huge pipe sends all the waste from your home right to your sewer or septic system. When it gets clogged, drains all over your home are unable to work — and you could even end up with water backing up out of your fixtures, leaky pipes and other problems. Yikes!

If you find yourself with a main sewer line clog, there’s not really any do-it-yourself way of fixing it. These drain lines are often buried deep under the ground far away from your home. You typically need special equipment and professional know-how to handle them. Though you usually cannot repair it yourself, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. There are still a couple things you can do to keep the problem from getting worse until a plumber can help you.sewer

Clogged Sewer Line Causes

This type of clog is fairly rare, since most sewer lines are around 4 to 6 inches wide. It usually only happens if something has gone seriously wrong in your plumbing system. One of the most common causes of a clog is damage to the sewer line itself. If a pipe collapses or bends, the damage can keep waste from moving through the line properly. There are all sorts of things that can harm a sewer line, including:

  • Shifting soil around the pipe
  • Corrosion within the pipe
  • Construction near the line
  • Heavy traffic above the sewer pipe
  • Damaged pipe joints

Another big reason sewer lines clog is that they gradually sag over time. This bend in the pipe makes it easy for debris to collect, eventually causing a clog.water service line

The most common type of debris that clogs a sewer line is fat. If you pour greases, fats or oils down a sink drain, they will eventually cool and harden. Even if you run hot water with the grease, it typically firms up by the time it reaches your main sewer line. Then, the fat sticks to your lines and causes a clog.

Other types of debris that often causes clogs includes paper towels, so-called flushable wipes, sanitary products and other bulky items flushed down the toilet. You should never send anything besides liquids and toilet paper down your drains.

A final cause of clogged sewer pipes is tree roots. Trees are surprisingly powerful. Even tiny roots can worm their way into your pipes over time. You may not notice a significant leak since the root will clog up the broken area in the line. However, as the roots keep growing inside of the pipe, they form a mass through which sewage has a hard time passing.

Signs Your Sewer Line May Be Clogged

Most clogged sewers happen gradually. Being able to identify them in the early stages will help you address problems before you end up with sewage water flooding your entire house. Here are some things to look out for if you suspect that you may need a sewer line cleaning:

Dark Water

One of the signature symptoms of a main-drain clog is water backing up in your tubs or showers. This happens when you try to drain water but there’s nowhere for it to go because the sewer line is clogged. The water then moves backward, seeking the lowest point of entry. In most homes, this will be the shower, tub or floor drain in a basement.

Unlike flooding fixtures caused by a leaky pipe, the water will not be clear. Since a lot of waste material is mixed in, it will usually be dark, stinky and gross-looking. Keep in mind that this water can have raw sewage, so you need to be cautious around it. Use proper protective gear and powerful cleaners when cleaning up after dark water flows into your drains.

Slow-Moving Drains

Take a minute to think about the drains in your home. Are they draining rapidly, or do you notice water pooling whenever you run the water? Your drains tend to slow down when there’s a clog because most sewer line clogs do not suddenly block 100% of the pipe. Instead, debris accumulates over time, making it harder and harder for waste to move through.

If all the drains in your home are starting to slow down, the problem is most likely a clogged sewer line. Typically, the first drains you will notice slowing down are the toilet drains. When you flush the toilet, the water may seem to hang there for a moment before gradually sinking down. Toilets are often the first drain affected by a mainline clog because they’re usually connected directly to your sewer line.

Gurgling Sounds

Because a mainline clog keeps your drains from working properly, you might get some weird reactions as you use your plumbing system. When you run a sink, flush a toilet or use a washing machine, water and air bubbles can form. All this stuff rumbling around in your pipes can cause noises. Since sound travels strangely through pipes, these noises can seem to come from plumbing fixtures, walls other rooms, or even the floor and ceiling.

The most frequent sound people report is a gurgling noise that happens while they’re using a drain. However, you may also notice strange hissing, bubbling or trickling noises. If your main sewer line is almost entirely clogged, it can take a while for stuff to drain through. Therefore, you may keep hearing weird noises long after you quit using a drain.

Clogged Plumbing Fixtures

If your clogged sewer line goes unnoticed for too long, you’ll start noticing this sign: As the clog builds up, almost no wastewater will be able to move through the pipe. When this happens, your drains quit working altogether. Instead of just slightly slow drainage, your plumbing fixtures will seem to quit draining entirely.

Remember that all the plumbing fixtures in your home are connected, so a clogged sewer pipe will keep draining from happening all over the house. If you run the kitchen sink, you may walk into the bathroom to find a shower that seems clogged. Your toilets on the upper floor might seem to work fine, but then when you go downstairs, all the sinks may be clogged.

What to Do When Your Sewer Line Is Clogged

Noticing that your sewer line is clogged is half the battle. Once you realize it’s happening, the solution is simple. You just need to keep calm and follow these two simple steps:

1. Turn Off the Water

First of all, turn off the water in your home. This step is important because it keeps the situation from getting worse. You don’t want to absentmindedly turn on a clogged sink and end up flooding one of your bathrooms with raw sewage. It also keeps leaking pipes or automatic processes — like a dishwasher on a timer — from trying to drain more water into your clogged line.

To turn off your water, you need to identify your water main, which is the line that supplies your home with water. Often, you can find it near your home’s water meter, or sometimes it’s outside the home near a corner of your house. It typically has a large wheel, handle or lever. Turn it until it’s entirely closed off.

2. Call a Plumber

It’s technically possible to clear out some small sewer line clogs yourself, but this is rarely advisable. The problem with DIY repair is that the majority of sewer line clogs are caused by broken pipes, tree roots and other issues deep within your plumbing system. Most people who know how to handle a basic drain clog don’t have the tools for sewer drain clogs.

Professionals have heavy-duty main sewer line cleaners and other equipment that lets them clear away all sorts of clogs. They also have the knowledge and experience to diagnose the primary issue. Just dumping some main drain cleaner down a toilet yourself won’t help you identify and repair tree root growth or other serious plumbing problems.

Getting a professional to examine your whole plumbing system will help ensure the real problem is addressed. Depending on your situation, you may need to replace sewer pipes entirely, which can involve digging up the yard and doing some major plumbing.

How Do You Unclog a Sewer Line?

Ultimately, you do need a professional who knows how to unclog a sewer line. However, there are a few things you can do to at least try mitigating the clog before your contractor arrives.

Many homes have a sewer line cleanout, which is a large pipe with a cap on the end, found in your basement or on the side of your home. You can remove this cap to access your main sewer line. If you get very lucky, the clog might have been forced against your cleanout, in which case, you can just pull it out manually.

You can also try running a plumbing auger through the sewer line. This may break up the clog or enable you to pull out some of the debris. However, sewer line clogs are often big enough that the standard drain auger can’t fix the clog.

Most of the time, snaking your sewer line yourself will just get things moving a little, making it easier to clean up backflow and get your home in livable condition. Keep in mind that clogs will probably keep happening until you get a thorough sewer line cleaning. You’ll still need to call in a licensed plumber to handle the main clog.